Thursday, July 23, 2015

Grandmas & Kids to the City - 5th Annual

In our four past adventures, the grandmas, kids, and I have loaded up in train or car and had a few days adventure centered around my beloved New York City.  After last year's trip, we started talking about how it might be fun to expand our city trips to include some other locations and then sprinkle NYC trips along the various years too, but it might give us a chance to see and learn more while still keeping our tradition.  This year, we chose Baltimore as our first non-apple destination and we spent a day and half exploring, playing, and discovering a great city.


For a few weeks prior to our trip, I spend some time surfing the internet for inspiration on planning tips for traveling with kids to that specific location.  I use TripIt to track where and when I think we'll be during the trip.  I also have the TripIt app on my phone and I like it because it gives me really quick access to websites, costs, and maps for each of our stops along the way.  In the planning weeks, I just pop in our hopeful plans and then build out the trip from there. 


A few days before we left, my brother in law stopped over to take the kids to a local jubilee and upon learning that I was planning on driving all six of us three hours to Baltimore in our truck, he jumped in to save the day and offered up his Lincoln Navigator for the trip.  Leave it to Uncle Juice to save the whole weekend!  He brought it over the day before we left and even helped configure the back seats to accommodate our double stroller, umbrella stroller, and room enough for luggage and car seats.  (He's the best ever).

The grandmas carpooled to our house early on Friday morning and we were all loaded up and pulling out of the driveway by 5am.  It was an uneventful trip down and all three kids snoozed for almost the entire drive.  We got valeted into our hotel: Hampton Inn & Suites Baltimore Inner Harbor and after freshening up and grabbing some complimentary breakfast in the hotel lobby - we made our way via the FREE Charm City Circulator bus system to the Fell's Point neighborhood.


Our first activity was to board the awesome Urban Pirates' ship to take their Family Adventure.  Gigi bought the kids eye patches and swords in their gift shop and the kids were decked out in pirate garb on the boat as part of the experience (complimentary:  tattoos, face paint, temporary vests & sashes).  



Over the course of the trip, we enjoyed stories, games, and music all with the pirate theme.  The kids were enchanted and Gemma (3yrs) was only a little scared and wanted to be held for part of the boat ride.  Even Violet loved being a pirate for the morning and bouncing to the music and watching the sails blow in the wind.
  



Throughout the ride, we heard about the bad pirate who had stolen the ship's treasure and all of the kids were in charge of spraying him with the ship's water cannons as he circled the ship in a motorboat.  It was awesome and Greyson was so serious about making sure to spray the bad pirate.  Ultimately, the boat recovered their treasure and all the kids got to choose two little pieces of it to take home.  It was really an awesome and magical activity for the kids and a great glimpse at the Inner Harbor too. 



After our pirate adventure, we spent a little time walking along the cobblestone streets of Fell's point and checking out one of the docks while we awaited our water taxi to deliver us to the Federal Hill neighborhood. 



I especially liked the option for water taxi on our Baltimore city trip because it is so different than what we've done in the past.  The kids have been in a taxi before, but never a water taxi - so that was pretty cool for them.


The water taxi took us from Fell's Point and delivered us to the Rusty Scupper dock where we strolled through the park and stopped for a quick ride on the carosuel and made our way up to Federal Hill park and playground.  It offered beautiful view of the harbor and also gave the kids time to goof around on the playground while the grown ups got some down time and Violet took a catnap in her stroller. 




 After our park visit, we made our way through Federal Hill towards the Cross Street Market where we joyfully inhaled a delicious late lunch from Pop Tacos, to which Greyson told me, "Mum, you better pay these people a lot of money for this taco, because it is the deliciousest one I ever ate."



We used the restrooms at Cross Street Market to get the kids changed into their swim suits before walking across a few streets to the Sondheim Fountain.  The kids ran and ninja fought (Grey) the streams of water for a little while before going bananas in the neighboring field that was armed with foam building supplies, soccer equipment, and a live theater group.  I have no idea why all this stuff was there, but we were happy to partake in its (apparent) free use.  The grandmas went on a coffee run while the kids and I laughed and played for over an hour between the fountains and the playing field. 






From my planning, I discovered that the Maryland Science Center offers lower cost admission after 5pm on Fridays, so a little after five, we walked the half block over to the science center and entered for only $9 a person.  Let me tell you, that was nine dollars well worth the money.  I'm basically obsessed now with science center.  For the next almost three hours, we wandered about in amazement at all the awesome exhibits. 






