Things to Do - Around the House (April and May 2012)

Sometimes the best days are lazy days. Funny how your definition of "lazy" changes once you have kids.

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Art on the porch and bunnies in the yard. "Look mom I draw spaghetti!" - T

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Homemade forts.



No training wheels. Unlike in the movies (where the dad gives the kid a push and everything clicks), this is taking a lot of work.

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My little ponies for show and tell. P's a little obsessed.

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Pajama playdates.

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Moving on.

What have you been up to lately?


*40 of the most powerful photos ever taken. Get your tissues ready.


*Loving the pictures on ledansla lately, especially all the pink and blue buildings.

*Curating is the new criticism. Interesting interview. (via Something Changed).

*For Mad Men fans - Christina Hendricks dishes on Joan's big decision.


Things to Do - P, Age 5.5


A few months ago I interviewed F for the blog in an attempt to "capture" this time in her life. Now it's P's turn:

FAVORITE COLOR - Purple and Pink
FAVORITE BOOK - Fancy Nancy and Barbie's Xmas
FAVORITE SONG - Dynamite and Party Rock Anthem
FAVORITE FOOD - Strawberries for health and ice cream for junk
FAVORITE MOVIE - Beauty and the Beast
FAVORITE TOY - My Little Ponies
FAVORITE FAMOUS PERSON - President Lincoln because he freed the slaves
FAVORITE MUSEUM - the Playseum
FAVORITE SEASON - Spring because Easter is in Spring
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP? - In the Circus or a Doctor
WHO IS YOUR BEST FRIEND - Molly and Paige and Laney
FAVORITE GAME TO PLAY WITH T - Play mama and baby

Happy Weekend everyone!!! I'm taking a few days off next week to relax and enjoy the long weekend, but I'll be back soon. In the meantime, make sure to check out the No Monsters List of 64 Summer Activities!!


*Looking for something to do this weekend? Check out the Sunset Celebration at Mt. Vernon - wine, cheesecake, and a big hill. Plus, the Potomac River looks beautiful at dusk. Click here for our review from last year.

*It's Hard Being Two. Tantrums tumblr style.

*33 Nature Art, Crafts, and Play Ideas for Kids.

*Neon text installations. I love till the end of time.


P destroys a pair of shoes every two months. It's the toes. She needs steel-toed ballet slippers. Seriously.


Things to Read - 7 Books About the Experience of Parenting (not the instruction manual type)

Lately, I've been reflecting on books that have shaped how I view parenthood. Not the instruction manual books, with their advise and goodwill, but fiction and memoirs that have stuck with me over the years. Plots and characters I can't let go of, for better or worse. Here are my top 7 (click on the book's picture to link to Amazon):

The Road
- This is probably the most depressing novel I've ever read. I stayed up all night to finish it, not because I particularly liked the book but because the plot disturbed me too much for sleep. In the morning, upon finishing, I threw The Road at the wall - frustrated, sad, and scared. But the story has never left me, it's "sticky" as Malcome Gladwell would say. The novel takes place in a future post-apocalyptic setting where food is scarce - crops can no longer grow (something has ruined the soil) and livestock is pretty much nonexistent. Mankind's survival depends on old canned food (where one can find it) and cannibalism.

McCarthy never explains how mankind ended up in this situation, rather he tells the story of a man and his young son walking "the road" in hopes of making it to the ocean, not even knowing if the ocean will offer any sort of refuge or change. The mother in the novel kills herself after realizing the bleakness of the situation, but the father carries on against all odds, convincing the boy that they are the "good guys", who refuse to submit to cannibalism and evil. Why does the father go on? Obviously out of love for his son, but where does this get them? What can this love accomplish in a world with no future? What would you do in such circumstances? Would you keep living in such horrendous conditions or "quit" like the mother? What would the "good" parent do?

The Short Story Trilogy - Chance, Soon, & Silence - from Alice Munro's Runaway
- In some ways, this trilogy disturbed me even more than the Road, due to the realism of the tale presented. The three connected stories all occur at different points in one woman's life. The first story tells of the random, somewhat ominous, encounter through which she meets her partner. The woman, Juliet, is confident in so many ways, though awkward regarding her studiousness. The second story occurs when Juliet travels to her childhood home to introduce her baby daughter to her aging parents. The health of Juliet's mother is slipping and her parents seem different than she remembers, less quirky and independent. In the final story, the baby daughter is now grown and seemingly random/odd/complicated events lead to her estrangement from Juliet. It's awful - reading about how this woman, who you've now glimpsed through the years, loses the opportunity to meet her grandchildren. To live without that part of life. To go on. It gives me chills. The fragileness of human connections and our endless capacity for loss.

American Pastoral
- My dad loved Philip Roth and though I'm not the author's biggest fan (to put it mildly) this book, recommended by my father, has always stuck with me. My dad called it The Parents' Book of Job (a wonderful five word summary). Seymour Levov has it all - he's charming, good looking, a college star athlete who marries Miss New Jersey. Plus he's a nice guy. And he loves his daughter - his awkward, unpopular daughter. Who slowly destroys Seymour's life. Eventually Seymour's daughter, in protest against the Vietnam War and the "system", plants a bomb in a local post office and the resulting explosion kills a bystander. Thus ruining the "perfect life" Seymour has created. Unlike the other books about parenting, I think this book remains important to me because at its core it presents child-rearing as something much more out of our control than parents of young children want to believe. Kids will be who they will be, even when showered with love.

Life Among The Savages
- Shirley Jackson's memoir of raising children in the 1940s is the list's only "happy" book. While some of the anecdotes are so dated as to make you cringe (smoking on the way to the delivery room) the majority of the book tells of experiences shockingly similar to life today - navigating department stores with children and their imaginary friends, the furnace going out, disagreements with elementary school teachers. Reminding me that life with kids is life with kids, regardless (in some ways) of time and place.

