Thursday, May 30, 2013

Theme Thursday: Self-portrait

Dear Thursday,

I give up.

Sincerely,
Abbey



No, I don't really. Nothing really bad is happening. It is just the kind of draggy, irritable day when everyone is clingy and whiny and uninterested in anything that makes me wish for bedtime.

I have tried everything - playing music, suggesting games, getting out balloons, making a blanket fort. I even said "yes" to SuperSam's request to do the Slip 'n' Slide (which I kind of hate because of all the grass clippings that somehow appear out of nowhere and stick to every single part of everyone's body until all body parts are inside the house, when all the grass spontaneously falls off onto the floor or sticks to the furniture).

Even lunch from McDonald's (a rare treat!) wasn't enough to save today. Everyone is grumpy, and I'm the grumpiest. I get that I'm responsible for the climate around here, and I know I need to adjust my own attitude to make it better. We need something to shake the grumpies off and get on with the day. I pretended that allowing Slip 'n' Slide was that something, but I was grumpy about that, too, and no one had all that much fun.

Fortunately, it's naptime, which is generally as good as a reset button when everyone sleeps (which they currently are).

I'm linking up with Cari at Clan Donaldson for Theme Thursday again today and wishing the prompt was anything but self-portrait. This is not the kind of day I want to take a picture of myself. I'm playing along, though, because I believe in the truth...and the truth is, some days are just hard.

Before I show it to you, have a look at what everyone else looks like today at my house:



Despondent at not being allowed to unroll and shred all the toilet paper in the house

Refuses to be put down for any reason without wailing to be picked up


Will not stop moving for one second.
Finally stopped moving...to do this.


And, the resulting self-portrait:

Me.

For more Theme Thursday, visit Clan Donaldson.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Five-Minute Friday: View





Five Minute FridayIt's Friday again, which means it's time to see what kind of writing I can lay down in five minutes. I do this for several reasons: 1. It's a fun challenge, and I think it keeps my skills sharp. I tend to be wordy, and you can only get so wordy in five minutes if you want to make your point.  2. I love the community of writers who participate in this challenge every week. I love encouraging them and getting their feedback, too. 3. It feels like a fun way to kick off the weekend...kind of a soul-cleansing free write before we head into several days of family togetherness (and usually, no writing). 


                                        Ready to join in this week? Head over to Lisa Jo's blog for the details.


VIEW

I live in a valley surrounded by mountains on all sides. To get to any respectably-sized cities, we have to drive over at least one of those mountains. It could be limiting, I guess, but we've gotten used to driving 40 minutes or so if we need something you can't find at Wal-mart. Besides, I think it makes for an interesting grouping of people in our town...everyone has either grown up here and decided to stay, has gotten stuck here and can't get out, or has come here very much on purpose. Other than the through hikers from the Appalachian Trail, the temporary park employees and the summer tourists, we don't have a lot of folks just passing through for a short time.

Living in the valley means the sun sets earlier than it does at the beach, because the mountains block out part of the light. It means we can't see Mercury when it's low on the horizon, because the mountain hides it from our view. It means that fog sometimes settles on us, hiding everything but what's immediately in front of us. It means that we have to go Up if we want to see further than the end of our street...and when we do, our town down below and our life in it suddenly seem very small.

My own personal valley these days has a great view of what's immediately in front of me: a sinkful of dirty dishes, a load of dirty diapers, a floorful of Legos and some play dough that got ground into the living room carpet last week. I also have a great view of my three beautiful little ones, whether they are laughing together or ripping each other's hair out by the roots. It's easy to get stuck looking at this view of the trenches of raising a young family and to think it's ordinary and unimportant. In some ways, it is. It's also sacred, though, this time we spend down on the floor at eye level with our children. And while the days might drag on forever and make this time in our lives seem endless, one day I think we'll be standing on a mountain, looking back at this trench and wondering where the years went so quickly.


For more Five-Minute Friday, visit The Gypsy Mama.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Theme Thursday: Bodies

I'm linking up with Theme Thursday at Clan Donaldson this week. The theme is Bodies.

