This month was super fun because I had a lot of great visitors. Grandma Cathy & Grandpa Mike spent three full days with us, and we entertained them with a true weekend-in-the-life-of the Mortimers. We attended Fall Fest at Gus’ school on Saturday, and took them to William’s Nursery on Sunday – where we went on a spooky wagon ride, picked pumpkins, ran through the maze, and where I had my first horse back ride! I was sure not to let them leave hungry, so on Sunday night we all went for dinner at Fujiyama Mama for a fun hibachi dinner. Two weeks later, we welcomed Aunt Tina, Aunt Lisa, Nora & Felix for a long weekend! Their entertainment was a playground tour – three playgrounds in three days. Whew! On Thursday we took the train Westfield to explore Mindowaskin Park, have lunch at Qdoba and get a sweet treat at Bovella’s Pastry Shoppe. Friday we were off to the Trailside to enjoy that playground and a short hike. Saturday we opted to hang out at home, which made going to Nomahegan Park an easy, and fun, choice. When we weren’t out and about, I loved playing with Nora and being tackled by Felix. The other notable event this month, other than a trips to Kidstreet playground and the zoo, was Halloween! Our friend Alana celebrated her 6th birthday with a Halloween themed costume party. I went dressed as an adorable spider and went home with a sugar high because I cleverly scavenged many sweets off the floor at the out-of-my-reach candy buffet. In the days leading up to Halloween I helped carve pumpkins and took in our town’s Scarecrow Stroll. For trick-or-treating, now dressed as a cute lion, we joined the Nesheiwat family. I caught on very quickly to what this activity was all about! With great determination, I walked around the neighbourhood carrying my own bucket, climbed every step to front doors, said “oh wow!” for each piece of candy I received, and anxiously called out “me too!” when the bigger kids got ahead of me. I was in love! Otherwise this month, I walked home from school drop-off as often as I could (kicking up a fuss if I had to sit in the stroller), waving to everyone I saw along the way, stopping to collect leaves and pick up sticks. My preferred footwear for these walks, and pretty much every activity, was a cute pair of pink rain boots. I enjoyed the ease of slipping them on and off on my own, that it just made sense to wear them everywhere and with everything. My swim lessons progressed nicely, and in my final few weeks Mom was dunking me under the water, which I really didn’t mind. It also seemed that my music class was paying off because with the correct tunes, I sang “to you” for Happy Birthday, “go away” for Rain, Rain Go Away, “BDBD” for ABCD and a totally incomprehensible version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. With my growing verbal abilities I called my friends, Anne, Molly, Sarah and Andrew by name each time I saw them, and after a day in Princeton with the VanBodegom family, I recounted my day with, “Aanya, house, play”. I identified colour with increasing accuracy, had some potty successes, and showed a preference for using my left hand. I developed a love for “kep-ah” (ketchup) and “tabet” (tablet), both of which I requested a little too often.
Gus enjoyed his spring secession of karate so much that we enrolled him again this fall. He is excited to be back learning and practicing once a week at the community center with Sensi Ben.
- Calina’s friend Annie turned 4, and along with many friends from school, we helped her celebrate. Her casual, at home party was really fun. The kids played pin the tail on the pony, had a relay race where they walked with a balloon between their legs, and took turns whacking a piñata.
- Calina helped her classmate Julian celebrate his 5th birthday by energetically jumping on the large inflatable at Pump It Up. The same day, Gus helped his classmate Ilan celebrate his 6th birthday at the Satori Martial Art studio.
- It had been years since either James or I had celebrate Oktoberfest, but we had a great time at the Jaycee’s 3rd Annual Oktoberfest. The festivities were held in a parking lot at the Community College, which is within walking distance of our house, and were complete with a polka band, soft pretzels and ad lib beer. We met up with a large group of friends, but felt like we knew most everyone there as we bumped into other friends all night long.
