Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Family Trip to Washington, D.C.

Dan, Noah and I left for a trip to the U.S. capital on Friday. Despite questions from family and friends before we left, such as "Do you have family down there?" or "Does Dan need to go there for work?", we actually had chosen to go there purely for pleasure. I must admit, the notion of a trip to Washington initially struck me as an odd choice for a family trip; especially a family with an almost 3-year-old. But the more I looked into it online, the more I was convinced it was the perfect little end of summer adventure for us.

The first day was fun, but exhausting! We woke up at 5am to catch an early flight. By the time we got to touring around Washington, Noah had succumbed to sleepyland in his stroller. Dan and I went to the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial, and the National World War II Memorial. When Noah woke up, we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon at the National Museum of American History. Noah loves the Muppets, and was delighted to see Kermit the Frog there, but he kept asking "Who those other guys?" I hadn't a clue!

He tolerated and bounced through the exhibits about American politics. He loves walking around the big open spaces in museums, not necessarily the exhibits themselves. (Although in this case, why would he?) It works out well for us, since he doesn't usually fuss, but it does mean that we have a much shorter time to view the exhibits! He did really love the kids area of this museum. (And at every successive museum we visited, he would inquire "Where kids area?")

He also loved the transportation exhibit, which included cars, trucks, trams, and trains on display. However, it was the pretend subway train in this section that made his visit! (Yes, I would say he liked it even more than the kids area.)

We spent quite some time on this subway train. It felt like a real train ride, since you could see shadows in the windows, feel the vibration on the floor, and hear the announcer calling out the stops. I was pretty sleepy, evident in the photo above, but you can also see that Noah is bright eyed and bushy tailed!

We passed by the back of the White House on the way back to our hotel. Coincidentally, this is where I cleaned Noah's hands and face from an ice cream bar he had just finished. Now, whenever we mention the White House, Noah fondly remembers that this is where Mommy cleaned him up after his beloved ice cream. 

The next day we visited the Washington Monument. It was a beautiful, clear day to view the Washington landmarks from above.

The picture above on the left shows the Abraham Lincoln Memorial, in the distance. The statue of Lincoln is protected under the roof of the building. The large rectangle of dirt you see is normally the Reflecting Pool, but unfortunately for us, construction crews were busy doing maintenance on it. The two white stone structures you see in the upper right photo are part of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial which officially opened one day before we left Washington. This was one the few items on our list of things to do that we just didn't have any time left for. 

After the Washington Monument, we took Noah to a Carousel located further down the National Mall area.

We followed this with a visit to the National Air and Space Museum, which was nothing less than phenomenal. The main area is filled with airplanes, rockets, satellites and missiles (to name a few) that instantly creates a jaw-dropping effect on all observers.

There were plenty of hands-on activities for Noah to enjoy. He especially liked pretending to be a pilot. This museum visit was definitely a highlight of the trip for me. It was so interesting, and I'd love to go back one day when Noah's attention span is a little longer. After all the excitement of this day, he was ready for an afternoon nap, and Dan and I took advantage of this by visiting the National Gallery of Art. 

There is little variety of restaurants in the downtown area of Washington (actually, there are few restaurants at all in this area). We ate dinner most nights in Georgetown, which was about a 10 minute walk from our hotel in the Foggy Bottom area of Washington. Georgetown is a pretty, quaint little area full of restaurants and clothing stores. 

The next day we visited the Washington Zoo, where we got an excellent view of a Giant Panda eating a huge branch of bamboo. I also loved the way the elephants could be viewed from atop a bridge. This zoo is far more condensed than the Toronto Zoo, so you don't have to walk huge distances to see all the animals. This is great for people visiting the zoo, perhaps not so good for the animals.

On Monday morning, Dan toured the Capitol  while Noah and I did some shopping at Pentagon City Mall. (The subway system is so easy to navigate.) Later on, Dan and I took turns visiting the Holocaust Museum while one of us watched Noah. Dan took him to the Natural History Museum, which was apparently a fantastic place for children to explore.

Noah enjoyed seeing the dinosaur bones and running around the large world map, the most. Actually, he is very much into maps lately. As part of our bedtime routine at the hotel each night, he chose not to read one of the books we had brought from home. Instead, he wanted me to look at the map of Washington with him. We would always start by finding the location of our hotel on the map, and then trace the route we had traveled that day. It was a great map for him, since it included major landmarks, such as the Washington Monument.

Another highlight of this trip for me was watching the sun set from the steps of the U.S. Capitol, while we listened to the U.S. Navy Band play. Some people had even brought a picnic, and wine to enjoy while watching the performance. I guess it didn't hurt that it was the perfect summer's night for such an experience.

Noah, the music man, enjoyed it too.....for a time. I'd say he lasted maybe half an hour or so, during which time he was smiling and dancing as you see in the video below. But all of a sudden, he said, "Let's go now", and when he has his mind made up, it's almost impossible to change. 

