Spring Break Recap

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Spring break ends today. I am preparing to get my eldest on the school bus this morning, but it was such fun to explore our area with my kids last week. We went into Philadelphia, visited New York City, explored a nearby arboretum, attended a Phillies game, played at our playground and creek, practiced and played baseball, watched Boss Baby, orchestrated an Easter egg hunt for the neighborhood, and more. There’s never a dull moment with these two!

What a week! Looking forward to more adventures this summer.

Day Trip: Dutch Wonderland

We spent Friday at Dutch Wonderland. It’s an amusement park in Lancaster, PA, that is directed at preschool-aged children. We’d never been, so I bought tickets earlier this spring to make sure we got there this summer.

It was a beautiful day to go. The forecast lived up to expectations, and it was about 80 degrees and sunny. We went early in the season before most schools are out for summer, so we basically had the place to ourselves.

The kids got to do just about everything in the park, which really made the trip more special. Carson doesn’t love all rides yet (or maybe ever!), but Nora sure was game for anything and everything. It’s fun to watch her grow and push herself to do more “big kid” things. Once she’s ready, she’ll love Hershey Park!

Highlights of the trip included Nora’s first big roller coaster ride, the bumper cars, the log flume, and the amazing main stage diving shows. Carson and Nora had the chance to drive their own cars on the Sunoco race track, which was a huge highlight for them. We also enjoyed the monorail, the train, and the gondola lift as slower-paced and more relaxing attractions.

Happy to have Dutch Wonderland in the books for summer 2016. We’re checking off summer activities at a record pace right now. It’s exhausting for us as parents, but super fun for the kids. Late July and the month of August will be slower and more rejuvenating, as long as we make it! For now, we’re taking full advantage of the nice weather and the wide open schedule. On to the next trip!

 

Another Camping Trip in the Books

We returned late Sunday evening from our annual camping trip. This year we traveled to French Creek State Park, which is not too far from us. We cut it short by one overnight to avoid rain, but it was fine since we did so many fun activities the two days we were there.

Highlights included visiting Hopewell Furnace, canoeing, and swimming. The kids did great in the boat, and it was fun for Steve and me to tag team the rowing. We made it around Hopewell Lake once or twice and went in after Carson got tired of staying so still. I did panic a bit when the boat would rock from movement. Thankfully we stayed dry!

The kids loved exploring all that nature had to offer. They captured many caterpillars, marveled at a few snakes, and were pretty freaked by a big spider in the women’s bathroom (named Helen by other campers!).

I didn’t grab many pictures from our getaway because I was too busy participating in all of the activities! I think that’s a sign of a good trip too!

Finally Warm and Sunny!

We’ve been battered in the northeast with never-ending cloudy skies and lots and lots of rain over the last six weeks or so. Thankfully, that weather pattern has finally broken free and it’s really starting to feel like summer is around the corner.

We did our first summer-like activity last weekend, attending a minor league baseball game. The kids actually paid attention to a lot of the game (and also enjoyed many, many treats and time with friends).

I have filled the docket with more fun this summer, including another baseball game, tickets for plays and an amusement park, a pool membership, and more. Plus we’ve got an annual camping trip with friends this weekend and a two-week-long stay in Idaho come July. Oh, and beach getaways too!

Hope you are excited for the change in weather and those low-key, chill (but hot!) days to come!

Holiday Highlights

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I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season with family and friends. I feel like the last few weeks have been nonstop, with visits to and from family, activities to keep multiple generations happy, and constant meal preparation. The remainder of our week will be a little more normal (my parents just left today [sniff, sniff]), but I am not sure I am ready to clear out the Christmas decorations or stop eating holiday treats quite yet.

I’ve had a great stretch of being unplugged, which coincided with my parents’ visit. I continue to be flush with freelance work (yay!), but I was able to step away from the screen for a few days to refresh. How nice it was! I am slowly getting back into work mode as the week progresses and deadlines loom.

Our holiday was full of excitement. The freakishly warm weather took away a little of my spirit at Christmas, but it was fun nonetheless. We actually grilled our Christmas dinner to avoid having the oven on for hours! I didn’t think we’d ever get a 70-degree-plus day on Christmas in Philly. However, the kids’ excitement did not wane, and they adored their many gifts and all of our family gatherings.

