Sunday, April 27, 2014

Thomas's Day Out: B&O Museum

2nd Birthday, getting Charlie
When I started writing this post, I decided to research exactly when it was that my child became obsessed with Thomas.  I have to blame it on myself a little, because it was for his second birthday that I randomly decided to throw a Charlie engine into his gift bag.  I think I couldn't find a basic non-brand train, so I picked up Charlie, not wanting to get Thomas since I considered it so commercialized. Haha.

When he became a big brother six months later, we got him his first set of train tracks from Ikea, and since then he has stockpiled a couple more sets, trestle additions, and many more engines.  I think he has a couple Thomases, Percy, Gordon, Toby, Emily, Ferdinand, Dash/Bash, Rocky, Charlie and Spencer.  He also has a turntable, a Cranky Crane, a steamworks, and a spiral run.

3rd Birthday
I thought his Thomas obsessions had peaked around his third birthday, but we're now two months past his fourth birthday and he is still trying to put new engines on my grocery list every time I ask him if he needs anything and he is even starting to use gift money to pick out his own trains.
He creates elaborate tracks and sets in motion epic "stories" using specific engines (but not the Chuggington engines, they aren't allowed to be played with at the same time) and has all sorts of rules for how to play with the trains.  I think it blew his mind the first time he saw there was actually a Thomas show on PBS, because he had been introduced to the books first.  He got to see several of the movies when I was busy taking care of newborn Eli and recovering from my c-section, and was so excited when we moved here and he found out it is on the local PBS station every weekday (luckily during school hours though, so he only gets to see it two days a week).  He saw his triplet cousins be Thomas, Percy, and James for Halloween back when they were almost four, and he was so excited about it.  However, it's not quite a costume I could make from scratch, so I've got six months to hope he forgets that's what he wants to be this Halloween.

4th Birthday
Due to his continual nightly reading of the original Thomas series for the last year, I don't think there is a kid out there that knows more about the original storyline as my son.  So, we decided we would make the trek up to Baltimore and share our son's excitement for his favorite train by buying tickets to the B&O Museum's Day Out With Thomas. 

Though we didn't get to spend as long as we would have liked there because of his late soccer game, it was definitely a great trip to take him on. The museum itself is housed in a huge roundhouse that is gorgeous. I was surprised by just how many trains they had, some inside and some out.  Several of the inside ones you could climb aboard.  Theo of course loved playing at all the different train tables with some of the trains he doesn't have. But he would not say hi to Sir Topham Hat.  

When we finally headed outside we were surprised by just how much more there was outside. Though there were mazes, tattoo stations, and rides, Theo pretty  much just wanted to watch the miniature trains go around their tracks.
 Theo knew we were going to take a train ride when I showed him the tickets and told him we had to get to the platform,  but he had no idea that a real Thomas engine would be pulling us.  He was definitely surprised when Thomas pulled up. When we asked what he thought of Thomas later he said,  "He thought we were on the Island of Sodor."  

The ride itself was a pretty typical train ride. The only downside was that it was in inner city Baltimore which is not exactly picturesque. But the kids are not bothered by that. Theo was excited when the conductor yelled all aboard and later came by to punch our tickets.  

All in all it was a great day. Both boys enjoyed themselves. I was surprised that it actually did not feel very crowded.  We did have one of the last train rides so that may have helped.  And the museum itself would definitely be worth the trip even without Thomas there.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

American History Museum (America on the Move)

I love when what Theo is doing at school fits seamlessly with what we are doing at home.  This week was the school's "Transportation" week, and Theo got to spend the week learning and playing with all his favorite things.  On Monday he was so proud of the train he made during craft time (telling me how he put windows on the cars so they weren't tanker cars) and had a great time riding his trike at school Wednesday during "bike day".  Yesterday as soon as he came home he carried up his huge tote of cars and played with them all evening, after making a car craft with a photo of himself as a driver. Today is the big day where we finally get to go meet the king of all things that move-Thomas the Tank Engine.  We are surprising him, and I hope he loves it.  It's amazing how excited I am to take him to it, but I guess that's one of my favorite parts of being a mom.  Doing something with my child that he will just love.  I'll post pics and a review of this soon. But while I'm on the subject, I had a few other train posts I was planning to share.

When we first went to the American History Museum, we had a conversation that I think I will always remember (even with my poor memory skills).  We came upon the huge engine on the first floor beside the stairs, and Theo asked why it wasn't moving.  I deflecting the question back to him, expecting for a logical reason, perhaps because it is inside a building, or that it doesn't have the fire burning to fuel the engine.  Theodore's reason was that, "There is no driver."  While logical I guess, it wouldn't have cracked my top reasons for why the full size train wasn't chugging through the museum.  He is now at the stage where he knows more than me....  he'll tell you he knows everything (gets that from his dad).

Just past the big engine is the America on the Move exhibit; a great one to go through with any children you have that are interested in anything that moves.  Since we live so close and visit the National Mall often, my method of visiting the museum is always to just pick one or two exhibits in each museum to see and focus on that theme for the visit.  This great exhibit has a couple locomotives and a street car that you can (pretend to) take a trip on, as well as other modes of transportation (even motorcycles, Theo's old favorite).  It is a very kid friendly exhibit, and I'm sure it will spark lots of questions that you may or may not be able to answer for your little one.  (I couldn't get good photos of him, since he is always so excited in the exhibit that he won't stop moving long enough!)
Waving to the driver.

