Toddler Travel Essentials

We recently revealed some of the ideas we’ve had for our summer vacation, and no matter what we choose, we’ll clearly be hitting the open road for our little adventure. Since this undertaking will involve traveling for an extended period of time with an active 2-year-old, it’s going to take some planning and strategic packing to make it all work smoothly. Well, as smoothly as anything can when a toddler’s involved. Am I right? #littlewrenchthrowers 

Let’s just say figuring out what to bring on a road trip with a little one involved can be a bit of a challenge.

So, I thought it would be fun to share a handful of items that I consider must-haves (or at least “they-help-the-cause” haves) to make a road trip way less stressful on mommy and daddy…and doesn’t that make the trip more fun, as a whole? Feel free to add them to your packing list if you think they’ll work for you!


1  /  2  /  3  /  4  /  5  /  6  /  7  /  8  /  9


1. This one’s as much for the parents as it is for the kids. An iPhone is a life-saver, especially if you’ve got unlimited access to the interwebs. We like to use ours to customize our listening experience with Pandora, but I’ll admit publicly that I tend to let Hadman use the PBS Kids app to watch whatever shows he wants for a few minutes. Yes. I’m that mom. The guilt overwhelms me. Kinda. Oh, and I’m including this cell phone cover because mine’s chipped and in need of replacing…and don’t you just love the hip arrow design and ability to insert a picture of your little monkey? *swoon*

2. An adorable fleece blankie. What’s more versatile than that? Use it to snuggle up if you’re leaving on one of those chilly summer mornings (they exist here in the northeast, at least), if your little one is in the need of some comfort, for a quick picnic lunch along the way, or as an easy-to-shake-out beach blanket. I adore how you can personalize this nautical design to suit your own family’s needs.

3. Have you ever noticed that you can get just as bad a sunburn while riding in a car as you can while sitting outside? Only it’s super uneven and not fun to look at. I’m a sunscreen obsessed mama, so I’m all about slathering it on before a big trip (and throughout). Badger is a trusted eco-friendly brand that not only WORKS, but that’s all natural and free of nasty stuff. I like this combo-pack that includes bug spray because my little guy just happens to be a magnet for bugs since he doesn’t know how to swat them yet.

4. Honestly, this is an everyday “must” for me. I don’t go anywhere without my stainless steel water bottle. It’s just my thing. So, needless to say, I’d much rather fill this up with our filtered water (and add more along the way) than buy bottled water — or less healthy options — on the trip. Oh, and this one can hold cold OR hot liquids, so feel free to fill it with your java if you need a caffeine kick.

5. This is another product that we use everyday, but it’s particularly suited for travel. This set includes two little cups with silicone tops. Sounds simple, but the tops have ingenious slits in them that make it *harder* for the food inside to fall out. (Notice I said *harder*; our little monkey has a tendency to grab a huge fistful, so stuff’s bound to escape, but it’s better than having him dump the entire contents in the backseat.) So, go ahead! Fill ‘er up with puffies or organic toasted O’s cereal (you know what I’m talkin’ about), and hand it over, carefree. I do.

6. My #1 tip for any overnight trip with a toddler is packing a cooler full of your usual (healthy-ish) already-prepped foods, snacks and beverages. Then, use it to fill a smaller lunch bag like this one with snacks or meals when you reach different stops. This also helps when you decide to stop at a restaurant; packing at least one healthy fruit or veg will help offset the inevitable unhealthy toddler fare they’ll be offering. #macncheese #chickenfingersandfries #nothinggreen?

7. I got to review these Tegu magnetic wooden blocks last year before Hadman was really old enough to enjoy them. I’ve gotta say, though, I’m so happy to have them now because they’re PERFECT for keeping the munchkin occupied while traveling. Why? They’re magnetic, so there are no pieces falling all over the car and getting lost under the passenger seat. They’re not too big or too small, so there are no choking worries. Plus, they’re compact, with their own cute carrying case.

8. For our little guy, books are the best thing on earth. So, for the car, board books are great. They’re durable, smaller than the usual picture book, and often fun and interactive. In this case, he can independently look for words that he knows (or “oof oofs” and “nanas”), or I can turn around in my seat and ask him to look for different items.  

9. We don’t have this yet, but I want it SO badly. Crayons and coloring books aren’t ideal travel materials for toddlers. THIS, however, is ideal. I remember getting a Magna Doodle when I had my tonsils out as a kid and loved it. This one is even simpler (no choking hazards with those little shape stamper things) and perfect for little doodling hands. 

So, what are YOUR must-haves for a road trip (especially with little ones along)? Any suggestions for what work for your family that I might have missed?

