Clinton Corners Day 4: LEGOLAND Remix

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, we purchased a LEGOLAND package that included two days at the park and one hotel night. That allowed us today to revisit some attractions we’d skipped over yesterday, as well as revisit some favorites needing a second look.

#1BigSis’s favorite from yesterday was the LEGO Factory Adventure. I’d gone with her yesterday, so today she took her dad along for the adventure.

Reception drive up at LEGOLAND Hotel

Yesterday we skipped past Kingdom and Ninjago. Fortunately today a few rides that were closed yesterday were open today. Some staff members described short handed staffing thanks to Covid as a reason for the closures, but we learned 100% of the Slushee machines were closed due to Yellow Jackets stinging one too many guests.

MiniFig Displays

Amir and #1BigSis hit the spinning teacups today since they were closed yesterday. I suppose technically they weren’t teacups, rather, the “Spinning Disco,” but that’s the closest equivalent. Happily, no one threw up.

Next stop, face painting. We’d scoped it out yesterday, but the line was long and we’d discovered it late in the day. #1BigSis decided to be a rainbow tiger. Amazingly she sat still for the whole thing, save for one emergency moment where she had a big booger that needed attention. (Sorry Kaye).

She said next time we all 4 need to be rainbow tigers

I think the pace of yesterday started catching up with me today. Between my wasp-stung right foot (still swollen) and the SI joint pain I’ve been battling since pregnant with #1LilBrother, today was a reminder that 43 and pregnant isn’t smooth sailing. I stopped to rest at every shady bench I saw, and gained a new appreciation for disability friendly spaces.

We stopped by another MiniFig station for some construction time

About 4 years ago, Amir started collecting LEGO MiniFigs. I think as a result of saving a few of the LEGO Star Wars Christmas Advent Calendar friends over the years, his hobby gained traction, and now has over 200 back home. When we were at LEGOLAND Denmark, he even made one representing each of (at the time) the three of us.

This was #1BigSis’s contribution to the family collection

While I rested, Amir and #1BigSis rode a few rides, including the Mini Dragon rollercoaster, her first ever.

No scaredy-cats here

In a miraculous feat, we did manage to get one photo of all four of us while exploring Ninjago. I asked a nice woman to take her photo, and she was mortified when her preteen daughter jumped in front of the camera and blocked the view, not realizing her mom was helping out strangers.

A motley crew, but we have fun

LEGOLAND was certainly hard to say goodbye to, but exhaustion made the decision easy. There were a few tears on the trek back to the car. But once I took some Tylenol and put my feet up, I stopped whining.

Robots give the best hugs

Back at The Willows, the rain from Ida left everything even greener than when we’d left. Amir threw a fishing pole in but got no bites. We walked the grounds, hoping to spot another deer (I saw one when alone on day 1, and still no one believes me). Sneaking up on skittish deer with our squirmy crew is a futile effort.

Not much makes him feel small
All the snugs

A gamble, I climbed into the hammock, not knowing if I’d be able to climb out on my own. It didn’t take long for everyone else to pile in with me, and Amir captured the photo that encapsulated everything that taking a vacation can heal.

A fitting end to a beautiful day

Tomorrow is Saturday of Labor Day Weekend, and we plan to check out the Farmer’s Market at Millbrook as well as a playground close by. Sunday we have a beginner’s horseback riding lesson scheduled for #1BigSis. Trying not to over-schedule us, but to balance that with taking in all these amazing experiences while we can.

Clinton Corners Day 3: LEGOLAND New York

Last fall when we learned they were building a new LEGOLAND in the US, we knew we needed to go. In July 2019 we went to the original LEGOLAND in Denmark and enjoyed an unforgettable adventure.

LEGOLAND Hotel lobby artwork

The 41 mile drive took us about an hour and 15 minutes as the roads are 2 lanes and wind through vibrant small towns dotted with red barns and antique shops.

LEGO Kingdom Room

We lucked out and received a free early check-in to our room – a welcome surprise since we had a crew ready to potty and unwind a bit before hitting the theme park itself.

A little HGTV before the main event
More lobby artwork

Park tickets are available by reservation (prepurchase) only as a way to limit volumes and be more Covid-19 compliant. We took advantage of a 2 day park pass with one hotel night promo which is just the amount of time needed to explore everything without feeling rushed.

#1BigSis making friends as usual

The park offers a combination of visual candy (hundreds of LEGO sculptures) along with rides and carnival style games. Everything is designed for younger families, with rides even broken out into ages 3-5 and 6-14 in some areas.

#1BigSis never passes up a carousel ride

First stop: the LEGO Carousel… kids can ride Duplo block animals or sit in LEGO teacups that spin. #1BigSis picked a giraffe with red spots and pink stripes.

After some construction time, we turned right and headed down the hill to MiniLand, the iconic miniature cityscapes of all LEGOLANDs. We visited NYC (complete with Upper, Mid and Lower Manhattan), San Fran, DC, and many other US landmarks.

Guggenheim Museum overlooking Central Park
Lady Liberty

Because the park is just a few months old, the cars and cultural references in these models are up to date. When we were in Denmark, the original LEGOLAND, I distinctly remember the building replicas surrounded by 1980s model cars, indicative of the era in which they were constructed.

