A Quick Trip and Summer Check-In

So, we got away for a quick day trip to Old Forge last Friday! And, of course, the weather sucked. I mean, felt like a drizzly, cold autumn day. Luckily, we both love the fall, so it wasn’t a huge downer. Just a little road bump.

Here’s a quick recap of the day. Let’s see. We left a bit later than I had expected, but since I knew it wouldn’t be a super full day, it totally didn’t matter. And, unfortunately, Hadman wasn’t great in the car to OR from Old Forge. Eh. Ya win some, ya lose some.

We drove into town and found a parking spot. Since it wasn’t quite lunch time and the farmers’ market wasn’t open for business yet, we decided to make a stop at the Old Forge Hardware Store. It’s not really a hardware store as much as a general store, including tons of kitchen items and toys and books. Of course, we left with a book for the little guy.

Then, it was time for lunch. We hit up the Adirondack Cafe, and considering it’s hard to navigate this place without a stroller, it was great to be welcomed to the place. (Walt’s Diner was embarrassingly not great about it.) Tough when it’s a touristy town.

Anyhoo, we had a great meal, then walked through a fine mist over the infamous bridge down by the lake to see Hadman’s favorite — duckies! They were, luckily, loving the weather.

Then, we decided to try the beach area nearby. Sure, it wasn’t warm enough to ENJOY it, but we had fun walking around and collecting things. And, of course, some more ducks came by to say “hi” again. I even stuck my feet in the sand (although it doesn’t really count on my summer list…not really what I meant).

We walked to the farmers’ market, but it started raining heavier and there wasn’t tons to choose from. We did leave with some wine from the Montezuma Winery (a super sweet Fat Frog Red and delicious Canvasback Red) and some raw honey for Dave.

After the market, we decided to drive the back roads near the ski slopes (you can actually ride the ski lift to get a great view, but with a wriggly 2-year-old and on-and-off rain, it wasn’t happenin’) and saw at least half a dozen random deer, a family of turkies, and a fox. Fun, fun!!

All the while, Dave and I realized we were both craving a donut. Just a cup of coffee and a donut. For some reason, we continued our drive in the opposite direction and happened upon this joint…

Bingo! It was like a place you would’ve found in the ’40s. They only had coffee and two kinds of donuts. Just two tables for outdoor seating. It was perfect. And, yes, I wore a sweater and scarf. ‘Twas chilly! Just the right kind of day for a homemade donut and a big, super hot cup of coffee.

So, it wasn’t the greatest day ever, but we had a good time. It also makes me want to hit up a farmers’ market with more locally-grown produce, and that’s labeled for it. Just saying.

Oh, and what better time than now (not that summer’s over — it’s not!!!!) to check in with my summer fun list:

A couple of them weren’t done as much as I like (like family walks, and the garden had a major issue I’ll get into later), but they were done. I’m also hoping to putter a bit more, get a WARM sandy day, and I’m thisclose to finishing two books. TWO! That’s humongous, folks.

How’s your summer going? And don’t tell me about your kids returning to school already. Our neck of the woods, the kids don’t go back (meaning I don’t return to work) until after Labor Day. Let me have this!!! 😉 Just kidding, you can tell me about it, but I’ll be plugging my ears and singing “la la la” the whole time.

Traveling with a Toddler

Since we’ve had some time to return to normalcy after our vacation and documented all the fun, I thought it’d be a good time to share a list of tips we picked up from traveling with our little 2-year-old Hadman. I already shared a fun list of items that help when traveling with tots, and all that stuff helped BIG-TIME with the trip.

Oh, and this was a road trip (no planes involved) and wasn’t super long (4 1/2+ hours, tops). I’m sure people who have traveled 8-12 hours in a car (or, God bless you, on a plane!) with a little one can come up with even better ideas. If you’ve got ’em, share ’em in the comments!

Tip #1: Let go of expectations. I went into this trip over-planning (on purpose; it’s how I roll), but knowing all the while that I should keep my expectations low. Would we make it to even a fraction of the places I hoped to visit? Nope. Will he enjoy the planned activities as much as I hoped he would? Probably not (or enjoy them for 5 minutes or less before indicating that he was done). Should I expect perfection from a 2-year-old? Never.

So, going into vacation with this more laid-back attitude was SO helpful. The places we ended up hitting were awesome and we made tons of family memories, with minimal meltdowns. The places that we missed, well, maybe we’ll go again when he’s a bigger boy and I’ll have a cache of ideas stored up to try.

Tip #2: Know thy child. Of course, you already know your kid. Who does better than you, really? It’s true, you rock. So, use that intuition and everything you already know about your munchkin to help you plan accordingly.

What’s your little one’s favorite thing to do? Art projects? Free play? Reading books? Running around like he needs a tiny, adorable straight jacket? Select activities that align with those interests. Our visit to the Eric Carle Museum was perfect because there was a story time (a short movie based on a book, while we were there) that he LOVED, a library with toys (books + a few great toys + a space to make a little noise = perfect for our monkey), a “very hungry caterpillar” sculpture that he could climb all over, and even an art project area that was structured in a very casual way, which helped with his short attention span but propensity for messiness.

