So here's what's been happening these past few weeks, but in the abridged version:
We moved to Florida. The end.
No, really, there's more but I'm not totally sure it's worthy of the play by play. One thing I do know is that I can't relax. Not even for a second. Not even while sitting on a lounge chair near the pool of the fanciest hotel I have ever stayed in. But first, some background.
We, meaning the six of us, left NY (okay, NJ) this past Monday morning. We packed up the van with more things than we probably should have and headed down to the auto-train out of somewheresville, Virginia.
This was the longest drive we have ever taken, with kids or without. We're just not road trip kind of people. Never have been and after this trip, never will be. We left at 8:08 am and arrived at the auto-train at 3:03, exactly 33 minutes too late to utilize our "preferred car unloading status".
When I first made the auto-train/Amtrak reservation I was told that for a mere fifty dollars extra I could have my van be one of the first 25 cars unloaded off the train. Who wouldn't want they? I was all over it, telling Josh that this was going to be the best $50 we ever spent. And it would have been, had we been told that "preferred loading" must be before 2:30pm. Hmm.
We also weren't told that the latest time to load your car was 3pm. No exceptions. Except for the exception. Like today. Because there was a huge accident on I-95, they held the train for us, because they thought we were on I-95. We didnt admit we were just late, and had been nowhere near i-95, there was no point.
We grabbed our stuff from the car, the kids and headed to the train. We did hear one of the workers behind us say something like, "oh man, how are those people going to get all that stuff onto the train!" but I can only assume he was talking about some other family who had an ever bigger cooler than us and more than seven bags because a big cooler and seven bags is totally normal for an overnight train ride, right?
After much maneuvering, we reached our sardine can, I mean room, on the train and it was at that moment that I understood why Amtrak recommends one small bag per person.
After spending a very very (very) long night on an upper bunk (don't ask), we arrived at the other end of the auto-train tracks, somewheresville, Florida. The big signs outside the train read "Orlando, Fl" but I know for a fact this wasnt Orlando, so I'm guessing this was something like what happened to my sister-in-law when she was in Israel.
The conversation went something like this:
Other guy: where are you guys from?
Other guy: oh! Me too! Where in NY?
Sis-in-law: um, NJ.
So I'm guessing that the people who live near the auto-train kind of wish they live in Orlando.
Anywho, our van was number 273 coming off the train. That, if you're still with me here, is definitely not one of the first 25 cars off the train.
This story is taking super long so I will just say that three hours after we got off the train, we arrived at the fanciest hotel I've ever seen in St. Augustine, Fl.
And that's where this story started, sitting at the pool and watching the kids swim and/or hold on to the walls of the pool. And where I can't relax. Because I have what seems like 4573 boxes to unpack, with no shelves upon which to do so.
If you have been following along for a while now, you will remember how fond I was of the built in shelves in my porch - and which we no longer have now that we have moved down south.
And that's where I am now, kinda standing around with lots of boxes thinking hmmm, I kinda wish I could have taken those built-ins with me. But I guess that's kind of the point of built-ins. You can go ahead and think about that now, I'll wait for you; I spent a lot of time pondering that today.
This moving story is taking quite a while to tell and even longer to type on my iPhone so I'm going to stop here before I need to get myself a pair of reading glasses with the promise to continue then story soon.
Thanks for sticking with me through this.
Be back soon,
Here's the scenario: Your six year old has a bookshare coming up.
The topic? A fable.
And the how-to? Choose to make a diorama or puppets to supplement the oral book report.
If you had the choice to construct a shoebox diorama or a couple of puppets, which would you pick? Personally, I'd go for the diorama. And that was the plan.
My first grader chose Frog and Toad: A List by Arnold Lobel as his fable, a great story about two friends, Frog and Toad. The very short version of the story has Toad making a list of things he'd like to accomplish that day. While Frog and Toad are knocking things off the list, namely going for a walk, the list blows away and panic ensues. Toad cannot remember what else is on his list and so cannot go on - with his walk or with his day. And so Frog and Toad sit in the forest until night falls and then they go to sleep, because Toad suddenly remembers that 'go to sleep' was the last thing on the list.
According to my interpretation, the moral of the story is that it's okay to make a list but its also okay to change the list when things go wrong. According to my first grader, it's important to stay inside with your list on a windy day. Both very important lessons.
