The Frost Science Museum with Toddlers

Now that my girls are older, mobile and all over the place, I’ve been searching out new experiences to entertain them (and wear them out. Let’s be real, twin toddlers are a handful.) So when my friend asked if we’d join her and her daughter for a play date at the Frost Science Museum in downtown Miami, I jumped on the opportunity.

We had yet to visit the museum because of tales of long lines and crowded rooms, but now that the buzz started to die down, we’ve been itching to go.

Now, I’m usually wary  about taking the girls out to places because they are the quintessential definition of toddlers – they shout when excited, run everywhere and attempt to climb the world. So when our playdate fell on a weekday morning, I figured that at the very worst, there wouldn’t be so many people around to get annoyed.

As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about. The Frost Science Museum is amazingly family-friendly.

We met up with my friend and her daughter in the parking lot and walked up the ramp to the ticketing counter – an open space area with the breeze from Biscayne Bay wafting through. The girls happily kicked their feet in the stroller while leaning out to take in the surroundings.  With tickets in hand, we walked through the buildings, past the 6 elevators and tried to get our bearings.

“How do we get into the museum?” I asked a nearby employee. “You’re already inside,” he politely said. “There are six floors, I recommend you take the elevator to the top and work your way down.”  Oops. I felt a little silly, but I’m sure he’s answered THAT question a hundred times (at least.)

Now that we were inside the museum…

We turned our strollers around and pushed our toddlers towards the elevators. We discarded the employee’s advice and started on the second floor. Catching up with my friend as our girls waved at each other, we walked into an exhibit building. Or tried to, at least. My one beef with the Frost is that the doors have to be pulled open. If you don’t push a stroller then you might not realize what a pain this is.

We pulled the strollers up to an animated short, featuring a kid swimming through the inside of a monster fish. It was well-told, and not nearly as terrifying as it sounds, but my girls started to get antsy.  “Get me OUT of this stroller! I want to run and touch everything,” their body language cried. I glanced over. My friend was in the same boat. Wordlessly, we started moving.

This exhibit was neat, but we didn’t see much. These toddlers needed to run around and explore. So we moved on.

Now we decided to take the employee’s advice.

As we waited for one of the six elevators to arrive, a crowd of school kids joined us. “That’s awesome to see because you know this is a place that welcomes kids,” we remarked to each other.

We hopped on a glass elevator to the top floor. The girls quieted in their stroller, staring at the view. As we walked off, onto the solarium, we got our first glimpse of the aquarium on the fifth floor that Frost is so famous for.

We strolled around the rooftop, taking in views of government cut (surprisingly empty of cruise ships), the solar panels and native vegetation.

That’s cool, but let’s be real. We want to see the aquarium.

So we jetted down the fourth floor (the fifth floor only has classrooms and conference space). As we walked towards the aquarium, we spotted an exhibit called “River of Grass.”  But more importantly, this is made for kids 6 and under.  We swerved over and walked inside. And we almost never left.

We stepped into a small room with pictures of native animals on the walls, and the curator informed us that it was nighttime and immediately picked up large, stuffed flashlights.  Nighttime?

We stepped into the main room and immediately understood. The girls wriggled as I unsnapped them from the stroller and they ran into the center of the darkened room with a projected scene of the Everglades on the floor, wall and ceiling.  The “flashlights,” which were almost the same size as my girls, illuminated all sorts of native Florida wildlife skulking around in the dark. As they walked around the room, the water and grass moved with them as they delightedly yelled “gato” as they spotted the Florida panthers and deer.

Then the night turned to day and the flashlights went away. The sun came out, the palms swayed in the breeze and fish and frogs swam around in the water. Or so it was projected. Our three toddlers had the room almost exclusively to themselves and they ran around, staring at the animals, watching the water move with their feet, sitting on logs (and pushing them around) and giggling as rain drops splattered across the water. I’m not sure how much time we actually spent, but according to the day/night transitions, we were there about a week.

After the River of Grass.

As we wrestled our tiring toddlers back into the strollers, I decided I need a membership to this place. And then we walked outside into the daylight to find a water table overlooking Biscayne Bay. So out went the girls because there’s no way we could keep them away.

The water table was multiple levels and showcased the concept of currents and downstream water flow. But my girls just wanted to grab the animal toys, splash their hands and throw the rubber balls around. At one point I looked over and Emma got sprayed in the face with a bit of water from the breeze and she was smiling with every tooth and then some. The pure joy on that girl’s face was indescribable.

