Musgrave Orchards

I have driven by the signs for Musgrave Orchards countless times over the past ten years. Always coming or going, but never stopping to check it out.

Finally, I decided to round up the munchkins up one weekend and check out this little gem of an orchard that is right in our backyard (figuratively speaking), along with my baby sister and her family.

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It’s not a you-pick orchard like some of the larger ones further away, but that’s doesn’t mean it isn’t charming and completely worth the stop!

You can walk about the property, and if you’re a dog-owner, pups are allowed on a leash. It’s great for a stroll, a picnic, or some fun fall photos.

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Inside the store you can purchase apples that are grown there at the orchard, homemade apple cider, local honey, chapsticks, and other great goodies!

You can also purchase apples slices and caramel to munch on while hanging out on the veranda where there is often local bands playing music.

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It’s not a big hoorah orchard, but it’s worth your time for sure! We will definitely be back in the future.

Mr. B Turns SEVEN…A Month and a Half Ago…

So, two of my kiddos have had birthdays since we’ve moved and I’ve still not even had time to fully process it.

Mr. B was insistent that he have a birthday party. And because he is kind of a middle child, and I relate to him on so many levels, it was important that we made that happen. Never mind that we were literally moving into our house (our household goods arrived on his actual birthday) and that I was doing it mostly solo because J was out of town up until the party weekend.

I decided to do a combined party for him and Bean, since I figured we should acknowledge her first birthday (I kind of thought that maybe if we pretended it wasn’t happening, then she’d stay a tiny baby forever, alas). Mr. B and Bean’s birthdays are exactly one week apart, so it worked out well. And since Bean’s only friends are in Hawaii, there was no competition on that front, ha.

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Truthfully, even though it wasn’t beautiful, having a brunch birthday party for him was a fantastic was for us to get to visit with many of the friends we had missed for the past year+ while we were away; and I’ve been so non-stop busy since our move, it may not have happened if B hadn’t been so insistent.

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This friend even flew all the way from NYC just to see him! Okay, maybe he flew to see his wife and this was an added bonus, but either way, B was delighted!

I made life as simple as possible and outsourced the cake making to the amazing Rebecca of Stryking Events, who did a superb job. Mr. B wanted a cookie dough cake on top, and chocolate mint on bottom. So not only was the cake freaking gorgeous, it tasted divine to boot. I will hire Rebecca again and again for our party needs because she always goes above and beyond. Always.

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This seriously is the best cake you’ve ever seen, isn’t it!?
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My momma made this dinosaur watermelon that the kids still talk about!

Mr. B is pretty much one of the sweetest kids out there. His heart is so big and so full of good; he really give me hope for the next generation of males (sorry, the climate right now is seeping into everything). When I worry about what the future may hold for the world, I remind myself that B is going to be a part of it, so it will be okay. Eventually.

He’s an absolute cuddle bug. None of my other kids are as cuddly and lovey as B is; not even Sweet M, and that is saying a lot! He loves to study graphic novels and build Lego sets. He’s still obsessed with all things dinosaurs and Jurassic World (hence our fourth dinosaur birthday out of seven…). He loves mythology and science, and I love that loves two such fascinating and complex subjects so immensely.

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He still enjoys playing his ukulele and is also slowly learning the electric guitar (please send ear plugs and coffee…just kidding. Maybe.).

He still has an amazing sense of style that puts the rest of the world to shame. I don’t know how I got such fashionable kids!

B loved Hawaii the least of everyone; he tolerated it and made some fantastic friends and memories, but he was ready to come back to the Midwest pretty much from day one. And he’s melded right back into his roll and life here and hasn’t really looked back.

I cannot wait to see what the future holds for him.

All About Reading

Miss H wasn’t even quite five years old when she sat me down for a very important discussion.

“Momma,” she said seriously, “I need to read. All by myself.”

One part of me was thrilled. Reading is my favorite hobby and pastime. Anything and everything I could ever possibly want to learn or know I’ve gained through reading. And with her being my first kiddo, I was ecstatic to share this with her.

But the other part of me? I was terrified. How in the world was I to teach this sweet girl to read? It really made me start questioning all of my life choices, and maybe I wasn’t really cut out to be her teacher after all? I mean, what if I screwed this up!?

