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And now it’s 2017!  I think we were pretty much all ready to see the back of 2016.  Has there ever been a year in which more things went wrong, from a state-of-the-world perspective?  Globally speaking, I found 2016 as ridiculously absurd as most people, so good riddance.  But from a personal and family perspective, we actually had a pretty good year – filled with lots of laughter and fun, with big and small adventures all folded around a major, and very welcomed, life change.  Here’s a look.

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The biggest event in January was concluding the sale of our house in Elma, and moving into temporary housing in Williamsville, New York.  The move was phase one of our plan to leave the Buffalo area – a goal we were already working on at the end of 2015, although we just murmured vague things like “we’re looking for a better fit” when asked about our home sale.  We weren’t ready to share our ultimate plan at that point.  Most of the month was consumed with packing and moving, so we didn’t do much adventuring.  But I did finish recapping 2015 fun and posted Part I of my 2015 reading year in review.

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In February, we settled into our new temporary living situation. and I made two stealthy trips to D.C. to interview for a job.  That job didn’t work out, but getting interviews so quickly did boost my confidence and convince me that we had a chance of making our dream of moving home come true.  Those trips – planning and preparing for them, making them, and keeping them quiet – consumed my entire month and between that and work drama back in Buffalo, I had very little energy for anything else.  So we didn’t get out much in February, although I did post Part II of my 2015 reading year in review, and my 2015 Book Superlatives.

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March was all about celebrating Nugget as he turned one year old!  We threw him a storytelling birthday party with a nature theme at a local children’s bookstore, and it was so much fun.  I think he felt very celebrated and very loved.  Around the main event of the month, we squeezed in a few hikes – since the weather was unseasonably warm – making it to Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve and to Tillman Road Wildlife Management Area.  We also visited a working sugar shack as part of New York’s Maple Days.

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In April, I made another stealthy trip to D.C. to do my first interview for the job I would end up taking.  Around that, I fit in fun both bookish and outdoorsy.  We took a family hike to Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge and spotted dozens of red-winged blackbirds.  We also went back to Times Beach Nature Preserve and Canalside for family playtime.  And I – as always – celebrated National Poetry Month, this time with a fun twist!  I posted two big roundups of my favorite poetry books for kids, one post for the classics, and one for newer favorites.

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In May, I continued to be all over the place.  I made another secretive interview trip to D.C. – the most stressful one yet, involving bumping into a colleague on the way there, and a nearly-missed connection in Detroit (sprinting in heels to catch the last plane of the night) on the way back.  I liked my end of month travel better – a trip across New York State to visit my parents and spend some time at the lake for Memorial Day!  We also hit up the summit of Mount Greylock and had lunch in Williamstown, Massachusetts – such a fun trip.  Closer to home, we had some fun adventures – a Mother’s Day weekend that included hikes at Tifft Nature Preserve and a 5K race in Ellicottville, New York; a family walk through Reinstein Woods; and a hike at Akron Falls, a park we’d not yet explored.

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In early June, I got the exciting news that I had a job offer in D.C., and our move was officially underway!  We still kept it under wraps, in case things fell through.  Two days after getting the exciting call from my new firm, I packed up and drove across the state to Lake George for an education law conference.  In between conference sessions and workshops, I managed to spend almost a full day with my college friend Seth – hiking, kayaking, eating delicious crab legs and drinking wine.  Back in Buffalo, we celebrated Father’s Day with another 5K (for me!) and a family hike.

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July was a blast, as we squeezed as much Buffalo fun in as we could before moving at the end of the month.  Starting with a fun Fourth of July weekend that included playground time, Canalside, berry picking and a family retirement party.  The next weekend, we were out and about again with a special treat for Nugget – Touch A Truck!  I mused on my favorite books of the first half of the year and on my personal tendency to cram as much fun into summer as possible.  Meanwhile, I dedicated the rest of the month to wrapping up work projects and lining up childcare (a school for Peanut; a nanny for Nugget) in northern Virginia.  We closed out the month by throwing an early fourth birthday party for Peanut, so that she could celebrate with her friends, after which I promptly threw my back out putting Nugget in the crib, and then our moving truck rolled out two days later and we officially said goodbye to New York State.

