I Don’t Want to Grow Up

In this case, what I really want is for Finnegan to stop growing up so quickly! When your kids are young, everyone warns you to enjoy every minute because of how quickly they grow up.  This warning already resonates with me since time has never seemed to go by so fast. I think it’s because of the constant achievement of new milestones that kids achieve like sitting up and crawling and walking and talking and counting to ten and starting preschool and playing a sport for the first time and something new seemingly everyday that makes the passage of time so obvious.

As I sit here filling out a passport renewal form, I’m realizing that Finnegan has reached yet another milestone. His first passport will expire in less than six months, which means it’s time to apply for passport number two.

How has this little baby (quite possibly the cutest baby in the history of babies in my totally unbiased opinion):

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Image Credit: Tea & Brie Photography

Grown into this little boy already?!

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One thing that has not changed this time around is his incredibly awful passport photo. In Finnegan’s baby passport picture, he looked like an Oompa-Loompa. This time around he looks like a criminal and his passport picture will probably be mistaken for a mug shot.

In other recent firsts for the Curley boys, they went to the circus for the first time last weekend in New Brunswick, NJ. The State Theater sponsors a Family Day every year on President’s Day in New Brunswick, NJ. The featured event is the Hub City Spectacular by Big Apple Circus, which Finnegan described as ‘amazing’ and proclaimed that he loved it. In addition to the circus, there was free face painting and balloon animals, a DJ, several food trucks, and other activities like dance performances and an animal presentation by the Turtle Back Zoo that we didn’t stick around for because of the frigid temperatures. I liked the Hub City Circus because they don’t use any animals in the show except for a few dogs. All of the dogs were adopted from various shelters around the country and were rewarded with plenty of treats during the performance. Since most dogs were bred to do a job, I think these dogs were quite happy participants unlike the tigers and elephants used in some shameful circus acts.

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After the circus, both boys waited in line for the free face painting, which was another first for them. Declan picked out a penguin and insisted that she paint it on his nose. Finnegan chose a snake and opted for the traditional cheek placement.

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Have you or your kids experienced any firsts this weekend?

Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences in Photos

Over the weekend we took Finnegan and Declan to the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia to see the special Dinosaurs Unearthed Exhibit, which runs through March 30, 2014.  The permanent Outside In exhibit, which is geared towards kids ages 3-8 and the Live Animal Center are currently closed for renovation so it’s not the ideal time to visit, but we needed to get out of the house as everyone was going stir crazy.  The Outside In Exhibit is scheduled to open back up in early February so the perfect window for a visit with kids would be mid-February through the end of March before the Dinosaurs Unearthed exhibit moves on.

The boys had a great time as evidenced by the photos:

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We may plan a return trip to the Academy of Natural Sciences once the Outside In exhibit is re-opened – especially if this cold weather continues and we’re forced to entertain the kids indoors.  Have you been to the old Outside In exhibit and Live Animal Center at the Academy of Natural Sciences?  What did you think – is it worth a return trip?

Columbus Day at Turtle Back Zoo

It has been difficult to keep up with the blog lately, but I couldn’t resist a quick re-cap of the family’s recent trip to the Turtle Back Zoo.  Russ was off from work on Monday so he took the boys to visit his Dad and then to the Turtle Back Zoo, which is close by in West Orange, NJ.

Here is a sample of some of the pictures Russ brought home from their day at the zoo:

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You might ask, like I did, whether Finnegan (or maybe even Declan) was designated to be the photographer for the day.  If so, the answer is no and you would have received a surprised look from Russ.

I think this one is my favorite.

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If you want to create similar lifetime memories, here are the details:

Turtle Back Zoo Location: West Orange, NJ

Admission Cost: Adults – $11, Children 2 and up: $8

*They honor memberships from other zoos so the visit was free using our Philadelphia Zoo Membership.

Exhibits: they have a new sea lion exhibit and a sting ray touch tank that the boys loved.  Well, Finnegan actually freaked out a little (which is very unusual for him) because he thought Russ was going to drop him into the sting ray tank.  It is a great mid-size zoo.  Here is a link to all of their Exhibits.

