A Whirlwind Winter Vacation

A funny thing happened on the way to Massachusetts to get my hair cut: a storm decided to unleash its icy fury on Vermont the morning the kids and I were supposed to leave, so my darling husband suggested we go down the night before and stay in a hotel.  Even with all the logistical hassle of staying in a hotel by myself with three kids (such as how to get all the kids and all the luggage in and out of the car during a storm), I knew that an extra night away would make our whirlwind visit to family and the city that much better.  So we found a great deal at an Embassy Suites outside of Boston and the four of us headed south for a February vacation adventure.

Of course, as luck would have it, the DVD player in the van went berserk halfway there, but the kids were so excited to go to a hotel that they took it in all in stride.  I pulled up to the hotel and found a luggage cart right by the front door, unpacked the van, left our belongings with the concierge, and went with the kids to park.  Once inside, the kids couldn’t believe how “fancy” the hotel was, including a glass elevator that we had to ride to the very top floor and all the way back down every time we got in, and a swimming pool and hot tub spa.  And who could forget all the luggage cart fun?

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Bad news was that once we unpacked, I realized I forgot Jax’s bathing suit!  With not even a pair of shorts I could substitute for them, we were off to the mall for a “quick” trip to find some.  It actually wasn’t that bad, since the mall had a Disney store and a Lego store and a thousand sets of escalators (which my kids are attracted to like magnets).  Jax picked out some God-awful Star Wars bathing suit that cost a million dollars at the Disney store, Em picked out some God-awful stuffed glittery princess cat, and Little H picked out a set of Mickey Mouse fork and spoon (thatta girl).  We bellied up to the bar at Johnny Rockets for some classic diner food and were back at the hotel before the snow got too bad.

Fast forward to a nice swim and a late movie and everyone got a great night sleep. The next morning Grampy met us for breakfast and the kids swam one more time before leaving.  We met Grammy for lunch and then the kids went back to her house while I got a much-needed hair cut, and then the big cousins and Auntie Jessie came over to play.  Phew! What a busy day, but so filled with laughs that I could never regret it, even with overtired meltdowns at the end of the day.

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The next morning was the biggest adventure of all! I packed up the car and we headed to the Alewife T Station, followed by Grammy, for an adventure into Boston to go to the Aquarium.  Teaching the kids how to use the subway system was great–they were super into it and loved every minute of being in the station and on the train!  The happiest commuters ever!

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After a short walk we finally arrived at the Aquarium, and even though half the state of Massachusetts had the same idea as us and Jax kept complaining that Boston is “too loud,” it was really worth all the effort.  Jax is learning about penguins at school and loved listening to the presentation, as well as the opportunity to touch sharks and rays.  Em loved the harbor seals and sea lions and Little H actually participated in a small education group about taking care of turtles!  My favorite part was the giant tank in the center of the aquarium, where the kids could watch the divers feed the fish and see all different species.  All different kinds of fun for everyone.

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And yes, maybe the kids whined on the walk back to the T station, and maybe we all caught colds and were squished in crowds, and maybe Em refused to be in a photo with me at the end of the day because I wouldn’t buy her something in the gift shop, but in the end, it was so worth the whirlwind to expose these kids to this incredible city and world.

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And I’ll always have this photo to remember the trip by.  Thanks random stranger for offering to take the picture and then confirming he got a good shot.  You nailed it!

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It’s all in the memories!

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Exploring The Freedom Trial

JDubbs and I grew up (mostly) in suburbs just outside of Boston (JDubbs was born and raised in Sacramento until he was 10), and it is my inestimable pleasure to expose my kids to the history, art, excitement and glory that is the city of Boston, especially in the summer.  When Jax began to show an interest in the American Revolution last winter, specifically Paul Revere, JDubbs and I knew a trip to Boston and the Freedom Trail (that links the many important historical sites throughout the city) would be on our list of things to do this year.  A warm summer day, our family of five, a stroller, some bottles of water, and we were off for a historical adventure!

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The Old North Church and its surrounding plaques, memorials, and statues to Paul Revere and the other significant Patriots of his day was just the right combination of history and fun.  Jax was interested to see things he had only read about in books come to life, and the girls, JDubbs and I learned a thing or two as well.

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Then we followed the Freedom Trail out of the North End, and crossed over to the Rose Kennedy Greenway, which was built after JDubbs and I had moved away from Boston.  It was something new for everyone and what’s not to love about green spaces, a carousel, splash pads and fountains amidst the buildings and bustle of the city?  It was the perfect kind of fun for my country mice!

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This fountain was everyone’s favorite, right outside Faneuil Hall, with the water coming up sporadically in various patterns, reaching enormous heights!  Jax had absolutely no fear and charged straight in.  Little H stayed on the outskirts and loved every second, although she didn’t actually get wet.  Em decided to be brave and went in after a bit of hesitation, only to get a jet of water in the eye and run out screaming!  She spent the next ten minutes shivering and crying until JDubbs bought her a tapestry from the farmer’s market to dry her off.  So, mixed reviews from the kids, but I loved it!

