Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Summer Reading

I bought the boys some workbooks for the summer, to keep them up on what they learned this past year. It is so easy to forget things over 3 months & then have to relearn them. I don't have it in me to home school full time but I've always planned to supplemental school & I'm starting this summer.

Both books had summer reading lists and since I am dealing with K4 and kindergarten, many of the books are identical.  I also found a reading list at the Daniel Boone Regional Library (my library didn't have one online) that is divided by age & grade.  Again, some overlap, but not a lot.  I now have a fairly decent sized list of books to work with when the kids don't seem interested in choosing their own.

I've got The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease and The Well Trained Mind by Bauer & Wise on hold at the library. They are both due back June 3rd. I often find educational books for the kids on hold and I always wonder who has them. Is it the same person? Am I following along behind someone, finding the books or developing the interest just a week later than they do? Is it many people? Are they people I would like to meet & talk to? Why are they reading the books? What did they take away from them? How could I get in touch with them? I haven't searched the online database for the kiddy books, there are a lot of them & I know from experience that their presence or lack thereof in the database only partially reflects the reality of their presence in the library.  The toddler, preschool & early reader books are not well logged.

I found The Wind in the Willows. Many Moons and a couple Captain Underpants on Bookmooch yesterday and requested those.  I discovered a number of books on the reading lists were part of Amazon's buy 3 get the 4th free deal. The books in that rotate so I am keeping an eye on them.  I ended up getting Harold & the Purple Crayon (50th Anniversary Edition), The Toll Bridge Troll, A Pizza the Size of the Sun (not in the deal), How My Parents Learned to Eat and Sheep in a Jeep.

DH & I have decided to work our way through many of the books in The Well Educated Mind. We're starting with Don Quixote, which the library does not seem to have..... but is interlibrary loaning for us.  Shouldn't a library have Don Quixote in it?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Summer jobs - why can't I have one?

Oh yeah. I have kids and no viable childcare options. I also have a small car.  I really want to help out a friend & watch her 5 month old for the summer. I would love to have a baby in the house. Especially one that won't keep me up all night. 10 hours to play with a baby (and feed, comfort & change a baby, I'm under no illusions here) and then hand the baby back! Sounds perfect!

Except I would be stuck in the house, all day, 5 days a week from 8 to 6. I could go anywhere.  I have no issues taking 3 kids to the library or Wal Mart, especially when one can be put in a sling. My problem is the car. My car can't hold 3 car seats. If the boys were in those 'bottom part only' boosters I could manage an infant seat or rear facing seat in the middle. But the boys are still in their CarGos with about 55lbs and 10 inches still to go each before they grow out of them. So because I have the car I have, I can't have a job.

I tried this thought out on DH who gave me a very peculiar look.

"You've adamantly avoided watching other people's kids for almost 6 years now.  Yet suddenly you are being deprived of meaningful employment watching other people's kids because of your car?"

Think I might be trying to justify a new car?  Sadly, childcare will not pay the loan payments on a new car.

I wish there was something I could do to make some money. But everything I find means the kids need care & I'd be bringing home $150 a month after that, or probably not because I haven't figured gas into it. I was supposed to go back to work this fall, with both kids in school. But DS2 didn't get a preschool spot we could afford. So it will be another year before we can start doing some significant paying on our equity loan.  I just find that very frustrating right now. I want a JOB!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Driving me crazy

The problem with living in the middle of nowhere is that it is a very large area. And I live at just one end of it. The middle of nowhere covers a large area.  I have to drive to the middle of the middle of nowhere on Thursday. I am a mere 20-25 minutes from somewhere. The place I am going is 50-60 minutes from anywhere, including my house. According to Mapquest there are 3 different ways I can get there, all of them taking about 55 minutes.  Should I then wish to go somewhere else, it will be another hour to get there, unless I wanted to go to the somewhere near my house, in which case it will only be about 40 minutes. But I can go to the somewhere near my house any time & can't imagine killing a morning there.

The boys' school Field Day is Thursday. It runs from 8:30 to 12:00 and while parents are welcome to hang around it isn't required. If I stay I know I will quickly find myself being a parent 'volunteer' and I really don't want to be one. Really. This is one of those situations I really really am no good in. Stick me behind a table at the consignment sale, tell me to make things for a bake sale, just for the love of God, don't put me in charge of children. I can manage my own kids but responsibility for other people's kids stresses me out.  I have a problem with 'failure to pay sufficient attention'. My kids have adapted to that, other kids have not.  Even if all I have to do is make sure no one falls in the 'fishing pool' and drowns, it's all too much. So it is imperative I don't hang around. But drive another hour? I may as well go home. Even then, I have 3.5 hours and 2 of them must be spent traveling. It's not worth the cost of gas to go home & sit around for 90 minutes. But 90 minutes is probably not long enough for the errands I was hoping to run elsewhere.

