tbt: Niagara Falls Then and Now

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niagarahotel-thenandnowWhat a difference 5 years makes! Niagara Falls in the early summer of 2009 / and again in July 2014! The last time we were here, MM was three years old and I was still seven months pregnant with little BB!

Hard to believe how much MM has grown in just 5 years and how surreal it seems to imagine having ever been a mother of just one. I don’t know if MM really remembers his first visit to Niagara Falls but I’m hoping he’ll remember this one someday (and now we have photographic evidence of both trips!).

I guess we’ll need to go again in another 5 years so that we can get another picture. He’ll be a surely teenager by then!

Previous: Ohio & New York

 Next: Massachusetts

Road Trip Diary: Ohio and New York

Maumee Bay State Park, Closed Bridges, Camping in the Rain, Niagara Falls, Love Songs for Coffee, New Backpacks and Changing Plans.

epicroadtrip

20140620_161636When we embarked on this trip, I was still fairly certain we were crazy. Despite months of planning and a binder full of maps, itineraries, meal plans and more – I was pretty concerned that we were in over our head and attempting too much in too short a time. It couldn’t possibly all go according to plan.

And while it definitely didn’t all go to plan, we totally pulled it off. I tried to focus on the trip in small chunks. So rather than think about how we had to get to Florida by such and such day, I just thought “Today we are going to Ohio.” And so forth. I think this plan alone was the main thing keeping me sane each day. With  that in mind, here is a small recap of our first two days on the road.

roadtrip-OHIO

DAY ONE

Day One’s mission was pretty simple: Drive to Ohio and camp.

We were headed for Maumee Bay State Park, which is in the western tip of Lake Erie in Ohio. Day one looked a lot like this:

DRIVE DRIVE DRIVE DRIVE BATHROOM DRIVE DRIVE DRIVE LUNCH DRIVE DRIVE DRIVE DRIVE REST STOP DRIVE DRIVE BRIDGE IS CLOSED DRIVE DRIVE HOW DO WE GET THERE OMG DRIVE DRIVE YAY WE FOUND ANOTHER BRIDGE DRIVE WAIT FOR TRAIN DRIVE WAIT FOR ANOTHER TRAIN DRIVE CAMP IN THE RAIN.

Basically we didn’t really enjoy our time in Ohio but mostly because it involved tons of boring roads, followed by searching in vain forever for an alternate route to get to our campground and then camping in the rain. It’s not really Ohio’s fault but it also kind of is…

20140620_162225We kept the kids busy for all those driving bits with my Amazing Epic Road Trip Boredom Box filled with wrapped packages of new books to dole out over the course of the trip, most relating to the destination of that day’s driving like a book about Niagara Falls on our drive to New York on Day Two. I had something to hand the kids every day that we’d be on the road. This plan was both awesome and overkill. The kids loved the gifts and it kept them busy but we were gone for 3 1/2 weeks and on the road for like 10 days which meant 20+ books eventually cluttered the back seat and drove us crazy every time we got in or out of the truck. I think the idea would be stellar for a smaller trip though.

Another boredom buster idea: We loaded a few movies onto my tablet which we attached to the back of our center console with a bungee cord (my tablet has one of those covers with a folded front cover thing so if you fold that back behind the tablet and loop a bungee cord through… ta da! Homemade entertainment system on the go. Normal people might already have travel DVD players or something but for the rest of us – this worked out really well!

After we eventually found a bridge to get to the campground (the main bridge was closed for like 2 years and our GPS seemed completely unsure how to handle this problem) we set up camp, hubby grilled dinner and we slept somewhat soundly in spite of the major storm that felt the need to follow us from Wisconsin all the way to Massachusetts.

DAY TWO

The kids watched Despicable Me on Day Two and while we were at a rest stop in Ohio my daughter found and fell madly in love with a stuffed unicorn just like the one in the movie. She basically refused to leave without it and gave her daddy That Look so he totally melted and convinced me that it would be a good early birthday present. Basically she has us wrapped around her finger and it was a really cute unicorn. While driving to New York that morning I sang sleepy love songs to my coffee, i.e. I was over tired and thought the dumbest things were funny and amused myself for serious HOURS by pretending all the songs on the radio were about my coffee.