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But like with all things, I dove head first into research and decided I was going to do this for my girl, even if it caused to gray prematurely (it didn’t!).

I did a lot of research. It’s what I’m good at.

And in the end, I settled on the All About Reading curriculum to help us plunge feet first into the wonderful world of reading.

We haven’t looked back since! She’s on level 4 now (which is her favorite because it is purple, and those things are important when you are 8), and is an incredibly proficient reader. I’m always a little surprised when I hear her read a word I didn’t realize she knew, and it’s pretty amazing to watch her completely engulfed in reading; getting lost in adventures for hours on end.

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As an adult and an avid reader, I have learned so many rules in decoding just by teaching Miss H with this curriculum, which has been a lot of fun for both of us.

All About Reading is such an incredibly comprehensive curriculum that you will never need to supplement with other reading instruction in those early years. Its multi-sensory approach “teaches phonics, decoding, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension.”

Every lesson plan is greatly detailed and well laid out for you as the teacher, so all you have to do is open the book and go. With tangible letter tiles, flash cards, word practice sheets, and lots of fun reading games and stories, it’s really hard to not love All About Reading.

 

 

***I was given the ARR Level 4 curriculum from Timberdoodle in exchange for this review. As always, I only support companies and products that I genuinely love, and thoughts and opinions are all my own. ***

Milkbarn

It’s not even a little bit of a secret that quality children’s clothing is kind of my kryptonite and Christmas all wrapped up in one. Nothing makes me happier than dressing my kiddos in soft, beautiful apparel. I mean, I may look like a hot mess most of the time, but my little loves typically make up for it.

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Bamboo is by far my favorite fabric of choice, followed very closely by organic cotton and linen. Bamboo is so soft, and perfect for any season. But really, have you felt fabrics made from bamboo? You need to find some asap if you haven’t. Or maybe not. Because I promise you’ll be addicted for life.

It’s really important to me that my kids wear clothing that they can play in. They are, after all, children. They run and climb and get dirty and love life to a level most of us have forgotten by adulthood. And we value childhood so much in this house. I don’t want to constantly feel like I have to tell them to be careful with their clothes or feel like I’m helicoptering them around. And I obviously want them to have the ability of full-range motion. I have a gaggle of little climbers and they’ve got important business to work on at the playground.

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This lady is an absolute boss, and knows her most important work is done at the park.

One of my absolute favorite brand of clothing for Bean and Sweet M is Milkbarn. The prints and styles are so lovely, fun, and chic; and their clothing is offered in bamboo or organic cotton fabrics, so you’re winning no matter which you choose! Plus, they’re incredibly versatile; sweet enough to be worn to church and soft and comfortable enough to be worn to the playground. And trust me, we’ve done both!

And they’re cozy enough to sleep in (and not just their sleepers, but those are fabulous too!) that if we happen to know we’ll be out past bedtime but don’t want them obviously in their pj’s wherever it is we are going, we purposefully dress them in their Milkbarn outfits because then we don’t have to worry about trying to change sleeping toddlers when we get home. (And my toddlers are pretty specific about their needs for their nighttime sleep!)

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Because bamboo and organic cotton is so soft and stretchy, Milkbarn clothing can also be worn for a great range in sizes, allowing you to buy less and enjoy better quality. Although Bean is solidly in a size 12-18 months at this point in most brands, she can still rock her 6-12 month Milkbarn products with ease, or wear her 12-18 month apparel with comfort, and no risk of outgrowing tomorrow like some other items in her closet. If we are being honest, even Sweet M, who is solidly in a size 3, still wears his 12-18 months Milkbarn rompers because he loves them and they’re stretchy enough not to look like we’ve squeezed him into them, haha.

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Milkbarn offers a wide array of products – dresses, rompers, onesies, sleepers, sleep bags, headbands, baby towels, swaddle blankets, and more! They can pretty much offer all of your baby apparel needs, and are one of my favorite items to gift at baby showers or for new babies. Because really, every new baby needs to me wrapped in soft and cozy Milkbarn apparel.

And if fantastic apparel wasn’t enough, Milkbarn also works for an amazing cause – Exile International, which helps child soldiers and those orphaned in Uganda and DR Congo. So not only is it clothing your baby will feel great wearing, but it’s clothing you’ll feel great putting your money toward!