***Full disclosure: I am not sponsoring the aforementioned brands, and chose them based on personal choice. I was not monetarily compensated or provided with free products for my feelings. As always, all thoughts are completely, 100% my own.***

Summer Plans

Howdy! Now that the snow has sufficiently melted and we’re experiencing an honest-to-goodness springtime, I feel it’s safe to let my mind wander to the wonder that is S-U-M-M-E-R! Last year, I laid out a whole plan of what I hoped to accomplish and a few little “first timer” milestones I hoped to have fun with Hadley with. This year is really no different, although a lot of the stuff we’ll do isn’t a milestone; just “for fun.”

The biggest difference this year is Hadley. He’s so different, guys, it’s crazy. Last year, he was afraid of grass, wasn’t walking (hardly mobile at all, comparatively speaking), and couldn’t communicate. This year, he’s got a couple dozen (probably more) words and several gestures he uses to get his point across, walks/runs/trips/falls down/gets up/runs again, and enjoys dirt and grass and picking flowers (ie picking the heads of flowers off) and generally discovering the world around him with zeal. It’s exhaustingly fun.

So, you’ll notice some repeats from last year’s list. However, I think the actual experiences will be insanely different — for us AND for Hadman. Should be fun!

A touch more streamlined than last year, but still with a bit of an explanation (I’ll try to keep it concise):

1. We’ve all (adults, that is) got a lil’ family winter pudge going on. I need to be less vampirey/anti-social. Hadley loves bugs and dogs and dirt and saying “hi!!!” to big kids and attempting to run into the road. All ideal reasons to walk. A hike or two would be awesome, too.

2. T-2 1/2 months and counting until the monkey turns 2 years old (sniff, sniff). It looks like we’ve landed on a theme, which I’ll share soon. Our ultimate goal is to keep it low-key yet fun (I can’t NOT decorate, and I can’t NOT have a theme…it’s just not me. And he’s just too darn special.) It’s important for me to remember that we’ll have varied ages, and only a couple of little ones, so it’s not like we need much entertainment or giveaways or games. If you’re interested in seeing what I’m thinking, check out my Pinterest board for what I’m thinking. (Some are from last year, too. Speaking of which, here’s a link to how last year’s turned out!)

3. We went last year, and it was a blast. This year, Hadley recognizes animals, can point them out, makes tons of cool noises, and is generally a funner version of Hadley 1.0, so unless a crazy meltdown occurs, this should be awesomesauce.

4. Vague, no? We’re nailing it down, but Mama gets the itch to move every now and again. This could be one place far away. It could be several close-to-home trips. Who knows?

5. I’ve started bringing home some books for Hadley from my school library lately, but I thought it’d be fun to see if there are some family-related library events at our local book haven. If not, it’s cool. I’d just like to get there with him more often so he realizes there’s more than the overstuffed bookshelf in his bedroom. Plus, Mama can do a little more reading, too.

6. The sooner, the better! Maybe two!!

7. To simplify things, we’re not growing from seed this year. I’ve already made a garden plan, so at least I know what we need to go and buy. The Easter Bunny DID get the munchkin a little kit to grow one’s own basil plant, along with a cool little metal watering can and a mini trowel and cultivator, so he’ll hopefully be digging around, too. Yay, wormies! Oh, and I live in upstate NY, so it’s not really advisable to plant much pre-Memorial Day.

8. I’m not making any grandiose “I’m going to finish this monstrous project!!!” statements. Instead, I’m going to take a few of Hadley’s naptimes a week to get outside (or in the basement) to work on some organizing…and cleaning…and maybe painting…and stuff. My grandpa was a putterer, so it’s important to me to try to connect with that and have a hand in the care of the house.

9. Grilling, yes. Setting up and USING the outside table to eat, yes. Getting away from the TV set (regardless of how awesome Dick Van Dyke reruns may be), yes. I’m also hoping that our gate will fit at the top of our deck, so munchkin can eat up there with us and it’ll be a low-stress environment for all involved. Oh, and I’d also love to have a picnic. With pickles. ‘Cuz monkey loves a good pickle.

10. Don’t care where, this just must happen. We may have a picnicking day at a state park with my sis and her little one, so that may be our chance.

11. Last year, I mentioned writing a children’s book. I’ve got the ideas behind several simmering (and even outlined), but getting any of it on paper has remained elusive. This summer, I hope to change that. All I need is the focus…um, and an incredible artist to illustrate it. (I’m also mulling over chapter book. Loves me a good historical fiction.)

What’re you looking forward to most about summertime, summertime, sum sum summertime, summertime? Am I jumping the gun thinking about summer when it’s not even June yet? I think this school year has blown by so quickly (and Hadley has grown so much, so fast) that I’d rather take all the time that we can to hold on!

First Family Trip

Over the Columbus Day weekend (yes, I’m that behind on things), we finally tested the waters and took our first overnight family trip with Mr. Hadley, now 15 months old. We took a trip to Massachusetts over the summer, but this was the first just-the-three-of-us “let’s see if we can have fun far away from home” trip. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d say it was an 8…to 9…depending on how optimistic I’m feeling. 😉

The best part (and what made it, I thought, easier) was that we returned to Vermont — where we had our honeymoon and first anniversary trips. We stayed at the familiar Middlebury Inn. We walked around familiar Middlebury and drove the familiar roads that took us to familiar antiques shops. We stopped for a familiar romp around the Bennington Monument (although we’d never ran circles around the green before…thank you, toddler energy!).

