Happy 2014 - My New Year's Resolution


We decided to spend this New Year holiday in Saratoga Springs, NY.  (My husband and I came here for New Year's Eve in 2006--just before we were married, so needless to say, being here has brought back many fun memories.)  Unfortunately, the only problem is that my husband has been sick with a stomach bug ever since we arrived, and so, while he's been spending the past 48 hours in our hotel room, Little Lewie and I have had to explore the city on our own...  I'm hoping there's a happy ending to this trip, but we may just decide to go back home earlier than expected...

In the meantime, I've been using some of my vacation time to think about plans and resolutions for the New Year.  New Year's Eve has always been a special holiday for me--it's a time for me to reflect on the past year, savor the memories, and wonder about what type of learning lessons/wisdom I can bring with me for the New Year.

This year, my New Year's resolution is simple...(in theory)

Courtesy of Google Images
If there are any lessons I've learned from 2013, it's that I often find myself constantly consumed by work, worry, and regret.  This year I ask for the wisdom to find my inner child again--to be fun, playful, appreciative, kind, loving, and HAPPY.   I don't want my son to remember his mom as a workaholic.  I want him to remember me as a fun, uplifting, adventurous, and HAPPY person...

It may take a while to get rid of these old habits of worry and anxiety, but I'm willing to do whatever is necessary to get myself back to a more playful, joyous, and harmonious state. Today, I will be gentler and more compassionate with myself.  I won't let self-doubt rule my heart.  Instead, I will be confident about my role as a mom, a wife, a daughter, a friend, and a person. This year...I will find a new spark within myself, and I will be a shining light again. This is not just my resolution for this year, but a long-awaited promise to myself.

What resolution/s do you hope to make this year?  Will you be kinder to yourself?

A Polar Express Christmas (for my Five Year-Old)


This December has been magical.  We started counting down the days to Christmas with our advent calendar, and Tootie (our Elf on the Shelf) appeared on December 1st to delight us all as we spent each morning trying to find him.

We met Santa early this year (on the Santa Express), and Lewie told him he wanted a Polar Express Train with two passenger cars and a plug.  (He, of course, was describing the Lionel train set he saw on the computer.)  Then, just in case Santa forgot, I helped Lewie craft a nice letter to Santa, complete with pictures of this train set.  (His very specific request reminded me of Ralphie from A Christmas Story.)

On Christmas Eve, we made sure to bake cookies for Santa and leave out some carrots for his reindeer.  Then it was off to bed...

Cookies were eaten even before Santa arrived...

We heard lots of noises in the middle of the night, but it only made sense because when we woke up, right before our eyes was a Lionel Polar Express train set up right underneath our Christmas tree... 

Not only that, but there were gifts and even a note to walk next door to Grammy's house...It appeared that Santa left Lewie a wooden train table with a little Polar Express set to play with too.  Tootie reported there wasn't enough room on our side, so Santa knew Grammy wouldn't mind having this very special surprise at her house.
Santa's intricate work.  (Notice how he tried to create a "snow scene" with trees and houses too.)

A sky view of the train table.

The wooden Polar Express train...

Pure excitement!

Board games are a hit around here too!

Loving the table at Grammy's house...

No more pictures.  It's time to play!

"Okay, one more picture with Daddy, but then that's it!"
Yes, Santa and his elves worked very hard through the night setting up train tracks for this little boy that LOVES trains and The Polar Express.  Yes, in this house "the bell still rings for [us], as it does for all who truly believe."

Lewie w/ his remote to the Polar Express train.  He's been living under the Christmas tree now for the past several days.

I hope all of you had a very blessed, wonderful, and magical Christmas.  Tis the season for love, gratitude, remembering our loved ones, and paying it forward.  XOXO.

Last Day of Swim Class!


Yesterday, Lewie completed his last day of swim class (at least for this year).  His swim school doesn't allow parents in the pool area during the lessons.  Therefore, Lewie was beyond excited when he heard that I could come in and watch his very last class.

If there's one thing that my son likes, it's having an audience.  It was fun watching him "show off" (in Lewie fashion) just for Mommy!  (One day I suppose it will be for his friends and cute girls...but not yet!)

My son was definitely the class clown of his swim class.  He hasn't passed Level 1 just yet, but at least he's having fun trying...

Sorry Santa!


Dear Santa,

Oh no!  It seems that I placed you in a very precarious predicament this year...  I suppose I should explain.