But once we saw eye rubbing start, it was time to head out.

Finally, the famous Frost Aquarium.

If you’ve seen any pictures of Frost, you’ve probably seen pictures by the aquarium. And it’s no surprise. The aquarium is 5 floors and pretty impressive.  On the fourth floor, you see the top of the aquarium, as well as the aviary. You can pet stingrays (no thanks), ogle baby alligators, or scream “PEZ” at gigantic fish swimming around. I’ll let you figure out which of these things my girls did.

As we made our way down to the third floor, we saw more of the aquarium from inside the building. Here we were able to see sharks, barracudas and brightly colored fish darting around the coral reef.  Pretty cool stuff but with three tired toddlers, who were starting to get cranky, we didn’t tarry much.

As we got to the bottom two floors, we found the bottom of the aquarium. A giant blue globe that’s made for pictures. It’s pretty impressive and we had to stop to look before winding down a ramp to the first floor.

The Frost gets it’s Miami on.

On the first floor there’s a dance floor that lights up as you step. Upbeat dance music was playing and once again we let the girls go.  Zoey immediately starting dancing, jumping and running around the floor as Emma gazed at her feet in a mixture of exhaustion and fascination. Harper, my friend’s daughter, ran and danced around the floor. And I wondered how it was possible for that much energy to come out of such tired girls. But then again, who can resist a light up floor and dance music? Come on.

We’ll be back.

This time there was no fight to get the girls back in the stroller. They were spent. And I definitely need a membership. Watching them all play and explore was my favorite part of the entire experience. It more than made up for the ridiculously expensive parking and the annoying door situation.

But as I payed the $16 parking fee, I committed to street parking the next time. Because we absolutely will be back.

 

 

 

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Flying with twin toddlers

We did it. We took our first flight with our twin toddlers. I won’t lie – leading up to the trip we were anxious about the flight – what if they cried the whole time? What if everyone around us was going to throw shade? After all, the internet is filled with horror stories of people being hateful and nobody likes sitting next to babies.

It turns out that the flights really weren’t bad. There were a few moments of fussiness but overall the girls were entertained and happy. I attribute this to a combination of my prep and a new environment.

How we keep our twins happy on our 3.5 hour flight

Leading up to our flight to Colorado, I obsessively researched ways to keep babies entertained on planes. I queried my mom groups, my travel groups and my friends. I surfed on Amazon and I quickly realized that there’s a huge, very expensive industry geared towards travel toys.

I was not about to spend $30/per toy per baby just for a flight. That’s absurd. As I was getting ready to head out one day, I noticed that Zoey was playing at my feet with my husband’s toiletry bag. She was hyper focused on unzipping the side pockets and pulling things out. Which gave me an idea, so I headed to Target and raided the dollar section, school supplies and party favors. This is the outcome:

Because we were flying with so much stuff, I wanted something compact. I also wanted things that weren’t going to cost a lot of money in case the girls broke or lost things (inevitable).

I originally was looking for makeup bags, but found that pencil cases were cheaper and had much more fun prints. Inside each case, I put in the following things:

  • 1 Indestructible book
  • 6 soft, shiny poofs
  • 3 Clothes hangers
  • 2 sticky felt letters/numbers
  • Teething toys
  • A koosh ball
  • A plastic spoon
  • Linky loops
  • 2 Balls with suction cups all over
  • Post-it notes

Outside of the bag, I also had a roll of colorful tape that we tore pieces off and stuck to hands, tray tables, etc.

Each item was new (except for the teething toys and linky loops) and had different textures. While they didn’t play with the pouches exclusively, they did enjoy sticking their hands inside and pulling out everything.

The biggest hits were the Koosh balls (they liked pulling the rubbery strings), Post-It notes (all my seat mates were “gifted” Post-It notes on the way there), the clothes pins and the suction cup balls. Noted.

