Saturday, November 12, 2016

October, Part II

Despite my last post being presented as a recap of our October activities, I apparently had a memory lapse about, oh, most of our month. So here is the rest :)

We started off the month with a trip to a pumpkin patch (which Josie then went to again the very next day as a school field trip, and apparently had just as much fun there that time too). Audra was pretty much keeping up with Josie this year, while Benjamin got to play around much more than last year too, especially liking all of the full-size wooden vehicles.
[Audra's interpretation of appropriate pumpkin patch apparel]
 [Inside the mouth of a jack o' lantern]

The girls especially liked a fort that had a climbing wall-type thing in it to get up to the upper level, which then had a slide coming off it to get back down to ground level. With my mom stationed in the fort to boost the girls up the climbing wall, and me at the bottom of the slide to make sure they made it down in one piece, they had a great time running around the fort, getting up to the slide, and then coming back down... over and over and over again.

They also both went on the giant jumping pillow (again, requiring helpful boosts from the adults to get up it), although Josie in particular quickly realized that the hordes of kids running back and forth past her were not her cup of tea, since they kept inadvertently double-bouncing her and sending her sprawling. So she chose to regard the giant jumping pillow as a giant sitting pillow instead ;)
[Not pictured here: hordes of children]

After the trip to the pumpkin patch, I figured we were done with fall festival-related activities for the year... until I randomly stumbled upon a notice about a fall festival at Mount Vernon. I have fond memories of Mount Vernon, although it had been years since I was last there (and that was for a winter festival, I believe), so I figured we'd give it a try. Emily and the younger kids skipped the mansion tour, but Josie actually did pretty well with it... although she seemed most interested in seeing the bed where George Washington died (she is a tad bit morbid).

We then wandered around the grounds, eventually heading over to the Pioneer Farm where the festival was. Josie helped do laundry, we watched some grain being treaded in the 16-sided barn, pet some horses, listened to some story-telling (which were mostly Aesop's Fables, so Josie was especially excited to hear them, since that's what we're reading at home right now), did a hay bale maze, carded wool, milled some grain, and finished it off with hot dogs and listening to some fiddling.
 [Audra's treasured bit of wheat, which she received to distract her from tantruming when I finally dragged her away from the wool carding/grain milling tent]

Now that we really and truly were done with fall festivals, we could turn our attention to... pumpkins. I risked it by having just Audra with me when we picked out pumpkins, but it only led to some whining from Josie and mildly heated negotiations between the kids for them to settle on which pumpkin was whose. As we were picking out designs, I reminded Josie of what happened last year (when she picked a scary face, which she decided was too scary for her only after I carved it), so instead both girls picked out happy faces for this year. And that is how we ended up with a couple of really happy jack o' lanterns, which made me smile each time I saw them :)

[Preparing the seeds for roasting]

[Audra's on the left, Josie's on the right]

The girls also had a Halloween parade at their school, which is always fun. Audra looked mildly concerned about all the hubbub until she saw us, then her face lit up as she ran over to give hugs, and then she REJOINED THE PARADE. I was shocked by this, since she (still) very rarely willingly leaves my side. But she did well this time :) Josie holding hands with one of her friends was adorable, and seeing/hearing Audra and Josie squeal when they caught sight of each other was also sweet :)

And finally, here are just some random pictures of Audra. She picks her own clothes, and sometimes really knocks it out of the park... or something. This time, she got dressed, then announced "Look at me!" And I responded, "Oh, I see you all right. Go show Daddy." Which is what I say every time she comes up with an especially fabulous outfit, since that just needs to be shared :)

Sunday, November 6, 2016


Although it seems we were just there (at least, based on my last post), we headed back up to Pennsylvania a couple of weeks ago for our annual trip to visit our friends. For some reason, I have next to no pictures, but trust that it is beautiful up in the Poconos in the fall :)

The girls had a great time playing with our friends' boys, and most of the weekend was spent with them all running around, crashing into things (ok, that was mostly the boys), and playing OUTSIDE even. We hardly ever seem to get outside at home, so sending the kids outside to play by themselves was very exciting to me... especially since they did not require my presence for once :) So instead, I got to stay inside - where I only spied on them a bit from the window - and read, drank some adult beverages, and had actual grown-up conversations (about school, but still, without the benefit of constant interruptions). We haven't been too successful with making new friends once almost all of our old set of friends basically spread out around the country, so I appreciate it even more when we're able to spend time with good friends of over a decade... and it doesn't hurt that the kids all get along so well too :)
[The view over the playground - and to the mountains - where the kids were happily playing]
[Blurry children running; this was representative of how the weekend went]

The other big event in October is obviously Halloween. Josie dressed up as what I dubbed "Renaissance Girl" (only later did I realize "Medieval Lady" might have had a better ring to it), and Audra was a tiger. I'm still enjoying the fact that Audra is cool with whatever costume I pull out for her, so we're still working through hand-me-downs... hopefully she doesn't realize too soon that she could actually ask for something else, since it is so much easier this way :)
[With the cousins]
[I asked Audra to look up, but I meant to look up at me... oops] 

