A Birthday Celebration - For Me and My Mom


My mom and I like to celebrate our birthdays together since we are only five days apart.  (I was born on the 3rd and my mom was born on the 8th.)  Sometimes we'll go on a bus trip adventure or schedule a day of shopping.  This year, we decided to have Little Lewie join in the festivities, so we booked tickets for the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat Cruise.  Then, as a last minute surprise, I asked my Aunty Kiki if she and her best friend Karen could join us for the trip.  (They live two hours away, but Essex, CT is only an hour from their home, so it was the perfect place to meet up.)

The trip did not disappoint.  Although it was a little chilly (in the 50's and windy), we were perfectly warm enough in the train and in the boat seating area.  (Plus, we were able to buy ourselves tea, hot cocoa and coffee at the boat snack bar to warm ourselves up.)  The scenery was beautiful, and although many of the trees have not changed color yet, we could still see the hint of yellows, oranges, and reds.

The best part of the day, by far, however, was the company.  With our busy schedules, it's hard for all of us to find a day to be just about family.  I'm so glad last weekend, we put aside the laundry, the homework, the grocery shopping, the errands, and just about everything else to make family first.

After the excursion, we went to downtown Essex to eat at the Black Seal Seafood Grille and then we took pictures across the street, not far from the town gazebo.  Downtown Essex is charming, and they do a great job decorating for Halloween.  Scary witches, ghosts, goblins, and even fairies adored their lampposts. Plus, mums, pumpkins, cornstalks, and hay could be seen just about everywhere--especially in front of Essex's cute little shops.  My mom and I stopped in one little clothing boutique before leaving for the day.  (Little Lewie waited quietly, yet a little impatiently.  Shopping is not his thing.)

At it turns out, 41 feels just like 40 and 39 and 38...etc. etc.  This is not a milestone year, yet I plan to make it one.  This year, my goal is to visit one of our beautiful National Parks and take some other memorable trips.  At age 8, Lewie is able to begin appreciating nature's beauty, learning about history and science, and remembering special places.  The travel bug has returned, and this is the year, I will begin planning for a decade's worth of amazing trips (at least before Lewie goes off to college). Watch out the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Glacier, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Park, we're coming...we are COMING.

Fall 2016 Bucketlist


Now that fall is in full gear (and it actually feels like fall around here), I'm excited to begin making some plans...  Here are a few places I would like to go to truly celebrate the season.  (If I don't achieve everything this year, then there's always the next...I'm determined to make it happen, especially while Lewie is still little.)

1.  Apple Picking - Actually, I can check this one off of our list!  We went to Karabin Farms in Southington, CT and had a blast as we took a hayride to the orchards and picked our very favorite Gala apples.  Then, we enjoyed picking up a few fun items in their gift shop.  My favorite?  Pumpkin, Brown Sugar & Fig Handmade Goats Milk Soap with Pumpkin Seed Oil.  I will be using this all October!

2.  Pumpkin Picking - For almost eight years straight, we have gone to March Farm for Pumpkin Picking.  Besides pumpkin picking, I can always count on them to deliver hayrides, corn mazes, apple cider donuts, friendly goats, and lots of fun in their children's playground--complete with little houses for children, a gravel track for pedaling cars and tricycles, a sand pit, and a swing set/slide.

This was Lewie's first year at March Farm.

3. A Scenic Railroad Trip - Lewie loves trains.  In fact, since his passion first blossomed as a toddler, we've been taking him to all sorts of train museums and train rides.  My goal is to make a trip to Winnipesauke Scenic Railroad in Laconia, New Hampshire.  Since these tracks glide next to the lake, I'm sure there will be some breathtaking views.  However, since this is almost a four hour trip for us, I have to be realistic.  If we can't fit this in...there's always the Essex Steam Train or the Railroad Museum of New England right here in Connecticut.

Lewie - Age 3 with his train table

Lewie - Age 6 at the Strasburg Rail Road

4.  A Classic Fall Festival - If we go to Laconia, New Hampshire this year, then I absolutely want to visit The New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival on October 22.  How can you go wrong with 20,000+ pumpkins?  It sounds like pumpkin heaven.  Of course, the Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze in historic Hudson Valley, NY sounds amazing too.  They have activities going on throughout the month of Oct. and even into Nov., so this may be more realistic for us this year...

5.  A Pilgrim Thanksgiving Dinner - Another goal is to visit Plymouth Plantation, and show Lewie the "true" life of the pilgrims.  Although he personally has not shown any major interest in history yet (other than the history of railroads, of course), both my husband and I LOVE learning about the past. Plymouth Plantation has opportunities to sign up for the "Americas Thanksgiving Dinner" or "Harvest Dinner with the Pilgrims."  While you can do this on Thanksgiving Day, you can certainly choose other times in Oct./Nov.  I honestly think this would be great fun!