Note: Russ is currently establishing his rates so contact him about his availability to photograph your day at the zoo!  All pictures were shot using the Sony DSLR A-200.

Farm to Camp Out: Blue Moon Acres

We had a great weekend and one of the highlights was the Farm to Camp Out event at Blue Moon Acres, an organic farm near our house in Pennington, NJ.

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This was the first year that they held the event, but you would never know because it was so perfectly organized and beautifully executed.  We signed up as soon as we received the email announcing the event because we knew our boys would love it.  They had a great time and we even brought along my parents and nephew since they were visiting for the weekend.

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The weather was perfect – a sunny, 80-degree day followed by a cool, crisp night with a full moon.  The kids were in heaven with so many activities to keep them busy, including tractor rides, a corn maze, face painting, visiting the chickens and pigs, dancing to the live music, and playing on the swing set.  There were a lot of other kids for them to play with as well so we actually had a chance to relax and enjoy an adult conversation or two.

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The evening featured appetizers and dinner made with local ingredients, including many that were grown on the farm.  Appetizers included fresh and grilled vegetables, chips and salsa, and homemade bread.  For dinner, we were able to choose our own ingredients for grilled pizzas.  The options for veggie toppings were seemingly endless and mine looked like a mountain by the time I was done choosing.

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After dinner, a camp fire was lit and everyone was invited to join a professional story teller for songs, skits, and stories.  It was pretty late for Declan by the time they started the fire so we didn’t get to enjoy the whole show, but we made it through two songs and one poem before he started fading fast.  Declan decided that he didn’t want to camp after all because he wanted to stay with his cousin, Corbin, who was spending the night at our house.  Russ graciously agreed to camp with Finnegan while I got to sleep at home in our warm comfy bed.

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Finnegan was in heaven sitting around the campfire listening to the stories and eating his bag of s’mores ingredients before it was even time to toast the marshmallows.  The s’mores bags were adorable and included peeps instead of regular marshmallows and chocolate that was made locally.  Russ said that Finnegan obviously played hard on the farm that evening because he was asking to go to bed at 9:30PM and fell asleep almost immediately despite another little boy crying in a tent nearby.

I went back to the farm the next morning at 7AM to enjoy breakfast and help Russ and Finnegan take down the tent.  Declan was still sound asleep so he stayed home with my parents.  It was a foggy morning, which made the farm seem even more peaceful.

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Finnegan had a huge smile on his face when I peeked into the tent and was excited to tell me about how he slept in his sleeping bag all night long.  He slipped on his shoes and found some other kids to play with while Russ and I took down the tent and packed up camp.

Before leaving, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast of muffins, eggs, homefries, and fruit.

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Finnegan also made some friends that helped him pick a few ears of corn so he could feed the pigs before we officially ended our stay at the farm.

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We had so much fun that we can’t wait to do it again.  We’re keeping our fingers crossed that Blue Moon Acres does it again next year because we will be the first family waiting to register.  Finnegan has already started asking us non-stop (in that four-year old way) when we can go camping again.  If we get another warm weekend and can find a dog-friendly campground, we’re hoping to give him his wish and camp somewhere at the Jersey shore.  Does anyone have any suggestions?

Has anyone heard of similar events at other organic farms?  For those in Northern California, I have read about great dinner events at Full Belly Farms on the Hither & Thither blog.

The Jersey Shore – WTF?

It’s hard to believe, but I have lived in New Jersey for 13 years now and one thing that I still don’t understand is the enthusiasm and love for the Jersey Shore.  We went to the shore for the first time this summer over the weekend and it was a solid reminder of why I dread this yearly excursion.  Okay, so my harsh feelings may have something to do with where we choose to go on the Jersey shore.  The closest beach to our house is Belmar so that’s where we always head.

