Friday, July 30, 2010

Sweet Land of Liberty

While we had friends visiting for a week, we spent a day with them touring Boston, specifically the Freedom Trail. What a shame that the trail takes us to the North End and right past some awesome pastry shops. So, we picked up a cannoli or two and some whoopie pies and brought them to a park (what used to be I-93 before the "Big Dig"). We enjoyed some dessert before dinner...backwards dinner is what we like to call it.
Riley was THRILLED that she didn't have to share her cannoli with me--I got a slice of tiramisu.
Lydia sports a chocolate cannoli nose
Let me just say that it took a lot of baby wipes to make these faces presentable for pictures after that dessert!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Our Code

Posted in our house is this sign:

Too bad it doesn't magically cause all of those things to happen.

I mean, check out the love in this face...

And here we have Mary Beth angry because Cory "stole" her seat...

But on occasion we do see glimpses of kindness and sharing...

like when the older kids read stories to their younger sisters or brother
and when Riley and Mary Beth created a scavenger hunt for Cory and Lucy that ended with treasure in the freezer (I'm sure you can imagine what kind of yummy treat might need to be stored in the freezer).

And as much as these moments (however rare they may be) please me, I'm sure the Man upstairs is pleased, too.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Freedom Circle Lobster Fest

When I went camping with the men's group from church I discovered that a friend of a friend was a lobster fisherman. Knowing we would have out of town guests soon, I made a plan to buy a mess of fresh lobster and cook them up for the circle.
We had great weather on Thursday night. It was perfect for everyone to come out and enjoy some crustacean. I set up a special table to clean the lobsters, since I knew the kids would not be able to remove the meat themselves.

My buddy from out of town really enjoyed the cleaning station as well. We tried different methods of "opening" the lobsters. Hammers, Leathermans, Scissors, large meat cleaver knives, and even some rolling pin to get the leg meat out of the smaller legs.

It was my first lobster event, and my Internet research suggested steaming would be better than boiling (harder to overcook them when you steam them). Since I was a novice, I wanted all the help I could get to make them tasty. I borrowed a turkey fryer setup and put water in the bottom with some rocks to help raise my boiling pan out of the water. A few spices and lots of salt and BAM - yummy seafood!

We steamed 20 lobsters. The kids took turns holding them before we steamed them, and everyone seemed to enjoy the event. I had a great time putting it all together.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Castles In the Sand

While we were at Revere Beach looking at the master sculptors, we were able to sign the older girls up for a lesson in building sand castles.

They started with a basic bucket form--oh, and some fancy "sand" brought in from New Hampshire--you can't make these castles with just the regular beach sand. The quartz in this sand left them all sparkly.

On top of the basic form, they added a smaller turret (using a Dunkin' Donuts cup, of course) and added a few decorative balls on top of that. Then they were given a few plastic tools with which to do the designs. They learned how to make windows...
And a stair case...
And then the instructor let them use one of her tools to add some scallop designs on a ledge they made...
Next they made a set of steps leading up to their castles...
The last thing the instructor taught them was how to make "Sand-Dripping Trees" (that's a technical term, I'm sure). This was the girls' favorite part of the whole lesson, and afterwards they ran to teach Cory and Lucy how to make these. This was the one thing that they could really do with the plain ole' beach sand out by the water.
The instructor's name was Sandy...She called herself Sandy Castle. Oh ho ho...isn't that funny. :)
And here the girls are with their finished creations. I'm glad that we were able to reserve a spot for them to do this. They had a lot of fun.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Happy Birthday!

We celebrated Ted's birthday today at the Revere Beach Sand Sculpting Festival, about an hour or so from here.

It was the first day of the festival, and they had about ten different sculptors working on their creations.
This castle is kind of the centerpiece of the competition, but not a competitor...
It's amazing to see what they can carve out of the sand!
We watched them work on the masterpieces while we ate some greasy beach grill food and then we headed to the beach to do some of our creating. The kids quickly made Ted a birthday cake out of sand, and sang Happy Birthday to him at the beach.
We all came home sunburned. :(

Saturday, July 10, 2010

And Now the Rest of the Story

editor's note: if you have not yet read the post prior to this, entitled Famous Last Words, you might want to scroll down to read it first.