- For Canadian Thanksgiving, we were delighted to have the Steele family visit with us. Not only did Aaron, MC, Zoë and James make the long trip, but Chris & Claudine did as well. Although we didn’t have a traditional turkey dinner, we ate really well all weekend long – a 7 vegetable stew, steak & tuna on the bbq and roasted vegetable lasagna, apple crisp, pumpkin pie, homemade maple walnut ice cream. We even had a joint pie making effort one night which resulted in a delicious chocolate-pecan pie. When we weren’t eating, we enjoyed the beautiful weather by spending a morning at Nomahegan park, an afternoon at Trailside and a day at Point Pleasant.
- Gus’ class went on their first field trip. Dreyer Farms, which is across the street from our house, and around the block from the school, was their destination. Gus had fun learning the difference between a fruit and a vegetable, getting a tour of the fields and making a vegetable man.
- We joined the Friedman and Nesheiwat families, for our third annual Trailside Hayrides and Campfires. Kids and adults alike enjoy this fun evening of marshmallow roasting, hot chocolate drinking, glow stick wearing, wagon riding, playing in the dark.
- Calina’s friend Claire celebrated her 4th birthday with a western themed party, so of course Calina and I donned our best cowgirl attire for the festivities. We had a great time at the backyard party catching up with friends and playing games.
- Calina and I had a special day together in NYC. We had tickets to see The Gruffalo at the New Victory Theater in Times Square, with some friends. My friend Claire and her son Paul, decided that they would take the train into the city with us, while Jen and her daughter Claire opted to drive and meet us at the theater. We arrived in the city with enough time to walk to the theater and stop for a snack along the way. The show was very cute, and we stayed afterwards to the Q&A with the actors. After lunch together at PAX deli, Claire, Paul, Calina and I headed to Toys R Us for a Ferris Wheel ride before catching the train back home. It was a really fun day, and I enjoyed every minute of this special one-on-one time with Calina.
- While Calina and I were in the city, James, Gus and Rebecca were off to a birthday party. Gus helped his friends, Dean & Nicholas, celebrate their 6th birthday at Chuck-E-Cheese. Gus had been asking to go to Chuck-E-Cheese for the last two years, so he was thrilled to finally go and was excited to play all the games in the company of his classmates.
- Gus & I attended our town’s Duck Race one Sunday afternoon. We had fun watching the nearly 1,000 individually numbered rubber ducks be released in the Rahway River at Sperry Park and tumble over the falls racing to the finish line at the nearby bridge. Although our flock of 5 ducks didn’t yield a winner, we still enjoyed the event.
- I hosted my book club this month to discuss my book pick, “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins.
- Our friend Alana’s 6th Halloween themed birthday party was the perfect reason for the kids to give their Halloween costumes a test-run. Gus was a ninja, Calina was Spiderman and Becca was a spider.
- Grandma Cathy & Grandpa Mike spent a long weekend with us. The calendar was packed with activities, so we showed them a real weekend-in-the-life-of the Mortimer family. Friday they took the one-hour walking tour to deliver Gus & Calina to school. While I took the kids to a birthday party on Friday evening, James and my parents opted for dinner at the Kilkenny House. Saturday morning was soccer for Gus & Calina, and that afternoon was the fall fest at Gus’ school. Sunday we spent several hours at William’s Nursery enjoying the spooky wagon ride, pumpkin picking, pony rides and running through the maze. Sunday night we treated G&G to dinner at one our favourite restaurants – Fujiyama Mama, a hibachi grill where the chef cooked dinner on a hotplate right in front of us. It was a great weekend and we were sad to see G&G go on Monday morning.
- This year was the 8th Annual Scarecrow Stroll, and we made it a family affair one afternoon, when we pulled James away from work early. As always the scarecrows were super impressive and we had great difficulty choosing only six favourites for the voting. The kindergarten classes from Gus’ school had an entry, as well as Calina’s school, and my Newcomers Club.
- To continue a Halloween tradition that started for us last year, we “boo’d” five friends, which entailed leaving mystery Halloween treat bags on their front porches. Each bag contained instructions for the friend to pay the Halloween fun forward.
- Since Halloween fell on a Saturday this year, the Friday before was a busy day! Gus & Calina both dressed in costume for their mornings at school, where each of them had a class party. Rebecca and I attended the school Halloween parade at Calina’s school, and then a few hours later, Gus, Calina & I returned to Gus’ school, so he could participate in his school’s parade (the parade is in the afternoon, so morning kindergarten students had to return to school after lunch to participate).
