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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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.

Mama MonDaze – Getting out of the rut

Last week I fell into a major rut. We have two teething babies, which means lots of crying and not a lot of sleep. It’s crazy to think about how lack of sleep deprives you of so much.  It’s no exaggeration to say I probably got a combined total of 3 hours of sleep across 4-5 days.

I now understand the term, mombie (mom + zombie). I lost a week of work because there wasn’t enough coffee in the world to replace those precious hours of sleep. Both el hombre and I were irritable and anxious. I felt myself trailing off in the middle of sentences and having to read things over and over.

So what do you do when your kids can’t sleep and it impacts your life?

When El Hombre and I started snapping at each other in the middle of the week, I knew I had to do something. So I packed up the girls and took them to the park. We walked around outside for 30-40 minutes in the stroller, then went on the swings and the playground. On the way back I stopped at my favorite local running store and bought much-needed new running shoes for El Hombre and me.

Getting out is critical to staying healthy with babies.

Because we are firing up our own business ventures, El Hombre and I are home together much more than we used to. This means that our personal time to ourselves is nil. Combine that with TWO screaming babies all day and all night and you can see how this can be negative.

I know that when I don’t get my blood flowing, my anxiety goes through the roof. So taking the time to walk in the stroller outside was almost magical. Even though the girls were awake, they were calm and excited because they got a change of pace. I got time to think (I find that I get my best ideas when outside on a brisk walk) and El Hombre got a few hours of time to focus on his projects.

Getting the blood flowing is good for mama and papa. And what’s good for mama and papa is good for babies.

The next day our sitter came, and instead of focusing on cramming out work (which would have been crap work), El Hombre asked if I wanted to go to the gym with him. So we left the girls and went to work out. That hour break, what can I say? We don’t work out together so we had our own quiet, exercise time. Absorbed in music, sweating out the stress and coming back to center. At least for me.

Accept that productivity comes in different forms.

Sometimes you just have to accept that you can’t do it all. And last week I accepted that. If the girls are having a rough week, just getting through it while being supportive and caring is better than forcing things.

Baby Tylenol is good.

Getting out and about definitely helped the girls during the day, but the screaming all night was not getting better. They were miserable. And when they were crying real tears half the night, I realized the issue was probably teeth cracking through. So I gave them a bit of Tylenol. Game changer. I was so tired that I didn’t even think of it at first. Especially since I don’t like to use medicine on the girls as an immediate first reaction. But sometimes you need it. And now that more teeth have cracked through, the girls are feeling better. Being in pain plus being sleep deprived is misery for me, so it’s got to be worse for them because they can’t express themselves the way we can.

Sometimes you need a change of pace.

Once we started getting a bit more sleep, we started feeling better as a family. And on Thursday, El Hombre casually suggested getting lunch in the keys the next day. We woke up to rain and my stomach sort of sank, and I think El Hombre saw that. So he pushed me to check the weather and when I saw the storm heading north, it was on.

By the time we got to Islamorada, the girls were up from their naps and ready to get out of the car. We stopped at one of our favorite little beaches where we walked through the boardwalk and brush to scout the perfect beach location. The girls gleefully crawled through the shallow surf, played with sand and hung out on the little beach while we listened to El Hombre’s 70s spotify playlist. By the time we were ready to go, they knocked out for a good nap. After all, what’s better than a good nap after a beach day?

My overall thoughts on challenging weeks with twin babies.

This past week I learned that there are going to be rough weeks. This was definitely not our first rough week, but after a few months of progressively better sleep, this sleep regression plus the crankiness of teething and growth spurts hit us much harder than I expected.

As I felt the struggle of anxiety and failure creep up, I had to sit back and be realistic about my priorities and what I am capable of. To stay balanced I need to sometimes sway away from one priority (work) to keep another priority going (family life.) To do that, sometimes I have to set aside one of the balls I juggle through the week and pick it up when I’m ready to. And that’s ok because that’s life.

 

My food philosphy

Yesterday I cooked up a storm for the babies, and as my husband popped a BBQ turkey meatloaf-style meatball in his mouth, he asked what we would serve it with. I explained I would break it up and serve it with veggies. His response, “this is for the babies? I thought this was for us.”

My baby food philosophy

You see, I know that I was a picky eater when I was a kid. My husband is still a picky eater. I realize you can’t escape this, but my philosophy is that the more I introduce now the more we broaden our daughters’ palates – both in terms of flavors and texture. So they now are happily eating fish, meat, chicken, pork along with rice, pasta, risotto, quinoa and barley. They love veggies and fruits – we are lucky here.

Store-bought vs. home-made baby food

Many people don’t enjoy cooking, or they are too exhausted at the end of the day to fire up the stove. Since I work from home, I take advantage of down time to food prep and cook. I prefer the cook food for all of us because it’s more affordable in the long run, I know what goes in to the food and I enjoy cooking. This last point is important. If you don’t like cooking or you are intimidated by trying, making your own baby food is probably not a good idea.

When I make food for the girls, I divvy up my recipes in to things that I am exclusively serving them and things that the whole family can eat. As they grow older, I am moving away from exclusive food for them and towards family meals. When I look back, I don’t remember my mother ever making individual meals for us on the daily. And as much as I enjoy cooking, this is our home and not a restaurant. I don’t want to build an expectation that we have menus available.

