Things to Do - T, Age 3


Every once in awhile I interview my children, just because. This week was T's turn.

FAVORITE BOOK - Princess Hyacinth (the Surprising Tale of a Girl Who Floated)
FAVORITE THINGS TO DO AT SCHOOL - Play and drive cars upstairs
FAVORITE FOOD - Banana yogurt
FAVORITE TV SHOW - Jake and the Neverland Pirates
FAVORITE MUSEUM - Dinosaur museums
FAVORITE SEASON - When the snow starts
FAVORITE GAME TO PLAY WITH P - Play daddy and baby



*I can't stop listening to this song.

*The best chocolate chip cookie recipe ever. We tried this last week and they really were phenomenal.

*Using paparazzi to save the world. Why not?

*50 amazing apple and pumpkin recipes.

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Things to Read - Favorite Kids' Books VI

I've decided to let the kids take over the review process. After all they're the experts, I'm just along for the ride. All the books listed have been on constant rotation lately (i.e. I think I've read each one at least 12 times). For more posts on our favorite kids' books click here. And for my post on children's books for fall click here.

Vampirina Ballerina
[note - This book about a vampire who becomes a ballerina is perfect for Halloween].

P (age 5.5) - I like the pictures and that it's about vampires and ballerinas. It's a really good book, but I'm sick of reading it now. We've read it about 1000 times [note - more like 35, but I agree that we've read it a lot].

F (age 7) - I like that she's different and she doesn't give up. She practices and practices. Big thumbs up.

The Amazing Adventures of Bumblebee Boy

[note - This is possibly my favorite chidren's book ever, which is all about trying to include younger siblings in games - I especially love when Bumblee Boys' brother, Owen, calls himself "a soup hero too." For about a week, T made me read this book over and over again, day after day.]

T (age 3)- I like that he gets all the bad guys and I like his brother. It an awesome book!

P (age 5.5) - I like the Ladybug Girl books more, because she's a girl. Bumblee Boy is too boy-ee.

Black and White

T (age 3) - I like finding the robber and my favorite part is the newspaper costumes.

P (age 5.5) - I like when they're watching TV and the grown-ups come home in costumes. Usually reading one story is easier than four [stories on the same page], but I like how everything comes together.

F (age 7) - I really like that the stories are all combined.

Princess Hyacinth (The Surprising Tale of a Girl Who Floated)

T (age 3) - I like when the police come and tell the palace guards [about the floating princess] and I like the pages where she floats. I really like when she floats with balloons.

P (age 5.5) - I love this book, she has so much fun. But I think the love part with Boy is disgusting [note - there's not much of a love part, they just become friends]. My favorite part is when she floats with balloons and the balloon man lets go of her.

The House in the Night

[note - This is based on an old fairy tale with very simple words and pictures; T really likes it, whereas P does not]

T (age 3) - I like the pictures and the story, especially the yellow in the pictures.

P (age 5.5) - I like the pictures but I don't like that they don't look life-like. And I don't "get" it.

A Sick Day for Amos McGee

T (age 3) - I like the penguin and that everyone sleeps in the end. I think it's silly that all the animals ride a bus.

P (age 5.5) - Why does the penguin wear socks? I think it's funny and silly but a little bit boring when he takes a nap. I think Amos should count when he plays hide and seek.

The Insomniacs

F (age 7) - I liked that they're different from everyone else, but they're not different from nocturnal animals. I also like the pictures a lot.

Song for a Princess

P (age 5.5) - This is a good book because everyone said no and the bird tried anyways and the bird made the princess happy. I liked all the words everywhere.


Places to Go - The National Building Museum's Big Build (Washington D.C.)


On Saturday we decided to spend a few hours at the National Building Museums' annual Big Build festival, which I cannot say enough good things about.

We arrived to a lawn full of bulldozers and other construction vehicles for kids to climb in; volunteers stood by to both explain how all the knobs and levers worked and to assure that nobody's turn lasted too long. Nice. While T and I waited to "drive", Dan visited a tent with P and F where they made bricks. All before we entered the building.