Revolutionary Road
- One of my friends said she couldn't finish this book because it hit too close. Like a kick in the gut. The whole book (also a movie) is about parental discontent during the 1950s. The wife in the novel never really adjusts to life as a housewife (or SAHM in today's vehancular), the dad doesn't like his job, their social life is static and boring. They long for greatness but aren't sure how to find it. At the end I cried and reflected on my own lack of greatness. Which (I must admit) does seem even larger since I've had children.

This Beautiful Life - The plotline of this Beautiful Life comes straight from the headlines. A family of four (with a kindergarten-aged daughter and a teenage son) moves to NYC for the father's new job, a big step up for him career-wise. One night the teenage boy, a "good" kid for the most part, goes to a party, gets drunk, and starts making out with a younger girl whom he does not find particularly attractive. Though the girl wants to go further, the boy heads home, somewhat disgusted with himself for hooking up with her in the first place. The next day the girl sends him a sexual video she made, dancing to Beyonce's "love to love you baby". Very sexual. Not sure how to handle the whole thing the boy forwards the video to one friend, his best friend. Who (of course) forwards it to a few other friends. You see where this is going. By the end of one weekend the video goes viral. The school suspends the boys, lawyers are hired, the father's job (which involves school oversight) is put on hold. And the reader watches a family slowly unravel.

The unraveling is where the book really hit me. The author does a beautiful job creating characters who are complex and confused and real, making it hard for the reader to cast judgment. And if there is blame, where does it lie? With the girl? Who should have known better. With the girl's parents? Apparently absent and rich. With the boy? Recipient of a gift he never wanted. With the boy's parents? Who somehow forgot to teach him how to handle such a situation. With the lawyers? Who make everything into a battle. With the school? For needing to find fault somewhere.

I don't know the answers. And Schulman doesn't give them to you. Rather she lets you hash it out for yourself, trying to figure out where we go wrong when, as the boy's mother says, "we love our children too much."

Blue Nights - Joan Didion's bitterly honest reflections on the unexpected death of her adopted daughter and on her own aging process (at age 75) read like a well-written diary of loss. Actually maybe diary isn't the right word, the book reads almost as if the reader can hear the thoughts in Didion's head, giving it an intensely personal feel, similar to eavesdropping. In this memoir Didion reflects on modern parenting - "[t]he very definition of success as a parent has undergone a telling transformation: we used to define success as the ability to encourage the child to grow into independent (which is to say into adult) life, to 'raise' the child, to let the child go" - adoption, and, most prominently, fear - "[o]nce she was born I was never not afraid. I was afraid of swimming pools, high-tension wires, lye under the sink, aspirin in the medicine cabinet . . . rattlesnakes, riptides, landslides, strangers who appeared at the door, unexplained fevers, elevators without operators and empty hotel corridors." A reminder that once you have a child thoughts of him or her will continually occupy your thoughts and days, regardless of whether or not the child is alive or dead.

Other "Parenting Books" That Have Stuck with Me (but that I'm too tired to write about):
*A Short History of Women: A Novel
*Sophie's Choice (an obvious pick)
*The Awakening

What about everyone else? What books have really affected your views on parenting?


Places to Go - 64 Things to Do (and Places to Go) as a Family This Summer

(P at Theodore Roosevelt Island, 2008)

18 categories, 64 ideas. My goal is to check off at least one activity in each category. Who wants to join me?

1. The National Zoo - A new carousel is scheduled to arrive at the National Zoo this summer. Yay!! Click here for info on the carousel's layout and animals.
2. More - Go Out and Play! has a great list of area carousels, click here to check it out.

3. River Farm (Alexandria, VA) - Previously posted here. A beautiful meadow and a great children's garden make this a wonderful place for an afternoon outside. Unfortunately, it's only open to the public on weekdays and Saturday mornings. Click here for more info. FREE!
4. Meadowlark Gardens (Vienna, VA) - Previously posted here. A beautiful gazebo overlooks the lake and a wonderful children's garden includes a life-size tea set and sandbox. Stroller-friendly trails and sculptures surround the property. Walk through a forest. Check out the geese. Feed the fish. Smell the flowers. Gorgeous. Though be warned - the property resides on a large hill with the visitors center at top, so the walk back to the car can be a haul for small children. For more information, click here.
5. United States Botanic Garden (Washington DC) - Previously posted here. - A fish fountain with a pump, various shovels and watering cans, a miniature house. So much fun. FREE!
6. Brookside Gardens (Wheaton, MD) - This place is huge, I don't think we've ever managed to see the whole thing in one day. Lots of gazebos and ponds and room to run. And a wonderful children's garden with a treehouse. In the summer the garden usually hosts an indoor butterfly exhibit (additional cost) which is quite spectacular (P is scared of butterflies, so we can never stay long). For more information, click here.