Oh, won’t you stay with me?
‘Cause you’re all I need
This ain’t love, it’s clear to see
But darling, stay with me

Stay with Me by Sam Smith

‘Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me
I’ll give my all to you
You’re my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I’m winning

All of Me by John Legend

Well, I don’t know how you do it to me
You make my brain just stop
Sink my heart to my feet
It’s like a roller coaster
But I’m only going up
I’m in crazy stupid love

Crazy Stupid Love by Cheryl Cole

Just… pretend all those songs are about your coffee and it’s hysterical. Probably. Right?

HALFTIME GAME:

Before reading about the rest of our adventure in New York, let’s come up with more love songs that should be about coffee. If you play along, leave your best ones in the comments section below!

roadtrip-newyork

Anyway, eventually we woke up and eventually after that we got to New York. We took the kids to Niagara Falls which was kind of a big deal because the last time we were there was when we moved to Wisconsin five years ago: MM was about 3 years old and I was 7 months pregnant with BB and we were doing this trip in reverse, driving from Massachusetts to Wisconsin about to move to a state where we knew NOBODY. CRAZINESS. Probably the best thing we’ve ever done but we didn’t know it then. Being over here on the other side now is absolutely unreal.

The weather was still pretty hectic. It wasn’t raining but it was so windy that the Falls were blowing enough mist onto us that it felt like rain. We oohed and ahhed over the falls and took some pictures. Another mom there offered to take a family photo of us in return for me doing the same for them. Of  course only three of us decided to participate for said photo but I was still thrilled to get the picture. I’m also really amused by all the pictures I took where there are girls behind us just staring at their phones right in front of such a beautiful historical landmark. I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt that they are maybe checking out their own pictures that they just took but they’re probably just playing Angry Birds.

Due to traffic and luck, we were running super behind that night and with the storm still following us doggedly, the idea of setting up camp late in the rain was sounding so not fun. We stopped for dinner about an hour outside of Niagara and then got a room at the hotel next door.

For some reason I was really concerned that we’d never find a hotel with a room available and it would be like Mary and Jesus looking for a room at the inn minus anyone giving birth and hopefully minus sleeping in a barn. But lo and behold, there was a room available at the very first place we looked and the woman behind the desk was super friendly and accommodating and the kids thought the whole thing was basically the best idea ever.

Other things we did in New York:

  • Bought the kids new backpacks from L.L. Bean for the coming school year that doubled as a place to put all those books I brought for the trip.
  • Lost our checkbook at a rest area in Ohio on the way to New York. Seriously. Luckily for us, a nice honest person found it and the Ohio Rest Stop Guys mailed it back to us with no harm done. And I found a safer place to keep my check book for the future.
  • Got super excited about going to Massachusetts the next day to see our family!!

Stay tuned for more stories of our month on the road. Next up will be a recap on our week in Massachusetts visiting family!

Previous: There’s no place like home

Next: Niagara Falls

There’s No Place Like Home: Trust me, I checked.

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You may not have noticed, but I’ve been gone for 3 1/2 weeks. We spent most of July embarking on an Epic Road Trip up and down the East Coast, visiting Massachusetts, Pennsyvlania, Washington DC, Florida, Kentucky and back to Wisconsin and everything in between. We spread it all out so that we’d drive for two or three days and then spend time with family for 5 so that we didn’t become completely exhausted and grumpy though we had our moments. This trip was a massive undertaking that I was skeptical we’d be able to pull off but WE DID IT. WE SURVIVED. And we all still like each other!

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I’ll be telling you lots of stories over the next couple weeks about the places we’ve been, the things we’ve seen, the inane things my husband and I talked about on the road, but for now a couple snapshots and for fun – here are my notes that I wrote to myself on the road about all the things I wanted to tell you guys about. Some of it still luckily makes perfect sense to me but some of it… no idea, so that should be fun.

Guessing Game Time: Can you decipher Jen’s Random Road Trip Notes?