This place is a baseball park behind a teeny tiny airport outside a middle of the middle of nowhere town. The town doesn't even have a coffee shop or wifi. I could kill 3 hours in a coffee shop with wifi if I brought my laptop along. I'm not sure where I could even find a coffee shop with wifi in a 30 mile radius.  Leaving it entirely likely I will be in charge of the fish pond. 

I hope nobody drowns.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Grandma Goes Shopping

The Parent Blogger's Network's theme this week is Grandparents and gift giving. Check it out http://blog.parentbloggers.com

I could write a novel about my mom & I's various ups and downs surround my 'issues' with various gifts. Just the section on "Why Tickle Me Elmo will burnt in effigy if you give him to my child" would take up half the book. (I have this thing about needless noise. The boys make plenty of noise all by themselves. And I really cannot stand Elmo) .  This is the short version...

I believe, initially, my family thought I was kidding when I said "No noisy plastic toys. I will muffle the sound, I will not replace the batteries and I will probably arrange for them to 'break' within a few days."  They bought a singing bouncing Tigger, a freaky weird sound making BooBah, a bear that said prayers in a really creepy voice and lots of cheap plastic trucks with superfluous bells, whistles, music and lights. The last problematic toy was mix up in communication. I suggested Thomas Trains, meaning the wooden ones and they bought the battery ones. Neither of us realized we were talking about different types of trains (and we ended up with the Take Alongs anyway) I cannot stand uselessly noisy toys and toys that you play with by watching them do something.  Buy them a keyboard or drums if you want to give them a noisy gift.  Buy them sturdy trucks they have to actually move themselves. When they are 10 or so buy them the Lionel trains, until then no battery or electric things please. The worst was a kiddie karaoke machine my brother gave to my 2 year old. We never used it. Never. I put it in a box in the closet the day after Xmas and gave it away about 4 months later.

The Thomas mix up happened the same holiday that we were given a number of duplicates of other things. I began giving specific lists after that year. "These are the Take Along Thomas Trains we do not have". "These are some Leapster games the boys might like" "We have these Imaginext sets, any of the add ons would be welcome." "Here are some books & movies we've been borrowing often from the library & would love to own." "These are some games I think the boys would enjoy." Now that my parents have 5 grandchildren to buy for, they are leaning toward the less is more philosophy. Instead of lots of cheap stuff, the kids get a few well made, sturdy items and because of the lists, they are things they want & no duplicates.  Mom will call and say "I found this. What do you think?"  She likes the lists. I include a range of prices and a range of locations. I'll include links to things and mark items that are found together to save on shipping. It seems to be working out well for us.

I browsed through http://www.grandkidsgiftguide.com/ suggestions for my sons' age range and sent a link to my Mom. I love the gifts they suggest. They have some great hands on things for 3-5 year olds. I'm almost sorry it will be almost Thanksgiving before it's anyone's birthday.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Book Review - On a Hoof and a Prayer

On a Hoof and a Prayer is the fourth book by Polly Evans.  This time she travels to Argentina to learn to ride a horse and to experience the country.  I love her books. I find her stories compelling and fascinating. She is very descriptive about the places she visits and the things she experiences.  Each of her previous books feature her exploring a country using different methods.  It's Not About the Tapas, her first book, is the story of her travels around Spain by bike. She was a novice bike rider at the beginning and you could feel your muscles aching in sympathy with hers in the early part of her journey.  She toured China by train and bus in Fried Eggs with Chopsticks and with her weeks old motorcycle license, rented a motorcycle and cycled all over New Zealand in Kiwis Might Fly. This time around, despite the title, her mode of transportation was more often than not, something other than a horse. There were horses early in the book and occasionally in the middle of the book but they were overshadowed by more mundane airline reservation issues. I don't think she intended to ride all over Argentina on a horse, but given her other books, I assumed there would be more riding than there actually was.  It was a very good book, as well written and engrossing as her others, but I was expecting more riding.  Her bike was as much a character in It's Not About the Tapas as she was, so was her motorcycle in Kiwi's Might Fly. Much of what I love about her books is reading about her struggles with transportation, the pain of biking up mountains, the crowded buses in China, the fear of opening the throttle in New Zealand.  I had hoped there would be more about horseback riding, so I was a bit disappointed in this book.  Her next one is about sled dogs in Canada & I'm hoping she spends more time with them than she did with the horses in Argentina. But both countries are very large and you can no more tour Canada by dogsled than you can Argentina by horse.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Long Weekend

It began Friday with the news that my car is taking it's annual rest cure & that it would cost $2000, plus $325 for a 2 week rental.