7. Oxon Hill Farm (Oxon Hill, MD) - Previously posted here. A great working farm, full of various farm animals. Lots of places to run. A barn full of old farm equipment that kids can sit and play on. The farm hosts several daily activities, but they're often canceled, so call ahead. The property is a very short drive from National Harbor, which has many good lunch places. FREE!
8. Great Country Farms (Bluemont, VA) - Previously posted here. Of everywhere on this list I think Great Country Farms is my favorite place. The farm always has something available for you-pick (from potatoes to strawberries to blackberries, check the website for information) and the grounds are full of wonderful kid-friendly activities - a HUGE bouncing pillow (sort of like a moon-bounce but better), slides, a petting zoo, rope swings, tire mountains, a corn crib, mini-tractors, sandboxes, a giant outdoor chess set, etc. So much fun. So much!!
9. Frying Pan Farm & Park (Herndon, VA) - Previously posted here. This working farm recreates a local farm from the 1920s to the 1950s. Lots of animals - pigs, horses, cows, goats, peacocks, chickens, etc - make it a great place for kids. Plus, the mini-tractors (great for photo opps) and the two playgrounds make for a wonderful day or afternoon. A trail around the park includes a short walk in the woods. Wagon rides and a country-store are on site (be careful in the store, as your kids are sure to want the toys they sell). FREE!
10. Claude Moore Colonial Farm (McLean, VA) - Travel back in time to 1771 and see the world a different way. I especially recommend going on the weekend of a Market Fair (previously posted here) where you'll encounter puppet shows, three-legged races, wonderful bbque, tight-rope walkers, cheap beer, and crafts galore. So much fun.
11. The National Colonial Farm (Accokeek, MD) - We've never been here, but I really want to go. The farm is a living history museum that depicts life for an ordinary tobacco planting family in the 1770s. On weekends visitors may come across people spinning, dyeing, woodworking and playing colonial games. For more information, click here.
12. More - Check out this fabulous KidFriendly DC post on pick-your-own strawberry farms in the region. Many of these farms offer other pick-your-own opportunities throughout the summer, check the websites for more information.

13. Great Falls (Potomac, MD) - Previously posted here. A walking path next to the C&O canal leads to a boardwalk over smaller falls until you arrive at the Great Falls viewing platform. The walk is stroller friendly (though some of the trail is dirt, so be careful after rain). In the summer, for an extra fee the National Park service offers mule-drawn boat rides down the canal (be warned, the boat moves VERY slowly). A visitors center and concession stand are on site.
14. Great Falls (McLean, VA) - You can also see the falls from VA. Lots of easily-accessible viewing areas, concession stands, picnic tables, room to run, and a kid-friendly visitors' center. For more information, click here.
15. Scotts Run Nature Preserve (McLean, VA) - A 2.2 mile kid-friendly hike takes you to the falls. We haven't gone with the kids yet, but I really want to check it out. Click here to read the Meanest Mama's review. FREE!

16. The National Monuments at Night (Washington DC) - Have you seen the monuments at night? They're breathtaking. Really. Keep the kids up late and wander around for awhile. Marvel at Lincoln in his fully lit glory. FREE!
17. The National Zoo (Washington DC) - The grounds of the National Zoo are open until 8 pm during the summer. What kid doesn't want to see a zebra before bedtime? FREE!
18. Campfires at Long Branch and Gulf Branch Nature Centers (Arlington, VA) - Who doesn't love a campfire with marshmallows? Check out the snag to see the dates of the next few.
19. May 25-27 Sunset Celebration at Mt Vernon (Alexandria, VA) - previously reviewed here - cheesecake, wine, amazing views, and tons of candles. A great way to see the estate. Click here for tickets and information.

20. Yards Park (Washington DC) - On Friday nights the Yards Park in DC (right by Nationals' Stadium) hosts free outdoor concerts - complete with beer garden and food trucks. The park has a spraypark for kids and beautiful views of the Potomac, click here to read Not-So-SAHM's review. And click here for the park's website. FREE!
21. Pentagon Row - Last summer we loved attending Pentagon Row's free summer concert series on Thursday nights. This summer the tribute bands look awesome (who doesn't love some Bon Jovi?). Click here for the schedule. FREE!
22. More - This website has a huge list of free summer concerts in DC, MD, and VA.

23. The Tidal Basin (Washington DC) - Click here to read Not-So-SAHM's review of the tidal basin paddle boats. The boats cost $12/hr for a 2-person boat and $19/hr for a 4-person boat. Until Labor Day, boats run 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. (last boat out at 5 p.m.)
24. Inner Harbor (Baltimore, MD) - We still haven't rented one, but every time we visit National Harbor my kids beg to ride a dragon paddleboat. The boats cost $8 to $11 per half-hour for regular paddleboats, $15 per half-hour for Chessies (dragon boats). They're available Sunday to Thursday 11am to 9pm. Click here for more information.

25. Cunningham Falls State Park (Thurmont, MD) - Previously posted here and here. Roast some marshmallows, sleep under the stars, and in the morning swim in the lake or hike to the waterfall. A wonderful night out.
26. Assateague Island National Lakeshore (Berlin, MD) - Spend the night on the beach and wake up to wild horses in the morning (be careful, they know how to open coolers - we learned this the hard way - so make sure to lock all of your food in the car). A gorgeous place to spend a night. Book early, sites fill up fast (especially on weekends). For more information click here.
27. Prince William Forest Park, Oakridge Campground (Triangle, VA) - We haven't been yet, but I've been told that Loop C has best sites. Make sure to reserve ahead of time. Click here for more information.
28. Sky Meadows State Park (White Post, VA) - We've never been, but my neighbors have GREAT things to say about this place (they took two kids - a 1 year old and a 3 year old). According to the website "Camping at Sky Meadows is available at the park's backcountry campground. The camping area is a 1-mile hike from the parking area. The area offers 15 individual campsites and 3 group sites. All sites feature level tent pads, fire rings, picnic tables, and lantern posts. There are also vault toilets and access to non-potable water. Reservations for campsites are required. Walk-in reservations for individual campsites are possible for one night only, subject to availability." Click here for more information.
29. Big Meadows Campground, Shenandoah National Park - "Big Meadows (mile 51.2), though secluded, is near many of the major facilities and popular hiking trails in the park. Three waterfalls are within walking distance; the Meadow, with its abundant plant growth and wildlife, lies within walking distance. $20 per night when on the reservation system and $17 per night during late spring and early fall. Generator-free and group sites are available." Click here for more information.

