Thursday, August 30, 2012

NH 2012: Midweek

I'm a day behind and my parents are arriving tomorrow.  Robin & Jeff and the kids left this morning, so I'm taking this chance tonight to catch up. I'll do it by covering two days in one since we did a bunch, but didn't get a ton of pictures.

Wednesday we woke up after staying up a little too late, eating too much cheese and drinking a little too much wine (well me at least).  I made dutch babies for everyone (after setting off the fire alarms by trying to use a springform pan for one.  Shockingly you can't really melt butter in the bottom of one of those - take note).  Then we got ourselves ready (no small feat with 4 children under 6 in the house) and went off to Attitash for some climbing and sliding.  I remember going to the Alpine Slide with my parents when I was a kid, but wasn't sure how much else there was to do there.  Turns out going mid-week on a beautiful day at the end of the season is a fantastic idea.  We basically had the place to ourselves and had a great time.  We started off with the Alpine slide - all the kids loved it.  Then we got in some climbing on the rock wall - well Lily, Cybele and Gordon did at least.

Next up was lunch and then we decided to be the only crazy fools at the water slides.  It was a nice day, but not really a hot, jump in freezing-cold water kind of day.  Lily LOVED the water slides, but she was the only one.  I went down once and was pretty freaked out by how fast they were - I had forgotten that.  Also - they were cold.  Quinn walked up to the top took one look and decided to use his feet to get back down.  There are no pictures from the slides since the camera was tucked away in a locker. So here are some pics of the boys being goofballs at lunch instead.

Despite the chilliness we spent some time at the kiddie pool area and Lily discovered the water slide that you go down on tubes.  She and Gordon did it a bunch and then she got me up there. It was SO MUCH FUN.  The only issue was that I had a hard time lugging the double tube back up to the top - so we only went down 3 times.  But man, that was definitely my favorite thing in the park - Lily's too.  She was so excited that I wasn't afraid of it.  The whole way down she'd chant "Mommy likes it! Mommy likes it!"  Totally cracked us up.

We wrapped up the day there with some bungee-trampoline action - well the girls did.  The adults were too wiped out to be bothered.    Dinner that night was burgers on the grill followed by a lot of tired people finally making their way to bed.  All in all Attitash was a huge win.  Lily told me today that it was her favorite thing we've done so far, with Santa's Village coming in second.  And we didn't even make it onto the mountain coaster!  Oh well, next time I suppose.

Thursday morning we said goodbye to our pals - they're staying up here but doing activities on a slightly different schedule and moving lodging to make room for my parents (who arrive tomorrow).  The kids hugged each other goodbye and we took off in our car to visit another of the area waterfalls.  We drove a little way up 302 to Pinkham Notch, parked at the AMC camp and hiked a short, but pretty 0.3 miles to Crystal Cascade - a two-tiered waterall over about a 60 foot drop.  The hike was nice and short and included a little pre-falls action with a nice rushing stream and little bridge - a perfect photo spot.  Here are some cute - and goofy - shots we managed to get.

We came back to the house after the short hike, changed into bathing suits and drove down to North Conway to do some kayaking on the Saco.  We rented a couple of kayaks from these guys and took a short - 3 miles - trip down the river.  The water was cold, but the weather was perfect and we had a great time.  We even stopped about half-way down and the kids took a little dip.  At first Gordon was in a double kayak with both Lily and Quinn while I had my own.  Then we swapped and I propelled the double along with Lily with Gordon and Quinn took the single.  Man the double kayak was MUCH harder to move.  My arms were thankful we chose the shortest of the three trips.  We'll try some longer trips when the kids can paddle themselves - or at least help out (though Lily did try).