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I am thrilled with how much we’ve been able to do in 2015, and the holiday season has been no different. With each year, the kids get more excited to travel and embark on adventures. Our trip to New York City included an elevator ride to the top of the Empire State Building. Another outing took us to Longwood Gardens, and we enjoyed the holiday happenings with Nora walking most of the way.IMG_8222

We’re beginning to plan travel and hatch other ideas for 2016. I am excited to have a clean calendar in January and  hope to hunker down with some cold weather in the coming weeks to recharge for exciting months ahead. Before we get to 2016 though, my hubby and I are marking our TEN year anniversary. How time goes by …

 

 

Expanding Their World

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I admit, recent news — both international and national — has rocked me to my core. As a person of this world, I am processing all that’s happened in the way of violence and ignorance. As a parent in this world, I have tried to figure out the best way to prepare my kids for life and hoped to find a way to tap into the holiday spirit that currently envelops them.

This weekend proved to be a remedy to the uncertainty the world has presented lately. Here’s what we did:

  • We got out of the house.
  • We attended different holiday and cultural events, including a symphony, a local holiday festival, and Center City holiday shows.
  • We connected with friends, neighbors, and others in our circle.
  • We celebrated Hanukkah to recognize some of our family’s roots.
  • We showed the kids what the world has to offer.

At this time in my life, I am focusing on love, peace, happiness, joy, potential, and awe rather than the alternatives. I am giving my kids a childhood full of magic and adventure, in hopes that they will become compassionate and understanding people as they grow. There are many years ahead where I can engage in all of the wrongs of the world, but right now I am choosing the path of optimism.

I am thankful for my life, for our country, for our world. It’s a pleasure day in and day out to reveal the small and big things life has to offer to my curious children. I hope every parent can give their kids the gift of exploration, exposure, and excitement so we can continue to live in a simply awe-inspiring world, despite the challenges we face.

 

First Stop: The Pumpkin Patch

As I mentioned last week, I am determined to make October more lighthearted than September. We’re off to a good start after enjoying some time at the pumpkin patch this afternoon.

We were drenched with rain late last week and this weekend, so this 65-degree, sunny day felt glorious. Plus, we’re all about maximizing our Monday family days to avoid weekend crowds. One bonus for Steve’s Sunday work schedule!

While at the pumpkin patch:

We checked out the corn and hay bale mazes.

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We enjoyed a hay ride.

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We took annual measurements.

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And we got some really cute pics of these growing kiddos.

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The rest of our month is filled with Oktoberfest, football watching gatherings, campfires, pumpkin festivals, fall fairs, and Halloween events. What a great time of year!

Lots of Summer Stuff

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Last week was a busy one. The kids and I trekked to the dinosaur museum, the movies, the zoo, and a friend’s pool. We’re staying active and giving the kids lots of ideas for role play during quieter moments. To be honest, I am a little tired at the end of each full day!

Overall, summer’s humming along, and we’re headed for a very exciting few weeks. I am breaking out of my “boring” phase for some travel, projects, and parties. I appreciate summer’s lightheartedness.

Our family vacation will take us to Williamsburg, Virginia. I can’t wait to explore our country’s history with the kids as well as enjoy the water park at our hotel. Steve and I haven’t taken a trip with just the kids in a long while (maybe since Disney World more than two years ago?), so this is a welcome retreat. My mind is racing related to packing and tying up loose ends before we leave. I know how much I need this getaway though, so I am not anxious in the least about hitting the pause button for a bit.

We’ve settled on a few more home projects when we return from our trip. I’ve decided that I need to add some of my favorite colors in the house, so we’ll tackle painting the kitchen, dining room, and bathroom in the next few weeks. I’ve selected favorite swatches that I used in our previous house. I am so excited to see the results of our painting endeavors.

July is a month full of parties. We’ve got a big Fourth of July celebration ahead and will celebrate our little guy turning three. There are a few more shindigs thrown in throughout the month, too. I want to maximize the warm weather and festive feeling that this middle-of-the-year month brings.

I hope that all of the above-mentioned things will make fun blog posts soon. Even though I am busy with my business and kids, I still enjoy popping on here and documenting life in progress. Glad I pulled through the blog slump and kept it going, even if I am not quite as dedicated as I used to be.

My Guide to Summer Break

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I’ve been planning our summer since January. As soon as we took down the Christmas tree, I started devising a master spreadsheet documenting our planned summer expenses and hopes for travel, activities, and home improvement projects. I’ve been dutifully managing this Google Document, highlighting cells in red, green, blue — you name it — to track all that we plan to do this summer.

