What We’re Learning


We’re still working on our Shakespeare books. We’ve moved onto learning the second line of our verse we’re memorizing.

“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,                                                                                                          Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows.”

I’m hoping to finish up reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream and then we’ll probably move on from Shakespeare! We still have so many fun things to learn about!

We also spent some time at the library today and picked out some more books!


Travel Refunds

Well, yesterday was a good day for us in terms of travel!

I use the free Tripit app and I love it. I am able to enter all our trip info into it and have all our confirmation numbers in one spot. I used to print out all of the confirmations to take with us, but now I am comfortable just having them stored in the app on my phone. I have it synched with my e-mail so if an e-mail comes through with travel info in it, it automatically enters into the app. It really helps to keep all our travel information organized.

Yesterday I received an e-mail from Tripit saying that the fare for our June flight to Hawaii has dropped in price so we may be eligible for a refund. I never think to check flights for price changes, I did get really good at checking the price for our last cruise we went on. I ended up getting us each several hundred dollars in onboard credit from price drops! So I checked on Alaska.com and found that the price was lower.  Justin called Alaska and told them about the price difference and they credited us the difference. $49 each person, so $245 total. The really great thing about this is…we didn’t pay for our own flights.  Justin does some work for his mom’s business and the business is paying for us to come out for him to do some work.  We couldn’t credit back the card used for the purchase, the refund only came in the form of a credit for use on a future trip. In this instance that rule definitely worked to our advantage!

We used similar credit for our trip to Disneyland last year. We booked a night flight to Florida for our cruise last year and they ended up canceling the flight and rescheduling us. Justin called and semi-complained and they gave each of us $200 in credit for a future flight. Which was enough for us to fly to Disneyland for free!

The unfortunate thing is earlier in the day yesterday I had booked our Seattle to Boston portion of our flights to Europe, and we paid full price out of pocket for them. If I had waited then I could have used the credit. But that’s okay. I’m sure we’ll have another vacation planned soon enough to use those credits. Maybe a trip for just me and Justin?

Our Weekend

We didn’t go away this weekend, but we did have a great Sunday afternoon in Olympia.

We went to Tugboat Annie’s and had the Barge Burger. How do you even slice that thing up? We did it like a pizza!




Then we walked around the capital building. We actually hadn’t taken the boys there before and we kept promising “someday soon we’ll take you there”, and Sunday was finally the day! We walked around and Justin gave the boys a mini-lesson in government. They had some free activity books for kids, one on Legislature and one on Washington State. I’m looking forward to the boys working on those!

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Then we ended our fun afternoon by getting Menchies!


It was a great, fun afternoon nice and close to home!

What we’re learning

We like to do some learning before we go on vacation. It’s important to us that our boys understand what we’re seeing and I’m hoping that later in life they’ll be able to have memories of those places.  I’m hoping to do a post each Friday highlighting what we’ve been learning about! All of our learning happens during weekend and after school hours since we don’t homeschool. I try to make it as fun as possible and have a lot of books on the subject laying around so the boys are learning even when they don’t know it!

We have a lot of fun stuff to learn about before we go to Europe. We just finished learning about castles and medieval times. Of course the boys loved all of that learning!

Now we’ve moved onto a couple weeks of learning about Shakespeare. We do a lot of reading together as a family so fitting Shakespeare into our days isn’t as hard as you might imagine! The library is a great resource for us. I like to go onto Amazon and do some searching and then go to the library website with a list of books I’m already interested in. Then I’m able to put them on hold and I get a text message when they’re ready to pick up! So easy!

A few of the books we’re currently reading.



I selected this book to read for myself. In the book he really pushes memorization of Shakespeare for young kids and that’s basically all the book is about. I hadn’t even thought of doing any memorization but he makes it seem so approachable in the book, so I decided to give it a shot. My boys are pretty good memorizers, they do scripture memorization at school so this isn’t a foreign concept to them!






The first passage we’re memorizing is from A Midsummers Night’s Dream.

“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine”

This is the first passage the author recommends and I thought it was a strange choice but as we started talking about it and learning about it, I think it’s a great choice. We were able to talk about the different flowers and the imagery that Shakespeare uses. We’ve talked about the whole passage but so far we’ve just focused on the first line.





I had the boys do a watercolor picture while I started reading the play. Then they wrote the line on their picture. All 3 boys have this line memorized so now we’re ready to move on! Learning Shakespeare can be fun!

We’re also reading about Shakespeare’s life. I love love love the Who was… books. They are so appealing to kids and written in a way that makes history interesting.

So, why did I choose to have the boys learn about Shakespeare? I decided to focus a few weeks on literature of Europe, London in particular. And I really couldn’t do that without some Shakespeare. We’re also going to be reading some Dickens and a kids version of Sherlock Holmes. And the kids are excited to read more Paddington Bear stories after we saw the movie, which is set in London so I’m grouping that into our learning!

London is home of the Shakespeare Globe. We probably won’t go inside it because it’s expensive, especially for a family of 5! We just miss the season for plays which is something we would have paid to go to there, so that’s disappointing.  But we will go check out the outside of it. I want the boys to be able to have the visual image of that. I really hope later in life when they study Shakespeare they’re able to remember visiting the area and therefore be better able to engage and learn.