But, it wasn’t a boring trip, by any means. Everything is so new through the eyes of a toddler, and the surreality of being places that we once casually spent hours eating at or were able to peruse without tiny, jutting hands grabbing things from shelves…it was kinda neat. And a little nerve-wracking. But, we accepted that this was how the trip would be, and we admittedly loved every minute of it.


Since it was Parents’ Weekend at Middlebury College, we could only book the Sunday into Monday (fine by us). We arrived in VT early after a pretty uneventful trip (hooray for naptime!), let the folks at the Inn know that we were early, then sauntered over to one of our favorite places on Earth: the Middlebury Co-Op. We’ve been there a few times and love it more each time. There’s cast-off (perfectly fine) soap from a local natural soap company that we stock up on (literally purchase pounds of the stuff in varying scents). Dave ogles the grind-it-yourself coffee. I love finding a vast selection of items I’ve only heard about online, often shouting with unabashed excitement to Dave two rows over. And, for it being one of his least favorite activities, Hadley did pretty well being carted through the aisles. (Key here: Constant motion.)

We purchased a lunch from the place (they have prepared food, too…woohoo!) at which time the antsy-pants took command, so we pretty much took turns watching him. Dave also walked the half-block to the car to store our treasures; Hadley made his acquaintance with several strangers sitting at the picnic tables outside the store, which made me realize that his social streak causes Dave and I to be far friendlier and more outgoing than we normally might be. Y’know, comparable to a puppy.

We then checked in for realsies, rode a “real live OLD SCHOOL elevator” with a teen to operate it, dropped off our stuff, (had the Pack ‘n Play delivered and set up since it had been forgotten; the only small glitch), and headed to the lobby for Dave’s favorite — afternoon tea.

They also have yummy pastries and cookies, so we loaded up a plate and brought our tea (and Hadley’s sippy cup o’ juice) to the “veranda” to watch the quaint traffic and enjoy a moment. Dave was in his glory, as my mother would say, and Hadley was a very good boy…since he was getting tastes of chocolate or lemon cookies, a huge treat.

Dave’s look during tea? Pensive. Pensive. And pensive. (He DOES enjoy it VERY much…believe me!)

We then went for a stroll around town. Unfortunately, since it was Sunday and heading for after 4, most of the stores were closed, but we still enjoyed our walk. I had hoped that Hadley would sleep for a little while in the stroller, to no avail. We then headed back to the Inn to get ready for our 5:30 reservation. Dave was already talking about the cheese plate, which we always order (for whatever reason). I was preparing myself mentally for a hadn’t-napped-sized meltdown from the munchkin.

I was pleased that our timing seemed to avoid any big rush (you never know when people will eat dinner, do you?) so that we’d be disturbing minimal guests with our noisy boy. He ate pouches, and tastes of my pork and the most delicious braised cabbage and whipped sweet potatoes I’d ever tasted. He ate cheese of his own while we feasted on our cheese plate (all goat this time, strangely; usually there’s at least one Cabot since the factory is on the outskirts of town). He played and hammered his hands and utensils on the table and caused a general ruckus, much to our disappointment, but the other guests seemed very forgiving and our hostess kept assuring us that he was very well-behaved and sweet and “nobody minds a bit, he’s so cute!”

We finally decided that, while dinner had been nice, it was time for Hadman to have a bath and get ready for bed (even if it was a bit earlier than usual), so Dave stayed to pay the bill (and get a couple of creme brulees to bring up to our room — I married a keeper, ladies!).

(Looked horrific dumped into a to-go container, but tasted lovely!)

We usually bathe Hadley in the kitchen sink, so this was his second tub experience. I let him play to his heart’s content, then run around the connected rooms (we had our own separate bedroom attached to a kind of living room, where his Pack ‘n Play was set up) before finally calming down, reading a book, and settling down for the night. Dave and I watched crappy cable and read magazines and books, and talked about how much we missed the cats. It was awesome.

The baby awoke far too early the next morning, but we weren’t ready to get up yet, so I brought him in the fluffy bed with us — where he immediately conked out. He has a weakness for comfy pillows, I suppose.

I got ready early and played with the munchkin (and got him ready) while Dave took a shower. We packed up and Dave loaded up the car while Hadley and I tore through the large lobby. (Okay, I didn’t tear through it, but he did…and I came tumbling after.) I finally realized there were a butt load of Morgan horse pictures (they were first bred here! And my niece’s name is Morgan, so what’s better than that?) adorning the walls, so we went from one to the next, pointing and “oofing.” (All animals say “oof”…or is that just what the cool kids are doing?) Daddy came back and we found a short line waiting for the Inn’s delicious breakfast — which made our nerves immediately spike.

