Day Care

The following was inspired by our first two weeks of day care visits.

Day Care

“This is where the children play,” the woman said cheerily.

She gestured toward the flat bed of a pickup truck. The edge was surrounded by a makeshift wooden fence that looked like it had been made out of old orange crates.

“Oh, this shouldn’t be here,” she said and hastily moved a ball of barbed wire out of our path. “We use that to keep our cows in the pasture. And to keep out the… well, you know.”

We really didn’t know.

“I assure you we don’t let the children play with it.”

My wife and I looked wearily at the truck bed. In one corner there was a bag of mostly broken crayons. In another an ExerSaucer covered in tiny plastic frogs and giraffes.

The woman must have noticed our concern, because then she launched into the defensive: “I know what you’re thinking. This doesn’t look very exciting.”

Actually that wasn’t what we were thinking at all.

“But when we take this puppy out on the open road, the ExerSaucer starts bouncing all around and the crayons are rolling this way and that, and the kids just love it.”

“You drive it around?” my wife asked weakly.

Just on the dirt roads,” the woman said firmly. “I treat these babies just like I treated my own.”

Treated? I thought.

“I guess all that’s left is for me to show you my state certifications. They’re up on the wall of our play kitchen. I am required by law to tell you that we also let the children play with these real kitchen utensils—spoons, a cheese grater, butter knives, serrated knives, a cleaver, and the oven. Oh but don’t worry, the oven only works half the time.”

Babymoon: Washington DC

Our dear friend Beau graduated from the FBI Academy last week, and we were delighted to spend a few days in Washington DC celebrating with him.  This was my first trip to DC and Steven’s first in at least 25 years, so we had a lot to see.

BFF baby bumps.  26 weeks and twins (Hailey).  23 weeks and sleep deprived (Susan).
BFF baby bumps. 26 weeks and twins (Hailey). 23 weeks and sleep deprived (Susan).

We spent the first couple of days at Quantico, and Beau took us on a tour of the base where he’s been living, and we got to walk through Hogan’s Alley, eat in the cafeteria, and see a few of the familiar sites that Clarice Starling first introduced to us.  Special Agent Beau has requested that we not post any pictures on the world wide web, so let me just say that it was an absolute thrill to be in the room for his graduation ceremony.  The FBI director gave a speech and swore in the class and I was so impressed and humbled by the talent and sacrifice and tremendous leadership in that room.  The FBI asks so many fundamental things of their agents that I’ve always wished were general principles of every work place.  Responsibility.  Integrity.  Reputation.  Accountability.  Joy and balance and morality.  There was an opening and closing prayer and a call to the parents and family members with small children to let the kiddos make as much noise as they wanted, because the agents missed that noise the most.  It was an incredible ceremony and I left feeling inspired.  If there’s anything I can do to help the FBI, sign me up.  I’m officially on board.

After a couple of days with Beau and Hailey and their families, we made our way back into the city and caught our first metro ride from the airport.  Washington DC has it figured out. Why don’t all airports have stops on the metro?  It’s genius.  The metro was cheap, easy, clean, and everyone who worked there was super friendly and helpful.  I was so impressed and thankful, because we walked A LOT and Nino and I were TIRED.  Steven found us a great hotel that used to be a post office in the Penn Quarter and it was worth every penny.  There was a metro stop on one corner, and we were across the street from the National Portrait Gallery and a block from Chinatown.  We got in about noon on Friday and I took a quick nap in the hotel while Steven went out and found us some coffee and snacks before we started exploring.  Have I mentioned how nice it is to travel with Steven?  The man takes care of everything.  I’m the most spoiled wife in the universe.

