Archive for the ‘Connecticut’ Category

Connecticut Open House Day {2016}

Monday, June 13th, 2016

We went to Gillette Castle a few years ago for Open House Day, because although the castle is really neat and you *could* spend a lot of time walking around and looking at everything, it’s hard to do with kids. We decided to go back again this year, because I love doing things for free so there’s no preesure to spend a long time there if the children aren’t into it. I guess this year they were as into it as you expect children to be, although Linc was only into it if someone was carrying him.

There are also a lot of great hiking trails all around the castle that used to be part of Mr. Gillette’s miniature train system, but it started to rain and we didn’t get very far. I was also wearing a 30 lb toddler on my back and 20 lbs of pregnant on my front (don’t ask how that happens when my husband is carrying zero pounds of children) so I was happy to keep our hike short.

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Evan was running and fell and scraped up his knee. Caroline was rolling down a hill and rolled right into a rock. They are obviously having a WONDERFUL TIME.

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Despite the fact that we look very along in these photos there were definitely a lot of people out enjoying the free admission day. Please feel free to admire my talent for keeping them out of the pictures.

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Aquarium Date With Linc

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

Linc and I went to the Mystic Aquarium this morning, with no real agenda and as much time as we wanted to wander. I realized with school ending tomorrow we’re at the end of the “off season” and from now on we’ll basically avoid Mystic like the plague, because tourists are the worst. Even if we go on less-nice days, or weekdays, or days you wouldn’t expect it to be crowded it will be the Special 15 Day Camps From Long Island All Come At Once Day or something. But today at 9 am we were golden and after 2 hours of saying hi to all the animals, we left just as the buses started pulling up outside for end-of-the-year field trips.

Photography at the aquarium is always fun but definitely a huge challenge for me. The indoors is very dark and has lots of colored light. Outdoors is super bright and sunny and without a really nice zoom lens the animals are too far away. Remembering to switch settings back and forth between those locations seems to get forgotten while I’m also trying to make sure I don’t lose Linc or let him throw stuff in the touch tank. One of these days I’ll go ALONE and bring a macro lens and try to just get fish shots, but for now you mostly get the back of my kid’s head while he looks at things.

Linc took a nice nap today and everyone got 100% green points at school which means they earned some iPad time, so I managed to get these sorted AND edited less than 12 hours after taking them. I’m very proud.

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Terra Firma Farm Creamery Opening Day

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

This part of Connecticut is pretty rural, despite the fact that we technically live in a city. One of benefits of all that open space is stuff like orchards and farms, where my children can pick their own food, meet the animals that make their milk, or say hi to the pigs that will one day be delicious bacon. We’re all about the circle the life over here.

On Saturday, we visited the new location of Terra Firma Farm‘s dairy. We only bought milk on our first trip, but I’ll be back for eggs, hot dogs and bacon ASAP. Eating local just got way easier.

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Caroline’s AMAZING dress is from a shop called Rainbow Waters on Etsy. You can follow her Facebook page to see when she lists stuff.

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Linc was NOT happy about sharing the chocolate milk.

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There was a pond full of tadpoles to catch and a waterfall to throw things into on the property. The kids actually enjoyed it, despite how their faces look in this picture.

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I Checked CHET Out

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

This post was sponsored on behalf of Connecticut Higher Education Trust (CHET). All opinions and photos are my own.

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Want to feel old? Think for a second about how many years it will be until your oldest kid goes to college. In my case, the answer is ELEVEN. ELEVEN YEARS. That is less time than I have been married, less time than it’s been since I graduated from college, and WAY less time than it’s been since I myself was 18 and headed off to college. Along with feeling really old, the thought of sending my kids to college fills me with fear and dread. Do you know what college costs? I don’t. I know the answer is somewhere between “a lot” and “an amount you will never be able to afford by the time it is your turn to pay for it”. The average cost for a 4-year private college in New England is more than $52,000. I have three (and a half) kids. This is the part where I usually throw my hands up and turn on HGTV and think relaxing thoughts about renovating my backyard to include a fire pit and a water feature. These tiny homework-doers can just stay small and live with me forever.

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But denial is not a good way to stop things from happening (see also: birth, child vomit, lactose intolerance) and these kids are getting older and smarter by the day. Making a plan is the only real option, so I finally sat down at my computer with my Important Papers file and looked at the Connecticut Higher Education Trust website.

Here are the quick facts about CHET:

    • The Connecticut Higher Education Trust (CHET) is Connecticut’s 529 college savings plan.
    • CHET works like a Roth Retirement account, your contributions grow tax-free along the way, and are tax-free when you use the money for college.
    • PLUS for CT taxpayers there is a CT state tax deduction on the contributions you make to CHET each year, up to $10K for joint filers and $5K for single filers.
    • Money saved with CHET can be used at accredited colleges or universities in the country as well as some abroad.
    • CHET funds can be used for wide variety of college costs, tuition, room & board, computer, any supplies required by the school, etc.
    • If you don’t use the savings (for example, if your child gets a scholarship) you can roll the money to another child.

And here’s how it actually worked out:

I went to the site and clicked on “Open an Account”. They asked for my social security number and info, then Evan’s social security numbers and info. I entered our banking information so I could make the required opening contribution (it’s only $25) directly, then chose which investments I wanted to put the money in.