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***This post was written in exchange for Milkbarn products. As always, all opinions are genuine, and I only support companies that I truly adore. 

I Let My Kids Play Outside. Unsupervised.

It’s been a long time since I’ve said something publicly and had to stop and wonder if I shouldn’t have. But I mentioned in front of another momma last week that all four of my kids play outside while I make dinner, and often after dinner while I do clean up. Alone. (And many other times too, but those are the two times they’re pretty much always out there.)

She looked uncomfortable. Like maybe I’d just confessed that I sometimes let my 8 year old drive herself to the mini mart to pick me up a 6 pack (I mean, obviously, I’m a classy lady. I’d at least ask for a proper bottle of wine, ha.)

I found myself stammering to justify it in the moment, but I probably only made it worse. And later I was kicking myself anyway. Why did I feel so compelled to try and justify my parenting (or lack there of, that’s up to you) to a semi-stranger?

Why?

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Well, because we’re living in the 21st century where literally every decision is scrutinized under a microscope, and it doesn’t matter what you choose, you’re going to be wrong to someone.

Because we are living in the age of media. Where although crime has actually gone down over the decades, everyone is far more aware and terrified because all they hear is awful stories.

I’m not going to lie to you.

I have zero fears of my kids being kidnapped. Like when people say they can’t let their kids be outside alone because they may be kidnapped, that doesn’t even cross my mind. I can’t say it’s absolutely impossible, but the likelihood is so slim that it’s not even on my radar.

do worry about them gouging each others eyes out with sticks. Or falling off of a swing and breaking their arm (been there done, that. Me, not them.) I occasionally worry that the 2.5 year old may have a temporary lapse in self-control and venture into the street after something. But he’s always out there with his older siblings, and they typically are all engaged in some deep form of play that he’d never be able to squirrel away and get as far as the road without them noticing (and he never has. And H and B simply never did, so again, not that it couldn’t happen, but it’s not a constant worry.)

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I think what my children gain from free, unadulterated play is far more than they could ever gain with constant supervision, and is worth that mild risk of something going wrong. (And if we are being completely truthful here, every single injury my kids have had that landed us in the emergency room have happened with them just an arms reach or so away from me; not on their own.)

When I was a kid I can remember roaming the woods with my friends. We were as young as Mr. B; 7 years old. No adults nearby. We would roam and explore and play for hours before resurfacing for sustenance. It was beautiful and wonderful, and the type of freedom I wish for my children.

We’d get on our bikes and bike to the gas station for candy or to the playground or to the library. The world was our oyster.

But I also realize that my children aren’t privy to that sort of freedom.

We don’t have woods, and as far as I know, none of our close friends do either. If I let my children bike around town on their own, let’s be honest: someone would surely call DCS. Because that’s the world we live in these days.

So what I can give my children is a few hours in their own backyard, playing without interference from me or J; allowed to make up their own world of pretend. Allowed to make their own rules and negotiations.

Allowed to just be kids.

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(And sometimes I peek through the back windows because I’m a cool, free-range momma, but I also worry like crazy because I brought those babies into this world and I want them whole and in one piece forever and ever.)

Return to the Midwest

Well, we are not in Hawaii anymore. I guess that’s obvious at this point. It was a whirlwind of an adventure. We essentially went from looking at housing that was closer to J’s work, to packing our stuff and leaving the island in less than a month. But that’s the government for you. You have to be ready at the drop of a hat.

I’m still processing the move. As are the kiddos. They’ve done awesome though. The big kids transitioned back to the Midwest with zero issues. And Bean hasn’t had any noticeable issues with it either. But for Sweet M, it has definitely been a struggle. He asks to go the beach daily. He talks about his missing friends nonstop. He’s sleeping poorly, and experiencing frequent night terrors. He’s incredibly clingy, which for him, is not the norm. He isn’t dealing with separation, even in small amounts, from anyone in his immediate family well.

But he will get there. I’m confident of that. With a lot of love and patience, he will get there. Kids are super resilient, and Sweet M is no exception. He’s the toughest little dude I know.

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For everything I miss about Hawaii, there is something I love about the Midwest, and vice versa. It makes my feelings so jumbled up.

I miss the ocean. The smell of the water.