We were all set to build a diorama on Sunday. His report was due on Monday and um, we had gone away for the weekend. Upstate. To my brother's house. A house with no art supplies, let alone empty shoe boxes sitting around.
So taking a lesson from Frog and Toad, we changed our plans and went with the puppet option. We used huge red Solo plastic cups as the base and paper plates as the tops. Thank goodness for paper goods.
In an ideal world, we would have googled 'Frog and Toad', printed out pictures of those two guys and glued them onto our puppet bases. But again, along with no art supplies, we had no computer and no printer.
Very carefully, because we also had only a couple of paper plates, I drew outlines of Frog and Toad while looking at their pictures in the Frog and Toad book and the little boy colored them in. He also cut them out and glued them onto straws and then told me that he couldn't believe there was so much work to do for a bookshare. We'd been at it for ten minutes by then - so, you can see, it was going well.
We still needed some way to attach the straws to the cups and the only way I could see was to go through the bottoms of the cups. But, man, those Solo cups, they're made of really good, really hard plastic. Only the best paper goods in my brother's house.
You know what I needed? I needed a scissor. I was going to have all the kids stand back and then stab the scissor through the bottom of the cup to make a hole, except haha! The only scissor in the hole house was a kiddie scissor, so really, no one had to stand back.
After many (many) repeated attempts at stabbing the cups, the scissor finally went through and made a hole just large enough to hold the straw in place.
We were good to go.
Now all we had to remember was to bring the project home with us, which really, had we not done one last walk-through of the house before we left, would not have happened. And sadly, these pictures would have been all the little guy had on bookshare day.
Happily though, bookshare day was a great success and the first grade bookshares are officially done! Two kids done with first grade bookshares and two more to go (but I have a year-long break before the next one gets to first grade, so I'm good).
I feel like I should save these puppets for the next kid. Is that wrong?
About a year ago, a new chocolate store called Chocolate Works
opened up in the city - and at the same time, began offering chocolate making workshops for kids.
If you know us, you also know that we rarely venture into the city - the driving, the tolls, the paying for parking or, alternatively, the driving around looking for parking, the kids incessantly asking where the driveways are and why we can't park in them. We just don't do it. We briefly entertained the thought of taking the train into the city but the below freezing temperatures combined with the prospect of dragging the double stroller through the train station was just too much for me.
So we drove*. We ventured into the city with all the kids the other day - and it was totally worth it. The chocolate making class at Chocolate Works was the most fun I've had (um, I mean the kids have had)
in a while.
Each kid had the opportunity to wear an apron, which for my four year old, was almost too exciting in itself. The child was unable to stop smiling from the moment we entered the store. I couldn't stop smiling either once one of the chocolate ladies came over with a sample tray. Yes, please and thank you very much, I will have another, thanks for asking.
Each kid in the workshop chose a chocolate mold - a huge chocolate mold - and got a turn to use the chocolate hose (I need one of those in my kitchen) to fill their mold. We chose a heart, ballerina shoes, a baseball mitt and a smartphone. Yes, we currently have a half-eaten chocolate smartphone in the house. I don't even have a real smartphone, but we won't go there.
While the chocolate was hardening in the molds, each kid had to make the very difficult decision of whether to choose an Oreo, a salted pretzel or a graham cracker to cover in melted chocolate. It's hard to choose - and my kids had some difficulty understanding why they couldn't have all three, but eventually, we wound up with 3 Oreos and a pretzel. Josh and I had no trouble choosing at all - he went with a graham cracker and I went with a pretzel. Sweet and salty, a no-brainer.
Each chocolate covered treat was placed on a conveyor belt and each kid had the chance to sprinkle their treat with sprinkles, non-pareils and or m&ms. I, for one, could not understand why anyone would choose anything but m&ms but that's just me, and yet so many people went with the non-pareils. Whatever. This is not the place for disparaging remarks.
As the treats came through the other end of the conveyor belt, where I am assuming the chocolate was quick-dried, each kid got the chance to catch their treat on a mini paper plate; my kids thought that was very cool. But even cooler was the chocolate fountain (I need one of those too; just think how nice that would look on the kitchen counter). Each kid in the class received a skewered marshmallow and had a chance to run their marshmallow on a stick through the melted chocolate fountain. Personally, I am not a marshmallow fan, but I honestly had to restrain myself from climbing headfirst into the fountain. Heaven.
