Posts Tagged ‘family’

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.

 

Balancing Busy

Friday, July 6th, 2018

This is my (and your) affirmation for today:

Just because something works for other people, doesn’t mean it has to work for you.

My Facebook has been flooded with think pieces, sorry not sorry posts, and memes decrying “kids these days” and their need to be constantly entertained. Mostly they’re complaining about Pinterest Moms who schedule their summers so kids are always doing an organized craft or attending a camp or attending enrichment activities. “Kids need to be bored!” they shout, “It’s good for them to learn to entertain themselves!” “When I was a kid, my mom just locked us out of the house all day and told us not to get back until dinner!”

OK, first of all, your mama did not lock you out of the house when you were 4 and 2, which is how old half of my children are. Second of all, do you know how quickly kids get bored? 5 minutes. They’re bored all the time. They live in a constant cycle of dragging their poor, neglected bodies between horrible available options including millions of legos, dozens of ride-on toys outside, the sprinkler, unlimited Netflix, fort-building supplies, and their playing with the siblings I have generously grown with my own body as friends and companions.

Our summer calendar includes a lot of scheduled activities. I’m constantly watching Facebook for community stuff or checking the library calendar to see if there’s something at least one of my kids could go to. We do daytrips, late nights, meals on the go, ice cream for dinner.

I refuse to feel bad about any of it. No, I don’t *have* to fill their summer because I’m a stay at home mom (and judging people who do heavily schedule their kids during summer because they need childcare is some privileged nonsense – I’m VERY lucky “doing nothing” and “being bored” are even options). No, Caroline probably doesn’t NEED to go to 4 different kinds of camp. No, I don’t hate my kids and want to get away from them. We’re just trying to find a balance that works for us. So yeah, it probably does look like we’re ALWAYS doing something and ALWAYS going somewhere and my kids are NEVER bored.  But literally right now while I write this I’ve taken away their tablets, left them on the floor with a box of My Little Ponies and a bin of Magnatiles and told them to amuse themselves. It’s been 2 hours since they woke up and so far no one is fighting. I just know that won’t last forever, so pretty soon we’re headed out to the library.

NOTHING is as exhausting as refereeing bickering children all day, so yes please sign us up for some more stuff. When we need a stay-home-day, we’ll stay home. When people on Facebook feel bad about their own summer schedule, it’s about them, not me. I’m not raising or lowering a bar for anyone else (except for that trip to Disney World, because every month we’re not at Disney World is another month I disappoint my children).

So to be clear, the following options are ALL allowed:

Doing all the things
Doing none of the things
Making a long elaborate bucket list of must-do activities for the whole summer
Abandoning a long elaborate bucket list completely
Doing some of the bucket list but then taking time off
Going to no camps
Going to all the camps
Fulling intending to sign your kids up for camp but forgetting
Taking tons of pictures of everything
Taking no pictures at all
Letting the kids watch Netflix all day
Throwing out the remote and the tablets and declaring all technology off limits
Feeling like whatever you’re doing is wrong
Feeling like maybe your life would be better if you were just doing it the way that one Facebook friend is doing it
Giving up and not caring what other people are doing

And because I am the mom who chooses take all the pictures and do lots of things, here is some of our summer so far:

5 Tips To Survive Summer With Little Kids

Thursday, June 7th, 2018

Blog disclosure: This is a sponsored conversation on behalf of The Breastfeeding Shop via SoFluential Media. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Guys, summer is here!

You can read that in a super happy, excited voice: Horray! It’s summer! No school! Beach days! Ice cream for dinner!

Or you can read that in a slightly panicked voice: Summer is HERE. You are out of time to find camps or activities and I hope you like making 17 separate meals a day.

I have a million children. Technically, the actual number is four, but let me tell you reality means absolutely nothing when all of them are hungry/bored/tired/mad/have a tiny hangnail/thirsty/fighting at the same time. Four kids at four different ages means four different sets of needs and ability levels and nap (or no nap) schedules. Did I mention I also really hate having to feed everyone all the time? I really hate that part.

After 9 summers as the parent of at least one baby I’ve learned a lot about how to survive – and enjoy – summer, even with a million kids, even when I’m solo-parenting, even when I’m running on empty by lunchtime and still have a long way to go before bed. Here are my top 5 best tips to survive summer with little kids.