I miss my friends. My community.

But I’m glad to have space in this big ol’ house of ours for our family to expand in. And I’m thrilled to be able to afford to eat again, bahaha. Air conditioning and a dish washer is a luxury I had deeply missed. And I love the lack of traffic and the ability to drive anywhere I want.

The seasons are starting to change and I realize I missed that, too. I’m not looking forward to snow though. I didn’t miss that. Not even an incy wincy amount.

But I love that we can hang out at the playground and not sweat to death. That we can walk nearly everywhere we want to go.

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I’ve brought a lot of that aloha lifestyle back with us, too.

I’m not trying to do a million things anymore. I’m embracing the less is more. H and B are doing music lessons, and that’s it. I refuse to run around on the week day evenings. We are just chill being and enjoying. Although the babies could be doing a ton all day, we are content playing with duplos and being outside, and honoring naps.

I’m not stressing out over whether or not the house is picked up and looks akin to something out of a Home and Gardens Magazine. Sorry, but not really. I just can’t do that anymore. I mean, not like it ever did in the first place, but Lord knows I stressed myself out over it.

I’m spending a lot more time by myself. Well, by myself with my kids, I’m never truly alone, ha. At first, despite being an introvert, I found that uncomfortable, but I’m really embracing it now and loving how this time gives me the space to enjoy these kiddos as they properly should be. They’re not competing for my attention with friends or activities.

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I don’t know how long this season of contentment will last. I tend to always get a little stir crazy and antsy after a while. But now that we are officially moved in – though still working on unpacking and making this house ours again – I’m feeling really at peace with where we are in life right now.

It’s not Hawaii, that’s for sure. But it’s still something beautiful.

England

We finished Europe in England. Primarily London, but we did venture to Windsor one day. We intentionally chose our last week in England because we knew we’d want some place where we could just be chill and not feel like we needed to see and do too much.

Basically, if J told me to pack my bags because we were moving to England tomorrow, I probably wouldn’t even bother packing. I’d just go without batting an eyelash. London is my favorite city in the world. I know J would prefer Spain if we were doing Europe, and I’d be okay with that too. But a little piece of my heart will always be in England.

We stayed at an amazing Air BnB for the week – it was the home of a family on holiday and it was so nice to explode and decompress and make our own meals and do laundry and just basically live for a week.

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We met up with one of my good university friends at St. James Park one day. The kids loved exploring the grounds and the birds and ducks. And of course, the amazing playground. And it was nice to catch up with my friend and feel like a real human who has relationships outside of my children. I mean, they’re cute kids, but sometimes it’s easy to feel a little lost with who I am apart from them.

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Of course, being at St. James Park meant that we were right by Buckingham Palace, so we knocked out some sight-seeing as well. We are pretty good multi-taskers.

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We took lots of naps and explored the nearby parks and ponds where we were staying. It kept things real and everyone happy.

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This fox just walked right up to this lady and drank the water from her water bottle. Like no big deal.

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She’d take a lot of steps for over a month, but London is where she truly started walking like the boss she is.

We also enjoyed walking around London City. We took the kids to Tower Bridge and the Globe Theatre. We will for sure go back again one day when the babies are big enough to sit through shows and we will just go go go and watch a million shows. The plays and musicals in London are better than any I’ve seen anywhere else. And I’ve seen quite a bit. I mean, I don’t have a theatre degree, but I know what I enjoy watching. And London is where it is at. And I’d love to watch Shakespeare at the Globe since it’s something I’ve yet to do.

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But we’ve got plenty of time for all of that. I want them to enjoy their travels age-appropriately. The big kids love the theatre, but so do J and I and neither of us wanted to be the one to stay behind, haha.

We trekked over to Windsor for a day and visited another friend. That was so lovely and fun. The kids enjoyed seeing the castle (one of my favorites!) and the town of Windsor. The heat wave was breaking around this time, thank god, so it was a bit cooler and more enjoyable.

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Don’t mind Freja’s look of pure terror. She’s used to being that deeply loved. We are working on toning down the love though, because people should only be touched if they consent. And yes, even a 2 year old can learn that.

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We hit up the Natural History Museum one day. We didn’t even see everything there was to see and we spent most of the day there. It was an absolute blast and I would not be opposed to returning there again. And we wanted to go to the Science Museum as well, but just not time.