The weather was really nice, if a little chilly, on Friday so we decided to see how much we could see on foot since it was supposed to rain on Saturday.  We walked down to the White House,

It took us awhile to find the right spot for pictures at the White House.
It took us awhile to find the right spot for pictures at the White House.
But eventually we figured it out.
But eventually we figured it out.
Steven calls this one "peek-a-boo"
Steven calls this one “peek-a-boo.”

and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building,

We thought the Veep building was far cooler than the White House.
We thought the Veep building was far cooler than the White House.

ran into the Treasury,

Treasure at the Treasury
Treasure at the Treasury

got kicked out of a park,

This is called something.  We got kicked out of it shortly after we arrived, so that's why we forgot.  Also, Steven threw away our map.
This is called something. We got kicked out of it shortly after we arrived, so that’s why we forgot. Also, Steven threw away our map.

hovered near the Washington monument,

I took several bad versions of Steven for this picture.  Me = bad at perspective.  This is also as close as we ever got to the Washington Monument.
I took several bad versions of Steven for this picture. Me = bad at perspective. This is also as close as we ever got to the Washington Monument.
Fun with perspective after getting kicked out of the park.
Fun with perspective after getting kicked out of the park.

explored the Smithsonian Museum of American History,

Julia Child kitchen!  Just like in the movie Julie and Julia!  Everything we know about life comes from TV and movies.  Sad.
Julia Child kitchen! Just like in the movie Julie and Julia! Everything we know about life comes from TV and movies. Sad.
We found Katie at the American History Museum!
We found Katie at the American History Museum!

and then stopped in the National Portrait Gallery,


and Art Museum

At the art museum, I learned that Steven prefers weird art.  Like this one, titled "The Elephant Who was Fond of Watermelon."
At the art museum, I learned that Steven prefers weird art. Like this one, titled “The Elephant Who was Fond of Watermelon.”

before heading back to the Penn Quarter for our 5pm dinner reservations at Zaytinya.  Zaytinya is essentially Mediterranean tapas and the best food ever.  Super fresh hummus, falafel, mussels, pitas, and pilaf.  It was all so delicious, but small enough that I had room for dessert!  It was the perfect meal.

Natural History Museum.  On a Saturday. In the rain.  Twas CROWDED.
Natural History Museum. On a Saturday. In the rain. Twas CROWDED.

On Saturday we got up bright and early to greet the rain and Steven went out again to find us some breakfast.  We were only a few blocks from the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, so we started there and spent a good 3 hours exploring and learning and taking a zillion pictures.

One of two dinosaur skeletons.  Lame.
The main fossil room was closed for renovations, so this was one of two that they had on display downstairs. Lame.

The main dinosaur room was closed (of course!) but they had lots of other really neat exhibits.

We found Phil Miller's dinner table decoration!
We found Phil Miller’s dinner table decoration!
There was a video game where you could try to become a fossil.  Naturally, I rocked it on my first try.
There was a video game where you could try to become a fossil. Naturally, I rocked it on my first try.

My Titanic-loving heart was thrilled to see the Hope Diamond and Steven loved all the skeletons.

My ring meets its family.
My ring meets its family.
Kids and adults were equally impressed with Steven's picture moxie.
Kids and adults were equally impressed with Steven’s picture moxie.
So good at the pictures.
So good at the pictures.
Steven at Easter Island.
Steven at Easter Island.

I learned that there’s an animal called a jumping mouse, which is just my worst nightmare.  Steven loved the little skeletons, but my favorite were the sea turtles.

Water bear, Steven's new spirit animal.
Water bear, Steven’s new spirit animal.
Steven's smaller spirit animal.
Steven’s smaller spirit animal.
Pocket mouse skeleton.
Pocket mouse skeleton.

They also had a huge exhibit on mammals and humans and evolution, etc.  It was pretty cool, and they had a photo booth where you could see what you would look like way back when.  Who wears it better?

Steven as a neanderthal.
Steven as a neanderthal.
Susan as a... different neanderthal?
Susan as a… different neanderthal?

By the time we were done in the museum my feet were DYING and we had about 1,000 things left on our wish list for the day, so we decided to make the most of metro and headed down to the Capitol.