- That evening, I was feeling exhausted (and still had pumpkins to carve), so James took Gus & Calina to the trick-or-trunk in the parking lot of Gus’ school. Trick-or-Trunk is an evening where parents volunteer to decorate their vehicles and hand out candy. Yes, just like trick or treating, but done in a very safe, family friendly environment, and candy is given at trunk doors rather than home doors. Gus & Calina loved it!
- Halloween morning was the final day of fall soccer. Calina dressed in her Spiderman costume and Gus was just his regular soccer self. As usual, Gus was super pleased to receive his end of session medal, but unfortunately, nobody showed up with the medals for Calina’s group. :(
- We joined the Nesheiwat family again this year for trick-or-treating. Layla, Dylan and Gus were all fierce ninjas, Calina was a cat and Becca was a lion (so much for our costume test-run a few weeks ago). The group of kids excitedly went from house to house around the quiet neighbourhood and collected a huge amount of candy. Rebecca caught on very quickly to this activity, and regularly shouted out “me too” so she wouldn’t be left too far behind. We enjoyed dinner together afterwards and then took our exhausted children home to bed!
- Gus’ quote of the month, while looking in the trophy case at the community pool, “Mom, it’s my destiny to have one of these”.
- At Gus’ 6 year doctor appointment, he weighed 50 pounds and measured 48″, an increase of 5.5 pounds and 3.25 inches in the last year.
Five days a week, I made sure Gus & Calina arrived at and were picked up from school on time. To help accommodate this busy schedule, I gave up my morning nap, and managed quite well with this adjustment to my routine. The one-hour round trip in the mornings allowed me ample opportunity to point to and name things I saw. A favourite activity with my expanding vocabulary. By the end of the month I was energetic and eager enough to make the 1.5 km return trip home on my own two feet! I joined Gus in celebrating his 6th birthday by jumping in the bouncy house, making huge bubbles and of course, eating pizza and cake. I started two extra curricular activities of my very own – swim lessons and music class. I was not so in love with swimming, but music class, with a few of my friends, was really fun. For Canadian Thanksgiving, the Steele Family, with bonus guests, Chris & Claudine, came to spend the weekend with us. We had so much fun showing them Nomahegan Park and Trailside Nature Center and playground, but the best part was spending a day at Point Pleasant where we visited the Jenkinson’s Aquarium, enjoyed lunch on the roof-top patio at the Boardwalk Bar & Grill, and then spent a few hours playing on the beach. Our family teamed up with the Nesheiwat and Friedman families again this year to partake in the Trailside Hayrides & Campfires. With a glow stick attached to my coat, I was delighted to be playing outside in the “more dark”, chasing after the big kids. The clear night sky was perfect for star-gazing as the John Deere tractor pulled our wagon through the reservation. One of my latest passions was “ky” (colouring), and I was happy to do it wherever I could – on myself, on the table, on paper – and the colour I chose most often was orange. Another thing I fell madly in love with was the television show Bubble “Guppies”. Although Mom wouldn’t let me watch it very often, it didn’t stop me from asking for it regularly and thoroughly enjoying each moment when I was allowed to watch. I’ve been a climber from an early age, and I recently mastered climbing the ladder on our play structure. I’m eager to climb across the monkey bars, but Dad & Mom say I’m not big enough yet. Bummer.
Although we had an amazing time in Canada for the month of August, we were excited to return to NJ and catch up with our friends here. We started off by spending a day at the Centennial Avenue pool with Crawford’s, another day with Keenan’s at their house (and their new super fun swing) and Labour Day at the Friedman’s for a BBQ.
- 4th: We spent a day together at the Liberty Science Center, which we hadn’t visited since Calina was a baby. We all had so much fun learning, building, climbing and exploring. The outdoor Wild Life Challenge where we had the opportunity crawl, climb and claw our way through tests which urban wildlife face every day was the perfect way to end the day.
