Mid-Summer Review

IMG_3060

Well, folks, it’s July 20. I’ll mark that as mid summer, despite us having a little more time on the downhill end left (if I measure summer based on the elementary school vs. preschool schedule). We are having a great summer — probably the best I’ve ever had with kids.

This summer is brought to you by no strollers (yay!), an awesome pool membership, a great vacation that really felt like a getaway, and afternoon camps. Regarding the latter, we’re lounging in the mornings and getting errands done. When the clock moves past noon, in comes fun structured camp time for the kids and work time for mama. It’s really a great flow. (Of course this will change next week when gymnastics camp runs in the morning.)

IMG_3061

Our Pacific Northwest vacation was even more than I expected it would be. We had amazing days in Seattle, Olympia, Corvallis/Albany, the Oregon Coast, and Portland. My kids rocked the more heavy travel days and soaked in the nature and culture of each location. Highlights of the trip included:

  • Taking the kids to Pike Place Market and the Freemont Troll in Seattle
  • Walking around the Evergreen campus with my brother, who graduated about a decade ago
  • Meeting up with my entire immediate family in Oregon — two brothers and their significant others and my parents
  • Seeing my other brother’s new house in Albany, Oregon
  • Taking Steve and the kids to the Oregon Coast for the first time
  • Having a siblings’ afternoon at beer and cider tasting rooms while my parents watched their grandkids
  • Seeing my aunt and uncle in Portland
  • Going to Powell’s Books, the Oregon Zoo, and Historic Mississippi in Portland

My baby also turned five in July, celebrated with much fanfare. I’ve learned that their are upsides and downsides of a summer birthday. One downside is that you may be traveling or unable to celebrate the day of your birthday. The upsides seem to outweigh that though! Carson had multiple cakes, lots of presents, and many special events just for him. Plus he’s received an infusion of gifts almost halfway to the holidays. A great time to restock!

So that’s it for now. I hope you are having a great summer. We’re off to the pool later today — it’s going to be 95 here, which is pretty damn hot when you factor in the humidity as well!

 

June Camping Trip

IMG_2262

We kicked off summer in early June with an annual family camping trip. Equipped with a new big tent, we camped out in Elk Neck State Park in Maryland, right on the Chesapeake Bay.

The weekend was lovely–full of good times at the campsite, a hike to the lighthouse, and some leisure time on the bay. The kids love camping and see our annual trip as a “must do” every summer. Steve and I are still working on the most comfortable sleeping arrangements, but the eight-person tent certainly made a difference this year!

IMG_2230

A highlight of the trip was seeing bald eagles perched in trees nearby the bay’s beach. I also realized that I have seen several Atlantic Coast lighthouses at this point, so it’s a good time to start making touring these a “thing.” If I am by a lighthouse it means I am near water and a good view–two aspects of a great getaway for me!

This was a wonderful way to begin our summer travels. Nora and I have a special mother-daughter excursion coming up, and I am starting to anticipate packing for our big Pacific Northwest tour soon.

The BIG Vacation: Two Weeks in Boise

IMG_9581

We’ve been back from our two-week vacation for more than a week now, but life has gotten in the way of my blog post. Since returning, we celebrated Carson’s birthday a bit more, started camps and summer activities, and said good-bye to the hubs and daddy for a month-long business trip (we’re down one night, twenty-three more to go!).

This year’s venture out West had so many highlights, including horseback riding, a Fourth of July family reunion, a wonderful trip to the mountains, and some date nights for Steve and me. We are lucky to have a getaway so far away from home that also feels so close (since I grew up there and Steve and the kids have spent many, many weeks there). Leaving the East Coast humidity and dense population behind for a few weeks is truly refreshing. The time zone change is always a little challenging, but the kids are getting better and better at that two-hour jump, as long as we stay for a generous stretch of time.

Our trip to the mountains included a trip to a hot springs, a hike where we saw a fox, and a boat cruise around Payette Lake.

 

In town, Nora had an ice cream potato, the kids visited the state capitol, and we ushered in Carson’s 4th birthday Star Wars style. Steve and I even had a date night at the Shakespeare Festival, one of our favorite summer activities in Boise.

IMG_9580

I also enjoyed many adult beverages, as evidenced by so many appearing in my photo roll upon our return!

A two-week vacation is a big endeavor, and by the end, we were all excited to come back home. Now that we’re settled and adjusted to our regular time zone, the mundane and routine is so welcome. I guess that’s the sign of a good trip! We missed a few of our favorite spots in Boise, so we’ll be excited to hit them when we return again.

Shore Trip, Round 1

I didn’t grow up in the Philadelphia area, so I’ve never really understood the “go down the shore” mentality. I enjoy getting down to one of the many beautiful South Jersey beaches each year, but it’s not something that defines summer for me. On the other hand, for my hubby and his family, spending time at the beach is what makes summer summer.