Saturday DH picked up the rental - a Hyundai Sonata while I met up with some friends for lunch and social activities.  My friend Vic has a Kindle. I have serious technology envy, even though I know that, were I able to afford a $400 toy, I could not afford the $5-10 a book fees to feed my habit. But I still want one. It is so cool!

Sunday we packed up and drove the rental to Great Wolf Lodge, where we spent 3 days and 2 nights in the indoor waterpark and playing MagiQuest with the boys. We arrived around 2pm, stood in a long slow line to check in, (Apparently everyone but us wanted to upgrade or change their reservations. I think because some of them didn't have their rooms ready but if they changed room type they could get right in. Technically rooms may not be ready until 4pm, though you can check in and swim starting at 1pm. Our room was ready & we didn't care if it wasn't. I'd packed the swimsuits separately just in case). By 3pm we were in the waterpark. About 5:30 we went back to the room for dinner & ended up staying there.

Monday we were in the water at 9am, out at 10:30, back at 11, out at 12:30, playing MagiQuest from 1:30 to 3, back in the water until 5, out for dinner at iHop, back in the water at 7 & stayed until 8:15. We had to get Mayhem his own MagiQuest wand this time. Havoc had his from last year. Mayhem had no interest in it then & was content to occasionally wave his brother's wand at things.  Havoc is just barely tall enough to ride the tube slides along, though he needs us to get him in the right position. The lifeguard would help him, but you can't tell a 5 year old, who has heard "Never let a stranger touch you." to let a stranger touch him. He took 10 rides with DH's assistance and 2 with mine. DH tells me there are 77 steps to the top of the slide. Mayhem was able to climb all over the treehouse unsupervised & go down the slides without needing to be caught. He was also tall enough to walk around the lazy river without help.  I was able to sit at a table at the bottom of the treehouse slides, next to the lazy river and just watch him, though I was with him in the river most of the time.

Tuesday we loaded the car with everything but a change of clothes, checked out and were in the waterpark by 9am. We stayed until a little after 11, then played MagiQuest until almost 1:30. We stopped by Sonic for lunch and drove home, stopping at Gander Mountain & Old Navy along the way.

It's good to be home but seems odd there are only 3 days this week. I bought a rotisserie chicken for diner tonight, along with flatbread, hummus and stuff to make tzatziki. We have olives and cheese. Tomorrow I'll make meatloaf, Friday is chicken pizza or baked chicken ziti, Saturday is grill day and Sunday is meatloaf sandwiches. I'm not up for making an effort but we can't afford to dine out for a couple months. If GWL hadn't already been paid for, we couldn't have done that either.

The rental is nice, gets 35MPG which blows my 20MPG Cruiser away. I'm so delighted by the mileage I am going to drive the 50 miles to the big city tomorrow.  It has XM radio, which is interesting, but I miss my iPod. It will play mp3 discs so I may have to burn a few.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

How not to take your newborn to Florida

The Parent Bloggers Network is asking for stories of our 'rookie mom' year this week in celebration of the book - The Rookie Moms Handbook by the authors of http://www.rookiemoms.com website. This one is mine. It is a cautionary tale.

Havoc was born in early October. We traditionally drive 1000 miles over the course of 2 days to visit my parents in Florida for the Thanksgiving holidays. We thought adding a newborn would be no big deal. How much trouble could a baby be? Havoc was a screamer and sleepless those first few months. We were insane to decide to pack him up and spend 18 hours shut in a sound proof car together. I say our judgment was impaired by our own sleeplessness. Day one the drive went ok. Not too much screaming & since he was being supplemented with formula one or the other of us could sit back there with him and give him a bottle, cutting down on our need to stop so often. Night one he was up most of the night, wailing while I desperately tried to quiet him to keep from disturbing the neighbors. Halfway into day 2, DH was driving. We were behind a semi. It had one of those giant semi truck sized tarps rolled up and strapped down on the empty bed. But it wasn't strapped down securely enough. We are about 30 feet behind this truck when the rolled up tarp, as wide as the car and about half as tall comes loose & falls into the road right in front of us. No time to swerve and avoid it & that would probably still catch the wheels & overturn us, so we slam right into it and skid off onto the shoulder of the road.

