An Attitude of Gratitude

This has been a wild and crazy fall. The sweet, sandy days of summer are long behind us, and the frantic pace of September’s start-of-school hasn’t let up yet, despite the fact that we are closing in on December. The transition from September to October was so busy that we forgot to update our calendar for a full week. It’s a wonder anyone got to where they were supposed to be. But if I’m being honest, that fact is a wonder most days. Even with a carefully crafted calendar (or three).

For a long time, the simple logistics of going anywhere with three toddlers (much less going in different directions) was too much to navigate. But now, in the height of preschoolerhood, we can count ninja class, sports class, and musical theater class among our ever-growing list of activities. Because, you know, it’s important for little people to individuate. And when you have three little people, that means three individual activities. Add in swimming (an essential life skill if you’re going to spend your summers on Long Island at Nana’s) and soccer (because…have you met their dad?) for everyone, and suddenly, we are one of those Upper East Side families whose preschoolers’ schedules are more complicated (okay, not really…) than their parents’.

 

 

Top that with a Manhattan kindergarten admissions process times three, and well, I probably don’t need to say much more.

Amidst our busy schedules, we’ve had a fair amount of heartbreak and stress this season. In the past three months we’ve lost two people near and dear to our hearts. In the past two weeks, we’ve spent two nights in the hospital. We’ve managed two terrible cases of croup (when will they grow out of this?!?!), two x-rays and one broken arm. We’ve been to the pulmonologist, the endocrinologist, and the allergist. And we’ve endured an awful lot of poking and prodding for flu shots, blood draws, and IV medications. Not to mention about a thousand colds.

But we’ve also had about a thousand adventures. I can’t describe them all here or even post all the pictures, and I doubt you’d have the patience to scroll through them all anyway. Perhaps I should try to be a bit more regular about this whole blogging thing? But here’s just a taste (seriously, this doesn’t even begin to cover it!) of all the adventures we’ve been lucky enough to have over the past few crazy busy months.

We’ve fed the animas at the Bronx Zoo, seen the Statue of Liberty up close, and explored the many exhibits at the American Museum of Natural History.

We’ve run around just about every playground in Manhattan, chased bubbles in Central Park, and spent countless hours at the New York Public Library.

We’ve eaten a ton of cheeseburgers and two tons of French fries.

And we’ve located nut-free donuts. Only two subway rides away from home.

We’ve played a hundred board games and done a thousand crafts.

We’ve enjoyed getting lost in the ball pit at The Color Factory, trying on witch hats at “The Craft Store,” and watching the trains race by at Grand Central. And most of all, we’ve enjoyed each other.

And then every night (okay, not every night…see our crazy schedules above) when we sit around the dinner table together, we each list two things: 1) Our favorite part of the day and 2) One thing we are grateful for.

In the midst of all that is crazy and busy and hard and sad, we insist on an attitude of gratitude. You may already know I’m a bit of a gratitude fanatic. You may have seen my Friday Five social media posts. You may know that I force my sixth grade homeroom students to partake in the Friday Five practice on a weekly basis.

What you may not know is that this attitude of gratitude does not come naturally to me. I’m a glass half-empty kind of gal. I’m an “expect the worst, hope for the best” kind of worrier. My childhood drama teacher used to have to beg me to smile when I got on stage to play the ingenue. “I’ll smile on opening night,” I’d say.” And then, I wouldn’t really. (Sorry, Helene)! My tennis instructor used to call me “Smiley Gillespie,” his tone tongue-in-cheek, in case you hadn’t figured that out yet.

It turns out, even for those of us who have a million reasons to be grateful every day, this gratitude business is pretty difficult. One of my students asked the other day, “Can we list the things we’re not grateful for instead?” “Why would you want to do that?” I asked. “Because it’s easier.”

Yeah, kid, you’re right. It IS easier to recite our long list of gripes each day. To dig into all that is frustrating, exhausting, unpleasant, or even downright miserable. To complain or whine or wallow. But that’s the point of a gratitude practice, isn’t it? To retrain your brain to see the bright side? To look for the silver linings among the cloudy skies?

It still takes some effort for me, particularly when we’re having the kind of fall we’ve been having, but at the top of my gratitude list is the fact that my kiddos are learning early that being grateful is going to be the norm in our family. Even if it takes a little effort and reflection.

And then scanning through our photos and looking back on all the memories we made this fall, I’ve found about a hundred other reasons to be grateful.