Gemma was taking a much needed nap when we arrived, but luckily she woke up with about an hour left of our visit to the science center and she got to enjoy some of the exhibits too.  The science center wasn't crowded at all (evening? summer?) and we were able to easily make it to all the places we wanted to and back again to a few spots after Gem woke up.  It was a combination of the ticket price, and exhibits, and the lack of crowd that really made our science center visit shine.  (It was my favorite part of the trip).  Abba even bought the kids an awesome dinosaur book (a new favorite non-fiction of ours now!) after Grey and I were so enamored with the dino exhibits.




At closing time, we were all mostly wiped out ourselves, so we walked the short distance from the science center back to our hotel where we got settled in for the night.  We contemplated ordering some pizza in, but after the filling and awesome late lunch at Pop Tacos and the bounty of snacks that the grandmas bring on the trip (thank you!) we didn't have any need.  We all got cozied up and everyone was asleep by ten that night. 

We got up the next morning and had some complimentary hotel breakfast and then packed up and left all of our luggage at the valet desk so that we could check out.  Due to the sudden thunderstorm, we took the hotel shuttle across a few streets to the Port Discovery Children's museum for our last big activity of the trip.  My children's minds were blown, friends.  I mean, it's pretty hard to beat a three story playground right off the bat, amirite?


We spent the rest of the early afternoon following the kids around ("we're the bosses today!") as they made their way through the various sections of the museum.  Violet even got to enjoy her own special section for the three and unders (Mumma got to enjoy it too, goodness it was beautifully quiet in there!)  Both kids chilled for about 20 minutes in the reading room, and both of them were wildly in love with the Tiny's Diner area where they served up fake food and menus to the grandmas, Violet, and I.






We made a much contested exit from the museum around 2:00p and crossed the park to Joe Squared for a great lunch of pizza, salad, and wings before heading back towards the Inner Harbor for Ice Cream from The Best of Luck as the sun had come out and was shining down with a heat index of over 100 degrees by then!



It was a pleasant ride back (thanks again to Uncle Juice's navigator and sleepy kids).  We made it back late in the evening on Saturday and the kids were sufficiently worn out.  It was a great trip; not too far away in distance (3hours) and just the right length of time (a full day and one half) for the kids and also for us to get a decent amount of fun in!

I'd like to finish with a public announcement that I understand just how incredible it is that this weekend happens at all.  My kids two grandmas (my Mum, and my Mum-in-law) and my babies traipsing about unfamiliar cities and sharing a hotel room, snacks, drinks, and stroller duty.  I am so grateful to have these two women in my life loving and teaching our kids and going along with my big ideas and plans with blind faith.  Love you Mumma and Gigi.  I am so so blessed.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Family Bedroom Lifestyle Photo Shoot

We had a wonderful experience getting family photos professionally taken with K. Rager Photography & Co a few weeks ago.  I was so overwhelmed and touched when Kerri reached out to me to let me know that we had been selected as her Pay It Forward Photo Shoot winner- She had asked for nominations for families that give back to the community and we were nominated and selected for a free session and copy of photos with her!  (To the person that nominated us:  thank you so much, you anonymous amazing person.  I am so grateful!)

As Kerri and I were discussing our photo shoot thoughts, I pressed send on a text to her that said, "what about a family friendly bedroom photo shoot?" and then looked at my sisters who were with me at the time blankly and panicked, "Oh crap, I think I just made it really weird."  Luckily for me, Kerri totally got me and we swapped photo inspiration back and forth and I counted down the days until our shoot!



I booked a hotel room for the photo shoot because let's be honest, our bed frame has been busted for over a year and the dogs, and the dog hair, and just no.  too much mess to clean up and just no.  So we booked a room and made a whole little family fun night out of it (ordering pizzas and watching tv until we fell asleep).

The photo shoot was so fun and casual - we basically just hung out and acted goofy and played while our awesome photographers do what they do best and captured so many great moments that feel like us.




What I love so much about our photos is that there was such a great mix among the photos.  We got beautiful snapshots of the kids that will look gorgeous on our walls.  And a generous helping of photos of all of us in our completely normal silliness.  This is our family, in all of our goofiness.





I am incredibly grateful that we had the chance to work with K. Rager Photography & Co (our first but definitely not last time!).  She did such an amazing job shooting, editing, and delivering our photos.  Team Studer would highly recommend.  Thank you, Kerri!