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Our last day of London was an epic trip to Hamley’s. I’d been telling the kids about Hamley’s loooong before we even went to Europe, and it did not disappoint. I mean, what kid does not love a toy store? I enjoyed Hamley’s all those years ago when I was studying in England, and I was long past the age of playing. We had so much fun exploring each floor and all the gems they held. And the kids were so awesome about choosing just one toy to take home with us. As crazy as they drive me sometimes (oftentimes?) I really do have to give them all credit for being pretty much the best humans I know.

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It was also pretty entertaining that none of them picked anything “new.” It was all the things they love most. H got Calico Critters. B got Legos. M got Duplos. And baby F got a stuffie with an “I Love Bean” shirt (which was just kinda perfect since we call her Bean). But I love that I know those kids inside and out. I grabbed a few fun books for them because books always have my heart, and you can simply never  have too many.

And then that was it. We were off. Back to the mainland where we hadn’t been for a year. Back to our house that we hadn’t lived in for a year. Back to resume lives that, for a year, we had disappeared from while being island dwellers. But more on all of that later.

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Paris

I’m going to get slayed admitting this here, but I don’t love Paris. I know! I’ve been there half a dozen times and J even proposed there. And I still just don’t like it. I mean, I really love the idea of Paris. I think old Paris is what is alluring. But the reality of it is that it’s just not for me.

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J is grimacing because the sun is in his eyes. Or because he’s 10 years deep now and can’t get out, haha.

That said, I am so freaking thrilled that we were able to take Miss H to Paris. I’m glad she got to cross that off her bucket list and all of her eight-year-old dreams were able to come true (for those days anyway).

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Paris is big and dirty and not wholly family or kid friendly. And not that the world needs to cater to kids, but maybe accepting them as actual persons would be cool. And all the things I used to love about Paris 10+ years ago have mostly changed and been ruined – large walls around the the Eiffel Tower, and much of the insides of Versailles is roped off so you feel like you’re being pushed through a cattle call.

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He’s grimacing again. Hm.

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A statue in Versailles.

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This is definitely the face of a mischievous little brute who’d run into the Notre Dame.

It probably didn’t help that in this city Sweet M escaped into the Notre Dame without us, ran onto the tram tacks while I was adjusting his baby sister in the Ergo, got his foot stuck in a metro door, and escaped the metro wholly at one point. Is it a surprise he’s the one aging me that quickest?

And before you start judging me or pointing fingers – I get it! I was you. I laugh to think I once thought 2 year old B was a handful. He climbed bookshelves and cabinets occasionally, but never tried to be the cover of an international news story. Sweet M is a breed all of his own.

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We also entered an extreme heat wave throughout Europe at this time. For someone who ended up really loving Hawaii, I still do not love the heat. At all.

But Miss H got to see Paris and really that was what it was all for.And I’d do it a million times over to see her little face light up at the sights.  She was totally committed to the idea, and I loved that.

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You can’t actually kiss Oscar Wilde’s tombstone anymore (omg, who would do that!? Germs…and if you know me, you know I’m laughing so hard right now because you can bet I once kissed that gravestone!). But she pretended. After all, he is her namesake. Our little Wilde Thing.

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And it was fun reminiscing to her about my first experience in Paris when I was 12. And also about being there with her papa when he proposed. It’s actually a bit amusing; for all the really wonderful memories and experiences in that city, you’d think I would like it a wee bit more.

Regardless, it was a fun experience for the kids and I hope they got something valuable and beautiful out of it.  Their little smiling faces and shrieks of delight made it worth it. It makes everything worth it, every time.

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Why yes, he did order this for breakfast. He loves his food as much as his momma does.
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This. This right here is why I adore this man so ridiculously much. 50 bags to transport and Sweet M just couldn’t hang and only wanted his papa, and he didn’t miss a beat. He could have said no, or been a grump about it, or a million other things but he didn’t. And not just this time, but EVERY time. He’s always a rock star who loves our babies so fiercely he’d lasso the moon for them if needed. He’s my favorite.

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My budding little photographer.

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Cordoba

Cordoba, Cordoba, rah rah rah!