We wrapped up the day with a quick round of mini golf at Pirates Cove. Make no mistake, mini-golf with a 3 and a 5 year-old is something just a little shy of fun. Thankfully it wasn't very crowded so it was totally fine that Q was wandering around dropping the ball into holes and generally making a nuisance of himself.  Lily managed to play a game, but had a bit of a hard time with the rules and tended to break down in tears when her stroke count went above 3.  She cheered up when she managed a hole in one though and that seemed to keep her happy through the rest of the game.  Gordon won, of course.  We had dinner down that road at Muddy Moose and ran in to Robin, Jeff, Cybele and Jake there - a perfect end to a somewhat lazy, but fun day.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

NH Day 3: More Lollygagging - this time, with friends

Tuesday morning started off with reports of rain so we bagged our original plans to explore the Saco by kayak. The timing was kind of okay since we had to deal with last night's flat tire anyway.  Gordon took the Subaru into Conway to buy a new tire and dropped me and the kids off at the Mount Washington Valley Children's Museum.  It's a little museum when compared to something like the Boston Children's Museum - but it's really a very pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.  I much prefer the smaller, more intimate, more accessible layout.  The rooms are nicely decorated and the themed areas are wonderful.  I went grocery shopping, watched a puppt show and spent time playing in the castle room.  Lily quickly found an astronaut outfit and wore that around while Quinn put on show after show for me in the dramatic play area.  We spent some time reading books too in the quiet reading/baby area.  The museum staff are all very friendly and welcoming.  I highly recommend it if you're hanging around North Conway with little ones and some time to kill.

Gordon picked us up with a new tire on the car after about 2 hours.  We drove into North Conway and had lunch at one of G's favorite spots - The Stairway Cafe- a yummy, cozy little restaurant across from the N. Conway Railroad Station.  We sat out on the upper balcony eating sandwiches and people watching.  Soon after we finished we got a call from our friends Robin & Jeff that they had made it to North Conway.  Robin, Jeff and their kids are happy hour play group friends, but I actually met Robin even before that group formed when Lily and her daughter, Cybele were babies in the JCFS new mom's group.  Our girls are about 3 months apart and the boys are only 2 weeks apart in age.  It's crazy to think that we've been friends for almost 6 years now!  We had invited them to come spend some time with us during our vacation and were thrilled they could make it.

Once we got the new arrivals settled into the house we all got into our bathing suits and headed down to the river along with the inner tubes.  We had been scratching our heads trying to figure out how to get both in AND out of the river.  Getting in at our house and floating down-river would be easy - but all the access points out appeared to be like ours - onto private property.  Same issue up-river.  We finally just got in tubes and kind of went.  Quinn was with me and seemed increasingly concerned that we were floating away from everyone without a plan (okay that last part may have been my concern).  We floated along and then eventually found a way out of the river down by the covered bridge.  We had to scramble up a rocky slope and then cut through a small path of bug-ridden woods to get back to our road.  So it was fun, but not totally repeatable with the wee ones.  So we spent the rest of the afternoon just walking a little way upstream and tubing back down to the house.  It was a bit of a feat fighting the current to walk upstream as the river had risen quite a bit after the previous night's storm - but it was still fun.

After tubing the crew spent some time building a dam to create a nice calm pool for playing around in.  As Gordon said - he'd look at me like I was crazy if I told him he'd be spending one day at home moving around rocks in the backyard, but for some reason this experience was totally different.  I sat back and took some pictures of them working.  It was particularly fun watching Quinn entertain himself in the water.  He just kind of wanders around talking to himself completely in his own little world.

Robin made us some killer fish tacos for dinner and after tucking all the wee ones in bed we sat around eating cheese, drinking wine and talking until much too late.  Oh and Gordon snuck outside at some point post-dinner to capture these cool long exposure shots of the river.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

NH Vacation Day 2: Ho Ho Ho

Yesterday we spent the entire day at Santa's Village in Jefferson, NH.  I had to get over my immediate feelings of - huh Christmas in August?  a whole park devoted to it?  really?  I can't remember if I went there as a kid or not.  I have distinct memories (or at last have seen pictures of) going to Storyland, but I'm coming up blank with this one.  Mom? Dad?  Anyway - we managed to get out the door around 9:15 and drove up to Jefferson. The park was a little more crowded than I expected on a weekday, but I have a low tolerance for crowds so I suspect it was actually a pretty low-crowd day.  We had to wait in some lines, but not for very long in any one place.

The big hit with Lily was the "Elfabet" game.  They gave all the kids a tag with all the letters of the alphabet on it (in the shape of a christmas tree of course).  Then there were these little elf statues all over the park that you had to find.  Each elf's name started with a different letter and each one had a little box that would punch the right letter off the tag.  The goal was to find all the elves, punch all the holes and bring your tag back for a prize at the end of the day.  To no one's surprise Lily took this task very seriously and was somewhat laser-focused on it.

