Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Our New England Advenure - Part 3

Here it is... the last leg of our New England Adventure!! 

We left Martha's Vineyard on Sunday to head north. I have to note that both times we arrived at the ferry well ahead of our scheduled departure (Brad is nothing if he's not prompt!) and both times we were able to get on an earlier ferry. We were SO happy! Thank you ferry personnel! (see top left pic below - Bennett loves the ferry!)

Anyway, we got back to the mainland and headed north through Boston. We were so excited to drive down through the 'big dig' (top row, right pic)- we had heard so much about it on our trolley tours in Boston. Brad was an excellent chauffeur! 

Our final destination on Sunday was Wentworth by the Sea in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. This hotel was gorgeous (bottom 2 pictures)! We swam for the rest of the afternoon and enjoyed a nice dinner at Latitudes. 
On Monday morning we headed for our final destination - Bar Harbor, Maine! We stayed at the Atlantic Eyrie, which had the most beautiful view (above, middle picture). That night, we enjoyed a little dinner down by the pier and got settled into the room (I like to clean everything at each hotel :)

On Tuesday we went whale watching on the Atlanticat catamaran. This was such an adventure!! I was worried about Brad getting sick (he has a tendency for sea-sickness), but he did great! We saw 3 whales - one mom (Fundi) and baby- and one by himself named Breakers. We also saw tons of birds, including Puffins (but you couldn't see them really wel without binoculars...) It was so amazing! It was also cold out there on the water - about 40 to 50 degrees on the water, 90 on the land!!

That afternoon we walked around town and learned quickly that Bar Harbor's many souvenir shops were not 8-year-old friendly. Many of the store were like the old 'Spencer's' store, and I found myself ushering Bennett out quickly, telling him to quit reading... Brad commented that Bar Harbour was much like Key West - a little rough around the edges :)

On Wednesday, Brad and Bennett went on a sea kayaking adventure in the Gulf of Maine! You could only go in pairs, so I walked down the way to the sand bar that they would be exploring. The sand bar becomes totally crossable during low tide! I was able to capture a lot of their journey from afar. They had a great time!

After a less than exciting lunch at a restaurant whose name I can't even remember, we headed out to Acadia National Park. I don't know that I've ever seen such breath taking landscape in my life! The whole park is totally driveable and laid out so beautifully! We stopped at Cadillac Mountain, Thunder Hole, and the Wild Gardens nature center. Bennett also took part in their Junior Ranger Program and was given a patch after he took the oath... it was a big deal! Below are our pictures from the park.

That night, Bennett and Brad took one final dip in the pool (above, bottom row, right picture) and we got packed up. On the way to the aiport the next morning, we were running early (remember Brad's internal early clock??) and we were lucky to stumble upon the Children's Museum of MN. We really enjoyed it. 

Bennett's Favorite Maine happenings: the pool where we stayed, drinking Shirley Temples, and sea kayaking.
Brad's favorites: Whale watching, Acadia, and sea kayaking
Amy's favorites: Whale watching and Acadia 

There are a few 'themes' to this trip that I don't want to forget: 
Bennett found Shirley Temples and once he did, he always wanted to go to a restaurant with a bar. You can imagine that we tried to keep his request on the DL :)
Bennett searched for key chains at every stop. 
We played the 'jeepers' game throughout our trip. Martha's Vineyard was certainly the Jeep haven.
Bennett was a wonderful traveler. He was up for anything that we wanted to do. We did a good job, I think, of balancing what he wanted to do and what we wanted to do. 
It was HOT on this trip, but we all (even me for the most part!) made the best of it. 

If you get the chance to go to New England, do it! It was a trip that we will never forget!

Project Life August 1-15

Welcome back to Project Life! This is the August 15th edition :)

August 1st - Nana needed a haircut, so Bennett and I got to keep Evie for a little while. I'm not sure who had more fun :)  These cousins sure do love each other, and I couldn't be happier about it! 

 August 2nd - Bennett started agility training at a local sports complex. He LOVES it! It is a lot of hard work, but they have a lot of fun with Coach Nick. Reminds me a lot of those hard workouts that I used to be able to do...

 August 3rd - Bennett still loves legos... now we've gotten excited about the Cars Ultimate Build version (thanks Pa!)