With just two or three other tables of folks the night before, we were confident. With an entire dining room full this morning, we felt dead in the water. “Will. He. BEHAVE?!” we both silently wondered. Luckily, they were gracious enough to seat us at a HUGE table in the corner (near windows, though — we didn’t feel relegated to the dungeon) so Hadley could discover his table manners in relative privacy. The huge room, however, was eerily silent (what, were people whispering or just not talking to their spouses?! C’mon, can’t SOMEONE have a public spat??), so every little noise he made echoed. Eh, ya win some, ya lose some.

I had been dreaming of the couldn’t-be-more-perfect waffles for years (they’re the reason I bought a Belgian waffle maker…and still haven’t been able to find the “taste,” so quit trying), so I made a plate with extras for the munchkin of waffles, bacon (just a bit), eggs (which he loves), and some yogurt. Man, those waffles were as awesome as I remembered. We filled our stomachs and the baby let us know that he was ready to go. Off into the perfectly drizzly autumn day for some driving and antique stops.

We only stopped at two antique shops along the way — one run by a kind older man with a friendly pup who follows you around the store, and the other (Branford House Antiques) where we had befriended the owners and purchased a sidebar on our honeymoon. BOTH had “For Sale” signs plopped unapologetically on their front lawns. *pout* I suppose this is the end of an era.

Purchases were kept at a minimum: I grabbed a $10 wooden crate (wicked price, whether it’s an antique or not) and Dave bought an Art Deco lighter to adorn his office at work. Relatively cheap, and no regrets of over-purchasing. Win-win!

We DID over-buy at The Chocolate Barn in Shaftsbury. Maple candy, people! And handmade chocolates!! Great for gifts, and for a lil’ treat. Needless to say, ours were gone in under a week. I think that’s a new record.

And, finally, we stopped in Bennington. It was past our usual lunch by this point (we gave the baby an organic pouch at one stop, but he’s a ravenous lunatic when he hasn’t eaten…like his mama), so we were incredibly lucky to find a little cafe with awesome local food and drinks still open. A sandwich that was killed by how much spicy mustard it contained and more butternut squash soup for me (I’d had some at the Inn the night before that tasted like the best soup I’d ever had…ever), a grilled cheese sandwich for the monkey, and I can’t for the life of me remember what Dave got…maybe panini. Or something. Definitely coffee.
After our late lunch, we went to the Bennington Monument that we’ve been visiting since well before we got engaged and took some new pictures next to our buddies — a statue and a random plywood militia man. Hadley also socialized with anyone he could get close enough to and ran around like a fool. It was awesome.

Yeah. I know. Too awesome for words.


Here we have the last leg of our trip: a stop by Camelot Village (just outside Bennington). This is where things went a tad South. Hadley could’ve easily taken more outside energy-using activity, but instead we brought him into a huge venue full of breakable antiques. Stupid grown-ups. He wanted to touch EVERYTHING and started (predictably) whining and screaming when we picked him up. The stroller wouldn’t have fit through the aisles, either, so he was “on the loose” (I wish I had brought my Ergo, but I’m not sure he would’ve been contained). So, we went to the surrounding areas only to discover that things had changed (for the worse), finally deciding that I’d stay in the car with the monkey while Dave perused the antiques quickly. When he was done (and the baby was asleep), I took a quick walk through. Neither of us found anything worthwhile (or priced well enough to want), so we left empty-handed and happy to be heading home.

The rest of the trip took a couple of hours, so we got home in time to feed the annoyed, ravenous, yet strangely happy cats — it was clear that they had missed their boy, and it warms my heart to think of how affectionate they were when they saw us. They’re usually quite friendly little creatures, but the love that poured out for Hadley was just so darn evident.

While we headed back to work and normalcy the next day, I remain very glad that we took the leap into travel with our little man. We once made a list, while heading home from our honeymoon, of goals to maintain in our relationship and life. One that has stuck out stronger than any others was this: “When we one day have children, we will accept them into our lives, not completely change to suit the children.”

Of course, we knew that LIFE would change with a child (and we expected that when we wrote it), but what we meant — that we still wanted to have adventures, that we wanted to keep searching local, organic and healthier eating options, that we still wanted to go antiquing and history-hunting and the dozens of other things that we like to do — was ultimately that we want to share all those things with our young ones. We also want to acclimate them to a change in routine, the idea that the world does not revolve around their beautiful little noggins (well, the one noggin, for now – ha!), that certain behavior is expected in certain places, and, mostly, that there’s a great big world out there for them to discover, enjoy, and take advantage of.

And I think we’re on our way.

Massachusetts

A couple of weeks ago, we made our first family overnight trip to Massachusetts. We had a couple of goals while there: visiting some friends, specifically for a baby shower/house warming party (and being so lucky that those friends let us stay over with them! With a one-year-old in tow, nonetheless!! That’s what I call lifelong friends, folks), hitting up the Eric Carle Museum and outlets in Lee on the way home.