This tip also applies to your tot’s schedule. We all know that it’s important to maintain some semblance of a schedule, with some allowance for flexibility built in, right? We tried to ensure that there was a nap time (he even took a morning nap on the long way to our destination, which was awesome and super rare) built in and that we didn’t over-schedule the day. Pick a handful of activities, but do them only if your little one’s in an adventurous mood; perhaps one active one and one chill one per day, depending on length.

And, if your kiddo does fine with eating in a restaurant, build plenty of opportunities to try some new places. Which leads me to my third tip…

Tip #3: Stay in. Never thought I’d hear myself say that. This totally doesn’t mean “give in to your naughty child” or “don’t have any fun on your trip.” Not at all.

What it DOES mean is that just because you’re on vacation, it doesn’t mean you have to be “on the go” or that you HAVE to eat every meal in a super structured restaurant environment the entire time. Unexpectedly, after a very busy first day of driving, lunching, sight-seeing, and shopping, by the time we arrived at our hotel to regroup, we realized we were exhausted. Oh, and Hadley was in full-speed-ahead mode. A lack of playtime will do that to a kid. That’s a recipe for disaster, as far as dinner was concerned. Actually, as far as a lot’s concerned.

Hence, the above picture. We ordered dinner from a nearby Italian restaurant, didn’t have to “dress for dinner”, and Hadley was able to run around the hotel room and make as much noise as he wanted while all the other guests were out to dinner. It. Was. Perfect. We kept saying what a good idea it was to stay in. Then, we got to fit in a regular bath and bedtime (although he ended up sleeping with us; c’est la vie), so it really worked out great.

The next night, we encouraged our friends to order out (vs. eating out) since they also would have an infant in tow, so we didn’t really go out to dinner at all (aside from a couple of casual lunches). And, guess what. No big. We drank a little bit with dinner and after the kids were down, we enjoyed some “adult sundaes” (ice cream + brownies + Kahlua), accompanied by wonderfully leisurely conversation. That wouldn’t have been very doable if we’d gone out, would it? Not with two kids along for the ride.

See? Stay in. It’s not a dirty word. Unless you’re a foodie. In which case, disregard.

Tip #4: Build in stops for everyone. This wasn’t a kid-centric trip, and no family trip needs to be. Sure, we built in specific stops to maintain serenity with the kiddo, but it was a pretty even vacation full of “stops for Mom, stops for Dad, stops for Child.” And when we could tick off two or three of those individuals with one activity? Jackpot!

There was a stop at one of Dave’s favorite comic stores and several friend visits for the hubby (although I like to consider his friends my friends; I’m not worthy, really) and some historical stuff and a stop at the outlets (purely professional; I needed school clothes) on the way home for wifey. Bookstores for all three. All happy.

Tip #5: Pack healthfully. Dude. Travel can be super unhealthy. And, that’s okay…to an extent. (See above “adult sundaes” reference, ahem.) But, it’s nice to have options while in the car, and never knowing where your next meal will be is a recipe for disaster. Ha. Recipe. Get it??

So, we stocked the heck up. I had one large reusable grocery bag full of our favorites: organic granola bars (for adults and tot), organic snack crackers, organic milk and juice boxes, organic fruit leather, a bunch of bananas, and a huge bag of those mini-oranges (thank you, orange hack video, for making the process a little less messy in the car — wish I could find the link again!). Oh, and I had a separate cooler bag with a ton of water and another insulated lunch bag with Hadley’s yogurt packets and stuff.

I also allowed myself some room in his lunch bag to throw in a granola bar or fruit leather so that, when we did eat at a restaurant, we could just bring the bag along to keep him satiated while waiting. Simple as that.

Tip #6: The simple things. Speaking of simple…an egg. A freaking cheap-o, neon bright plastic Easter egg. I kid you not, this thing was a game changer.

I packed a humongous bag of favorite toys for all possible situations (if you’re not getting a good mental picture already, yes, the car was loaded to the gills), and they definitely did the trick at keeping him relatively entertained there and back.

But what were the best, most entertaining things in the backseat? A cheap, plastic toy truck our neighbor gave him just before we left and a plastic Easter egg. Mind you, at our first rest stop, he saw a game where you put coins in and the egg (containing a far-too-old-for-him toy; ie choking hazard) pops out, so after we did our potty business, I let him put the coins in. The egg seriously mesmerized him (enough so that I could pop out the little monster inside and dispose of it properly without him giving two craps about it).

Sometimes it’s the little things for these little ones. Like running around the hotel room. Or popping up in your hotel crib every ten seconds to announce how HAPPY you are to be sleeping in a room with “MAMADADA!!!” Or meeting new friends only to discover you love redheads just as much as you love blondes. Or being able to finally say your distant-BFF’s name and to bear hug the heck out of him and to even display a mild understanding of sharing. Or making friends with the docents at a museum. Or being rewarded with an electronic Pink Panther ride at the outlets. 

And aren’t those simple, little things the memories we sometimes inadvertently forget…the memories that really make the trip what it is? And what it is, is awesome.