Now that we have kids who are building annual summer memories, I am starting to see the magic of the Jersey Shore. It’s a ritual. It’s not just sand castles and splashing in waves. It’s a close-to-home retreat where you can check in with family, smell fresh sea air, and eat lots of junk food. For locals, it’s full of nostalgia too: You can remember what you did five, ten, or even thirty years ago at many of the shore’s famous landmarks.

We are lucky to have a few beach trips on our docket this summer. We just spent our first weekend down there and had such a great time. Highlights included Nora riding her bike eleven miles on the boardwalk, spending time at the beach, and visiting Ocean City and partaking in the amusement park, shops, and sugary treats.

In August we’ll go back to the beach and explore all sorts of new and familiar things. Visiting the shore is now becoming a summer must-do for me too. Even if I am a little sun-phobic with my pale skin, there’s nothing like watching my East Coast kids dart out to the sea, fly kites, and plead for some unnecessary but totally fun souvenirs (note their new sweatshirts!).

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!

Holiday Highlights

IMG_8257

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.

IMG_8140

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 …

 

 

One Final Summer Post

IMG_7292

I woke up on the early side to see my hubby off this morning to work on his first television show of the “season.” Starting today, there will be no more vacation days in his schedule until February. Though we used to consider this inflexibility a sentence, we’ve learned to enjoy this time and embrace our routine.

The school-aged kids in our area head back to school today, though my kiddos have another week of summer. It’s time to take back our parks and museums! 😉 We’ve got a jam-packed week that includes an open house at their school on Thursday, and I am curious about their reactions once we cross the threshold of their school building.

Though I am a broken-down mess by this point in the summer (yes, I just bought orthotics after a long summer on my feet!), I can’t help but be a bit nostalgic about the fun we had. Honestly, it was the most fun-filled, productive, and adventurous summer I’ve had in ages. Here are just a few highlights from August (granted, we had May, June, and July too!).

We saw the beach again.

IMG_7297

We met Lucy the Elephant.

IMG_7352

We relaxed in hammocks.

IMG_7250

We indulged in treats.

IMG_7385

We got some balloon animals.

IMG_7382

And we saw the mountains.

IMG_7431

As I mentioned last week, these adventures are sure to keep me going throughout the school year, even in the depths of winter. Now that we’re winding down our ambitious summer, it’s time to relax.

Enjoy some fall beers and sword fighting people!

IMG_7452

Mountain Air

IMG_7430

On Thursday morning, my parents drove my kids and me to the mountains. We were visiting for a week, and not until the end of our visit did the smoke, caused by Western wildfires, clear. Up, up, up we went, climbing a switchback road. We passed the ski resort where I learned to ski and enjoyed lots of fun times as a teenager. We crept along a gravel dirt road and finally parked in the visitor parking at Shafer Butte, a point in the Boise Ridge mountains that is more than 7,500 feet above sea level.

As the kids enjoyed stick collecting, chipmunk spotting, and rock climbing, I looked at the view ahead, breathed in some fresh mountain air, and made sure to store the beauty from the peak in my mind. I won’t be getting back to these foothills of the Rockies until next summer, so that memory has to keep me going for some time. When the snow settles in March for the upteenth time and I haven’t left the house in what feels like sixty days, I’ve got to come back to that moment on the mountain. That’s where the beauty of nature and life hits me hard and reminds me that we’ve all got a good thing going.

And did I mention that I revel in taking my kids to these places?

IMG_7433

Beach Fun and Happy Memories

IMG_7182

After more than a decade of living in Philly, I’ve grown accustomed to spending some time at the New Jersey shore every year. This is thanks mostly to my in-laws, who have been dedicated shore-goers for years. Both of them are generous to share their vacations with us, and we sure do enjoy having some time to soak in the sun and play in the sand. It’s also a great way to escape the dog days of summer and the unbearable hot and humid Philly weather.

IMG_7173

We still have one more beach trip to enjoy this year with my father-in-law, but we just returned from a relaxing getaway in Avalon, New Jersey, thanks to my mother-in-law. We all loved it: Steve and Nora loved the ocean, Carson built sandcastles, and I avoided sunburn successfully (that’s a win for me!).

IMG_7174

We’ve packed the final stretch of summer with trips, which are all due to having awesome places to visit thanks to our parents. I love “grandparent camp” excursions. It’s awesome to have other adults engage with the kids and break up the long summer. It’s also fun to channel our own childhoods through these getaways. On this trip, it was magical to watch Steve share his shore memories with the kids. During our jaunt to Ocean City, both Steve and his mom reminisced about the good old days and the time spent with generations of people who are now gone.

IMG_7157

These moments are exactly why I love to travel so much. Rather than spending money on fleeting trends and material objects that will dull with time, visiting new places and spending time with loved ones on adventures stay with us forever. Steve and I are dedicated to taking our kids to as many places as we can, and the beach is an important setting to keep coming back to — both for our kids to make memories and for Steve to reconnect with his own.

IMG_7161

We still have many adventures awaiting in August, which is very exciting considering that there are still six weeks until preschool starts (but who’s counting?!).