Here's a pic of Quinn getting his "J" stamp from Jelly-Belly

The kids enjoyed the park a lot but at this stage in the game amusement parks are definitely more in Lily's wheel house.  Even at Q's age, she was already somewhat of a thrill-seeker.  Most of the day was spent following Lily around from ride to ride and elf to elf while Q just came along for the ride.  He wasn't that into trying too many of them, but did enjoy the carousel.  We coaxed him on a couple of other rides.  One of my favorite was "Little Drummer Boy" - the Santa's Village version of the tea cups (you know, lots of spinning).  As the ride got going Quinn looked at us and said "I'm having a hard time!  I'm having a hard..... tiiiiiiimmee."  Then he got used to it and seemed okay.  But when we were done he wasn't in a hurry to get back on!

yeah, that's pretty much his "this isn't freaking me out too much" face

Lily, on the other hand, liked everything - the super fast Himalaya was one of her favorites.

Here's Q's favorite ride, Lily was utterly bored.

I conveniently forgot that I am terrified of heights and convinced everyone - Q included - that a family ride on the ferris wheel would be a good idea.  It was a BIG ferris wheel.  With open seats.  I'm not entirely sure I've ever been on one before and now I know why.  It was utterly terrifying.  I kept looking at the bar across my lap and the gap between the bar and Lily's legs and wondering if she could slip out from under it.  I spent the whole ride alternately saying "HOLD THE BAR!" and trying to engage in idle chatter to take my mind off how high we were.  Good times all around.

 Here I am, looking nowhere near as terrified as I felt

And of course you can't call yourselves "Santa's Village" without reindeer and Santa!  Here are some pics of the kids feeding the real reindeer and riding on some not-so-real ones.  The longest line we stood in all day was the one to visit Santa.  Quinn went over to Santa, grabbed some candy canes and got the hell out of dodge.  Lily took time to visit with him and put in a formal request for "light-up shoes".

Doesn't she kind of look too big to be sitting there?

All in all we had a great day AND the rain stayed away.   We were even able to squeeze in a ride down the flume at the very end.  I was a little wishy-washy about getting on it (Quinn and I are apparently cut from the same stuff when it comes to amusement park rides).  I also felt like we were duping Quinn.  "don't worry buddy, see that log floating gently on the water?  it's not bad!".  But I decided to go along for the family experience.  We definitely passed up buying the photo that was taken of us as it showed me with my head down pretty much between my knees behind Lily and a horrified, sort of betrayed look on Q's face.  When we got to the bottom we asked him what he thought.  He looked at us very seriously and said "I didn't really like the part when we went really fast".  At least I might have company sitting on the benches when we finally make it to places like Six Flags.

Here are some final pics of the kids hamming it up on the way out of the park.  Just after we finished standing in line to turn in the fully completed Elfabet game tages and receiving diplomas and key chains for all the hard work.  Although you can't tell from these photos the kids were exhausted and were both asleep after about 3 minutes in the car.  They were so asleep that they slept right through the part when our tire suddenly went flat as we were driving down Rt 2.  After about a half hour of slight misadventure involving trying to use the tire iron from the mazda3 (which we no longer own) to loosen the nuts on the Subaru, calling AAA, then finding the correct tool hidden in the trunk, we got back on the road and made it home for a pretty mediocre meal at Joseph's Spaghetti Shed and bedtime.

(Finishing this up on Tuesday night - already a day behind... sigh)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Vacation 2012: Mount Washington Valley, NH

Hello out there! You know it's been a long time since you last posted when you finally point your browser to blogger again and get an interface that is completely and utterly unrecognizable.  So okay - let's get back on the horse for a bit.  I'm not sure this is an actual return to regularly scheduled blogging, but at the very least I thought it'd be fun to capture our vacation time this year.

We're up in NH for the week on our first ever MasterWong family vacation.  I mean we've been away on vacations as a family before, but always to visit other family members, or take a big big family trip or attend a wedding.  But when this year came along we realized we had nothing planned and could pretty much do anything we wanted.  We had some big ideas, but in the end decided to stay somewhat local due in part to a big backyard project earlier in the summer.  So we found a really cute house by the Saco river in Glen, NH - and here we are.

