Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Cabin John Regional Park

For Zoltan's birthday "thing" he chose the Halloween "not so scary" train ride at Cabin John Park.  He and I had visited the park once, briefly, on one of our adventure days before we started spending every M/W/F at the library, playground, or doing chores. Nobody else in the family had been there.

There were a lot of little things to see and do right around the train station so it was nice the kids didn't have to get too bored while waiting for the ride to begin. The attendants handed out "eye spy" cards of things to look out for during the ride. The ride itself was about 30 minutes or so on this rickety old line. It was a lot of fun keeping an eye out for the different sights to spot, and hearing down the line when a particularly rare item was spotted (the Dalmatian is only in the last 5 minutes  and then there's about 5 stuffed puppies along the line). The photo of a deer was the best as we didn't think it would be real deer to spot, yet there were a couple of groups of actual deer just hanging out and having a snack in the woods as we rattled along. Terry forgot the camera so we don't have any photos :-(

After the ride Zoltan wanted to watch the train go (with the next group on board) so Alex and I went into the party room where she could do some coloring and pick out a fake Halloween themed tattoo to do at home.

Then we had a bit of time for the kids to play in the playground. I had forgotten how awesome this playground is, how much space it covers and how it melds forest stuff with normal playground stuff. Even though we have 3 walkable playgrounds, Terry agrees this is one worth driving to.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo

Whenever we drive up to PA for cabin or family trips, we pass the Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo on Route 15. It's a bit under an hour away, making it an easy day trip. Turns out it's a bit less than an hour from Terry's sister, too, so we decided to get together on the Sunday between the kids' birthdays and meet there.
I'd read up on it a bit, so we made sure to get tickets to the safari. It was the highlight everyone said it would be!  The zoo/preserve itself is interesting - the enclosures are crazy small, but the animals seem healthy and well groomed. All the animals we saw had healthy looking fur and behaviors. Honestly, I'm not sure how this is true but it is.

There are several separate areas where you can feed an assortment of friendly animals. We'd gotten a cup of "zoo food" at the store/entrance and the kids were delighted to feed the goats, llamas, potbellied pigs.

 There's also two playgrounds on the zoo grounds. One is brilliantly located by the safari pickup point, as well as a snack bar (not open in the winter) and a bathroom (all bathrooms in the zoo appear to be portapotties, from what I can tell, except for the bathrooms in the same building as the store/entrance).

The safari: There's three "cars" in the jeep + trailer system and of course it's bench seating all along the perimeter. They had boxes of English muffins that we fed to the animals who came by. During the course of the safari we drive through four different enclosures and stop within each one and have time to feed the animals who show up. Poor Alex got pecked by an emu she was feeding so I had to pull out the Neosporin and Band-aids and she calmed down pretty quickly when she couldn't see blood anymore. My highlight was feeding the zebras.
 In sum, we spent a bit over 3 hours there and didn't see everything. We had decided to meet for brunch first so it was already getting toward naptime when we entered the zoo. If we'd gone in the morning we easily could  have spent more time. The concessions are closed in the winter, which was a benefit (whining for treats was minimal) but if we hadn't been prepared it could have been problematic (tired kids tend to want more snacks).

Sunday, October 27, 2013

I hate my kitchen...

But I loooove my kitchen cart. I will confidently state that it adds 20% more counter and cabinet space to our kitchen. Thanks mom for the early Hanukkah present!!!!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

To Zoltan as you turn 4

To my very favorite, very special son,

Four! You are such a strong, independent little man. It is such a treat to see the workings of your thought process, the things you remember from last week or last year. It is, quite frankly, less of a treat to see how often you reject the premise of my argument. ("Can I watch a show?" "No" "Can I watch two shows?")

Your vocabulary is astonishing - a product of your verbose older sister I assume. You can't imagine the joy in my heart the other day when we got to the library early, you wanted to wait til it opened rather than go do something else, and went running in the moment the light turned green. I also get all gooey inside when you still want to snuggle when I read to you. You are without doubt a mama's boy and I dread the day that your kindness, sensitivity, and loving nature get ridiculed as being "sissy". I can only hope that you continue to be big for your age and your size encourages your peers to keep their mouths shut.

We're still seeing only glimpses of the young man you will become. Like your sister, you have an occasionally paralyzing shyness - coupled with sometimes wanting to tell every stranger on the street what you will be for Halloween. I hope that, like your sister, you work your way through that as you age so that it becomes a mere hesitation at joining in on the fun.