 August 4th - At registration I got Bennett's school supply pack. I LOVE school supplies. 
Don't you?

 August 5th - Bennett and I got back-so-school haircuts. I talked him into letting me take a picture in the mirror. Didn't work out so well...

 August 5th - pic #2 We tried and tried, and it was either blurry or silly :)  Eventually he took off upstairs, so the photo session was over.
By the way, Brad didn't notice either haircut... I guess my hair always looks this nice, right? 

 August 6th - I worked on the school's '10-'11 scrapbook today. It was a great year!

August 7th - This picture totally cracks me up - look at Brad in the background. Ha! Sorry honey :)

August 7th - the real picture :)  Bennett was thrilled to have Sara down for a visit. Nothing like family for some fun for the week before school starts!

 August 8th - We took Sara and Debbie to McWane. Fun!

 August 8th - pic #2 Bennett overcame his fear and rode the high cycle at McWane! He was so serious. Precious.

 August 9th - We took Sara and Debbie to Treetop and Bennett discovered the Klondike machine (it's not called that anymore, but that's what it was called when Angie, Dad and I used to play each week). Nothing like a huge pile of tickets!! Bennett shared his tickets with Sara and also got some army men and a nice sword :)

 August 10th - VULCAN!! Nothing like having family visit to get us out to see a Birmingham landmark. Bennett had never been and really enjoyed it.

 August 10th - pic #2 After Vulcan and lunch we headed to Meet the Teacher. It was a quick stop, really. Bennett put his stuff in his desk and was ready to go - so different from kindergarten when I had to pry him out of the classroom! I guess it's different when you already know the ropes :)

August 11th - I already shared the first day of school pics in the post below (the real and the re-do's!). Here's one of him walking into school. Sigh.

 August 12th -Smurfs toys are at McDonald's!!

 August 13th - Brad has a new baby!! He spent the day flying to and driving back from Atlanta. He loves his new car!

 August 14th - This shoe pile cracks me up! We have a 'no shoe' policy in the house, so they naturally congregate by the door. Yes, most of them are mine :) Not the guitar, though!
 August 15th - after taking Bennett to school, the car got dirty. It is a whole 3/4 mile, afterall! Brad had to clean the car a little. He also re-washed it this afternoon after school with Bennett's help :)

August 15th - She doesn't make the blog nearly enough, but Sadie is a sweet girl. She's hard to photograph, but she's sweet!

Hope the rest of August is as fun as the first half! Sports start next week...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Back to School... and why a camera makes a difference!

I'm not sure how it happened, but school started on Thursday. No, we weren't ready for summer to be over, but it happened anyway. Isn't that the way life is, really? I'm either anxiously anticipating something that is going to happen or hanging on by the tips of my toes to one last moment. I'm trying hard to enjoy the middle ground, which is where God seems to be placing me more and more often...

Anyway, here is Bennett, my 3rd grader.

Just yesterday it seems, we had a baby gate on these stairs. And just a few hours ago I was a basket case because he was starting kindergarten. You can read about my his first day of big school here :)

I can't believe that he's in 3rd grade!! He's so grown up now - we wear the same shoe size. He's quickly gaining height on me too. He loves to hang out with Brad doing boy things, but I'm still cool enough to snag some snuggles every once in a while. He's 100% obsessed with baseball, cars (jeeps and fast cars in particular), and Phineus and Ferb. His handwriting can be very neat, and his math skills are out of this world. He reads fast and comprehends almost everything that goes into his brain. Oh, and he STILL asks questions all the time. All the time. ALL. THE. TIME.  :)

He's so independent now, too. He can fix his own food (not that he does it all that often), shower and do all his hygiene duties all by himself, and can even stay home by himself for 5 minutes when Brad gives me a ride in his new car... 

I love this boy so much. I am thankful for him. So very thankful to be his mom. Even if he is growing up in the blink of an eye.


Ok... on to the next topic. I have a little confession... those pictures up there. Yeah, those first day of school pictures. Those are re-dos. Yup. I was dumb and tried to take the real pictures with my old camera and this is what I got...

And you might or might not be able to tell, but this picture is HIGHLY editted. Yikes. So, for those of you who wonder what difference a camera can make - let me be the example :)  Not only the camera, but also the user... on the 'bad' picture I just turned the camera on and let it think for me. The flash popped up and I just went with it. The cost: $1. That's what I had to pay Bennett to let me re-take pictures this afternoon ;)

Oh, and also the location makes a big difference too. Of course, when Bennett was 2 and going to preschool, these steps were precious. The backpack was bigger than he was. Now, he's 8 and I have to open the door and stand outside to fit his whole body into the frame :)

 Anyway, I hope that I remember this photographic lesson next year. Don't be lazy. Set the camera up the way I want it - and then enjoy the results. Sure, they don't all come out perfect, but that's ok. At least they make me smile...

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Our New England Adventure - Part 2

Ready for the 2nd installment of our New England Adventure? 
Read on...

On Thursday morning Brad set out to get the rental car while Bennett and I got our suitcases packed and grabbed some breakfast. Our SUV arrived and we headed out of Boston to Woods Hole to catch the ferry to Martha's Vineyard. We ended up being early for our reservation and we were lucky enough to get on an earlier ferry! Perfect!

The ferry was so fun - just a short 30 to 45 minute jaunt across the ocean. It was beautiful and WINDY! You can see in the top right picture below how windy it was (and it remained that windy the whole day...)

Our first stop was Nancy's (just for Nana) for some lunch. The service wasn't so hot, but it was the birth of Bennett's tour of Shirley Temple drinks, so it will always be remembered :)

After lunch we headed to Edgartown, then on to our hotel, the Winnetu. We LOVED the Winnetu! Perfect for families. That night we explored the grounds, grabbed some dinner at Among the Flowers, and then went to the Grab 'n Go for some groceries. 

Day 2 on the Island (that's what they call it up there :) started with the beach. To get to the beach we just had a short walk over the lawn and through the dunes. We were usually the only ones on the beach other than those walking each morning.  The water was cold, but that didn't stop the boys from jumping in. I enjoyed the umbrella that we found in the community beach gear bin.

After lunch we spent the afternoon at the pool. At 3 every afternoon the resort serves cookies and lemonade and gives firetruck rides. So fun! We spent the evening in Edgartown. After dinner at the Seafood Shanty (good food/shouldn't have sat so close to the bar) we explored a little. We found the tree in the middle right photo to be so fascinating - it was brought over as a potted tree from China in the early 1900s. Look how big it got!!

Our last stop that evening was E's Cupcakes. Oh. My. Goodness. Wow. So good. I wish I had some more right now... (I had lemon, Bennett had Smores, and Brad had Salted Caramel). I'd go back to MV just for another one!

Day 3... After another morning on the beach and some pool time, we headed out to explore the rest of the island. We drove to the Gay Head Cliffs. It was so crowded there that Brad just circled in the car while Bennett and I explored a bit. It was absolutely breathtaking! Bennett thought it was nice, but was more taken with the lobster pot tshirt. He thought it was SO hilarious. And no, we didn't buy it!

The middle pic above is the main building at the Winnetu... then Bennett at the Cliffs and  Brad and Bennett on the big chess board at the resort.

After the cliffs we went back into Edgartown and explored the Cook House. They had a wonderful house to tour as well as a museum. Bennett enjoyed dressing as a soldier (and even got Brad to try it :) We also tried a few old-timey games like sack races and sticks and hoops. Bennett asked me if those were the types of games I played when I was little. Nice.

That night we ate at Lure at the Winnetu. We weren't that impressed with our meal there and wished we would have tried something else in town. Oh well... if that's the worst thing about this leg of our adventure, we're not going to complain :)

We really loved Martha's Vineyard. The weather was perfect, the resort was super family friendly, and we loved the pace of the island. Oh, and we loved counting all the jeeps that were driven on the Island - at one point we had to call off our 'jeepers' game because we couldn't keep track!
We'd love to go back again one day!

Bennett's Favorite things about MV: swimming in the pool at the Winnetu, 'the 3 o'clock thing' (which is the cookies and lemonade!), s'mores, Mad Martha's ice cream, and E's cupcakes.
Brad's favorites: running on the beach, driving around the island, enjoying Edgartown and Winnetu
Amy's Favorites: The Winnetu, exploring Edgartown, the jeeps, and E's cupcakes.