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From there we picked up the Freedom Trail again and walked through the Boston Common to the Public Garden, with a stop in Granary Burial Ground to see the graves of Paul Revere and John Hancock.  We stopped to say hello to the ducks from Make Way For Ducklings and some of their ancestors, but the line was too long for a tour on the Swan Boats.  Instead we got ice cream and watched the people and cars go by from a quiet spot on the lawn.

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After that, we took the T back to our car (the kids’ favorite part!) and headed to Auntie Amanda’s and Uncle Chris’s house for a sleepover before Legoland the next day.  This was one of my favorite memories from the summer, and we have had many extraordinary adventures!  I love exposing my little country mice to all this magnificent city has to offer!

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A World Of Mysteries

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One day I will live close enough to Boston to take advantage of all of its glorious opportunities to learn about our world more frequently.  For now, I will settle for taking our kids into town as often as possible, such as sneaking in a trip to the Boston Museum of Science the day after Thanksgiving with JDubbs, my sister Amanda, and her boyfriend Chris.

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If you can believe it, I had never been to the Museum of Science, and I thought it was a fantastic day.  We probably only saw half of all the wonders the museum had to offer; there was just so much to do and see!  There are awesome volunteers who had little experiments on hand that helped extend the learning or make it more accessible to my preschoolers.  Then there were exhibits that were so amazing they needed no explanation, just a moment to stop and consider all the amazing elements at work.

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After a trip to the dinosaurs and monkeys, we had dinner overlooking the Charles River and then went back for more.

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We had a fantastic time in the butterfly garden, where it was a little too chilly for the butterflies to be super active (their heater wasn’t working properly).  It was actually nice because we were able to get close and really investigate them.  The kids tried to coax them into flying by making butterfly motions with their hands, but no luck.

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The only picture of us five–not our best!  But one of my resolutions of 2014 is to be in more photos this year, so my kids can look back on these awesome times together with both me and JDubbs.  Obviously I was there, but I’d like some evidence!

We headed home just as the sun was setting.  One of my favorite times of day in the city.

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I love learning alongside my kids and appreciating all the wonders our world has in store for us, from the tiniest butterfly to a monstrous dinosaur.  I think it’s important to show kids how much you can still love learning, even as an adult, and it keeps us young! The best life has to offer.

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Playing In The Public Garden

 The second day of our family trip to Boston was a blazing hot day spent exploring in the beautiful Public Garden.

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It was so hot that we nixed our plan to walk over to the Boston Common and hit up the Frog Pond and carousel.  We took the kids on the shaded swan boats and pointed out the ducks that live in the pond.  We had read Make Way For Ducklings the night before so Mr. and Mrs. Mallard were fresh in their minds, and the kids were super excited.  It is such a special way to spend a day with family, one that is ingrained in my own early childhood memories.

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I think I enjoy it even more than they do!

Afterward we went over to see the statues of Mr. and Mrs. Mallard and all their baby ducklings, from Jack all the way to Quack.  Poor Em–metal statues on a hot summer day don’t really mix well with dresses!  She learned how to sit side-saddle pretty quickly, or to move into the shade!

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The kids ate a snack under the shade of a tree and H took a little power nap before we walked up Newbury Street to have lunch with friends.

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There’s nothing better than sharing the city I love with the kids I love!  I’m so glad that we made Boston our destination for our family vacation this year.  It’s perfect, even on the hottest of days!

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Family Trip To Boston

 Since we would have Baby H in tow, JDubbs and I made the executive decision not to take our kids on a big family vacation this year, as it may have been more trouble than it was meaningful.  We spent a lot of evenings together and enjoyed extended family time in Massachusetts.  However, we did decide that an overnight in Boston would be worth the effort, so one warm day in July we packed up the kids and headed to a great hotel just outside the city.

The first day we took the kids to The Children’s Museum, and aside from the headache of parking a mini-van with a Yakema on top (too tall for parking garages, too long to parallel park), the kids had an absolutely great time.  I love watching their minds at work and their genuine excitement in exploring the world.

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Em got stuck on top of the giant scaffolding/climbing apparatus when you first walk in to the museum, which was more amusing than distressing to me since I was nursing the baby and could only watch JDubbs coax her down like a cat in a tree.  Jax climbed up and came right back down, without giving his sister a second glance.  Luckily she finally emerged and seemed completely unfazed; she was ready to rock some virtual dodgeball.

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Jax is still talking about this.  I either have to take him back or turn my house into a poor man’s Billie Jean video.  He LOVED it.

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Baby H, not so much. But at least she doesn’t fuss.  Such an amazing baby.

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 The rest of the day was awesome and the kids had a blast exploring, learning, playing, laughing, and having so much fun.  It was a great way to spend a summer afternoon!