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Okay, that’s definitely the wrong country, but for whatever reason, that is always what comes into my head when I think of Cordoba.

Cordoba is a gorgeous city in Andalusia, and the home of the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba. Despite identifying as Catholic myself, I don’t particularly love that this beautiful mosque is indeed used as a Catholic church in this day and age. Yes, it was the site originally of a Christian church before the great Mosque was built in 784. I won’t give you entire history schpeel here, but regardless of how the history of it has all played out, I still think it should be utilized as a mosque. Not that it matters what I think, the Catholic Church is not giving it up, ha.

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I really wanted my kiddos to see the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba. It’s one of the grandest places I’ve ever been, and I really just find the whole building and experience to be majestic and humbling.

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Of course the babies won’t remember any of it at all, and the big kids may only retain vague memories in the long run if anything at all, but it still matters. To me, it matters. For them to have experiences that make them realize that the world is so much bigger than them; that history and cultures are deep and intertwining and beautiful and heartbreaking and worth being knowledgeable of. It matters.

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They’ll have photos and the next time they’re watching Rick Steves and see him wandering about Cordoba, they’ll be able to say, “I was there! I saw the elephant tusk on the ceiling!”

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And maybe one day one of my kiddos will develop a love for history. Or maybe a passions for different cultures. Or maybe they’ll just enjoy experiences that take them outside of their comfort zones, and travelling the world in order to enjoy and learn about things they can’t find in their own backyard.

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Sevilla

Well…I got really busy, and exhausted. And for some reason WordPress no longer wanted to work from my phone and we didn’t have our computers until the beginning of this month, and then lacked internet until today. Sooooo, there is a bit of a lag from our European adventure.

Alas.

We spent 5 days in Sevilla and it was so extremely lovely. It was enough time to not feel rushed, and to just take our time and truly enjoy the city.

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That was really our biggest focus with this trip. To just slow down and enjoy. I know there were moments where we didn’t accomplish that, but I do think that overall we managed.

Have I ever mentioned how much I love Spain? It is so incredbly family friendly and no one seems to have any unrealistic expectation for children.

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At restaurants no one bats an eye if your toddler is squirmy or your kids talk too loudly or your breastfeeding the baby (uncovered – the horror!). If your toddler has a meltdown in the afternoon after a busy day you get offers of sweets from strangers, or offers to help in some way, but you don’t get people’s exasperated and annoyed sighs of disapproval (which I’ve completely learned to ignore at this point in my life, but it’s nice to not even have to bothered with them, you know?).

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And it’s clean. Unlike Berlin and Paris where I literally had to bathe my kids every night because they were streaked in dirt after walking around; I think I bathed my kiddos once in the whole 10 days we were in Spain (which is pretty on par for their bathing routines, ha).

Sevilla is gorgeous. It’s where I first held J’s hand a million years ago because I when I was young and bit prudish, and it was all I was ready to give at that point, and thankfully he was a gentleman and okay with that.

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I think the kids all enjoyed Sevilla as well.

I know B was burnt out on walking, but that was pretty much the whole of our trip. It’s hard being at that age where you’re just too big for the stroller and not quite big enough to keep up yet.

The Plaza de Espana was a favorite and we frequented it daily. It was built for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929, and its beauty does no disappoint.

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And they all enjoyed the frequent musicians and dancers about town. Sweet M realized he’s enthralled with tap dancing. That was fun to watch as he kept asking for “pennies” to give the street performer.

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They all enjoyed the bull fighting stadium – La Plaza de Toros (Momma had mixed feelings about that one). The guided tour of this 18th century building is ridiculously informative though, no matter what your actual feelings toward bull fighting may be. The rich history held within these walls was something I definitely wanted the kidlets exposed to, and they didn’t seem too bored with it.

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We of course hit up the Cathedral – Catedral de Sevilla -, which boasts being both the largest in square footage in the world, as well as where Christopher Columbus is buried (again…mixed feelings. Having both a history and human rights degree makes life fun!). It dates back to 1401, and Cathedrals are kinda my thing. I let the kids play at a bajillion different playgrounds and eat ice cream until they nearly explode, and they let Momma visit cathedrals and, occasionally, art museums. It all works out.

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But I will leave you with a few of my favorite photos that can sum up our experiences better than I can with words.

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