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August was about resting and reflecting on this big life change that we had brought about.  It was a long journey – eighteen months from the time we first started talking about moving, before Nugget was even born, to turning the key at our new place in Virginia.  And even though we had a house crammed full of boxes and a lot of unpacking and organizing to do, we decided to spend our final week of freedom before I started my new job visiting my friend Rebecca in Virginia Beach.  We spent pretty much the entire week barefoot and covered in sand and it was exactly what we needed.  When we got home, D.C. life started in earnest.  I started work at my new firm.  My cousin Jocelyn came down to watch the kids for two weeks as part of our cobbled-together bridge childcare plan (before the school year started and the nanny was available) and we did our best to induce her to move south – with hikes at Great Falls, visits to the D.C. monuments, and a morning at the Udvar-Hazy Center, not to mention two cute kids.  We also celebrated Peanut’s fourth birthday – can’t believe what a big kid she is!

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In September, we continued to enjoy being back in northern Virginia and able to visit all of our favorite spots again – including Lake Burke (pictured above), which was one of our regular haunts when we lived here before.  Most of the rest of the month was quiet – filled with settling in.  Nugget got his first haircut and I was a soggy mess.  I reflected on the summer that just ended.  And – the best part of September – my dear Buffalo friend Zan came for a visit.  All in all, September was busy – filled with back to school events and birthday parties – but also quiet, if that makes sense.  It was a lot of the business of living, which was exactly what I wanted after three years of homesickness.

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If September seemed quiet, October was packed with local fun.  We celebrated Columbus Day weekend with a trip to Little Washington for a few days, where we tasted wine, explored the adorable town, and hiked in Shenandoah National Park.  Back in the D.C. suburbs, we drove out to Loudoun County two weekends in a row for apple picking and then pumpkin picking; had a playdate with a new school friend at a children’s Halloween party hosted by a local historic mansion; and finally went Trick-or-Treating (with our mermaid and fire truck) in Old Town – a month-long funfest that I recapped in one big monster of a post.

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November was… it happened.  The month started well, with a visit to the Will & Jane exhibit at the Folger Shakespeare Library.  Then the election happened, and I – like pretty much everyone else I know – was absolutely stunned.  I said everything I needed to say in this post, so no more.  We finished the month with a trip up to my parents’ house for a family funeral and Thanksgiving.  (For the first time since switching from food blogging, I didn’t recap a holiday.  I just didn’t feel like it.  It was good to see family, and the kids had a great time.  That was enough.)

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After the dumpster fire that was November, we made December all about family fun.  Another visit to Little Washington (for their Christmas parade!), walks to the waterfront to see the holiday boat parade of lights and the waterskiing Santa, and last but not least, Christmas itself.  It was wonderful to celebrate as Virginians again, and looking back on the year I was so grateful that the move home happened as I’d hoped it would.

And now, onward!  Next week, I’ll be reviewing how I did on my 2016 goals and plans (spoiler alert: pretty bad) and setting some new intentions and a word for 2017 – which I can’t tease, because I still don’t know what it will be.  It feels particularly good, this year, to have a fresh start.  Can’t wait to see what 2017 brings to our family (even if I’m a little scared for the world).