DH & I are mentally shaken but physically fine. Havoc is very quiet. I recline my seat & climb into the back and check him out. He looks fine, bright eyed & curious. I run my hands over him & he doesn't make a sound but smiles happily. I think he enjoyed the entertainment. I unstrap him and sit up in the front seat and nurse him while DH hikes up the on ramp pass to find a phone. (His cell was dead. we weren't big on carrying cells in those days). Eventually a tow truck shows up and Havoc & I get in the front while the car is loaded on the back. Only once we are on our way to get DH do I realize I am holding Havoc on my lap. Doesn't really matter, there is no place to put the car seat in the truck cab. The guy takes us to a hotel where he drops off the car & us and we start calling around to my parents, the insurance, rental agencies, etc. Havoc was pretty good through all this. Until we went to dinner. We had to get it to go because Havoc hates Ruby Tuesdays apparently. He started wailing as soon as our drinks order was placed (and we really needed those drinks, fortunately we could get them to goo too). That second night DH tried to keep him quiet while I tried to get some sleep.

The next morning the tow truck came, picked us up and took us to the rental place. Havoc just adored sitting in my lap in the front seat. He could see moving scenery as opposed to that mosaic thingy I had hanging on my back seat. He giggled & smiled the whole time, completely unaware of the terrible physical danger he was in. We loaded him, his car seat & the luggage into the rental car and drove the remaining 8 hours to my parents. Havoc screamed the whole way down. Having experienced the joys of sitting in the front seat he was exceedingly unhappy to be relegated to looking at the back seat of the car.

Our heads were throbbing by the time we arrived. nothing we did had made him happy. We handed him off to Grandma the moment we arrived and he fell instantly silent. We were there 2 weeks almost while the car was being repaired 400 miles away. Te night before we left DH ate some potstickers on a Chinese buffet. By morning he was feeling the effects of food poisoning. we *had* to pick up my car, 8 hours away, by 6pm that day or pay storage fees. I drove. Havoc screamed bloody murder the whole way there. DH had to sit in the back & feed him because we could not afford the time to stop. He sat back there, with his head throbbing from the screaming, his stomach rolling from the food poisoning and sweating profusely. We picked up the car at 5:45, dropped off the rental and immediately checked into the same hotel we had been forced to stay at on the way down. Havoc was exhausted from screaming all day and DH was exhausted from illness. We still had an entire day of driving ahead of us. Fortunately we all slept well that night.

The next couple of years we flew down to Florida. It still involved a lot of screaming & frustration, but for a much much shorter amount of time.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

So much for preschool

Fate has decreed that Mayhem will not be attending preschool in the fall. Fate in the form of my 2001 PT Cruiser taking what is becoming, alarmingly, it's annual 2 week holiday.  Granted it does see a lot of driving. It has 127,000 miles on it. I'd want a rest every now & then too. But perhaps I'd take a shorter & cheaper one.  These little rest cures the car seems determined to have never cost less than $1000.  The transmission went out in July 2006, fortunately just as we reached my parents driveway and not 2 hours previously while going up Coopers Rock Mountain in a dead cell zone in the middle of nowhere West Virginia. But it took 7 days in the shop and $1200 to fix.  Add to that the cost of DH missing 3 days work. Thanks to my parents we did not need to rent a car.

Not quite a year later, in April 2007,  I hit a huge tree branch in the road, a couple days after a big storm did some serious damage to the area trees. I suspect it fell of the back of the truck that was collecting the debris. It was smack in my way and just on the other side of rise in the road, so I didn't see it until it was too late.  Bent the hell out of my frame and did some serious internal damage to the car engine parts. It cost over $2500 to repair and let me say THANK GOD for comprehensive insurance with rental car included! We only paid $500 for it, but then also paid for separate rental car insurance because it was still windstorm season, which came to another $500 by the time I got my car back.

This time the problem is the engine and gauges and things that have to be milled and things that are leaking in to other things and apparently I have no brakes and all the deferred "ought to be done" at this mileage maintenance has caught up with us and now "Must be done". $2000!!