So the plan for next week is to continue with our memorization and also start to read some of his other work!

Past Vacation – New York part 3

See part 1 here and part 2 here.

Day 5: We started our day out at The Museum of Natural History. It was as awesome as we’d imagine it. We didn’t see everything but I feel like we were able to see all the highlights. A person could spend days there!



Afterwards we grabbed a late lunch from Shake Shack (again, so good) and walked over to Central Park. Now I had big plans in mind for the afternoon. We were going to rent bikes and explore Central Park. Unfortunately the bike place we had mapped was closed for the season. I know there are other bike rentals around, but Central Park is big and we were tired. So we decided just to do the ice skating we had planned. In doing my research I had found that one rink at Central Park was cheaper than the other, so we headed to that one. Which was also closed. Not sure why. So that was a bummer also. So to make the best of some unfortunate luck we spent some time exploring, we walked some of the paths and went to Belvedere Castle.


Then we let Cohen drive one of the sailboats, which he loved!


We headed back to Times Square and had dinner at Ellen’s Stardust Diner. This was on my list of things to do, it came highly recommended in my reading about New York City with kids, the waitstaff takes turns singing. Dinner plus entertainment. But we were tired and actually not all the hungry. This was a time we should have deferred from our plan and just gone back to the room, but we didn’t and it turned out to just be an “okay” experience for us all.


Day 6: We got up bright and early because Taylor Swift was on Good Morning America and their studio is right in Times Square. We are all big Taylor Swift fans in this family! It was fun to see how they produce a tv show like that. And Cohen even made it on tv!


Then we headed back to the Central Park area. We went to the famous FAO Schwarz and Justin checked out the underground Apple store! Then we went into the park and Justin and Cohen did some ice skating at the more expensive place! It was a better rink anyway, and we got better pictures!


When we started planning this vacation we had several Broadway shows on our list. That was before we researched the cost of Broadway shows! So we had settled on just doing Stomp and we were trying our hardest to be content with our decision! We checked the TKTS booth but none of the shows we were interested in ever dropped into our price range! Justin was chatting with his dad on the phone and he told us to pick a show and he’d treat us. So we selected Lion King and had a great night on Broadway! Thanks Grandpa Bill if you happen to read this!


Day 7: This was our last day in New York. Our flight left around 5 that evening so we had until late afternoon to finish our exploring. We conquered the last thing on our to do list, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. We had been reading The  Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler with Cohen to hopefully get him excited about this museum. As it turns out that wasn’t necessary! This boy has an amazing art teacher and Cohen was so excited to find art by Monet, Picasso, and Rodin, all artists he was familiar with! This makes me so excited to take him to Europe!


Plus they have some pretty awesome armor exhibits and Egyptian art!


After we left the museum we gave Cohen some time at a pretty cool playground. It was nice to find places for him to just play and be a kid even in a big city like that. This boy is used to being able to play outside and cities aren’t always the best places for that! Then we went back to our motel/hostel and collected our bags (they charged us a fee to hold them for us. Boo to them.) and did another thing on the top of Cohen’s list. Ride in a taxi! He even flagged it down (hailed it?).


We almost got run over by a bus, but I guess that’s all part of the New York taxi experience! We only rode it 4 blocks to the train station, but it was a must do on Cohen’s list! Then we rode the train to the airport to catch our plane. We had a great time on this trip. It is always so nice to have the one on one time with each boy, their personality really comes alive and our kids all thrive on these trips. I’m hoping Cohen is able to remember some of these experiences when he gets older, I feel like we were able to do some really cool things on this trip. Definitely things on my bucket list, if I were to have a bucket list!

Oh and we ate Shake Shack and cheesecake from Juniors way more times than I care to admit, so fill them into our itinerary wherever you see fit and you’re probably correct!

Past Vacation – New York part 2

See Part 1 of our New York vacation here.

Now that you’ve heard about how we paid for our trip to New York, let’s get onto the fun stuff! Here’s what we did while we were there!

Day 1: this was our travel day. We arrived in New York around 4 pm, we ate dinner at the airport because I had looked at the area around our hotel and there wasn’t any type of restaurant options so we would have had to eat at the hotel restaurant since we didn’t have a car. We went to our hotel after eating and pretty much went right to sleep. We were tired!

Day 2: We rode the hotel’s airport shuttle back to the airport and then caught a train into the city. It was a very easy process and took us right into Penn Station right in the city


Cohen’s first look at the city!

From there we walked to our hotel in Times Square and got our first glimpse of the chaos of Times Square!


We left our bags at our hotel, since our room wasn’t ready we left them at a bag check. Then we did some major walking! We walked to Grand Central Station, where we checked out the hole in the ceiling we had learned about! Then onto the New York Public Library, Rockefeller Center, Magnolia Bakery and finally a few stops at some fun shops in Times Square.




