A Family Outing: The National Aquarium (Baltimore)

Hello, blog! I missed you.

Want to visit the National Aquarium? To start with I want to point out that the National Aquarium is in Baltimore, not DC. I’ve run across quite a few people who were unaware of this. There USED TO BE a national aquarium in DC, but it closed in 2013 for renovations, and many of the exhibits were moved to Baltimore, which isn’t much further away.

Big J, Little J and I visited the aquarium a couple of months ago, but I’m just now getting around to posting about our visit. I’ve been so busy with work. My new job is going very well, but before I was considered a “qualified” instructor who could teach on her own, I had to personalize more than 30 master lesson plans (each lesson plan ranges from 1 lecture to 11 lectures) and pass two performance evaluations. Normally, new instructors will have three performance evaluations, but because of my previous teaching experience and skill, my department head decided I didn’t need the middle one…woohoo! Anyway, I’m now qualified, so I’m not bringing work home at night and on the weekends quite as much. I have time to blog!

Post
The view of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor from the National Aquarium

So back to the aquarium… We visited a couple of weeks before the infamous Baltimore riots, but from what I understand, things are back to usual in the Inner Harbor, and the aquarium wasn’t damaged.

Post

Things to know: Tickets to the aquarium aren’t cheap. If you live in the area and plan on going a few times a year, I recommend looking into a membership. Ticket also sell out, and the aquarium has a timed entry system, so I’d buy tickets ahead of time online. Currently, tickets for kids 3-11 are $24.95, and tickets for kids/adults 12-64 are $39.95. Senior tickets are $3 off the regular admission price. As you can see, the aquarium can be a little expensive!

Post

You also need to factor in parking. There are parking garages and lots all over the Inner Harbor, and the prices vary wildly too. I would expect to pay anywhere from $15-25 in parking for your aquarium visit, but it’s possible you could find a cheaper rate, depending on the season and day of the week. We chose the aquarium’s official parking partner, Lockwood Place, because of its proximity. It’s about half a block away from the aquarium. The parking garage offers a small discount (I believe it was $2 or $3 for us) to aquarium visitors. You need to take your parking ticket with you and get it validated at the aquarium, after you park.

Once you get inside the aquarium, it’s important to note that strollers aren’t allowed. I did see one stroller, but it had a handicap tag fixed to it. The aquarium is designed in a way that people stand on conveyor belts that move you up and in between the tanks. I’ve read elsewhere that the aquarium offers a limited number of baby carriers, but I’ve never needed to take advantage of this. There is a stroller check when you first come in.

Post

This was actually our second time at the aquarium. The first time we visited, Little J was Baby J…only about two months old. I had a baby carrier with already, so we just checked the stroller downstairs, and I carried him through the exhibits. This time, I just let him walk around, since he’s a “big boy” (almost 3).

There is a small cafe, but we haven’t had issues bringing in a few snacks and water.

About the aquarium: It’s awesome! Okay, I have to admit that Hubby is not impressed, but I really don’t understand why. I love the layout. It’s a tall building, and you just keep going up and up and up, and looking down into the tanks. The view is fantastic. Then when you get to the top, you can take a spiraling ramp all the way down, and the ramp is surrounded by a circular shark tank that is stories high. How is that not cool??

Post

Post

Post

Little J LOVED it. I thought he would get tired, but he didn’t. I guess it’s really not too much walking for a little guy. Just a couple of weeks after our last visit, a new interactive exhibit was opened, so I’m planning on going back later this year. I think Little J would love to pet a crab!

I think the pictures speak for themselves, but the architecture and set up of this place is amazing. If you’re in the area and have a chance, I recommend visiting the National Aquarium!

Aquarium

Post

What is your favorite aquarium to visit? Have you been to the National Aquarium?

Compensated Pink

Opinions Expressed Pink Button

Continue Reading

Book Review: “Steel Will” by Staff Sgt. (RET) Shilo Harris

Although I’ve taken pretty much a hiatus from reviews this month, when I was asked to review Steel Will, I quickly said “yes” once I realized what the book is about. The men and women of our armed forces are near and dear to my heart. I’m an Afghanistan veteran and former Army-reservist. (My contract just ended last December.) My husband is active-duty Navy, and I’m currently working for the Navy as a civilian.