Tuesday was our last day in Washington. We decided to spend the morning at the "Newseum". It is, as it sounds, a museum dedicated to news. It includes many artifacts (such as the antenna from the World Trade Center's North Tower) and focuses on reporting and journalism from the 16th century right up to the present.

It is very interactive, and Noah enjoyed it much more than we had expected. It includes a 4D theatre, in which we saw a short, action-packed film about two famous journalists. And of course, this is the location of Noah's debut as a news reporter, featured in my previous post.

After our visit to the Newseum, we went to have lunch on an outdoor patio of a restaurant nearby. As the waitress was taking our order, I inquired if the subway (metro) ran underneath, since I could feel the vibration in the ground. As she was answering that she didn't think so, things really started to tremble, and she said "THAT is not the metro!" We had just experienced our first earthquake! Everything was fine, and we went on to have our lunch, but in the few hours after this occurrence the streets became gridlocked so badly that ambulances an firetrucks were unable to get through. We decided to take the metro to the airport, since no one was moving on the roads, but that was incredibly slow and crowded too. Luckily, with the combination of the metro, a cab, a flight delay, and some really nice people, we were able to get to the airport in time!

We had a busy, eventful, and fun trip to Washington. I was pleasantly surprised at how friendly the citizens of Washington were. The people who worked at the subway station were especially helpful and respectful. Sadly, I cannot boast the same for those that work at the Toronto Transit Commission (in general, at least). What is so great about Washington is that most of the museums were free. The only one we had to pay for was the Newseum. The Washington Monument and the National Zoo were also free. If your toddler has "issues" at any of these attractions, at least you can feel free to leave and come back at another time, without worrying about having wasted your money.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Noah Pearen, Child News Reporter

I will post more on our Washington trip when I get a chance, but I couldn't wait to post this cute video! Noah pretends to be a news reporter at the Newseum. I think he's reporting on a basketball player falling down.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Cool Kids

We went out in the pouring rain one day last week. It's summer (and thus warm enough) and there was no thunder, so it was perfect weather to play in the rain. The kids had a ball! See for yourselves. (This video cracks me up every time. I think B. is shaping up to be a superhero. His strength is off the charts! Remember, he's only 2.5 years old!)

Most of the kids like to walk when we return inside from our outings, rather than ride in the wagon. They love to play this game every time: They run ahead of me towards the apartment and hide behind the wall. Then I act very worried, or sad, that I have lost them. Here they are playing the game, looking like drowned rats.

Another day last week, one of my coworkers from the school I used to work at came for a visit with her little guy, Logan. He's only 18 months old, but he fit in with the gang just fine. Whenever Aidas couldn't immediately see him, he's say, "Where's Lola?" I wish I had taken more pictures than this, but I was too busy chatting with my friend Tara to spend time taking photos. Still, you can see that he is a beautiful little guy! It was a short, but sweet visit, and we all hope they come again soon!

We visited Annette Street Library on Friday, hoping the drop-in program would be open. I knew there was a chance it would not be running, since the lady who runs the program was planning on running it outdoors at a park on a few Fridays during the summer. Since we didn't have the schedule, we chanced it, and found out when we got there that this was indeed one of the days they were off to the park. So, we decided to go to the upstairs part of the library instead.

The kids had a great time reading books and playing with some toys they had out. Aidas loved colouring and completely filled his page with beautiful colours. Noah had 2 meltdowns: one while we were still in the library, and one just outside the library. And both were for the same reason: he didn't want to leave the library. You hear that, Mayor Ford? We love the library, and all that it has to offer. 

This week, we visited a play area across the street which we hadn't been to for a while. It was filled with beautiful flowers and plants, and the kids had fun exploring the area all over again. Noah is into wearing his firefighter hat as his sun hat, lately. His reasoning is that "It's cool" or "I look cool", basically parroting what I've said to him when he has it on. (I was shocked with these statements, since it's not like him to take my opinion into consideration!) 

They repeatedly play the same pretend scenario, in which they take a bus, plane or train to Ontario Place. Noah started this game after visiting Ontario Place on Canada Day, and all his friends seem to be completely on board with it, even though I don't think they've even been to Ontario Place! I guess it doesn't really matter, since they can all imagine roller coasters, merry-go-rounds and water slides.

And in case you didn't know, this is where the cool kids hang out. I am lucky to have gotten this shot. Maya is extremely difficult to photograph these days because she is in constant movement. Actually, it's not just that she's always moving, it's that she's moving so fast, like a busy little bumble bee! I try to get her to stop for a picture so I can capture her cuteness, but this is (understandably) not her top priority.