What we ate on the plane

When we booked our flights, we intentionally booked early flights to try to capitalize on naps (for the record, Zoey was way too excited to sleep on the plane on the way there). But I know my babies – they love to eat. Milk was not going to be enough for an almost 4 hour flight, and I didn’t want to rely on crappy plane snacks. So on the way there I packed food for all of us, including:

  • 8 oz bottles of milk for the girls
  • Homemade oatmeal bars with apples and raisins
  • BBQ Turkey meatballs
  • Snack packs of granola for El Hombre and I
  • Baby teething crackers

We gave the girls bottles at takeoff and landing for their ears. As we were flying, we broke off parts of the oatmeal bars for the girls for their breakfast. As we got close to landing, we switched to the BBQ meatballs. This way we had full bellies with real, homemade food. Because full babies are happy babies.

What we learned

Flying with babies isn’t as bad as it seems if you plan in advance. Also, everyone around us was nice and supportive. Several people asked if we needed help, offered to share food, etc. Instead of getting static, we were told lots of stories about our seat mates’ children and their first flying experiences.  I’m sure there were some anti-baby people on that plane, but we didn’t feel any rudeness from anyone.

 

Every day I’m hustlin’

I’ve had my nose to the grind for the past couple weeks. I’ve been writing, editing and planning non-stop. During nap time, after the babies hit the sack, when the sitter is here.

It’s time to rest for now. I’ve just wrapped up a ton of content for one of my projects, I’ve got my action plan in place for another, El Hombre ran out and the kids are still napping. I’m set to finish a ton of work in the next two weeks and then take a break for a week (as much as any freelancer can take a break that is).

Now I’m daydreaming of crisp mountain air, being outside in tolerable heat and exploring. We head to Colorado in two weeks and I’m ready for a change of pace. I’m excited to be outside without feeing smothered by humidity. I’m nervous about two wriggly babies on a 4.5 hour flight.

This is why I freelance… to be able to strike out on adventures when we want to. When you can work from where ever, and whenever it opens up the world. It allows you to meet new people, to forge new relationships (which can lead to more business) and open up your worldview. I never feel more creative than when I get a different perspective and there’s nothing like travel to spark that fire.

Minimalism

Lately I’ve found myself musing about how transformative these last year and a half has been.  It’s no secret that we’ve been divesting ourselves of excess over the past year or so. As we donate, upcycle or toss items, It’s become clear how expensive it is to buy cheap things. Most of our clothes that were “cheap” have become rags, while the more expensive things are still in perfect condition after years of use. The same goes for kitchen ware, housewares and more.

It’s striking to see how our natural style has emerged as we rid ourselves of impulse buys we never really needed. Gone are the radical colors and what remains are calming blues, greens and taupes. Colors that soothe and inspire relaxation. (that is, if you are a geek and believe in color theory like I do.)

Overall, it’s interesting just how transformative it is to pare down and live with less. Yes, there’s a certain catharsis of ridding yourself of excess, but it also lends itself to a more relaxing home environment. Now things are easier to find and organize. There’s less to negotiate when pulling things out of closets or drawers and there’s less to clean. Everything has it’s place, everything is functional and everything stands the test of time.

These are small things but they have a big impact on our lives. Think about it – how often do you get frustrated when you need to find something and you can’t figure out where it is? Now imagine trying to dig through a drawer, dropping something on the floor or your foot because that drawer is overflowing with stuff. Unnecessary stuff. You’re already frustrated. Then you have to get on a call with a client or a vender – it’s already off to a bad start, even if you don’t realize it. As I contemplate all these things, it’s no wonder that I find myself less anxious over things that don’t really matter, and more focused on the things that do.

Working Wednesday: the ebbs and flows

Freelancing is scary to a lot of people because there’s no guarantee that you get a consistent paycheck. Sometimes work is slow, and sometimes work is fast. For the past few months I’ve been running close to idle at times. Granted, being idle was somewhat by design (or as idle as any working mother with twins can be!) but none the less, I was starting to get a bit antsy. I was also starting to question whether freelancing was the right choice.

Then things started to shift. In the past few weeks, leads started coming in and my clients started ramping up. I’m not sure where it’s coming from because I am not out, hard selling people. But I am talking to my contacts more frequently than I ever did, sitting miserably in a cubicle.

If my workflow was ebbing earlier this year, it’s certainly flowing (almost overflowing) lately. And it’s awesome. It’s exciting. It’s humbling to know that people think of me when they think of hiring a contractor. These feelings are what keeps freelancers going.

Today I turned to El Hombre (who’s now being pulled in on certain projects) to tell him that I might seriously consider contracting out some of my colleagues, just to make sure I don’t overload myself. It’s such a gratifying feeling to know that at this stage in my life, I don’t have to consider going back into an office any time soon. Because that’s my goal for myself professionally. It’s our goal for ourselves, personally.

