Saturday, November 25, 2006

The 2-for-1 Special

If there's something that I feel really good about, it's the amount of stuff that Liam, Kalian and I have gotten out and done and seen since we got to Cambridge. Over the summer, that impulse was driven by necessity. The apartment was just too small to hold us all day. On the other had, there is a huge amount of stress in venturing out when it's me and the two of them.

Liam wants to run in every direction at once. And his sensory issues can make it hard for him to hear me, or respond, especially if it's a loud place like a museum. Then there's Kalian, who because she is diaper free, I have to ask if she has to go pee-pee every five minutes, or drag her to a bathroom. And that can be a challenge with Liam, who can take a long time to persuade to do anything. Throw in the fact that we're in a strange place, don't know our way around, and the parking/driving is crazy, and there are a number of reasons never to leave the house.

Still, we got in a good groove, and got out just about everyday. Post Labor Day, there's less pressure to do that. Liam is in preschool five mornings; Kalian is at her day care coop three mornings. So that leaves just the weekends as a total blank slate for me to fill. And so I've been taking them on a fewer outings on our own this fall, in part to cut myself some slack.

But Friday I was feeling restless. It was a beautiful day, unlike Thanksgiving. Temperatures in the low 50s. Sunny. No wind. So I threw Liam and Kalian in the bike trailer and rode over to the MIT Tech Museum. It's a small museum, and there was almost no one there. But there was plenty to interest both kiddies, and it was one of those days that was almost perfect. Almost.

We spent most of the morning in a robot exhibit, which had several robots on display and video clips explaining their history. Who knows how much Liam really understood, but he was totally transfixed. He was asking lots of questions. And laughing hysterically at some of the robot videos. I'll have to post some audio of this, because he's developed quite a belly laugh. And then he sort of took over the room, introducing himself to everyone, and explaining robots to them. It's really great that despite all his struggles to communicate, he is still generally such a happy and social guy.

We moved into the next room which was filled with "kinetic sculptures." I forget the artist's name, but he makes a series of small machines which are fairly complex yet elegant, and perform one task over and over. For example, there was one called oil machine which was simply two cogs and a bike chain that turned a small scoop around. The structure was in a pool of oil. When the scoop got to the bottom, it would fill with oil, and when it got to the top, it would dump the oil over itself, keeping the whole machine lubricated. I think Liam watched this for about 20 minutes.

After lunch, we walked over to another MIT building where they were holding their annual "Friday After Thanksgiving" event. Talk about major nerd fest. Basically, it's a semi-competitive event where a bunch of people build "chain reaction" devices out of everything from Legos to wood to any household items they can grab. Each of these is a kind of variation on the game "Mousetrap." The marble rolls down a trench and knocks over a block, which starts another marble rolling, which trips a wire, etc. Except there might be 30 different events in each chain reaction.

Anyways, it was highly entertaining. Even better, though, they had a bunch of chain reaction type stuff on the side for kids to play with. Liam spent an hour lining up dozens of dominoes and then knocking them over.

It was too much fun, and we stayed way too long. I had to drag Liam kicking and screaming out of the place. As I tried to get him and Kalian into the bike trailer, everything fell apart. Kalian peed in her pants. And Liam jumped on a nearby John Deere ATV and wouldn't respond even after I called his name a dozen times. I began tapping him on his bike helmet to get his attention, Liam lost his balance and smacked his face on the dashboard and got a bloody nose. I felt horrible and Liam, in a very meek voice, just looked at me later and said, "Daddy, don't make me cry" as a tear fell down his cheek. Ow. It seems like no matter how perfect the day is, it's hard to get all the way through without one breakdown. I wonder if any parent ever gets to that point?

In any case, they were asleep when I got home and I let them nap for a bit. It gets dark so early here that rousing them from late naps can take an hour. After Kalian went to bed, the rest of us had movie night, and watched Toy Story. A nice ending to an almost perfect day.

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