Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Train Ride for Hannah

When I was growing up, my dad had a toy train that he used to set up around the Christmas tree every year, and my brother and I loved playing with that train so since there's no room in our house for a train around the tree, I've been dying to take Hannah to the Holiday Festival of Trains at the B&O Railroad Museum.  Unfortunately, saying that Eric wasn't too into the idea is an understatement. I probably would have had better luck talking him into seeing the toy train exhibit at the Kenilworth mall since he's always looking for an excuse to go shopping, but the last place I want to be at Christmas time is a mall.  Eventually I decided to take Hannah by myself and that's when he (and everyone else) decided to come along since there was nothing better to do.  Fortunately, it ended up being more fun than even I expected, and since it was everyone's last day here, it was nice to have one last family activity before Uncle Justin, Grannah, and Granpah headed back to Michigan.

Since the main part of the museum was an old round house, there were rails in the floor every few feet.  It took Hannah a few laps before she was comfortable stepping over the rails without holding someone's hand.

On our one trip to the mall this holiday season, we let Hannah ride the little carousel thingy and she LOVED it.  She signed more repeatedly until we were all out of singles and had to pull her away screaming.  The train ride in the pic below was only a quarter and since there were six adults present, each in possession of their own change-filled wallet, Hannah rode as much as she wanted.

In addition to trains, they had a bunch of old buggies and the horse-drawn carriage in the pic below that was open for the kids to run in and out of.

Here are Hannah and Granpah checking out the steam engine.

Exploring the....mail car maybe?? I can't remember what car this was...

The below pic was taken right before Hannah sat down on the rail thingy (that was surrounded by chains indicating it was not there to be climbed on) and fell backwards off of it hitting her head on the rail behind. Eric called the accident right as I was snapping the pic but neither of us managed to prevent it.

Watching the trains with Daddy.

A model fire! Have you ever seen a model fire?? I mean, I don't really look at model anythings but a model fire seemed a novel idea to me.

Daddy was blowing bubbles with gum which mesmerized Hannah.

For an additional $2 you can buy a ticket to ride the train, and since the train is where Frosty was supposed to be, we bought tickets.  What we didn't realize is that snowmen require lunch breaks and that this snowman would take his during our train ride. No Frosty for us.  Booooooo!

The train ride itself was none-too-scenic, traveling about a mile through south west Baltimore and then back again.  The highlight was seeing a working crane at a scrap metal yard.  In spite of that and being robbed of our Frosty visit, it was a fun and awesomely festive activity.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Hannah Visits the Aquarium

We hightailed it down to the aquarium first thing yesterday morning to break in the membership that Grannah and Granpah got us for Christmas.  We've been wanting to take Hannah for a few weeks but didn't want to go until we were ready to fork out enough dough to get a membership because tickets are up to almost $30/person but a couples membership is only $109/year--kids under 3 are free--so if you're going to go more than twice as a family, you might as well just buy a membership.  That or ask for one for Christmas.  This is totally my ideal Christmas gift: a whole year of great, family-friendly experiences rather than an object I need to make space for and then dust.

I have to warn you that most of these photos are kind of redundant: "Look! It's the back of Hannah's head looking into a fish tank!" and "Oooo! It's the back of Hannah's and Daddy's head looking into a fish tank."   If you're not a die-hard Hannah fan, you might find yourself fighting off tears of boredom after the second shot. Consider that your disclaimer!

Scuba Steve was feeding lettuce to a giant 3-legged sea turtle when we got there.  That photo is blurry but I snapped this one when he took off with squid in hand to feed the rays. I think that would be an awesome job. Don't you?

Ever since I was very little and taking field trips to this aquarium, my favorite fish was the cowfish.  He's in the tank pictured below toward the top. He's got a huge head with teeny, tiny fins and these incredibly puckered-up lips.  I just love that guy.

Most of the tanks have ledges for little legs to jump up on for a better view, but this tank was cooler than the others because it started at the ledge. As soon as Hannah discovered the potential of this particular ledge, she started running back and forth, pausing just long enough at each end to get turned back around.  I think the catfish got tired just watching her.

Justin and Joel (yes they were there, but since Hannah stuck with Daddy, they didn't make it into any of the pictures) chose seats like eight rows back for the dolphin show but me and Eric plopped down in the splash zone so that Hannah could be front and center to the action.  I didn't really get too many pics of the dolphins, and nothing I did get is worth posting.  Anyway, as with the other stuff, I've seen my share of dolphin shows--I was even the guest star in a dolphin show when I was like 5--so I was mainly getting a kick out of watching Hannah watch the dolphins.  Kind of like the Hawtch-Hawtcher bee watchers in Dr. Suess's Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?  Look how cute she is?? She was saying "ball" in this one because the dolphins were tossing around a ball.

The current traveling exhibit at the aquarium is called Jellyfish Invasion. It's a small exhibit, but I liked it. Joel hated it because he hates jellyfish, and I guess if I were a crazy, hardcore fisherman out in the boondocks of Alaska who was constantly getting them stuck in stuff, I'd probably hate them too, but I'm not, so I think they're pretty cool.  Hannah did too.

I managed to get a face shot in the elevator.  Look at those dimples coming in!!!

I think this was taken in the rain forest....but it might have been in the Australia section...They're kind of similar to a non-professional like myself.