I am also so very grateful for the friends and family (not pictured here) who have lifted us up and supported us during difficult times. The ones who check in via text twenty times a day to see how we’re hanging in. The ones who reach out in the middle of the night when they see we’re in the hospital and ask what they can do. The ones who stay at our home past midnight, holding down the fort so that Will and I don’t have to divide and conquer for the really hard things. The ones who come by on a Friday with pizza, or wine, or dogs. The ones who ask over and over and over, at work and at home, “How can I help?”

We Strumolos aren’t big on asking for help. All five of us could probably stand to shore up our self-advocacy skills. But what we know is that if we do ask for help, we’ve got an army of people ready and willing to pitch in. And that? Well that’s is pretty freaking awesome.

I am grateful for our family, near and far. And as I type this, I am especially grateful for Nana and Grumples who are hosting our kiddos for Thanksgiving this year, while we fly across the country to surprise the other half of our family. I’m grateful for Henry, Jack, and Sophie who didn’t bat an eyelash when they heard we’d be skipping out on Thanksgiving in Southampton, and went to bed last night saying, “Love you, Mommy. See you Saturday!”‘And I am grateful for the members of Strumolo clan who helped coordinate our surprise trip out to Seattle (and of course for those members who were out in Seattle waiting to be surprised)! I am grateful for the chance to celebrate birthdays and meet our nephews. And if I’m being completely honest, I’m grateful for six hours on a plane to read, to blog, and to soak up a little peace and quiet, even if it is from 35,000 feet up.

It is apropos that I am especially grateful today, but I aim to cultivate an attitude of gratitude daily. So for all of you reading this who have helped make this fall a little more bearable, thank you.

I may not say it enough, but for you, I am

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Skating Party 2017 – Sophie and Henry’s first time on ice skates

Another skating party in the books. Arguably the hardest one to date, but also the most memorable…first time on skates for these kiddos (2 out of 3 at least)!

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Every day I am reminded that as they grow up, some things get easier and some things get harder.

We made it there (and back) in the wagon thanks to some navigational assistance from Google Maps and a trusted colleague.

We only spilled one cup of hot chocolate, and it mostly missed Maggie’s purse.

We ate brownies.

We stayed up way past our bedtime.

And of course, we have no photos of the skating because the child-to-adult-ratio is still a little mismatched for these very wobbly beginners.

On our way home, Henry, Jack, and Sophie marveled at what it was like to be outside “in the middle of the night.”

They shared their observations about the colors of the sky:

“Why is it sort of brown here?…It’s black when we’re at Nana’s and Grammie’s.”

“Look at it now. It’s more blue and purple here.”

They asked a thousand questions:

My favorite was, “Where did the city go?” as we wandered through Central Park.

And they reflected on the best parts of their evening:

“My favorite part was the brownie, and when [Daddy] carried me around.”

“My favorite part was the hot chocolate and the brownie.”

“My favorite part was all of it. Because I loved all of it.”

And because we’re sharing favorite moments, I’ll share mine. As we were making our way out, into Central Park in the “middle of the night,” and we ran into a parent of some former students of mine. “Oh, what a wonderful thing!” she exclaimed. “It’s a wagon full of Strumolos!” And she snapped this quick photo, our only “memory” of the night.

I don’t know how much longer Will and I will be carting along a wagon full of Strumolos, but I know I’ll be glad to look back at this photo and remember what it was like to pile our kids into the back of our Radio Flyer wagon and wander through Central Park in “the middle of the night.”

It was an epic adventure for just a few minutes on the ice, and I was reminded that I can, when necessary (and it was necessary), still carry two of these rascals at a time, ice skates, helmets, and all.

 

#thedaysarelongbuttheyearsareshort

#StrumoloSummerFest2017

School started on Tuesday (more on that soon). Summer is officially over. Things were so busy this summer, I couldn’t possibly keep up, but I did try to keep track. I even created a hashtag (#strumolosummerfest2017) for that very purpose. I’m sure there are moments that weren’t captured, days that will be forgotten, and milestones I’ve missed, but if you don’t follow me on Facebook and you’re just tuning in, scroll down to see snippets of our sunny summer months.

Highlights include (but I am sure are not limited to): MAJOR progress in swimming…we even took our first dip in the ocean!! Camp, visits from the cousins, our first ferry ride, our first REAL hike (on our own six feet), new friends, picnics in the park, concerts on the beach, afternoons at the bay. Catching sand crabs and baby clams (and then letting them go). Seeing skates, dolphins, and whales in the ocean. Collecting rocks and shells at the beach. And the bay. And Nana and Grumples’ driveway. And anyone else’s driveway we happened upon. Learning to ride our scooters, riding tricycles, and our new ride-on jeep. Trips to the toy store, homemade ice cream, and stomp rockets. Meeting Fiona. Breakfast at Sip ‘N Soda. The Children’s Museums (from Bridgehampton, NY to Portland, ME)! Islip, Southampton, Winter Harbor, Bar Harbor. Beaches, beaches, beaches,

My heart is full. First day of summer break 2017 in the books.