Massachusetts Vacation 2014 – S. Hadley & “The Outlets”

Last I left off, we had finished our Concord adventures, met up with friends at Montague, and had just finished Hadman’s naptime in the car as we drove to our good friends in South Hadley. Today, I’ll finish up our trip recap.

I can hear the cheers from here. 😉

When we arrived, I got the super fun job of watching the bambinos so that Dave could bring our friend Josh to pick up his car, which was getting fixed.

Our friends, Josh and Missy, have an adorable, SUPER well-behaved little guy. It was awesome to see how much bigger and more active he was (scooting along and walking with help), knowing that the next time we see him, he’ll probably be walking quite well on his own and able to hold his own with the well-meaning but comes-on-too-strong tornado that is Hadley. I was ecstatic how well they played with each other, and the fact that Hadman was, for the most part, able to share and didn’t have any issues sharing the love.

When all the adults (including mommies) were reunited, we sent the guys to get some dinner, got the kiddos bathed and down for bed (thank you, pack ‘n play!), and hunkered down for some “adult brownie sundaes” (brownies+ice cream+a splash of Kahlua, BTW.) It was so lovely to catch up with fellow parents and talk about old times (like, pre-Dave-and-I-dating times; I’m always fascinated to hear about the old adventures). Fun, relaxing, and awesome.

Hadley was up by 6:30, so I quickly got ready and packed things up. Since Josh had to work, the rest of us ran to an incredible local place for breakfast (this is when the schedule got crunched and I wasn’t able to meet up with my old friend, boo; gotta admit to the restrictions of a toddler and an inability to do EVERYTHING on one’s list). The food was local and delish, so it was nice to get a good meal in. It’s hard to know whether your next meal will be stellar when you’re traveling, y’know.

Since the weather was a bit overcast, we decided to hit up the Carle with Missy and the little guys. It’s so close and she’d never been, so it was fun to introduce her to the joint!

I wrote about our visit last year, but it seems like Had can enjoy more and try out different aspects of things every time we visit. Like the fact that he’s ALMOST at the age to sit still and try the craft projects…almost. He helped me glue and stuck a couple of pieces of tissue paper onto card stock, but I finished the rest. Whatevs. Here’s what some of that area looked like (there were classes for adults happening and a bunch of other kids, so I didn’t want to invade privacy):

Dude. I want to recycle crayons into little molds like these! I don’t care if they’re star-shaped or what. Melting more than one color creates the “Eric Carle Effect” which is absolutely awesome. Who knew I’d be so excited?

Note for future kiddie area: Use a tension rod, rings, and these cheap plastic binder sheets to hold artwork. Cheap and ingenious. Also beautiful when the sun shone through the windows.

Oh, yes, and there were toys!

So, after hands-on stuff, we hit up the 8-minute video of “Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed” (the book of which we have at home) and I was flabbergasted that he sat still for it. I mean, it was short, but considering his lack of willingness for the short Concord video, it was awesome. Oh, and the book is about being true to oneself (“Does it hurt anyone to be different? No.”), which is equally awesome.


Equally enthralling? The library (no, really…books AND toys? This kid’s idea of heaven) and the large “very hungry caterpillar” sculpture…cutout…thingamajigger.

(Taking a picture of Dave taking a picture of Hadman? Why not?)

After picking a few cool things from the gift shop, Missy talked us into hitting up a local farm shop (which was actually the size of a grocery store!). It also worked perfectly to grab some things we didn’t have at home AND a salad from the salad bar for the road.

On our way home, we stopped at the outlet center in Lee. I’ve been desperately seeking clothes for back-to-school and everyday (particularly tops), so Dave played the hero-of-the-day staying in the car with a sleeping Hadley (then keeping him occupied when he awoke) while I darted from one store to the next. I did end up with some fun, colorful, modern stuff from, of all places, Banana Republic and Ann Taylor, then we did a quick diaper change and headed home…but not before an impromptu celebratory ride or two…

We both agreed that, while we had a really fun time, it was good to be returning to our little boys at home and to have Sunday to unwind a bit before returning to normalcy.

Now, I still need to plan a family day to go hit up a local beach to fit in some of the “relaxation” part of summer! We also hope to take a day trip to Old Forge at the foothills of the Adirondacks; they have an awesome farmers’ market on Fridays, and we can visit all the places we hit up when we were kids — hello, putt-putt golf and Pied Piper ice cream!

So…whew! Happy to have these wonderful memories, but it was such a whirlwind! (One reason I blog about silly details like this; horrible memory.)

What’ve you been up to this summer? 🙂 Any shopping? Museum-attending? History-buffing? Antiquing? Do tell!

Massachusetts Vacation 2014 – Concord, Pt. 2 & Montague

On Monday, I described our trip to Massachusetts and our first day in Concord. Today’s post will cover “day two” at Concord (which I will forever say in my head as “Concerd” since apparently that’s how locals, and quite possibly the historical folks who lived there, say it…there’s a whole thing with how to say “Syracuse” properly, too) and our trip back to Western Mass. Y’know, for the test you’ll have on this whole thing next week.