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Supposedly, fall is right around the corner, although you wouldn’t know it from the weather in DC (highs in the high 80s all next week – not that I’m complaining; you will NEVER hear me complain about it’s being too warm, because in my opinion, there is no such thing).  I’m going through the same confusing season change that I do every year at this time – summer and fall are my two favorite seasons, with fall just barely edging out summer, so even though I’m always excited to welcome back hot apple cider, pumpkin picking, Hallowe’en costumes, puffy vests and circle scarves, I’m never quite ready to bid goodbye to summer, either.  The result, as always, is multiple nostalgic posts about the summer that is wrapping up, as I attempt to wring every last bit of golden light from the season.  I’ll have more coming – a few more weeks of Virginia Beach recaps, and my completed summer list – before I’m ready to turn my attention to a new season.  But first, a look back at the season that is on its way out.

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I know it’s technically spring, if you’re going by equinoxes and solstices, but Memorial Day weekend is the true start of summer for most people (us included).  We spent ours visiting my parents and got in a mountaintop in western Massachusetts, and a day at my parents’ lake house in the Adirondacks.

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The very next weekend, I was back in the Adirondacks, on business travel to Lake George.

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It was really rather okay there.

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We explored our new town – Williamsville, NY – and knowing that our days there were almost certainly numbered, made sure to soak up all the good things about it.  Our favorite spot?  Island Park, for the playground, the sandbox with a fleet of trucks, the farmers’ market, and the library.  Heaven!  We were there every Saturday this summer.

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On Father’s Day weekend, I ran the 50 Yard Finish 5K.  Hard to believe that two years ago, I crossed this same finish line after 13.1 miles and set a 13 minute PR!

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Two weeks later, we celebrated America’s birthday in an even bigger sandbox – the EduKids sandbox at Canalside!

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And Nugget and I took a gorgeous walk through fields of goldenrod at Knox Farm State Park, one of our favorite spots in WNY.

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Nugget’s life was made complete when we took him to Touch-a-Truck in Williamsville.

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The rest of July was spent packing our lives and tying up loose ends in Buffalo, in preparation for our move home to Washington, DC.  But we couldn’t go without saying goodbye – and we did it the best way we knew how, by throwing Peanut an early birthday party at the Rose Garden in Delaware Park.  Not all of our friends were able to join us; Peanut suffers from what I call “the curse of the summer birthday” – meaning that someone is always on vacation when we throw her party, and sadly, this year that was her BFF, N, and N’s sweet family.  But many, many people came out to celebrate Peanut and see us off on our next adventure, and we were so grateful.  Most importantly, Zan and Paul were there – more than anyone else, they made our three years in Buffalo, and Peanut’s party wouldn’t have felt complete without them there.  We threw down picnic blankets in the grass and let the kiddos run around on the playground, and it was perfect.

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And then our moving truck came to load up our lives and drive them south.  It was a stressful move, so the less said about it, the better.

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The first chance we had – at 9:00 the morning after the movers left – we rolled right back out of DC and down another three hours south, for a week on Virginia Beach.

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It was exactly the breather I needed before jumping from one stressful job to another (but at least my new stressful job is in DC – home!).

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Speaking of home, we enjoyed being back.  My cousin Jocelyn came to visit and watch the kids for two weeks, and she’d never been to DC, so we enjoyed showing her around – including a hazy beautiful morning spent wandering the monuments.

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Jocelyn is an avid hiker (check out her blog!) so we knew we had to show her our favorite spot – Great Falls.  I have been to the park countless times, and I never, ever grow tired of that view.  I rocked the new child carrier backpack (Steve’s and my eleventh anniversary gift to each other) and we carted our backpacks full of baby along our favorite trail.

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I took my first run on my old favorite running route – the Mount Vernon Trail.  3.1 miles done for the Rock ‘n Roll Making the Band challenge – hot, sticky, and pushing a 25 pound toddler in a 20 pound stroller, and loved every minute of it.  (And yes, I am wearing my race shirt from the Great Pumpkin 5K – jumping the gun a little, but I was in the mood to wear orange, so.)

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And rekindled my love affair with the King Street Farmers’ Market, thanks to this gorgeous orange and purple mixed bouquet that I got for FIVE DOLLARS.  Amazing, no?