  • Love songs for coffee
  • Ohio is a no go
  • Changing plans
  • The unicorn
  • Tablet mount hack
  • Camping in the rain
  • Taking 91 north to go east, seeing signs to go west to get to Easthampton.
  • Difference between Massachusetts and Wisconsin
  • Trees and mountains
  • Hawks vs grackles
  • Emily 2×8 (what? I don’t even know what this means)
  • 4th of July wasn’t so special but it might have been better.
  • The Teagan Song
  • Ball joints and cracked windshields
  • New backpacks
  • Niagara then and now

DSC_6408

  • Hootie / counting crows (I can’t tell them apart)
  • No big deal, just a little hangover.
  • Keeping cool on hard days.
  • RAIN!!!!!!!
  • Drinking with in laws
  • The 3 tin soldiers
  • Hershey park – roller coasters and ski ball
  • Story idea: Ladysmith – a blacksmith’s widow?
  • 10,000 steps in DC: National mall
  • Capitol koa
  • North Carolina – wet wood and small tables; anything you can do, Maryland did better. BBQ. Cool old couple.
  • Lawtey Florida (it’s just fun to say)
  • Drove straight through Georgia: why Georgia, why?
  • FIREWORKS – HURT? NEED HELP?
  • Apps koa and road ninja

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  • South Florida museum
  • Legoland
  • Koa cabins are awesome!!
  • Macklemore is the male Joan Jett of our generation.
  • Nutter butter polar swirls and truck stop snack nostalgia
  • Lost river cave and the butterfly house
  • Canyon story – cold damp dark rocky
  • Blue holes more dangerous than they look.
  • 1850s America before civil war. Wealthy plantation family? Or royalty somewhere else?
  • Finding my music style
  • St. Louis is apparently an ACTUAL city with cars and traffic and stuff.
  • Birthday on the Road.

So…. clearly I have my work cut out for me. I’ll be back soon with more coherent stories, but this gives you a taste of what our month has been like and how random my thought process is. You’re welcome.

So tell me bloggy pals, what have I missed this month? What’s going on? How have you BEEN?

Next: Ohio & New York

Travel Ideas: Things to Do Outside in Madison, Wisconsin

thingstodooutside

Are you traveling to Wisconsin this summer and looking for ideas for things to do with the kids? Or perhaps you live here and are all about the staycation this year? I’m implementing a new feature on my blog: I decided to start a travel category for anyone looking for ideas for family vacations, staycations and anything in between. Check out the Travel Page for photographs, reviews and travel diaries of past vacations and stay tuned for many more!

To kick things off today, I thought I’d take you for a tour of our neck of the woods, focusing on the things you can do outside for free or relatively cheap. These are just a few of the reasons we love living here and the kinds of places we like to show family when they are visiting.

1. Henry Vilas Zoo: 702 S Randall Ave, Madison, WI 53715
Open 9:30 am – 5:00 pm | Cost: Free

vilaszoo

The first thing you need to know when you get to Madison is that we have a fantastic zoo that is FREE. Henry Vilas Zoo is a 28-acre public zoo in Madison, Wisconsin that is owned by the city of Madison. On June 30, 1904, Col. William F. and Anna M. Vilas gave a large tract of land to the Madison Park and Pleasure Drive Association “for the uses and purposes of a public park and pleasure ground.

The park was named in memory of the Vilas’ son, Henry, who died at a young age due to complications from diabetes. In 1911, the first animal exhibits were created, representing the start of the Henry Vilas Zoo. In what has proved to be a defining and truly visionary move, the Vilas Family stipulated that the park always be admission free. As the zoo developed within the park, it too remained free. [source]

We love this zoo so much that we go several times a year. It’s surrounded by a large park with multiple playgrounds and even a beach (also free!). There is another large playground inside the zoo along with lots of animal exhibits, a outdoor dining area and a gift shop. The residents of Madison are all quite fond of their little zoo and a lot of people know many of the zoo animals by name. In the fall, Madison kids often go trick or treating at the zoo and there are many other annual events like the Zoo Run Run, Yoga at the Zoo and more.

Pro tip: Get there early, parking fills up fast. We tend to arrive shortly before the zoo opens to get a good spot.

vilasbeach

2. Olbrich Gardens: 3330 Atwood Ave, Madison, WI 53704
Hours: 8am-8pm | Cost: Outdoor gardens – free; conservatory $2 per person

olbrich

The Olbrich Gardens are one of my favorite places to take a long nature walk, photographing flowers and leaves and ponds as I stroll along with the kids. They have 16 acres of gardens for your kids to run around in, including a tropical conservatory, a rose garden & a Thai pavilion (everyone’s favorite). One of my favorite things about Olbrich is that there is something new to see every time you go as the seasons change throughout the year.