Here's what I've got:


SuperSam squishes as much of his arm as possible into a container of water beads. It was just after this that he announced he wanted to fill the bathtub with them and get in with no clothes on...I can imagine how it would feel to submerge your whole body in those things, can't you?



Nora really likes standing on top of my feet for some reason. I like the view from above, especially how her second toe is longer than her big toe...just like her mama.




And finally, everyone who has a Jupiter tattoo needs to be this enthusiastic about it. I love him in this picture...from bony little-boy shoulders down to pruny fingers after playing in the creek (and getting so wet he had to take off his shirt). Oh, and the gums with their itty-bitty baby teeth...how perfect are those teeth? I'm so glad we have a while longer with them before they start falling out- they make me unreasonably happy.

For more bodies, visit Clan Donaldson.





Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Today's real post

I have good news to share.

I'm having an unbelievably difficult parenting day today, however, so I'm not going to post the glowing, excited post I had planned. I'll save it for another day. I've never been good at pretending to feel a way I don't really feel, and for me, putting up a post that isn't reflective of what's actually happening is no easier than looking someone in the face at the store and answering, "Just fine!" when what I really want to say is, "Today is really, really hard."


Today is really tough, y'all.


I would love some of you to tell me that after their 5th birthdays, children become more cheerful and sunny individuals and seem less determined to ruin everything just because they prefer being miserable and want all other members of their families to share their misery.


Anyone? Is 5 easier? Because 4 1/2 is really testing everything I thought I knew about young children. I'm struggling.

Back to the good news: I'm excited to have my first post published today as a contributing writer for CatholicMom.com, an inspirational site with articles on parenting, marriage, sacraments, theology, and lots more. I'll be sharing one post a month there and would love if you took the time to visit and leave a comment. There are many talented writers contributing there, and it's an honor to be included among them.

Now, I'm going to take advantage of nap time (now that doors are no longer being slammed repeatedly down the hall accompanied by screams of "NOOO! NOO! NOOOOO!") and rest up for the afternoon. Given how the morning has gone, I think I might be in for it. Pray for me, will you? 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Best Idea Ever, Vol. 5: Have a cleanup theme song.

Yes, I know this is one of the best ways to manipulate children behavior management techniques. Almost every classroom I have ever worked in has had some cue song to tell kids when it's time to clean up, and it almost always works. So why don't I have one at home?

The thing is, I have issues with sing-songy "kid" songs that have no musical merit, and I always disliked the standard cleanup anthems enough that I have never used one of them at home.

On a recent, messy night, I decided to type "clean up" in the search bar on Spotify. I got the usual suspects: Barney, Laurie Berkner, Yo Gabba Gabba...but I also got this totally catchy gospel song by the Canton Spirituals.




No, it's not actually about cleaning up your toys...but I like it, so it doesn't matter. It says "clean up" more than a few times, which is good enough for me.







By the second chorus, everyone was singing along. More importantly, everyone was cleaning up...ages 18 months to 34 years. It was an amazing family moment. I only asked them one time, said, "This is our cleanup music!" and led by example. When SuperSam got off task, I just said, "uh-oh, our cleanup song is still on!" and kept cleaning...and so did he.

No arguing. No nagging. Just dancing and teamwork and gospel music. And handclaps, because how could you not clap along?

I should definitely have done this sooner. We will be using it from now on.

Have you used music to control your children reinforce routines with your kids?

Friday, May 17, 2013

Five-Minute Friday: Song


On Fridays, a bunch of brave people write in response to a prompt for five minutes without backtracking or over-editing and share their writing here. Why? Because it's Friday, and we should celebrate making it to the end of the week. Because sometimes, letting words pour out without stopping them to see if they are good enough for anyone else is healing for the soul. And because “writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar" (E.B. White). 