No. There’s no test. Unless you really want one, but that’s just sick.

So, we got up after a great night’s sleep — as great as it could be with a pushy toddler wedged between two adults — and packed up every last bit of paraphernalia we’d brought into the hotel room. After loading up the car, we headed to the “Harvest Room” for our continental breakfast. We’re nothing if not cheap. Plus, I was shocked that they had organic oatmeal (which Dave ate, good boy). Hadley provided both entertainment and, to some, irritation with his feistiness and lack of willingness to eat, but we all made it through unscathed.

We drove back through town to the Concord Museum, showing up just as it opened. It was surreal and absolutely bemusing to see a man dressed in impeccably detailed Revolutionary War garb getting out of his Hyundai parked next to us. Dave almost grabbed a picture, but I’m a buzzkill. Dude, he was, like, two feet away.

We were SO lucky to show up on one of their Free Fridays (it would’ve cost us $20 otherwise), especially considering that we breezed through the whole thing in just over an hour.

We only went through the main building, but it was perfect for us. We tried to sit through the short-ish video about Concord (lots to cover, and we walked in late, so of course I missed anything regarding the transcendentalist movement or being the hub of the revolution…hmph), but Hadley immediately disliked the idea, so poor Dave dragged him out of the auditorium. I sat watching but worrying that he was tearing down precious artifacts or being his moody self (he has many sides; moodiness is just one of them). But, nope! Apparently, they had coloring stations set up for little ones, so the boys had colored a picture of a rather frazzled looking “colonial woman” and a powder horn. Whew.

We then turned our attention to the rest of the museum. I LOVE the fact that museums try to identify with the needs of all their attendees, be they families with various ages in tow, history buffs, people with little to no interest in history, etc. There was a time that the fanciest, most interactive part of a museum was a diorama, but today there are buttons to push (which play high-quality recordings), little doors with information behind them, uniforms to try on, and tons more.

Hadman was very much in an “okay, that’s great, what’s next?” mood, so I only skimmed through what I was interested in seeing. Besides, sometimes the artifacts themselves are enough. We looked at the rooms dressed in original furnishings and asked him simple questions — “What do you see in this room that we have?” “What color are the plates?” and explained things where I could — “Instead of a pen like we have, people used to dip a feather, or quill, in ink to write. Isn’t that neat?” He takes things in constantly, so anything that seeped into his mind makes me glad enough.

The museum workers were incredible with him, too. They were highly accommodating for a child of his age (I was worried we’d get the raised eyebrow, which only happened in, of all places, the museum shop) and talked with him lots.

The most impressive parts, to me, were that the original “Boston Massacre” print by Paul Revere (actually a copy of another man’s work, ahem) was on display. We happen to have a much larger scale of the print in our dining room, so that was AWESOME. I was also in awe over one of the two original candle lanterns — the “one if by land, two if by sea” ones. My mind was blown.

I’m also a bit of a Thoreau fan, so seeing some of the original furnishings he used at Walden (you can see here where I enjoyed visiting the replica of the building over by Walden Pond), as well as his snowshoes and the last pen he wrote with before he died (again, quill…in the mid 1800’s? I couldn’t believe he’d be writing with something so simple at that stage in history; goes to show you I’m not a know-it-all after all).

And, dude. Emerson’s pad. Not a replica. His actual study/sitting room. Right down to the original wallpaper. 

I just loved the crap out of that museum.

We perused the gift shop and I ended up with a couple of Thoreau works (my “Civil Disobedience” had gone missing) and an awesome editing of his works that proves what an activist he’d probably be today in the world of environmentalism (which also discusses his beliefs on technology and more). I can’t wait to delve in when I finish my current read.

As is our custom, we also grabbed a cool Concord magnet.

I was bummed there was nothing Hadley-aged there, but he didn’t seem to care either way.

So, we bid adieu to our lovely Concord and hit the road westward to Montague to meet up with a friend of ours and his lovely lady friend. We had some major difficulties finding our way, but when we did finally reach our destination, it was wonderful. We met up at the Montague Bookmill (yup, more books) and grabbed a bite at their Lady Killigrew Cafe. The food was great, and we ate outside as a gentle rain started to cool things down. What a great time catching up and sharing a new experience.

We walked through the bookstore (I believe it was all used, so the prices were great) and I couldn’t help but think of the huge difference between the independent book stores we had visited. Both were great, but it showed the grandiose next to a more “mom-and-pop” almost counter-culture vibe. We grabbed a book with a built-in clock that monkey had gravitated to (numbers, people, the kid loves numbers), said our good-byes, and plopped him into his car seat. Moments later, he was napping.

After Montague, we headed to South Hadley to meet up with some awesome practically-family friends who let us sleep over and hang out. So, that’s where I’ll leave off for now. One more post, then we’re back home with the kitties! 😉 

Massachusetts Vacation 2014 – Concord, Pt. 1

Surprise! We snuck away for our family vacation last week! I didn’t post about it in advance because we’re those super-private, protective people who don’t like to announce when our home is free for the pickin’. Call us crazy (it’s okay, we’re used to it), but we’re mostly concerned about the kitties. 