When I deployed to Kandahar, my job as a photojournalist often took me “outside the wire,” meaning outside the relatively-safe base and into the Afghan communities. Through all the convoys, helo flights, and foot patrols, God kept me safe. There were a couple of times I remember being truly terrified, but for the most part I always had a peace that I wasn’t going to die or be badly hurt. Not everyone is so fortunate. And not all wounds are visible.

Steel Will is the story of Staff Sgt. (Ret.) Shilo Harris. The tagline is “My journey through hell to become the man I was meant to be.”

Harris begins his book by telling about the fateful day in Iraq when his vehicle ran over an improvised explosive device (IED). I didn’t think Harris by any means glorified the gore, but he was descriptive enough that I realized just how horrific his wounds were. I even thought, he shouldn’t be alive.

Chapter two goes back to Harris’ childhood. He describes the events that led up to his enlistment into the Army after 9/11. His father had fought in Vietnam and came back a changed man, for the worse. And back then people didn’t really understand post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) yet. Although Harris grew up surrounded by family strife, drugs, and alcoholism, Harris was blessed to straighten out his life and meet Kathreyn, the woman who became his wife and was responsible for introducing him to the saving grace of Jesus. It’s obvious very quickly that Harris and Katheryn have a loving relationship, and that she’s a strong woman.

Harris’ book tells about many of the men he served with. The stories are both humorous and sad. He also brings to light some of the horrors of war as well as tragic circumstances many Iraqis faced daily.

About halfway through the book, Harris describes in greater detail the day of the ambush, as well as the IED blast itself. More than a third of his body was burned. He lost his ears and several fingers. Harris had a broken back and a fractured collarbone. When his wife Kathreyn arrived at the hospital in Germany, every part of his body except for his toes was bandaged. Kathreyn was told Harris’ chances of survival were 2 percent. Harris and one other Soldier survived the explosion, but three men didn’t make it.

As Harris’ body healed, he struggled with understanding why God had spared him, and not his men. And then he was angry, angry that God had allowed this to happen to him and to his family.

Besides the men Harris served with, he describes the various wounded warriors he met while recovering. It’s incredible what these troops and their families have survived. One phrase stood out to me. Harris writes, “If you ever want to meet a hero, you need to meet my wife.” Their relationship is inspiring. In a day and age where many people focus on what makes themselves happy, Kathreyn exhibited an unusual sacrificial love for her husband.

They did have obstacles to overcome, obviously. And it wasn’t just Shilo’s healing. Kathreyn had to protect and mother Shilo for months on end; she was his nurse for much of the time. So it was difficult for them to adjust their roles back to husband and wife, and lovers.

Over time, Harris became involved in different wounded warrior organizations and programs. He was able to travel around and serve as an encouragement to other warriors, newly wounded. He’s met presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. He and his family even participated in ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

I could not put this book down. There were multiple places in the book that had me choked up: the stories of those that didn’t make it, the wounded warriors, the black outs and rages, traumatic brain injuries, the PTSD… These are things that many military families face on a daily basis. I’ve witnessed fellow Soldiers, who I believe suffer from PTSD, self-medicate with alcohol rather than talk about their experiences and feelings to a friend or professional. Harris openly discusses his experiences and journey of healing during a time when many still don’t speak about theirs and don’t ask for help. But they do need help.

The book ends with several pages devoted to the Soldiers who served with Staff Sgt. Shilo Harris and died that day, Feb. 19, 2007, in Iraq. And finally, Harris and his wife have included a comprehensive list of resources to help wounded warriors.

You can find out more info about Shilo Harris at his website www.shiloharris.com, as well as photos, videos, and more resources.

Note: I received a free copy of Steel Will to read and review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Continue Reading

5 Tips for Jogging with a Toddler

Although in the past I have self-professed to “hate” running, it’s grown on me (can’t believe I just typed that). There’s something relaxing and freeing about not only hitting the path, but doing so with your child. I’m teaching Baby J from an early age that not only is it good to be active, it’s fun!

Over the last six months, I’ve packed Baby J up several times a week -rain, snow/ice, or shine- and headed outside to jog. Some days we push for ten miles, other days we barely reach two. It’s been a journey, but I’m proud that I’ve stuck with it and improved.

If you’re thinking about taking up jogging with your toddler, I’d like to share with you my top tips garnered from our experiences.