The outdoor gardens are always free and the indoor conservatory is just $2 a person and free for kids 5 and under – and free on  Wednesday and Saturday mornings from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., except during Olbrich’s Blooming Butterflies. If you are a resident, consider getting a membership which offers valuable discounts, exclusive invitations, free admission, members-only library borrowing privileges, informative quarterly member newsletter, as well as free or reduced admission to nearly 300 gardens, arboreta, and conservatories across the U.S. and Canada. Members also ensure that the Gardens remain free and accessible to more than 250,000 people each year.

Year Round Fun: Olbrich is open even when the weather is less than gorgeous. Take a walk in the indoor conservatory when the weather is dreary or to perk you up in the blah winter months. Going to be here for Christmas? Be sure to check out their Holiday Express train exhibit!

3. Picnic Point: 2002 University bay drive, Madison, WI 53726.
Parking: Park in the University Parking Lot #130. Parking starts at $1 for the first hour. You can pay with credit card, quarters and US Dollar Coints.

picnicpoint

If you want to take a nice walk, enjoy a small shady beach and see some amazing views of the Capitol Building and Lake Mendota – consider packing a picnic and heading to Picnic Point, a nearly mile-long peninsula along Lake Mendota’s south shore (check out this great history of Picnic Point). It’s a relatively easy walk but getting to the end of the peninsula feels like an amazing achievement, especially to kids. Once you get to the end, you have a truly amazing view of the lake to enjoy.

For many years the beach, at The Narrows midway down the Point, was a popular place for swimming. Please note: The university does not provide lifeguards at Preserve beach areas and water quality is not monitored. Swim at your own risk.  We skip the swimming here, but it’s a gorgeous and relaxing place to stop halfway and let the kids play in the sand and admire the water.

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Feeling Romantic? Picnic Point has a long reputation as a romantic getaway. Many visitors talk about marriage proposals inspired by a stroll out to the end of the Point. As further proof of the Point’s romantic magic, on February 9, 1992 the San Francisco Examiner (in a scientific study, no doubt!) did a survey of the ten best places to kiss in the world, and announced that Picnic Point “may just be the kissing-est spot in North America.” It said that for more than a century, “thousands of couples have found themselves in each other’s arms…at the tip of the peninsula, where the kissing tradition was born.” Visitors may wish to plan accordingly. [source]

4. The Ice Age Trails: Location: 1,00 miles throughout Wisconsin. Check out the Dane County Trails for locations in the Madison area.

iceagetrails

Whether you are looking for a quick hike or an epic backpacking trip or camping spot, The Ice Age Trail has got you covered. I like to go to one of the local trails near our home for a small hike with the kids and a little nature photography but that’s just the top of the iceberg really (pun intended).

History Lesson: More than 12,000 years ago, an immense flow of glacial ice sculpted a landscape of remarkable beauty across Wisconsin. As the colossal glacier retreated, it left behind a variety of unique landscape features. These Ice Age remnants are now considered among the world’s finest examples of how continental glaciation sculpts our planet.

The Ice Age National Scenic Trail is a thousand-mile footpath — entirely within Wisconsin — that highlights these Ice Age landscape features while providing access to some of the state’s most beautiful natural areas. [source]

5. Eplegaarden Apple Orchard : 2227 Fitchburg Road, Fitchburg WI
Hours: Varies by season July-Oct | Cost: Depends on how many apples you want.

eplegaarden

There are many apple orchards and other pick-your-own farms in Madison and the surrounding towns but one of our favorites is Eplegaarden. They describe themselves as “da apple orchard vit da Norvegian Exposure”, an old fashion farm ver things move slower den any other place in Dane County or maybe even in all of Wisconsin.

When you aren’t picking apples, raspberries or pumpkins, you can also see how tall the kids have grown by photographing them next to the giant Apple with a yardstick, check out their Farm Store, go for a horse drawn hayride or take the kids to their playground. During the Halloween Season you’ll want to take the kids to see the Harold Potterson’s Hallowed  Haunts and Harried Hunts for little Wizards and Trolls. They also do folk music under the apple trees on Sundays in September and October.

6. Mallards Baseball Stadium : 2920 N Sherman Ave, Madison, WI 53704
When: May-August | Cost: $8-33 a ticket, depending on where you sit

mallards

Take them out to the ballgame without breaking the bank. Check out the game schedule for the Madison Mallards, a collegiate summer baseball team in Madison that plays in the Northwoods League at Warner Park on Madison’s North side.