So tired. Feet hurt.  Must eat.  Please carry.
So tired. Feet hurt. Must eat. Please carry.

Beau and Hailey had shared a list of restaurant recommendations from friends in his class, so we ended up at Good Stuff Eatery for lunch.  It was amazing.  I was so hungry, I ate my cookie first, but had plenty of room to scarf down everything I ordered… and some of Steven’s too.

It's customary to eat dessert first on vacation, right?
It’s customary to eat dessert first on vacation, right?

Nino and I were fading fast, so we decided to stick around the area and start making some cuts to our must-see list. Luckily the Library of Congress and the Folger Shakespeare library were right down the street, so we got to explore both of those buildings without my feet giving up in disgust.

The outside of the Shakespeare library was really cool...
The outside of the Shakespeare library was really cool…
I bet the inside would've been pretty sweet too.
I bet the inside would’ve been pretty sweet too.

The Shakespeare library wasn’t open for tours as they were between exhibits (of course) but we did get to see the Folger Theatre, which is a mini version of an Elizabethan theater and take pictures with the cool sculptures in the front.  I also learned that there are three Library of Congress buildings, and they’re all enormous.  We went into the Jefferson building and got to see the Gutenberg bible and Jefferson’s personal collection.

Library of Congress!
Library of Congress!
The Reading Room was pretty legit.
The Reading Room is legit.

The building was gorgeous and quiet and majestic and oh so fancy.  There’s also a Madison building and an Adams building, but we got down there too late to see those.  It was starting to rain again so we briefly stopped by the Supreme Court and waved hi and goodbye to the under construction Capitol building and bid adieu to Capitol Hill.

After all that walking, and consulting our map, we realized that the metro, sadly, would not drop us off right in front of the Lincoln Memorial, so missed out on that corner of the National Mall this trip.  Instead, we took the metro back to Chinatown and caught a vigil mass before figuring out what to do for dinner.  Feeling completely overwhelmed by options (and aching feet), Nino and I decided that what we really wanted was more falafel, so we settled on Zorba’s Cafe in Dupont Circle and headed down to that neighborhood.  Dinner was delicious and easy and cozy and we walked around the neighborhood for a bit before heading back to the Penn Quarter to see what all the fuss about Shake Shack was all about.  I got some frozen custard and was unimpressed. Tell me, Shake Shack lovers – what should I have ordered?

We got up somewhat early on Sunday and took the metro to the airport for our flight back to KC.  We had a direct flight on the way back and it was easy and blissful and Steven slept and I fell headlong into the adventures of the Branch family in Where’d You Go, Bernadette?  We touched down in KC before noon, got a quick lunch and did some shopping at Legends and made it back home before 4.  It was the perfect babymoon.

Now that I’ve been there, I get it.  I only spent two days in the city and saw maybe .1% of it, but I understand now why so many people I went to college with ended up in DC after they graduated.  More than New York, or Chicago or New Orleans, DC seems like a really friendly, welcoming, surprisingly affordable city for young professionals.  I felt totally comfortable the entire time I was there (minus one night of pregnancy-induced anxiety) and was impressed with how easy it was to get around.  It really ended up being one of the cheapest vacations we’ve ever taken, even with flights and hotel rooms because we were able to use public transportation or walk everywhere and didn’t have to pay for a single museum.  DC gets this anxious traveler’s seal of approval.  I can’t wait to go back.

Adventures in Pregnancy, Week 23: Anxiety Dreams

Confession: I’m a horrible traveler.  I hate to say it, because people my age are supposed to be gaga for travel.  I want to see the world!  I want to have adventures!  I want to be easy going and carefree and curious and spend my money to see new things.  I have never fit into that.  Traveling stresses. me. out.  The packing and the money and the contingencies and the getting from point a to point b and the carrying around luggage and the not having appropriate footwear or layers or umbrellas or plane snacks or proper hydration gives me serious anxiety.  The details always feel like too much work.  Details are for work.  Simplicity is for everything else.