 

SONG

I'm not sure when I first heard it, but I know we sang it in Miss Emily's choir...a flock of  four-year-olds in little white robes and wooden Sunday School chairs taking the exhortation to make a joyful noise very literally. It rooted itself in my head and my heart, the little melody in its lovely simplicity repeating over and over, accompanying my sandbox digging, my swinging, my coloring, my tricycle riding.

In school, it sometimes began to play inside me when I felt nervous...before a timed math test, before my lines in the fourth grade play, before we marched onto the field for a band competition. It followed me to college, where I hummed it as I moved my things into my first dorm room. I played it in the practice room in an almost-empty music building before my first end-of-year jury. I listened to it inside my head when anxiety made it hard to fall asleep.

I always thought I would sing it as a lullaby...and when we thought we might not be able to have any children, I hummed it to comfort myself at night. When our foster children had trouble sleeping, I sang it to them, rocking them in the blue armchair in our tiny living room. When I learned I was pregnant, I rocked in the chair and sang it to the little boy I carried...and when Samuel finally arrived, I sang it into his tiny ear our first night together as mother and child, his tiny warm body cuddled in my arms.

How many times I've played and sung this simple melody...how many times it has brought comfort to me and to the little ones I love. Even now, as I hum it to myself, I realize it's not just the song that has been with me all these years, wrapped around so many stages of my life like a blanket - it's the One whose love is wrapped all around each of us...the One whose name I sing.




Follow this link for more Five-Minute Friday.
New voices are always welcome to join in...we'd love to hear your song.

Five Minute Friday

7 Quick Takes: The 4-year-old humor edition


It's finally Friday, which means I have survived another week of life with one of my biggest blessings: SuperSam.

This week's seven quick takes are dedicated to him and also to all parents of preschool-aged boys. May the force be with you, folks...especially the force that helps you keep your face straight when you know you shouldn't laugh at what he just said. If you're like me and you find preschool potty humor funny, then you are probably having a hard time not laughing at all the poop jokes.

I totally get that.

I even had a professor in college tell me I had the sense of humor of a four-year-old. I was mildly outraged at the time, but now that I live with my very own four-year-old, I have to admit that the professor was right.

A sampling of SuperSam humor follows. If these aren't funny to you, you probably have a sophisticated, adult sense of humor. That's wonderful. I'm not sure I will ever get there.



--- 1 ---
to Lucy, who is holding her baby doll- "Your doll is a robot! That doll is a baby-eating robot, and it's gonna get you! You better run, baby, run! RUN, LUCY!!" (Lucy dissolves in tears.)




--- 2 ---
"If dinosaurs pooped, it would be a giant rock of stinky poop as big as our house! No, as big as a mountain! I wish my toy dinosaurs could actually, really poop. Poop is AWESOME!"





--- 3 ---
"This dinosaur is gonna destroy the universe. Then I'm gonna be Astronaut SuperSam and I'm gonna save it. Universe-saving is actually my number one priority. And dinosaurs. Those two things."




--- 4 ---
while building with toothpicks and egg cartons- "Why even are these called toothpicks? Maybe there should just be a box of fingers that is labeled 'Nose Picks.'"





--- 5 ---

SuperSam does art:


"This is Nora eating herself and then spitting herself out."

--- 6 ---
(Holding a bathtub stacking cup toy with a hole in the bottom) "This little circle is just the right size for my penis to fit into it!"

--- 7 ---
And finally, a knock-knock joke, from a kid who wants desperately to understand how they work:

Knock knock!
Who's there?
Velvi.
Velvi who?
Orange you glad I didn't say banana head?


If you made it this far and you're laughing, you are welcome to come babysit. I mean that.







For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!










Thursday, May 16, 2013

Theme Thursday: (Party) Animals

I'm linking up with Clan Donaldson again today for Theme Thursday. Today's prompt? Animals. We have no animals residing here any longer. You may review the fish tank incident if you want to know why. Anyway, I am forced to be creative with my interpretation of today's theme.

 

This might be what you get if you cross a hoedown with a science project on time travel and the unthinkable happens.