My main priority was how the baby would do. Would we be pushing his limits by expecting him to ride three hours? Stroll through a museum? Nap in a strange place (it did take him awhile to settle down in his pack ‘n play setup)? Get down and dirty in *gasp* the grass to socialize with strangers at a BBQ? Spend almost an entire day at an outside outlet mall? Then take a last-minute ride to Utica to celebrate a family birthday?

Whew. I’m exhausted just thinking of it. But, honestly, he was a freakin’ trooper! He’s at the age where he gets squirmy (he’d much rather be getting into everything) so there were moments, but all of our goals (and then some) got checked off the list and he remained a happy little guy.

So, here’s a rundown. We left EARLY Saturday morning to stop as needed (and we did) and in hopes of getting to the museum before heading to the barbecue. Done and done! While we didn’t dillydally at the Carle (Dave would’ve, I’m sure; I had to drag him from the first exhibit (the Eric Carle one) to keep the momentum going; they had an awesome scavenger hunt that had him quite occupied), we got to experience it fully. It’s one of those places where you could spend an hour (a rushed hour, but an hour nonetheless) or an entire day, easily.

The best part for us is pretty much a given: the Mo Willems exhibit. *squeals like a Beatles fan…’cuz I am one* Hadley waved at EVERY character he saw. Pigeon, bam. Piggie, bam. Naked mole rat, bam. It was like seeing old friends…in the rough…before they had a final snaz-up for publication. Just incredible! And fun. And funny. All the things that Mo is and does. (Side note: No pictures in the exhibits. We’re rule-followers. Most of the time.)

Next best part? The library. You’d think that, as a librarian, that would be my favorite part, but I’m weird (I’m a museum NERD). I was, however, wicked impressed that the whole place was organized by illustrator (vs. author) and the importance they put on the Caldecott Award. There were also play areas and comfy colorful seats where you could read to your little ones…which I did, until his attention was diverted to the Legos. I tell ya, he does the same thing at Barnes and Noble. He had a blast, even when an older kid (ANTHONY!) stole his toys. (And since I’ll never see Anthony or his cohorts again, here they be…)

Kids in old man hats? Priceless. I think Hadley wanted to go live with them.
(I actually think Anthony is MIA from this picture. Whew.) 

The NEXT best part? The tiles in the bathroom!!! So damn cool. Eric Carle artwork as accent tiles throughout the bathroom. That, and the awesome stuff in the jam-packed gift shop. We grabbed at least one book and an “H” painted in Carle-style and a couple of postcards to use for art later on.

I’m pretty darn sure Dave was secretly wishing I’d come up with an idea for the bolts of Pigeon cloth they had. He had scoped it out online before going and sent me the link. Mhmm. I didn’t get any. 😛

Oh, and I’m sure we’ll be visiting when Hadley gets bigger. When we do, we’ll a) spend more time (and maybe meet up with the little boy on his way!), b) bring a picnic (they have a cafe area to eat but just organic snacky-type stuff, no real service) and c) take part in the arts and crafts option, which is free with admission. Just sayin’.

We were just in time for the BBQ, which was a nice casual take on a shower; not dressy, not fussy, go-with-the-flow. The baby napped inside in his pack ‘n play for awhile, and when he came out and finally warmed up, he played A LOT with one little girl in particular. Um, yeah, they “kissed.” Adorable…and terrifying. One of the best memories was when that little girl took a break for it into the neighbor’s yard (these yards are awesomely-sized!) and, of all the adults, Dave was the one who chased her down. Classic moment.

We got out of the way to run a few errands (baby painkiller much? Teething sucks) and stopped by the cafe where Dave used to work to say a quick ‘hi’ and catch up with more friends, who had Hadley S-M-I-T-T-E-N. What can I say? He loves the ladies. 😉 It was great to see them and meet some new friends, if only briefly.

Then, inside the cafe there was a great open mic happening, so while Dave got his plain coffee and I my smoothie, we listened to the live music. Hadley was hooked, big-time. We knew he loved music, but he was enamored — rocking out (with his whole-body swaying and his arms up, very serious) and clapping when the song was over, then waiting patiently for the next song. We didn’t stay long, but the audience was taking notice. For once it wasn’t because he was crying or otherwise distracting negatively! 🙂

When we returned to the house, we gave Hadley his first EVER bath tub bath, which he really seemed to have fun with. He didn’t know what to do with all the extra space around him! Then, we read to him and got him settled down for his bedtime. I hopped in the shower, then we got some awesome alone time with our friends. It felt so nice to chat and catch up, especially with all the good news swirling around our heads.

The next morning, the baby awoke QUITE early and we didn’t want to wake anyone up (we weren’t the only ones sleeping over) so we read more in bed until I finally brought the munchkin downstairs to eat his breakfast. We stayed a little while longer and chatted (and saw a horribly hysterical “adult” version of the Count from Sesame Street…I’m still disturbed and laughing heartily) before getting some gas and heading to Lee.

