Year of Fun in Review

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About eleven months ago, I went out on a limb and chose “fun” as my word of the year for 2017. My networking group and others were very into the trend of choosing one word to guide the year, and I hopped on board, unsure of what it would bring. Could I stick to this word all year? Did it matter at all?

“Fun” seemed like a strange choice at the time, given that many people around me were choosing adjectives that most applied to working hard, being dutiful to health, etc. At the time, I questioned my choice, but I knew deep down I needed a year of fun. I had been a mother to young children for six-plus years already and had built a successful freelance business during that time. We had moved into an old house that required (unofficially designated) years of “save,” “clean,” “repair,” and “replace.”

The year of fun became almost like the year of saying “yes.” Less fretting over the budget and saving (a natural tendency) and more focus on planning fun trips, purchasing show tickets, hosting parties, and more. We did less to the house this year (though a few things insisted we pay attention to them, much to my dismay). We spent more time together as a family in hotel rooms, rental cars, and restaurants.

My year of fun included:

  • An ambitious Pacific Northwest trip with my family that included Seattle, Portland, and my West Coast family.
  • A trip to New York City to celebrate Steve’s birthday in February, including tickets to the School of Rock Broadway show.
  • A brief winter getaway with girlfriends to Walt Disney World.
  • A visit to New York City with my daughter and her friend on an impromptu Girl Scout trip.
  • A camping trip with friends in Maryland.
  • A trip to Ithaca, New York, with my family for my October birthday.
  • An upcoming trip to New York City to see a holiday show.
  • A family trip to Disney World in 2018 that I planned as part of the year of fun.
  • Tickets to lots of local performances all year long.
  • Membership to a local pool.
  • Lots of activities outside the usual budget for my kids–saying yes to pretty much any idea they proposed.

Obviously, one can’t have a year devoted to fun every year–it would be impossible to fund these types of years annually. But the experience of letting go of my hesitation to spend and conserve really was life changing for me. I am especially grateful that I did this during a year when my kids are young but mature enough to enjoy the ride along with me. Hoping the year of fun can continue on a smaller level in future years.

So now I am left to choose a word for 2018. I have to admit that nothing can top the year of fun, but I hope I can come up with something equally meaningful and apt for next year. I highly recommend you try this simple way of making resolutions.

 

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What a Summer!

Today is the last day of kid summer. Tomorrow, the bus rolls up our street every weekday through June. And this year, both kids are hopping on that bus. There is a mix of excitement, anticipation, and nervousness in our house today, but we most forge ahead.

This summer was pretty amazing when I think about the scope of what we did. There was a killer West Coast vacation, a camping trip, a few beach trips, a girls’ visit to New York City, and lots of visits to local museums and theater performances. The kids did several weeks of camp, swam at our pool, and got plenty of bike riding in. We even painted their rooms!

We closed out summer with several fun activities, including watching the solar eclipse at our local park with friends, going to the Reading Public Museum to see the Ninja Turtles exhibit, and wandering through the attractions of our own city — Philadelphia. I finally got the kids to the Liberty Bell! Summer bucket list completed!

As the mama bear to these cubs, I have mixed feelings sending them off tomorrow. I am thrilled to establish a new routine in the house, but I’ll miss the excitement that summer brings. I should keep in mind that we’re already planning Halloween costumes and holiday happenings, so there is plenty going on this fall.

Mid-Summer Review

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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.)

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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

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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!

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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

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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.

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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

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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 …

 

 

One Final Summer Post

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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.

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We met Lucy the Elephant.

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We relaxed in hammocks.

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We indulged in treats.

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We got some balloon animals.

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And we saw the mountains.

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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!

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