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Day 2 of summer break: Me sitting in the “special seat” to watch their “show.” I think they might need to schedule some additional rehearsals.

Day 3 of summer break: possible allergic reaction and a lot of fun with Grammie. And since allergies are lame, and I don’t have pictures from fun with Grammie, I threw in a few more from yesterday. Cows, ice cream, and snow leopards. And that was just the second half of their day. Gotta love this city.
#summerinthecity

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Day 4: we made it to the “red playground” via subway (and walking three crosstown blocks which is no joke…hence, the Oreos). Crosstown bus to Barnes and Noble followed by dinner at Shake Shack. Yay, summer!

 

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Day 5: BRONX ZOO. We also dabbled in paints and puzzles. And took a trip to Florida.

Highlights of the day: the big slide at the zoo, prairie dogs, Anikin the tiger, the Bug Carousel, discovering that red and blue make purple, finding a long lost puzzle piece and FINALLY completing the vehicle puzzle. And Pizza Friday. Oh, and baths. Always baths.

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Day 6 of summer vacation: one day lip, one black eye (okay, that was yesterday, but weekends don’t count), four bus rides, gorillas, tigers, and dinos, oh my, and a lively debate about whether or not you could eat flowers.

P.S. I nearly forgot we happened about “Kid Flicks” at the library in between bus transfers and caught an old fashioned screening of “Sylvester and the Magic Pebble.” Snagged three books about dogs, three about cats, and one Peter (of “The Snowy Day”) sequel and CINDERELLA on DVD. It’s in the vault, people. I had nightmares that our children would not meet Gus Gus until they were 10. That is FAR too long to wait for Gus Gus. Rectified that situation around 5:45 this evening. Phew.

 

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Sophie found a snowman on the bus.

 

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Day 7: A million tableaus with our “new” friends, cleaning the apartment (if by cleaning you mean moving EVERY toy and piece of furniture into the middle of the room and then wiping down a few walls), packing for Nana’s, about a dozen tantrums, AMNH round two (the jelly dome was mesmerizing), a new playground, a few more tantrums, picking Daddy up at work, ice cream for dinner (because that’s the proper consequence for two dozen tantrums, right?) a visit with Alice and Hans Christian Anderson, and one tired momma.

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Day 8: The boys keeping Sophie company at the pulmonologist and haircuts for the boys. Plus a braid for Sophie. And more packing! Countdown to Nana’s is on! Lisa Lord Gillespie get ready!

 

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 Day 9: early morning slumber party and then packing. Lots of packing.

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Day 10: we finally made it to Nana’s. What a difference a year makes!

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Too bad there’s nothing to do here at Nana’s.

#strumolosummerfest2017
#toddlers

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Day 11: first day of camp. Can you feel the excitement? Don’t worry, by the time we picked them up three ours later, they were exclaiming, “But, I love camp!” It was only at dinner that we found out the real reason they loved it: lollipops. Ended with dinner at the beach with both sets of grandparents. A rare treat indeed.

#grandparents
#strumolosummerfest2017
#lollipopsforthewin

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Day 12: Happy 4th of July!

#fourthofjuly
#strumolosummerfest2017

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Day 13: Duck, Duck, Goose (a new addition to our repertoire, we’re still working on the details), bike helmets that fit, and pajama protest number 372.

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Day 14 (a few hours late): Scooters, jeep rides, and skinny dipping after dinner. And (rumor has it) learning to float on their backs in the camp pool!

#strumolosummerfest2017

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Day 15: Waited for the green light before leaving the bedroom this morning (🙌🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻), splashed in the rain puddles ☔️, had a slumber party with thirty of their closest friends 🐻🐶🐱🐵🐷👶🏼, drove their trucks in the rain 🚜💧, and climbed to the top of the “mountain”. Many times. And then we’re asleep by 6:30 😬😴😴😴. What are the chances that they’re still in bed when the green light goes off tomorrow morning?

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Because sometimes you just need an Easter bunny headband and a paper crown to go with your Anna and Elsa bathing suit.

#Strumolosummerfest2017

 

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Having the best time with our besties! So happy Karen Lenahan came to visit!