Anyhoo, I figured I’d write a few posts on the trip itself (was going to do a quick rundown today, but I’m chatty), then share a post or two about how we kept a toddler happy along the way, how we alleviated some of the “rush here, rush there”ness of a road trip, a few of the sights we enjoyed most, and anything else that pops into my head along the way. Sound good?

Let’s just say from the start, this trip wasn’t a relaxing retreat. It was meant to be a fun family adventure, which usually recharges the adults’ minds, gives the little guy some new, fun experiences, and, though enjoyable, makes us all feel happy and lucky to return home safe and exhausted at the end of it. Check, check, and check! 

We left on Thursday to drive the 4+ hours to Concord, Mass. I picked Concord because I love its history and because the monkey is still way too unpredictable and non-listeny (totally a word… “disobedient” sounds so evil, and it’s not really accuratre) for a big joint like Boston or Philly. We also hoped to fit in some friend-visiting in western Mass, which we did; I, however, still feel guilty over the people that we missed. I’ve gotta get over it, and I know that a toddler is a natural time usurper, but I still feel badly.

So, anyhoo, we left just shy of 8am (later than I’d hoped) on Thursday morning, packed to the gills with clothes, toys, food, a pack ‘n play…pretty much everything in our house sans the cats. I’ve gotta say we lucked out with our monkey on the trip; for the most part, he was an absolute trooper while traveling. Sure, he got cranky once in awhile, but I was generally pleasantly surprised and proud of what a great boy he was for the drive.

The trip out was long, but not bad. Hadman hadn’t slept well the night before and ended up in bed with us (see above picture; hugely rare these days), so we were all pretty tired; he fell asleep and did a morning nap vs. his usual afternoon nap. It was PERFECT for the drive to-and-from Mass. We took a couple of stops along the way, and we snacked on healthy stuff I’d packed for the road.

When we reached Concord, it was too early to check in, so we took a quick potty break at the visitors’ center (loudest. hand dryers. ever.) then parked on a Walden Street. We scoped out the storefronts for a game plan and decided to grab a meal at the Main Streets Market and Cafe. Again, after a week of terrible two behavior, I was shocked at how well-behaved Hadley was for lunch (for the most part). Oh, and the joint had awesome food. Top-notch, really.

We then hit up the Toy Shop of Concord, which was beyond awesome. It’s an independently-run joint and was super kid-friendly (one would hope), so it gave Hadley a chance to get out of his stroller and engage with other kids and (mostly) toys, toys, and more toys. The funny thing was, I love buying things we’ll use every day while on vacation to remind us of the fun trip we had, so I was fully planning on buying him whatever the heck he wanted…and he picked nothing. He enjoyed certain toys, but then moved on to the next thing, so it was impossible to get him to select something on his own. Eh. We ended up with a Green Toys submarine for some fun in the hotel bathtub that night.

After Dave threw more money in the meter, we hit up my favorite antique shop ever, Thoreauly Antiques. I mean, perfect, right?! The place isn’t very big, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in substance. Their selection is perfectly in-tune to a modern antique-collector. Here are just a few of the things I was eying:

I seriously almost got one of the lavender sachets (either 3 or 6 for the “3 humans, 3 adults” or “6 altogether”). And the NY Central drove through my hometown, so, yeah.

Sorry for the fuzzy picture; I had a man with a stroller hot on my heels. 😉 But the vignettes around every corner were just incredible. (That’s a plate of old keys, BTW.)

Pages of French from the 1800’s. So much could be done with those. Oohh, la la. 

Old hotel numbers on brass key chains. I started to look for our home number, but *someone* was getting fidgety. Not saying whom…who?…but it wasn’t Dave and it wasn’t me.

More keys!

Knowing full well how almost-to-capacity our car was already, I didn’t grab a darn thing. We did head a few doors down and purchase a bit of candy (as a “thanks so much” gift for our neighbor and my mom, who watched the house and checked on the cats while we were gone…and as a gift to ourselves for eating such healthy snacks in the car) at Priscilla Candy Shop. In all honesty, the customer service left something to be desired, but the candy was worth it.

Then, we took one final stop at the GORGEOUS Concord Bookshop. My word. I’ve never seen a library or book store in my LIFE that was more impeccable than this one. I assume the shelves were mahogany, and everything built custom for the space. The book selection was insane (the first thing that hits you as you enter is the biography section…they must’ve seen me coming a mile away), and it was quieter than any library you could ever imagine (although it had a good stream of people swimming throughout). We purchased a few books then hit the road.

By the time we checked in and unloaded anything we’d need into our room at the hotel, it was after 5pm. Hadley was still bouncing with energy and I had no idea what to do for dinner. We found a couple of menus for a nearby Italian restaurant, so decided to order in for the night. (Very important tip I’ll dive into further in a future post: Know thyself. If your little one is probably not willing to sit still, going out to dinner — even if you had your hopes set on it — is not a “must” while on vacation.)