Pregnancy brain has made details even more elusive to me.  Thank goodness my job runs on a semester schedule and there are certain things that are done at certain times, 3 times a year.  That’s the kind of structure I can handle in my current state of fog.  So packing for this trip was an intense exercise in patience and survival… for Steven.  God bless him.

I had been stressing about packing a week before we left.  Tuesday night I kept us up until after midnight, packing and unpacking and repacking and trying everything on because of course, nothing fits the same way every day, even my maternity clothes.  We were set to hit daily mass at 7:15 Wednesday morning before driving to KC to catch our first flight.  So after a way too late bedtime on Tuesday, I spent the night fitfully dreaming about hot water heaters dripping next to ancient radiators.  In my dream, once the hot water heater dripped enough to form a puddle, the radiator would explode, and so would our house.  I woke up in a cold sweat several times, after blowing up at least 8 houses.  Finally at 6am, I gave up and decided to be awake for the rest of the day.

On Wednesday night, after a very easy day of travel and a wonderful dinner at a karaoke bar with everyone, I had a dream where I kept accidentally drinking cans of beer because I forgot I was pregnant.  Each time I would finish one I would remember and then panic and then the next thing I knew, I had finished another one.  At the end of the dream I had missed my flight back home because I forgot to get up and leave the party.  Again, I gave up on sleeping at 6 a.m.

On Friday, it finally came to a head.  After three nights of fitful sleep and a full day of walking around in the wrong shoes (always the wrong shoes) and being both too hot and too cold (I can never get the layers right), I broke down in tears because I wanted Steven to go to Shake Shack to get me a second dinner, but I was too afraid for him to go outside at night without me and I was too afraid to go with him.  We were in a fancy enough hotel that they didn’t have vending machines and I was starving and exhausted and in a full on crazy fit.  After attempting to console me for several minutes I finally blubbered, “I’m not very good at traveling.”  Steven’s response?  “Well…. you’re not the best.”  Then he figured out that we had (expensive) cans of coke in our mini-fridge and dug out the plane snacks that I had packed and forgotten about and I finally calmed down enough to sleep through the night.

Steven is a saint.

Happy Senior Day, Nino!

We have a tradition in my family that we give tummy babies fun nicknames.  My older sister Betsy was Bozo and is now notoriously clumsy.  My little sister Abby was Abishag (from the Robert Frost poem Provide, Provide, naturally) and she started her life with a full head of hair that refused to lay down.

My tummy name was Jesus Sylvester.  Why?  Who knows.  How has that shaped me?  Remains to be seen.

When Betsy started having kids, they kept the tradition going.  Anna was Izzy, named for the patron saint of Agriculture, Isidore.  Katie was Tummy (Anna’s choice), Jimmy was Threesie, and Teddy was Grazie (he was a November baby).

So of course, when we found out we were going to have a baby, one of the first things we did is come up with a tummy name.  Naming things is not new to our household either.  We name our cars (Harvey and Melvin), we name our tablets (Leo and Gordon), we name our laptop (Piper) and my iPod (Squirt).  In my first full-time grown-up job, I even named the office printer Nelson and everyone just kind of went with it.  Naming is what we do.  So our tummy baby needed to have a really good name.

The initial due date was June 30th, changed quickly to July 7th after an early sonogram.  We started with July names – Julio, Indy.  Steven actually thought of and settled on Jules… for a whole 5 hours before I changed it to the current and proper name:


According to Steven, Nino (Nin) in Greek means him or her.

And in Spanish it means little boy.

But to me, it means Nino Williams, my all-time favorite K-State basketball player.

I mean, c’mon. That goofy grin? How can you not love him?