#Strumolosummerfest2017
#bff

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Day 16: lots of beach time, backyard barbecues, Funfetti “ice cream” cones that are nut-free, and a shared love of French fries!! We’re going to be sad to see Emi leave tomorrow!!

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Day 17: played hooky from camp for one more day and hit up the Children’s Museum of the East End; had our first dentist appointment (cannot recommend East End Tooth Ferry enough…they were incredible with three toddlers and one mama); found the 20-pack of frozen whole wheat waffles (and the car cart) at the grocery store (side note, those waffles will last us three days); and had fun mugging for the camera and checking out their hairdos during their afternoon “swim.” They requested those videos and photos, not I!

#strumolosummerfest2017
#firsts

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Day 18 (a few hours late): a puppet show at camp and rediscovering the Slip ‘N Slide. There are still working on perfecting their form, and they opted to slide in their birthday suits, so no Facebook-friendly photos yet.

#strumolosummerfest2017

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Day 19: another successful day at camp, an attempt at French braids, and afternoon pool time at the beach. Oh, and a tantrum before 6am. Plus a few more sprinkled throughout the day. Lest you think it’s all sunshine and rainbows over here. Sophie learned to walk across the “little pool,” and it took us all day, but we finally found Jack’s other croc.

#strumolosummerfest2017

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Day 20: rainy days mean indoor fun at the library!

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Day 20: rainy days mean indoor fun at the library!

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Day 22: Pool time at Polly‘s! These kids have gone from clinging to us for dear life to jumping in, going under, and swimming back and forth unassisted. Of course, I don’t have any photos of that because I am still very much in the pool. Thanks to Sophie’s epic tantrum today (perhaps she should try eating lunch?) I snapped a few from afar.

#strumolosunmerfest2017
#toddlers
#tantrums

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Day 23: new friends at camp, foam shapes (more on that later), yard work, slumber parties, and Christmas in July (that’s a thing, right?).

A note on foam shapes: Henry has been fairly obsessed with these for a few months now. He actually requested “circles” for his birthday three months ago, and lucky for him, his godfather obliged! He saw a bin of foam shapes at camp the other day, and every morning since then, he’s said, “Maybe today we’ll use the shapes.” Well, today was Henry’s lucky day. Click for more photos if you want to see just what he did (and does) with those shapes.

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Day 24: some early morning detective work (“What’s that banging noise?” “A hammer from the house they’re building down the street.”); DOGGIE BOUNCE HOUSE (and a water slide) at camp…yes, I know the video is sideways; and an afternoon at the bay. That probably should have been a two-adult activity. Jack has a newfound fear of seaweed (“especially that brown hairy kind,”) and Sophie feels VERY strongly that I should stay next to her (and perhaps holding her) at all times. Whe

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Sophie: “Are there hugs in the pool?”
Me: “Sure!”
(Huge Sophie hug).
Sophie: “I just love you.”

Right back at ya, Soph.

Day 25: An afternoon of swimming followed by sand castles and dinner at the beach. It was a good day. Tantrums and whining notwithstanding 🏊🏻‍♀️🏖🍔😉

 

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Day 26: fast friends at the Long Island Aquarium

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Day 27: one sick sister meant only two-thirds made it to camp today. Jack didn’t like those odds, so he brought Milo along to improve them. Milo appears to enjoy art class just as much as Jack does. Staying home from camp also meant a trip to Carter’s with Nana. You can’t tell from this picture, but she really does love her new outfit. The “button shirt” earned Jack’s approval (always a bit hit or miss), and even though Henry declared, “I don’t like any of these clothes,” he is a sucker for dog shirts (provided he can still pair them with his favorite blue striped pants). Jack’s priority is style, Henry’s is comfort. Sophie’s is pink.

Thanks to Polly Stevenson for babysitting duty this afternoon. Despite what they told you, you are triplet-approved!

#whogetsacoldinthemiddleofjuly
#buttonshirtsforthewin
#yourenotgoodattriplets

 

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Happiness is a new package of hair ties: “I want to wear all the pinks.”

I’m gonna keep working on this hairstyling thing..

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ay 28: lots of whining. Several tantrums. A broken toe, I think (mine). A play date with a camp friend and a new bag of hair ties. And in case you were wondering, this is how she “scooters” 90% of the time.

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Day 29: this is the only photo I took today. Pretty much sums it up.

#sorrySoph
#noyoucantscratchyourbrothers
#orstompontheirheads

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Day 30: last day of camp, a bike ride adventure with my boys, a thousand jumps into the pool, a sand and stone sea turtle, and digging for baby clams on the beach (not to eat, just to see)!