Besides, we could sit back in our comfy clothes, allow him to run around, and watch precious C-A-B-L-E (HGTV FTW!). Plus, when I picked the food up I saw how dressy most of the people eating and working at the restaurant were, so it wouldn’t have suited us much, anyway. One large pizza, a pile of pasta, and two flan-ish desserts later, we were satiated (half the pizza went to waste; Hadley’s appetite was unusually chill). Two bathtimes later (Had’s and mine), Hadley was in the hotel-appointed crib…playing a highly amusing game (to him) called “Hi, Mama! Hi, Dada!” Ahem. Into the bed he came. Within moments, he and Dave were completely zonked. I finished my episode of House Hunters, read some more of my latest favorite book (Marmee & Louisa, highly appropriate to the trip), and went to sleep.

Have I mentioned how much I love the squishiness of sleeping in a hotel bed? Because I do. And, apparently, so does Hadley.

That’s it for today! I’ll stop by this week with the last activity at Concord, then meeting up with our friends back to the west. Yay!

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted…

We’re currently deep in the throes of researching summer vacation options. Our goals are to keep things within a reasonable budget, but mostly to find spots that will occupy an active two-year-old (and two history- and culture-loving adults, if possible, at least once).

So, needless to say, Disney isn’t on our short list. 😉

Oh, and while I enjoy sticking my feet in sand at least once a year, my vacation doesn’t have to revolve around it. The sheer number of people hitting up Cabo San Lucas or some such place, like, annually makes my head spin. Yeah, no. Not for us. I can take a day trip to hit up a local sandy-beached lake and be recharged, easy.

I happened upon a pretty cool list that helped us focus a bit better on what Hadley’s level of interest might be. (Unfortunately, I totally forgot to save the link — I’ll post it if/when I stumble upon it!) I’m able to search for activities like outdoor play and children museums. His age would probably entail more animal-based outdoor things like petting zoos and farms, and environments that are more subdued and calm. Goodness knows he’s active enough without adding a chaotic environment! 😉

Here are some of our ideas beyond our local zoo (although we’ll be sure to hit that up plenty) — you know, travel-worthy endeavors.

Philadelphia seems to have lots of activities to meet our needs: 

The Please Touch Museum (though admittedly steeply-priced, sigh – $17 each, including Hadley — $1.50 off if I decide to renew my AAA membership, but is it really worth it?) is beyond perfect, with tactile, educational, and super fun pretend play activities designed for the under-7 set. 

The Adventure Aquarium or Philadelphia Zoo might be good options for animal viewing. The aquarium is in New Jersey, but is one to keep in mind since it has tons of Hadley-age touch-and-feel activities. The zoo is another not-cheap joint, but the petting zoo sounds insanely cool, and considering the munchkin’s love of animals, it’s worth remembering.

– Plus, I’ve been to Philadelphia and Dave hasn’t. I loved the cultural and historical activities; even just walking around the historical district would be doable for Dave and I, while towing a little guy.

And, then, there’s Rochester, NY. I know, I know. From a big joint like Philadelphia to a piddly spot like Rochester? But hear me out! After all, Dave brought it up, so I have to consider it! And I can see some of the positives.

See, I’ve spent a bit of time in Ra-cha-cha since my two brothers attended college there and my sister-in-law is from just outside the city. But, I haven’t been there in a long time, and I know my experiences there were quite isolated. So, maybe it’s time to look at the city through grown-up, wife-and-mommy eyes.

– Their zoo, for example. It seems larger than our local one (gotta look into this, it might not be) and the price is cheaper for ALL THREE of us to get in compared to the Philadelphia Zoo. No kidding, whenever a kid is free, I sit up and notice. Plus, I think we may get a further discount from purchasing our Utica Zoo pass. #kaching

– Reason #1 for our gang to think about hitting up Rochester: THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF PLAY. Sorry for screaming, but yeah. It’s like The Please Touch Museum only slightly cheaper (still a fee for Hadley, humph), but closer to home, JUST as cool, and (huge bonus) it has a Sesame Street exhibit (although traveling through Pennsylvania, I’m pretty sure there’s a Sesame Place). Plus, if we want to shell out a few more bucks, we could check out their butterfly conservatory…that is, if we’re not too exhausted by the dozen or so other activities. Side note: LOVE that they have designated spots for quiet time, partly because I know *someone* may need a nap but also because I know the need for the learning disabled kiddos who visit to have that cool-down, low excitement type of environment. Extra points, in my book, that they thought things through to this extent.

– We’ve got a couple of friends in the city, so we could plan to meet up. Also, I’d like to explore the city a bit, just to know what’s happenin’ on the western side of the state.

We’re also huge Massachusetts fans. I love the history in eastern Mass (we wouldn’t do Boston until Hadman’s a bit older, but Lexington and Concord are my jam), and we’ve got some dear friends in western Mass. So, of course we could revolve our plans around an entire weekend devoted to both.

