Posts Tagged ‘E’

Not A Beach Vacation But Better Than No Vacation 2018

Sunday, September 30th, 2018

Our beach vacation got canceled this year because of a hurricane. I was VERY angry about it, that vacation means a lot to us as a family and as a friend group (we go with two friends from high school and my college freshman roommate). We didn’t want to completely cancel our time off though, and since E hadn’t been to the lake house yet this year we hung out in Virginia. It was a little colder for my taste, but it was still fun. Our best Navy friends came to hang out from Virginia Beach so Caroline got to see her favorite person. We even did a grown-ups only day in NoVa with most of the friends I was supposed to see at the beach, so we don’t have to wait another year to see my BFFs. It’s hard to complain about a lake vacation, especially now that we’re home and I’m just looking back on the pictures.

Linc and Finn’s Superhero Birthday Party!

Monday, August 20th, 2018

Lincoln turned 4 on July 23rd and Finnegan is turning 2 on August 30th. Since they’re only 5 weeks apart, they get joint birthday parties. I asked Lincoln what kind of party he wanted, and since he’s totally Batman-obsessed, his answer was A SUPERHERO BIRTHDAY PARTY! Finnegan has no objections because a) he’s still 1 and b) he also loves superheroes. I had a hard time narrowing it down to which superheroes – generic Super Hero stuff? The DC Universe? Just Marvel Comics? Am I a monster for mixing it all together? I decided I didn’t actually care and we went with every kind of Superhero from all the worlds. Fight me if you think that’s a crime.

After years of throwing Evan cold spring parties and Caroline cold winter parties, it is SO FUN to throw a party where 90% of the activities are outside. This was also the first party where I planned actual activities for almost the entire time – we had 2 straight hours of games before we did cake, then the grown-ups all got to sit down while the kids burned off some of their energy. It was the most fun I’ve had at one of my own parties ever, even though the noise level was insane.

Previous parties for Lincoln and Finnegan: 2017 Children’s Books, 2016 Camping Party, 2015 Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

There is a ton of superhero stuff available everywhere from party stores to Target, so I grabbed stuff whenever I saw it. The pinata was from Walmart, the napkins are Party City, the backdrop and banner are from Amazon. All the crepe paper and regular balloons and silly string came from the dollar store and the quick-fill water balloons have been purchased for the last year every time I saw a pack on clearance (although they are available online as well). Let me know if you’re looking for anything and I can be more specific.

The party wasn’t just a party – it was Superhero Training School. The kids had to complete their superhero tasks in order to get a certificate (my husband had all the parents fill in the name once the kids were here).

The training stations included:

Hulk Smash Bricks
Laser Maze
Bomb Disposal
Web Slinging
Bad Guy Capture
Leaping Tall Buildings Practice
AND
The Infinity War

We used jumbo cardboard blocks to make smashable tours for Hulk Smash practice.

Almost all the kids at the party fell between age 12 and age 2, and they all loved all the activities. Once they picked out their mask they were ready for training.

These masks I got from Amazon were GREAT – 2 of each hero so there wasn’t any fighting over who got to be the only Superman or whatever, plenty of “girl” heroes, and they held up through a lot of wear without falling apart.

After we finished the training, we celebrated with the pinata. I hate the pull-strings, so we did it the old-fashioned way. We lined the kids up by size and they each got two hits. It survived all the way to the last kid!

Of course, all these superheroes needed plenty of energy to save the day. I’ve always loved doing themed food at parties, but I’ve learned over the years what is popular and what just ends up as leftovers. I definitely over-estimated on the cake, but I’m not even that sad because I love leftover cake.

superhero birthday food

superhero birthday food

superhero birthday food

superhero birthday food

You can buy a 40-count box of individual Fritos from Amazon for around $15, which works out perfectly for portable, fun taco salad. At the camping party we called them walking tacos, today they were “ready for action” tacos, since you can eat them while running to stop bad guys.

Two bottles of red wine, a bottle of lime selzer, some fresh fruit. It was DELICIOUS.

We also had favors (bubbles, tattoos and a toy) as well as a tattoo station.