7:00 p.m. So, we decide we're going to the fireworks in Boston. We know that our friends went down much earlier in the day to pick out a place to view the fireworks, and we wonder if we can meet up with them. Quickly, I pack a couple of bags with blankets and a small cooler with beverages. And we're off

Our first decision: drive all the way in or take the "T" (Boston's subway system). We quickly decide that the T is really our best option--we do not know the downtown area very well, parking will be difficult to find, and traffic leaving will be tough, so it seems a no-brainer. We'll take the T.

7:45 p.m. At the train station, we find parking on the very top level--we're not the only people taking the train tonight. We make our way to the platform and board a train.

8:14 p.m. We disembark from the train and make our way to the crowds. On the way we've been able to text our friends and they've given us their location, so we are actively looking for "Speaker 14" straight across from the fireworks' barges on the Cambridge side of the Charles River.

8:25 p.m. We've located our friends. They start grumbling about how we've only just shown up, and they've been hanging out for HOURS. And we all find it humorous how fitting the situation seems after the sermon we listened to that morning at church about the parable of the vineyard workers from Mathew 20. If you have time, you can listen to it here (It's Parable s #5 by Matt Beattie).

8:30 We settle in with our blankets and arrive in time for the National anthem and a fly over by some F-15C's (Ted's a little partial to those).

Now, in the following picture, you may notice the ear phones Lucy is wearing. She wore those all evening. We couldn't convince her that she didn't need them yet.

We spent a L-O-N-G time hanging out on these blankets...

Long enough, that eventually the kids all fell asleep.

10:30 p.m. When the fireworks finally started, Lucy was miserable. And Mary Beth was sound asleep. It took me multiple times of shaking her, and eventually I had to pick her up so she wouldn't miss them.

We definitely had front row seats to the show--unfortunately we hadn't been briefed on the ROE (Rules of Engagement). Apparently, it's the fashion (at least in the section we were camped out) to STAND UP for the fireworks. Why on earth would anyone do that, you ask? I'll tell you why--because at the VERY LAST minute (even more last minute than our arrival), people flooded the area to see the fireworks, and they had no where to be, except in the spot their feet were standing. So, they stood. In front of us. Which required us to stand if we wanted to actually see something besides the backs of their heads.
11:00 p.m. The fireworks are now over. Time for everyone to go home. All of them. This could take a while. So we decide to stay put in our little grassy spot for a little bit. However, it is after eleven now, and the kids are kind of tired. So at about 11:20 we start walking to the nearest train station. To say that it was crowded would be an understatement. We couldn't even make it to the stairwell, there were so many people.
At about this point we get a text from our friends who left shortly before we did. They encourage us to stay put. Too late. Now what. We have 4 tired children and 2 tired adults. Bring in the iphone. Ted begins doing his research. It appears that the next T stop up is about 1 mile away on foot.
And this, my friends, begins what we now affectionately call The Boston Death March. One soldier was down before we even began, and had to be carried. About 5 minutes into the mile walk, a second soldier fell, and she had to be carried, too. And, let's not think for a minute that someone didn't need to use the bathroom along the way--of course, there were no bathrooms to be found--not until just before we arrived at the next T stop did we find an open establishment with a restroom. Surprisingly the kids complained very little--in fact we were all very quiet. I think we were all just focused on ending our misery.
12:10a.m. We arrive at the next T station, and make our way to the platform. At least we can do that, but this station is filled, too, and the trains that are coming through are packed like sardine cans, with no one getting off. We're able to make it onto the 2nd train that comes by--but just barely.

And after the 2nd stop some seats opened up so the kids could sit down--they actually smiled for this picture, but I took it because right before the click they all had blank stares on their faces. I have them well trained--they know what to do when they see a camera, no matter what time it is.