I love going to a Mallards Game – they have a very family friendly atmosphere, fun merchandise, lots of delicious food, a kid friendly grassy field where you can lay a picnic blanket and skip dealing with stadium seating and there are always fun events going on from the Meriter & Physicians Plus Kids Days to fireworks after many of the games.

A note on parking: There is free parking at Warner Stadium and tailgating is allowed but it fills up fast. There is additional limited additional parking at the Northside Town Center directly across Sherman Ave from the ballpark. NO TAILGATING is allowed in this lot & violators may be towed. Only portions of the lot are available for fan parking during games so make sure you are parked in an approved area for the game. Last tip: Consider arriving early and leaving early if possible to avoid crowds and traffic.

Madisonians – where are your favorite places to take the kids? Share your favorite spots, indoor and out, in the comments section!

 

Father’s Day Weekend: Photo wrap up.

fathers day

This weekend we celebrated Fathers Day with our favorite handsome engineer. We started the weekend with an assortment of handmade cards and pictures from the kids like this portrait of Dan drawn by MM and a few goodies from ThinkGeek.com.

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Saturday we all went to Devils Lake State Park with some friends. We had a picnic lunch, played at the beach and Dan and his bestie (and bestie’s wife) even went rock climbing! I am not ashamed to say that I was grateful linger at the beach with the kids while they went on that adventure!

boys

Sunday was spent in Green Bay with more good friends. We went to Bay Beach Amusement Park again and rode trains, planes and merry go rounds. The weather was windy and threatened to rain all morning until eventually it did rain – but we managed to run to the van before it started and stayed dry.

rideswithBB

BB and I took lots of selfies together on all the rides we went on. She loved the merry go round, train and helicopter ride but we both agreed the ferris wheel was a little too fast. Poor BB got sick on the drive back to our friend’s parent’s house but luckily bounced back quickly. We finished the day with brats, hot dogs, birthday cupcakes for BB’s bestie who is turning 4 in a couple days.

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Meanwhile, the dog had a blast at his favorite doggy hotel. We picked him up this morning and he was freshly bathed, happy and thrilled to see us. MM was in his glory on the ride home as his puppy cuddled in his lap on the whole ride home (mostly because it’s the only way they all fit in the backseat, but still adorable).

How was your weekend?

Mommy and Me Monday at Really, Are You Serious?

Hosted by Krystyn at Really, Are You Serious?

Simple Summer Goals: 3 Things We Really Want To Do

summer must list

Summer Bucket Lists are a common occurrence in the mommy blog world and I love what they stand for but dislike the notion of trying to cram 157 “moments” into one summer. I think at the end of the day, our kids have an amazing summer whether we cross off all those items or not. But I love the idea of getting their input and finding out what is actually important to them. It’s rarely the things I would expect.

I’m linking up with Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop again this week as one of her prompts was “What you’re most looking forward to (or dreading) this Summer.” I asked everyone in the family what three (3) things they most want to do this summer. Here’s what they said:

10294422_10100398852628346_1427639036687687798_nBB, Age 4
1. She wants to play outside. When I asked for something more specific she said she wants to ride her bike.
2. She wants to watch Strawberry Shortcake. I kind veto’d this one because she watches Strawberry Shortcake every day so she said she also wants to read lots of books. How can I say no to that?
3. Lastly, she wants to go to the beach.

Her list seems completely doable to me. I want to try and focus on helping her learn to read more sight words, keep our outside as much as possible and yes definitely go to the beach!

DSC_6313MM, Age 8
1. The first thing he told me was that he wants to go to his best friend’s house 100 times. I have no idea if this is feasible but I will try to schedule a lot of play dates this summer.
2. He also wants to go to the zoo. I think there is very little chance of this not happening.
3. Lastly, he wants to go to summer camp. Both kids are going to one week of summer camp via the school district. He’ll be going to solar system camp this year and should have a blast.

