The March of Time

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Yesterday, I wore my FitBit overnight. It was not intentional, and I am not sure I’ve done it before. Nonetheless, when I woke up, I was eager to see how much sleep I logged. I couldn’t believe the figure when I saw it — 9 hours! I went to bed a little bit earlier than usual and fell asleep more quickly than normal.

My, how things change over time. Just a few years ago, that kind of uninterrupted sleep would have been impossible (I should thank the hubby now for his mid-sleep relocation to our youngest’s bed last night). It’s hard to believe that we spent YEARS sleeping with our oldest (who we had to wake up a half hour before the bus this morning!).

There are more signs in our house this month that time is marching on. I registered our four-year-old for kindergarten next year. I deleted the email about preschool registration as soon as it came through my inbox. I spent a great deal of time planning summer camps, knowing from last year that both kids desire some autonomy and time with peers throughout that long season.

We traveled to New York City a few weeks ago to celebrate Steve’s birthday. The kids saw their first Broadway show (School of Rock) and we enjoyed shopping at both the American Girl and Nintendo stores. Both kids were very grown up in the big city, enjoying a fancy lunch, a night in a hotel, and more.

Last weekend we finished our 2016 taxes, and it was a reminder that I’ve really jumped back into the workforce with a vengeance and will likely keep up this pace of work in the future. Thankfully, my gig is fairly flexible so it doesn’t require the amount of child care that we needed almost four years ago, but I am very much engaged with my business, both in nurturing it in its current state and growing it for the future. These kids morphing into elementary schoolers will affect my life quite a bit, and I need to remind myself that the often-frazzled feeling of being overworked may feel like a godsend in a few years when the house is quiet from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day.

So time marches on in our house. In all honesty, I’ve been a little too scheduled lately to dig into the sentimental “where has the time gone” feeling, but there have been a few times in recent days where a wave of sentiment has washed over me. It’s generally related to the cute little boy who arrived in our lives five years ago this July. I know as preschool graduation approaches in late spring that I’ll be a mess. Until then though, I hope I can just enjoy this last sliver of the preschool years.

Thanksgiving Review

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November is nearly in the rearview mirror, and I feel like I am still soaking in Thanksgiving memories while frantically de-pumpkining my house for Christmas decorating. Tonight is the night I have to find the advent calendars to begin the official countdown, and boy, I am not sure I am prepared.

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Our Thanksgiving visitors just left this morning, and we had a WONDERFUL holiday. Full of excursions (the Please Touch Museum, Longwood Gardens, and a short trip to New York City that included the American Girl Store and the very fun Nintendo store!), family (we saw lots of our favorite family members while doing lots of really fun things), movies (“Trolls” and “Moana”), crafts, and eating and drinking — so much of that!

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I am giving myself a buffer of a few days to prepare for the next swing of celebrations. We are excited to host out of town family again very soon as well as our family Hanukkah celebrations. The kids already seem super wound up about the festivity in the air, so I am wishing myself luck in the next few days as I try to recharge for what’s ahead!

And the most challenging thing about December, of course, is getting all of the normal stuff done on top of the special stuff. Trying to make sure my calendar does not get too full.

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!

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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Mountain Air

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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?

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Beach Fun and Happy Memories

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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.

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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!).

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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.

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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.

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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?!).

Family Vacation: Williamsburg, VA, and Washington, DC

Forgive me if this post is not exhaustive in detail about our five-day family vacation. We returned Sunday evening after an action-packed string of days, and I am still recovering! I did want to highlight favorite moments of the trip before I forget about them. I hope Nora and I can compile a photo album this summer capturing the family fun. She took many of the pictures, which was an exciting new interest for her.

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We began our journey at Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg, Virginia. We decided staying in a kid-friendly, swim-oriented hotel would balance the more adult portion of the trip — Colonial Williamsburg. We ventured to the colonial section of town on two separate occasions, dining at the King’s Arms Tavern, scoping out the trade shops and historical replicas, and even training to be in the local militia (circa 1780 or so).

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Nora and Carson both got hats and accessories during our visits to Colonial Williamsburg, which made for adorable photos. As a generous mother to a boy, I even allowed Carson to buy a wooden sword.

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Our time at Great Wolf Lodge brought us closer together as a family. Nora went on most of the water slides and Carson was a good sport about just about every pool — even the wave pool! We enjoyed being active with our little ones as well as having entertainment for the kids. Both Nora and Carson enjoyed the nightly good-night show in the lobby.

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After three nights in Williamsburg, we began our trek up north, stopping in Washington, DC, for a night to catch up with beloved friends and see some sites. The friends we stayed with have kids too, so Nora and Carson were in heaven playing with their toys and running around the house. The weather was a bit of a monsoon that day, so we were happy to have some rambunctious company!

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Our last day of vacation involved visiting two Smithsonian museums. The crappy weather the day before cleared and we had a gorgeous, non-humid day in the nation’s capital. We took the kids to the Natural History and Air and Space museums. Both kids enjoyed the displays as well as the souvenir machines that smash pennies. That was probably the highlight of their trip.

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The final stop on this epic vacation included a visit with college besties, who live in the city limits. We dined on a wonderful meal and caught up with them. I was grateful the kids were well behaved and still hanging in there despite the time away from home.

A few vacation notes:

  • It was so fun to drive to our vacation destination. While I love plane travel for visiting my family out West, it was enjoyable to pop in and out of the car as needed to reassemble.
  • We divided our drive back home in half by stopping in DC. That was a fantastic idea.
  • I am exhausted from our trip. The kids’ schedules are the same as ours right now, so there’s not a lot of “down” time. Everyone is struggling with tiredness this week as we recover from the vacation and re-enter our daily routine.
  • I am not sure how to mix the right amount of formal and informal meals on vacations. The kids will either eat nothing or eat everything, so we tried to limit the number of sit-down meals while away and stocked up on lots of snacks to eat throughout the day. Some days this worked and on others it didn’t. I miss frequent restaurant meals because that’s what a vacation is to me, but I don’t want to spend that kind of money to feed four people three times a day. The good news is that we all love Chipotle, so I should just consider eating there for every meal.
  • I love traveling with my kids. They are cool people and absorb so much of what we do. While they don’t know much about U.S. history at this stage in their lives, I felt confident that we created a base layer for their knowledge. I loved watching them touch the rocks in the geology section of the Smithsonian’s Natural History museum and pointing out some of the beautiful landmarks of Washington, DC. It was a super-cool feeling as a parent to be giving my kids the gift of travel and curiosity.