Cookout!

7.18.2015

When I think of summer, I think of swimming pools, the beach, picnics in the park, cookouts,  amusement parks, carnivals, boardwalks, fireworks, cotton candy, and ice cream (just to name a few things).  While I haven't created a summer bucket list, per se, I do have an agenda in my head of all the special summertime things I would like our little family to accomplish before the colder weather sneaks up on us...

One of those agenda items was getting together with my two childhood friends and their families at Camp Chase!  About three years ago, my good friends Jen and Debbie introduced me to this wonderful YMCA day camp in their area (which is approximately an hour away from my home).  The camp facility has an extra large swimming pool with slide, a fun splash pad, a full playground (complete with a very long tube slide), skate board ramps, basketball courts, and two pavilion picnic areas.  (I've also recently learned that if you venture out on their nature trail, they have an archery area and a tree house full of books too.)

Fortunately, both of my friends and their families were available last Sunday for a good old fashioned cookout at Camp Chase.  We grilled the hotdogs and hamburgers, and they brought the yummy garden salad, pasta salad, drinks, and snacks.   I must say that the cookout was awesome.  After a fun day playing in the pool and splash pad area, we set up camp at the more "secret" pavilion near the woods, and the kiddos, accompanied by "Aunt Debbie," enjoyed a fun jaunt on the nature trail while we finished cooking the food. 

Afterwards, we ate until our hearts' content, played on the play ground, and then reluctantly said our goodbyes before the camp closed for the night.  In all, it was one of those days that made me glad for summer and glad for the relationship I have with my two good friends and their families.    Camp Chase is just one of those wonderful summer traditions (for three years now) that Little Lewie will be able to look back upon with fondness as part of his childhood.

















The pavilion by the secret nature trail...

Independence Day

7.09.2015

We had a nice Independence Day weekend with friends and family.  On Friday, we frolicked on the beach and watched fireworks.  On Saturday, we had a typical summer barbeque at my in-laws, and on Sunday, Lewie saw his kindergarten friends again at a birthday party.  (It's been almost three weeks since his graduation, and boy was he happy to see everyone again.)

Lewie and Cousin Sarah






Our little family waiting for the fireworks at Jennings Beach.



This summer weekend was filled with all the simple pleasures in life--simple pleasures that I sometimes take for granted because we live in this great country.  My son appreciates Independence Day because it means friends, family, fireworks, swimming, cup cakes, and ice-cream.  Me too!  However, the 4th is one of my favorite holidays because it means so much more. 

On Independence Day and everyday, I want to remind my son of all the blessings we have because we live in the United States of America, and we are protected by our men and women in uniform.  Sure, we have political leaders at the local, state, and national level that are corrupt and in politics for selfish reasons, but this doesn't change the fact that we still uphold the ideals presented in The Declaration of Independence:

"We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with inherent and unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, & the Pursuit of Happiness."

In this great country, opportunity knocks wherever we look. We are all granted the right to receive an education (regardless of sex, culture, economic status, or religious beliefs).  We are granted the right to pursue our own vocation in life.  We can choose where we live and who we marry.  We can practice our own religious beliefs and support our own causes.  Most importantly, we can determine what "happiness" means for us, and we can pursue it!  We can listen to our hearts, follow our dreams, and utilize our full potential!

Yes, we are lucky to live here--to live in a land where the only thing that ever holds us back from reaching our potential is our own negative feelings of fear, anger, resentment, or self-doubt.  The pursuit of happiness is a beautiful thing--one day I'll have my son define it for himself, and then, because we live in this great country, I will step back and watch him soar!

Kindergarten Graduation

6.27.2015

It's official.  My son starts first grade and public school next year. 

This week was bitter-sweet for all of us.  Of course, I'm proud that Lewie is growing up and that he had such a wonderful kindergarten experience at Surreybrook.   Still, I'm sad that he's getting "older" right before my eyes, and that when he enters a classroom of 17 children next year instead of just 6, he will be a little less sheltered and a little more savvy to the ways of the world.

The Surreybrook Kindergarten Graduation for Lewie was everything we would expect from a very non-conventional school.  (I wrote about the curriculum in "School Days in a Nature Based Classroom.")  The graduation party was held outside under some shaded trees in the back yard of the school.  Everyone was dressed very casually and comfortably (no graduation gowns or caps), and the children played with each other while the parents lined up to say goodbye to the kindergarten teacher, who was so wonderfully nurturing to all of the kids this year.  (I was happy to find out that she tutors children in her house during the summer, so Lewie will still be seeing her every Monday for an hour-long reading and writing session.)