Okay...so here you have it...my fall bucket list...  This has already been a busy fall with swim lessons, roller skating lessons, Cub Scouts, CCD classes and the like...  We have a wedding on Oct. 16th... Plus, you never know what Mother Nature may bring along the way, but if I could have the perfect fall experience, this would be it.
Happy October! 🎃

Lewie - My Eight Year-Old Dreamer


Ever since Lewie started talking (around age two), I've been recording his funny sayings and comments.  Since age five, I've been having more formal interviews--What is your favorite color? What do you want to be when you grow up?  Sometimes his answers change from year to year; then again, sometimes they stay the same.  I think you'll see why this year, at age eight, I have labeled him "The Dreamer."

Here is my son's world as an eight year-old.  Let me introduce you to "Lewie Pro-Skills" or "The Enchanted Diamond Lewie":

Q:  What is your favorite color?
A:  Orange

Q:  What is your favorite book?
A:  The Polar Express  (Of course, we also love books by Mo Willems, and lately we've been bringing books home from The Magic Tree House series.)

Q:  What is your favorite cartoon?
A:  SpongeBob Square Pants

Q:  What is your favorite movie?
A:  Captain America: Civil War

Q:  What is your favorite song?
A:  "Once I was seven years-old"  (Translation "7 Years" by Lukas Graham.  He didn't want to turn 8 because of this song.  "Mommy, I wish I could be seven forever.") 

Q:  What is your favorite board game?
A:  Uno (Okay, that's a card game, but that is his favorite!)

Q:  What is your favorite computer game?
A:  Minecraft  (but lately he's been playing a lot of Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare)

Q:  What is your favorite place?
A:  "The train museum" - he is referring to the Danbury Railway Museum

Q:  What is your favorite thing to do at school?
A:  Recess

Q:  Who is your favorite teacher?
A:  Mrs. Kranz (his teacher from kindergarten)

Q:  What is your favorite sport?
A:  Basketball

Q:  What is your favorite food?
A:  French Toast

Q:  What is your favorite thing to do with Mommy?
A:  To take walks and jump on the trampoline

Q:  What do you want to be when you grow up?
A:  A YouTuber (like Dan TDM from the Diamond Minecart or Pat and Jen from PopularMMOs)

Sayings - "Don't judge me."  "To be honest to you..."  "Mommy, I just love my life."  
"Four hours later."  "Let me customize my character."  "Can I watch just one more video?"

I must say that Lewie is growing up during a different generation, and there is no doubt that pop culture is playing a major influence.  As part of the "Selfie Generation," he is interested in Facebook, blogs, YouTube, and Instagram.  He doesn't have his own accounts, but he'll often ask me to take a picture or video and then post it to Facebook.  When he plays his video games, he narrates to an imaginary audience (as if he is practicing for his big YouTube debut).  In fact, while I've been typing this blog post, I've had to ask him to speak a little softer because it gets difficult to concentrate over his loud, animated, monologue.

This is the first year that Lewie has generally been interested in my blog, and he wants to see what I post.  He wants to see his pictures and videos, and he wants to know how I create everything.  In fact, if I had to say one defining characteristic about Lewie at this age, it's that he wants to make and create EVERYTHING.  Here are just a few things he wants to invent/make:

* An electric car that runs on solar with advanced GPS tracking 
* A train that runs on solar power
* His own medicines to cure diseases
* His own Lionel toy train sets (He would sell them on Amazon...as he explains.)
* His own video games
* His own YouTube channel
* His own music mixes
* His own search engine like Google

Sometimes when he considers his plans, he tries to figure out the pricing and the marketing.  He hasn't become a true entrepreneur yet because he wants to give everything away for free or close to free.  "Mommy, my cars are going to be super safe.  I don't want to charge a lot because I want everyone to drive in a safe car.  I probably won't charge more than $100."  In this case, my son may be more of a philanthropist.

I've considered signing Lewie up for computer classes.  (He's expressed interest in Photoshop, web design, game design, game animation software, etc.)  However, his reaction to taking classes proves that he's still way too young: "I don't need to take these classes, Mommy. I already know it."

Hmmm... to be an eight year-old is to be caught somewhere in between the world of imagination and the world of reality.  My son is constantly dreaming big things but he doesn't necessarily want to embrace the reality of how he can get there.  So for now, I let my son embrace this wonderful sense of childhood wonder and curiosity...

Maybe one day, he will invent the very first solar powered car.

A Day Off From School


I don't normally endorse "playing hooky," but I promised my son I would take him for a day to Lake Quassy Amusement Park if he had a good attitude about school (and homework) during his first week.

Sure enough, the "coaxing" worked.  Lewie was definitely more positive about school, and we had a beautiful Friday morning and afternoon to enjoy one last day of summer fun.  In fact, once my mom learned about the plan, she asked to come too, and while she couldn't go on all the rides with us, she did get to enjoy a few train rides, a boat ride (on the Quassy Queen), some lunch and ice-cream, and quite a few games of skee ball.

The first of several train rides.

Lewie on the Pirate Swing.   This ride definitely won 'first place' this year.
We may have gone seven times that day.

Time for the arcade and skee ball!