Once inside each of my kids quickly nabbed a free construction helmet (not surprisingly, P and F chose pink, whereas T went with the old yellow standard). A booth next to the helmets had stickers and markers so they could add some bling. Throughout the museum other wonders awaited - F cut a log with a real saw and tried to chisel through rock. P hugged Curious George. All three kids spackled a wall. An imagination playground and various other building sets encouraged creative building, but for those craving a more standard education workmen and workwomen of all sorts stood by with gadgets and advice (how to wire an air conditioner, how to model a building, how to plan a garden, etc). The event is aimed at children 4-11 and (in my eyes) it did a great job meeting this demographic, with tons of "toys" for kids of all ages.

But most impressive of all was how many different activities were offered for different kids' needs and interests. F originally didn't want to attend the festival, stating that building was "a boy thing" (yup, my heart sank, actually sank), but after 10 minutes she came up to me and said "! was wrong, mom, this place is pretty cool." And while the pink construction hats were obviously purchased with girls in mind, nothing was ever specifically divided by gender - crafty stations (decorate a wood necklace or key chain) intermingled with tools and wood stumps - so boys crafted (sometimes) and girls drove bulldozers (sometimes), while this seems obvious enough, with marketing being how it is these days it felt refreshing to just see kids be kids and BUILD STUFF TOGETHER, with no obvious gender bias.

All in all, a great event. The Big Build only occurs once a year, so next fall I highly suggest a visit. As best summarized by T, "mom that was awesome! We got to keep these hats and make a lot of stuff and keep a lot of stuff and drive the things that builders drive. Really really awesome!"

(Even though the Big Build is a yearly event, the Building Museum's Building Zone playspace is always a great place to take younger children - click here for my past review - though keep in mind, the exhibit is no longer free, admission now costs $3 per ticket for everyone 3 and older - and is well-worth it. Click here for more info).



Things to Make - Pinch Pots


This is a really easy craft for a few lazy afternoons; all you need is some sort of moldable clay (we used Crayola Air Dry Clay 2.5 Lb Bucket, White) and paint (we used acrylic paint).

Step 1 - Form the clay into a ball, then have your child use their fingers to shape a hole in the ball, giving the clay the shape of a small pot.

Step 2 - Use toothpicks to draw designs on the side of the pot.

Step 3 - Let dry (Drying time depends on the clay used).

Step 4 - Paint.

Step 5 - Let dry. Now you have the perfect place to store little treasures - rings, necklaces, etc.


I like the yellow.


T chose not to make a pot, but he joined us for the painting. In case you're curious he's making a robot, big ship, helicopter. Of course.


Things to Do - Celebrate Summer's End


It seems somehow wrong to celebrate the end of summer, but the last few months have just exhausted me to the point that I'm more than ready to say goodbye to it all - heat, lazy days, pools (especially pools), etc.

Originally, I had planned on all three kids attending camp throughout June, but when T ended up on the waitlist I decided to keep everyone home all summer and use the money we set aside for camp to vacation and travel (camp is SO expensive). Logically, this decision still makes sense to me - I like my kids, I like to go new places, so why not spend a whole summer bonding like crazy? But I underestimated how much space and scheduling we all need. And I overestimated my own limits as a mother, just because you love three little people to the depths of your soul (whatever that means) doesn't mean you don't need some time away from them (or so I've learned).

Anyways, I'm tired. This summer made me tired. It was fun. And beautiful. We saw and did some amazing stuff. We visited with truly amazing people. We learned a lot about each other. We also fought and bickered and exhausted ourselves.

So i'm quite happy that fall has finally arrived, along with school and schedules and FOUR MORNINGS A WEEK to myself (that seems crazy just to write) and warm sweaters and crisp nights and apples and all of it. I'm happy for all of it right now.


Regarding our summer, here are the stats (feel free to ignore this part, I just need lists of everything, it's a weird obsession i have).

*Approximate Number of Vacation Miles logged in the minivan: 3550

*States Traveled to: West Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Maryland, Washington DC

Number of Activities Accomplished Off My Summer List - 16 out of 18 categories (we didn't go camping - sadness - or to a waterpark (I'm okay with missing this one).