Other teachers, such as Lewie's art, Spanish, music, and science teacher, also came out to say goodbye to the parents and children.  We took pictures of the children with their teachers, the children with their parents, and then one last group photo.  Lewie's kindergarten teacher surprised them all with a parting gift bag of goodies, and she, of course, was showered with flowers and gifts from the parents too. 

Lewie and Grammy


So proud of my little boy!



All six kindergarten graduates with their most favorite teacher in the world!

Special "goody bags" for all the children--written in their favorite colors.



One final group lesson outside in Nature's Classroom.

Lewie and his most favorite teacher.


Enjoying an orange popsicle before leaving...
Overall, it was a very nice and relaxing party to celebrate our children's transition from kindergarten to first grade.  One other little girl in Lewie's class will be moving on to Laurel Ledge School in Beacon Falls, but the other children are moving on to schools in their own towns of Bethany, Cheshire, and Hamden.  I am hoping to invite them to Lewie's birthday party in the summer, but after that, it's curious as to whether the friendships will last...

I'm sorry to see this year go.  Lewie will be remaining at Surreybrook for their summer camp session of 6 through 12 year-olds, but after that, he moves on to a "big school."  We went for a tour last week, and I could see that he was nervous.  He wanted to see the "classroom and the kitchen."  He didn't expect that they would show him 18 classrooms (three for every grade) and a huge cafeteria filled with tables and chairs--not to mention the library, the gym, the nurse's station, etc. etc.

I plan on taking him back there multiple times during the summer, so he can get used to the buildings and the play ground, but other than that, the goal is just to enjoy the summer as much as possible before September comes.  Does anyone have suggestions on how to help a child feel more excited and less afraid about starting school?  I'll take any advice!

Tampa

6.19.2015

Last week, we went on our long awaited summer vacation to Tampa, Florida.  After going here last year and having a blast, we quickly decided that we wanted to make this trip an annual tradition.  Simply stated, there's just so much to do in Tampa, and each time we go on vacation, we're lucky if we even get to do 1/8th of the activities.  For example, there's Bucsch Gardens, the Tampa Zoo, Adventure Island, and tons of other beaches and costal towns that we still haven't even ventured to yet.

This week, our focus was going back to LEGOLAND for two days (we loved it last year and knew Lewie would enjoy going back) and hanging out at our resort's pool and beach.  Some extras that we were able to squeeze in that were different from last year were taking the Trolley Bus to John's Pass (a cool shopping area with a baby alligator petting zoo), having a fancy dinner at Guy Harvey's RumFish Grill (the restaurant has a 33,500 gallon fish tank that was built by Animal Planet's hit series "Tanked"), and venturing to our neighbor hotel, the TradeWinds Island Grand Beach Resort, that has the coolest beach slide ever!

My husband and I have a motto that our vacations need to be just as relaxing as they are adventurous.  We could have certainly packed in more things to do into our six-day itinerary, but we would have come home exhausted (and quite possibly--BROKE).  Also, on some days it rained, and we decided that it was way more fun to just curl up inside our hotel and watch a good movie than get soaked trying to make it from point A to point B during Florida's famous, wild thunder and lightening storms.

My favorite part of the trip, hands down, was having my son wake up with me every morning around 5:45 a.m., so we could walk on the beach and watch the sunrise together.  On the first day that he came with me, I wasn't sure he enjoyed it; however, during the next morning, when I thought I was sneaking out before he or Daddy would notice, his little head popped out from the hotel room (his eyes still half closed from sleeping) and called down the hall, "Mommy, Can I come with you?"  From that point on, he was my little morning buddy, and each morning we would walk for a good hour before returning to the hotel room.  (Our walks made such an impact that he woke me up this Wednesday around the same time and said, "Mommy, Can we walk together this morning and watch the sunrise?"  We didn't because I don't know where we can get a good view of the sunrise by our house, but I'm still trying to think of a place...I'd like to continue our morning routine--at least on the weekends since weekday mornings are just a little too frantic around here...)

Here are some highlight pictures and videos from our trip:




The new hotel that was just built this year!

Lewie and Daddy on the "Island in the Sky" Ride.

A mini-Lego rendition of the Excaliber Hotel in Las Vegas (where my husband proposed to me).

Ice cream!!


Pretending to sleep under a pillow cave.








Celebrating our 9th year wedding anniversary at the RumFish Grill.




A beautiful sunset!




Watching the sun rise in our PJs.






A wedding about to take place in an hour...