30. The Water Taxi from Alexandria to National Harbor - Previously posted here. The boat leaves approximately every 1.5 hours from the Alexandria docks and the ride to National Harbor takes about thirty minutes. At National Harbor my kids love to eat ice cream from Ben & Jerry's and play on the Awakening statue. A great way to spend an afternoon. The water taxi company also offers pirate cruises on weekends, click here for information.
31. Mt Vernon (Alexandria, VA) - Potomac Riverboat Company offers 45 minute sightseeing cruises from the Mt. Vernon docks for an additional cost over admission. Tickets are $10 for adults and $6 for children 6-12. Spend a day touring the estate and then enjoy some leisure time on the water. Click here for the schedule and additional information.
32. Pirate Adventures on the Chesapeake (Annapolis, MD) - Previously posted here. Even my pirate-weary girls loved this boat ride - search for "hidden treasure", use your water cannon to knock "Pirate Pete" out of his boat, listen to various stories of pirate lore. Call ahead for reservations at least a month in advance, it's a busy boat.
33. The Baltimore Water Taxi (Baltimore, MD) - This boat cruises throughout Baltimore's Inner Harbor, with stops at the Science Museum, aquarium, Fells Point, Fort McHenry, and other destinations. Tickets are $12 per adult and $6 for children 3-10. Every Wednesday children ages 10 & under ride free (limit 2 children per paying adult), excluding holidays and special events (June 13th and July 4th). Click here for more information.

34. Living Classrooms Science + You Exhibit (Washington DC) - Living Classrooms has a hand-on interactive laboratory that provides children ages 3-8 "the opportunity to become scientists for a day". Located in the Yards Park (by Nationals Stadium) the exhibit is open from 12:30 to 4 pm Tuesday-Friday and 10 to 4 pm on the weekends. Click here to read KidFriendly DC's review (it sounds awesome). FREE!
35. Math Alive! at the Smithsonian's Ripley Center (Washington DC) - KidFriendly DC has great things to say about this interactive math exhibit for kids. Click here to read the review. And click here to go to the Smithsonian's website. The exhibit runs through June 3. FREE!
36. National Children's Museum Launch Zone (National Harbor, MD) - The Launch Zone hosts various kids' activities throughout the summer for FREE (fishes of the potomac, imagination playground, sunwise, etc. ). Not-So-SAHM reviewed their "toddler Tuesday" exhibit on dinosaurs and had good things to say. Click here to read her review. And click here to see the schedule of future exhibits. FREE!
37. The Children's Museum at Glen Echo Park (Glen Echo, MD) - From 10 am to 3pm on weekends, living classrooms opens its doors and invites participants to take short hikes to the creek, make arts-and-crafts projects to take home, and view LIVE animal encounters! Admission is $5 a per person. Click here for more info.
38. Dinosaur Park (Laurel, MD) - We've never been here, but I hope to go soon (it looks amazing). According to the website "[d]inosaur Park presents visitors a unique opportunity to experience the prehistoric past. The park features a small garden/entry area with interpretive signage about the Muirkirk Deposit, a unique geological formation with 110 million year old fossils, some of which are the remains of dinosaurs. The park also includes an intact portion of the Muirkirk Deposit surrounded by a fence. Access to the Muirkirk deposit is only allowed on the first and third Saturdays of each month from 12 noon to 4 pm, during this time kids can HELP ASSIST PALEONTOLOGISTS SEARCHING FOR FOSSILS (how cool is that?). School programs and group tours are offered weekdays by appointment. Click here for more info. FREE!
39. Stories in Art at the National Gallery (Washington DC) - previously posted here - For children 4-7, the summer series explores French art through a painting, story, and art project. Classes are on Sundays and Mondays. Click here for the schedule. FREE!

40. Walkersville Southern Railroad (Walkersville, MD) - (previously posted here) - This regional train operates on Saturdays through the summer, with departures at 11 am and 2 pm. On sunny days, you can choose to ride in the train's open air excursion car. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for children over 3 (younger children are free). The train DOES NOT have bathrooms. Click here for more info.
41. B&O Railroad Museum (Baltimore, MD) - Train rides are offered Wednesday - Sunday through the summer for an additional cost over the admission price. Click here for information.
42. More - Go Out and Play! has a great list of kids' trains, click here to check it out. We're big fans of spending the day at the fantastic (shaded) playgrounds of Cabin John Regional Park (Rockville, MD) and cruising through the countryside on their train (click here for our post on Cabin John).

43. Rustico Restaurant (Arlington, VA) - (previously posted here) - The kids love running through the fountain/spraypark between Rustico and Buzz Bakery and I love drinking a glass of wine on the patio while they play. A win win. FREE!
44. Lee District's Harbor Spray Park - Alexandria just opened the Disneyworld of sprayparks - seriously, this is HUGE with a dragon fountain, water maze, water dumping crab basket, and custom crab boat, all of which are accessible for children of all abilities (i.e. handicap accessible). We haven't been yet, but Keeping Up with Cardin has some great pics. Admission is free but water shoes are required. The park is open from 11-7 on all days but Wednesday (Wednesday is 11-5). Click here for more info. FREE!
45. Georgetown Waterfront Park (Washington DC) - Is it a fountain? Is it a splashpark? I'm not sure, but it looks AWESOME!! Click here to check out Not-So-SAHM's pics and review. FREE!
46. More - check out this KidFriendly DC post from last year for a list of area splashparks (we really like Hayes in Arlington). FREE!

47. The Meanest Mama's Playground Reviews - The Meanest Mama regularly reviews Metro DC and Arlington parks and playgrounds. Click here to check out her reviews. FREE!
48. The Playground Review - Also check out this blog for more playground reviews. FREE!
49. Cabin John Regional Park (Rockville, MD) - Previously posted here. If you haven't been yet, summer is a great time to check out this "superpark" - full of tons of play sculptures, SHADE, and a miniature train. Bring a picnic and make a day out of it. FREE!

50. Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens (Washington DC) - In the morning thousands (if not millions) of water flowers fill the grounds. Plus the property includes a boardwalk through wetlands and a decently-fun visitor's center. Though not in DC's best neighborhood, the gardens themselves are safe, just make sure to bring a GPS for the drive, not a fun place to be lost (trust me on this one). For more information, click here. FREE!
51. The National Zoo (Washington DC) - The grounds of the zoo open at 6 am and in the morning the animals are often out and alert (before the heat of the day kicks in). Click here for more info. FREE!
52. Theodore Roosevelt Island (Washington DC) - This is one of our favorite morning hangouts in the summer - check out the ducks, watch for deer (we saw one once, long ago), run by the fountains. Bring a picnic and have breakfast on the boardwalk. FREE!

53. Maryland Water Parks - Click here for a list of water parks in MD.
54. Virginia Water Parks - Click here for a list of water parks in VA.

55. The Washington Nationals (Washington DC) - Summer isn't complete without a trip to the ballpark. Click here for the Nationals' schedule.
56. DC United (Washington DC) - Most of the games are at night, but if you don't mind keeping the kids up late, it's a great way to spend enjoy a summer evening. Click here for the schedule.
57. The Washington Mystics (Washington DC) - These games are fun for the whole family. My kids love going. Click here for the schedule.

58. The National Zoo (Washington DC) - I love walking through the National Zoo's small but still magical butterfly garden (located at the end of the invertebrate exhibit), especially because it's free and not too overwhelming. Click here for more info. FREE!
59. The Smithsonian Natural Museum of Natural History (Washington DC) - We've never visited, but I've heard good things. Tuesdays are free (but timed-entry tickets are required), every other day of the week the exhibit costs $6 for adults and $5 for children (2-12). Click here for information on the hours and to buy tickets.
60. Brookside Gardens (Wheaton, MD) - The "Wings of Fancy" butterfly exhibit is truly mesmerizing (we try to visit once a year). It runs from May 5 through September 16, 2012 and is open daily from 10:00 am to 4 pm. Cost is $6 for adults and $4 for children 3-12. Click here for more information.

61. Summer Movie Express through Regal Cinemas (various locations) - "Moviegoers of all ages can climb aboard the Summer Movie Express to enjoy a great selection of films. During this 9-week festival, participating Regal Cinemas, United Artists and Edwards Theatres will offer selected G or PG rated movies for only a dollar on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings at 10:00. A portion of proceeds from the Summer Movie Express will be donated to the Will Rogers Institute." Click here for the schedule and a list of participating theaters.
62. Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse (Arlington, VA) - Every Monday at 4:30 the drafthouse shows a family movie for only $1 per person. Food and beverages (including alcohol) are available for purchase. A great way to beat the heat on hot summer afternoons. Plus our favorite bakery (Senor Pan) is right around the corner from the drafthouse. Click here for the schedule.
63. National Harbor (National Harbor, MD) - "During the summer months National Harbor, Maryland, the waterfront development on the Potomac River, presents free classic movies on the Plaza’s big screen. Seating is not provided, so attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs. Coolers and outside food and beverages are not allowed. Fridays are DATE NIGHT Movies. Sundays are FAMILY Movies. Films begin at dusk, usually around 8:30 p.m." Click here for the schedule. FREE!
64. More - Click here for a list of other locations offering free outdoor movies at night.

So what did I forget? Comment or email me and I'll add it to the list!


Things to Make - Spinach/Cilanto/Avocado/Chickpea Quinoa Salad

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Lately I can't stop eating this salad - not too light, not too heavy -perfect for spring. (and I'm a little obsessed with quinoa lately). It's adapted from this recipe and this recipe.


1 cup dry quinoa
1 15-oz can chickpeas (2 cups cooked), drained and rinsed
2 cups spinach
1 cup cherry tomatos, cut in half
1 chopped avocado
1/4 cup chopped onion

1. Cook the quinoa according to package directions

2. Cut up the spinach into small pieces (you can also use a food processor, but I find it easy to use scissors)

3. Mix the spinach, quinoa, chickpeas, tomatos, avocado, and onion together


Juice from 1.5 limes
1 bunch fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp sugar (or to taste)
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp kosher salt + ground pepper

4. In a blender combine the lime juice, cilantro, mustard, sugar, garlic, cumin, and oil. Process until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

5. Pour the dressing on top of the spinach chickpea mixture and stir well.

Any other good quinoa recipes anyone can recommend? For the last year, I've made this regularly, but I'm beginning to tire of it. So I'm currently on a quest for new quinoa recipes.


Things to Do - Mow the Lawn in Tandem


On Mother's Day, I came home from yoga to T and Dan mowing the lawn together. T looked tired, but dedicated. Always by Dan's side.

I hope you all had a good weekend! I'm putting together a HUGE list of things to do and places to go this summer, I hope to have it ready soon, so please check in throughout the week.


*Top baby names of 2011. Plus the top up-and-coming names.

*Leeming + Paterson

*Daily Candy's Best Apps for Kids (and click here for our own top 5 kids' apps).

*These photography classes look awesome. I think I might sign up for one.



Places to Go - Doug Aitken's Song Number 1 at the Hirshhorn (Washington DC)


On Wednesday night after dinner, we packed up the swagger wagon and headed into the city with Grandma to check out Doug Aitken's Song Number 1 at the Hirshhorn (in which Aitken converted the outside of the museum into a 360 degree video installation). We arrived around 7:45, in time to check out the sculpture garden (I love that place) and walk around for a few minutes before the exhibit began at "dusk."

Around 8:15 we settled down, with first row viewing across the street from the museum (in front of the sculpture garden). The music began (several different - somewhat eerie -versions of "I Only Have Eyes for You"), but where was the "movie?" Apparently I hadn't thought this through. Even though the exhibit technically begins at dusk, you can't actually see it until dark. So we waited. Along with about 30 other people, most of whom seemed glued to their iphones. I took out my iphone ready for the kids to start fighting over it, already calculating time limits in my head, when all of a sudden an "ahh-ha" moment occurred to me - what if we actually used this time to talk with each other? Crazy, right? So I decided to take us back a few centuries.