Just before breakfast this morning, SuperSam informed me that the farm animals were having a dance party on the kitchen table. By the time I made it over to look at the scene he had set up, his dinosaurs had infiltrated it and were negatively impacting the mood of the party. Carnage and mayhem! Is the collie dead? Passed out with fear? Is the chicken alarmed that there's a pteradactyl next to her on the barn roof?

Apparently, it all looks much worse than it is. Apparently, this is just a friendly gathering of species normally separated by millions of years, brought together by their mutual love of music and dance. No biggie.

SuperSam on why the T-Rex is eating a goat: "He's a carnivore. He's super hungry, so he went to the snack bar. A hot dog just isn't enough to fill him up so he can dance his best."

And the goat?

"He doesn't mind. He knows T-Rex is a carnivorous dinosaur. I think he pretty much expected it since he was hanging out at the snack bar."

There you have it. For more Theme Thursday (featuring real photography enthusiasts and real, live animals!), visit Clan Donaldson.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

TwinsDay Wednesday: What no one told me about having twins

I have learned that there is a Big Secret about having twins...a giant, hidden truth that no one told me.

In your defense, most of you couldn't have told me. You don't know, because you don't have twins.

Even if you were one of those people who always thought you wanted twins, even if you imagined every day how fun it would be to have them, you don't really know. The only people who know are people who have twins.

Why didn't any of them tell me?

Probably because they didn't want to scare me to death.





The thing is, as a parent of multiples, when you see a frazzled, exhausted twin mom struggling with her two tiny babies, you don't want to tell her the Big Secret. You say something encouraging. You tell her she's doing an amazing job. You tell her that having twins is a joy and that it gets easier.


These things are true. It does get easier, and there are joyous moments that make all the struggling seem worth it. Once you get through the tiny baby stage, they grow a bit and don't need to eat every 3 hours. You can put them in their bouncy seats facing each other, and they entertain each other. Once they can sit up, things get even better. You can put them on a blanket with some toys, and they will be happy for a few minutes...long enough for you to take a shower, unload the dishwasher, or make a sandwich for your preschooler. After a while, they make each other laugh. They keep each other company. They hold hands while they are nursing. They chatter to each other after you've put them to bed until they fall asleep. Eventually, they even sleep all night long, which means you can, too.

It gets easier.

What you don't tell that frazzled mom (and what no one told me) is that it also gets way harder.

There's really no way around it, because the best-case scenario is that you and your twinfants survive the baby stage and make it to Twin Toddlerdom. That's what we want, right? We reach their first birthday and pat ourselves on the back and think, "Wow, we did it!" - and we are so happy to have made it through the first year that we hardly think about what lies just around the corner.

There is a reason why most people only have one toddler at a time. Toddlers are impossible by nature. They are fascinating, stubborn little people who are driven to explore their world and have no idea what is safe and what isn't. They scale bookcases. They pull all the pots and pans out of the cabinets and put them in the laundry hampers. They pull coffee filters out of the trash can and pretend to cook with the old coffee grounds. They put socks into toilets and flush them down. They unroll all the toilet paper and trail it all over the house. They put everything into their mouths: sand, play dough, used band-aids, rocks, bugs, old french fries they find under the seats in the van. They steal car keys and hide them in the diaper pail. If you stop toddlers from doing any of these things (or anything, really), they take it as a personal insult and release their special brand of toddler fury on you, kicking and screaming and wailing and biting as though their anger and frustration will never end. 



Anyone who parents a toddler deserves a medal. Every day. And a standing ovation. And as much ice cream as she or he can eat.

Having two of them at a time means that I never seem to have enough hands. It means I get more helpful advice from books about handling groups of young children in a classroom setting than I do from parenting blogs. It means I need classroom-like routines for everything from diapering/pottying to hand washing to going bye-bye to cleaning up toys. It means I need to have the most childproof house on the planet. And it means that if there are more than 45 consecutive seconds of silence when the children are awake, I have to run as fast as I can to find out what mischief they are causing...because they are always, always into something they shouldn't be.