We visited Lithuania Park this week. The kids said that they did want to go to the wading pool this time. Maybe it was just getting too ordinary before and they needed a little break from it. It hadn't opened yet when we first got to the park, so the kids played at the playground for a while. This is them eagerly following me to the waiting pool once we noticed it had opened. I love the determination on Lucas's face!

They thoroughly enjoyed the water. Usually I have one kid or another wanting to go back to the playground, but they were all about the wading pool on this day. And I was so lucky too, because on this day they were all perfect little angels, listening to and following instructions. I certainly don't expect this from 2-year-olds, but boy am I grateful when it happens! And yes, I praised them to no end about their stellar behaviour. Maya is such a mother hen sometimes. She helped me retrieve articles of clothing when I was getting them all dressed afterwards. Then, on her own volition, she got everyone's shoes and brought them to the group.

One thing we are dealing with in great numbers lately, are falls resulting in scraped knees. I believe this is part of their initiation into the next phase of childhood. I really cannot call them toddlers for much longer!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Summer Fun at Sunnyside Beach

Last Thursday I took 3 of the kids to Sunnyside Beach. Maya and Lucas were on vacation, which meant I could fit the other 3 kids in the wagon. Actually, I was also able to fit one of the heavier bags in the wagon. (Thank goodness, since it's a long walk from our apartment to the beach!)

B. was a little bit apprehensive of the water at first. Every time I dipped my feet in, he would nervously say "Miss Charla..." (This is what the twins call me so he's caught on to that.) Noah and Aidas were all over it like white on rice, but it was a little choppy, so I preferred to hold their hands when they stood in the shallow part.

B. soon faced his fears and found himself enjoying the water as well. Aidas was intrigued by the way the waves could carry things away. He threw his stick in the water and then, in a worried tone, asked me if I could get his stick back. Immediately after I retrieved it for him, he threw it in again. His mother later likened this to someone trying to play fetch with a dog. Also, he apparently later gave his mother what she likes to call the "Critical Incident Debriefing". He was concerned about a toy he had lost to the waves, so I guess he threw more than a stick in the water!

We had a picnic lunch on the beach, and then got right back to playing. The kids loved when we all held hands and walked in after a receding wave singing "I was walking down the street one day", and then tried to run back out before the wave "caught" us. Noah enjoyed doing his usual song and dance while Aidas and B. made delicious sand pancakes for me.

Next, we visited the playground at the west side of the beach. Aidas and B. mastered rock climbing. B. was really enticed by all the climbing structures we don't see at the playgrounds we normally visit. Really, these structures are designed for kids much older than these three, but that didn't stop B. from attempting much of it. It was a little unnerving, but I managed to keep him safe while letting him practise his ever increasing gross motor abilities.

Meanwhile, Noah and Aidas enjoyed a dip in the wading pool adjacent to the playground. They all eventually came back together to play as a group. In the bottom right picture they are playing "bus", which of course always turns into "airplane", or "train", or "boat".

The kids relished an ice cream (or in Aidas's case, Popsicle) treat as we headed over to the other playground at the east side of the beach. B. took his time, slowly savoring his ice cream. This was too much for Aidas to endure, and after having finished his Popsicle, and he thought it completely justified that he should have B.'s ice cream sandwich. B. quickly clarified whose ice cream it was.

They didn't spend any time at the actual playground at the east side. (It paled in comparison to the playground they had just visited.) But they were absolutely delighted by the giant dinosaur structures! At their size, the kids were only able to climb onto the tail of one of the dinosaurs. Or so I thought. Shortly after these pictures were taken, when Aidas and Noah were in the wading pool directly beside these structures, I looked over in horror to see B. scaling his way to the top of this dinosaur. I'm sure he knew exactly what he was doing, but I was not about to chance a concussion on my watch (even if I did just renew my "First Aid" license)! We really need to get this kid into gymnastics or acrobatics, or something! 

They all had a great time in the huge wading pool. Aidas and B. were proud to show off their "swimming" skills, which involve lying on their tummies in the water and moving their arms and legs. It was so cute, but I wasn't fast enough to capture it on film. 

Noah splashed around a little bit, but how did he spend most of his time? Yup! You guessed it. He performed his repertoire of songs for all those in the vicinity of the wading pool (whether they wanted it or not). I swear, if he doesn't end up being a singer or a musician, he's got to be a producer! Still, he's only coming up on 3 years old, so his interests could easily change with new experiences. And what rocks Aidas's world? Well, he maintains his passion for trucks and machines (especially emergency vehicles) and is especially captivated by "emergency situations". But he is also quite the little scientist. Whenever we are outdoors, he is exploring with sticks, mud, and rocks. Or he is discovering insects. He has such an eye for spotting the tiniest items of interest in his environment. Often, I must quickly confiscate these items and whip them quickly into the nearest bush. I believe "curious" is his real middle name.

There is such beauty in all the children's distinct personalities, and it is fascinating to observe their different preferences. Watch out world. Here they come!!!