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It is crowded, the water is cold, and a good portion of the masses that flock here are so stereotypically Jersey Shore that you fully expect to see JWOWW and the Situation at any minute.  Planes constantly fly overhead advertising cheap bars and happy hours, and you hear the F word at least once a minute.  Declan was not impressed.

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Okay so Declan’s general outlook over the weekend may have been influenced by whatever new virus he picked up at daycare that caused him to spike a 104.5 degree fever a few hours after this photo was snapped.

Before I write off the entire 217 miles of Jersey coastline, what are some of the beaches and towns we should check out?  I still haven’t been to Cape May so that’s on our list for September.  It is a decent ride down there and hotels are outrageously expensive during the summer so we’re hoping for good weather and better prices during the shoulder season.  There is one person in this family that already loves the Jersey shore and it’s this guy:

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I am looking forward to exploring more of the coastline and hopefully finding my happy place on the Jersey Shore so I can feel like a true resident (and make Finnegan happy by going more often).  Besides Cape May, do you have any suggestions for beaches that we should try to visit?

Finnegan’s Very Belated Birthday Post

After a longer than expected break from blogging, here is yet another birthday post.  Since most of our readers are friends and family, I suspect that you won’t mind seeing more pictures of the boys.  For others that actually do read our blog for ideas and stories about traveling with kids, we should have some new travel-related posts soon!

If I had to guess what Finnegan’s future career might be at this point in time, I would guess a party planner for the 1%.  He lives for parties and loves the planning process.  For his third birthday, Finnegan requested that we serve sushi, have two birthday cakes (one with a clown), and get pigs for everyone to ride.  We did have two cakes at his party, but neither one included a clown since he had a snake and reptile themed party hosted by Snakes-n-Scales.  Since most of the kids at the party were also three years old, I thought they might be a little young for a snake party, but Erin from Snakes-n-Scales was great and easily kept them entertained and engaged.  The party was a huge hit and Finnegan didn’t hesitate when we asked him what kind of party he wanted for his fourth birthday – another snake party!

We also used Finnegan’s party as an opportunity to have our yearly professional photos taken.  Amy from Adia Photography LLC took our photos last year and we loved them.  Her rates are also extremely affordable and I love that she gives you copies of all of the images on a CD so you can have your own prints made.  All pictures in this post are her copyrighted images.  We started with a family photo shoot in the park next to our house and then she stayed for the party.

We won’t bore you with the family photos so here is just one silly picture of the boys.

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Since we had a party with Snakes-n-Scales last year they brought a special surprise to start the show off with a bang – an alligator named Dizzy!

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What I love about the show is that Erin teaches them so much about the animals and keeps it entertaining without talking to them like they’re babies.  She even gives the kids an opportunity to ask questions about each animal, which Finnegan clearly appreciates.

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All of the animals have been rescued and nursed back to health.  Some were unwanted or abused pets, others were confiscated by authorities or picked up along the side of the road.  Dizzy received her name after she was found swimming in a pool in NJ, going around and around in a circle due to an injury she acquired somewhere along the way.  Her ‘owner’ probably abandoned her after she became too big for her tank or became too much work – I guess you really can’t expect much from someone that would buy an alligator for a pet in the first place.

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Here are some of the other animals we met during the party:

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And for the grand finale, there was an albino Burmese python. 

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Do you think Finnegan was excited?

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I think Finnegan’s friends enjoyed the show too!

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Okay, Declan doesn’t look too excited, but he really did enjoy the show

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After the show, the kids went wild in the bounce house, jumped on the trampoline and ran through the sprinklers.

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And we enjoyed Finnegan’s amazing cake, which I think is one of my mom’s best yet!

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The party was so much fun that our typically early riser, slept in until almost 9:00AM the next morning, which is a record for him.

We HIGHLY recommend Snakes-n-Scales!!!  They have many different party options to accommodate any age group.  They are located in Northern NJ, but will travel to anywhere in NJ, NYC, CT, and parts of PA for a small fee.  Their website has a lot of information so check it out if you are interested in hosting a unique party.

