The fourth of July this year was awesome. And bittersweet. Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays… it’s right at the top of the list with Halloween… and it’s because of our traditions. We’re moving out of our house in less than two months, so it was a little bittersweet knowing this was our last fourth of July in our house.

As we do every year, our friends the Millard’s came over for a BBQ early in the afternoon. The kids ran around like the little crazy people they are and  we ate hot dogs and hamburgers and watermelon. When it was time to watch the city fireworks display, we hopped on our bikes and rode to the park. This year was extra special because the oldest Millard boy, Josh, rode his bike to the park with us.

We set up our chairs and blankets in our favorite spot at the park and made a beeline straight for the Kona Ice truck to get snow cones. When dusk set in, we all took turns having fun with sparklers. Our kids were pretty exhausted by the time the big fireworks display started, but we enjoyed watching it anyway.

And when it was all over, we biked home. This is always my favorite part of our fourth of July celebration. It’s still legal in our city to shoot off fireworks, and it seems everybody and their brother partakes of this privilege. Our bike ride home always feels like a serenade of fireworks meant just for us. It’s pretty magical and amazing.

This was our last year to have a fourth of July BBQ in our backyard with the Millard’s. And the last year we’ll make that bike ride to the park and bike home watching the fireworks. Here’s hoping that we find a way to continue our traditions, even though we’re moving!

Do you have a favorite family tradition on the fourth of July? I’d love to hear about it! Leave me a comment below!

fourth of july family traditionskids having fun at the parkkids playing with sparklers on fourth of julywatching fireworks at the park fourth of july summer bucket list traditions

Summer is here! It’s finally time for backyard barbecues, trips the beach and watching the sunset (#nofilter). This glorious season of warm weather is also the perfect opportunity for spontaneous road trips. My boys and I travel extensively throughout the year. I am an expert at schlepping an infant, then baby, now toddler through the airport and hotels. Our travels mostly consist of tagging along while my husband attends a meeting here or there or flying in to see family, but rarely do we pick a spot on the map, take a chance and just go. 

Rule No. 1: Go & Do

A third of the way through our Memorial Day long weekend, our vagabond spirits got the better of us and we were in need of something – anything – fun to do. As Southerners living in the Northeast, we still consider ourselves tourists in our newly acquired homeland, so our Summer bucket list is quite extensive. Thankfully, we live in a state the size of a postage stamp so getting around New England isn’t the most time consuming task. After much debate, we settled on a trip to the quaint seaport of Mystic, Connecticut.

Rule No. 2: Always take the back roads

More than half the fun of a road trip is the journey there! Bag packed, we set off on the tree-lined back roads heading towards our destination. We loved passing through adorable little towns and even found a cool children’s museum to check out later. In less than two hours, we were rolling into town and ready to start our next adventure. Mystic is your quintessential New England seaside village and exactly what I envisioned when we were pondering a move to Connecticut. Full of tiny shops, restaurants and marinas – not to mention the cutest drawbridge you ever did see – we enjoyed just walking around and chasing our toddler from shop to shop and checking out all of the boats in the marina. After a belly full of Mystic Pizza and the biggest ice cream sundae, we headed back to the hotel to get a good night’s rest and prepare for another fun day.

Rule No. 3: Go Native

The following morning, we hit the road in search of breakfast. In New England, your best bet for a hearty first meal is your local diner and good ol’ Norm’s had it all. As you go along your road trip, ask the locals for their suggestions on dining. You know the old saying, “When in Rome…”. Maybe you’ll journey off the beaten path and have the most amazing meal of your life – or maybe not – but either way, going native just enhances the experience.

Rule No. 4: Plan something fun for every member of your family

During our impromptu road trip planning, we noticed that there was a vintage steam train trip not too far from Mystic. My not-quite-two year old, Porter, is obsessed with trains. Every other word is “choo-choo”, “train” or “tunnel”. I’m pretty sure he dreams about them, too, so taking a side trip to Essex on our way home was a no-brainer. He was beside himself with excitement! While we waited to board the train, there was an area for play with train tables and model trains. The perfect distraction for an inquisitive toddler. And once we boarded? Pure joy. Every time the train would blow it’s whistle, Porter would perk up and exclaim, “choo choo!”. It was awesome. Parker and I loved seeing our boy so blissed out and we enjoyed learning about the history of the Connecticut Railroad. Fun for all!

Rule No. 5: Unplug

I’m sure I’m not the only one who plays paparazzi and takes a million pictures of their kid. It’s a great to document life, but I realized that by trying to “capture the moment” perfectly, I was missing the joy in the actual experience. Seeing something through the lens of a camera (or smartphone) is inherently different than experiencing that same moment in the moment. Unplug. Put down the phone. Go off the grid. Whatever you want to call it, just be in the moment. Really look at your family and marvel at their pure amazing existence. Really listen to your child’s laughter and revel in their merriment. Take time to smell the fresh cut grass and feel the salt water on your skin and taste the ice cream cone. Observe! Explore! Adventure! Even if it’s only in your backyard. Enjoy this sweet season of Summer and experience life, sweet friends.

five rules for spontaneous road trips with kidsYou can find Carlee online at http://carleesizemore.com and on Twitter as @CarleeSizemore.

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chuck e cheese summer bucket list

When we sat down to make our summer bucket list this year, we asked the kids for input, as we always do. The first thing Ava said was “I want to go to Chuck E. Cheese!”

When I think of all things summer, I definitely don’t think of Chuck E. Cheese. But this is a family affair and we aim to please around here…. So that’s how Chuck E. Cheese ended up on our summer bucket list.

We had a really slow start to our summer this year. The weather was strange, Max was pretty sick, and we had a lot of work things going on. It was too cold to go swimming and Max was too sick to do anything active.

And so, on a rainy day, we ended up at Chuck E. Cheese. We spent a couple hours blowing through a hundred tokens. And the kids had so much fun. We played ski ball and drove race cars and played Fruit Ninja on a big screen.

summer fun at chuck e cheesekids playing video games at chuck e cheese