Audra quickly figured out how to work the system: with an adorable little "rawr" or a "Happy Hawwoween!", she was able to roughly double her candy acquisition... and since it's not like a 2.5YO really needs a bucketful of candy, really I was the one to reap the "benefit" of her cuteness ;) Josie was usually one or two houses ahead of us (with Ryan and his parents), so I had her with Audra and me for a couple of houses at the beginning, and then mostly just saw her in passing after that, as she yelled across lawns to us to announce how much further ahead she was. Audra's little legs (and careful and deliberate stair-climbing) meant we had a much more leisurely pace for the evening :)

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Lancaster Trip

I'm a few months late on this recap, but I didn't want to just skip over this trip to get up to present day. I finally finished the project I had been working on during my approximately 2.5 hours weekly of freetime (i.e., Audra's weekend naptime), so hopefully I'll be able to catch up again soon :)

Back in August, my mom, brother, SIL, nephew, and me and the girls (Ryan decided to have his own version of a vacation at home in a quiet house) went up to Pennsylvania for a long weekend. We were headed to Lancaster, which appears to be most known for its Amish population, quilting... and Dutch Wonderland, which was our primary destination ;) There was a carnival by our house again, so before we left, we had to make it through another week of passing the carnival every day on the way to and from school, and the girls asked to go to it every day, and every day I told them we were about to go to a bigger and even better amusement park, if they could just wait a couple of days. Sometimes it's hard to be a kid.

So we drove up to Lancaster, and our first stop was at Friendly's for lunch, which Josie always loves because she really likes that she can get a balloon there. Audra was more amused by drinking her milk and water at the same time.

We then went to the B&B for naptime, and although we had briefly considered going to Dutch Wonderland for the park preview (where we could have gone for the last 3 hours the park was open), we ended up just hanging out at the B&B for a bit and then getting dinner. Dinner was notable for the number of horse-drawn buggies going by outside the window, and watching for them quickly became more exciting for the girls than the authentic Amish meatloaf they were pushing around their plates ;) 

The next morning, we headed out for our day at the park. The girls went on the carousel first, and probably would have been happy to spend the rest of the day on it. Audra in particular loved her black horse, and even yelled at other kids she saw riding on it later in the day, claiming (rather loudly) that they were riding her horsie :-\

Cousin Benjamin went on his first ride too, with some assistance from Josie. The ride was hilariously slow, but it was completely adorable to see how much the kids liked it (and Audra's aggressive bulldozing).

The rest of the morning was basically a flurry of going from ride to ride. There were a decent amount of other people there, but the lines weren't too bad so I think the longest wait was maybe only 15-20 minutes. Josie and Audra went on the little kid rollercoasters and just loved them, so Josie and I went on a rollercoaster that she only barely met the minimum height for. Although she loved it and shrieked throughout the whole ride, I couldn't stomach going on it again after seeing her head flopping all around (it was a rather bumpy wooden coaster) and I therefore spent most of the ride trying to prevent it from banging on anything.

The food choices at the park were less than ideal, so in wandering around in search of healthier food (and eventually even just any food), we found our way into a dinosaur jungle. Josie promptly got into a dinosaur egg, and then demanded to know why the (animatronic) dinosaurs were moving if they're all supposed to be dead.

After that, we found our way to a dining hall that was out of pretty much everything I wanted to feed the kids, so instead I spent a ridiculous amount of money ($60!) on smoothies for each kid (that Audra almost immediately spilled, which she somehow manages to do with every drink she ever gets at a restaurant), grilled cheese for the girls to split, a sandwich each for my mom and me, and a salad. I was more than a bit frazzled at this point, having waited too long to get food and then having to make impulse decisions about said food while in a noisy, hot, and humid room, but at least my mom had settled the girls down with some oranges in the meantime. After that, we headed back to the B&B for some much-needed naptime (for me, too).

Fully rested after naptime, we went back to the park to ensure we got our money's worth for the day ;) The girls were excited about the double stroller I rented... and I was excited about it being half-price since we got it in the evening ;)

The kids went on more rides, doing quite well being kind to each other while squished together on the rides, but decidedly less so in the stroller. They rather quickly decided that the stroller wasn't big enough for the both of them (probably true!), and there was lots of squabbling, one child or the other being pulled out to walk if they were being too antagonistic, etc. In attempts to make sure it at least wasn't hungry tummies causing them to be so prickly, I got them water, lemonade, and a pretzel (which did seem to help), and then we went to an aquatic show.

I thought the girls would probably be into it, but I still didn't expect how into it they actually were. Josie was like this for the whole show:

I'm not sure she blinked or sat down the whole time. Meanwhile, Audra clapped in delight with every trick, and hugged her lemonade like a long-lost friend.

We did a few more rides, story-time with Princess Brooke, the log flume (which the girls especially liked, despite Audra getting a faceful of water she wasn't expecting), more food, and then since the park was being closed down around us, we took our cue and finally left. This was such a great park for the kids at their ages, so we're already talking about going back next year.... just probably not in the summer, since it was a bit hotter than was entirely comfortable.

The next morning, we had another lovely breakfast at the B&B, and then Emily and Brian took some pictures of the kids. Ben is clearly an old pro at taking adorable pictures, but I was floored by these pictures that they took of the girls - they're both smiling, looking at the camera at the appropriate time, and not blurry or overly disheveled. Well done, and thank you, Brian and Emily :)