Where we did go (from the summer list):

I. Ride a carousel - The National Mall (Washington DC); Buffalo Zoo (NY); The Please Touch Museum (PA); The National Museum of Play (NY)

II - Play in a children's garden - US Botanic Gardens (Washington DC); Buffalo Botanic Gardens (NY)

III - Spend a day on the farm - Claude Moore Colonial Farm (VA); Butler's Orchard (MD)

IV - Hike to a waterfall - Niagara Falls (Canada) (not sure if this counts as "hiking" but I'm going with it)

V - Stay out late - Dusk at the CN Tower (Canada)

VI - Attend a free summer concert - Yards Park (Washington DC); Bon Jovi cover band at Pentagon City (Arlington)

VII - Ride on a paddleboat - Snowshoe, WV

VIII - Go camping - FAIL!!!

IX - Spend a day on the water - Georgetown Harbor Boat Ride (Washington DC); Mt Vernon Boat Ride (VA)

X - Learn something new - Fish on the Potomac at the NCM's Launch Zone (MD); Stories in Art at the National Gallery (Washington DC)

XI - Take a train ride - Sauder Village (Ohio); Centreville Amusement Park (Toronto)

XII - Frolic at a splashpark - Rustico Spraypark (Arlington); Millennium Park (Chicago)

XIII - Explore a new playground - Madison Manor (Arlington); Bluemont Park (Arlington); Chessie's Big Backyard (Franconia); Jones Point Park (Alexandria)

XIV - Get up early - Kennilworth Aquatic Gardens (Washington DC)

XV - Spend a day at a waterpark - FAIL!!!

XVI - Catch a game - Nats vs. Mets, we won 2 to 5 after a 2.5 hour rain delay

XVII - Visit a butterfly garden - National Zoo (Washington DC); Smithsonian Natural History Museum (Washington DC)

XVIII - See a movie - Brave; the Lorax; Diary of a Wimpy Kid Dog Days


F's wearing a sweater and P's wearing a sundress with sandals, so our fall begins . . .


Things to Do - An Unplanned Dog & A Broken Arm

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This is the story of the unplanned dog:

Saturday morning we had no plans. I purposefully planned a day without plans (yes, i understand the irony of this statement). The goal was LAZINESS. I feel that F used this to her advantage.

F - "Mom, since we're not doing anything today. Can we get a dog?"

me - "Um, NO!!!"

F - "Well, when we finally get a dog can we have a goldadoodle or a labrodoodle? or an ??? dooodle?" (xxxdoodles must be trendy lately)?

me - "Years from now, when we finally adopt a dog, she/he will be from the shelter, as we've discussed many many times."

F - "But that's not fair, I don't even know what shelter dogs look like."

me - "They look like every other type of dog. They come in all shapes and sizes."

F - "But can't we just go on the website and see what some of them look like? Just so I have an idea. PLEASE!!!"

So we went on the website and, of course, within an hour our whole family was at Arlington Animal Shelter, trying to adopt a BEAUTIFUL 5 year old boxer named Coco. After much stress (someone applied before us! what if they come back? what if they win? Oh the tears, oh the stress, oh the agony, all over a dog we'd only known for 15 minutes), at 5:00 the shelter called to tell us that she was ours!! Yay!!

The only downside being that we couldn't pick her up until Tuesday morning.

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This is the story of the broken arm:

At 3:30 last Monday the girls' school called, which confused me because school gets out at 3:41. So I kept stating "but i have 10 minutes! i'm not late! I know I'm not late, I have 10 whole minutes" (can you tell that i'm paranoid about missing pick-up-time?). Finally, once I stopped babbling, the school said, "no it isn't pick-up yet, but we need you to come immediately, P fell and we're pretty sure her arm is broken."

So we spent all of Monday afternoon in an emergency room. That emergency room finally decided they couldn't fix her, they directed us to another emergency room. We slept in the hospital overnight and at 6 am Tuesday morning P went in for surgery (2 pins, which look so so big in the x-ray). A few hours later, while P and I recovered at the hospital, Dan drove to the shelter and formally adopted Coco.

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This is a good story:

P continues to heal, big cast and all. And even though last Monday night was an AWFUL night, I'm feeling grateful for health insurance and hospitals and child orthopedists. And for my brave, fierce, fearless P.

Regarding our newest family member, Coco is mellow and awesome and cuddly and perfect for our family.