We played "I spy with my little eyes", we told stories, we complained, we danced. We waited. And slowly the movie started to appear before us - like watching a polaroid develop. At first we could only make out a few images - is that an eye? a chin? lights? When the sky darkened everything became bright and colorful and somewhat mesmerizing as an ordinary concrete building converted into a gigantic movie screen.

I liked some of the videos more than others (some were a little too music-videoesque for me) but certain scenes - like cars driving on the highway at night, colors flashing, and Tilda Swinson singing - stunned us all. By around 9:10 pm (with a fully dark sky) the girls started asking for bed (though T wanted to "watch movie all night"), so we meandered back to our car - dancing with grandma the whole way. Along Independence Avenue several cars had pulled over, as we all collectively stopped to watch the show.

The exhibit ends on Sunday. So if you have a chance, go this weekend. Even a drive by. It's worth it. Really. (Though the song will be stuck in your head for days). None of my pictures turned out very well, so click here for more images.

Sometimes it amazes me how much wonderful free stuff exists in this city. How lucky we are. Seriously.


*Why can't i find a yarn bombed park to play in? This looks SO FUN!!

*Todd Oldham's new target line of kids made modern art supplies looks awesome.

*Make Way for Ducklings in Seattle. We love that book, so to see it in real life would be amazing.


Apparently you're not supposed to sit on the sculptures. Or so we learned.


Waiting can be fun. Really. (F's still rocking her magazine bead necklace, so cool).


Pictures slowly emerge. Slowly.


And finally, dark brings a "movie." So much fun!!


Things to Read - Five Interesting Articles From Around the Web (on unhappiness, parenting, mindfulness, and breast feeding)

1. How to Live Unhappily Ever After by Augusten Burroughs - "this recipe of defining happiness and fiddling with your life to get it will work for some people—but not for others. I am one of the others. I am not a happy person. There are things that do make me experience joy. But joy is a fleeting emotion, like a very long sneeze. A lot of the time what I feel is, interested. Or I feel melancholy. And I also frequently feel tenderness, annoyance, confusion, fear, hopelessness. It doesn't all add up to anything I would call happiness. But what I'm thinking is, is that so terrible?" . . . .

"A corollary to the idea that we must all be happy and positive all the time is that we must all be "healed." When I was 32, somebody I loved died on a plastic-covered twin mattress at a Manhattan hospital. His death was not unexpected and I had prepared myself years in advance, as though studying for a degree. When he died, I was as stunned as if he had been killed by a grand piano falling from the top of a building. I was fully unprepared.

I did not know what to do with my physical self. It took me about a year to stop thinking, madly, I might somehow meet him in my sleep. Once I finally believed he was gone, I began the next stage: waiting. Waiting to heal. This lasted several years.

The truth about healing is that heal is a television word. Someone close to you dies? You will never heal. What will happen is, for the first few days, the people around you will touch your shoulder and this will startle you and remind you to breathe. You will feel as though you will soon be dead from natural causes; the weight of the grief will be physical and very nearly unbearable.
. . . .

"The truth about healing is that you don't need to heal to be whole. And by whole, I mean damaged, missing pieces of who you were, your heart—missing what feels like some of your most important parts. And yet, not missing any part of you at all. Being, in truth, larger than you were before.

2. Raising Girls, Part III on Sweet Fine Day - "it’s just funny how we find ourselves on the other side, often with the reactions of oh hell no. Now you’re acting like a parent. . . .

We spend the early part of our lives wishing time would speed up and the latter part of our lives wishing it would slow way the hell down. Sometimes when I think about my mom being my age with an 18 year old (me) it freaks me out because I can’t imagine myself with an 18 year old. An 8 year old is almost bad enough because when I stop to think about it I can’t believe I have an 8 year old either. Then I realize that part of all this is a reaction because we’re aging right along with them. Maybe we try to hold on to our kids as long as we can because a small part of us is afraid to get old."

3. Why We Need to Teach Mindfulness in a Digital Age on PBS- "Recent brain imaging studies reveal that sections of our brains are highly active during down time. This has led scientists to imply that moments of not-doing are critical for connecting and synthesizing new information, ideas and experiences. Dr. Michael Rich, a professor at Harvard Medical School put it this way in a 2010 New York Times article: "Downtime is to the brain what sleep is to the body."
. . . .

"The contemporary rise of attention deficit disorder, a condition seemingly linked to the ubiquity of media nets, only underscores how much we need to treat attention as a craft, at once a skill to be learned and a vessel in flight. But the name of this chronic syndrome also contains a clue. For it is precisely disorder that we need to learn to pay attention to, because in that turbulence lies our own future manifold. The mind is an instrument, and we practice scales so that we may improvise with spontaneous grace."

4. A Late Mother's Day Post. Or a Post About Why Gooey Reactions Don't Make You a Better Mom. Love Does. on Overexposed and Underdeveloped. (this one was hard to excerpt, the whole post was so beautiful and it made me cry. alot).

"Motherhood is being instantly slammed into a difficult, wildly exhausting, completely life alternating moment. And I had the same coping skills as I did a year before. Nothing was different. There was nothing quick or Hallmarky about my step into this Big Life Moment. Just like every other Big Life Moment prior, I emerged the same. It took me years to understand that this particular sameness meant a completely different experience from most new Moms. Other woman talked about feeling Mother Bearish from the heartbeat. They looked at their newborn with tears in their eyes. When the OB pulled their children from the womb, their love was instant and crushing. For years, I wondered why I wired differently. And a few times I wondered if that meant I wasn’t Mom enough.

