Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Summer Wishes

"Schools out for the summer - and I have one week off. I have 7 days to play with my kids, connect with my husband, and maybe, just maybe, squeeze in a little me time."

Those were the very first words I typed in my blog. I saved that one sentence as a draft and never finished it. I "wished it" back in June, at the beginning of my first vacation week of the summer. I realize that the reason I never actually finished and posted it was because I didn't do a lot of what I had hoped. Or so I believed. There's something to be said for summer expectations. Several parents I have spoken with have complained that summer seems to go by so fast. You try to squeeze in too much and feel let down if you can't do everything. Or an unwelcome weather  change (such as the extreme heat wave that we experienced in Connecticut the week of my July vacation), can ruin all plans of summer staycation fun.

I must admit, I too, got caught up in the lamenting of summer wishes gone un-accomplished. I looked at that first blog sentence of only a few words, yet heavy with expectation. I felt as though I had let myself and my family down: I should have done more. When the heat wave rolled across our Shore, I hid from it inside. Who wants to go to the beach with three small children when its ninety degrees outside? When I went back to work I felt like I should have done more. More. More. More. There will always be that word, "more."

Today summer is officially over. I sent my two oldest off to school. Jaidyn, entering second grade, was too excited to sleep last night and was up bright and early, eager to see old friends and meet new ones. My little Addy, who is starting pre-school, was just the opposite. She was a little nervous when I dropped her off this morning, but had a small smile on her face as she shyly looked around at the other kids in her class.  Both girls have expectations of things to come in the school year. Just as I put pressure on my self to make my family and I have the "perfect summer."

This makes me think about those summer wishes. I don't think I did too badly after all. We managed to go on at least eight day trips on my days off, most of which I blogged about or plan to blog about. The blogging is my "me-time." And I did connect with my kids. They are happy with the simple things, like playing school and Polly Pockets and games inside when it was too hot to go out. And I think my husband and I managed to go on one date night.  So I have no regrets for summer, despite that ever-existing word "more."

 Besides, Fall on the shoreline is arguably one of the most pleasant seasons, filled with fun staycation ideas for families, including one of my favorites, pumpkin picking! But I'll try not to set my expectations too high ;-)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Family of 5 Visits the Zoo

One of my favorite places to go on a family day trip that is close by and moderately priced is the Roger Williams Park Zoo. We bought a zoo membership last fall when we went to the annual Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular (a great time to see the animals and see some creatively cut pumpkins). It has been so hot this summer (at least on my days off) that we had only used our membership twice. So when the weathermen forecast  last Thursday to be one of the best days of the year, I packed the hubby, three kids and our day bag into my van and off we went.

Of, course, its never quite that easy - we didn't leave until noon and I hadn't packed a lunch as I usually do, so by the time we stopped at the Subway located just down the street from the zoo, ate lunch next to the Shakespearean style amphitheater in the park, it was almost two o'clock by the time we made it through the zoo gates. I have said it before (to my family) and I will say it again - this Park has so much to offer a Family of 5 (or any number) that I could spend the whole day there. We just never leave in time. So pack up a picnic and leave early, reserving you plenty of time to enjoy the Swan Boats, Carousel, Duck Tours (seasonal), playground, all the park grounds, which are beautiful , as well as the zoo and animals themselves.

If you have not been to the Roger Williams Zoo in over a year, you will be pleasantly surprised by their new non-animal addition, nostalgically named, Our Big Backyard. Complete with a huge tree house where kids can go on a self-guided scavenger hunt, Our Big Backyard is a day of play in itself. In fact, we spent the majority of our time here, only visiting a few of the animals. There is a Creativity Corner, where kids can make musical melodies on rustic percussion instruments, while others can dress up and put on a show. There's a spot where the builders  can build there own fort, climbers can climb, and swingers can swing. But the best part of all was the water play area. Even babies can enjoy splashing in a small river, while older siblings drop fish in from the top and watch them float "downstream." Match the hoses to the co-ordinating colored faucets to make water sprinkle from different outlets. This is the perfect activity for a hot day, especially after the walk around the zoo. So remember those swim trunks!