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Some summer!  Not every moment has been golden and magical, but a lot of them have, and that’s good enough for me.  One of these days (although not anytime soon, I suspect) the nights will start growing cooler, and I’ll be pulling out jeans, smartwool socks and puffy vests again, researching apple orchards and pumpkin patches, and mixing up pots of bean chili for football Sunday.  But in the meantime, I’m reliving summer just a little bit longer.  Care to join me?

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Leaving New York* (Again)

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I’m writing this post from the couch in my apartment in Williamsville – one of the last posts I will draft and schedule here.  By the time it publishes, our family will be on our way to our new life in northern Virginia.  I am, of course, overjoyed to be going home to the place I’ve longed to be for the past three years.  But any move is a little bittersweet, and saying goodbye to Buffalo is not easy.  There are so many places and people that we’ve taken into our hearts, and I’m going to miss them.

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I’m going to miss sunny summer Saturdays spent roaming the Williamsville farmers’ market and then plopping down in the big sandbox in Island Park.

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I’m going to miss browsing the shelves at Monkey See, Monkey Do, the most beautiful children’s bookstore I’ve ever seen – and a place that will remain very dear to my heart as the venue for Nugget’s first birthday party.

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I’m going to miss picture-perfect East Aurora, where our family has enjoyed more neighborhood strolls than I can count.  When we were deciding where to make our permanent home, this was the place that we imagined ourselves living had we chosen to stay in New York.

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I’m going to miss Letchworth State Park.  Although I’m partial to the Adirondack Park as my favorite state park in New York, Letchworth is truly spectacular.  I’ve loved rambling through the gorge on hot summer days and amidst blazing fall colors.

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Closer to home, I’m going to miss Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve.  We fell in love with this little slice of wild paradise in the midst of suburban Cheektowaga.  When it comes to sunlight dancing on lily ponds, there’s nowhere quite like it.

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I’m going to miss the rolling farmland beauty of the southtowns.  Picking apples at Stonehill Orchards, and berries at Awald’s Berry Patch, have become beloved family traditions.

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I’m going to miss the bustling downtown Buffalo, especially on festival days.  Summer won’t feel quite the same if we miss out on Taste of Buffalo.

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I’m going to miss Knox Farm, which is my very favorite park in WNY.  The cheerfully chirruping birds, the picturesque red barn, and the shady hiking trails – all are impressed on my heart.

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I’m going to miss the Botanical Gardens – especially the koi pond, also known as toddler paradise.  We’ve spent some happy winter afternoons thawing out in the sun-baked greenhouses and watching the fish swim lazily through their pond (still Peanut’s favorite ecosystem).

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I’m going to miss Tifft Nature Preserve – site of countless family hikes in every season – green heron viewings – friends’ birthdays.  Tifft is now part of the fabric of our family.  Maybe one day we’ll even hike it without getting lost.

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I’m going to miss Canalside.  It’s been the epicenter of so much fun – the starting line for the Color Run, the Biggest Loser Half Marathon, and the Skyride – and one of our very favorite family spots.

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I’m going to miss Central Library.  One I started working downtown, I was here at least weekly – picking up holds, returning finished books, reading or chatting with friends over salads at Fables Cafe.  It will be strange not to drive by this big white box full of books every weekday, and even stranger to think that I’ve ordered my last cup of coffee from the friendly cafe staff.  (Also – look at little Peanut!)

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I’ll miss my in-laws’ comfy deck, and the fun of reading books out there or chatting with my mother-in-law and sisters-in-law over tea or kombucha.

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Almost more than anything else, I’ll miss Westminster Early Childhood Programs.  As hard as it is to leave my kids every morning, I always knew that when I left them there I was leaving them in the hands of teachers who loved them like their own.  Over the two years that we’ve been a part of WECP, the school has come to feel like family to me.  The friends we’ve made through Peanut’s class will be friends forever, the teachers will be following our kids as they grow up far away, and the school itself will be part of my heart forever.