  1. Add more children. OK, this seems counterintuitive, but hear me out. Some of our easiest playdates are with my friend Sarah, who also has four children. Her kids + my kids = so many kids there’s always someone to play with or talk to or rope into your particular imaginary world. My babies love having big kids to play with who aren’t the regular big kids they see every day, and then when my big kids see the babies getting attention from other kids they remember that they love their babies too and then everyone just seems more fun.
  2. Find your happy place. Our happy place is The Lake. The Lake is a local beach club we pay a membership for each year. It has lots of big trees for shade, picnic tables, grills, a big grassy field for running around, a beach for digging and swimming, a dock for fishing, swings and a playset for climbing and it’s awesome. The Lake requires some supervision, but not nearly as much as you might think (see tip 3). If you don’t have a lake, think of somewhere your whole family enjoys – somewhere kid-friendly, where you might run into other kids for your’s to play with, where you can SIT DOWN and relax. It might take a few tries, but one you have a happy place it can be your go-to all summer long when you can’t stand to stare at the inside of your house any longer but don’t have the energy to do something new. Go every morning. Go every afternoon. Don’t worry you go to the same place too much, your kids don’t mind.
  3. Floaties. Listen, kids are going to try to drown themselves. It’s just what they do. If you have a tiny baby who can’t walk or crawl yet, your summer will be fine. If you’ve reached the mobile stage, going anywhere near water is beyond stressful. We have the floaty rule: if you are near the water, you wear a floaty. The baby wears one 100% of the time at the lake. The toddler wears one 85% of the time at the lake. The big kids – who are 9 and 7 – had to pass a swim test last year and this year before I let them give up the floaties. If we go to a pool, anyone who can’t touch the bottom wears a floaty. Our friends enforce floaty rules with their kids, my parents enfore floaty rules at their house, it’s just non-negotiable. We have found that the Speedo brand Splash Jammers are ideal – they have shoulder straps as well as arm floats, they’re approved by the Coast Guard as life jackets, and even my 1-year-old can’t get it off on his own. Target sells them. WEAR YOUR FLOATIES.
  4. Lower your standards. For real, set that bar at a level you can achieve by noon every day. Did your children eat something? Does the baby have a clean diaper? Did you remember to eat something too? Is your house clean enough that you could escape in case of a fire? Then you’re fine. Tomorrow you can put away some laundry or do the dishes. Next week you can plan a fun outing to the zoo or the splash pad. But right now, you’re doing fine. It’s fine. You’re a good parent.
  5. Have fun. This tip is sort of like “treasure every moment because you only get 18 summers with your kid before they’re old enough to leave home” but that is bad advice no one needs. The days are long but the years are short is the same thing, but again, the days are SO long it’s not helpful to remind anyone it won’t last forever. But we can try to have fun, even when we have small humans to take care of. Put on a bathing suit and get in the water with them. Have ice cream for lunch or dinner (or lunch and dinner). Roll your windows down in the car. Play music really loud and have a dance party. My kids get such a kick out of me being Fun Mom, they act surprised and delighted every time. It’s like when Fun Dad chases them around pretending to be a dinosaur or Fun Grandma lets them pick out candy at the grocery store. You can be fun too! You’re the boss, even if you bend the rules a little bit for a special treat. It won’t ruin your children forever, I promise.

Military friends! One way to make your life easier when you have a baby is getting a NO COST breast pump from The Breastfeeding Shop. If you have Tricare, all you need is a prescription from your doctor and The Breastfeeding Shop will ship a pump right to your house. If you or someone you know is pregnant or has a new baby, be sure to tell them about this program, because having a pump is a lifesaver when you’re nursing. My baby will be 2 in August and I still need my pump occasionally (yup, still nursing, nope, no plans to stop). Check out The Breastfeeding Shop’s Tricare page for more information.

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).

Easter 2018

Monday, April 2nd, 2018

Happy Easter! I didn’t take pictures of the bazillion eggs the bunny left all over the house – or the mess the kids made ripping apart their baskets – because I prefer to just remember the adorable, photogenic parts of our holidays. Even so, you will notice a distinct lack of pictures that include all four children. Did you know four children is a lot of children? It seems like even more than usual when you’re running around a busy farm full of old buildings, tempting mud puddles and tons of baby goats. Plus that’s an exhausting way to spend the morning if you’re a baby, so Finn slept through most of dinner.

But yay for baby goats at Beltane Farm! They also did an egg hunt, and Evan found the golden egg that said “winner” inside. He won the cheese of his choice from the store and picked something called “Duchess”, which was super delicious and not at all what you would expect an 8-year-old to be excited about. My kid is pretty cool.

That last face is Caroline trying the lemon meringue pie we made yesterday. She’s a fan.

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