Between needing some new sizes for the Hadman and shoes for Dave, grabbing a thing or two for our niece, and hoping to find stuff for myself before returning to school, I’d call it a success. We even had wraps from a local franchise, “That’s a Wrap!” (which is better than the other stuff they had in their food court), which had some delicious options. Nom nom.

After a stop or two on the way home (what, it was hot? We needed ice cream), we headed home to do a quick dump-and-run before hopping back in the car to head to Utica. While we were absolutely exhausted, we were happy to be able to visit with Dave’s dad and family for a little while and to wish him a happy, happy birthday.

So, I’d say we fit A LOT into that weekend. And that’s two or three more items crossed off my summer to-do list! When I wrote the list, I was hoping that we could hit up Concord and maybe Lexington (if not Boston) sometime this summer, but we had some shifting happen and it just wasn’t plausible this year. But, that’s okay! We had a blast and learned that we CAN travel with a baby! We’re already excited to test it out this autumn… Stay tuned!

Oddball

This past week, I schlepped the baby “up north” to the awe-inspiring Adirondacks for some quality time with my family and some ducks…and a deer head named Lois (although “she” was clearly a 7-point buck) which my son was sadly enamored with. I’m telling you, people, it was a good time.

Dave was only able to make it up for one dinner, so we missed our third musketeer horribly, but it was altogether a fun-filled, generally relaxing chance to get away from my daily summer routine of non-funness (boring ol’ everyday) and spend time with all three of my siblings (it’s rare to have us all together at once) and their respective families. We took walks, played some games, fed some duckies, illegally fished off the dock (oops…karma’s a bitch, I only caught seaweed), toasted a few marshmallows, mercilessly made fun of each other, and I even kidnapped my can’t-believe-she’s-a-teenager niece into canoeing across the entire lake. And, for the most part, I ate “normally.”

I had prepped myself mentally (if not physically, ugh) for this last piece. My mother, who is the ultimate planner/worrier, brought all the food (although my sister-in-law’s family brought a ton of goodies, too, since they were bringing up five people vs. two; I thought it was nice of them). It’s not that my mom eats crap; she buys the good cold cuts, the name brand yummy peanut butter, soda, bread, etc. Considering how much she has done for us over the years with an insanely low budget (HUGE Sunday meals, always healthy in the meat-and-potatoes sort of way; technically lots of “real food”), she still makes it a point to buy less but save for the best, even though we’re not under her roof anymore. It kind of brings a tear to the eye, really. Heck, maybe she thinks we’re not doing a good enough job of feeding ourselves. Could be.

But, I know that she and the rest of my family are, for all their strangeness, normal. I’m the oddball. Which is why I prepped, mentally, for the food, but more so for the comments.

I wasn’t about to drag out a week’s worth of my own natural food options. Didn’t want to disrespect the cruise director, plus she had brought more than enough food for everyone. I figured that, for a week, I could put my massive amounts of research and reading about the benefits of an organic, “real food” diet (or, at the very least, HFCS-free eating) aside and just be “one of the group.” No weekday vegetarianism, no looking at the label for naughty things. The one place that I differed was when it came to the baby. It’s relatively easy to keep that under the radar with his jars and pouches of baby food, but the organic cheese sticks, applesauce, apple juice and yogurt I tried to conceal in the fridge gave me away…and the bunch of bananas sitting strangely next to the ones Mom had brought.

The second I put a chip in my mouth, Mom made mention, sarcastically, of her “organic girl.” It actually didn’t hurt my feelings since I knew what she meant by it and it was one of the first times she had really ever made mention that she knew how I ate. She has eyed my grocery store cart when we bumped into each other at Hannaford, and she may or may not read the blog. She knows. The snide-yet-harmless comments (from a sibling or two, as well) continued in drips and drabs for a few days, but mostly they were about the stuff Hadley was eating. Whew. Bearable. For the most part, folks didn’t say anything at all; the chiding I did get was just a continuation of what I’ve heard since I was a little girl.

See, I’m used to the comments, for the most part. Our family is a group of teasers; always has been, always will be. I fall victim to the “Let’s gang up on Bill” mentality at times, myself, too. (Always remembering that I’ll probably be at the center of the next bout.) There was a time that my too-sensitive (not to mention dramatic) nature took them to heart. But, not seeing much of these close family members helps most of the comments bounce off one’s back and remember childhood fondly.

And it’s not like I’m not used to being the oddball, anyway. We’re each pretty weird in our own ways, but apparently I was a tad more “off” than the rest of them. It was the same way in school, so by the time I had weirded my way through high school, I had grown into my skin. Monkees-lovin’, tennis-and-oboe-playin’, non-drug-doin’ hippie as I was.

And, y’know what? In a weird way, this trip helped to remind me of who I am. I’ve become such a worrier of what others think of me that I had forgotten how comfortable it was to just be myself. Sure, I’ll probably always be a tad self-conscious around others (especially when in volatile situations…well, doesn’t THAT sound mysterious?), but the occasional reminder that it’s okay to be an oddball is refreshing, isn’t it?