Finnegan has already requested an octopus party to celebrate his 5th birthday so we’re keeping our fingers crossed that Snakes-n-Scales will add an octopus to their Fish & Ocean themed party option.

Again, all of the pictures in this post were taken by Amy Diamond (Adia Photography LLC)and we highly recommend her too!

Declan’s Pony Party

Declan turned two recently and we celebrated this past weekend with a pony party at Hunter’s Creek Farm in Lambertville, NJ. 

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In accordance with Murphy’s Law of Kids, Declan refused to participate in most of the activities despite LOVING the ponies and his pony ride at daycare less than a month ago.  I still think he had a good time at the party checking out the horses, feeding them, and running around with the other kids. 

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It’s really impossible to have a bad time when your friends bring faux mustaches for everyone!

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And Declan definitely enjoyed his cake!  My mom made his cakes because she is an amazing baker and I am not.

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We actually had Finnegan’s 2nd birthday at this same farm and came back because we had such a great experience the first time.  The owners are fantastic and kind.  They are very patient with the kids and provide a lot of extra touches that we didn’t expect like decorating the tent with balloons and setting the table with bubbles and coloring supplies. 

The party started with an introduction to the horses and a lesson on how to brush them.

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After the grooming was complete, all of the kids lined up for pony rides.  Everyone except Declan took turns riding around the ring.

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Declan didn’t ride the ponies, but he posed for some cute pictures with his friends next to the barriers.

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Do you have any favorite places, themes or ideas for kid’s birthday parties?

Weekend Re-Cap

Instead of heading to DC this weekend, we stuck close to home and opted to delay our trip by two weeks in the hopes of warmer weather and cherry blossoms.  Despite the last minute change of plans, we kept busy.

On Saturday, we took the boys to the Howell Living History Farm, a Mercer County Park, located a few miles south of Lambertville.  Entrance to the farm is free and they have a different theme or activity almost every weekend.  This past weekend was Lambing/New Faces Day.  We got to meet a two-day old lamb and see lots of baby chicks.  The farm is set-up to give you an idea of what it would have been like to be a farmer in 1900.  The volunteers dress accordingly, and the entire farm is operated using traditional tools, including horses to plow the fields.

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Finnegan’s favorite part of the day was feeding the cows, while Declan was obsessed with the chickens.  We had to drag him out of the hen house even after getting a hard peck on the finger.

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One of the horses even tried to snag Finnegan’s triceratops hat a few times.  The caretaker thought the horse probably mistook the horn for an ear of corn.

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The boys had a great time and you definitely can’t beat free.

On Sunday, we took a ride on the Easter Bunny Express out of Flemington.  We were originally thinking about going on the New Hope Ivyland train, but had a hard time justifying the $85 price tag for a 45 minute train ride.  We were glad that we found the Black River & Western Railroad option since it was only $38 and the total trip was about 90 minutes.  The route wasn’t very scenic, but every kid on the train was bursting with excitement when Peter Cottontail came through the train with a basket of candy.  The bunny posed for pictures with each family, which is another plus for this train ride since the New Hope Ivyland train charges $20 for photos and it’s not clear on their website whether you can take your own pictures.

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The train departs from Flemington and travels to the Ringoes train station where everyone disembarks for about 15 minutes while the train turns around for the return trip.  The stop is really nice with a few entertainment options for the kids, including a magician, a woman making animal balloons, and future Seeing Eye dogs that are being socialized.

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We had a great time and highly recommend this trip for anyone with little train or Easter Bunny enthusiasts.  However, if you have a child with a peanut allergy, you may want to pack your own piece of candy since the Easter Bunny handed out peanut butter cups and there weren’t any other options.  Declan has a mild peanut allergy and was pretty disappointed when we took away his piece of candy, but we lucked out since I had a lollipop in my purse and were able to negotiate the trade.

We ended our weekend with a mustache-themed first birthday party for an adorable little guy in our neighborhood.  Our boys were wiped out and easily went to sleep as soon as we put them down.

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How was your weekend?