You see, my son likes to talk A LOT!  He's especially a little chatterbox first thing in the morning, but this energy can carry over to the afternoon, late evening, and even in between gulping down his dinner.

With my "working mom" schedule in the mornings, I don't have much time to make us breakfast, get ourselves dressed, pack our lunches, and take Lewie to preschool before I get to work.  I'll be the first one to admit that I am not good at multi-tasking.  It's the running joke in my family that I don't "hear" a lot of things that are said to me if I'm in the middle of doing something.  My brain just doesn't work that way.  I either need to give you my full, undivided attention, or else my brain is somewhere else...

I like to give Lewie my full, undivided attention, but in the mornings, I just can't.  (Answering his questions often puts me behind schedule because I do things like stop making breakfast or packing our lunch.  Even worse, I find myself forgetting things as we leave in a hurry out the door--like Lewie's lunches, his winter boots, my jump drive, or important paperwork needed for my job--all because I was too involved in a conversation with him before we left.  I've been an hour late for work or more just because I arrived at his daycare only to realize his lunch is at home sitting on the counter!) 

So...in trying to find a solution to my lack of being able to concentrate on more than one thing at a time, I introduced Lewie to the world of Google Images.  He LOVES looking at train pictures, and this seems to be the one activity that keeps him silent for hours on end.  There's no, "Mommy watch me do this," or "Mommy, come in here and watch this with me."  Instead, there is pure, unwavering silence as my son carefully opens up each picture, which seems to take him to some fun, far-off magical world.  I swear this boy goes into a trance!

Viola!  I get ready for work on time, and Lewie's tickled pink that he got to see some cool train pictures in the morning before going to school.  It's a beautiful thing...

...until recently...

Santa, I'm sorry for my long explanation, but I really did need to explain myself to you.  You see, we've googled "trains," "Santa Express trains," "The Polar Express," and "Trains to the North Pole," and as a result, Google Images has provided lots of great pictures.  The only problem is that some of those pictures are of real trains, and some of them are of toy trains.  Once he found the toy trains, all bets were off.  We've created a monster, I'm afraid.  He now wants this toy train and that toy train.  I told him that he can't expect you to bring them all.  Still, he's decided that he wants to print out the pictures, so you can see them...

So....that's my story.  I'm sorry we're sending you a thick letter full of train pictures.  We don't expect you to bring all of them.  In fact, we don't even know which ones still exist...  We saw some Polar Express Brio train sets on eBay, but they're awfully expensive.  The Polar Express Lionel Train Set on Amazon is pretty pricey too.  We're sorry.  Please know that this little boy is not purposefully trying to pick out expensive presents....he just loves trains.

We thank you as always for bringing joy and excitement to our home every year.  We're eternally grateful for your big heart.

Sincerely yours,

Annette (a.k.a. Lewie's Mommy)

A Tale of Christmas Magic!


Christmas, as you already know, is going to be all about trains this year, and we started our very first "Santa Express" adventure right after Thanksgiving.  On Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, we woke up at 3 a.m. and drove five hours straight to Delaware to greet my extended family for the holidays.  Lewie loves this biannual trip because we get to sleep in the campervan, which is parked in the driveway right next to the house.  This is the easiest way to camp!!
On Saturday, we set out to travel an hour to the Wilmington & Western Railroad, so that we could ride with Santa on their "Santa Express."  In the midst of our travels, however, the car stopped cooperating.  My husband looks at me and says, "We lost the power steering." 
"What?" I say, somewhat frightened as now my husband is having to take a tighter grip on the steering wheel to try and keep us on the road.  "Should we pull over?"
"No, we'll make it to the Santa Express," he replies.  About ten minutes later, we stop at a toll booth and discover that the power windows and doors don't work. 
Once again, I urge for us to pull over, but my husband insists we can make it.  In another five minutes, the lights on the dashboard disappear.  There's no radio, no lights, no temperature gauge, no fuel gauge--nothing.  It's obvious that we lost power but yet my husband's answer is to step on the gas pedal to go even faster because after all, we must get to the Santa Express.
In another five minutes, the car begins to buck, and it's obvious that we need to pull to the side of the highway before we get hit.  Lewie begins to cry/whine, I begin to cry (because I'm still a five year old at heart), and my husband's still wondering whether the battery went, the alternator, or both.
To make a long story short, we didn't get to the Santa Express that day, and our car had to be towed back to my aunt's house.  However, with some Christmas magic, my cousin John, who's a mechanic, immediately discovered that we needed a new serpentine belt and a pulley.  Both he and my husband bought the parts at Pep Boys on Saturday night, and John fixed the car on Sunday morning.  Another mini-Christmas miracle is that I called the Wilmington & Western Railroad and learned that there were still seats available for Sunday.  We piled into the car to make the trip again, and this time, we arrived at the Santa Express!  Even more, the lady at the ticket counter honored my tickets from Sat. after I explained our car troubles to her.  
Yes oh yes, Lewie had his Santa Express ride after all, and the spirit of Christmas was saved!  I am so thankful that we made it through this ordeal safely, and even more, that we have wonderful family members that helped save us in a pinch.  Yay for safety, yay for family, and yay for little boys and trains that turn every holiday into a world of play, wonder, and excitement.