Granted, infant twins are a lot of work, too. It takes a long time to get them ready to go out. It takes a long time to feed and bathe them. It's a big challenge to get them eating and sleeping on the same schedule (so that you occasionally have time to eat and sleep, too). You feel sometimes like all you do all day long is nurse and change diapers. Sometimes they both cry heartbreakingly at once and you feel crazy because you can't possibly tend to them both at the same time, no matter how badly you want to help them feel better. But baby twins stay where you put them. Even when they start moving, they crawl slowly at first so you have time to catch up with them. They're courteous like that.

Toddler twins are crazy. They never stop. They go and go and go and go all day until they crash. They want everything NOW. They want all the toys, and they hit and bite each other so they can protect what is theirs. They run away when you try to put diapers on them. They take their diapers off and smear their poo on their beds and walls. They put food in each other's hair. They yell, "NO-NO-NO-NO!" and stamp their feet when you say anything that displeases them (which, some days, is nearly everything you say).

Those of us who are parenting more than one toddler at a time deserve more than a medal. We deserve a vacation...without the toddlers. Since we can't have that, we are at least entitled to some sympathy and understanding from the general public.

So please, the next time you see us at the store or at church or standing in the middle of a parking lot mid-tantrum and I look exhausted and two of my three children are screaming their heads off, just smile and say something supportive. Better yet, ask how you can help. Don't say any of the things on this list. And please, don't give me any advice unless you have already survived this stage of twin parenthood...in which case I'd like to have your phone number on speed dial.

This has been a public service announcement on behalf of twin parents everywhere.



Sunday, May 12, 2013

My Mother's Day inheritance

Me, my week-old son, my mom and my grandmother together
My mom, me, and my grandma with a brand-new SuperSam


Mother's Day this year has me thinking about my mothering. Why do I do that? Where does that come from? Where did I learn to sing that song? And, most importantly, what kind of mother am I turning out to be?

Self-reflection is fine, but it's hard to get very far with that question without thinking about the kind of mother my own mother was and is (and her mother before her). We get a lot of stuff from our mothers. I realize that the things I've inherited could very well be the things I'm handing down.

It's a unique collection of traits they have passed on to me, a mix of assets and shortcomings that together have shaped who I am as a person and as a mother.






So, what can I thank my mother and grandmother for this Mother's Day?

A talent for making incomplete projects (such as prom dresses and curtains) look beautifully finished, at least from a foot or so away
Lovely cursive handwriting
A self-martyring tendency- slam cabinet doors rather than humbly ask for help unloading the dishwasher

The ability to draw friendly-looking vegetables with smiling faces and other equally whimsical things...on bathroom walls, on church bulletins, on paper napkins, or wherever they might be needed

The secret knowledge of where to hide the dirty dishes when unexpected company shows up

An intimate acquaintance with the gut-wrenching fear of not being perfect

The blessing of thick, dark hair that will go perfectly, beautifully gray
A distinct lack of talent at swimming
The skill to fold fitted sheets so that they look like flat sheets
The patience for endless repetitions of This Little Piggy and Pat-a-cake and Ride-a-little-horsey-down-to-town
The capability to play most ordinary pieces of music on the piano on sight...well enough to be convincing, anyway...and to carry a voice part with conviction and accuracy, if not with operatic quality

The foresight to always have a small mirror in my bag, and the ingenuity to keep a young child entertained with it for half an hour, at least
A knack for making up new lyrics to old tunes to accompany activities of daily living (because every little girl needs her own personal hair washing song, especially if she's terrified of getting soap in her eyes)

There are no family recipes. There are no heirloom gowns or linens. There are some handmade doll clothes and a song about the twelve apostles that ends with "and Bartholomew!" - but I can't remember how the rest of it goes.

It's an interesting list. Some of these things are definite assets. Some of them I could probably do without. Some of them are challenges to be overcome. Some of them aren't things I want to pass on at all. Still, my mother and my grandmother shine through this list: their flexibility, their creativity, their strength, their self-reliance, their attention to detail. I'm grateful for the ways in which these qualities are woven into the fabric of who I am...an imperfect mother who was mothered imperfectly by an imperfect mother who was mothered imperfectly by an imperfect mother.

