Friday, June 26, 2015

Clare & Abby's Excellent Adventure to Florida

It must be summer: Clare has just unpacked a suitcase, only to fill it again for our trip tomorrow morning to Buffalo. This will be the story for this lucky girl all season, between family trips, sleep-away camp later next month, and last week's trip to Florida with Abby and Chris.
These girls really love Starbucks. And evidently Clare is quite adept at giving false names... "Mint"?!
As it was Clare's first time spending a full week away from home, without parents, it's not really my story to post...but why let that stop me? Chris kept me supplied with cute pictures of the girls clearly having a ball!

Victorious shoppers!
These girls rarely stop laughing!
We definitely missed her, and at one point Laura asked if she would be accompanying us to Buffalo, or if perhaps she wast just gone for good? But we're glad our bird spread her wings so happily!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Growth Opportunities

Towards the end of our Florida vacation, Laura began singing a particular song quite frequently: "Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)." I believe she and Danny had found a snippet of this on YouTube, as they would sing it back and forth to each other a fair amount. This is a song right in line with her personality, but it also coincides with a surge of welcome independence on her part. For one, she has developed the ability to swing by herself, no starter push necessary.
She also requested the ability to earn allowance, which meant she now has chores, including setting the dinner table, keeping her room tidy, and tidying up the toys in the basement.
Last, but certainly not least this time of year, she has become an independent swimmer! After three sessions of swimming lessons, and multiple trips to the pool, she doggy paddles with the best of them and leaves the floaties in the car. One of my favorite kind of summer milestones!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Camp Mommy & Middle Child

Our first, non-traveling week of summer vacation kicked off with volleyball camp for Clare, preschool camp for Laura, and the highly-anticipated Camp Mommy for Danny. The extent to which he was excited about this week suggests both that he really, truly likes me, and also that he is really, truly a middle child who savors every moment we have together.

Aside from visiting the new reptile exhibit at the zoo, I wasn't really sure what we would get up to (beyond a few lunches out), but fortunately Danny didn't require a full-scale plan. He embraced leisurely mornings roving between electronic entertainment, Legos and his Nerf guns, allowing me to shower, get the girls off to camp, and even toss in a load of laundry here and there.

Our first excursion was to the zoo, and he was delighted to see so many reptiles. I believe I demonstrated a lot of patience around these creatures, so kinda hoping we don't have to return any time soon... We shall see. It IS a well-done exhibit.
Danny satisfied his reptile interests in plenty of time for us to trek to our favorite sushi buffet, where we both satisfied our appetites heartily.

The next day we simply got donuts and waited at home for a dishwasher that arrived but was damaged, so was not installed. I put aside my grumpiness, and we opted to watch "Swiss Family Robinson" (which we had watched with great success over our Florida week). Watching a movie mid-morning is pretty rare for me, but was a great item on the Camp Mommy agenda.

That said, I couldn't spend an entire week that way, so the following morning we dropped off the girls and headed to Kennesaw National Battlefield Park for some hiking. The cannons were, obviously, a major draw.

As was the promise of a Frappuccino if he was willing to head to Target with me afterwards. Where we managed to snag the game Sorry (played with great hilarity later that night with Clare), a new Frozen puzzle for Clare, a foam bat and ball, and some Legos (purchased with his allowance). Target: what's not to love??

The Legos spawned an interest in returning to the Legoland Discovery Center here in town. Since I knew taking Danny by himself was going to be easier than carting Laura, too, and thus juggling their bound-to-be-varying desires, I submitted. After we checked out the new gourmet donut spot, that is. Yum yum!
By now, I think we were equally glad when I received an email requesting a play date with Holden for the following day. I was out of good ideas, and I think Danny was ready for someone who was a bit more steadily receptive to continuous goofiness! Nevertheless, I genuinely enjoyed my time with my little man. Not sure how interested he will be in a third summer of Camp Mommy, but I'm game if he is! (Perhaps by then we'll make it to the actual Kennesaw Mountain I sought, and not just the park...)

Monday, June 1, 2015

Disney 2015

As we cruised around Disney this year, I found it very hard to believe it had been nearly five years since our previous visit (rainy day at Epcot last spring notwithstanding). Spanning multiple ages this time, we spent plenty of time dividing and conquering, but we all enjoyed ourselves tremendously, proving once again that it really is a magical place.

Laura's experience was definitely dominated by princesses, and I think that our breakfast at Cinderella's Royal Table lived up to her high expectations. The time that Jasmine hopped onto our flying carpet for a ride was truly epic, too, made all the more special when she led Laura to be the first in line for the photo op spot with her (these are typically very lengthy lines).

That said, she surprised me by enjoying the rides themselves so much, including the Barnstormer roller coaster. Which is what prompted us to try Splash Mountain as a family. Turns out she wasn't quite ready for that one.
But these two kids were big into the coasters this time around! Thunder Mountain was by far Danny's favorite ride. Clare loved Splash Mountain, and Space Mountain, too, despite the 80 minute wait she and Tim endured for that one. If only we had more Fast Passes!
The general Disney magic was in the air for most of our visit, and I'm glad we managed to have dinner at the Crystal Palace:

Clare was determined to visit every country in Epcot, which Tim made happen while the rest of us returned to the hotel for a nap and swim one afternoon. The two of them enjoyed a sophisticated, waterside lunch in Morocco (a culinary experience we would not have bet on with her five years ago!):
For our final day, we spent the day at Typhoon Lagoon water park. Phones were left in the locker all day as we lazy rivered (or "crazy river," as Laura aptly named it), wave pooled and slid the day away. Disney did manage to capture this image for us, which sums up the experience nicely:
We were all wiped out from our three days at Disney, but in a way that shows how fully we enjoyed ourselves. Not sure when we'll return, but hopefully in fewer than five years!

Vacation, All We Ever Wanted

I remember the first time Tim and I ventured down to Sarasota by ourselves for a family vacation. Clare was three, Danny was four months, and overall it took a long time for it to feel like a vacation. My first thoughts upon arrival were, "What are we doing?" and "How are we going to manage to enjoy ourselves?" We ultimately did, of course, and after years of practice I would go so far as to say that we have gotten it down to a science.
Since we were fortunate enough to spend time in FL together over Easter, we decided that this year we would break it up and spend the middle part of our week at Disney. (See separate post.) So, we drove down and spent the first two days just relaxing at the beach and the pool. That first full day of vacation we spent several hours on Siesta Beach, and it was probably the best family visit to the beach we have ever had!

The kids were always up for going to the pool, no matter how long we'd been at the beach. To liven up our pool visits, I grabbed an inflatable alligator at Publix, which won the points with Danny that I knew it would. Let's just say it led to some very lively games with Tim!

Any visit to Stoneybrook isn't complete without plenty of gator watches. One night, driving back from dinner, we had an epic viewing of this guy, who was camped out quite close to one of the parking lots:
We ate at all of our favorite spots, beached, swam, read, napped...everything a family should do on vacation (when not trekking around amusement parks, that is). Most importantly, we spent lots of time together as a fivesome, which rates this a five-star vacation!