Finger foods & babies feeding themselves

Z & E are becoming increasingly more independent. Crawling, walking and wanting to feed themselves. They are all about their sippy cups (and tossing them to the floor 752,000,000 times in one meal). This independence is fun, but also frustrating.

You see, I believe that they should have the autonomy to feed themselves, but at the same time I don’t want them to associate their meals with play. Perhaps it’s my European upbringing, but I believe that food should be respected and not played with. What I’ve started doing is prepping food that they can eat on their own, and we alternate hand feeding with spoon feeding. For example, today’s breakfast included scrambled eggs, waffles and ricotta mixed with homemade strawberry jam. So I put a piece of small waffle on their tray for them to pick up and eat. Once they were done, I spoon-fed the eggs. Then we finished with the ricotta/jam mix. This makes meal time cleaner and easier for all of us.

breakfast for babies

Z & E’s (and my) breakfast this morning

On toys at the table (or high chair)

When we first started feeding in the highchair, we put toys on the girls’ trays. Perhaps this is surprising, given my above statements about meal time and play, but hear me out. With our girls, we quickly realized that training them to sit in a high chair was actually more challenging than introducing them to foods. They don’t like feeling confined and they are naturally squirmy. So as we were feeding them, we needed a distraction so that they would get used to swallowing their food without being in our laps.

As they got used to the high chairs, we started taking the toys away. We did this slowly – experimenting with removing the toys towards the end of their meal, then halfway, then after the first few bites. Now we don’t use toys during meal times (this will probably change when they are toddlers, but whatever), but we talk (and sing on fussy days) throughout feedings. The theory here is that we get used to sitting and talking as a family over meals, instead of individually focusing on toys, phones, etc.

I realize that I probably sound old-school in my parenting philosophy when it comes to food, and that’s fine. I believe that one of the most important times you have with your family is around the table and it’s important to me to start now with enforcing these eating habits with my girls. I remember always sitting down as a family to dinner (whether we wanted to or not.) Now that I look back, I remember sitting with my family, chatting over dinner and I believe this was one of the things that makes my family so tight-knit.

Oh hi there

What’s going on? I’m sure you’re trying to cram all the last-minute stuff in before the holidays, much like the rest of us. I admit, this year the holidays seemed especially daunting. Not only do we have two babies to contend with, but for the first time I’m staying put and my family is coming to me.

Some part of me is a bit bummed that I’m not making the jaunt up to South Carolina, but I’m mostly relieved. The thought of trudging through the airport (or driving 12 hours) with two teething babies in the midst of a growth spurt made me want to gnash my teeth with anxiety. I’ll happily deal with the logistics of driving stuff from one place to the other.

As the holidays get closer, we’ve made the following decisions regarding gifts:

No gifts for the girls as they are way too young and have enough toys and clothes. Besides, right now they get excited to play with granola bar wrappers and spatulas.

My siblings and I have decided to not give gifts to each other. Our gifts are that none of us has to spend time or money.

Our gifts are all in the family grab bag. Everyone brings one wrapped gift per round. It’s always a hoot and I’m pretty amused by our gifts. It’s our family tradition and it’s definitely my favorite.

I hope you all have a merry Christmas (if you celebrate). I’ll see you all after the new year!IMG_1497.JPG

Z & E turn 3 (months)

These are the things I can’t believe. I can’t believe it’s been 12 weeks. I can’t believe the changes I’ve seen in them and in us. I can’t believe it’s been a month since I last wrote. I can’t believe parents are supposed to hand their babies off to someone else and go back to work at this point. I can’t believe most men don’t get this much time because of social pressures.

Ok, enough with that. What’s up with these babies? 

They have both gained at least 5 pounds, and are almost double their birth weight. They are cooing and “talking” to us and each other. They are back to sleeping in their crib and they snuggle up on each other like puzzle pieces. They are rocking tummy time – especially Zoey. They have lots of smile for me and El Hombre, their turtle toy and their mobile. It’s wild.

Where’s my head at?

I’ve been thinking a lot about personal autonomy. I won’t lie, it’s a struggle. Especially during these times when I’m constantly feeding. My husband is amazing – he forces me to do things for myself… To get out and clear my head. 

This past week I’ve been thinking about what I want to do for myself. I’ve been using the Duolingo app and I’m now obsessed. I know I won’t become bilingual or trilingual without actually using the languages (Spanish & Italian) but it’s a good way to get acclimated to the words and conjugations. 

I also plan to start building strength at home. I don’t have a gym membership and it’s too hot to go outside during the day, but I’m not letting that get in my way anymore.

Ideally I’d like to write more, but I’m also realistic that I can’t bite off more than I can chew.

Perfection

We are home from the hospital and our family has doubled in size. 

Is there any more perfect moment than sitting on the couch with a sleeping baby, listening to the rain while the sun breaks through the clouds?

As we drove home from our first pediatrician appointment, I turned to my husband and told him I have the opposite of baby blues. I’m so overwhelmed by how fortunate we are that it makes me teary eyed. 

Enjoy these small, lovely moments  in your lives people. 

Birth story to come!