And life is good, even though I'm hoping this week is a little more mellow. But it never seems to work out this way. Fortunately, we recover and we move on, as we must.



Things to Make - Paper Bag Purses


I'm not usually a fan of follow-the-instructions-type crafts projects, rather I prefer the open-ended-projects that suck up a whole afternoon and result in random artistic wonders. But P saw these purses in a book at the playseum (I can't remember the book's title) and really wanted one. So we created. And the results are actually pretty cute, perfect for dress up.

Here's the scoop:

Materials: large grocery store paper bag, paint, paint brushes, construction paper, yarn or string, a hole punch, and clear tape.


1. Cut the top off of a paper bag from the grocery store. Remove the handles (gently).

Paint the sides of the bag (but not the front or back) and paint the handles. Let dry.


2. Cut a piece of construction paper to fit the size of the front of the bag (I actually cut the bag so that it was the exact same size as a normal piece of construction paper). Glue the construction paper to the bag. Glue an identical sheet of paper to the back of the bag.

3. Use a cup or glass to trace circles onto construction paper. Cut out the circles.

4. Punch a hole through each circle using a hole punch. Cut pieces of string of identical length and thread one piece of string through each circle's hole.

5. Attach the strings with the circles hanging to them to the bag in a row, using clear tape (see picture above).

6. After you finish attaching a row of circles, attach a second row, making sure that the next row of circles hides the string and tape from the first row.

7. Repeat making rows of circles. When you find that you have enough, cut a long piece of construction paper to disguise the tape and yarn of the top row.

8. Staple the handles back onto the bag (now painted).

9. Voila - a jangly purse. Now dance. A lot.


Places to Go - Huntley Meadows in Summer (Alexandria, VA)


We spent the last day before school started at Huntley Meadows, one of our absolute favorite places to explore. We picked an incredible time to go - snakes, turtles, and frogs were everywhere, more than I've ever seen there before, and a huge beaver dam sits right off the boardwalk. Before we left, F made a scavenger hunt list and we found almost everything on her list (four leaf clovers proved tricky, especially in a wetland, and we didn't spot any deer).

For those of you who have visited before, you walk approximately a half mile through a beautiful and stroller-friendly path to arrive at a huge boardwalk through wetlands. Usually this boardwalk takes you through a huge pond, full of geese and egrets, but this summer the pond dried up, leaving behind a vast green meadow. Sort of crazy to see a whole body of water just disappear. Sort of disorientating. But, as always, the wetlands as a whole are beautiful.

Anyways, if you're looking for something to do this week/weekend, I highly suggest a trip to Huntley Meadows, as you're sure to see something new and exciting. (For past posts on Huntley and for a chance to view the wetlands in different seasons, click here).

Happy Monday!!


*These photos of the paralympics are both amazing and inspiring.

*50,000 toys become art.

*Jessica Snow. I really her work.

*This photography exhibition at George Mason looks fantastic. More images are on the website here.



Things to Do - Grateful List (August 2012)


*Listening to Tina Fey's Bossypantson CD (hysterical) and Anne Tyler's Digging to America: A Novel during our road trips
*Watching Gabby Douglas win the gold
*Listening to Milo Greene and the Bombay Bicycle Club
*Reading Alice Munro's The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose
*Listening to the Great Courses from Yao to Mao - 5000 Years of Chinese History (thank you Olsen!)
*Watching Demetri Martin's standup, Person, on Netflix
*Taking F and T to Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dog Days (which was actually pretty funny), while P went to her first sleepover
*Watching Margin Call (amazing cinematography)
*Watching Blue Valentine (this movie is hauntingly good, I can't get it out of my head)

*Diet cuba libres with peach rum
*Dan's mushroom cream sauce on pasta
*Making homemade noodles with the kids
*Eamonn's an Irish Chipper opening on Columbia Pike

*P singing Firework on stage at Signature Theater's Open House
*Cruising the Potomac at Mt Vernon
*P braving the drop ride at the Arlington County Fair
*Raspberry picking and potato digging at Butlers' Orchard on the way to Chicago
*F looking at the mementos in the Uvar Hazey Center and proclaiming "all that stuff's just made in China anyways"
*A great Nats game (vs. the Mets) after a 2.5 hour rain delay
*The Visionary Art Museum (Baltimore, MD) - this place is incredible