Let me just say that the reason I have no specific idea what is wrong with my car is not because I am the stereotypical dumb woman who doesn't understand how engines work. It is because when my husband called me from the shop to tell me what the problem with my temperature gauge was (that's what we thought was wrong with the car, it was running a bit hot); he started the conversation with "It will cost $2000" and then proceeded to list the problems.  I naturally heard nothing after "$2000" because my mind was screaming "HOLY SHIT!!! $2000!!! WE DON'T HAVE $2000!!! WHERE ARE WE GOING TO GET $2000!!!" and totally drowned out what DH was saying. I heard "Mill this muffled muffled muffled timing belt muffled muffled muffled replaced muffled muffled muffled brakes worn to metal muffled muffled muffled leaking into engine" and then he said "It'll be in the shop 10 days" and my mind started screaming again "HOLY SHIT 10 FUCKING DAYS!!!??!!! WHAT I AM GOING TO DO FOR A CAR FOR 10 FUCKING DAYS!!???!!" while he said some more stuff.

So, the money that would have paid for Mayhem's preschool is now paying for the car, only we have to come up with at least some of it, 4 months sooner than we thought.

Right now I am wishing we'd held off on the washer & dryer. That $1800 rebate that hit our account right around the time DH was telling about how screwed we are on the car. It is too late to return the washer & dryer and even if we could, they have disposed of ours so we can't get them back.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Childhood crushes

My biggest crush, started when I was 10, was on Han Solo.

Seriously. How can you not be in love with Han Solo? He's funny, he's dashing, he's rebellious, he's sexy, he's just disdainful enough, he's good with a blaster & is an incredible pilot. He made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs! How can you not love a guy like that?

In the years between Star Wars movies I had a passing crush on most of the guys in Duran Duran at one time or another

They wore make up than I did but that never mattered.

Then the Indiana Jones movies came out.

Indiana Freakin' Jones!!!  I was 14 when Raiders of the Lost Ark came out & let me tell you it sparked my imagination in all sorts of ways that Han Solo had not been able to when I was 10.

I've had a 30 year crush on Harrison Ford.  I just love that man!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

I've been scrapping!

I am a guest CT member for Bree Clarkson at the Sweet Shoppe this month!  I've already done 3 layouts so far and am in the middle of a fourth.  I love Bree's templates!  I did this with one from her Popsicle Paradise set

i did this with one from her Inspired by Karen set

and I used the Popsicle Paradise kit for this one

You can see complete credits in my gallery at Sweet Shoppe, link at the right.

I'm currently working on an amigurumi dinosaur. I don't have a pattern & am trying to figure it out as I go. I'm working on a stegasaurus & I've unraveled twice so I have no photo. The boys have been really into dinosaurs lately.

In book news I read 21 books last month, which accounts for what did instead of scrapping or crocheting. 5 books were rereads, 16 were new. 5 were non fiction and 16 were fiction. 3 were actually audiobooks. So far this month I have read 5 books, 3 of which were light paperback mysteries & each took me about 4 hours from start to finish. Which is why I no longer buy light paperback mysteries.  The cost to enjoyment ratio is just too low.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Wait listed again!

We received the letter from the county Pre-K program. Mayhem is 6 on the waiting list. It includes the usual caveats about how they were overwhelmed by the number of people who showed up & how there were only 40 spaces & how if a space opens they will begin filling from the list & you could hear as early as May 12 that your child has been given a place & please call if you don't want your name on the list so others can move up.  No surprises there. It is identical to the one I received last year for Havoc. Down to his place on the wait list....  hhhhmmmmm....  Odd coincidence isn't it that both my kids end up 6th on the list?  Makes me wonder if there is actually a list or if they don't just call their friends & relatives if a spot opens up.  I'd never know if they did.

Mayhem is also wait listed for a spot in a private pre-school a couple miles from the public school Havoc will be attending. Fortunately there was no charge for waiting.  Most of the preschools around here charge you to apply & then hit you with a fee to be put on the waiting list if there are no spots available and I can't afford multiple application & wait fees. We only applied at one private school, hoping Mayhem could get into the public program.  This leaves me with no place for Mayhem come fall. Most of the spots were filled by mid-January. The 2 schools that might have a space open cost too much and are in the opposite direction of Havoc's school, making pick up and drop off and meeting bus schedules a challenge.  There is one place that I would like to get him into, that I think we can afford & DH can take him to school in the morning & I can pick him up at noon.  I am 105% positive they have no spaces open & the wait list is too long to bother paying to be on it. People were signing up for it in December. But I called & left them a message just in case. Getting him a spot there would be ideal because it is in town, where my gym is, and decent grocery stores and Wal Mart & Target. Driving there to pick him up would be efficient for my errands & since DH is already going there, there would be very little additional gas cost.  Whereas if he goes to the one he's already listed with I am back to driving twice a day down to an area where there is nothing available but a crappy Food Lion and spending $250 a month on 'school gas'.