First, something to keep in mind- although many jogging stroller brands sell attachments allowing you to use the stroller with certain infant car seats, your little one may not be ready physically for your jogging until six months or older. Babies must have sufficient neck control, so before jogging with your baby, always check with your little one’s pediatrician.

1. Invest in a quality jogging stroller.

Your jogging experience will be less than enjoyable if you’re fighting with the stroller the entire time, or if your toddler is fussing while being jarred from a poor suspension and bumpy ride. Go to a local running or sporting goods store and take a look at jogging strollers in person.

Currently, I own, use, and love the single BOB Ironman, but the BOB Revolution SE Duallie with its swivel lock wheel is a top contender for when we eventually need a double jogging stroller.

If you’re not sure where to start looking for a jogging stroller, I came across a great article from Baby Gear Lab. They tested ten of the most popular jogging strollers and ranked them according to their findings.

Once you’ve decided which stroller you want, you may be able to find it in stock in a local store, or you can always order online from Amazon or PishPoshBaby. Many sites will have sales or release coupon codes you can put towards your purchase; just keep your eyes open.

The other option is to purchase your stroller used through a service like Craigslist. That’s what we did! It’s a great way to save on a quality stroller. Just make sure you check the stroller out thoroughly before money changes hands.

2. Plan the logistics: route, weather, and time of day.

The logistics will most likely depend on the individual child, and it may take a few times to figure out what works for you and your toddler.

Think about what route you’re taking. What is the path like? Will you be on the road at any point; is there a danger from vehicles? If your little one is potty trained, then even something like a restroom needs to be considered ahead of time. I prefer to jog on a circular path at a local park. I know that every lap I pass a water fountain and a restroom with a baby change table inside.

Check the weather ahead of time. Should you bring rain gear, sunblock, blankets, jackets, or stroller covers? My rule is to take more than I think I need. Invariably, if I pack light, I always need something I didn’t bring that one time.

Time of day matters too, for more than one reason. Obviously it’s usually warmer in the afternoon. If it’s winter, you may want to postpone your morning jog until the afternoon. Then again, if it’s windier later in the day, earlier may be better.

Also consider when your child naps. If I’m planning a long jog, I prefer to jog during nap time, as I know my son will sleep soundly in his stroller the entire time.

3. Dress your child appropriately.

I touched upon this above, but make sure your toddler is going to be comfortable, no matter the weather and route. It’s always windy at the park and even windier at the beach boardwalk, so that’s something I have to keep in mind when dressing my toddler. I might get warmed up during a run from my rising body heat, but my son won’t. He will get plenty of wind in his face, so I bring a hat and mittens for him when it’s below 60 degrees.

I recommend dressing your toddler in layers. You can always take clothing off if he or she gets too warm. In freezing temps, I’ve been known to bundle Baby J in a snowsuit, even without snow on the ground. If he sleeps, I know he’s comfy!

4. Pack food and diversions.

Always pack a snack and drink for your toddler. You never know when he or she may suddenly decide they’re having a growth spurt and are hungry NOW. Or maybe you’ll have an amazing run and decide to jog longer than planned.

Depending on your child, toys may also be a must. Baby J is usually happy now just watching the other joggers and doggies go by. But for a few weeks last fall, he went through a stage where he had to have several stuffed toy animals with him at all times. If this is your case, just keep an eye out for fallen toys. A stroller cover or toy leash may come in handy.

5. Be realistic.

It takes a while to get used to jogging with a stroller. Your form will be different (don’t lean into the stroller and make sure to alternate your arms). You’ll be slower…especially on windy days. Over time, you will get faster, but don’t expect to reach a personal record when you first start pushing your toddler around.

Also, some days your little one may be happy and thrilled with the entire experience. Other days, you may have to pack it up early and head home to keep your sanity.

6. Take care of yourself.

Okay, I said five tips, and here’s a sixth! But I think it’s important to remember that your toddler can be happy and comfortable, and if you’re not, the run is going to be miserable. Make sure YOU have snacks and water and dress appropriately.

It may take you and your toddler a few times to find your groove, but stick with it. Jogging with your little one can be not only a relaxing and fun time, but also a way to bond and develop healthy fitness habits as a family.

Have you ever jogged with your toddler? What tips do you have? If not, would you be interested in giving it a try? What are some ways you and your family stay active together?

Opinions Expressed Pink Button

Continue Reading