Friday, October 25, 2013

One of "those" days

So Tuesday actually started Monday when Zoltan fell backwards off the couch onto the coffee table and gashed his head right at bedtime. We called the kids' pediatrician's office and the answering service said we'd get a call back from the on-call doc within 30 minutes or so. The bleeding seemed to have gone down significantly, but the gash looked deep. Terry held Z and the ice pack (aka the sacrificial bag of green beans) while I packed them a bag and started looking into urgent care clinics. They were all closed or closing. The doc calls, says she really can't tell over the phone but normally if you think the kids needs stitches, the kid does. She had us take a photo on the phone and text it to her, which I thought was cool, but she still couldn't tell.

She suggests we take him to the local hospital's ER (duh). So Terry and Z leave and I get Alex to bed. She was amazing, fetching whatever we needed and literally running to get out of our way when we rushed here or there. She offered him her new, favorite stuffed animal to take - but of course he only wanted BlaBla.

Already long story slightly shorter, I lay down on the couch around 11, woke to read a few texts on their status, and welcomed the boys home around midnight. Ugh.

Next morning came early. Alex slept a tiny bit past wakeup time, I had to wake Zoltan around 9am to keep his schedule from getting completely off and because he had to start getting up to go with us for Alex's doctor's appointment previously scheduled for Tuesday morning.

Doc visit was fine, we went over her cough and the possible causes and what to do in various scenarios. He gave us a prescription for Prevacid, which I am assuming is something between Zantac (what she's already taking) and Prilosec (I hear it's pretty hard core). We got Alex to school and went to fill the prescription. Pharmacy doesn't have the full supply, can give us some that night and can order more. Fine. I get Zoltan home late for lunch and nap and of course today of all days, when he really needed a good long nap.

He goes down and I try to get on the internet to look up dinner's recipe. No internet. I call Comcast and that's always a huge hassle. In the end I rebooted the router and the cable modem and then had even less internet. I also get a call from Terry that the pharmacy called him because the generic was discontinued and the name brand will cost us about $150 for the prescription.

I spend the entire 2 hours of Zoltan's nap on my cell phone because our home phone is VOIP and thus useless without internet. I call Comcast several times. I call Terry. I call our insurance company. I try to call CVS but without internet I can't look up the number so I call Terry. I call CVS. One of the times I call Comcast the CSR hung up on me within the first minute, because when she asked if something was OK (I forget what) I joked "and what will you do if I say no". Oops. At least I had offered to take the customer service survey so I got to give feedback on the customer "service".

After nap, it seemed like things were starting to look up. After school we went to the playground with some new friends. I managed to make a tasty dinner without internet. The kids were surprisingly well behaved for the excitement and sleep deprivation. Terry got the internet working again.

And then, as the kids were on their way to brush teeth and go to bed, they fight about something. Zoltan pushes Alex and she goes down. When she comes up she's holding her arm. NOOOOOOOOOO

(to be continued)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Renovation Update

Time for a renovation update.

With the bathroom mostly wrapped up.  I have started on the 4th Bedroom/Study.  We have not decided on a name for the room because we are not entirely sure on the purpose of the room yet.  Either way it is getting somewhat of a makeover.

Before we moved in I tore open the ceiling to run data and coax cable to the living room. I wanted to rip out the old crappy paneling and put up new dry wall anyway.  So to accomplish getting cable into the living room I decide this would be the first area of the basement we undertake.  So the first order was to completely gut the room as you can see to the right.

Once the gutting was complete I ran new data cabling in the room.  Basically anywhere I open a wall I am running new cabling so there is plenty of copper around for the future.  Most places are getting 3 runs of cat 5 and one run of coax.  This should provide some growth for the future and not kill the budget.  Plus I am too cheap to run fiber.  I ran all of the runs back to an area under the stairs where I am putting in a small patch panel and the some shelves to house the networking equipment.  Eventually all the TV from the Antenna/Cable company will terminate there so I can distribute the signal throughout the house.  Eventually! 

Back before we moved in I borrowed my Dad's truck to bring down a load of things he had saved for us to use in the renovation.  Since we had the truck and I was going to need the drywall in the future I went ahead and bought the drywall then so I could get it home in the truck and save the rental fee.  That was June.  So Lynne was very excited when the drywall was finally removed from the kids' play area and hung on the walls of the BR/Study.  Drywall went up quickly.  In one evening and the following afternoon I hung all the drywall I had.  Unfortunately that left me one piece short.  The next day I went to Home Depot and with some creative cutting in the parking lot was able to get the last piece in the Subaru.  That piece is now up and all the walls are covered. Next up is the Spackle work. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Back to Croydon Creek Nature Center

A mere week after Alex's birthday adventure at Croydon, we were back for their Croydon Creep Halloween event.  At $2/person, it was fun even a furloughed government employee could afford, and of course the government had just re-opened.