VACATIONS (Toronto, Canada; Road Trip to Chicago; NYC and an afternoon in Philadelphia)
*Tons of green space and a free puppet show on Center Island
*T asking "are we there yet?" within 5 minutes of leaving for our road trip to Chicago
*The family fun tent at Millennium Park and T playing under the bean
*The Historic Sauder Village (outside Toledo, OH)
*Dinner out
with high school friends
*Spending Dan's birthday on Ellis Island
*T asking "where the fairy? i don't see the fairy", while riding the ferry to Ellis Island
*T carrying his "packing bag" around NYC
*The walrus at the NYC aquarium
*The kids swimming in their clothes at Coney Island
*T playing with Hannah Banana "so you want to play a soft game? you want to play super heros?"
*T driving cars at the Please Touch Museum (Philadelphia, PA)

*The blue car track (this was by far the most played with toy of the summer)
*F buying Dan a rainbow tie for his birthday

*P to T "do you even know what personal space is?"
*Aidan, Allison, and Fiona visiting
*Lots of kids attacking the sharp pinata
*P continually calling Fiona "the cutie, ootie baby"
*T's career ambitions, "I want to be a police builder Batman."
*The girls performing Sleeping Beauty as a ballet for our family
*"Dad, when are they going to change your work colors so you can finally wear rainbow or something colorful instead of blue and grey?" - F
*A few lazy days at home
*T - "mom, builders don't have moms"; me - "of course they do, it's just that sometimes you don't see their moms" T - "oh because their moms are busy taking pictures?"
*My husband, for everything

The Kids' Lists

F - books, reading, Michelle visiting, friends, TV, Barkley, Cybil Lily, Samuel, Aidan visiting, drawing, learning, Grandma's house, school, art, electricity, the historical town [Sauder Village], being back home with daddy, going on SOME vacations, but not too many, borrowing Parus's Calvin and Hobbes book, that we live in a nice house

P - the rides [on Toronto Island], Michelle, dollies, my family, Aidan visiting, the super high ride at the fair, spacebear, Grandma's house, my new sparkly purse, everything in my purse, my new bear [from Grandma T], my Cat in the Hat dictionary, learning how to read, the Fairy Castle [at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago], learning about the old days [at Sauder Village], tea parties with new friends [at Sauder Village], going home and seeing daddy and my friends, the baseball game, L giving me a best friends necklace, my sleepover with P, visiting Aunt Jenny, cake, the [NYC] aquarium, coloring in my new books all afternoon, The Little Princess, The Secret Garden, some vacations, the [Please Touch] museum, my room at home

T - pink sheet, my family, dollies, Aidan, the pool, vacations, Hannah Banana


Things to Read - 3 Interesting Articles from Around the Web (on measuring your life, parenting advice, and cute. vs. craft)

1. How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen in the Harvard Business Review - "First, how can I be sure that I’ll be happy in my career? Second, how can I be sure that my relationships with my spouse and my family become an enduring source of happiness? Third, how can I be sure I’ll stay out of jail? Though the last question sounds lighthearted, it’s not. Two of the 32 people in my Rhodes scholar class spent time in jail. Jeff Skilling of Enron fame was a classmate of mine at HBS. These were good guys—but something in their lives sent them off in the wrong direction."

. . . .

. . . it’s easier to hold to your principles 100% of the time than it is to hold to them 98% of the time. If you give in to “just this once,” based on a marginal cost analysis, as some of my former classmates have done, you’ll regret where you end up. You’ve got to define for yourself what you stand for and draw the line in a safe place."

. . . .

This is my final recommendation: Think about the metric by which your life will be judged, and make a resolution to live every day so that in the end, your life will be judged a success."

2. JJ Keith's hysterical (and true) advice to New Moms in the Huffington Post - "You can't win at parenting or homemaking. If you think you're winning then everyone else thinks you're a dick.

My philosophy can be summed up with "Really?!" It's what you say when strangers tell you that your baby is freezing in 85 degree weather and how to respond to the moms in your play group who tell you either "Ferberizing is the only way to go" or "Sleep training causes brain damage." And "really?!" is the only acceptable response to a partner who claims "I don't know how to change diapers as well as you."