20140126_181159Dan, Husband
1. After rolling his eyes at me and trying to explain that he doesn’t care what we do this summer and that I’m silly, he finally conceded that he would like to go for a hike at one of our favorite state parks. I might never have known that if I hadn’t asked – so there!
2. Other than that, he says that he wants to go on a road trip and
3. See his family and both of those things are already planned so basically he’s very easy to please.

meAnd lastly, me, Jen
1. I want to make a vacation journal for our summer vacation. Ideally I want all four of us to keep a journal of the trip, have the kids draw lots of pictures and Dan and I take lots of pictures which I will then turn into a photo book.
2. It’s not a big goal but I will be devastated if we don’t go to my favorite bakery back home and eat delicious baked goods and drink an amazing cappuccino. Whenever we’re back home, for me half the goal is to eat all the amazing food that we can’t get in the midwest. It’s the little things.
3. In general, this summer I want to keep active, whether that means going for daily walks, taking up a new fitness activity like perhaps pilates or swimming with the kids. I want to be up and moving as much as possible.

That’s it! What things are you hoping to do this summer?

Mama’s Losin’ It

Camping at Governor Dodge State Park: Summer 2013

camping-day1

We just got back from a weekend camping trip at Governor Dodge State Park in Dodgeville, WI. I think I probably say this every time, but this was definitely our best camping trip to date. Between the kids getting older and our family learning what kind of things we like in a camp ground and camping trip, we seem to be figuring out the formula for a great trip.

This trip seemed to have all the ingredients for a great weekend:

  • The weather was absolutely beautiful, if a bit too hot towards the end of the day. On our last camping trip I was too cold when trying to fall asleep – that was definitely not an issue on this trip!
  • The camp site was perfect – plenty of space to set up our tent and just enough privacy between camp sites. The ground was great for putting stakes in the tent and there was plenty of nature for the kids to play with.
  • The park had dozens of hiking trails of varying length. After dinner on Saturday we hiked the Stephens Fall Trail which leads to a small waterfall. It was just challenging enough to feel like we’d gotten a workout but easy enough that our four year old and seven year old were not too winded. There was gorgeous nature everywhere – I may have gotten a bit distracted taking nature shots (see collage below).
  • We did a great job packing food for this trip. We had a personal goal to not go out to eat during our trip and we met that goal easily by packing plenty of food we liked. I made sure we had a variety of things to choose from so we couldn’t get too bored and worked hard to think every meal through. Though we had a few mishaps (one of our mason jars cracked when trying to heat milk in a pot of water), overall the meals went really well and the only thing we bought was some ice cream after lunch on Sunday as a small splurge.
  • The cookie s’more – an absolute essential for camping in our family.
  • I looked up a lot of activities beforehand but didn’t try to itinerary the trip too much. We tried to play the trip by ear and do the things that worked in each moment and this worked out wonderfully.
  • This campground had the perfect playground just a few campsites away from ours – this was not entirely by accident. I studied the campground map carefully when selecting our site and I’m so glad. The playground was just the right size for our kids and in great condition. There were benches and a picnic table in perfect proximity to the playground equipment so we could sit and relax but still be very close by.
  • Right next to the playground was the bathroom & shower which were in very good condition for a campground. I was equally grateful to have a bathroom so close to our campsite, too!
  • Just a three minute drive away was a beautiful beach which we visited Sunday morning after breakfast!

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The nature was truly inspiring on this trip – flowers, trees and sky – everywhere I looked I found beauty.

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After not quite enough sleep (we haven’t yet mastered getting the kids to fall asleep at a reasonable hour and I don’t sleep well anywhere) we woke up and made coffee and splurged on little bags of sugary cereal that I’d bought especially for the trip. At home it’s all about healthy cereal so the kids were outrageously excited about this and Dan and I loved enjoying some childhood favorites together.

While we packed up the tent and gear (we only stayed one night this time) the kids made fairy houses and played other games using sticks, rocks, leaves, etc. around the campsite. I spent a little time lingering with them while they played and LOVED seeing their imagination come to life. Why do we buy kids toys again?

Once we were packed, we headed to the beach. Wisconsin beaches are, of course, on lakes and they can be hit or miss. Usually miss. We’ve been to a few good ones since moving here but Governor Dodge was, by far, the best yet. Soft sandy beaches, relatively clean water and a good crowd of mostly families.

The sand was just damp enough to easily build sand castles with not too many tools needed. Dan showed MM how to make a sand turtle with just his hands and MM made friends with another kid there who was building a “sand lake” with a connecting river – they spent a lot of time working on that while BB relaxed next to me digging in the sand with little aim other than to dig and enjoy.

