Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Before the government shut down, Mason and I ventured to the Museum of Natural History's Butterfly Pavilion, a fee-based, interactive experience with live butterflies. Now you all know that I detest paying admission fees in a city where myriad free activities abound, so we went on a Tuesday, when admission is free.

And let me tell you, for a free outing, it was totally worth it! But I'm glad we didn't pay for it. The pavilion was much smaller than I expected and we didn't stay long as the big, colorful butterflies swarming around our heads (and even landing on some people) slightly freaked Mason out. This is the closest he would get to a butterfly:

The range of beautiful plants was impressive and some of the butterflies were huge! I couldn't believe how friendly they were. I will go back again, as long as it's on a Tuesday!

Have you been to this exhibit? What did you think?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

little friends

Mason's been calling several of his friends by name for a few months now, but it's only been in the last month or so that he's started saying the word "friend", quickly followed by the word "fun".

I love seeing him with his little friends and watching them discover the world and each other. This love is quickly turning me into the type of mom who hosts her child's friends a good bit. I don't mind the mess or the chaos. I like getting to know the people my boy asks to spend time with.

Mason's in a new weekly play group with four other children whose birthdays all fall within two months of his. The group meets one morning a week and the hosting duties rotate among the five members' mommies. That means that one morning every five weeks I will host five two-year-olds in my house, but on the other four weeks, I have three hours of freedom! What on earth will I do with myself?

Last year's play group was probably more fun for me than Mason, as I enjoyed the regular weekly time hanging out with women I might not otherwise would have. But these kids are growing up. They don't need all the mommies at play group anymore. And a portion of a morning "off" a week will be a treat, although I'll probably spend it getting groceries. Woo hoo!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

deep wa-wa

A month after swimming pool season has officially ended, and Mason still asks to "go deep wa-wa" nearly every day. I need to find a good indoor pool nearby to keep him pacified and interested in the water. I don't want to lose the comfort he's developed in the water this summer!

As a former lifeguard who's given plenty of swimming lessons, I am trying to get Mason as comfortable in the water as early in his life as possible. I remember several parents faithfully paying me each week when their children were too scared to even dip a toe in the water let alone get their faces wet. These kids were obviously not ready for lessons.

Brad and I began taking Mason underwater last July, when he was about nine months old. We made it a ritual to submerge ourselves as a family at least once during every visit to the pool. Initially shocked, Mason never coughed or cried. This past summer, we maintained the ritual, also believing it important that Mason see his parents go underwater regularly. This summer's been fun as I've pulled out some of my old pool tricks to keep Mason entertained (hand stands, flips under water, front dives, back dives, etc.) while also demonstrating that I am not afraid of the water. I can certainly tell that it's been 20 years since I used to do these (and other) tricks regularly!

In addition to dunking Mason, this summer we also tried to teach him to blow bubbles. He hasn't mastered bubble blowing, but near the end of the summer, he would put his face in the water when asked. (We'd say, "Mommy's turn, Daddy's turn, May's turn!") Daily pool exposure during our week at the beach was a real turning point. He began the week jumping into the water only if holding tightly to our fingers. By the end of the week, he was running, jumping, and plummeting underwater all on own.

I'm determined to do as much as I can to help Mason learn to swim before I pay someone else to do it. When did your child begin swimming lessons/learn to swim? What's been your experience?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

hip kitchen

My kitchen has a new addition.

Mason's birthday present of a play kitchen with (faux) stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, and cherry wood cabinets looks more hip than anything in my kitchen!

On a side note, this lovely little kitchen took Brad and me nearly five hours to put together---it had over 150 parts. We were up until midnight the night before his birthday scrambling to finish it. Thankfully, we succeeded and were rewarded with Mason's joyful face the next morning when he saw it. Lesson learned, though--don't wait until the last minute to put together toys!

What's the most complicated toy you have put together? How long did it take you?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

choo choo cake

Once upon a time in my former professional life, I did a substantial amount of programming for college students. Everything from invitations to t-shirts to food to favors matched the theme. I both delighted in and obsessed over every detail, often challenging myself to trump my level of creativity from the previous year. At that time, there was no doubt in my mind that my future child would have the cutest and best planned birthday parties ever.

Maybe those years burned me out on party planning. For each of Mason's birthdays, I've tried to get into throwing a humdinger of a themed, matchy matchy party, but I've been surprised at and even discouraged by my reluctance. I admire other children's cutesy parties, but I usually leave them longing to err on the side of simplicity for my boy. Why is that?

For Mason's first birthday, I put substantial work into creating a monthly picture banner, which I've saved and we will treasure forever. For both birthdays, I've made and decorated his cake, a tradition I hope to continue. His cake last year was nothing fancy--just a little smash cake. But this year, I let him choose between two of his obsessions: trains and airplanes. Here is what we came up with:

This choo choo cake recipe was amazingly easy, even for a non-baker and non-decorator like me. And it was a huge hit with the birthday boy. A win on all counts!

(Mason entertained his guests by shouting, "Hurray, choo choo cake!" over and over when I snapped the picture above.)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

10th and 3rd

While at the National Book Festival on Saturday, I realized that this is my 10th consecutive year of attendance, and Mason's 3rd. How many two-year-olds can say that they've been to three National Book Festivals? I'd bet my savings account that he was the youngest person in attendance on Saturday who has been to all three festivals of his life, unless there's a child who was born between September 18-23, 2011 (after Mason was born but before the book festival began in 2011) who can boast the same attendance.

I love fun facts like that.

And I love that Mason has attended this event every year of his life thus far.

Unlike last year, my boy was unafraid of the characters and marched right up to them to say hello.

Brad, Mason, and I spent the morning visiting characters and playing games in the PBS KIDS tent, and then the boys went home to nap and watch football while I relived book festival life pre-Mason and bounced among the pavilions, soaking up authors' stories, comments, and wisdom for the rest of the day. It's been three years since I've spent all day at this event, and boy was I wiped out on Saturday night. But it was a good kind of tired. Waiting around all afternoon to hear Veronica Roth at 4 PM was worth it, although her presentation was probably the most crowded I've ever seen--the pouring down rain failed to deter her fans. Roth just turned 25 years old, but I'd swear she's going on 40. As expected, she was tight-lipped about what's to come in the third and final installment of her Divergent series, but I did learn that the point of view of this novel switches back and forth between the two main characters. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but I'm trying to keep an open mind.

Did you attend the National Book Festival? What were your highlights?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

National Book Festival

With this year's National Book Festival occurring only four days after Mason's birthday, I've barely had time to think about which authors I'd love to see this year other than Veronica Roth at 4 PM on Saturday. But let's face it--with my two-year-old in tow, how many authors could I possibly see anyway? Instead, I'll be standing in line with Mason to visit with characters from shows on PBS KIDS. And Mason's pure joy at meeting Curious George or Super Why will make me love every minute of it.

Here's the schedule. Which authors are you most excited about?