In a perfect world 6 people would chose not to send their kids to the public program and Mayhem would get a spot there, complete with bus transportation with his brother. But we don't live in Perfect.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Day Out with Thomas

We took the boys to a Day Out with Thomas at the B&O Railway Museum in Baltimore.  Mayhem is obsessed with Thomas. Nearly every day we build a track and set up the Island of Sodor. So, when I discovered that there would be a Day Out relatively near us this year, I had to buy tickets for it.  The boys alternated between watching Thomas videos and dinosaur videos on the drive up. We arrived about an hour and a half before our train ride so we visited the sights. First there was the train shed. Trains are really really big. You forget that when you only see them on Sodor. We examined the really big engines in the shed for a bit & then went outside to tour a few train cars. One was set up to show you African American history on the railroad, one showed you what the different types of cars carried, one was showing Thomas videos (we sat through one) and the last had a model railway in it. We spend a lot of time studying it and watching the trains go around. Then we moved on to the roundhouse where they had really old time train cars down through history, from the ones that look like horse drawn carriages, just sitting on a flatbed car to the more modern types with benches & windows. They had many different engine types and you could tour some of them and the passenger carriages. They also had a big play area where you could play with the Thomas wooden, lego & battery trains and color Thomas pictures. We spent quite a bit of time there. We have the Take Along trains, which were not featured anywhere, not even the gift shop, so it was a novelty for the boys to play with the other styles.

We eventually maneuvered them outside where there was another, larger model railway, featuring Thomas & James. Mayhem stood and watched that for some time.  Havoc watched it but spent more time playing on the oversized wooden train in the play area and in the blowup trampoline. We had lunch. I brought sandwiches, juice & fruit for the boys and DH & I split a foot long hot dog. I hadn't had a hot dog in a couple of years.  I'm still burping it up 24 hours later.

We went through the gift shop & bought nothing. This came as a surprise to DH and I. We'd budgeted $20 a boy for souvenirs. The gift shop sold various Thomas things, the pop up play tent, backpacks, T-shirts, a train whistle, some books and battery and wooden train sets.  These were set up to play with, just like in the play area. DH was baffled by the boys' lack of interest in buying anything but I think 2 things were at work there. First I'm not sure they realized these items were for sale & not just another play area and second, over the past couple years it has been pretty well drummed into them that we have the Take Along trains and Mommy is not going to buy any wooden or battery trains.  I did ask them if they wanted a T-shirt but they said no.

Finally it was time to take a ride with Thomas. The engine had been made to look like Thomas & the boys were very happy about that, but then a bit disappointed that the coaches were not set up to look like Annie & Clarabell. Then there was the ride itself..... We got to see a part of Sodor you don't see on the videos - the urban decay part. It was an approximately 25 minute ride, 22 minutes of it backing down the track through the rusted, overgrown, graffiti covered, dumping grounds of south Baltimore. (Not the best area of town. On our way to the museum we got held up at a traffic light while a motorist negotiated with a hooker & she eventually got into the car. I know this because I had my window down & heard everything. Not something we rural folk are used to seeing at noon on a Saturday)  We went all the way to a salvage yard where the boys enjoyed looking at a huge pile of rusted wire & pipe and playing "spot the tire" among the other heaps of concrete. Then we went forward for 22 minutes back through it all.  Not exactly what'd been thinking we would see on the ride. The boys seemed to enjoy it though.

The line to get your photo taken with Thomas was enormous and you had to wait 15 minutes after that for it to be printed and pay a largish sum of money for a copy. The boys showed no interest in getting their picture taken so we didn't do it. Instead we revisited the various model train displays and spent time looking at all the things the people in the scenes were doing. Havoc climbed around some more on the train play set and Mayhem happily followed James up and down his track while DH and I sat in the shade.  A passing clown made the boys some balloon swords and after one more tour around the roundhouse we headed back to the car.

Both boys said they had an excellent time & want to do it again. We might, but probably not at Baltimore.  The one in Frostburg MD is a good deal further away but is larger and has more to see. It's also on the way to visit my family. Maybe next year we'll give that one a try.