Not exactly spontaneous, I’ll admit, but practical for a family with two growing kids, a nearly century-old house, and ambition.

So what’s gone into planning my kids’ four-month-long summer?

For the preschool set, this extra-long summer can be a relief and a burden. For my youngest, who’s got only potty training and his birthday party on the docket for the first few months, free time to sleep in, stay in pajamas, and play with Imaginext comprises the perfect day. For my oldest, who is nearing five and has another year of preschool to go, that list of activities would make her (and me) crazy. Given that we’re not millionaires, I’ve broken our summer into weeks to make sure that she’s got enough scheduled ones (with some unstructured ones peppered throughout mid-May through mid-September) to keep us all sane.

She’ll be doing three weeks of camp at a progressive preschool that we could never afford during the year. She’ll have two weeks of camp at her preschool, tacked on to the end of the school year, where she can go and spend time with her favorite teachers and make some new friends from other classes. I’ve also signed her up for classes at the YMCA — swimming, tennis, sports — that she’ll do with her brother later in the summer. And we’ve got a few vacations — camping, a car trip to Virginia, time at the New Jersey Shore, and an end-of-summer trip out West — that will fill up those sixteen weeks of summer.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer in free time (and giving kids the chance to be bored). But, after last summer that involved too many unstructured weeks, I’ve learned that our summer needs to be somewhat orchestrated, too. I’ve packed lots of activities into August, when it’s unbearably humid and I become one cranky mama. I hope our open weeks in June can be savored and enjoyed because we’re fresh out of the school year routine and the humidity has yet to build a cloud in my brain.

Our open days will be filled with trips to the zoo, aquarium, and library; playdates with friends we see often and and not-so-often during the school year; and activities like crafts and cooking. Obviously I’ll have more free days with my son, but he’ll be game for just about anything. My daughter will enjoy her free time more if she has future activities to look forward to (in our house we count the number of “sleeps” until a given event).

With this schedule, I hope to keep my sanity and enjoy my kids and their littleness. I love being an at-home mom, but even I have my limits on breaking up fights, fixing snacks, and figuring out what to do next. This schedule should give me some relief from the never-ending summer (did I say that!?) while also providing time to bond with my bear cubs.

Do you remember those long summer weeks as a kid? What were your favorite things to do?

Kids in the Creek

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Spring is here and we’re finding ways to get tired each afternoon. I am lucky to have a park within a block of our house where we meet some of our favorite friends each day around 4 p.m. This hub offers my kids the quintessential childhood experience: free play with friends while parents gab and pay only moderate attention to the goings-on. So far this season there’s been plenty of dirt digging, Ninja Turtle role play, and, yes, even creek moments.

When you’re a kid, there’s nothing like throwing stones in rushing water.

Going down to the creek is a new development for our family. Last year, I would not entertain the possibility of scrambling down the creek’s four-foot bank to get wet. That’s because Carson was still a baby, not even two years old.

And now? Well, the kid is almost three.

I am so excited to have a three-year-old this summer. Like, seriously, SO EXCITED. If my youngest is three, that means we have made it through some really hard years and survived. We’ve moved on from life revolving around diapers, feeding, sleeping, etc. It’s all getting easier, and I am acutely aware of this change in our family.

If you know me personally, chances are that I’ve talked to you in a hyped-up voice about our summer. I cannot wait for it. It’s full of cool summer camps, swim lessons, sports activities, and trips. We’ll eat awesome veggies through our CSA and trek to our farmers’ market for fruit. We’re going to attempt an herb garden and do some cooking. We’ll venture to the farm, the zoo, the aquarium, the library, parks, ice cream shops, and more in our spare, unstructured time. We’ll see family and friends often and try to convince the kids to stay up later and sleep in (until 7 or 8 if I am lucky). Summer is going to be awesome.

And you know what’s also awesome? When summer winds down and the leaves begin to turn colors, my two wonderful, creative, loving children will go to school together on the same day. I will drop them off in the car line and drive away with no children in my car three days a week. I will finally have some “free” time to work on editing and writing projects so our weekends can become fun again. I can’t believe that we’re almost there…

Here’s to the last month of preschool, flowering trees, the upcoming fun fair around the corner from our house, and spring soccer. I promise not to rush this season of rebirth, but I remain gleeful about the season to come.