Mothers aren’t the same. We parent differently. We express our love differently. Seven years ago, I was naive to assume that we all enter Motherhood the same. I entered into as myself. And for me, it took time. Gooey isn’t something I do easily. Gooey and Motherhood still seems odd to me. That’s for other Mothers. I finally learned an important lesson: there’s no cookie cutter version of the perfect Mother.
Maybe you loved your daughter before she was even conceived. Maybe you first loved your son at 12 weeks when he belly laughed at your goofy voice. The fact is you love them more than you love your own soul. As Mothers, we have one common thread: the love for our children. We should stop getting tangled in our differences. Stop using them to define who’s a better Mom. Let’s use our purest commonality to remind the world of Our strength. Some people might be afraid if this type of power is ever harnessed.

And in my opinion, they should be."

5. The Case Against Breast Feeding in the Atlantic
"One day, while nursing my baby in my pediatrician’s office, I noticed a 2001 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association open to an article about breast-feeding: “Conclusions: There are inconsistent associations among breastfeeding, its duration, and the risk of being overweight in young children.” Inconsistent? There I was, sitting half-naked in public for the tenth time that day, the hundredth time that month, the millionth time in my life—and the associations were inconsistent? The seed was planted. That night, I did what any sleep-deprived, slightly paranoid mother of a newborn would do. I called my doctor friend for her password to an online medical library, and then sat up and read dozens of studies examining breast-feeding’s association with allergies, obesity, leukemia, mother-infant bonding, intelligence, and all the Dr. Sears highlights.

After a couple of hours, the basic pattern became obvious: the medical literature looks nothing like the popular literature. It shows that breast-feeding is probably, maybe, a little better; but it is far from the stampede of evidence that Sears describes. More like tiny, unsure baby steps: two forward, two back, with much meandering and bumping into walls. A couple of studies will show fewer allergies, and then the next one will turn up no difference. Same with mother-infant bonding, IQ, leukemia, cholesterol, diabetes. Even where consensus is mounting, the meta studies—reviews of existing studies—consistently complain about biases, missing evidence, and other major flaws in study design. “The studies do not demonstrate a universal phenomenon, in which one method is superior to another in all instances,” concluded one of the first, and still one of the broadest, meta studies, in a 1984 issue of Pediatrics, “and they do not support making a mother feel that she is doing psychological harm to her child if she is unable or unwilling to breastfeed.” Twenty-five years later, the picture hasn’t changed all that much. So how is it that every mother I know has become a breast-feeding fascist?


Things to Do - Our 5 Favorite IPhone Apps for Kids

02.11.12 (12 of 74).jpg

I have such mixed feelings about kids and the iphone (and adults and the iphone for that matter). One one hand, it seems like one more gadget - like TV and videogames - that hampers imaginative creative play. On the other hand, the iphone really is a waiting room lifesaver (esp. when I have to take all three kids to the doctor or dentist). Oh well, I'll leave it to the experts to hash out the iphone's influence on society and child rearing (which I'll probably read and repost). When my kids do play with the iphone, here are the five apps they fight over the most (and I mean FIGHT).

1. Cakedoodle - This is listed as number one for a reason. Kids find it addictive. The whole game is as simple as making a cake - the iphone lets you squish the bananas, crack the eggs, pour in the vanilla, etc - decorating a cake, and eating a cake. My kids can play for hours, I kid you not. They also fight over who gets to "eat" the imaginary cake, which boggles me. ($0.99)

2. Toca Doctor - Very odd, yet beautiful graphics with intuitive games (no need for written directions). I've heard great things about the other toca games as well, but have yet to download them. ($1.99)

3. Paper Town Friends - This app is so visually stunning that I play it sometimes. It's a paper doll-type game, with gorgeous illustrations of quirky animals (frogs, ducks, monkeys, etc.). ($1.99)

4. Doodlecast for Kids - Draw pictures using different colors and backgrounds. Then a video plays which recorded you drawing. My kids love it. ($1.99)

5. Balloonimals - Beautiful graphics allow kids to create their own balloon animal by blowing, shaking, and moving the phone. ($1.99)

What about everyone else? Any great app recommendations? We're always looking for new ones.


*The pictures on this LOCAL blog blew me away. gorgeous. especially the suprasensorial ones - it's not easy to take great shots in a quirkily lighted museum. wow.

*Looking for something to do this weekend? Check out Claude Moore Colonial Farm's Spring Market Fair and click here to read our review of one of last year's fairs.

*“People always ask me, ‘You have so much confidence. Where did that come from?’ It came from me. One day I decided that I was beautiful, and so I carried out my life as if I was a beautiful girl … It doesn’t have anything to do with how the world perceives you. What matters is what you see. Your body is your temple, it’s your home, and you must decorate it.” —Gabourey Sidibe

*Lovely dreamlike pics of boats in bed.



Things to Make - Mail Carrier Bags and Superhero Capes

Usually I post about things that the kids and I make at home. Not because I think all of our projects are the best out there (I assure you they are not), but because posting about making things keeps me motivated to make things (sort of circular, huh?). But occasionally other projects come along that must be shared. So here goes:


1. Mail Carrier Bags - When I picked P up from preschool all the kids kept showing off their mail carrier bags. Their excitement was over the top, like Xmas. The teacher made the bags using small lunch bags and these simple instructions. She told the kids they could decorate them, but the kids were too excited about the envelopes, sticker/stamps, and stationary on all the tables at preschool. The kids spent the morning "writing" letters and delivering them to their friends' cubbies. They loved it.


2. Decorate Your Own Superhero Cape - At a birthday party a few weeks ago the kids decorated their own superhero capes. The mom bought the capes here and gave the kids fabric markers to decorate them. F can't stop wearing her cape. Or should I say Super F?

What have you been making lately?