We finally made it to the Santa Express!

An authentic steam train...

Lewie had a chance to meet Santa even before the ride!

Does he look excited enough?

Some scenery from the window.  It was really beautiful!

I love covered bridges!

Lewie requested the "Polar Express Train with two passenger cars" for Christmas. 
He didn't even have to think twice about what he wanted for Christmas.

"Mommy, I didn't know Santa had a wife!"--Lewie's exact comment!

Daddy and Lewie!

Mommy and Lewie

The end of our ride.  As you can see, no one wanted to leave, including us.

Lewie-isms (Age 5)


I know I keep on repeating myself, but...I can't help it.  I LOVE AGE FIVE!  My son is perpetually making me laugh, and he's still at the tender age where Mommy and Daddy is his everything.  Being with this kid just warms my heart all day long!

Here is a list of the ridiculously cute things my son says throughout  the day/week.  Am I wrong if I don't correct him?

1)  Lewie has inherited a number of non-working cell phones throughout the years.  He has two of from Mommy, two from Daddy, one from Gramy, and another from Ninny and Papa (my in-laws).  One of his phones is a Blackberry.  The other day, Lewie puts his hand out and says,

          "Wait a minute.  I have to go inside to get my phone.  I have to get my Blueberry."

2) The other night Lewie had some some congestion and we set up the vaporizer in his room.  After waking up the next day, he says,

          "Mommy, I'm feeling so much better.  That breather works great!!"

3)  Mowing the lawn is one of Lewie's favorite pastimes; he rides on Daddy's tractor.

          "Hey Daddy, do you want to lawn the mow?"

4)  Since Sponge Bob is a regular TV show in this house, Lewie uses Sponge Bob's words when he's frustrated.  Daily, I hear Lewie yell...

          "Oh Barnacles!" or "Oh, Tartar Sauce!"

Finally, since my little boy is going to Kokopelli, a preschool that focuses on music, dance, and the arts, we find that Lewie loves to break out into song A LOT.  Here is one of the cutest videos my husband captured this weekend:

Lewie, I have to say that Mommy is so proud of you.  You're growing up to be such a fun, happy, free spirited, and sweet little boy.  Thank you for gracing my life everyday with your wonderful smile.  You may every moment a "treat!"



This fall was warmer than usual, and so it took a while for the last few leaves to fall off our trees.  (Actually, there's still a few leaves that continue to hang on...)

In any case, it seems that every year, Lewie enjoys the fall more and more, and every year, I need to get a picture of him in a big pile of leaves...

These past few weekends, Daddy's been rounding up the leaves with his lawn sweeper attachment to his tractor, and if Lewie isn't riding with Daddy, then he's hopping into the piles of leaves left behind.

I usually rake the piles of leaves into a plastic swimming pool, and then drag the pool to the woods for unloading.  Remembering his fun last year, Lewie quickly jumped into the swimming pool, so that I could drag him and the leaves for a ride.  He weighs at least ten pounds heavier than last year, but I have to admit that dragging him was worth it.  It was fun to rake leaves on top of his head as he squealed with delight.  It was even more fun tipping him over as the leaves fell and piled on top of him.

All I can say is that life is fun with a five year-old.  The monotonous act of raking suddenly turns into a fun day of making messes, then cleaning up, and making messes all over again just to run and play and laugh and be silly.  So worth it!

Toy Flashback to 1981


I grew up as an only child in my family, and now it looks like my son may just be an only child too. Since I was an only child, my mom had the time to meticulously pack all of my toys in her attic. Perhaps she thought I might have a sibling someday, or maybe just maybe she hoped she'd have a grandchild who could use them...

In any case, the latter came true.  Ever since that fateful day of my son's birth, I've had the pleasure of watching my mom reintroduce my old toys to Lewie.  One of my favorite toys of all time is the Fisher Price Little People House Boat.