Friday, April 25, 2014

April Showers... bring Tulips! Burnside Farms

Over our lovely Easter weekend, we were out and about northwest of here, and decided to squeeze in a trip to Burnside Farms while we were in the area.  Our county is pretty big and varied here, so there are lots of places we still haven't visited within our county, and Haymarket is one (I love the name, makes me feel like we're in a more rural area than the suburbs). 

I first saw there was a "Holland in Haymarket" festival months ago and immediately put it on our calendar.  My great aunt visited there once and brought back the wooden shoes, and I remember always playing with them at her house when I was younger. 

Their main attraction for me was the tulips, though they also have daffodils in bloom this time of the year.  The stems are $1 each for tulips and 2/$1 for daffodils.  They are open Monday-Friday 10-6
Saturday and Sunday 9-6.  Under 12 months are free, otherwise it is $3 for a single day passport,
$5 for an unlimited re-entry passport for daffodils and tulips, or $6 for a full season passport giving you unlimited re-entry for daffodils, tulips and Dutch iris.  

Theo was really, really into cutting the flowers (we had to be sure to keep the scissors away from him) and of course Eli had to have his own basket to carry just like big brother.  I would definitely recommend the place, and perhaps we'll return and see what else Haymarket has to offer. 

We took home just about a dozen flowers, and (as expected) many, many photos:

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Happy Earth Day! (GroVia Diapers)

I thought I missed Earth day, but apparently from all the emails I have gotten, I learned it is today! 

One of my goals for the next couple years is to get even more serious about being green and Earth friendly.  When I think of Earth day, I think mostly about the 3 R's that they taught us in school so long ago.  We have always been big recyclers (I even remember volunteering at a recycling drive with my mother when I must have only been five or six) so we are pretty expert at that.  We went to our local landfill for recycling day last fall (free lunch and won some prices, plus Theo loves seeing all the machines!) and found out that our landfill here is pretty awesome and modern and will take lots of our electronics, batteries, and even textiles to be recycled.  And this is the first place we have lived that takes our recycling from right in front of our house once a week, so we are happy to not have to take it anywhere anymore.

We are okay with Re-using, though I could probably find some more ways to reuse some things.  I guess I haven't thought as much about that R.  I know I would like to reuse our organic matter by making it into compost, but we haven't figured out the best way to do that yet when we have no place to put the finished compost (next year's focus).  But the R we have focused on this year has been the Reducing.  After we moved here, and had our first in-home washer and dryer, we finally became a cloth diaper family and got to reduce our monthly trash production significantly and stop spending money each month on diapers!  So, to participate in Earth Day today I wanted to share a bit about our favorite kind in case anyone out there is thinking about switching to cloth.

I had no experience with cloth diapers at all, so I leaned toward what I thought would be the easiest diapers which are the all-in-one varieties.  These are very easy, because they are identical to a regular diaper that snap on and then can be washed.  But, in our experience these take a much longer time to dry, so I'm glad I only bought a few of them.  What we love are the GroVia hybrid diapers (with snap shells).  These are neat because the outside shell can be reused a few times until wet or dirty (and can even be thrown in with the regular wash) and the inside stay-dry soaker pad just gets snapped in and changed as needed.  They are very simple to use, and you can even put in their Biosoaker Disposable Inserts or BioLiners to make them a little more friendly when traveling or being out of the house for multiple changes.  We bought enough to get away with doing a load of diapers ever 2 to 3 days, and use Charlie's Soap powder with no problems.  We basically run them through three washes, only putting detergent in the second time (and you can skip the spin cycles until the last one).

  We use:  4 shells, 8 pads, occasional biosoakers and liners, and 3 all-in-ones (from a different brand), a Planet Wise (medium) wet bag for the diaper bag, and a large Kanga Care wet bag for at home
We spent:  about $300 for everything

Other Earth Friendly ideas we do:
  • Shopping at farmer's markets (with fabric bags/baskets)
  • Living close to at least one family member's job/school who then bikes/walks
  • Trying to only get vehicles that get decent gas mileage, and that are the right size for our uses
  • Try to have a meatless day each week (even though most of our meat comes from my parents farm and we know exactly what goes into it and how it is produced)
  • Paying bills online, and signing up for most paperless electronic services
  • Using a dishwasher rather than hand washing (who knew, this saves a ton of water)
  • Using a filter pitcher and even a water bottle with a built in filter for on-the-go water

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Peek at the Peak

I have always been in love with the cherry blossoms that surround the memorials at the National Mall since I learned about them when I was like 8.  When we moved to DE we began visiting during the blooming season, and made it each of the years 2009-2011.  Due to weather and travel, we haven't been to it in a few years so I was excited to pack up the boys and take the much shorter trek this weekend up to see the cherry blossoms during their peak bloom.  I know there are cherry blossom trees all over, but there is just something magical about seeing all the blossoms surrounding the iconic Washington images (Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial are my favorites). It was the hottest and latest visit ever for us, with the temperature topping 80 degrees, and the petals a swirl amid all the refreshing wind.  We were a little crazy to go on such a busy day, but we ditched the stroller to make walking and getting on the metro easier and just enjoyed the exercise walking completely around the tidal basin with our two little guys amid all the tourists.

Theo made a cherry blossom tree during craft time at school, so he was pretty excited about them too!

 This face!

Apparently wanting "more" of something.

Man he looks tall here.