Places to Go - United States Botanic Garden (Washington D.C)


Two weekends ago one of my best friends came to town, with her adorable baby and wonderful husband. We spent an afternoon at the United States Botanic Garden - watching the kids run outside, visiting deserts and hawaii inside the conservatory, and frolicking in the kids' garden (fountains rock!). If you've never visited the gardens are truly beautiful and very kid friendly. Plus, the American Indian museum across the street now has an entire kids' room - ImagiNATIONS - with a huge teepee, a stick house, "passport activities" and an impressive library - which entertained my children for a half hour or so.

All exhibits in both locations are FREE (as is street parking on Sundays) and stroller friendly. If you want to visit, the gardens are open from daily from 10 am to 5 pm, click here for more info. The same hours apply for the ImagiNATIONS exhibit.


Pumping the fountain was the highlight of T's week. He couldn't stop talking about it "and then the fishy went SPLASH!!!" P opted for gardening. I love the kids' garden.


Um, P "sleeping" on the blue fountains. She beats to her own drum, that's for sure.


*Spike Jonze interviewing Maurice Sendak - "My books are about children, not for children particularly. Childhood is a hard story and that comes from my own experience – I did not have cruel and demented parents, I had very unhappy parents and there was a big war and there was a Holocaust. What does a kid make of that – ‘Gee, when I grow up, is that the way the world is gonna be?’ I can remember my father pulling me out of bed and dragging me down the street where people were jumping up and down shouting ‘The war is over! The war is over!’ and I remember seeing these scenes of dead people in the streets. How do we rationalise it? I think life is barbaric. So, my interest is really – how do children survive the barbarism?"

*7 Obscure Children's Books by Famous "Adult" Lit Authors - Gertrude Stein? Aldous Huxley? Who Knew?

*An interesting graph of gay rights by state. VA made me cringe.

*A new Lonny to satisfy cravings for decorating porn.


Things to Do - The Story of a Blanket

(Spring 2008)

Four years ago, when F was 2.5, she carried her pink blanket everywhere. EVERYWHERE. often wrapped scarf-style around her neck. Eventually blanket enthusiasm waned and when we brought baby T home from the hospital F passed her favorite blanket onto him. These days an almost 3 year old T carries F's old blanket - now named "pink sheet"- everywhere. Pink sheet comforts him during tantrums, soothes him before bedtime, and shuffles with him during dance parties. It has become a family member.

Last week, at the national arboretum, a teenage boy approached T and told him about his own childhood blanket. The boy looked wistful as he spoke of it and I wondered if T would one day tell a similar story or if pink sheet will become forgotten, along with so many of the other moments and possessions that currently occupy our days.

Happy Friday everyone!!

(Spring 2012)


Places to Go - The National Aquarium (Baltimore, MD)


As you can probably tell from Monday's post, I've been feeling a little disconnected lately. So I decided the kids and I needed some good bonding time, plus (honestly) between playdates and conflicting schedules it feels like we never get to go anywhere fun. Thus I took the girls out of school for a day and planned a trip to the National Aquarium in Baltimore. At first the girls were ecstatic ("dolphin show!! dolphin show!!") then they wavered - "what if we miss something in school? what if our teachers have something special planned? what if we become schoolsick?". I ignored such fears and loaded up the minivan. After a long, whiny car ride, finally we arrived. We've visited the aquarium several times in the past, but usually on weekends, when crowds fill every nook and cranny. So all of us couldn't believe our luck that there were no lines and few "tall" people - we could actually see and explore everything. finally.

For those of you who have never visited, the aquarium exemplifies good museum design. The first floor contains a huge tank of stingrays, eels, and fish, you can lean over several railings and watch them up close. It's all sort of mesmerizing. After the stingrays, moving walkways carry you to higher floors, and each level contains balconies where you can look down and view the stingrays on the first floor (I tried to photograph it above, though the result doesn't really show much).

Regarding the exhibits, the kids all ran from tank to tank. P just studied sea life in preschool, so she kept finding and pointing out different fish to us. And one big huge fish (pictured above) checked us out for quite awhile, so we started to talk with him and ask about life. The top floor of the aquarium hosts a huge mock-rainforest (almost identical to the national zoo's amazonia) where we visited a golden lion tamarin and various tortoises. From the top floor, a carpeted walkway leads you down through the shark tanks and everything becomes progressively darker and you descend. The kids expressed "fear" but it was closer to "fun, roller-coaster fear" than "real tears" fear.

Eventually we made it over to the dolphin section of the aquarium, bummed to learn that they have permanently discontinued the dolphin show, but still excited to watch the dolphins swim around for awhile. After checking out the jellyfish exhibit (probably my favorite part of the day) we lunched at Hard Rock (cheesy i know, but the kids love it) and wandered around Baltimore's inner harbor - watching P chase pigeons ("they're so hard to catch") and looking for fish in the grey/black water. We contemplated touring the inner harbor ships, but i sensed meltdowns on the horizon so we decided to hold off for another day.

Sometimes we all need a day off. especially when we can spend it by the water.

If you're interested in a day at the aquarium, the price is steep - $20.95 for children 3-11 and $29.95 for adults. wowsers. If you live in the area, I highly suggest a season pass for the bargain rate of $159 a family. The aquarium is open 9 am to 5 pm Monday - Thursday. Weekend hours vary by month, click here for the schedule. Strollers ARE NOT ALLOWED, so plan accordingly.


*Kidfriendly DC posted about a fabulous street art festival going on right now. Yesterday, we checked out Circo Para Todos (a Columbian circus act) for free at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage and the show was fantastic!! The festival goes through Saturday (with tons of weekend performances at Yards Park) - check it out if you have a chance (click here for the schedule). And thank you to Kidfriendly DC for the great suggestion!!!

*10 tv characters we can't decide whether to like or hate (i knew roger sterling would be up there, i sort of love him).

*I would love to go to one of these playgrounds. Even without the kids.

*15 clever ideas for instagram photos.


They pick all of their own outfits now, for better or worse.


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