Both kids got to do some swimming with daddy and when lunch time rolled around we cleaned up and found a nice shady picnic table where I assembled some peanut butter, honey and banana sandwiches for everyone along with a few snacks. After lunch we had that ice cream I mentioned and then we headed home.

Overall it as a short and sweet kind of trip – we felt truly relaxed as we drove back to the house. Sometimes being one with nature for a little while is just what the soul needs to end a busy and hectic summer before beginning a busy and hectic school year!

Vacation to MA 2013: Wrapping up this Recap

wrap up

So we had a great vacation. I’ve shared with you snippets from our trip based on the photos I took but the truth is, I didn’t do a very good job capturing all of the things we did this year.

You didn’t see the kids shivering in the pool at Kids Day because they insisted on swimming even though it was only about 60 degrees out. We decided to let them go in for a little bit, figuring they’d get cold pretty quick and then they wouldn’t be able to complain that we didn’t let them go in! MM held out the longest, insisting it wasn’t that cold as he shivered in the water.

You didn’t see the copious amounts of food eaten – last summer was the Summer of Dunkin Donuts in which we seemed to go there every day and leave with iced coffee and donuts to the point of ridiculousness. This summer it was all about food – all beginning with the discovery of an Italian Bakery that we’d never been to before but apparently everyone else already knew about. The cappuccino was to die for – the cannolis, delicious. They had cookies and pies and cakes and pastries and pizza – basically, I wanted to move in immediately.

Then there was the morning that MM had pancakes for breakfast and again two hours later for brunch – both covered in whipped cream and other decadent toppings – then we went to a family BBQ where we had food handed to us consistently for hours. You get the idea. We ate a lot – later I’ll tell you about how Dan and I decided to diet when we got home because we ate SO much on this trip.

We also celebrated our seven year anniversary on this trip. Dan’s sisters and mom offered to watch the kids and we went and had coffee and pastries at that Italian bakery, did a little window shopping without the kids at one of our old favorite shopping centers (we finally got to look at tablets and laptops without the kids and actually felt like we’d been able to look at everything we wanted to!) and had sea food for lunch then went to see Now You See Me at the little budget theater down the street (loved most of the movie, really didn’t like the ending).

We got to catch up with a lot of our friends while we were there – we saw Dan’s best friend from college and his wife and their adorable daughter who would probably be one of BB’s best friends if we still lived there. We caught up with MM’s godfather, an old friend of Dan’s who is engaged to be married and always has eleven or twelve hilarious stories to tell. We had brunch with my college bestie who drove up from Rhode Island just to see us, lunch a few days later with two of my besties from high school and all their rug rats (that was a loud meal!) and caught up with another at Dan’s parents house one night (her husband is a UPS man and came straight from work, nearly giving the dog a total conniption fit).

I could go on, really, but this post is already getting pretty long. Point is – we had a really great trip, saw some of our very favorite people and ate some delicious food and before we knew it we were driving to Boston in the rain where we stayed at a hotel before waking up at 3:30 am for a 6am flight.

The layovers on this trip were just as impossibly short as the first but this time we had a much longer walk between terminals and really made it just in time – we were all a little crankier for this flight due to the lack of sleep and odd wake up time, but we made it back to Wisconsin at 9:30am and had a full weekend to recover from the craziness. We were grateful to be home and back to our routines, looking forward to seeing our giant dog again and sleeping in our beds again (and catching up with the DVR again).

It was a great trip – I’m really glad we were able to make it out to MA again this summer.

Vacation to Ma 2013: Concert on the Common

town concert

We had beautiful weather during this trip – sometimes just cool enough to grab an extra layer but rarely downright hot or cold. Wednesday night we joined Dan’s parents and sisters (and significant others) for a concert on the common in the town where they grew up.

What’s better than a concert on the common? A Beatles Tribute Night Concert on the Common.

Sprawled out on blankets, benches and beach chairs we listened to some amazing covers of Beatles songs – the famous ones and some lesser known (to me) songs as well. The kids were able to run around with cousins and dance on the lawn with aunties and listen to some of the best music ever written. It was a perfect night.

Afterwards we took the kids to the drive in to see Smurfs 2 – it was a little buggy but everyone had a really good time and the movie was the perfect blend of cute and funny but not complex or difficult to follow – which is good because the kids distracted me a LOT and I’m sure I missed 1/4 of the movie.

All in all, it was a beautiful night and a lot of fun, too!