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After we checked into the hotel and JDubbs took the big kids for a quick dip in the pool, we took the subway system (known as the “T”) into the city.  Even now my kids talk about the T about once a week, and I think I will save money on parking from now until eternity and just park outside the city and take the T in.  Less hassle and instant family entertainment!

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We did lose JDubbs for a quick second when we got off at a non-handicap accessible stop and he had the stroller and all the baby gear.  I took the kids up and out and just assumed he was following me; I was not only wrong, but JDubbs had both my ticket and my cell phone! Luckily, he’s a Boston boy as well so he can take care of himself.

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We fed the kids at Dick’s Last Resort in Fanueil Hall, which could have been a disaster, but since the place was empty as it was only five o’clock and my kids (luckily) were on their best behavior, the waitstaff did not harass us but merely mocked us good-naturedly.  I’ll take it.

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Princess In Training and My Boogers Taste Great.

After dinner we explored Quincy Market, took in some street performers and bought a few touristy souvenirs.  Jax could not contain the urge to dance when he heard one particular drummer and danced his heart out on the steps of Fanueil Hall.  There was actually a bit of a crowd and someone told me that they enjoyed watching him more than the street performer! I wonder if he is a YouTube sensation somewhere and I just don’t know it…

3 I absolutely love introducing my kids to Boston, which will always be my home.  It is such an unbelievable city, and there is without question nowhere I’d rather be on a summer day.  Love making memories with my family!  Could not be happier.

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Family Day At Fenway

 Due to JDubbs’s alumni status at Northeastern University, he and I and the kids were able to explore the expanses of Fenway Park in all its phenomenal glory.

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Since we are bringing up the kids properly as Red Sox fans, we know it’s never too early to introduce them to the massive tradition and lore that comes with the territory.  There is so much to learn that there’s no time like the present!

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 Wally the Green Monster

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Fenway Franks and Fun

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The Field Itself, Sacred Territory

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Monster Seats

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World Series Trophies From 2004, 2007

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What an amazing introduction to the gift that is Red Sox fandom (and fanaticism)!  Learning the love of the game at such a young age–

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–now that is a priceless gift–and an amazing memory for me!

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She’s From Boston

A few thoughts about yesterday’s tragedy at the Boston Marathon:

I grew up a half mile from the Boston Marathon route, spending every Patriots Day cheering on the countless individuals, and later some incredible friends, who ran the route from Hopkinton to Boston.  Until this year, in fact, I didn’t realize that Patriots Day wasn’t a national holiday, even though I’ve lived all over.  To me, the day was such a celebration, a town-wide block party, that I didn’t realize the entire country wasn’t enjoying the same kind of spirit and fun that I was privileged enough to experience every year.

When Jackson was six months old, Jason and I took him to cheer on the runners at the marathon, and the only reason we haven’t been back since is because of subsequent babies and the distance.  We have taken the kids to cheer on the runners of the Covered Bridge Half Marthon, and Jason is training to run it himself this year.  In seven short weeks we will be spectators there ourselves, with homemade t-shirts and posters, waiting near the finish line for our loved one to complete his amazing accomplishment.  Last year he ran a 5K, this year a half marathon.  Who’s to say that in a year or two he wouldn’t be training for the Boston Marathon itself, with my family there on Boylston Street to be the first to greet him when he finished?  It’s things like that that have been bothering me all night: that the victims of this attack were families just like mine, waiting for loved ones just like Jason, reveling in one of the best days of the year.  One of the best days to be from Boston.

I taught at the high school in Newtown, Connecticut.  I know that community and their pain.  I went to college forty-five minutes outside of New York City during 9/11, and had classmates, roommates, and friends who were thunderstruck as terror struck their city.  The husband of a dear friend was in the second tower that day; thankfully he survived.  Now it is my city that is feeling the pain of an attack, and no matter that it has been nine years since I called Boston my home, to me it always will be, and I feel the significance of this event deeply.

Every time Jason and I drive down 93 South, I get a giddy, elated feeling whenever Boston’s skyline comes into view.  I always turn to him and say, “Don’t you just love Boston? Doesn’t it feel like we belong here?”  Since Jason is a chameleon and can feel at home anywhere, he just smiles and indulges me, knowing that indeed Boston is a great city, but that it is unlikely that we will ever live there again.  One of my biggest regrets about that is that my kids won’t know what it’s like to say, “I’m from Boston.”  To know what that means and how that defines you, how other people all over the country know without explanation what that means.  Tell someone from New Mexico that you’re from Vermont and they’ll say something like, “Isn’t that in Canada?”  But say you’re from Boston and they have a visual–mostly from movies like Ted and Fever Pitch–but they know.  I’m proud to be from Boston, proud of my city and how its people responded to this terrible crisis, how passionate, strong,and brave everyone has been in the face of this danger.  I’ve always known that and been proud of it, and after yesterday, the whole world knows it, too.

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