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But the hardest goodbye will be the goodbye we have to say to friends that we have come to love like family in our three years here.  Peanut’s BFF, N, from school, and her sweet family; and, more than anyone else, Zan and Paul.  When we were cold and lonely, these people welcomed us into their hearts and made Buffalo a home for us.  While I know we’ll see them – Zan and Paul, in particular – I’m incredibly sad that they’ll no longer be just a short drive away.

It’s never easy to say goodbye, even when you know you’re going home.  The past three years have been so special for us, and we’ll hold these places and these people in our hearts forever.

*Title from the R.E.M. song.

 

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Well, this was a new experience.  I’ve heard of Touch-A-Truck or truck petting events before, but we had never been to one – unless you count Food Trucks ‘n Fire Trucks last year, which I guess you can.  A few weeks ago, when I was out of town, Steve had considered bringing Nugget to a Touch-A-Truck event in Buffalo, but the weather was nasty and he called off the outing.  Fortunately, we got a do-over last weekend, and the whole family got to enjoy it together!

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Touch-A-Truck is exactly what it sounds like – a free-for-all for truck-loving kids, who get to climb all over a selection of trucks, sit in the driver’s seats, honk the horns, and basically go nuts.  We knew that Nugget, who loves trucks more than any baby I have ever seen, would have a ball.  And that Peanut would probably tolerate it.

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Less talk and more pictures.  As you can see, Nugget was all about this.  His little head was on a swivel and he was waving like a maniac and greeting all of the trucks.

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Peanut had a pretty good time – there was a pink cement mixer that she thought was cool, and every kid loves fire trucks.

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But really, this event was for Nugget.  And he took every opportunity to live out his dreams.

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While Peanut alternated between having a pretty good time and whimpering every time one of the trucks’ horns honked.  Which was like every thirty seconds.  Poor Peanut!

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Nugget, weirdly, was not bothered at all by the horns.  I know his hearing is fine, so he just loves trucks that much.

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Waving to all of the trucks.  Bye-bye trucks!  Vroom!

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Basically, it was the best day of his life.

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Have you ever been to Touch-A-Truck?

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Happy fourth… errrr, sixth… of July to my American friends!  As longtime blog readers may know, Independence Day is second only to Christmas on the list of my favorite holidays.  How can you argue with a day that is all about summer fun?  (In fact, Independence Day might soon surpass Christmas as my favorite holiday – it’s certainly less pressure – although that’s probably sacrilege, so let’s pretend I didn’t say that.)  And the best Independence Day is one that also involves a three-day weekend, like this year!

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We started the weekend in our current favorite way – with a trip to the playground and farmers’ market at Island Park.  It was just me and the kids for most of the morning, as Steve was off running errands in preparation for his dad’s retirement party, which he planned.  Peanut, Nugget and I missed Dad while he was running between Wegmans and Party City, but we made the most of the morning on our own.

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There was sandboxing.  Island Park has the best sandbox in Williamsville – so many trucks!

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Peanut baked me a strawberry cake.  It tasted like sand.  But you know, baking takes practice.

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And Peanut also alternated between riding a horse and a train engine.  She probably spent half an hour going back and forth between the two rides.  (What do you call these things?  It’s not a rocking horse.  I don’t know.)

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Eventually, Dad finished his errands and joined us at the park.  We were all excited to see him, but Nugget most of all, because he got someone to hold him up on the horse without being subject to Peanut’s whims.  (I could hold him up and help him ride only when she was in my immediate vicinity, but she tends to want to wander off – that’s the three-year-old attention span for you.  Obviously, she can’t wander around the playground alone, so Nugget had a lot of truncated horsey rides when I had to grab him and chase after Peanut.)  After the kids had their fill of the playground, we took a quick spin through the Williamsville farmers’ market, grabbed a quart of strawberries and a couple of apple cider donuts, and were on our way.