These kids are growing braver and braver by the minute, and the sand bar at the ocean this summer doesn’t hurt 😎 🌊.

Happy weekend!

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Day 31: a trip to Urgent Care (in and out in 10 minutes…how’s that for a win?), bug bite Watch 2017, a morning at the beach, a visit from Maggie, an afternoon dip in Polly’s Pool, and a so far successful diaper-free night. It’s still early, folks.

Oh, and Sophie found a new outfit. Can you read what it says on her sweatshirt? Truer words were never spoken. Sigh…

P.S. I threw in a corn collage because you guys never get to see what happens on the weekends! Just kidding. But it was the first time they had corn on the cob (how is that possible?), so I figured I should document. Verdict: 👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻

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Day 32: I am definitely feeling the lack of camp this week 😝. But, I did manage to snap a pic of all three in the pool and not one of them hanging on me. WIN.

Follow-up with Urgent Care (2 minutes today…seriously, this place is amazing) and it’s neither cellulitis nor Lyme’s, so we’ll take it! A second breakfast at Sip ‘N Soda because four frozen waffles will not feed three toddlers whose most consistent meal is breakfast, followed by beach time and pool time round two.

Found a live crab and some not-so-live ones, our first sea glass of the summer, and a couple of nautilus shells. You’d think I’d have photos. Sorry to disappoint. Three toddlers plus a whole lot of sand and saltwater means the phone is mostly hibernating these days. But I do have a bag full of shells here at Nana’s house. You’re welcome, Lisa Lord Gillespie!

Jack cried at bedtime because I said the back of his neck “might” have gotten a little sunburned. He was not crying from pain. He was crying because we’ve built up sunblock so much and so thoroughly instilled the fear of sunburn in them all, that he honestly thought he’d done something wrong and might never recover…

#strumolosummerfest2017
#iamsotired

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The summer would not be complete without a trip to the ER.

She is home, and she is fine.

#asthmasucks

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Feeling much better this morning.

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Me: Do you want to do a craft, or do you want to go to the bay?
Henry: Bay.
Jack: Craft.
Sophie: Ice cream.

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For those of you who were enjoying my daily posts, I’m sorry I fell off the wagon. For those of you who were thinking, “Her again? And those kids? These aren’t even good photos…” you’re welcome.

The cousins came, and our days and nights have been so full (of fun, of sand, of sun and waves), that there’s been very little time for Facebooking. So, here are a few highlights from the week. I pared down, I swear.

Missing our cousins already!

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Maineward bound.

It only took 12 hours to pack all this stuff 🤣

Left at 7:07, and the first query, “Are we at Maine yet?” came at 7:32. Current count: 19.

It’s going to be a long drive…

#strumolosummerfest2017

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First Ferry Trip!

When your 16GB iPad only holds two movies at a time, and you are 9 hours into an 11.5 hour car trip. And this is what is happening in the back seat (you’ll need your sound on to get the full experience 😝).

Time to reload (for the second time)!

#strumolosummerfest2017

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Our first official hike (where everyone walked themselves…most of the way).

#flyingmountain
#strumoloaummerfest2017

 

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We had an amazing summer. So filled with adventures that I couldn’t keep up. We are grateful for grandparents that live nearby, Disney favorites that make the long trip to and from Maine more bearable for all, and daily access to the gorgeous beaches, bays, mountains, and backyards nearby. There was tons of sand, sun (and sunscreen), and water, and while we’ll miss it as we trade in the sand for skyscrapers, we are all very happy to be home. As the sights of the city crept into view, the shouts from the backseat began: “Hello, New York!” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

#strumolosummerfest2017
#maine #southampton #family #beaches #mountains #roadtrips#backtoschool

 

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June 2017

The Bedtime Battles Continue

June 1 · New York · 

Apparently these kids were so excited about the new sheets they earned for staying in their beds that they could not sleep last night. Or stay in their beds. Oh, the irony 🤣! Hard to be mad at these faces though.

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Divide and Conquer

June 3 

 Today, we divided and conquered (for a couple of hours at least). So amazing to spend time with these kids one (or two) on one. We SO rarely have adventures like these, preferring to spend our weekend moments together as a family of five, but boy is it a completely different (and amazing!) experience when we have the chance. I feel like I finally get to BE WITH them and not just managing them.

Early this morning and later this afternoon they were back together again, and that too was a ton of fun.
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Workout Buddies
June 4  

They may have cut my workout short, but this has gotta count extra towards my fitness goal for the day (ahem, week) right?

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I love me some weekends!

 

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As if we didn’t draw enough attention to ourselves already…

 

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