For the last part of the class, each kid got to use squeezee bottles of colored melted chocolate to decorate their chocolates that, by then, had been released from their molds. So much fun and the chocolates were so pretty.
Our chocolates and treats were packed up in pretty paper bags and we were on our way.
The classes are a little expensive, but we grabbed a groupon for a class good for four kids. If you see one, grab it, it's so worth it.
*When did parking on the street in the city become so expensive? And where did all the parking meters go? They've all been replaced with muni-meters, which, while a nice and tidy concept which negates the need for many many quarters, also have a down side. Parking meters used to live next to each parking spot. Insert quarters, grab the kids and go.
Now, you park, bundle everyone up with gloves, hats and scarves, get the stroller out, walk everyone all the way down the street, pay at the muni-meter and then walk everyone all the way back to the car to put the tiny little receipt into the car window. All I can say is that it's a process. And an expensive process - when did parking on the upper west side become 50 cents for 10 minutes? Because I have to say, it takes us ten minutes to get out of the car. Muni-meters: possibly not the most family-friendly parking option around. And now I'm done complaining.
This past weekend we went upstate to my brother's house, the same place we spent this past summer. It was just as amazing as last time, except this time, there was the added bonus of snow! Not a lot of snow, but since all we've had so far this winter is a dusting (and I'm not complaining, just making an observation!), the small amount of snow was huge
to my kids.
They played, threw snowballs, made snow angels and pretended to snowboard - there wasn't really enough snow to snowboard but we did have an actual snowboard. We got the last one in Walmart (and most likely the entire upstate NY region) the day we got there. Even the cashier was surprised there were any left.
Thank you again to the best brother, bro-in-law and uncle, all rolled into one.
And the new TV facing the couch doesn't hurt either.
Winter break. The kids wait for it all year; a whole ten days off from school and finally and thankfully, we're all better. No more tissues floating around the house and just enough coughing left over so that the daily hot chocolates still make sense.
The other day we found ourselves in Rockland County with some extra time and nothing to do. We headed over to the Palisades Park Mall and even though I am not a fan of malls*, do all my shopping online and only enter a mall when I absolutely have to, I have to say, it was
Not only will you find a Disney store, a Lego store and a carousel, but a ferris wheel. Inside. Oh, and there's ice skating, a movie theater and an arcade. We considered spending the night.
Because my kids are my kids, they were terrified of all the rides, but they went on them anyway, and were so proud of themselves afterwards. So a day at the mall and a shot of self-esteem. What more can I ask for?
Actually, you know what else I can ask for - a life lesson in using your money wisely. And, oh my goodness, did we find ourselves with a teachable moment in the food court.
My kids asked (and asked and asked) for ice cream and because it was kid#3's half birthday and because we like any reason to justify having a treat, we went to check out the ice cream. Alas, the only kosher ice cream available was Haagen Daaz. We waited on line while the kids seriously discussed their orders. Josh listened patiently while they each described their
flavor and sprinkle color and cone vs. milkshake requests. And that's when we noticed that there was no price list hanging behind the counter. And you wanna know why? It's because a small cup costs $3.50 and a small milkshake, a whopping $7.00. Seven Dollars. And while we slowly backed the kids and the stroller away from the ice cream counter, we took that opportunity to explain that seven dollars is an obscene amount to pay for ice cream and that if each kid indeed got their preferred shake, we would have spent $28 on ice cream.
And the kids just looked at us. I explained that they were welcome to return the $7 box of lego we just bought each of the boys at the Lego store and use that money to get ice cream and that's when I saw the light go on in their eyes, understanding that it's so much better to spend that money on a toy than on ice cream that would be gone in a few minutes. Instead, everyone picked a chocolate bar treat from the vending machine.
Josh went on to explain that for $28, we could buy enough ice cream in Shoprite to throw an ice cream party for them and all their friends. They asked when the party was going to be.
Huh. We need to learn when to stop explaining things, be quiet and just eat chocolate.