- 8th: Back to school! Gus started morning kindergarten at the neighbourhood public school, and Calina returned to her pre-school for morning Pre-K4. Gus’ school is a 10 minute walk from our house, and Calina’s school is another 20 minutes from there, which makes for a nice morning walk. Gus enjoyed riding his scooter to school most days, but was very disappointed about not having any homework in the first few weeks of school.
- Fall soccer started for both Gus & Calina mid-month. This was Calina’s first time playing ‘Peanuts soccer’ through the town soccer club, and she was less than enthusiastic to do so. Thankfully, after a few weeks in, she was happy to go and participate. Gus had graduated from the peanut program, and played ‘Kindergarten’ soccer this fall, and was on the Pirates team.
- 12-14th: With the schools closed for Rosh Hashanah, we took advantage of the long weekend and went camping! For more on this adventure, see Becca’s blog…Camping – Cheesequake
- 15th: We took the 1 hour 15 minute drive to Sandyston, NJ to visit the Sussex County Sunflower maze. The farm was very quiet that day, and we enjoyed our picnic lunch beside the sunflower fields and then spent the afternoon touring through the many paths. The flowers had bloomed early this year, and although we were catching them in late bloom, the huge black oil seed flowers were beautiful, as were the many butterflies.
- 16th: Buying ice cream from an ice cream truck is a rare and exciting experience for Gus & Calina. My Newcomers club hosted an afternoon ice cream social/playground play date, where the truck showed up especially for our group. All the kids were in heaven!
- 23rd: Our friend Nate celebrated his 5th birthday in a hanger at the Linden Airport. This huge space allowed the kids ample space to run around and play games, all while watching planes and helicopters arrive and depart on the runway and landing pads. We also had the opportunity to look a few old war planes up close.
- 26th: Gus turned 6! For more details about his mad science party, check out his blog… Gus’ 6th Birthday
- By the end of the month, all three kids had started swim lessons.
- Gus is spelling phonetically, which is adorable to read, and always makes me so proud. Despite the grave errors, I love the effort he puts into trying.
- Calina is quick to state the rules, even to a group of people.
“Drip, Drop, Goop & Slime, Let’s be Mad Scientists for a day, and have a great time!” read the invitation that requested Gus’ friends join him in his lab, to help him celebrate his 6th birthday. The day was sunny and beautiful, as the weather usually is on September 26th, which was perfect for our back yard party and twenty-two children. Each guest received a lab coat and safety glasses to prepare them for a visit from Mad Science’s Jupiter Julie. Jupiter Julie did an amazing job of keeping the attention of most children for an hour with various science experiments, which included dry ice, a soda geyser, and each child making their own silly slime. To otherwise keep everyone busy, there was a bounce house, bubble solution, a sand table, foose ball and the play structure. Everyone dined on pizza and of course, cake! At Gus’ request, the cake was a two-layered (pineapple bliss) cake with green icing between the layers, and white icing on the outside. To make it sciency, I put an erlenmeyer flask on it using sprinkles. It seemed like everyone had a great time, especially Gus, who wore a huge smile the entire time. His friends were super generous and thoughtful and gifted many science projects that will keep us using our thinking caps through the fall and winter. Happy Birthday Gus! We love you so much.