Yeah, it was definitely the rain forest, and so is the next one.  I didn't like any of the shots I took in Australia, probably because it was after noon by then and I was freaking out about how we needed to get Hannah home so we could feed her lunch and get her down for her nap.

I think we're going to love having this membership, especially while it's so dang cold outside; It's a cool place to unleash Hannah and follow her around pointing out the various fish, turtles, and puffins. And now that the Sunday farmer's market we used to go to is closed for the season, we've got a Sunday morning activity slot to fill.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Peace, Love, and Joy (and Presents....)

We've got toys piling up in all corners of our shoebox of a row home because the Banana Berry is a very lucky gal and has a huge fan club. Brandy stopped by yesterday with presents: her favorite childhood books (Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?, Love You Forever, and Seven Little Rabbits), all of which have these really cute name plates custom designed by Tim that say Banana's Book Fairy.

Today we celebrated with Eric's side of the family, all of whom are in town for a long weekend visit (except Joel who gets much more time off than the others).  After a big breakfast (and a nap for me), we tore open the gifts. I think I got pictures of Hannah with everything so without further adieu.....

Uncle Joel got Hannah this weird little hamster in a ball thing (kind of like this one)...Here's Hannah inspecting this strange but fun little toy prior to dropping it to the floor where it rolled around for a few hours before we finally turned it off.

Eric and I bought Hannah Boynton's Greatest Hits: Volume II, mostly just because I wanted But Not the Hippopotamus, my all time favorite Boynton book (Hippos Go Bezerk is a close second; as far as I'm concerned, it's all about the hippos).

Grannah and Granpah got her this very cool drum.  She knew exactly what to do with it and set about beating it immediately. I keep thinking that someday it'd be cool to get her a drum set. She's a pretty high energy personality so I feel like drums would be a good instrument for her.  Every time I tell this to someone, they get this incredulous look on their face and exclaim, "Why???" That or they just say, "You don't want to do that."  I don't get it.  I think it'd be so cool!

Eric and I also bought her the Hide and Seek Safari Jr. - Elephant (which she is unwrapping with Uncle Justin in the photo below), but we're unimpressed. The theory sounds cool: these stuffed animals come with a remote control that has one button. When you push that button, the animal makes its animal noise.  The point is to hide the animal and then use the remote to help the kid find it, kind of like Marco Polo for toddlers.  The problem is that the remote doesn't make the elephant make its elephant noise unless you're holding it within about 2 inches from the elephant.  We're hoping that it's a battery problem, but we've already changed them once and it didn't help.

Remember that gaping mouth look she got when she opened her doll house last week? Well, she got it again after opening the Music Blocks that Grannah and Granpah bought her and I happened to catch it.

I love this toy.  There's five blocks, and each side of the block has a different shape on it and plays a different part of a song. If you put all the stars facing up in the right order, you can play a little portion of a classical song.  If you mix it up and have a triangle, a square, a star, etc. it'll play a bunch of different pieces of different songs emphasizing different instruments, so you can sort of compose your own song. The boys I babysat had it, and we loved playing with it.  Hannah has a hard time putting the blocks into their holes exactly, but she's catching on.

She took a break from the blocks to snuggle with Grannah and her hide and seek elephant.

Uncle Justin got her a cardboard coloring play house that's kind of like this one, except not quite.  We found this one at Michael's for only $12.  

Daddy has been helping her color all day.  In fact, after she went to bed, Daddy and Granpah did a lot more coloring together--I repeat, Hannah was in bed asleep while Daddy and Granpah spent at least an hour of grown-up time coloring Hannah's house for her and even using the box cutter to make some minor improvements. This is devotion. I didn't get any pictures of that though.  Here are some pics from earlier in the day when Hannah was still involved.

After opening presents and eating lunch, Hannah took a nap and us grown-ups played a chaotic and disorderly game of Crainum in which Eric and Justin attempted to improvise the rules much to everyone else's confusion and slight frustration.  When Hannah woke up we had an early Christmas dinner and then headed down to see the lights on 34th Street.  Trying to do that on Christmas Eve was a bad idea because there's too much last minute shopping and wrapping that needs to be done and family members were still settling in from their travels.  Walking down on Christmas, however, was perfect because after being cooped up indoors all day, we were itching for a little walk and some fresh air, and since nothing is open, the lights were a perfect option.  We left the stroller at home and let Hannah get a little exercise too.

In spite of my accidental head-chopping in the shot below, I really like it.  (We found the basketball on the street and used it as bait to keep Hannah moving in a forward direction.)

The next pic is taken from the porch of the main house, the one that started the tradition and puts on the biggest production. Can you believe this tradition is in its 62nd year??  That's a loooooong time!

I took advantage of the opportunity for photo ops then and got everybody to pose in front of houses of their choice.
Hannah with her Grannah and Granpah in front of the white reindeer.
Hannah with Daddy, Uncle Justin (left), and Uncle Joel (right) in front of the hub cap Christmas tree.
Us! Me, my favorite munchkin, and #1 hubby in front of a bunch of crazy blow ups.
Even the Christmas decorations are Baltimore-centric.  Gotta love that Be-more pride!
I wish you all peace, love, and joy now and throughout the year and hope that those of you celebrating Christmas had a fun one and those of you not celebrating had a fun Saturday!