– Um, yeah, in this case hitting up the local haunts near our friends and catching up with them is kind of the main idea of the thing. We’d turn it into a weekend-long (or extended weekend) thing by planning to travel east to get my historical fix. If you haven’t been, Concord not only is one of the historically significant locales regarding the start of the Revolution, but is overflowing with a wealth of other history. Several of my favorite authors lived there (shout-out, Louisa May Alcott!), and the fact that the transcendentalist movement was centered there gets me hopping with excitement. There’s also a small beach that you can visit on Walden Pond (yes, THAT Walden Pond…if you don’t know what I mean, we can’t be friends. Kidding. Sorta.) and a nearby replica of Henry David Thoreau’s tiny cabin THAT YOU CAN WALK AROUND. So. Damn. Cool. 

I don’t get out much. Clearly. I mean…look at the last time I was there (I think this was the summer before we got pregnant).

I’m just awesome, aren’t I? (I think I was admiring the wide-plank floor. Maybe.) Glaring super white. (Wear sunscreen, people.) Slouchy. Style for miles. Anyhoo, there’s also some cute antique shops in Concord (hellooooo, Thoreauly Antiques!), as well as some neat historical spots in Lexington. Plus, knowing how much a toddler loves to run endlessly in no particular direction, Lexington Green (Lexington “Common”) is perfect for that. Yep. The place where the first shots were fired in the Revolutionary War is a great place to run around, or chill with a picnic, or whatevs.

– Heading toward the Concord area, we could stop in at the Children’s Discovery Museum along the way. Further westward, there’s also the Children’s Museum at Holyoke and the Amelia Park Children’s Museum to try out. Of course, we’d check in with our friends in the area to see what their opinions are of the places and if they’re worth our time and effort first. Our local children’s museum is having lots of issues currently (I believe they’ve even closed their doors for the time being), so we’d warn our friends.

– Plus, we could stock up on some stuff for the second half of our trip at Trader Joe’s (and review it, finally!) in western Mass…and there’s outlet shopping nearby. Not that it’s a must.

So, that’s the short list. No matter where we go, I’m hoping to map out a handful of stops along the way, particularly at wide-open parks or play grounds. I’d like to find a nature walk (a super simple “hike”) at a state park some place. Hopefully it’ll be a relatively short one, since our guy’s a collector…as in, eyes constantly down searching for a rock or a piece of bark or a leaf. We’ll have to take a jar or bag, ‘cuz I’m clearly an enabler.

Whatchya think? Anything we should add to our lists? Do you vote for one over the others? (We do have veto power, but it’s nice to hear opinions. Might just sway us one way or another.) Oh, and while we don’t eat 100% organic/natural while traveling (or ever, really…we aim for the 80/20 thing), of course we’ll stop at some local eateries. However, I hope to do some research to see if there are any “local local” joints that are kid friendly and don’t just serve mac ‘n cheese. Plus, a cooler of food. Definitely.

What’re you planning for the summer? Any fun getaways? We’re also hoping to get to a local sandy spot or two, but otherwise picture me laying in a kiddie pool while Hadley stands precariously, splashing me.

Ahhhh. Summer. 

…And We’re Just Monkeyin’ Around

Couldn’t help but make a Monkees reference. It KILLS me that I can’t make it to any of their concerts for this tour, but I’ll just be content in my secret Monkee fandom. Er, not so secret.

Anyhoo, we took our first zoo trip of the season! Yay!! We dragged Hadley along last year, but there’s a huge difference between a one-year-old baby and a two-year-old toddler. He knows most of the animal sounds and lit UP when we came upon the gibbons (and their screeching calls). We could hear them from the car, and at first he thought they were in trouble — “Uh oh!! Uh oh!!”

Besides the awesome monkeys, we witnessed the lions (the guys were lazing about while the female was full-on stalking a rabbit who had wandered into the wrong area — spoiler alert: the bunny got away, thank goodness), a red panda, arctic foxes who just happened to be having a game of tag, an ostrich, zebras (Hadley’s favorite last year), a camel, DUCKS (he only focused on one mallard, so while there were a bunch of them, he kept pointing his finger – “one duck!”), and some reptiles.

Oh, and when we hit the children’s zoo area, we met the stars — their famous sea lions. Seriously, we could’ve stood watching them ALL DAY. Then, there were some farm and petting zoo-type animals…along with a skinned knee. Yep. First skinned knee ever (and a pretty deep cut, actually). All boy, that one.

Since it was kind of a last-minute decision to go, I only packed a lunch for the Hadman. I’m super glad I did since Dave stood in line for over 30 minutes to get our lunch (before they even waited on him). The place is a branch of a local institution, Voss’, but their service lacked sorely. The food was okay, but given the price and PITA factor, we’ll just pack a cooler next time. Bam, done. (And cheaper.)

{He didn’t seem to mind the fact that he got healthy stuff and we got pulled pork BBQ.
Give the kid fruit and he’ll eat all day long.}

The Utica Zoo, itself, is neat for a few reasons. Firstly, it’s the zoo that Dave and I frequented as kids (along with practically every other kid in a 30 mile radius). Secondly, we recently found out that most of the animals in captivity have actually been rescued or are housed here because they wouldn’t survive in the wild. They’re about environmental stewardship and conservation, which makes me feel far better about attending. Not to mention, it has a pretty rad theme song that’s definitely an earworm. You’ve been warned.