When in doubt, ask yourself what a pioneer lady on a wagon train would think is important. Suddenly, organizing baby socks will fall off your to-do list and you'll feel a lot better about your day. ("Sock organizing? Really?!" you'll say to yourself.) And "really?!" will come in handy as your baby gets older. Kids are beautiful and majestic little human unicorns who are full of total bullshit and they need to be called out on that."

3. In the New Yorker, Alexandra Lange questions the wastefulness of the "crafts" movement - "What “craft” mostly means on “Craft Wars” is the act of making things cuter. Take this shopping cart full of sports equipment and make a cute bag. Take this shopping cart full of school supplies and make a cute playhouse. That these bags will never be used, that some of them are not even completed, that, really, a duffel bag has already achieved ideal sports-bag form, are not considerations, not when a sawed-off tennis racket can be inserted “for ventilation” and tennis balls strung to make a “more comfortable” carrying strap. And what could be more delightful than a playhouse roofed in composition-book covers, never mind its ability to withstand rain?

Craft used to mean something, and it would never have been made with Mod Podge. You can buy a tea towel with the William Morris quotation, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” (It is a hundred per cent linen, so it is both.) What Morris, a designer, entrepreneur, futurist, and leader of the late nineteenth century Arts and Crafts Movement, proposed was a return to the medieval craft tradition, in which objects were made by hand by skilled workmen, and priced accordingly. Rather than three sets of elaborately decorated transferware china, you would have one set of handmade and glazed plates. Rather than rooms full of elaborate Victorian furniture, you would own a few chairs, hand hewn and joined with wood, not industrial glue.

. . . .

Making things cute is not a business. It is not even a part time job. Instead, it’s a hobby."


Places to Go (Vacation) - End of Summer at Coney Island (NYC, NY) and the Please Touch Museum (Philly, PA)

We finished out summer vacation with two final excursions, then we camped out in the house, read books, road bikes, helped Dan cook, and waited for school to start. Part of me is sad that summer is over and the other part can't wait for fall and a quiet(er) house.


Excursion 1 - NYC Aquarium and Coney Island

So the NYC Aquarium is a pretty wonderful place, especially the walrus, who likes to swim up to the glass and show you his tummy over and over again. T squealed with delight each time he circled back around.

After the aquarium, I wanted to check out Coney Island's infamous beach, which was so empty that I kept forgetting we were in NYC. I didn't bring suits, just because I was lazy and I didn't know if the kids would want to even go in the water. So everyone (especially P) swam in their clothes. Even the baby tried to surf the waves, laughing every time one came close to her. Of all the vacations we've taken this summer, this was our first trip to the beach and I think we really needed that. Nothing relieves stress like the sound of surf and sandy toes.


Excursion 2 - The Please Touch Museum

On the drive home from NYC, we decided to stop and spend an afternoon at Philly's large, beautiful children's museum (plus, I had a groupon that was about to expire). The last time we visited the Please Touch Museum was two years ago (just me and the girls) on our way to Jenny's wedding in upperstate NY. The girls had loved everything about it, so much so that I had to beg them to leave. So this recent trip was somewhat bittersweet, as they seem to have outgrown it somewhat. P still adored the Alice and Wonderland exhibit (which is pretty much impossible to outgrow) and all three kids were excited about the carousel and music room, but only T seemed truly mesmerized by it all - running from car to car, "driving" everything with a steering wheel attached, saying over and over again "this is the best day ever, mom!" I guess the years really are flying by, faster than even I (with all my meticulous journal keeping and picture taking) realize.

HAPPY END OF SUMMER EVERYONE!! After this post, we'll be keeping it local for awhile.


*Poetic Cosmos of the Breath.

*For local folks, Not-So-SAHM has the lowdown on the new American Trails exhibit at the zoo. Click here to check it out (we went on Monday and LOVED it). And Kidfriendly DC has a lot of great info on the Maryland Renaissance Festival, click here to check it out.



Things to Make - Cola Fountains/Explosions/Bombs


One 2L bottle of soda + 5 mentos (drop them in FAST) = Awesomeness = The perfect activity for the end of summer.


