Gearing Up

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Though there are still nearly three weeks left until school begins around these parts, the end of summer is feeling closer and closer. I have been tackling lots of projects that have remained on my to-do list all summer long. In just the last week, I’ve sewn on Daisy patches; sorted, organized, and recycled old artwork and schoolwork; and started adding fall dates to the calendar.

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Oh, and we’ve done our school shopping, of course. I am a planner, so prepping early for school keeps me feeling a little more relaxed for the last stretch of summer. I am excited to welcome my parents at the end of August, so I don’t want this stuff hanging over my head. We tackled both the kindergarten and first grade lists at Target this year. I do wonder if the shopping created a little anxiety about the beginning of school or if that was bound to happen in August no matter what. I’ve noticed the kids seem a little more on edge as camp weeks wind down and we start preparing for September.

Of course we have many fun things to do before we close down summer 2017. We’re headed to a few more museums, plan to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible, and can’t wait to see the partial eclipse from here on Monday. Schedules can wait for just a few more weeks.

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And my kids know there are a few more summer treats to come too!

 

 

 

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!

 

Our Summer Plans

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Loved this ballerina in Rockefeller Plaza in New York City.

Last Thursday marked the official start of summer in our house. School’s out, and we’re ready to have some fun. This weekend brought many special activities, including a mother-daughter trip to New York City, a visit to the mirror maze at the Franklin Institute, a special Father’s Day lunch for Steve, swimming at the pool, and an outdoor concert. Phew! I am tired just listing those activities.

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The mirror maze at the Franklin Institute.

Of course we’re at the stage where any trip to NYC involves a visit to the American Girl store. Both Nora and I love it. She ended up getting her doll’s ears pierced, which was quite a thrill.

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Besides this whirlwind weekend, we have many plans this summer, including:

  • A big West Coast swing to visit family and see some great Pacific Northwest cities and towns
  • Some trips to the beach
  • Staycation visits to special museums in Philly
  • Theater performances
  • Fourth of July festivities in our neighborhood
  • Pool time
  • Free time
  • Reading lots of books (including the first Harry Potter)
  • Lots of time with friends!

I am very hopeful for a fun, relaxing, and engaging summer. I love spending time with my bigger kids. Now that they are home for summer, I have buddies to hang out with 24/7 — quite a change from the feeling a few years ago!

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.

Finding Our Footing

The first week of school is nearly a wrap. What a week it’s been. First day of kindergarten, first bus ride, first piano lesson later today, and first soccer game tomorrow. What a full, amazing week.

Nora’s got a kindergarten swagger and loves everything about school. I am relieved and excited for the year ahead. We are really lucky to have such an amazing elementary school in our district.

The kids are getting tired out and used to earlier bedtimes. We’ve resumed our daily park trips, which gives them the opportunity to practice their gymnastics skills and get leftover energy out before winding down for the day. We’re also bumping into all of our favorite neighbors and friends more often. After a summer of coming and going, seeing these friendly faces is one of the best parts of the day.

Preschool starts Monday and Steve’s Sunday work schedule begins in two days, so I guess we’re off and running. Hoping more seasonal weather graces us soon. It’s supposed to be 94 today!

Last Days of Summer

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Despite nightly wakings (by me!) because of the new school routine that awaits in a few days, we’ve been enjoying the final weeks/days of summer.

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Last weekend we took a trip to Longwood Gardens as a family of four. After a busy summer where we were often coming and going in packs of two or three, spending time with just us has been a priority. This weekend we are getting out a little too, dining at a few restaurants, picking apples, and watching a few movies (and college football games!).

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I hope you are enjoying this final weekend of carefree summer too.

Mid-Summer Slump (Or Not)

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August 14 sure sounds like mid-month, don’t you think? Personally, I’ve always struggled with August, mostly because sky-high temperatures, relentless humidity, and rampant mosquitoes get old. I was always the kid counting down the days until school started. It’s just my way — I am an anticipator!

This time around is a little different though. Yes, summer weather is brutal. We’re in the midst of a severe heat wave and beating it with time at the pool and a Disney princess movie marathon. But the kids have had many weeks of activities in a row, my parents just gave them a dream stretch of grandparent camp, and we’re headed to the beach again soon. Plus my hubby has been out of town since mid-July (yes, a month!) and comes home tonight. It’s almost as though we’re going to experience a summer reprise once we’re a happy family of four again.

The weeks on my own have been hard, but they have also borne fruit. I spent a lot of time solo with the kids, playing with them, cleaning up after them, comforting them, dreaming with them. I’ve put them to bed twenty-four nights in a row (remarkable, since Steve is the bath/bed parent in the house). It was helpful to be their one and only as we prepare for the school year, not only to get a grasp on where they are developmentally but also to really size up their wardrobes and prepare for what’s ahead.

These solo weeks have also required me to ask for help and line up more child care than usual, which has been a blessing. Often I burn the candle at both ends, working a full-time job as a stay-at-home mom during the day and spending the evenings on the computer, editing books and journals and writing articles. I love having a career in addition to being the go-to parent, but it can be hard to juggle it all. This time without Steve has required me to lean on the grandparents, line up babysitters, and even add a few weeks of camp to the kids’ schedules. I am in a much healthier space regarding time management than I have been in for a long time.

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There have been many highlights during Steve’s time away. The kids and I have gone to the farmers’ market twice, had meals with many friends and family, gone out to dinner spontaneously a few times, traveled to the beach, swam at the pool, and crafted a lot — from coloring parties to sewing afternoons. I told the kids last night that I hope they’ll still give me a few kisses once Dad is home — it will be an adjustment for me to take second billing around here for a bit.

In spite of these fun times, I am thrilled to get my coparent back. For the past month, I’ve gone through another season of Gilmore Girls, done countless chores, and risen from slumber to check if the doors were locked on many, many nights.

Here’s to three more weeks of blissful summer.

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!