Zoltan is all Superman, all the time. Ever since his costume arrived earlier this week he's wanted to wear it, and he's been permitted to wear it other than meals or outdoor time. Alex has been dithering about what to wear for weeks. We have about 4 different costumes to choose from, and all but one had been in the running. So of course at the last minute it's the last choice that she wears. But hey - she is a remarkably adorable princess, right?

We forgot the camera :-(  but let me tell you all the fun we had. First up was the magic show. The kids were enthralled. And at the end there were little goodie bags of magic tricks. Next we went to the craft room, where one of the options was to make a trick or treat bag - great idea for those of us who hadn't brought anything. There was a "wheel of fortune" wherein my kids brought home a plastic snake and a zebra mask. The usual nature center critters were in their cages so we could watch the turtle while waiting in line, and the room with puzzles and games was open as usual. We ended the night stopping by the campfire, then taking a night hike through the woods to trick or treat with some nocturnal animals who taught us a bit about themselves before handing out a relevant item (i.e. an owl shaped eraser from the owl; plastic bugs from the bat).

The kids also got a thrill walking home in the dark through the Rockville Civic Center Park fields and checking out the huge full moon and the deer chowing down in the field. I may hate my kitchen, but I love where we live!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Turning the corner

Last night Alex stopped coughing after about 30 minutes post-bedtime. Today she slept past the "alarm" so I had to wake her for school. We've been here before. When her health starts to improve, and her attitude too (because who can be happy while coughing all the time, waking up from the coughing, sore throat, interrupted conversations and even thoughts?)

And in a few weeks we need to take this away from her, yet again, so we can try to find the real cause and help her live a life where she isn't coughing all day every day.

But for today, let's celebrate a good night's sleep, and a decent level of confidence that tonight will see more of the same.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Second CSA Haul

One of the things I love about this CSA is that if you don't like an item in your box, likely you can change it. For example, we all got either cauliflower or broccoli. If you didn't like the one you got you could rifle through other boxes and do a switcheroo. Of course, the later it got the less likely you'd be to find what you want.

Anyhoo, on to the haul!

This time we got broccoli, which is good because the family just doesn't like cauliflower. A head of red leaf lettuce looked all rotten and nasty but it turned out to only be the outer leaves. A bag of green beans that look a whole lot better than last week's bag. A 3lb Delicata squash. Green and red peppers, 6 apples and 2 zucchini. Sweet potatoes this time in the potato realm - "score" in my mind, "yuck" in the minds of the rest of the family. About 1 1/2 lb carrots have already been eaten. And lastly, a bag of beets and greens, which is awesome as a recipe I've been wanting to try calls for beets anyway.

As we put together our menu for the week we realized that even with four eaters, where at least one of us will eat each thing so nothing needs to go to waste, we will barely be able to use all the produce in a week. So, Delicata, the web says you'll store for up to 8 months. How about 8 weeks - til the CSA run is over?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Cox Family Farm

Although Terry and I met while living in D.C. (actual D.C., not MD/VA) this is the first time we've lived here with children. And it makes a difference. Take, for example, pumpkin patches. Where we each come from, these are normally fields where people can go pick their own pumpkins, in the same tradition as apple picking in the fall at a nearby orchard.

Pumpkin patches in this area are an entirely different experience.

My father was visiting last weekend and we all decided the right event for what turned out to be the most ridiculously hot October day in history was to try the mother of all local pumpkin patches, Cox Family Farms. It took us a good hour to get there, so I was already feeling a bit annoyed and skeptical when we arrived. I was soon transformed.

Because of our afternoon meetup time, we only had three hours there. It was not nearly enough  time.

There were slides and more slides. The kids are some of the tiny blobs on the slides (Zoltan on top, Alex about to get on the slide in the bottom photo)

A children's play area where my kids could hang out while the older "kids" tried the more advanced slides.

Hay for the children to play in.
Kids with their grandfather.

There were also rope swings, and a corn maze that my nephew led Alex and my dad through. I am happy to report they did get out just fine. The hay ride was surprisingly long and eventful - the kids didn't get bored or antsy.  And, my favorite part, there were boxes of apples to eat (Rome and Gala varieties) and Dixie cups in which to drink apple cider that poured freely from fake casks. Early on, my dad purchased an enormous bag of kettle corn from which we all snacked.