The rest of the day was low-key – lunch at home for both kids, then errands for Nugget and me while Peanut napped away the afternoon.  Rest was key, because we had a big plan for Sunday morning…

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Berry picking!  Last year, I took the kids berry-picking at Awald’s Berry Patch and we had a blast.  Steve couldn’t join us (he was out of town attending a family funeral) and I knew he would love it there, so we made a note to come back for a repeat visit.  And this year, we were joined by some friends – Peanut’s friend N from school, and her lovely family!

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Although we had a fabulous time with our friends, the picking itself wasn’t as successful as last year.  There were two reasons for this: first, we came at kind of a weird time – strawberry season was all but over, but the blueberries were only just beginning to come into ripeness.  Last year, I brought the kids to the farm later in July, so we completely missed strawberry season but had tons of blueberries to choose from.  The other reason that we got more berries last year was Nugget – last year he was an adorable little lump in a stroller; this year he was a whirling dervish of energy and wanted nothing more than to run into the parking lot and greet all of the vehicles.  I spent most of the morning chasing him, and as I am the power picker of the family, no one else really picked anything and we ended up with a paltry handful of blueberries.

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But we still had a fantastic time!  I realized early on that this was not going to be one of those days when we came home laden with fruit, and that I needed to be fine with that – any pressure to actually pick was going to lead to frustration.  My goal quickly shifted to having a good time with our friends and enjoying the sunshine.

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Definitely a success!  Our friends took home a good load of berries (they have a six-year-old who took picking extremely seriously) and we got a big laugh out of our $0.70 worth of blueberries.  I did grab a flat of raspberries from the farm store, so we didn’t go home empty-handed – and again, the only goal was to have a great morning, which we did.

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After the berry-picking extravaganza that wasn’t, we headed over to my inlaws’ house for my father-in-law’s retirement party.  We were a couple of hours early, so the kids set about preparing for the party by watering the deck, the fountain, and each other.

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Nugget really loves this watering can.  I don’t know, you guys.  He still screams half the time I give him a bath, but he’ll happily splash for an hour in the watering can.  Can anyone explain that?  So bizarre.

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These two.  You guys.  So silly.

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After they got themselves good and soaked, it was time to change them into their party clothes and then begin the complicated dance of “no-you-may-not-play-with-the-watering-can” once they were dry and fancy.

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The party was lovely.  It was so much fun to see my sisters-in-law – especially Emma, who lives way too far away.  (It was great to see Grace, too – it always is – but she’s at least local!)  The kids are totally in love with their aunties.  I wish they saw both of them more, but we make sure to maximize the time we do have together.

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Bringing us to the fourth!  Whew – anyone still with me?  I do like to pack fun into those summer weekends.  Anyway, the fourth dawned bright and sunny, just like the previous two days – love it!  I have one request and only one request every fourth of July – water, please.  It’s not a proper Independence Day unless it’s spent by a body of water.  This year, like last year, we hit Canalside – our favorite spot in the City of Buffalo for family fun.

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There was sightseeing.  Bye, truck!  (Nugget’s catch-phrase, and not just for trucks – he says “Bye, truck!” to any wheeled vehicle he encounters.)

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We walked down to the small canals and watched the pedal-boats.  I wanted to rent one, but not with my two crazy kids.  Maybe another time…

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The canals are so pretty… I wish we’d made it here for ice-skating last winter.

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We checked out an art installation of about a dozen globes, all designed and painted in different motifs by various artists.  The installation has already visited several large cities around the country, and it was such a cool thing to see.  Definitely my favorite public art installation in Buffalo.

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Nugget was not as interested in the baseball globe as the rest of us were.  He’ll get there.

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(That last one was my favorite!  It’s hard to show in the picture, but not only was the theme lovely – sustainability and mindfulness – but the colors were almost iridescent.  Gorgeous!)