*My mom loves to shop. I can't even italicize the word 'love' enough to get my point across. She shops for sport, which works out well now because my kids always have enough clothes, courtesy of my mom. When I was little, though, I didn't find this shopping hobby to be that great. In fact, I hated it. I hated being shlepped to malls, I hated the walking around and I hated it that the malls were all so hot in the winter and there was nothing to do but carry your own coat. I mean, what is that? But I digress. My point here is that my best friend from preschool (hi Esti!) loved to shop when we were younger and her mom, as the fates would have it, hated shopping. So we traded moms on a semi-frequent basis. Esti would go along with my mom and they'd do their shopping thing and I would stay with Esti's mom, who, luck would have it, was very into creating intricate designs with chocolates and chocolate molds (yum!) so I got to see the inside of Brooklyn's chocolate shops on a regular basis. Bliss - for everyone.
Josh was right. About the library, that is.
For years, he never wanted me to get a library card because as a kid, he was haunted by late charges and apparently, he never got over it.
So for years, I did not visit the library.
And then, for one reason or another, I got myself a card and have been checking out and returning books ever since.
A few weeks back, before Hurricane Sandy came to town, I checked out an obscene number of books, including one that is sure to trip you up every time: the dreaded 7-day book. It goes without saying that I did not make it back to the library a week later and then the hurricane happened and then a million other things prevented me from going, until it got to the point where, when I checked the library's website, I learned that I owed $11.50. Not a fortune by any means, but disappointing and somewhat embarrassing when the whole point of the library is to read free books.
Anyway, I went back today, dragging my huge bag of books behind me. And paid the fines. I broke a twenty on those fine. I hate breaking twenties.
And the whole way there, I kept telling myself that there was no way I was checking any books out today. I was going to return our books and leave. And then we made the mistake, the little one and I, of visiting the children's room. Long story short, we are now the proud renters of 14 new books.
I had no willpower in the library.
But happily, I had huge willpower today - and completed day 8 with flying colors.
I had the same breakfast I have everyday.
Lunch was poached salmon and half of a leftover sweet potato.
Dinner was vegetable soup and some turkey.
And I reached my water quota for the day before I even picked the kids up from school.
I think I can almost see that halfway point of day 15 just up ahead!
Sometimes it's very hard to get back to real life after a holiday. But today marks the start of the first real full week of school that we've had in weeks and so I kind of feel like this calls for some reflection.
This morning I spend three solid hours putting my house back together after the crazy month that is Rosh Hashana-Yom Kippur-Succot, with what feels like about forty shabbatot thrown in. Anyone else feel like they have cooked 700 meals in the last month?
So the house absolutely needs a good scrubbing and some good organizing. I also kind of feel like I am still putting my house back together from the summer, a task which never quite got finished as school started so soon after we got back from vacation.
I wonder if anyone ever really feels like they are done putting their house together? Is it ever organized enough, clean enough, cheery enough? I'm gonna go with no, because it cannot be that I am the only one that seems to be drowing in housekeeping lately. Am I?
I think sometimes I forget that homes are supposed to look lived in, like homes and not just houses. And then I remember and I stop yelling about dirty socks everywhere and then we all fingerpaint something and everyone feels better. I like that.
Anyway, today's lesson of the day has nothing to do with keeping an organized house. It's about pumpkins. And knowing which ones to get, which is apparently a handy piece of knowledge to have.
We took the kids pumpkin picking last week, something we've done a few times before and an outing that is always fun. This time we went back to Kelder's Farm in upstate NY. Josh and I like this farm because even though the fields are huge and far apart, you can drive from field to field. The kids really like this farm because we don't make them buckle up as we drive from field to field. And, and they get to stand up in the van while we drive at one mile an hour to get to the next field. This is pure excitement for the under eight set.
As we drove down the road that seperates the fields, we noticed that there were two pumpkin patches. Well, at least I did. Josh really had no idea what I was talking about.
There was the sugar pumpkin patch and the carving pumpkin patch. And being me, these are the calculations that went through my head, while deciding which patch to visit:
The sugar pumpkins seem smaller that the carving ones.
The sugar pumpkins are probably cheaper.
The kids each want to bring a pumpkin back to school for their teachers, how will they carry a big carving pumpkin?
Sugar pumpkins it is.
In the back of my mind, I kind of thought, hmm, I feel like sugar pumpkins are for baking and I think they go bad pretty quickly. But, never mind, those big ones cost a fortune and we're here for the experience, not the size of the pumpkin and blah blah blah.
Well, shockingly, I was right on pretty much every account.
The sugar ones are smaller and cheaper. And they do go bad much quicker.
Sadly, those pumpkins did not last the week and so they did not make it back to the teachers.