At least, it’s what I hope to teach Hadley. After all, who’s more in touch with who they are than babies? Don’t lose that, son! Don’t you let it go.

What about you? Are you proud of your weirdness? What makes you especially crazy? Go ahead, let yo’ freak flag fly!

Summer Lovin’

Psst. Not to blow the roof off the joint or anything, but…it’s summer. I’ll wait for the hooting and hollering to subside……..

Alrighty, it may not LOOK like I’m jumping up and down on my exterior (my exterior is still finishing up inventory today), and even my interior is going through the strange let-down of the usual end-of-year blahs, but let me tell you, I’ll get over that quickly. I’m ecstatic to be able to stay home — no summer school for me this year — with the little one and enjoy a slower pace.

So, while I finish cleaning up at work, allow me to share with you some of our summer plans. I’ll be back to explain them (I know they seem self-explanatory, and most of them are, but you know me…I like to elaborate!) next week. 

Until then, let me know — What are your plans for the summer? Will you be slaving away, or will you have a chance to take life a little slower? Traveling at all? Getting in touch with nature? Do tell!

Gettin’ All Cultural Up in Here

We needed to get away. For Dave and I both, it was one of those work weeks that got worse by the day. Knowing that I would be wallowing in a week off this week was a tad harder with his having to cover for several people at work, with me home with the baby. So, we needed to do something for ourselves over the weekend.

When Dave had heard that his favorite painter would be exhibited at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, it seemed like a no-brainer to hit up the farmers’ market, grab some lunch, then test the baby at his first-ever museum trip. The fact that it wasn’t in the midst of a crazy busy city and (after the hubs called in advance) was stroller-friendly made me a tad less nervous at the prospect.

See, it’s neat. We’re not really “beach people” (although I do NEED to stick my feet in sand from time to time, but I don’t NEED the masses of people and beach bodies that go with it). When we travel, we seek out our interests — which is why our past vacation posts include lots of antiquing, museum and historical site visiting, local food eating, and even a bit of nature walking and co-op shopping. Back B.H. (Before Hadley), we were also known to hit up Broadway, as well as take in more local theater. We’ll get back into it when the little man’s a tad less needy.

(Here’s our first anniversary trip and our honeymoon. Thought I did a Boston/Concord post, but apparently not!)

It’s awesome to have a partner who doesn’t think you’re a crazy person to prefer a museum to, well, almost any other place on earth.

So, after stocking up on veggies, meat, jam, and more, as well as testing some cheese, we strolled over to Doubleday Cafe. Unfortunately, Monkey turned into his obnoxiously needy (borderline breaking down) self, so lunch was a tad challenging. Lots of one-handed quesadilla eating and passing him back and forth.

After a stop at the car for a feeding and diaper change, we took the brief drive over to the gorgeous stone building that houses so many incredible art pieces and artifacts. We pushed Hads down a path to see if it would start to tire him out, but while spring had finally started, the wind was too much. And, that’s when my stomach suddenly took a turn for the worse. I soldiered on.

We went inside, and since I had been to the museum several times of the years (between childhood field trips, family visits, and even a few years back as an adult — I was raised with a passion for this stuff), it was neat to see Dave “ooh”ing and “aaahh”ing over all it had to offer. We chatted with the ticket lady over possibly purchasing a membership (there’s one that’ll get you into numerous museums all over the country…may not be worth the cost this year, but when we’re a more mobile family, it sounds perfect) then took a map and went to it.

The exhibits we were able to take the most time with were the folk art and American Masters rooms. We were a tad disappointed that we only got a preview of the artist Dave was hoping to see more of, but overall the stuff was awesome. From learning more about everyday life (shop signs usually had fantastic, rustic art because in the pre-industrial age 90% of individuals were illiterate…kinda knew that, but the art was COOL) to viewing artists in a different light, it was well worth the trip. Even if my stomach distracted me (dizziness and nausea, ick!).

Dave did some quick cell phone shooting, then we headed into the room with Cooper artifacts, then to a cool blacksmith exhibit (the Farmers Museum across the street is my FAVORITE place — their Candlelight Evening at Christmastime is so cool; their master blacksmith did some incredible pieces, plus there were some awesome artifacts from the 1700s) before going to yet another level and noticing that the baby was waking up in the stroller. The Native American artifacts, we suddenly realized, might be terrifying to him (lots of incredible masks…but they even scared me), so we decided to call it a day. Besides, the Fisherman’s Friend cough drops weren’t quite touching my sickness.

Aside from my short-lived stomach problems (probably something I ate) and a fussy buddy, the museum trip was SO fun and enjoyable. We even bought a Norman Rockwell coloring book (!) for the little man when he can wield a crayon someday. (We usually purchase a book or something else fun when we make such a stop; at our last trip to Concord, we bought a onesie with an awesome Thoreau quote that juuuuust fits the monkey now.)