Waiting for the Quassy Queen.

Captain Joe allowed Lewie to drive!

Lewie then requested a ride on the paddle boats.  His legs were still a little too short
to reach the pedals, so I did most of the paddling.  Great exercise!

I couldn't get this eight year-old on the Merry-Go-Round this year.  Maybe next time.

Another train ride!

Lewie wanted a picture with his face in the window.  Silly boy!
The "true secret" to playing hooky this year is that for the past four years in a row, we always come to Lake Quassy on the last Friday before Labor Day.  (This is when the park officially closes down on week days, and there are very little people.)  We've been fortunate these last few years not to begin school until after Labor Day but not this year...  I had planned this day all along, but hey, it was so much fun to see Lewie "earn" the day, which he truly did.  A little positivity goes a long way...

Our first Quassy adventure (when Lewie was four) is posted here:

First Day of School - Second Grade


Little Lewie's first day of school was Monday, August 29.  The night before, he went to bed in panic. There were many reasons, according to Lewie, not to like school this year--"all my friends are in another class, the teacher will rush me, the work will be hard, the school bus driver yells."

I knew we were not off to a great start; after all, half of our perceived experiences in life are real and half are mental.  If we started the school year thinking it was going to be a disaster, we could already guess the outcome.

I had to give him a pep talk and then do what I do best...offer an incentive:  "Lewie, we have to change our attitude.  It might be a great year.  You might love your new teacher, and you might love your new classmates.  In fact, let's make a deal.  If you have a good attitude about school this week, I will let you take Friday off, so we can go to Lake Quassy Amusement Park.  But, the rules are that I cannot hear any complaining about school."

I'm not sure if my bribe worked or if Lewie really did have a great first week, but so far, this year is starting with lots of positives.  1)  Lewie has a new school bus driver that he likes, 2) Lewie likes his new teacher because she doesn't rush him, 3) He already had a chance to be the "helper" in his class, 4) He was able to play tag with all of his old classmates at recess, and 5) His teacher doesn't believe in giving homework during the first or last week of school.  (Again, these are all pluses to an eight year-old boy.)  

All I know is last week has been a dream.  The energy in the house is so different when you have a child that enjoys school (or, at the very least, tolerates it).  I can officially announce today, we are ready to embrace second grade.  Let's make it a great year!

A Trip to the "Sweetest Place on Earth"


Every summer, I create a "bucket list" (no pun intended).  The list can include anything from eating ice-cream at Rich's Farm (five miles down the road from us) to vacationing in Europe.  This year, my all-time dream was to take Lewie to Hershey, PA.  Multiple friends told me this was a great trip for eight year-olds.  Plus, as a huge chocolate lover myself, how could I resist going to a place that smells like chocolate and has lamp-posts in the shape of Hershey Chocolate Kisses?

The trip was written on my dream board, and sure enough, it came true.  Weeks earlier, I asked my good friend Sue if she would be interested in going with her eight year-old son, Ryan.  We had taken many day trips together, and we knew our boys got along great.  (In fact, they've been having play-dates since they were one years-old.)  To my delight, she and Ryan were 'game,' and soon the plan became a reality.

As with any trip, we made lots of memories, and the details of each day could easily take up a whole book.  So, for the sake of this post, I will do an abbreviated recap.  The drive to Hershey took us about five hours (with stops and traffic) each way, so we reserved two days just for driving there and driving back.  However, on day two, we spent the entire day at Hershey Park and Zoo America, and on day three, we bought tickets to go to Chocolate World to do the 4-D movie and to take a Trolley Tour of the city.  The attractions did not disappoint.

For my son, the highlights were the Monorail Ride at Hershey Park (who can resist a train in the sky), the Chocolate Factory Tour, and the Trolley Bus Ride.  In fact, he loved the Monorail so much, we went on three times.  (It would have been more if we didn't stop him in his tracks--ha!)

For me, the highlight was learning about Milton Hershey's life through the Chocolate Factory Tour and especially the Trolley Bus Ride (which gave us an in-depth overview of both his failures and triumphs).  The man was truly an entrepreneur in his time with a solid commitment to social justice and equality--he started the Hershey Industrial School for orphaned boys, which today, is still a tuition-free, private school committed to teaching young children of families with economic hardships.  (High school children even have a chance to earn prestigious scholarships for college!)

Beyond the attractions, however, was the joy of spending time with a wonderful friend and getting to experience the antics of two high-energy eight year-old boys.  The days were filled with pillow fights, super-hero battles (with their little action figures), laser beam toys, swimming, tag, candy, Sponge Bob Square Pants episodes (before bed), and potty humor--lots of it.  In fact, my son was the worst--ripping farts before bedtime and even chasing Ryan with his bare behind.  It's the kind of behavior that makes me cringe and my husband proud!

With next week being the start to a brand new school year, I'm so happy we squeezed in this trip.  It was definitely one for the history books.  I will always look at a Hershey Kiss or Hershey Chocolate Bar with fond memories.