Also sadly, I did not notice that they were going bad and so I didn't bake anything with them.
But at least we had the experience, right?
(I really wanna say blah blah blah here too, but I won't).
Happy Pumpkin Season!
We went for a pretty chilly little scavenger hunt the other day.
The mission? To find the colors of the rainbow, even though the sky was a very wintry gray.
Surprisingly, we found what we looking for. I am not sure I would have taken the time to notice all the colors of the rainbow had the kids not been with me on my walk.
And now, in a decidedly non-rainbow order of colors, here is what we found:
(Take a quick click on each picture to see it better.)
We took the kids pottery painting today, something we had never done
before. And now that I think about it, I can't quite believe that the kids have
not experienced the fun of painting their very own plaster object before. Does
it sound like I am making fun? Because I am not.
I love (love) those paint your own pottery places. I love them so much that
I could have sat there all day, alone, painting one piece after another, never
getting bored. My wish is for someone to pay me to sit there and paint. I want
that to be my job.
Anyway, the kids had a great time.
And they paint the way they live, which is fascinating.
There's the kid who narrated his every move. "Now I'm going to
use the little brush and paint blue here. No here. Here and
think we can also call him the indecisive one.
Then there's the kid who painted with such a serious look on his face that
I stopped him midway through to ask if he needed to use the bathroom. He looked
like he was holding it in.
Next we had the little girl who sang her way through painting her mini cookie jar.
She's a little bit like Janice from the Muppets
. You know the one, long straight hair,
who moves her head in a Stevie Wonder kind of way all the time because she
hears music in her head.
And then the little one. Who, I think, thought we were there for her
favorite activity: finger painting. A paintbrush did not even come near her
dirty little hands after the first three minutes of painting.
It was awesome.
I can't wait to pick up their creations and add them to our painted pottery
collection. Yeah, we have a collection, although as the years go by and the kids
get older and more prone to holding their own plates, that collection gets
smaller and smaller.
Josh and I began our collection around the time we got engaged. We visited
Our Name is Mud in NYC an obscene number of times and spent more than an obscene
amount of money there, creating a set of dishes for our newly married life.
Cute, right? Except for the fact that the company discontinued the plates we
were making (square ones with a rim, if you really really know) halfway through the set.
At the end of the day(s), we left with four or five dinner plates, four soup bowls,
three serving pieces and a napkin holder. Not quite service for eight, but you
know, paper plates are good too.
Fun for all. And I say all, because Josh got to take a nap in the car while we were all
Wishing you a very special Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah!
And if you're not celebrating - Happy Sunday!
We love love love pick-your-own farms. And so we recently took our second trip to Kelder Farms
in as many months. Kelder Farms is in Kerhonkson, NY, which really, for my kids, just getting to say Kerhonkson
over and over was enough of a reason to go back.
And we had an even better time the second time around, which actually, I found kind of surprising because you know how you go somewhere and have a blast and then you go again and you're like, hmmm, I really thought this place was more fun. So yeah, this place is.
First of all, and as a double stroller toting parent, I think this is the biggest plus over every other farm we have ever been to - you can drive your car down to the picking fields. And not only
can you drive down there, but you can then drive from field to field, from strawberries to cucumbers to beets. Awesome. You know what, it's so awesome, that if you are using your stroller for anyone over the age of even walking a little bit, you can leave your stroller at home. I know. Crazy. But that empty trunk will leave more space for all the fruits and vegetables you pick.
Second of all, when you're done picking, there's still a TON to do. Mini golf, a bounce house, a petting zoo, a cow milking station, huge wooden vehicles to climb, a hay ride and of course, because you are with kids, a covered area with picnic tables to have lunch. And, because it seems that these guys know their customers, kosher ice cream. My kids could have moved in.
Here's a look at what we did.
We picked corn and potatoes - two vegetables we had never picked before.
Below, the sign that greeted us as we drove down to the picking fields. Just crazy.
It's true - involving kids in preparing food really does help them eat it.
They picked the green beans and blueberries and actually ate them.
These are definitely not backyard climby toys.
The perfect way to tire them all out so they sleep on the way home.
The cutest mini-golf course ever.
But we played less than one hole before it started raining,
which is kind of why we went back a second time.
The rain. The big big rain.
So much fun and absolutely on our to-do list next summer.