Places to Go (Vacation) - The Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island (NYC, NY)


For our final road trip of the summer, we decided to spend a few days in NYC with my friend Jenny and her family. Luckily, Jenny is one of my oldest and closest friends because my kids were a trainwreck. At one point, in an effort to instill any sense of discipline, I told F that if she didn't behave I would take her on vacation every weekend through October. She cried. A lot. I guess we all needed school to start (which it finally has, YAY!).

On the upside, we spent Dan's birthday cruising through New York Harbor and touring the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. Even during periods of extreme fuss, a ferry ride always makes for a few moments of peace. Though T kept asking, "but where fairy? I want to see fairy!!!" Explaining that a ferry was a boat felt like taking down Santa Clause. "But how that be? fairy flies. I want to see fairy flies!"

Luckily, we arrived at Ellis Island right before a HUGE storm blew in. We stayed dry while wandering through museum exhibits and movies, learning about the (somewhat depressing) history of American immigration. When the rain ended we hopped back on the boat, ready for land and cake. Lots of rich chocolate cake, thanks to my most amazing friend, Jenny, who is awesome beyond awesome.


After the storm.


Battery park has a spraypark/fountain, the kids dabbled with the idea of becoming wet. Then decided against it. T carried his "packing bag" everywhere, I think this is what happens when you take your kids on too many vacations.

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Happy Birthday, Dan. We all love you so so much!!


Places to Go (Vacation) - The long drive home on 1-80, Part 2 - The Pittsburgh Zoo (Pittsburgh, PA)


On the last day of our trip home from Chicago, temperatures dropped to the mid-70s while the skies stayed blue and cloudless, so it seemed criminal not to spend some time outside. Thus, we decided to spend the day at the Pittsburgh Zoo. Apparently we weren't the only people who wanted to appreciate the flawless weather, as crowds filled every nook and cranny of the zoo's space. Luckily, most of the exhibits had large viewing areas with close-up animals, so even with hoards of people, we still managed to see quite a variety of wildlife. P had a blast running through the waterpark area, over and over again. And, when he wasn't crying, T loved playing in all the old animal traveling enclosures, located throughout the zoo. F studied the maps and signs and tried to learn as much as possible, overwhelming us with facts on the way home.

All in all a great place to visit, though after three hours, we all expressed a need to be home with dad/Dan, after a good, but long week away.

If you're interested, admission is $14 for adults and $12 for children ages 2-12. Click here for more information.


Sometimes you have to peak between shoulders to see a lion.



Things to Read - Chapter Book Reviews from a 1st Grader

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F basically spent the whole summer reading, which isn't surprising if you know her. I always try to encourage my kids to read, if only because I like to read and, like most people, i want my kids to be like me, but F's the only one who really seems to NEED books, as in she has a hard time getting through the days without one. Sometimes I wish she'd look around more, enjoy the moment, actually PLAY at a playground. But she's very similar to me in her bookishness, which I recognize is not a necessarily a good thing. Maybe that's why I spent the whole summer road tripping from place to place, forcing us to live our own experiences instead of reading about other people's. Embrace life and all the other cliches. By us, I mean F and me, because P and T always embrace moments - sometimes strangling them to death, but still they're IN IT, whereas F and I always sit on the outside and watch. When you first have kids you think you can control so much, but in the end they are who they are. I'm not sure if it's easier or harder when that means they're almost exactly like you.

Anyways, I asked F to write up a few reviews of her favorite chapter books, here's the scoop:

The Boxcar Children - I liked that they finish the mysteries. And I like that they take care of each other - Henry works for money, Violet takes care of Benny. (Click here to see the books).

Judy Moody - She's really funny. She wanted an extreme pet from the rainforest, they ran out of sloths so she got a venus flytrap and her brother, Stink, almost killed it. (Click here to see the books).

Anna Hibiscus - She is really kind and fixes problems when she makes mistakes. And she lives in Africa. (Click here to see the books).

Junie B. Jones - She is really funny - hilarious. Instead of saying "it's okay" she gives people a pat on the head and tells them they can't do things as well as her. (Click here to see the books).

Any recommendations for other good chapter book series for younger readers? We could use some new material.


*An election map by book, check out what both parties are reading. This is pretty cool.

*100 Best Children's Chapter Books of All Time.


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