All in all, it makes me eager to check out the pumpkin patch in my neck of the woods - held at the orchard where we get our apples anyway.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Not a great day :-(

We put Alex back on medicine today, to get her through birthday and Halloween season. Cutting the dairy helped immensely, but not completely. We're still hoping out hope we won't have to go gluten free but I have to admit my confidence is faltering. The greatest challenge will be if we have to cut out both.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

To Alex as you turn 6

To my very favorite, very first daughter,

I am so proud of the girl you are becoming! You are "leaning into your discomfort", advice given to me as a young woman. You are really starting to work on areas that are difficult for you (reading), rather than sitting back on the laurels that come to you for things that come easily (math). You worked all summer on crossing the monkey bars and by the end you could go they whole way without dropping down - that's tenacity. Good for you! It makes me happy when you pick a word out of our surroundings and read it to me and can't wait for you to fully embrace reading as I know you will.

Visiting your classroom I have been surprised and pleased with what a mother hen you can be with your classmates. I caught a glimpse of why you want to be a teacher, and the lovely young woman you will become, when watching you explain to classmates how to proceed when they get stuck on a step of a class project. I guess what comes out as bossiness with your little brother can be put to productive use :-)

I worry sometimes that your shyness holds you back, that you don't enjoy social situations as much as you could. On the other hand, comfort with solitude is also an important life skill and you are so clearly happy in general that maybe I needn't worry at all.

You've been such a trooper this year with your various health issues. It breaks my heart that I can't solve everything with a wave of my arm but I promise you that we'll figure it out.

The days when you are excited for me to show up at school, when you want me to stay during the play date, when you'll crawl into my lap and cuddle are severely numbered. I hope I'm smart enough to savor every moment as it comes, and celebrate your moved toward independence. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Today was the first in what I believe will be a series of trips to our local orchard for apple "seconds'. From today's haul I filled all 6 trays of the dehydrator with apple chips; saved about 5-6 of the best looking apples for eating; and made 3 quarts and 4 pints of applesauce (canned) and 2 12-ounce jars of sauce for eating right away. Plus, the Dutch oven is filled with peels and cores to process into pectin for next year's jam.

This bounty came from a half bushel of mixed apples. Next time, I'll get a full bushel.

S-T-O-P means "stop"

... said Zoltan to me this morning in the car. This is a child who only recognizes half the letters of the alphabet, can't draw a letter that looks like anything other than a scribble, and still colors like a 2 year old (i.e., all scribbles). Yet, at not-yet-four he recognizes the stop sign. This is not a child following in his sister's path!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Our first CSA haul

Yesterday the kids and I went to the local synagogue to pick up our first fall CSA* order. I can't deny it, I was and still am absolutely giddy about the whole thing. I had forgotten we also got an egg share, so I picked up a carton with 11 eggs as well.

As you can sort of see, we got the following: a head of Romaine lettuce; a monster cauliflower; a zucchini; a red, a green, and a tiny-maybe-hot pepper; a small bag of potatoes; a bunch of apples; a bag of green beans; three enormous radishes and greens; a bag of lemon verbena; an acorn squash.

The fun part is now we re-do our meals list for the week to work in the bounty. And of course we're adding salads to our lunches. With lemon verbena oil as part of our oil and vinegar for dressing!

* CSA = community supported agriculture, wherein a group of people put up a bunch of money before the planting begins, and then everyone shares the risks and rewards of a harvest. They are nearly always local and usually use more organic methods than agrobusiness. The synagogue bit - just happens that they have a relationship with the CSA and people can join the CSA through them. I haven't joined the synagogue, although it is a possibility for the future.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Moving out of our comfort zones

Once upon a time, Terry was the chef in the family and I was solely the baker. Then, I stayed home and that didn't make sense anymore. I moved out of my comfort zone. It wasn't always pretty and we had some fights over allegedly constructive criticism.

Tonight Terry wanted oatmeal raisin cookies. I agreed to participate but he would take the lead. I started directing him to where different ingredients were. When I told him to get the flour down his reply was "Wait, there's flour in this? Isn't it just oatmeal?"

Honey, when we have an income again, you can experiment with using only oatmeal. For tonight, let's put the flour in!

Major Academic Milestone

This week, Alex brought home a "my first reader" type book from school. She said it's for her to practice reading. We've been busy and hadn't gotten to it when, this morning, I suggested she read for a bit before she had to catch the bus.

She read the first two pages ALL BY HERSELF!! Then we had to go.

Many of the words were sight words that we've been working on each evening, and it's sure paying off. I am excited for us to continue the story tonight when she gets home.