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The kids were so good during our walk – they earned a trip to the EduKids sandbox.  This (huge!) sandbox recently re-opened and we were very glad when it did.  We missed it!

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Action shots!

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There was a large boat that was added as part of the remodeling this spring.  Peanut decided that it was a pirate ship, and insisted that we call her Captain.  At one point – I was chasing Nugget and didn’t witness this – Steve said that a little boy on the playground was giving Peanut a hard time, and she shouted at him “Don’t make me walk the plank, or my dad will sword you into the ocean!  Dad, SWORD HIM INTO THE OCEAN!”  Apparently the rest of the adults on the playground were bent double over that one.

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After the kids played for awhile, it was time for Mom to get her fourth of July treat – a picture of the littles in the mini Adirondack chairs!  For comparison, here’s last year’s (awkward) shot…

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Ha!  Nugget was so tiny and so skeptical.

This year…

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We got them set up in the chairs.  I told Peanut it was a fashion shoot and she was totally into it.

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Explaining to Nugget how this whole thing works.  Just humor Mom, kid, and it’ll all be over soon.

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What’s this? Two kids looking at the camera and smiling?!  It’s an INDEPENDENCE DAY MIRACLE!

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And then Peanut left and climbing happened.  Well, I got my picture.

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We headed home to another afternoon nap for Peanut, and another afternoon excursion for Nugget and me: Knox Farm!  I wanted a car nap out of Nugget, so picked somewhere a bit far away – I did get my car nap, and then we had a lovely walk; success!

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I let the little guy out in hopes that he would run around, but all he wanted to do was inspect the stroller.  Wheels – totally obsessed!

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It was a gorgeous afternoon in one of my favorite spots in WNY.  After Nugget and I got a good stretch, we headed home to meet up with the rest of the family for a swim.

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Such a fun weekend!  Anyone still with me?  Sorry to photo-dump; I just love looking back on these posts years down the road.  This one will definitely go down in the books as one of our best Independence Day weekends ever (even if it was sadly lacking in Bill Pullman and Will Smith).

Happy (belated) fourth of July, friends!  How did you celebrate?

 

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Another weekend, another race!  I’ve been having fun with the local 5Ks this spring and summer – that’s about all I’m up for these days, what with two small kiddos to wrangle (and no time to train for a longer distance) but lucky for me, Buffalo has some great options at the 5K distance.  I was particularly excited to see that the 50 Yard Finish was a 5K this year.  Longtime readers may remember that I ran it in 2014, its inaugural year, when it was a half marathon.  Last year, the race organizers shortened it to a 10K, which I skipped.  This year the race was under new management and was run only as a 5K.  Perfect for me right now!

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The one negative?  It was run over Father’s Day weekend.  Steve is a really good sport about carting the kids around to races and entertaining them while I run, but it did seem a bit cruel to make him kid-wrangle while I ran a race on his weekend.  But he was totally into the idea – perhaps because this is the race that allows spectators to wander around the field at Ralph Wilson Stadium, home of the Buffalo Bills, while they wait for their runners to cross the finish line?  Well, for whatever reason, my race support team was willing, so I signed up.

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The start line was outside the parking area, and I lined up toward the back of the pack, since I am still figuring out the logistics of training with two small kids – I knew I wasn’t going to be setting a PR, since I was (as usual) woefully undertrained.  We crossed the finish line right on time, and not fifteen feet over the line, I stumbled and rolled my ankle badly.  Well, I’m off to a great start.  I briefly considered staggering over to the side of the road and quitting, because it HURT.  But I decided to keep running and see what happened, and by the time I’d made it a half mile I felt better, so I kept going.

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No pictures from the course itself – with only a 5K to cover, we stayed on the roads near the stadium, which aren’t the prettiest.  When the race was a half marathon, we ran through the very picturesque Village of Orchard Park, but this time, we didn’t have enough road to take us that far.  Which was okay with me… before I knew it, we were rounding a corner back into the stadium complex.

