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.

Four of my travel must-haves

It’s no secret that I’ve got a bad case of wanderlust. Over the past decade, I’ve perfected the art of “pick up and go” and I’m quite proud of the fact that I can go overseas for a week and still only take carry-on luggage.  But there are a few things I take with me on every overnight trip:

  1. My Kindle. I read quickly so this has become a major space saver. Even though I don’t read as much as I used to (because twins) I still like to sneak an hour or so in each day.
  2. Face masks. I picked up on this during business travel to Denver. The plane ride plus the altitude killed my skin, so I picked up a couple of sheet masks at Target. And then I became hooked. They take up barely any space, and there’s something relaxing about kicking back with a face mask at the end of the day. Especially now that I’m usually back in our hotel or AirBnB by 8 pm because of the girls.
  3. Socks. I have a serious disgust for gross floors, and now that my girls crawl everywhere, it’s eye-opening how dirty hotel floors are. Unless they are vacuuming and steam-cleaning with a high degree of frequency, those floors are a cesspool of germs. gross.
  4. Snacks. Especially for long road trips or plane rides. Plus there’s something cool about getting local nibbles for the trip back home. My go-tos are coconut water, fruit, energy bites and some form of candy (usually the kind I would beg my parents for on our road trips).

What are your must-haves for being on the road? Do tell!

Dreaming of Wyoming

I’ve gotten into the habit of checking the “On this day” feature on facebook during my 2 am feedings and today’s brought such a smile to my face.

You see, I am pretty sure that we got pregnant with Z&E immediately after this trip. And this trip was life-changing for me. It was a tack-on to a business trip to Idaho, and it was my first time traveling alone. I was in a risk-taking part of my life. I was wound up with stress to the point of breaking. I had just turned in my notice to my job with no other job lined up. I had pretty much given up on the idea of getting pregnant.

I had tried to convince El Hombre to come with me to Wyoming, but he had just started a new job and he didn’t see my vision. So I went alone. After all, I wasn’t going to spend almost 10 hours of travel each way for two days in Idaho.

This day a year ago, I woke up at 5 am (mountain time), put on all my layers, hooked up my music to the car and made my way through Teton National Park as the sun rose to get to Yellowstone. To see the sun rise over Teton pass, with the mist steaming off the lakes is magical. The entire drive was breathtaking, and every waking moment I felt the stress slowly melting off. I entered Yellowstone feeling like I took a step back in to the Jurassic period. The ground was steaming and the world felt ancient.

I drove until I made it to Old Faithful, and I took a ranger tour around the geysers. Old Faithful erupted, as did several others, and watching the earth work its wonders with bison lazily grazing in the background, I realized that everything was going to work out.

I ended up spending the day driving through the park, stopping and walking around. I ended up close to the Montana border at one point and I remember debating if I should just keep going, just to see how far I could get.

I still daydream of those windy roads and the vastly different landscapes. Next time I want to spend several days within the park, exploring with my wonderful little family.

4 Tips for traveling alone

I’ve always envied my friends who fearlessly would take off in to the world by themselves. They’ve always seen braver, so sure of themselves.

shadow of myselfThen last year I went to Idaho for work. When I was researching the best airport to fly in to, I realized that I was only going to be a few hours from Yellowstone. Since it takes almost 10-12 hours to get to that part of the country from South Florida, I couldn’t come up with any reason to not spend a few extra days exploring the park. Except… I didn’t have anyone to join me.

Then I said, “why not?” There was no reason for me to not go. I refuse to buy in to the idea that women can’t travel alone. I’ve been way too stressed to not take some time to explore America’s first national park. And you k
now what? It was an amazing experience. I was able to move around when I wanted, where I wanted. I came up with ideas for a longer trip with the hubby, read books and discovered amazing parts of this country.

If I had to give advice on traveling on your own (especially if you are a woman), it would be this:

  1. Be confident. The first question I got was “but what if something happened to you?” Well, anyone who knows anything about self defense knows that the more confident you look, the less of a target you are. Plus it’s easier to meet people if you aren’t afraid to talk to people.
  2. Be aware of your surroundings. Definitely get off the beaten path. I did. But be aware of who and what is around you. Not just in a paranoid, “is something going to get me?” sort of way. But also in a “wow, this place is amazing,” sort of way. Since you aren’t with people, you have no excuse not to look up and around.
  3. Research. There’s no negotiating things to do because you have different interests. So take the time to find out if there are awesome things around that you wouldn’t normally be able to do.
  4. Sit at the bar. It feels awkward to sit at a table by yourself. It’s quick, easy and if you aren’t feeling the people, at least there’s probably something on TV.

And if nothing else, carry bear spray. Especially in the woods.

Throwback Thursday – Travel Style

So, I don’t always jump on the #TBT bandwagon, but this morning Facebook served up such a fun memory, I couldn’t help it. It’s no secret that I love traveling. Even if it’s just in my proverbial backyard.

It’s also not a secret that many Miamians like to get out of town on Memorial Day. Long story short, Miami Beach throws a hip hop party every year, and it gets crazy packed. Parking and traffic are even worse than normal and it’s virtually impossible to find a good spot on the sand. I always planned my vacations around that weekend for these reasons (plus an extra day that I don’t have to take PTO on? No brainer).

Back in 2009, El Hombre and I headed down to Key West for our first Memorial Day weekend trip, and it still ranks as one of my favorites of our trips together. Our friend had just moved back in town, and we spent the weekend on bikes, exploring side beaches, boating and listening to music. I’m pretty sure our uniforms were flip flops, bathing suits, shorts and sunscreen. I fell hard for Key West that weekend. I can still smell the coconut sunscreen and taste the saltwater.

Here are a few pics of that weekend: