Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Want to Go Outside and Play?

With temps here in Southeastern PA soaring into the high 80s this week (insane!) we quickly shifted into summer mode and starting thinking about things we can do outside now and over the next few months.

One of my friends has suggested a standing Friday evening playground date, which sounds like a good plan to me. Now we just need to figure out which playgrounds we should visit!

Luckily, the lovely ladies at Mom Central (I have never actually met them, but I am guessing they are quite lovely) filled me in on this super cool website - KaBOOM - where they are building a "Playspace Finder" database with locations, details and reviews of playgrounds all over the country.

How awesome is that?? Such a great idea to have a centralized listing of all of the places to play! And with reviews - so you know before you go whether it is worth the drive! Yay KaBOOM!

Now they just need people to come and fill up the database. So click up there and add any playgrounds you like to frequent, or add reviews of spaces already on the list. The more contributors, the better.

I added Bell Tavern Park. Go add want to know where to go next!

And then - get out there and PLAY!!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Science Weekend

So, we did it...and here, for your viewing pleasure, is the video of the great Mentos Geyser Experiment. The kids thought this was super fun, and despite my sadness at wasting 3 (!) big bottles of Diet Coke, it was very cool to see.

In case it isn't clear from the video - what we did was use the "Geyser Tube" to drop Mentos (11 or 12 at a time) into 2-liter bottles of Diet Coke. The Mentos cause the Diet Coke to erupt out of the bottle in quite a spectacular geyser - higher than the house!!

Now we just have to hope for some rain to wash away the remnants on the sidewalk!

I will fill you in on our other projects later in the week. Tater got his hands on the Kid's Concoctions Book and insisted that we do MANY of the projects. I am all scienced out!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Dramatic Build-up

There was a "Book Fair" at Mike's workplace yesterday. This conveniently coincided with "Take Your Child to Work Day", which Sprout participated in for the first time.

There were non-book items included in the Book Fair, as there often are. And Mike found this "Mento Trigger Device Thing" (the official name is the "Geyser Tube") and felt that this was something we needed.

If you have never seen the science experiment that this device is related to - you need to look here. Fun, right? (Although such an egregious waste of Diet Coke that it hurts a little).

Apparently we are going to re-create that sort of drama right here in the yard this weekend. The tube holds 7 Mentos and drops them into the Diet Coke. I am frightened by what the outcome might be.

Stay tuned...

Monday, April 20, 2009

Washington DC Weekend

I may have mentioned previously that I tend to get a little overly ambitious about what I can accomplish in a day. If not, well - I tend to get a little overly ambitious about what I can accomplish in a day. There, I said it.

So when we decided that we were going to take the kids to Washington DC, with the primary intention of going to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, I couldn't resist getting a guidebook and making a list of places we should try to see.

Mike thought it was too much - but I was sure we could do it. And sometimes it is just easier to wait for me to fail that to try to talk me out of things - so we gave it a whirl.

We drove down on Friday evening after school. After stopping in Aberdeen MD to drop off the dog at his grandparents, and grab some dinner - we ended up pulling into DC around 9. The kids were excited to arrive and see some of the wonders that the DC area has to offer - "They have a Wendy's!!!"

My cousin works for Hyatt at the Regency Capitol Hill and hooked us up with a room there. It is an great location withing spitting distance (not that we tried) to the Capitol building.

We woke up in the morning and after a quick breakfast, picked up tickets for the Old Town Trolley. The trolley was great, the drivers are knowledgeable about the city, and they let you get on and off at a number of key locations. And no worries about parking!

Our destinations for the day:
The Capitol Building
Smithsonian Air and Space Museum
Hirshhorn Museum of Modern Art
Lincoln Memorial
White House Visitor Center
National Museum of American History

Ambitious? Maybe - but I figured some would be sort of drive-by visits.

The trolley wasn't coming to the hotel for about 25 minutes, so we started out walking. We walking right over to the Capitol Building, and took pictures on the steps. Those pictures would be on Mike's camera, so you'll have to take my word for it.

Then we kept walking over to the Air and Space Museum. We got there just as the doors were opening at 10 AM. The kids enjoyed seeing the airplanes and space capsules and things. Tater especially enjoyed the Franklin Institute-like hands-on exhibits. He told me he enjoys museums where you do things, not the "looking kind". Uh oh.

There were a lot of interesting displays including information about the solar system, images of earth from different perspectives, planes, rockets, etc. Definitely a cool museum.

It was getting close to lunch time when we were finished there, so we went to the Smithsonian Castle for lunch. Not sure I would recommend that venue - but it was close and it was food.

My cousin, Kathy, joined us for lunch and then for a brief visit to the Hirshhorn Museum. Sprout had just studied Matisse in art class and wanted to see a Matisse. Since the Hirshhorn seemed like a small-ish modern art museum and claimed to have a Matisse, it seemed like the place to go.

And yet - not so much. I forgot how dark and demented a lot of modern art is - and much of the art at the Hirshhorn is of that variety. When we got to the hugenormous canvas of a, um...let's say "underdressed fella", we decided that was enough art for the day. Not a particularly kid friendly place. Oops.

At that point, the kids needed ice cream so we visited one of the vending trucks conveniently parked just outside the museum. Tater chose a Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles Popsicle while Sprout picked a Pink Panther. Big fans of licensed characters. And artificial color.

Once the treats were history everyone was feeling a little more energized, so we grabbed a ride with Kathy over to the WWII Memorial. This wasn't on our itinerary, but should have been. The kids loved all of the fountains and really wanted to wade around in them. Of course, I didn't let them. Meanest. Mother. Ever.

From the WWII Memorial we had an excellent view of the Washington Monument and were then able to walk along the Reflecting Pool to the Lincoln Memorial.

It was pretty warm out and the kids were beginning to melt by the time we started to climb the steps to see Lincoln. Of course I cracked my big whip (figuratively) and told them they had to go to the top and see the statue. You seriously can't be standing on the steps and not go up. Seriously.

Look how happy they were when we got there...those are some kids who are thinking their Mom can do no wrong...

After basking in the glow of this beautiful moment, we made our way back outside and finally boarded the trolley to get a ride to the National Museum of American History.

I had never heard of this museum before - or maybe I had, but I didn't remember. I have to say, this was my favorite and I wish everyone hadn't been so completely exhausted by the time we got there. The museum houses collections of things related to all aspects of American History including the original Star Spangled Banner (which is 32' tall and displayed in a dramatic black-lighted room), Kermit the Frog and Oscar the Grouch, Fonzie's jacket (although we never found it), Abraham Lincoln's stovepipe hat, and a display about the First Ladies (with an enormous line that we couldn't even begin to think about standing in).

When we go back, I think this will be one of our stops when everyone is nice and fresh and ready to look around. As it was, we were there for about an hour and then the kids needed to be taken to a gift shop - stat - or else the Earth would cease to rotate on its axis. Could have been ugly.

Somehow they still had enough energy to explore all of the gift options in great detail. Gotta love that.

We finally hopped back on the trolley with the intention of doing a quick stop at the White House Visitor's Center (which would have been a pale substitute for an actual tour, which wasn't an option). Unfortunately (although actually probably fortunately) the Visitor Center closed at 4, so we were too late. So we just took the trolley back to Union Station (which has a mall...but we didn't go) and then walked back to the hotel.

We headed back out for dinner at the Capitol City Brewing Company, which was really good and more kid-friendly than you might expect. After dinner we went back the hotel and crashed. Long day...but we (almost) saw everything on our list. Yay, us!

On Sunday morning, after a nice breakfast buffet at the hotel, we checked out and drove out to Dulles to see the second part of the National Air and Space Museum - the Udvar-Hazy Center.

This one doesn't have the same kind of interactive displays as the museum downtown, so isn't quite as kid-friendly - but the massive collection of flying machines makes up for it - at least for the adults. Mike was quite enthralled.

There is an actual Space Shuttle, the Enola Gay, lots and lots and lots of other planes, and the Concord, and a Blackbird. This all sort of means nothing to me as a non-warplane-buff, but it was pretty cool to see all that flying stuff in one place.

Tater liked the space food and space toys on display. At this point he said he couldn't stand to look at any more interesting things and was completely focused on the point where he would be able to use the "penny squishing machine." Ah, the priorities of a 6-year-old.

He did think this thing was kind of cool. I think it went to Venus. But that could be completely wrong.

After we finished up (and squished some pennies) we went to Kathy's house (my awesome cousin) for a nice lunch. The kids were so happy to see they had a Wii. Apparently a kid can only handle so much history and culture before some virtual play is required.

We got home around 9:30PM - after driving across several states to collect our dog. It is good to have everyone back at home and be allowed to sit down and do nothing for a while.

DC was really an awesome place to spend the weekend. And although I might have been a tad bit over-ambitious, the FREE (as in no admission charges at ANY of those places!) access to so much coolness is hard to resist. We are already planning a return trip (someday...) to go see the National Gallery of Modern Art (the real one), and the National Archives, and maybe the White House...and the Jefferson Memorial...and maybe Mount Vernon...and the....

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Whirlwind is coming to a halt...

We just got home from our weekend trip to Washington DC.

I promise I will tell you all about it...tomorrow...when I can keep my head up long enough to type the words before my face crashes into the keyboard...




Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I Think I am Doing This Wrong

The Plan:

1.) Go to the Library.
2.) Go to Maggie Moo's Ice Cream to get the kids free ice cream cones.

No cost. Free. Gratis.

The Actuality:

1.) Go to the Library.
2.) Fight with the children about why they can't get their regular treats at Maggie Moo's. (Because that isn't what is FREE!)
3.) Arrive at Maggie Moo's to find that they aren't participating in the free ice cream cones.
4.) Silently fume.
5.) Purchase $10 of ice cream for the children. It would be wrong to take them to the door of the ice cream place and leave.
6.) Not so silently complain to the high-school aged person who took my money. He didn't care.
7.) Decide to take a quick trip into Barnes & Noble - ONLY for a guidebook for things to do in Washington DC on our trip this weekend.
8.) Deflect Tater's request for a CD course in Italian.
9.) Deflect Sprout's request for a map of Prague.
10.) Find guidebook...and map.
11.) Deflect request for snacks. (We JUST had not-free ice cream!!)
12.) Get suckered into buying the "Wimpy Kid Do-It-Yourself" Book for BOTH children.
13.) RUN to the parking lot escaping any other purchases.

Total Planned Cost: $0
Total Actual Cost: $50

I am TOTALLY doing this wrong.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Some more Tater Philosophy (Because it is so darned cute)

Actual conversation that took place earlier this week. During toothbrushing, I think - or I guess during the procrastinating before the toothbrushing, or else it wouldn't have made any sense, right?

T: Mommy, it must be hard to be one of the richest people in the world.

M: I guess it could be - why do you say that?

T: Well, first you have to make all the money and stuff. And then you have to go look up what number you are.

Because seeing where you are on the Forbes list is the most exhausting part of being wealthy...all that thumbing through the list, when you are SO tired from counting your money. Whew. Good thing I don't have THAT to worry about...

Inspired, I am sure, by an episode of The Suite Life on Deck - our touchstone for reality.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Puppies and Pinball

Well, no actual pinball - but Skee Ball, and video games!

Today we went to
Dave & Buster's at the Plymouth Meeting Mall to meet Mike for lunch and play some games.

You are probably familiar with D&Bs, but the PM location is slightly smaller and more kid-friendly than the larger clubs I have been to in Philly and Chicago.

They have a good meal-deal, you can pick one of a selected group of meals and add on a $10 or $20 "play card" for the arcade. Mike had a double-cheeseburger (with very excellent fries) and got the $20 card for a total of $23.99. Not bad.

All told, I think we probably went through $40 in credits in the arcade (including some spent by Mike topping his personal best in Galaga) and ended up with about 300 prize tickets per child.

This, of course, resulted in the traditionally painful "cashing in of the tickets". Let me tell you, 300 tickets essentially gets NOTHING but some candy. And yet, my generally intelligent children felt the need to bring me every single item in the shop to see if they could afford it.

Can I get this huge stuffed animal?

Um, no...just candy.

Can I get this cheap radio?

Nope, candy.

How about this shirt?


How about...?


It is not in my nature to encourage the aquisition of candy, but about 15 minutes in I was picking candy up and shoving it into their hands. Please...Just. Take. The. Candy.

We left D&Bs and made our way to the other end of the mall to ride on the double-decker carousel. On our way we saw the Easter Bunny going up one of the escalators - which was sort of surreal.

Tater has been anticipating the carousel for many months, ever since he expressed a desire to return to Italy (we went on vacation a couple of summers ago) so that he could ride the double-decker carousel. When I told him there was one, not only in America, but within driv
ing distance of home, he was ready to GO!!

He enjoyed it, riding on a horse on the top, as did I. Sprout, ever the rebel, sat on a bench. Woo Hoo!

Post carousel, we visited the Dairy Queen for some treats. Gotta love DQ.

So, to get to the point here - the Plymouth Meeting Mall has turned into the boardwalk, but less sandy. Very fun. And we didn't set foot in a single store!

There is also a place called
Krazy City, which looked like a knock-off of D&Bs, right next to the carousel. It isn't open yet (according to their website), but looks like it could be fun.

We left the mall around 2:30 and had to make a trip over to the Frazer Zoo to visit the puppies. Tater and I went there on Tuesday and met the sweetest little pug/shih-tzu mix puppy and Sprout was quite desperate to check it out.

If you are unfamiliar with the "Zoo" it is a pet shop on Rt 30 in Frazer, right near the DMV. They have a selection of puppies and bunnies and a huge assortment of fish and lizards and things.

It isn't the classiest place, but the kids LOVE to go there to see the puppies.

I know we aren't supposed to encourage the puppy trade, but they are so sweet and love to have visitors (if the tail wagging is any indication).

We have to go in there with pinky-swears and promises that everyone is aware that we are not leaving with any pets. Otherwise things just get ugly.

So, we are keeping busy as Spring Break starts to wind down. We have tickets to the Hannah Montana movie for tomorrow and plans for our annual Easter Egg Eggstravaganza with our friends. Egg Hunt Saturday, another one Sunday.

It was a good week. I think we might survive the summer!

Monday, April 6, 2009

There was a plan?

So, I was all set to sit down here and tell you about how fun it was to go on a tour of the Herr's Potato Chip Factory in Nottingham, PA.

I was going to tell you about the free samples.

And the smell of cheese curls in the air (although I do believe the appropriate spelling in this context would be "Cheez").

And how Tater was brave and not at all freaked out by Chipper, the Herr's mascot (maybe that part was wishful thinking).

How we got up early-ish on our first day of Spring Break, and drove down there and had so much fun. Really, I was going to tell you all about it.

But, I didn't realize you have to make a reservation. And apparently you do. And I didn't.

So we didn't go.

No cheesy aroma. No free snacks.


We went here. But that is old news. Still fun...but nothing new to report.


But, if you are person capable of making a plan. And you like snacks. And live in Southeastern Pennsylvania. You should totally do the Herr's Tour. It really is fun.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Swish, Slosh - Recyled "Tornado"

I can tell that you are looking at the picture and thinking "What the heck is THAT?"

Why, that is a tornado in a bottle. Sitting on my kitchen table. Which I probably should have wiped off better - I see crumbs. Sorry.

So - we found this idea in a book. Actually Tater found it in one of the "Kid Concoctions" books that he got for Christmas. I think it was this one. I just can't bring myself to schlep into the kitchen to check. Sorry again...

The "recipe" called for two liter bottles. But since we don't actually buy those (because once I open a bottle of Diet Coke, I am drinking the whole thing right matter how big it is), we had to settle for two 20-ounce water bottles that we dug out of the recycling bin.

The final effect would be better with bigger bottles, so if you can be trusted with them, you should use them.

One of the bottles was filled about 3/4 of the way with water. The other bottle was placed on top (so that the open ends were lined up) and then firmly duct-taped into place. You don't want leakage.

To make the "tornado" or whirlpool, do this:

1) Hold the bottles upright, so that all of the water is in the bottom bottle, with the empty bottle on top.

2) Quickly flip the whole thing over and swirl it around to get the water swishing around as it flows down. If you get it right, you should see the whirlpool in the top bottle (which was the bottom bottle, with the water in it).

Once you get the hang of the flip-swish action, it is pretty cool. The kids were flipping and swishing (and I was muttering under my breath hoping that the duct tape would hold) for much of the afternoon.

The book also suggests that you could mix in some glitter to highlight the whirlpool. I didn't have enough faith in the duct tape (although I should have, it is still leak-free) and didn't want to risk the water/glitter shower across my entire house. But if you like that sort of thing, go for it!