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This is when the race gets hard!  You think you’re almost to the finish line, because dangit, you can see the stadium, but nope… first you have to take the long way around the field house complex.  Oof.  But I jogged along putting one foot in front of the other and before too long, I was entering the long tunnel into the Ralph.

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And there it is – the coolest finish line in Buffalo!  I’ve said before – I’m not a football fan; don’t have the patience, but even for someone who couldn’t care less about the sport, it’s pretty cool to finish a race on the 50 yard line of a major league football stadium,

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My buddy was pretty interested in my medal.  Steve said that it was handed to me by the Buffalo Bills’ kickoff kicker.  Who knew?!  Clearly I did not deserve the honor of getting my medal from a pro football player, because I had no idea.  In my defense, it was hot and I was looking for water.  And I’m a hockey girl.  Forever.

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After the race, we headed over to Chestnut Ridge Park, which is nearby.  (Old friends may remember that we’ve hiked here once or twice before.)  We decided to try a new hiking configuration: Nugget in the backpack (which Peanut has named “the U.S.S. Dignified”), Peanut walking on her own, and me pushing the empty stroller as backup in case of an obstreperous preschooler.  Well, we made it about 100 feet before Peanut had an epic meltdown over I-don’t-know-what and insisted on riding in the stroller – okay by me.  But even in the stroller, it wasn’t her day, and we ended up turning back.  Guess she’s not quite ready to give up the backpack yet.

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But not to worry – on Sunday we redeemed our hiking weekend with a long walk down a new-to-us trail at Sprague Brook Park.  Peanut was back in the backpack, and much happier.

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And Nugget was in the Ergo, which he still apparently finds quite comfortable, since he fell asleep – again.  He has not yet made it through a Sprague Brook hike without nodding off.  I’m thinking something about the park is very soothing for him, because he doesn’t usually do that anymore.  Well, it is a very relaxing park.

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Happy Father’s Day to Steve!  I hope you had a great weekend – I sure did.  You made it special for us, just like you make every day.  We love you lots and lots.  We got a good one.

How did you spend your Father’s Day weekend?

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Another new trail to share!  A few weeks ago (and it seems like longer, when I look at the almost-bare tree branches in these pictures) we checked out Akron Falls, a local park near our current place that boasts a pretty waterfall.  The falls trail was a lot of fun – smooth and restful in parts, rocky and rugged in other parts, and almost entirely along a babbling stream.

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We headed down from the parking lot into the ravine.  There were some harrowing switchbacks on the way down – I inched my way along the trail and held tight to the railings (I’d forgotten my hiking poles).  The slightly scary trip down was worth it, though, because soon we came upon…

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Such a pretty rushing stream!  I loved listening as the spring runoff made its way downstream.  The mossy rocks were vibrant and the air was perfectly cool – it was such a gorgeous spring day.

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See what I mean about parts of the trail being rugged?  We actually turned around here and headed a different way – this was actually a little too rugged for us while wearing babies.

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So instead we walked downstream, enjoying the views of the brook and watching out for recent bird arrivals.

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Before too long we came to a stream crossing and picked our way over the rocks…

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And then it was out of the ravine and over the road to a grassy area, where we let Peanut out of the chariot to stretch her legs.

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She seemed to enjoy herself – heh.  Lots of running, dancing, and picking dandelions – for a good 30 minutes – while I bounced around keeping Nugget entertained in the Ergo.  And then we headed back in the direction of the waterfall…

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First glimpse – breathtaking!

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Loved all the little runoff falls, too.  It was such a beautiful sight – I could have stood and watched the water cascading down for hours.

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Reluctantly, after a few minutes of enjoying the view, it was time to head back to feed the kiddos lunch and try to negotiate some naps.  We wandered up the trail, stopping briefly to admire the new spring blooms.

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Akron Falls, you’re just lovely!  We’ll be back soon.

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Anyone else getting some good spring hiking in?

 

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