Coming to terms with this list isn't always easy. It's much easier to list the things I hope my children will inherit: self-confidence, loving concern for others, a hunger for social justice, a sense of awe and wonder at the world. I hope, too, that they each get some of the creative flexibility and spunky strength that have come down through at least three generations of our family.

What we get from our mothers is always a mixed bag. Part of being a grownup is learning to accept the difficult parts with the amazing parts and figuring out what to do with it all.  My children are getting some great things from me, but every now and then, I see glimpses of myself in them that I'd rather not see, and I know they'll have to deal with the less-than-great things, too. One day, I hope they find joy in what has been passed down to them, even if it wasn't exactly what they were expecting.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

TwinsDay Wednesday: How our twins share space

Bringing twins home from the hospital to our house wasn't all that different from bringing home a single baby, at least in some ways. The early weeks were blurry, just as they were with my first child...sleep lost, diapers changed, and nursing all the time.









When we first brought our girls home, they slept in our room together in one pack 'n' play. We divided the night into shifts. I went to bed in our bedroom right after SuperSam did, around 7:30 pm, and slept until the girls woke up to nurse sometime after midnight. George (or one of our amazing helpers) kept the girls out in the living room or in their bedroom and gave them a bottle around 10:00 pm.





















After about 8 weeks, we moved them to a full-size crib, which they shared in their own room. We also had a double bed in their room, where George and I took turns sleeping.



The girls shared their crib until they were just past 6 months old, when they really started to need their own space. They rolled over each other in the night, and no one was resting well. We put up a second crib in their room and took out the double bed.


















Now that our girls are full-fledged toddlers, we have moved some things around in the room to give them more space to play. Part of the reason for arranging things this way was so the girls could take a more active role in their self-care. Their diapers are on a low shelf so they can help get them out. They can reach most of their clothes and their hamper, so they put the dirty ones away when we take them off at night. They choose their own pajamas (or sometimes choose for each other). They can put their wet diapers in the diaper pail. They both enjoy getting dressed and combing their hair in front of the mirror on their wall, and they like to put their shoes away.


I expect when they are ready to move out of cribs, we'll do toddler beds for a while. Eventually, we will probably do bunks or loft beds to give them some more space. I always had my own room growing up, but my younger sisters shared. I often felt envious of them when I heard them giggling and playing rummy after we were supposed to be asleep.

I hope that as they grow up, The Sisters will feel that sharing a room is a positive thing. They've been sharing space since conception, after all...they don't know any different.

Do your children share rooms? How do you have things set up?



Monday, May 6, 2013

Things to do in Virginia: Dinosaurland





Last Saturday, our family took a trip back in time...to a 1960's-era version of a prehistoric forest.


We visited Dinosaurland, a quirky roadside attraction near White Post, VA, on Highway 522 between Front Royal and Winchester.

It doesn't look like much from the road, but Dinosaurland is really worth a visit. If you have a dinosaur enthusiast in your family, she will love seeing giant replicas of many of her favorite creatures from the late Cretaceous period. If you don't have a dinosaur enthusiast, you should still go for the photo opportunities and the inexplicable enormous fake cacti. This is a pretty amazing place (in a classic-roadside-America kind of way).

The giant fiberglass dinosaurs are arranged along an easily-walkable gravel path that winds through a wooded area. Nothing moves, makes noises or lights up. Signs in front of most of the statues tell a little about the dinosaur. Some of the dinosaurs are engaged in staged battle scenes, complete with painted blood and bite marks, which our 4 1/2 year old loved. You can walk right up to the dinos and touch them, although there are numerous signs that emphatically command "No Climbing." (When SuperSam asked the lady at the gift shop if he could hug the dinosaurs, she said that was okay, although she was not as charmed as you might expect by such a request from a child in a dinosaur costume).

Yes, SuperSam went dressed as a Velociraptor.



Velociraptor SuperSam finds his name on the list of species at Dinosaurland.