We decided to purchase a family pass for the season, so I’m sure there will be lots of trips this summer. It’s kind of cool to think that we can pack a lunch and just hit up the zoo for a random afternoon, or meet up with Dave for a half day on a work day, without thinking “it’s not worth $7.75 per person to hit up the zoo for just a few hours.” It also means that I can hook up with my sister and her little one to have a field trip. Needless to say, I’m ecstatic that we have such an open invitation to our very own hang-out place.

Fresh air + wild animals = perfect day for our own little monkey.

Whole Foods Experience

So, a couple of weeks ago, we took the Friday off and left insanely early to take a quick trip. Dave was set to be on a local Massachusetts TV show to do his Dorky Daddy thang while Hadley and I had the privilege (no, really!) of hanging out with a good friend and her little guy. We all had a BLAST while Dave made us laugh through the TV set.

Then, both of our husbands arrived and we got to hang and laugh and chat even further. We headed to an AWESOME eatery that serves lots of locavore treats for lunch, then trekked to find a street sign that would help our agreed-upon parenting decision — to tell our children that a TOWN was named after THEM!!! (There’s a local town near us with their handsome little guy’s name in it…and, needless to say, they live near “Hadley”. *high pitched* Awesome!!!) Holding a sleepy toddler up to a wonderfully aged sign was just the ticket to cement the agreement. Perfect.

So, after we bid adieu to our buddies, and since Hadley was so dang sleepy, we plugged the local Whole Foods into our GPS. We had discussed, in advance, that we should check out the Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s since a) we don’t have EITHER one near home and b) it was the baby’s naptime, so I could run in and Dave could hang out with the air cranked.

My first impression was that the place reminded me of an insanely busy beehive. I couldn’t believe that pedestrians and vehicles weren’t getting into tangles with the sheer number of people heading in various directions and cars pulling in and out. (Hence my not standing in traffic to take an exterior picture.) There were a plethora of organic seedlings for sale outside, but at $4 a pop I didn’t think it wise to spend my entire gardening budget on the plants alone. (Mind you, I was tempted. Oh so tempted.) We also didn’t have my SUV, so I didn’t want to dirty my mother’s impeccable car.

Once inside, I found just as crazy a mass of worker bees. Of course, I forgot my shopping list, so I just meandered (as much as one can) throughout the store and grabbed things that I thought were a deal or that I would NEVER find locally.

Organic wine?! So cheap! Okay…yeah…but that $%#* adds up. I bought, like, six different “varietals.” (Is that the right term?)

Organic strawberries the price of REGULAR strawberries?? Get me the largest container, STAT!

MEAT?? Every combination of organic or grassfed or humanely treated you could imagine.

Organic white AND whole wheat pizza dough? Be still my heart.

Mind you, I would’ve bought more stuff. A lot more. But…see…I’m a touch disappointed to admit that all the rumors and online bashing are accurate. Most of the people I tried to maneuver around were downright…um…well, let’s just say self-involved and rude. Can I say that? Okay, we’ll just say that. I’m thinking far more appropriate, but LESS appropriate things, if-ya-know-what-I’m-sayin’.

Seriously, I was kind of surprised that pretty near EVERYONE shopping was the same exact way. At my usual Hannaford stop, I stumble upon the self-involved…the “won’t look up from their cell phone, won’t move from the center of the aisle” folks. But, they’re generally in the minority. Most people will say “sorry!” and scoot over for you, just as I frequently do for them. It’s a give-and-take.

Not at Whole Foods. Young hipsters. Middle-aged dudes who should know better. Mamas. Hippies. Somewhat normal 30-somethings…okay, these ones surprised me. I could’ve been looking in a mirror, seriously. Except that they remembered to take their apathy pills for the day, and I clearly didn’t get the memo to take mine. Like, really? Gonna give me the “move or I’ll get cut” look?

At one point, I sneezed. Then I sneezed again. And, because I’m a genius (I’m superstitious), a final third time. The last time, a lady working there glanced up, then back down. So, apparently the concept that workers are on the opposite spectrum from their shoppers is kinda bull crap, too. I could feel the seething judgment of the cashier, whom you could tell would rather be working at a GAP (y’know…full of a different type of narcissism). That was lovely.

But, regardless, aside from the warm fuzzies from the actual social experience of perusing a Whole Foods, I enjoyed the place. No, really. The aesthetics were gorgeous. I found myself turning a corner only to gasp at the beauty of the meat section. I’m not deranged; they were just stocked wonderfully with items I could have only dreamed about…and at relatively low prices. They just HAD. SO. MUCH. I wanted to weep.

Only, I really did kinda want to weep. When I got to the car with my booty (which, thanks to booze — and a special organic, non-GMO 6-pack for the husband whom had entertained the, of course, NOT napping toddler in the backseat the entire time — cost a touch more than I had expected), I was glad the experience was over.

Let’s just say…I’m kind of glad for my over-priced Hannaford finds and a relatively stress-free shopping experience. I’ll probably go back some day, but I’ll be better prepared.

As we slowly entered Memorial Day weekend traffic, I stretched my neck to glimpse the Trader Joe’s across the way. Next time, Dellecese. Next time.