Of course you will leave early and have the whole day, so enjoy all the animals and then head to the play area. The main reason I love this zoo, better then any other bigger zoo, is its small size. I can walk the loop and not miss any animals, not feel as though I have walked miles, and not feel as though the animals are cramped in tiny cages. The animals have very nice quarters, if I do say so myself, as a wild human looking in on them, that is. You are pretty close up to the animals, especially if you get there early and can watch any of the animal feedings or the elephant baths. We've seen the elephant baths once, and it was pretty interesting. I promise, the next time we go I will get rolling at the break of dawn (ha ha) and have a lot more to tell you about. We've done the carousel, its cheap and fun for kids of all ages. There's a big playground there, and many pretty areas to picnic. The duck tours are new, I think, and only run until the end of September, so we're hoping to go again and do that, as a late summer stay cation trip. Hey, who's to say summer ends when school begins? If the weather is nice, I say there will be beach days, lake days and zoo days! Stay tuned.

Quick tips for Roger Williams Park Zoo:
Leave Early (or you'll wish you had)
Pack a picnic
Pack swimsuits for the kids (nice changing rooms there)
Parking is free!

Grayson liked this wart hog
A place to build a fort
Water play and a tree house
More water play and painting with water. 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Saga of Back to School Shopping

With every great summer staycation there always comes the inevitable: Back To School Shopping! I think I feel it a little bit more then most, since I'm right in the middle of it at Old Navy. Before school is out for the year, I am planning for it, with hiring and marketing. As soon as the last school bell rings, we are getting in backpacks and uniforms. Before I can get to the beach for the first dip of the season we are hot and heavy with the kids denim sale. And so this is how I get carried away with the whole BTS shopping extravaganza. I see people shopping and buying mass amounts of clothing for their children and I think to myself: "my kids must need clothes too!" Of course they do not. Every time something cute goes on sale I buy it, since its "practically free" with my discount. So you see, my kids do not need clothes. And if they ever do, they get them from Old Navy. I shop on my break and come home with bags of "surprises" for them to dig through. I would never buy clothes from anywhere else. Or so I had always sworn. Last week a family was checking out at my register, with a huge purchase of kids clothes, just like everybody else. I noticed  the little girl's outfit that she was wearing was not from Old Navy but was very cute indeed, so I asked where it was from. "Justice" the mother replied. "Oh, I never shop there. Too expensive," I replied. "Not today," she encouraged, "they're having a great sale. It's practically free." Hmmmm. Practically Free, I thought. Just like with my discount. Could there be some other place to shop and get great deals, other then Old Navy? I'd better check it out on my break. And so I did. At first glance it was a great sale. Everything was 50% off. But a second look at each price tag told a different story. These clothes were higher priced then anything I would ever even buy for myself! I wanted to turn and run out of that over-priced glitter ladden tween store. I should've. But then I saw the clearance racks. I LOVE CLEARANCE! And so I picked out a few cute tops for Jaidyn. She would love all the sparkles, glitter and layers. They were  marked down to slightly more then I would pay at Old Navy. I can just return them. I'm sure I'll return them. Well since I'm returning them, I may as well look at the jeans. She won't wear ON jeans, the waist is too uncomfortable. I found a stretchy, glittery pair with a soft banded elastic waist. They looked like they would fit. All three shirts would go with them as well. Of course that didn't matter, since I was planning on returning them after I bought them.  The jeans were $46.00! So at half price I was still paying $23. Way more then I ever pay for jeans for myself. I felt nauseous as I paid $53.00 to the cashier and walked away from the store with my tiny little bag containing three shirts, the over-priced, over-glitterized jeans and a couple of coupons the cashier had given me, to entice me to come back again and shop their "sale." 
I had almost convinced myself to not show Jaidyn the clothes. Just leave them in my locker and return them the next day. But something about having a cute "first day of school outfit" and knowing she would love the bedazzled clothes urged me to bring the Justice bag into the house, against my own better judgement. Deal done. Everything fit and looked cute as a button on her. She did little runway poses, pairing each different top with the trendy skinny jeans. I put the clothes away and told her we may return them still, but either way, she could not wear them until school started. "But mommy," she complained, "I always tell my friends you buy my clothes at Old Navy. These are my first non-Old Navy clothes! I can't wait to tell my friends that they're from Justice!" Those are the words I have been dreading to hear for years. It's the beginning of "girly problems" and worrying about what other people think of you. It's the start of shopping sprees and matierialism. I just want my daughter to wear budget-friendly, pay-with-cash, still very trendy (and sometimes glittery) clothes. I started something that I don't want to finish. Where's the Justice in that?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Beach Day