By then we were tired! We went back to the hotel where thankfully our room was ready and we all did some resting. Cohen even took a nap! Every vacation we try to do a total splurge type of thing. I think we can get into the mind frame of being cheap on vacation, which is important, but I also think it is important to treat ourselves to something super special at least once each vacation. This time we decided to splurge on going to Ninja New York.My mom had seen it on The View and told me about it, it definitely sounded like something right up Cohen’s alley!


Cohen loved it! Flaming food, our own little “ninja house” to eat in, people stabbing him with their fake knives (that was weird!), and his very own ninja knife and headband…worth every penny to do once! The food wasn’t that great, but the experience was awesome!

Then we walked around the 9/11 Memorial. I can’t even begin to comprehend all that happened there that day. I felt the same way when we went to Normandy in France. My mind can’t even process what happened where I was standing. Like on the same ground in the same spot. And yet life goes on and things are repaired and people keep on living. I hope that Cohen is able to store away in his memory what it was like to be there. We talked about what happened there and how it happened and we did some learning on it before we left. He watched a few videos and we read some books, but he hasn’t fully been exposed to the horrors that happened there.


Day 3: We had a bright and early reservation to head out to the Statue of Liberty. I booked through Statue Cruises.


I waited too long to make our reservation so we weren’t able to climb all the way up to the crown like we had originally planned. We were able to climb up to the pedestal. I think we were all content with that and don’t feel like we missed out at all by not doing the crown. Then we rode the boat over to Ellis Island and wandered around there. This was one of the things I was most looking forward to on the vacation, it had been badly damaged in Hurricane Sandy and was closed for a long time while they repaired damages so I had realistic expectations going into it. I think it was awe inspiring just to stand in the building that so many people had passed through and imagine their stories. I think most of this was a bit out of Cohen’s comprehension but I hope he’s able to remember being there later in life.


After we took the boat back to Manhattan we let Cohen have a few minutes at a playground he had seen earlier in the day, then we got our walking feet on again and walked through the Financial District, including Wall Street and then up to Chinatown where we bought candy and shopped at a few stores that were on my list to visit, including Pearl River.


Then we rode the Subway back up to Times Square and meet up with a friend from Shelton for some Shake Shack. So good. Then we went back to our hotel and promptly collapsed! Justin was kind enough to bring us some yummy pizza back to our room for some nutrition later!

Day 4: We rode the subway across to Brooklyn and wandered around the waterfront. Even found a fun carousel to ride on. The city and our being so busy had been a bit overwhelming to Cohen, he had been bringing his buddy woof with him everywhere we went which is very unlike him, so it was nice to see a great big smile on his face while he rode the carousel!


We walked back across the Brooklyn Bridge and got stuck in the worst crowd of people I’ve ever been in. It was crazy!


We grabbed some takeout from Momofuku which was high on my “to eat” list. And ate it quickly outside of the theater where we had tickets to see Stomp. Stomp was awesome and perfect for Cohen. I love to see him use random things to make music now! After Stomp we grabbed some Gelato and went back to our hotel for some rest time. That evening we went to the Empire State Building. This was something we had gone very back and forth on because it is expensive to go up. But every time I asked Cohen what he was most looking forward to in New York he said going up the Empire State Building, so we did it. And he says it was his favorite thing we did!

Tomorrow I’ll post part 3 to finish up our trip!

Past Vacation – New York Part 1


New York

We took Cohen to New York for his super special birthday vacation in early November last year.  Cohen is the boy we most imagined enjoying the city. Judah is like his mom, and not a city lover at all. We tend to get too overwhelmed! Cohen even was overwhelmed a few times, but was a great trooper for it all!

First the logistics of how we paid for the trip.

We flew Alaska Airlines roundtrip, Seattle-Newark. We used our Barclay Arrival points from both of our cards to redeem for flights and ended up paying around $200 out of pocket total for the flights.



Our first night we stayed out by the airport because hotels in the city are so expensive. We used 20,000 Hilton points to stay at the Doubletree by Newark. It included transportation from the airport and then back to the airport in the morning where we caught a train into the city.

Justin got the Citi Hilton Honors card just for this trip.  It comes with 2 free weekend nights. It does have a $95 annual fee. We stayed 3 nights at the Doubletree Times Square, 2 of them on the free weekend nights and 1 on points (80,000). For the nights we were there the hotel was priced at around $400 per night.

I also had enough Starwood points from my Starwood Preferred Guest Amex card for us to stay one night at the Sheraton Times Square. This hotel was priced at $500 per night for the night we stayed. Totally not worth $500… it was nice enough but nothing special at all!

For our last night we had zero hotel points left to use! Hotels are so expensive in New York. It’s crazy! We had originally planned to stay at the Doubletree out at the airport again but they changed our flight from an early morning flight to an evening flight and we didn’t want to stay all day out by the airport. So we searched and searched for a place to stay in the city. In the end we chose New York Budget Inn which is a hostel. We were in a 3 person private room with a shared bathroom in the hall. We paid a little over $100 for it and it worked out great.


So in total we paid about $300 out of pocket for our flights and hotels. Tomorrow I’ll share about what we did with our time in the city!