Finnegan did not understand how to blow out his candle, but he definitely liked the cake and the part where everyone sang. Linc just loves everything about birthdays.

At the end of the day, we even managed to get some family photos of us all in our on-theme outfits. It was just a perfect day with amazing weather and SO many great friends. A huge thanks to my parents who did an enormous amount of work for party prep and clean-up and all our Ohio relatives who made the super long drive to help celebrate the babies! Having cousins here for their birthday was such a treat.

(Finnegan isn’t dripping blood, it’s ring pop. He’s obsessed.)

Happy Birthday to Lincoln and Finnegan! We love you!!

 

 

Blue Star Museums Summer: In Our Town!

Sunday, August 5th, 2018

Since I made the list of Blue Star Museums for the wall, Lincoln has been obsessed with “moo-see-ums”, and asks every day if we can go to one. Our summer weekends are blessedly empty of commitments, so we get to say yes pretty often. Last weekend though, we looked at the list, mentally calculated the costs of lunch and/or dinner out, the drive times, the 95% humidity and dragged our feet all morning, hoping the kids would entertain themselves.

Then I remembered we had two Blue Star Museums right here in Norwich. I hadn’t even bothered to add them to our list because they are walking distance from our front door and I pass them several times I day. They don’t really count as GOING somewhere. But E and I had never been to either one and figured it would be a good compromise between doing nothing and moo-see-ums.

It turns out, both places are TOTALLY worth visiting! They were interesting! And bigger than I thought! And really fun, even if it was a million degrees inside!

First, we visited The Slater Museum. It’s on the campus of Norwich Free Academy, which is the high school in our town. It’s an endowed academy, a private school that serves as a public school. You can read about the history here, which is the sort of stuff I love, so when we bought this house one of the main draws was being super close to NFA.

From their website: Slater Memorial Building, dedicated in 1886, a gift from William A. Slater (NFA 1875; 1857-1909), was the second structure built on campus. It included the Slater Memorial Museum. The Norwich Art School launched in 1890, because the Museum offered a World-class laboratory for art instruction. By 1906, the Art School, enjoying ever-expanding success and popularity, moved into its own building, named for benefactor Charles A. Converse. (More dorky stuff: my favorite house in Norwich is the Converse House, a Victorian Gothic mansion around the corner from us. I bought a bedroom set at a garage sale there once and got to go inside and look around. It’s AMAZING. Also, it’s for sale.)

This is all really typical New England stuff. Towns on rivers all used to have huge mills and factories, lots of people used to be super rich, and if you walk through the graveyards the names on the stones are all the names of the streets, hospitals, museums, banks, buildings and people who still live here. I love it.

Anyway, back to our visit. The Slater Museum was actually free for everyone the day we went, not just military families. (It’s free on Saturdays during July and August for everyone, so if you’re close enough I recommend a visit!) I’m going to go back with fewer children so I can actually read signs and learn stuff.

Then we went over to the Leffingwell House Museum, which is WAY older than NFA. It used to be a private house, then an inn and tavern. It also was full of familiar names – at one point it was owned by the Backus family, Backus Hospital is where I delivered all four babies.

I took a lot fewer pictures because I was actually listening to our tour guide, who was very entertaining, knew tons of interesting facts both about the house and about the 1700’s in general, and kept the kids entertained.

That thing is called a weasel, and they used it to measure skeins of yarn and when you spin it it makes a pop sound when you have the right length. Pop goes the weasel.

Standing in the exact spot where George Washington stood. Since my children are obsessed with Hamilton, this was very exciting. There was also a lot of Benedict Arnold stuff (he’s from Norwich) but I’m going to need a hip-hop musical about his life before I’m super interested.

I can’t believe I’ve lived in Norwich for 10 years and haven’t been to either of those museums before. If you’re local, don’t make the same mistake!