The month started with a week at the cottage, and my return to NJ after three weeks in Canada. Since labour day was late this year, I took full advantage of one more week of summer and enjoyed play dates with friends and visited the Liberty Science Center. I helped Gus & Calina get reacquainted with their back to school routine by walking them to school each morning. I really enjoyed these strolls because the weather was beautiful and I was able to point at and name many of the things I saw. My other adventures this month included a visit to the Sussex County Sunflower Maze and two nights of camping at Cheesequake State Park. Since I spent more time running than walking and more time climbing than sitting, I suffered from many skinned knees and bumps. I’m pretty tough, but each incident was announced with a series of “ow-ow-ow” and required a kiss from Mommy. Were all these tumbles the result of me graduating to size 5 shoes? Hmmm, not sure. Since the cooler weather had set in and the humidity had dropped so did my curls. The adorable tight ringlets that I sported all summer were just gentle waves down my neck. Drinking from an open cup was something that I became quite skilled at, as was throwing dishes when I was finished with them. Daily I saw Gus & Calina monkey around at bedtime, so I came up with my own stalling techniques. I requested as many stories as Mommy would read, the more the better. Then I asked to nurse, but wouldn’t, and when Mom tried to put me in bed, I begged in a really sad voice that I DID want to nurse. At that point I got serious and drank my milk. Then I needed to pick a book to read to my babies, count (well technically, Mom counted) how many babies were in bed with me, make sure I had my two soothers (because I still hadn’t given up that terrible addiction), and then I got tucked in! Sweet success – every night! Some of the cute phrases I had been using: “side” which is what I called nursing, “enty” (empty) – most commonly when I was done nursing, “okay” instead of yes, and “Kiki” for my sweet sister, Calina. …Becca
With the hum of the Garden State Parkway in the background, we spent two nights camping at Cheesequake State Park with the Friedman family. This park was chosen because it is only 30 minutes from home and feels remote despite it’s proximity to urban areas and having parkway pass through it. When the forecast promised rain and cool nights, knowing we could bail on our adventure made us a little more brave. We arrived Saturday afternoon and quickly set to work putting up tents, and huge tarp – when the rain came, we wanted to be ready! We dined on our usual tin-foil dinners and I retired to bed early. Sleeping in a tent proved to still be far too exciting for me. I promptly climbed out of my Pack-N-Play so I could explore my new home. Mom was having none of this, so she buckled me into my car seat and I fell right to sleep. I awoke around 3am, to find myself back in the Pack-N-Play, and everyone sleeping soundly around me. Mom tried to settle me back to sleep without success. This left only one thing to do at this early hour – have Mom carry me on a 45 minute walk around the campsite loop. The next morning after breakfast, we set off to explore more of the park. We played on the sandy beach at Hooks Creek Lake and ate our lunch at the Sandpit Picnic Area. Mom was eager for a hike and the blue trail seemed to be the right length, at 3.2km, or at least it did, until we were about 3/4 of the way through and Gus & Calina were done. I, on the other hand, sailed through the trails in the comfort of the backpack carrier. When we returned to our site in the afternoon, we were delighted to find that the Neshiewat family had stopped by for a visit, and brought with them, the only rain shower of the weekend. The tarp shelter served the adults well, but us kids preferred to visit at the playground across from the site. A busy day, lots of fresh air, a tummy full of chili and s’mores should have been a recipe for a good night’s sleep, but my night played out exactly as it had the first night. Maybe I’ll figure out the sleeping thing next year. On Monday morning, Dad cooked up a delicious breakfast of bacon and eggs on his new Coleman stove and Lodge griddle. He was quite pleased with his latest camping gear acquisition. Gus, Calina, Sean and I played happily in the dirt, and on the truck of a fallen tree while the adults packed up the site. For the most part, the rain held off, the days were sunny and beautiful and we all enjoyed another weekend of camping!