And, just because I’m so proud of his work on this little “home video” (based on the famous “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” montage — which we hope doesn’t mind his borrowing of the copyrighted music!!), come along on a trip with us…

Summer Planning

Doing my best to focus on the positives of life and what there is to look forward to (as well as reminding myself that I deserve happiness), so Dave and I are deciding where we’d like to travel for our mini-vacation this summer.

Since Dave works a normal job (or…less than normal…but, y’know, vacation-wise) and I signed up for summer school (which is a pretty sweet gig, only half days and Fridays off), we’ll only be going for a short, overnight sorta trip. And, sorry, not telling when until we get back – we’ve got a thing about letting the random Internet public know when we’re not in the house. 😉 No offense! I’m sure my readers aren’t random, but you never know.

As per tradition, we will be heading to Old Forge for our annual Enchanted Forest/Water Safari (where the fun never stops, dun dun)-and-romp-around-town getaway. It involves putt-putt golf, eating at random boutique-ish cafes, and shop browsing. It’s more fun than it sounds, really. When I was a kid and many of my friends were going to Florida or Cape Cod (sometimes numerous times a year), I was fine that my mother brought us to Old Forge. Throw in the Adirondack Museum and you’ve got one very happy girl!

So, as far as our out-of-state-away (different type o’ getaway), we’ve got a couple of factors that we’re looking for. Our future trips may not always consist of these, but currently, these are our must-haves:

– History. It doesn’t have to be riddled with massively important and life-changing places, but we prefer to get some culture and a level of education out of our trips.
– R&R. I’m hoping that the trip can be rejuvenating, even if it is just an overnight. This can come in several forms, from beach walking (and reading and laying upon) to losing ourselves in unknown (safe) neighborhoods. In other words, taking things as they come and not over-planning.
– Three to four hours away, tops. Since this is only an overnight trip, we figured it would be a waste to travel for 6-8 hours each way. So, yeah, that helps with determining the radius of where we’ll search. Or is it diameter? Diameter, right, diameter. d=2r. Thank God for Google; otherwise I’d have to live by McCoy Math.
– Cute shops. Y’know. Just for fun. 🙂 And hopefully some antiquing along the way.

Those aren’t a lot of demands, are they? Eh, maybe. Maybe not. Anyhoo, we’ve rounded it down to Boston (although it wouldn’t be that relaxing and beachy; we’ve visited in the past and LOVE seeing Quincy Market and all things Freedom Trail…oh, and I guess we took a walk by the harbor, so that was close to beachiness…sans the peace) and several towns in Connecticut. Just trying to narrow it down.

If anyone has some final suggestions, I’m open to everything! Er. You know what I mean. Especially if you’ve had any great or horribly shareable vacation stories from the places I’ve mentioned – or any place close to them. 🙂

Friendly Inspiration

At the end of last week, Dave and I schlepped down to Massachusetts for the wedding of our friends, John and Danielle. Oops, let me clarify – Dave was the officiant, so he actually MARRIED them! Apparently, in Mass., any ol’ person off the street can apply to be, essentially, a justice of the peace for 24 hours. Pretty cool, huh?
Other than the fabulous, special wedding, we were lucky enough to see (and stay with) our awesome friends Josh and Melissa. Dave’s known them since…well, for plenty of years…and I’m lucky that they’ve become dear to me, as well. Seriously, it was like love at first sight when I met them. They had arrived early for an overnight visit last year and I scrambled to meet them at the house, admittedly nervous about greeting them solo (since Dave was at work). But, after showing them into the house, we all started talking, and several hours later when Dave arrived, he still couldn’t shut us up. They. Are. Awesome.

And so is their new apartment. I won’t show any pictures that indicate where they live or any crazy thing like that, but I MUST share the inspiration that struck me while staying with them. They very, very recently moved into a new place, but you could definitely feel their sense of style and awareness of space (mostly brought about by their years living in NYC…and because they’re truly artistic souls). My faves:

Awesome pillow.
I believe Melissa made this with Ikea fabric.

Rustic kitchen table – with storage underneath!

Sorry, gentlemen. Just loving the colors in that quilt.

Another incredible handmade pillow.
(On a slipcover couch. WANT ONE!)

Pay no attention to my chatting husband.
DO, however, notice the spray-painted lamp. Gorg.

 

And the beautiful Crate & Barrel trunk coffee table.
Chunkiness. Storage. Rusticity. Room for wine. Perfect!
(And see the red entertainment center in the back?? :-D)
I should admit that the inspiration that Dave and I come away from Mass. and seeing his/our friends is clearly more than decorative (although we hit up their Christmas Tree Shop on the way home – way more stylish than ours! I went a little nuts). It’s almost like our perspectives on everything are reset. We return home feeling jubilant, ready to conquer any challenge, inspired (of course)…but also missing the heck out of the folks we’d just left.