Nino hasn’t had the best time of it.  He’s the kind of player that only exists and thrives at K-State. He’s the reason that I love K-State athletics so much.  Coach Snyder has recruited and developed hundreds of Nino Williams on the football field, but it’s a much harder thing to do in basketball.  You should really read the article about him, but just in case you don’t, here are the highlights of Nino’s journey to today:

  • grew up in a house with his mom and 6 brothers and sisters.  His Dad left when Nino was very young.
  • transferred to a basketball prep school in Kansas City that turned out to be fake.
  • a local family in Leavenworth heard about the story and legally adopted him so he could go to school and play basketball
  • Nino arrived at the Leavenworth school with a 1.3 GPA
  • He attended special classes and schools over the summer breaks to fix his GPA so he would be academically eligible for an NCAA Division I program
  • He was signed by Frank Martin and arrived at K-State in 2010
  • Since then he has made the Big 12 Honor Roll twice and has already earned a bachelor’s degree.
  • Had to redshirt his first season due to multiple concussions sustained in practice. (Seriously, Frank.  What were you doing to those kids?)
  • Has battled through countless injuries and multiple knee surgeries and is nicknamed “Old Man Legs” by his team.
  • Started almost every game of his senior season and was named Big 12 Player of the Week twice.

Nino is a fighter.  He’s scrappy.  He’s the underdog that just won’t quit.  There were so many points along his journey where he could have laid down, transferred, given up entirely.  But through it all, he just kept playing.  Kept working.  Kept scrapping.  In his senior season, he’s been the consistent bright spot in a very frustrating year.

“It hasn’t always been good, but, at the same time, it has always been good,” says Nino Williams, pausing to smile. “That probably doesn’t make any sense. I guess what I’m trying to say is: I learned from it – all of it. It helped me with life and it taught me how to make it through tough situations. I wouldn’t change a thing.”

I’ve always had a tendency to root for the 6th man.  That first guy off the bench that can’t quite crack the starting lineup but brings energy and passion and spark to the game from the second he enters.  Nino was the perfect 6th man and I was nervous when he broke into the top 5 this season.  But man, I love watching him on defense.  Last year, whenever the team was stressing me out, I’d just watch Nino, especially on defense.  He’s always got his hands on someone, like a younger sibling that just won’t. stop. touching you.  I love the way he rebounds.  I love that smooth jump shot.  I love that he sort of lumbers back on offense, because he’s got to take his rests where he can get them.  I love that he’s adopted the Snyder system of letting the game come to him, and not trying to force himself to do something new or flashy that his body can’t handle.  I love that he outworks every person on the floor, and that he’s always the one in the middle of a scrum.  I love how humble he is, and how just before tip-off, even from our high, high seats at the top of Bramlage, you can see his smile, lighting up the court.  He plays happy.  He plays scrappy.  He’s relentless.

“He gets hurt on almost every play,” Bruce Weber says. “You feel bad, but that is who he is. He plays with reckless abandon. It is one of his strengths, but, unfortunately, it has led to injuries. It’s just a good thing he is tough.”

And now it’s his Senior Day and time for us all to say goodbye.  Senior Day is always emotional for me, but this year, as I think about our Baby Nino and the uncharted life ahead, I wonder if he or she will ever have their own Senior Day.  The idea is completely mind boggling right now, as I smile about baby Nino’s tiny little kicks to my gut.  But regardless of what this baby turns out to be, I hope they’re inspired by their tummy namesake to persevere.  To keep trying.  To keep fighting and stay positive.  We’d all be a lot better off if we worked half as hard as Nino Williams.

My guys.

On Big Monday, with the game on the line and the KU fans hovering nervously all around us, Steven and I lost our minds when Nino got to make this shot:

It was the perfect climax to 10 years of struggle.  The perfect play, on the perfect day, for the perfect player, in the perfect place.  It was K-State.  It was the reason we suffered through this horribly long season.  It was the peak.

Happy Senior Day, buddy.  Thanks for sticking with it.  We miss you already.