This was the part where I normally get stressed and run away, because I am not a financial guru or investment specialist. I am a person who has definitely HEARD the word “index fund” before but can’t quite remember where. There is a ton of information about each option on the website and there are actual humans you can call and talk to if you want, but my eyes and brain quickly start blurring when I feel overwhelmed by the choices. I ended up reading some of the advice, showing the options to E, and then just picking something, because a fear of choosing the wrong option 11 years before he goes to college shouldn’t stop me from investing in Evan’s future. There was an option to set up reoccurring contributions with lots of flexibility, but you don’t HAVE to. It asked me to agree to the risks and terms, asked me to set up a username and password for managing my account, then I was done. Repeating the process for each of my other children took less than 2 minutes, since they were all under my same account and the info was saved.

After I set them all up, I sent my mom an email for each account with an easy link so she can make contributions herself, either online or by mail. You can send them to anyone in your address book on special occasions (birthdays, holidays, etc) or “just because”. I think she was probably ready to just set up the accounts on her own (you can do that! you don’t have to be the parent, so if you have grandkids or nieces or nephews who you think need a 529 absolutely look into it!) but now I am done and she can rest easy.

Right now, CHET is running a contest in honor of 5/29 day (May 29th). One winner will win a $1,529 contribution to their account and two runners up will win $529 contributions. Free money?? YES PLEASE. You can check it out and enter easily here.

ALSO. If you had a baby in the last year (or you happen to be having one soon), CHET has an amazing Baby Scholars program, where they will give you up to $250 for free just for putting money in your kid’s 529. It’s not a complicated, convoluting system either – you put money in, they add money. I am kicking myself SO HARD that I didn’t do that for Lincoln before it was too late.

I feel like that was a LOT of words to talk about something that seems really boring, but it’s one of those things that’s been on my to-do list literally for years and I am so glad I can finally cross it off. Give yourself an A+ in adulting today and check CHET out.

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BIG Family Fun at Foxwoods

Monday, May 9th, 2016

During spring break this year, we – the whole circus that is my family – got to spend a super fun day at Foxwoods. They always do a ton of kid activities for spring vacation and this year I was lucky enough to be invited to a special blogger day that included visiting the Treehouse Arcade, seeing Clifford the Big Red Dog on stage and a delicious meal at California Pizza Kitchen. And there were cupcakes.

For children who only discovered video games 4 months ago and have only been to Chuck E Cheese twice in their life, my kids have an unnatural love of arcade games. They are terrible at them. Really, really bad. If E didn’t “help” a little, we would end up with a total of about 17 tickets which works out to three-fourths of a bouncy ball in the prize store. But armed with a loaded card and pointed towards the games, all three had a great time in the Treehouse Arcade.

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Things I don’t love: shooting games. Things my husband and son LOOOOOOVE: shooting games.

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Look, it’s Evan’s first swag bag! He was so excited they gave him a free bag he didn’t even look in it until we needed to find out cupcake coupons several hours later.

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This game simulated being attacked by giant spiders. Linc did not love the spiders.

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I also stick out my tongue while I am concentrating very hard.

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After we turned in our (virtual) tickets for prizes (including plenty of snacks), we headed over to the Fox Theater for the Clifford Show. It was a musical, which all the kids loved, and had just enough audience participation that they stayed interested the whole time. Since the theater was full of parents with small children I didn’t even feel bad when Linc started screeching in joy when Clifford grew from a hand puppet to a giant two-person sized dog, or when he wouldn’t stay in his seat and bounced back and forth between E and I pointing frantically at the stage like, “GUYS DO YOU EVEN SEE THIS? THAT DOG IS HUGE!”

After the show, we got to meet a medium-sized Clifford at the step and repeat in the lobby. I’ll admit Evan and Caroline were a little bummed they didn’t get to meet giant Clifford, but they still enjoyed their hugs and autographed cast pictures.

 

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Linc wasn’t quiiiiiiite sure about Clifford (although I am writing this with him sitting next to me and he’s SO EXCITED about this picture, obviously it’s a happy memory instead of a nightmare) but he didn’t completely freak out. That’s success when you’re talking about people dresses as character.

After the meet and greet, we went straight over to California Pizza Kitchen for some dinner. Back when we first moved to Connecticut, long before we had kids, E and I lived in the town right next to the casino and used to go to CPK for dinner alllllllll the time. Their hummus and warm pita is the best, the free table bread is amazing, and if we each ordered a personal pizza we had enough to take home for leftovers. But we’ve only been maybe once in the last seven years so it was a special treat to be back.

Evan and Linc ordered mac and cheese and Caroline ordered a kid pizza. Only Linc had leftovers, which we took home and Evan at for breakfast the next day (because carbs + dairy is always an appropriate breakfast). E got his favorite club pizza and I got the Thai chicken, which is the best kind. CPK was very family friendly and our waitress was quick to refill the chocolate milks, which is almost all it takes for us to enjoy a fairly peaceful meal.

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After dinner we walked over to Cake by Franck to pick up our Clifford cupcakes. I could have spent much, much longer in that shop, looking at the desserts and making up reasons I definitely needed to buy ALL of them right at that moment, but the kids wanted to grab and go so we took our cake home. Well, Evan did, Caroline’s was gone by the time we hit the parking garage.

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It was a lovely way to spend the day together as a family, I’m so glad E was able to come and enjoy it with us. Big thanks to the team at Foxwoods for their generosity and the invitation. When we get to do fun stuff like this I’m always super grateful that the internet is still a fun place to hang out and my blog has stayed alive for as long as it has.

 

 

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