Part of what has made this summer so much fun is that we've not only provided Hallie and Lea with the opportunity for playing with their cousins pretty much every weekend, but we've also managed, somehow, to get the kids together with their siblings. There is, of course, the famous July 4th reunion. But our fun didn't end there.
As regular readers know, we've been lucky to have Jake and Gina in our lives. It's hard to believe that we've only known them a year (we first met at Jake's 3rd birthday party and he just turned 4 this past week) since it feels like we've been in each others' lives forever (in a good way, naturally). Anyway, we enticed the dynamic duo up to Philly on the first Sunday in August to accompany us to the Academy of Natural Sciences, which is a small, pretty user-friendly natural sciences museum on Museum Row (Ben Franklin Parkway) in Philly.
Outside In and the kids thought it was pretty awesome. There are always several live animals wandering around (well, not really wandering so much as taken out of their living quarters regularly by handlers who help facilitate petting and such), skins and shells of creatures that kids can touch, rocks and stuff like that to play with, and a big giant sandbox. Oddly, no sand tools are provided but that did not prevent Hallie from innovating: she grabbed some creature teeth and shells and imported them to the sandbox and began digging away.
Hallie enjoyed petting the turtle and bunny rabbit but she was particularly fond of holding the hissing cockroach. Yes, I kid you not.
All that digging, running, puzzle-completion, and cockroach petting worked up our kids' appetites and so we headed over to Jones, which is a Brady Bunch-themed comfort-food restaurant in Center City. The kids were well behaved and so the adults actually got to eat. That doesn't mean they didn't have fun, of course. Gina, ever the prepared mother who puts the two of us to shame, had barrels of monkeys and crayons and such for the kids. And the kids made their own (utterly harmless and entirely amusing fun). Here's a shot of Jake being silly (and, no, that is not his beer bottle, but it is his ice cream sundae):
It might not have amounted to the most balanced meal in the universe, but we were thrilled, as I am sure any parent of a food averse not terribly enthusiastic preschooler would have been. (We were equally ecstatic that the cake, which no doubt contained a vast quantity of cow dairy and eggs, stayed down. That's happening more and more lately and, in passing, let me mention that we are now on 162 vomit free days this year and hopefully many more to come).
The kids all posed for a nice shot with Sharon and me before Gina headed off to New Jersey with brother Jakey.
The following weekend, Gina and Jake were headed right back to our neck of the woods. Rebecca was passing through Philly with brother Ben and we all met up at Franklin Square Park.
The park, which is the site of a pretty recent addition to Philadelphia's playgrounds, is one of the five original squares laid out by William Penn and features a carousel, a sand castle, miniature golf, and a bunch of other fun stuff.
The kids climbed on the climbing structures (some of which are quite awesome but a bit beyond Hallie's gross motor skills and confidence level) and swung on swings:
Hallie loved the slide, of course:
But she did not quite get the tilt wheel thing (I have no idea what it's really called) that Ben adored so much:
They all rode the carousel multiple times:
Here's a shot of Ben on a rearing elephant, which was his absolute favorite creature:
But the most fun they had was during the "water event." It's not entirely clear to me why the park workers (likely volunteers) had devised elaborate games for the kids, who were mostly ages 3 to 6, but our kids had no problem whatsoever ignoring the rules they laid out for the water balloon toss and the water emptying race (which amounted to sponging up water in one bucket and emptying it into another. Fastest team wins). Instead, they decided that shattering water balloons and having them splash all over the place was a heck of a lot more fun than pummeling your brothers with them:
The trio grabbed more than their fair share of the water balloons but no one seemed to mind:
And they got a real kick out of standing and splashing in the tubs:
My sense is that the parks volunteers should have organized a game called "dump water on your siblings":
When we left the playground, all the (older) kids were wet, happy, and exhausted. That is as it should be.
In closing, it's lovely to see our extended family. Hallie gets a real kick out of seeing these pictures (she was standing over me on the chair as I wrote part of this post and kept narrating it in her one-to-three-word-construction fashion). And we hope there are many such get-togethers to come.