And that got me thinking. So many people say that they aren’t meant to sit in an office, yet they resentfully trudge to work every day. It doesn’t have to be like that.

I spent way too much time sitting in traffic, stressed, angry and upset to not consider walking this path. But I also wasn’t impulsive about it. I bounced the idea off El Hombre so many times that he eventually told me he didn’t want to hear about it if I wasn’t going to do it. He always supported me, but I was nervous. I kept worrying about whether I would be successful, whether I would make enough money. But then I realized – I made good money but I wasn’t happy. And one day I thought about it differently – what if I kept making enough money that I would keep justifying not being happy. That I would continue to justify spending the majority of my waking hours doing something that damaged my health from the insane amounts of stress. So I made a plan.

I started saving up. I cut expenses (which wasn’t hard – I basically went back to my life when I was crippled by student load debt) and I started chatting with people in my network who freelanced to get an idea of the highs and lows that I should expect

And then I made the leap. And it’s been worth every minute of it.

Summer musings

Summer is pretty much here, and it’s got me a bit nostalgic for my childhood. I remember eagerly waiting for the first official day of summer (which, by the way, was the last day of school). It was a countdown to long days outside, pool days and library books. Once summer was here, we knew we were allowed to play outside ALL DAY, catching lightning bugs at night and drink honeysuckles. That was a North Carolina summer.  We didn’t care how hot it was, or if we would get tan lines. We squirmed to get out the door as our mom slathered us in coconut-scented sun screen and we charged like bulls into our kitchen for lunch, only to charge back out and jump on our bikes, or explore the woods.

When my mom needed to get out of the house, she’d load us up into the minivan and take us (with some of our friends if we were lucky) to the community pool. As we got bigger, we’d get to go to the local waterpark if we were lucky. Looking back, both were great ways to wear out three hyperactive little kids.

I also think about our family trips to the beach and the mountains. We’d build sandcastles on big, wide beaches with my dad, while my mom looked on from her beach chair. We’d make “beach friends” – kids near our age that were camped out near us. Friends we never expected to form lasting friendships with, but were fun to hang out with for a few days. We’d ride bikes and go to bed listening to the ocean and the crickets.

Or we’d take a break and head to the cooler, more dry air of the mountains. We’d take hikes and splash in swimming holes and go home to pick blueberries off my grandmother’s trees.

Now, as we have our own kids, I think more about these things than I used to. As an adult, I realize that these were not the more simple times that I remember. There was the stock market crash, the cold war and who knows what else. But we don’t remember that. I remember my dad serenading my mom on the guitar with the song, “even though we ain’t got money/I’m so in love with you honey…” but we didn’t understand the reason why he’d continuously sing that song. We just knew we loved how he’d play the guitar and sing.

These are not simple times. But as we grow into this whole parenthood thing, I want to make sure we build the same sort of adventurous, fun and idyllic memories for our girls. I want to shield them from the darker tones of life without smothering them or painting a false reality. While I plan to vet their activities, I don’t want to over-architect them. I want them to make real friends, play in person and interact with people face-to-face as much as possible.

Life, lately

How are we halfway through the year? How are my babies almost one? Why would I ever go back into a 9-5 setting?

These are the random thoughts that flitted through my head as I watched my girls giggle a play while cupping a warm mug of coffee between my hands and listening to it rain.

I’ve heard that once you have kids, the days go by slowly and the years fly. It’s true. But I think that’s more than just having kids, it’s life. And these are the things that I’ve been contemplating lately. Particularly as it involves how I spend my waking hours.

Sometimes I feel like I never unplug. Working from home does that to you because there’s not a clear delineation between work and home. But unlike before I don’t resent it. Maybe it’s because I love my work, or because I am lucky to have awesome clients, but now I’m excited to plug in and work on things. Or perhaps it’s having adult conversations about something other than babies. It’s probably all of the above.

But as I listen to my friends complain about their jobs or sitting in traffic, I find myself regretting spending so much time and energy towards things that didn’t excite me. Now there’s a bit more risk, but it’s so worth it. And I’m pretty sure that now that I’m feeling so much more positive about that part of my life, the opportunities are starting to roll in. So thank you, Universe, for the affirmation!