Blue Star Museums Summer: Springfield Museums

Thursday, July 26th, 2018

The Springfield Museums are located in Springfield, Massachusetts. There are 5 different museums located on one campus, including the fairly new Amazing World of Dr. Seuss. The kids and I had actually been once before last year, right after the Seuss building opened, and it was pretty busy. I was expecting it to be busy again this time, since it was a summer weekend and the weather was pretty good. But it was significantly less crowded than it was last year. We ended up spending the entire day in Springfield, with a quick walk for some Pokemon hunting, but then went back to see more museums. We were literally the only people in the entire art museum building besides the staff.

Everyone in the family had a good time, with a good variety of stuff both grown-ups and kids can enjoy. It’s definitely worth the drive if you’re in this part of New England.

 

Blue Star Museum Summer: Rough Point, Newport Rhode Island

Monday, June 4th, 2018

During the summer (between Memorial Day and Labor Day), hundreds of museums across the country offer FREE admission to active duty military and their families through the Blue Star Museum program. Fun fact, you can thank the Obama administration for starting the program in 2010! THANKS OBAMA! You can see a full list of museums that participate here at this link. I made our family a printable to keep on the fridge, which I’ll include at the bottom of the post.

We absolutely LOVE the Blue Star program and plan our summer weekends around the list of local and semi-local places we can visit for free. When E is home and available, we have to pay for six people to get in. When E is gone, I’m desperate for new, fun stuff to do with the kids to distract them. We really really appreciate this program. p.s. Not sponsored or anything, just sharing the info so people take advantage of the program and hopefully they keep it up.

To kick off our summer, we went to Newport, Rhode Island, home of the “summer cottages” for the richest people in the country’s history. Did you watch Downton Abbey? The houses are all like that. I’m pretty sure on Downton they even mention going to Newport for the summer. About a dozen of the mansions are now open to the public, and we will definitely go back to do the rest of the tours through the Preservation Society of Newport County. But we started with Rough Point, which is maintained by the Newport Restoration Foundation.

The house was built between 1887-1891 by a Vanderbilt. In 1922, James Duke (created Lucky Strike cigarettes and made a boatload of money) bought it and made a bunch of renovations to “lighten” the interior, including plaster ceilings and more windows. When Mr. Duke died in 1925, he left his entire fortune to his 12-year-old daughter Doris, who was called “the richest little girl in the world”. She owned it and summered there most years until she died in 1993, when it was turned into a museum. So everything in the house was personally picked out, displayed, touched and loved by Doris. She seems like a super cool, interesting, fun person – many of the priceless art had been repaired after one of her many many huge dogs broke it – and seeing how she decorated each room was fascinating.

It was fun to watch my kids explore the house where Doris Duke was a child. My brain has a hard time wrapping itself around the timeline of how someone who actually lived in that kind of splendor also installed the same Dustbuster my mom had in the butler’s pantry. The kids enjoyed imagining they could ring a bell and servants would appear to bring them juice or snacks. It was even more fun to let them run around outside on the beautiful, immaculate lawns and gardens. It was really easy to imagine Doris Duke and her friends rolling down the hills in June 1923, because kids rolling down hills is universal and timeless. We weren’t allowed to take photos inside the house, so these are just from our time outside.

That bridge is part of the Cliff Walk, the public path along the ocean in front of many of the mansions. Next time we’ll do at least part of the Cliff Walk (it’s 7 miles round-trip).

We showed up without a real plan around 11:30 on a beautiful Saturday when the town was very busy and full of tourists. There was plenty of parking on the estate, the group tour left 5 minutes after we walked in, and it lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes. With Finnegan in a baby carrier and strict instructions to the kids not to touch anything, it was very pleasant, relaxed and interesting. E and I both enjoyed it – he asked tons of questions – and would definitely recommend it as either a grown-up date or a family activity.

Here’s our summer list for 2018 Blue Star Musuems. There’s one PA museum because I’m hoping to visit my BFF in PA at least once this year and one in Virginia for the week we’re at my parents, but the rest are right here in New England! If any friends want to join us, please let me know. If you’ve been to any of these and have tips, also let me know! We’ve been to The Carle, KidCity, Springfield and the Mystic Nature Center before, but the rest are all new (or mostly new, E and I have both been to the Constitution but not with the kids).

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