The biggest goal of this trip is just to get ourselves away from the hectic pace we've been going at lately in order to catch our breaths.  My job - while basically awesome - has been taking a lot of my resources and Gordon's has been doing the same.  We've had a fun summer, but also spent a lot of it trying to figure out how to get Lily across town and all around to different summer camps while we still managed to get all our work done - oh and go camping on the weekends.  All while keeping our cool (not really) as we muddle through Quinn's yo-yo bedtime stage that you just know motivated this book.  Bottom line is that we were more than ready for a break.

We left the 'Ville yesterday (Saturday) and drove "up North" (as Quinn says*).   We hit some traffic on 93 (shocking, right?) and then on the advice of friends stopped for a picnic lunch by the Mercury-Redmond rocket at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discover Center in Concord. The original plan was to lunch here and then continue on to the Polar Caves, but Lily really wanted to go inside and I am easily suckered into a space-themed museum - so inside we went.  It was a cute little museum - definitely great for pit stop.  They've got both space shuttle and lunar lander simulators (I enjoyed searching the controls for the DAP buttons).   We spent a while walking around, read some books, and viewed the sun up in the observatory.  In one of life's odd little juxtapositions I checked facebook on the way out only to find that Neil Armstrong had passed away.  It was fitting to spend a few hours immersing myself in space exploration on the day that we said goodbye to one of our nation's heros.  Lily and I enjoyed the museum.  I asked Quinn if he liked it and he said: "no, there were no animals.  only astronauts." Saturday evening was spent getting settled in at the house and procuring groceries for the next few days.

Today we decided to avoid crowds are major area attractions.  So we went waterfall hunting.  We started with at Glen Ellis Falls near Pinkham Notch.  The falls go over about a 60 foot drop, and it's a really easy hike from the parking area.  Perfect with little ones and very pretty.  At first Lily didn't want to go hiking, but was soon having a fantastic time scrambling over boulders and pointing out animal burrows.  The original plan was to check out another waterfall in Pinkham Notch, but Quinny was already asking for "shoulder time" on the hike back, so we decided not to push it to save G's back.

Next stop was Jackson Falls - a nice little watering-hole, gentle falls area on the side of the road in Jackson.   This area is a perfect place to stop for a picnic lunch and just lounge around. The lower falls have a few "levels" so there are nice areas for wading and swimming. The falls are small enough down here that you can sit in one and get a little time in "nature's jacuzzi".  Gordon had Lily squealing with delight in them.  We really enjoyed this area and suspect that we will be back before the week is up.

We decided to finish up the afternoon back at our little home away from home and explore the access to the Saco river from "our" backyard.  The river here is a lot faster that the swimming hole at Jackson Falls.  We jealously watched some folks go tubing by and started scheming on how to get some tubes of our own.  Lily spent a while skipping rocks and building dams with Gordon while Quinn danced around putting on shows for me.  As we were wrapping up the day we were joined by a friendly neighborhood(?) dog who took a particular liking to Gordon.  Lily kept trying to get him to notice her instead and was heartbroken when it was time to go inside. She's hoping that he comes to visit us again.  When we got back to the house we found two tubes stashed by the side - score!  We're hoping to try them out in the days to come.  

The night ended with a trip to Flatbreads in North Conway.  Bedtime wasn't entirely smooth but it was better than usual, and G and I both succeeded in not losing our cool entirely.  Another little side goal of this trip is to try to reset our interactions as a family.  There's been a lot of yelling going on lately by all of us - due in part to the hectic pace of our lives.  We're really hoping to detox a bit from all of that and get back on a calmer, happier track.  Wish us luck - so far so good - today was already an easier day than yesterday!

* Quinn's day care provider, Kathy, was born and raised in Somerville and has the corresponding accent - it's like comfort food for the ears for me.  Anyway, Kathy and Paul have a house in NH where they vacation so Kathy often tells that kids about going "Up North" - but she says it without the "r".  So when Q found out we were going to NH on vacation he asked if we were also going "Up North" - so I said, yup "Up North".  He got mad and said "NO! UP Noth!!!".   It took both Kathy and I to convince him that we were indeed saying the same thing!