You really don't need me to tell you that the beach in Old Saybrook is one of the town's main draws. My husband and I always say, why go on vacation to some little beach town, when we live in one. Making Harvey's or Town Beach a must-do staycation activity.

Sheltered by Long Island, the stretch of beach along the Sound is perfect for kids. With its gentle waves, many sand bars, and various sea creatures dwelling between the tides, there is much to keep the kiddos curious and content for hours.

I personally like to go during the week, in the morning, getting there by 10am. Two or three hours is plenty of time for my young ones, and its easier for me to feed them lunch at home then it is to lug a cooler across the sand, along with all their toys, boogie boards, towels, chairs - you get the picture. If the morning doesn't work out, I will wait until the summer crowds have disbursed, grab a pizza from T.J's, and head to Town Beach to watch the sunset. Its still warm enough for swimming, and I don't have to worry about applying sticky sunscreen to three squirming bods.

I think all parents of young children have come to terms with the fact that the days of sun bathing face-down on a towel, reading a magazine until you choose to stop, and just slipping into the water effortlessly for a refreshing dip are long gone. Now, with children, going to the beach is slightly less relaxing. So me, I learn to find the humor in the situation. Take for instance the last time I headed out with the girls, arriving sometime in the late morning.

You know how there are beach people and non-beach people? Well Jaidyn, my 7 year old, is a Beach Bum. I think she's part fish, part sand crab. She will dig and swim, and bury and rinse - all day long. But Addy, my 3 year old has some different feelings about how everything at the beach - well, feels.
     At Harvey's beach you need to walk across some gushy mucky stuff during low tide, to walk to the waters edge and distant sand bars. You will most likely step on a few crunchy snails along the way. Addy squeals and climbs up my leg, adding to my already burdensome load.  When the wind blows her hair into her face she voices her frustration, ordering me to "pull it back." When she gets sand on her hands, she is upset that she can't wipe it off. So I show her how to rinse her hands in the water. But if a wave is slightly bigger then normal and splashes her in the eyes, she wails. And as soon as she makes it back to her towel with clean hands, she picks up a sand toy and her hands are "dirty" again. I ended up shaking out her towel, helping her rinse off, then carrying her to the center of her towel where I instructed her to sit "criss-cross applesauce" until it was time to go. She was happy as a clam, eating her snack, staying clean and dry, with just the occasional wind blowing a stray hair. I really had no choice but to laugh - either that or pack up and leave, but that wouldn't be any fun.  I'm hoping that with more visits to the beach Addy will become less sensitive to it.
Oh darn, I guess I'll have to go to the beach again soon, for little Addy's sake!

My 2 girls. Jaidyn literally digging right in. Addy refusing to have any part of it, and she definitely will not smile!

A picture of Addy at Town Beach at sunset. Taken a few days after her day of beach-sensory-overload. She almost lolls after she's come to terms with her "feelings" about it.