12:30 a.m. Eventually we make it to our stop and get off the train. This sation is packed, too--and we figure it's going to be a long time getting off the TOP FLOOR of the parking garage. My friends text from their car in the same parking garage, a level below us--they haven't moved yet. Not a good sign.

Miraculously, though, the top floor had one saving grace. We were able to use one of the enter only ramps to go down--and by 1:30 we were home. (And our friends were STILL in the parking garage)

Was it worth it? Honestly, the jury's still out. But without a doubt, it was unforgettable.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Famous Last Words

As we mentioned in the last post, our family decided to jump on the bandwagon and go see the Boston fireworks display on the 4th of July. Honestly, until the moment we got in the van to leave, we had no intentions of going to any fireworks, much less the big Boston display. For a week my friend and neighbor had talked about doing the fireworks in Boston with her family who was visiting from out of state, and everytime we talked about it I was quick to mention that they show it on TV, and that's where I'd be seeing them from--in the conmfort of my own home with the best seats in the house.

There was absolutely NO way we were going to attempt to see them live and in person.

NO way.

I mean, you know there are thousands upon thousands of people all in the same place, right?

And if that wasn't enough to deter us, Lucy very much dislikes fireworks. Very Much. Just this past April, she and I hid out in the gift shop at Disney World during the fireworks show. But, you say, that was several months ago, maybe she grew out of it. Well, not so much. Just the week before the base had a fireworks display, and, even though we were at home, in our Circle, she still wigged out, and ended up hiding in her bedroom. She wouldn't even watch the show from her window. So, it's a pretty safe bet to say that Lucy wouldn't like one of the longest, most celebrated fireworks displays in the country.

But we have three other kids--who do like to watch them. So, we sat on our porch swing discussing what to do that evening. Watch the fireworks on tv? Try out the neighboring town's show? Send just a partial contingent, leaving Lucy and a parent at home? And then it hit me...

Next year we'll be in Italy for the 4th. This is our last year in Boston--our last chance to see it. How could we not?

So, we texted my friend--the one who I had made incessant fun of all week long. "Got room for us?" I asked.

to be continued...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Is Today the Last Day of the 4th of July Daddy?

That's the question Cory asked Ted when he tucked him into bed Monday night. To say that we've had a fun weekend would be an understatement. I think for all of us it was an incredible weekend spent together as a family and enjoying some of the fun of summertime.

We started the weekend on Friday with pancakes--not the usual fare for our weekday breakfasts. Lucy arranges her pancakes in the most unusual way. Ted had the day off, and we enjoyed being able to spend a whole day with him, even if we spent most of it at home with an errand or two thrown in for good measure. We ended the evening with a movie using Netflix's instant play feature on our Wii. Love that.

Saturday morning we started the day with a bike ride to Dunkin' Donuts for breakfast. YUM! The kids spent the day with their friends on slip n' slides and in kiddie pools in the circle. Ted took the little two to the big pool for an hour or so as well. That night we went to Fuddruckers for dinner, and had a most awesome meal out, which anyone with several young kids knows isn't always the case.

On the 4th we started the day at church. Afterwards we went to the Coast Guard Station for a USO celebration. We watched the USS Constitution head out to the Harbor Islands and we enjoyed a yummy lunch and some crafts and games for the kids.

We came home, and Ted set up the ice rink tarp as a giant slip n slide. The kids had a blast.

All day, Riley had been asking us whether she would be able to stay up and watch the fireworks on TV. At about 7:00 we decided to go into Boston and watch their big firework show. This spontaneous decision was a little unusual for us--the planners that we are. Suffice it to say, that the experience deserves its own blog entry, so I'll tease you with this picture and we'll come back for more of the story later.

On Monday we headed north about an hour to go to a beach in Gloucester, MA. We had to drag the kids out of bed; they were so exhausted from the night before. But they had a fantastic day in the ocean and sand.

We ended the weekend with a neighborhood BBQ, a Circle wide game of Capture the Flag, and lots of happy memories.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Flower Princesses

When I saw the girls wearing these flower bands, I knew I needed to capture the moment to share.

How wonderfully fun is this?