Picture courtesy of eBay.

While my boat is not in "selling condition" like the one shown above (it received lots of attention when I was a child), my son doesn't mind one bit.  It has become his favorite bath toy, and once again the Little People House Boat has been able to set sail to the mighty seas of our tub.

I mention this toy for two reasons.  First, it brings back a lot of nostalgia.  I spent hours in the tub pretending that Mommy and Daddy were having picnics on the boat, while the little boy and girl were practicing their diving and swimming skills in the "lake."  One time, my mom actually played "house boat" with me at the kitchen table, and it was one of my favorite memories of make-believe play.  My own parents were divorced when I was five, and so my mom raised me with her parents (my grandparents).  Playing houseboat for me was a way to "act out" what a "normal" family might look like.  (Of course, now that I'm older, I realize that there is no exact definition of a "normal" family.)

I tried playing "house boat" with Lewie but then quickly learned that there is a HUGE difference between boys and girls.  While I liked acting out family conversations and activities, Lewie prefers not to use any of the "Little People" at all.  The other day there was so much commotion in the bathroom that I had to peek from the door:

"Tidal wave!  Tidal wave!"  Lewie shouts.  "AGGHHHH!  THE SHIP IS SINKING. AGGHHH!"


"Lewie, what are you doing?"  I ask curiously as I see my beloved toy turned upside down in the water.

"Oh, there was a major storm, Mommy.  The ship sank."

"Oh," I replied.  "Do you want me to throw out the life vests to the family members?"  (The toy comes with play life vests too!)

"No.  It's too late," Lewie replied.

With that, I said no more.

Yes, my Little People House Boat is getting lots of use these days.  It may have some stickers that are wearing off and a few marks and scratches, but it's hosted some very fun family picnics in the 80's and has even weathered some fierce storms in 2013 :)

Halloween 2013 - Choo Choo


I'm not sure how else to describe this year's Halloween except to say, "All Aboard."

Little Lewie chose a train costume for Halloween this year--Brewster from Disney's "Chuggington" to be exact.  In early October, we started viewing various train costumes online, and he fell in love with Brewster.  To be honest, I loved the costume too.  I know the years of dressing as a Star Wars character, a superhero, or a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle is coming soon, so I was happy to grasp onto one more year of "cuteness."

In order to join the fun, Mommy and Daddy decided to embrace the train theme too. Besides loving Thomas the Train and Chuggington, Lewie also loves The Polar Express.  (He's been obsessed with the movie since last November.)  I transformed a pilot costume into a conductor uniform for my husband, so he could be Tom Hank's character, and I bought myself an engineer's costume.  The outcome looked like this:

Lewie and me at his school Halloween party.

Lewie and Daddy getting ready for Trick-o-treating.

The three of us, right on "track" for Halloween.
The weekend before Halloween, we decided to visit Sesame Place for their Halloween Spooktacular event.  We had left over "free" tickets from the summer, and so we decided to make the four hour trip to Pennsylvania.

The event didn't disappoint.  Lewie had a chance to see several "Halloween" shows with his Sesame Street character friends, go on multiple amusement park rides, trick-or-treat throughout the park, and watch the Sesame Street Halloween parade.  Since we thought his Brewster costume might be uncomfortable to wear the entire day, we dressed him up in his train engineer costume instead.  (This is the same costume he wore for his trolley birthday party.)  Needless to say, Lewie had a blast pretending he was a train engineer throughout the day.  Adults, especially at the hotel, just loved his little imagination.

The best part of the day was when we went to see the Elmo's World Halloween show.  We sat in a studio that looked just like Elmo's World on TV, and when the characters came out, Lewie looked at me and said, "Wow Mommy!  I didn't know Elmo's World was real!"  I giggled and replied, "Sure it is Lewie."   I just love this age of innocence and make believe.  It makes every holiday super special!


Lewie and Daddy doing a "ropes" course.

Love all the Halloween decorations!
Lewie and me in the Sesame Street Pumpkin patch.
Big Lew and Little Lew.
Trick-or-Treating before the next ride.
Lewie's favorite ride...clickety clack along the track.
A great view of the parade on top of Daddy's shoulders.
Elmo float w/ his trick-or-treat pumpkin pail
The Count...Ah, Ah, Ah
The Count Pumpkin...Ah, Ah, Ah

One more squeeze before the next show...
Dancing to "The Monster Mash."