Thanks for reading... look for the final Big Adventure installment soon :)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Our New England Adventure - Part I

We decided to take a little bit different vacation this year. Not our normal beach trip... and it was deemed 'our greatest adventure yet' by Bennett as we were taking off on our first leg of our flight :) If you'd like some details, I'm going to give 'em to ya! I'm going to break it up into 3 post - one for each of our major stops.

We began our New England Adventure in Boston. We flew in on July 11 and went straight to our hotel (which was the Hampton Inn Crosstown near Boston Medical Center). This hotel was not the ideal hotel for sight-seeing in Boston (live and learn, right?) When we booked this hotel, they touted their shuttle service. When we arrived, they had discontinued their shuttle service. SO.... we took lots of cabs!
Here is Bennett in his first ever cab ride. He was most impressed with the tv in the back of the seats. Oh, and he wore his seat belt every time :)

We had a quick dinner at Abe & Louie's and then took out for a little sight-seeing of the things that were nearby. We came upon the Old South Church (we were knew we wanted to see the Old North Church, but the Old South Church was a little bit of a surprise.)

I will ever forget it - Bennett got his notebook out and wanted to write down every word that was engraved on the building. So cute. 
Note: He didn't do this ever again :)

Day 2 - July 12
We hopped onto the Old Towne Trolley at our hotel and rode all the way to Fenway Park. Bennett was on the Red Sox team this Spring, which was the inspiration for our trip. Here are a few pictures...
The best thing about our tour was going on top of the 'Green Monster' and getting to go out in front of it on the field. AWESOME! Oh, and it was hot. Really hot.

After a quick lunch (and cool down/rehydration) we jumped back on the Trolley and headed to Faneuil Hall, Paul Revere's house, and Old North Church. Bennett really enjoyed each stop - not that we really stopped and read many of the plaques along the way, but he still was interested. There was a great little talk at Faneuil Hall, detailing the important meetings that have taken place there throughout history. Paul Revere's house was so fascinating - so tiny! Old North Church was beautiful - and we loved seeing the box pews that were rented. 

Day 3 -July 13. 
The pictures above and below are from Day 3 (I can't get this paragraph to move up...)

We jumped on the Trolley again from our hotel (did you know that you get the 2nd day free??) and headed straight for the USS Constitution (photos above). We were the first group tour of the day and had a super tour guide named Kiki. We loved exploring the ship and we got a bonus 'behind the scenes' tour when everyone else left. Bennett hung back to ask Kiki about the lower deck and Kiki took us down there! We also got to tour the officers' and Captain's quarters. Did you know that the Captain got his own toilet? You can guess how cool Bennett thought that was :)

After the Constitution we went to Cheers (and tried to explain what it was all about to Bennett, but I think we failed). The food was great! We then headed to the Public Gardens to find the ducks and the Swan Boats (from Make Way for Ducklings, one of our favorite books). Did you know that those big swan boats are peddle powered? They are!

Then we took the subway (a little scary, but just because we had NO idea what we were doing :) up to Harvard. What a beautiful campus! Bennett and I are sitting on the steps of the library in the next to the last pic below. I think that it will be cool to show people that picture in 10 years when he starts his freshman year there ;) He says he's not going that far away from me. I tell him I'll follow him...

After Harvard (and a stop at Baskin Robbins for ice cream) we went to the Boston Aquarium. Bennett LOVED it. He stood and watched the penguins for at least 15 minutes. I just stood back and watched him (last picture). He also really enjoyed the touch tank where you could touch real sharks and rays. Super cool. 

It started to rain while we were in the Aquarium, which really cooled things down. It was really hot in Boston while we were there (like, hotter than at home!) The main difference was that when you could find some shade, it was tolerable. Anyway, after the rain let up a little we ran to Legal's for some great seafood. We made Bennett skip the chicken fingers this time :) Delish!

Our Favorites:
Brad: Seeing all of the historical sites
Amy: The behind-the-scenes tour on the USS Constitution
Bennett: Fenway Park (all of it), the Constitution (all of it), and the Aquarium (the touch tank and the Penguins - watch them poop!)

Coming soon... Part 2 :)