Although this was only my second year spending a week at a cottage with my Mortimer family, it’s the sixth year of this tradition, and from what I understood, this was the best year yet. Beachwood Hollow Resort in Tweed was our home for the week this year. For the first time, we rented four individual cottages rather than one large one, which gave everyone (8 adults, 8 children) a little more space and privacy. We arrived to find our cottages pretty run down, or “rustic” as the ad stated, but very close together and in their own section of the resort, with a large, treed, green space out front and a beautiful view of Lake Stoco. We all loved the freedom that came with having family as neighbours. Hearing statements like “I’m going to see if Gram is awake” or “I’m going to Nora’s to do a craft” became commonplace. With the exception of breakfast, we ate most of our meals together outside. Us kids even had the chance to help with dish duty since Gram brought her old camp wash basins and set up a wash station for us. The weather was cool-ish most of the week, but that didn’t prevent us from making use of the large sandy beach, the kid-perfect swimming area and the water slides and floating ‘lilly pad’. Aunt Lisa and Uncle Erick brought their canoe, so Mommy made sure I had my requisite annual canoe ride, which I quite enjoyed. Since good nights of sleep were elusive during vacation, I squeezed in two naps daily, but I know the big kids spent their extra time painting, doing play-doh, crafting or having an afternoon bonfire with s’mores. When I was awake, and Sam was too, we optimized our time hanging out together! To Gus’ delight, Gram and Aunt Lisa threw him a surprise birthday party! They did an amazing job of decorating with a Paw Partol theme, and had fun activities to go along with it, like a paper airplane toss, water squirter target practice, a treasure hunt, and bingo. Having a lemonade stand had been on Gus’ bucket list for a few summers now, so Daddy helped him fulfull this dream, which was generously supported by our family, of course, but also by some of the other guests at the resort. Isla, followed up with a ‘free stand’ that afternoon and handed out goldfish crackers. Such entrepenures! The town of Tweed hosts an annual Elvis festival, and one of the impersonators was staying at the resort. I’m quite certain the adults snuck out after bedtime one night to watch him perform in the rec hall – one of the nights they weren’t up late painting or playing cards. Tweed is also home to North America’s Smallest Jail House, which we were sure to check out. To close out the week, Uncle Lornie, Aunt Joan, Aunt Cathy and Aunt Gladys made the trip to spend Friday with us. They arrived before lunch and stayed until well after dinner. It made for a leisurely day of playing and catching-up, which was the perfect end to a wonderful week. I know is just ended, but I can’t wait to see what year seven has in store for us.
I started out the month with a trip to Dinosaur Field Station. Those animatronic creatures made me nervous at first, but it didn’t a take me long to warm up and seek them out myself. I also visited Linden Lanes for my first game of bowling. Although my score wasn’t great, I did enjoy rolling the balls down the dinosaur like ball ramp. The remainder of the month was spent hanging out in the Valley, and I had a wonderful time doing so. We kicked off our visit with an afternoon play date at Abby, Isla & Sam’s house. Sam was as big as I was, and on the move, so we had fun together! That evening Gram Berny joined us for dinner at Grandam Cathy’s, where we swam in pool, jumped on the trampoline and petted “Jetta”. The next two days entailed Devin, Carter & Fallon, Abby, Isla & Sam, and Gus, Calina & I, seeing each other at various times in various locations. It was like a non-stop cousins play date! Alice In Wonderland was the theme of Nora’s amazing 4th birthday! Aunt Lisa did such a fantastic job recreating the fantasy world that it felt as though we had all fallen down the rabbit hole! The splash pad at Robert Simpson park was the perfect venue for a lunch play date with friends Evan & Nora on Monday. The best part was seeing them again that night, as well as Ethan & Lorelai and Audrey & Diana, for pizza dinner when we got together with Mom’s high school girl friends at the Howard’s. Tuesday I was feverish, but that didn’t stop me from going to the Canadian Children’s Museum in Ottawa for the day. Despite not feeling well, I had fun on my round-the-world adventure. Auntie Cindy’s was the place to be for a picnic lunch on Wednesday. She spoiled us with cute little sandwiches, fruit skewers, crafts and bubbles, and a tour of her beautiful gardens. Feeding goats, riding the train and climbing on all the structures at Valleyview Little Animal farm was a great way to spend a sunny Thursday. We closed out our first full week with a visit from Owen & Clara, and a family camp out at Grandma Cathy & Grandpa Mike’s. Although I enjoyed the campfire and s’mores, I opted to sleep inside with Daddy & Gus. The next outing was Monday evening for dinner with the Steele Family – we always have so much fun with Zoë & James. We were up early on Tuesday morning and off to Mont Cascade with all my Mortimer cousins for a day at the water park! I had a blast slipping down the all the slides in the children’s area, with Mommy’s assistance of course. Thursday was a day for celebrating! Calina turned 4 and we had a pool party in her honour. Despite the pouring rain, we still had fun because there was family and cupcakes. To close out the second week, we had a blast with the Moodies, Nixons and MacPhersons – but how could we not have fun when 11 children get together? Even with my crazy activity schedule, I still had time to accomplish voluntarily putting my face in the water while swimming, and identifying many of my body parts. My vocabulary exploded and I had tons of new words, like “mine” when I meant, ‘I can do it myself’. My favourite thing to give away was knee hugs to my most loved adults. …Becca