The entrance to Dinosaurland is through the large gift shop, which has lots of breakable items at child level (and several rhyming signs that inform you that if you break things, you will have to buy them). There are restrooms in the gift shop near the entrance to the park, which you can visit just before you head out into the woods to see the dinosaurs. Very handy.

The other good news about the gift shop is that there are many items under $5 and even some under $1, so if your young dino-lover is short on cash, he should still be able to find a souvenir in his price range. Not all the items are dinosaur-related, but there is a really good selection of stuffed and plastic toy dinosaurs. SuperSam was really excited to find more than just the usual T-Rex, stegosaurus, apatosaurus and triceratops as choices. There are also t-shirts and books. Don't miss the paperback Educational Guide to Dinosaurland available at the register for 25 cents. The photos inside look like the work of Instagram hipsters, but they are the real deal.

The bad news about the gift shop is that the aisles are too narrow to easily accommodate a double stroller (even our Maclaren, which fits through standard doorways). If you have a single stroller, it should fit through just fine, and the gravel path through the park is totally manageable with a stroller. We chose to carry the Sisters through the gift shop (to avoid breaking any of the aforementioned breakables) and let them walk as much as they wanted once we got outside.


Although Lucy mostly preferred being carried, Nora enjoyed getting close to the dinosaurs and making roaring noises at them.


In addition to the dinosaurs, there is a large shark, a statue of King Kong (where you can pose for a picture sitting in the palm of his hand), an enormous praying mantis, a kind-of-creepy furry giant sloth, and the biggest, weirdest pink octopus I have ever seen.

Parasaurolophus - one of SuperSam's favorites
Lucy, Daddy and SuperSam among the octopus' tentacles



















Nora and Daddy inside the giant shark's mouth




















Although some of the dinosaurs could use some touching up with paint and not all of the information presented is current with modern research, Dinosaurland is definitely worth a visit. SuperSam bounced excitedly around the forest, looking like a reptilian version of Max in Where the Wild Things Are, reading about various dinosaurs as he impersonated a Velociraptor. The Sisters were happy just to be outside and walk around. 

Let the wild rumpus start!
There was enough to do here to keep everyone busy for 45 minutes or an hour.

"I think this is actually an Anatosaurus."
Velociraptor, stalking his prey...
...and devouring it.



























When everyone started to get hungry and restless, we headed back to Front Royal for lunch at Spelunker's, a local restaurant that serves fresh homemade burgers and frozen custard. Other menu items include chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, grilled cheese and boardwalk french fries. (They even have malt vinegar for the fries.) The burgers are quite good, and the custard is excellent. They always have chocolate and vanilla, plus a "flavor of the day."  On our visit, we had Thin Mint Sundae (vanilla custard with chocolate syrup and crushed thin mints mixed in). SuperSam's kid's meal came with a kid-sized ice cream, and he chose a chocolate cone with rainbow sprinkles.




One of my favorite things about Spelunker's is that they have a lot of highchairs, all of which have removable trays. Amazing. It's almost impossible to get two typical restaurant highchairs pulled up to the end of a table. With their own trays attached, the Sisters can sit back a bit from the table, and the other three of us can fit in a regular booth. There are also two larger corner booths for big families, and the tables are often being rearranged by groups that need more seating together.
 



You place your order at the counter and then go sit and wait with a number on your table. Friendly staff bring out the food when it is ready...so much easier than trying to juggle children and highchairs and drinks and diaper bags as you struggle to carry trays of food to a table and settle everyone down to eat.

There are also changing tables in the women's restroom, which I appreciate (although not in the men's, which would gain them even more favor from me).

Fresh flowers on the table = snack for Baby Dimetrodon.
If you find yourself in the northern Shenandoah Valley, go check out Dinosaurland. It's an experience you won't soon forget.

If you decide to visit, you can check hours of operation and admission prices here at their website. (School groups do sometimes visit on field trips, so you might want to call ahead during the week if you don't want to share space with a busload of local schoolchildren.)