The 9/11 Memorial and Freedom Tower in Lower Manhattan

We are just a week away from the 20th Anniversary of the attacks on September 11. This morning I watched part of a documentary commemorating the milestone anniversary and reflected on just how much has changed these last 20 years.

The Mad Scientist
San Francisco Harbor

Not widely known, but Amir is obnoxiously good at winning carnival game prizes. Lucky for us, he’s that dad that always wins the giant stuffed animal on just the first or second try, ensuring that #1BigSis never goes home empty handed, and that I am constantly rearranging our giant stuffy collection back home to make room for new friends.

The fishing game on crack
I came in 2nd place on the water gun game

After game time, Amir took #1BigSis on the Pirate Ship Splash Battle (video below speaks 1000 words) and the Anchor’s Away spinning ship. #1LilBrother and I hung back with the stroller, and both our stomachs are a bit more delicate.

Riders shoot water cannons up at bystanders who can shoot back
And to think this was AFTER lunch, too

Lunch was admittedly the low point for the day. The park has been open just a few months now, but food service is definitely an area for improvement. We expect theme park food prices but have likely been spoiled over the years by Busch Gardens Williamsburg which, while costly, offers food that matches the price tag.

As I mentioned, the rides are well-suited for various age ranges. The cars are a popular spot, with ample staffing to keep drivers moving forward without crashing.

Car matches the dress
Interactive displays play music and invite exploration

After the rides, we headed indoors to the Build & Test Lab where kids (and maybe an adult or two) can build cars they send down steep ramps and buildings they can subject to earthquake style forces to see how they hold up.

First car prototype made it all the way down the ramp
Every inch of every wall is deliberately decorated

After the park, we headed back to our Kingdom to rehydrate, rest and change a diaper or two. #1BigSis watched the LEGO Ninjago Movie from her Kingdom bunk bed while I took in a little HGTV (my ultimate vacation relaxation).

Hotel amenities
The kids room has bins of loose LEGOs

For dinner, we stuck around the hotel and enjoyed pizza and Caesar salad at The Brick House. Dinner was admittedly much tastier than lunch, and offered a variety of family-style dishes for sharing such as roast chicken and veggies in a pan and pesto pasta.

1/2 Hudson Valley, 1/2 Cheese
My cocktail: Blueberry cotton candy fizz

Tomorrow we have another day at the park. We’ll explore the back half of the park that we breezed past today, including the Kingdom and Ninjago themed areas.

These happy faces are now sound asleep, ready to do it all again tomorrow.

Time to put my feet up and take some Tylenol. Phew.

Clinton Corners Day 2: Rain Rain Go Away

With the reminents of Tropical Storm Ida headed to the northeast, we knew today would be all rain all day. We made plans to eat lunch and explore some shops in Rhinebeck, NY, just a 23 minute drive from Clinton Corners.

Apparently Wednesday in Rhinebeck is the Monday of Richmond in terms of when restaurants take a day off and close. We tried three spots before settling on Village Pizza.

Classic pepperoni by the slice at Village Pizza
Vanilla in a cup and pistachio in a cake cone

After lunch, we stopped by the Land of Oz Toy Store where everyone, including Mama, picked out one toy. Ollie chose a windmill, Evie a blue race car, Amir a puzzle and me – a greenhouse terrarium kit that I aspire to one day have enough wine and solo time to ever put together.

Rolife Cathy’s Flower House Kit

Back at The Willows after lunch, we found some short-lived quiet time. Amir settled in on the side porch, cracking the windows slightly to hear the rain, and catching up on Reddit. I explored the house, looking both for the book on the history of the house as well as hoping to find some photographic vignettes.

Enjoying the sounds of nature on the side porch

Second floor sitting room would also lend itself to a book and relaxing

Tomorrow we’re headed to Legoland NY. In summer 2019, we made a pilgrimage to the original Legoland in Denmark while there for Jeff & Najia’s wedding. This Spring, they opened a new park in Goshen, NY, which is new since we’ve last been up this way.

Original light fixtures and vintage wallpaper
Entryway and view into the living room

Since no one seemed to want to nap this afternoon, we busted out the new purchases from Land of Oz. The rocket ship puzzle would have been a snap if someone unnamed wasn’t stealing and dropping pieces.

Puzzle on the patio

Looks like I’m not getting a nap today. Someone remind me to pack our overnight bags for Legoland hotel tomorrow!

Clinton Corners Day 1: Escape to The Willows

It’s been 1 year, 6 months and 21 days since my last travel post. When traveling back from Argentina back in February 2020, we knew Covid-19 was coming since as doctors we were following everything in China early on… but even on that last pass through customs, we were asked ONLY if we’d been to China at all during our vacation – there weren’t any masks yet – just an occasional bottle of hand sanitizer and oblivious travelers, us included.

The pandemic has been hard for us in some ways, but also easy in some unexpected aspects. As Emergency Physicians in the thick of treating Covid patients every day, we expected a degree of risk and danger, but I know that worry of us getting sick never settled (and still runs strong) amongst our friends and family.

We never took anything lightly. From the get go, we wrote our will, identified someone to care for our kids should the worst case happen… all the things, that for us almost felt normal – as all of our friends at work were doing the same. Things normalized to a new existence, and unlike most of our friends and family who experienced huge changes in their daily routines (working from home, virtual school), we still woke up every day and put on the same gray scrubs (plus a new scrub cap), drove the same 10 minute commute, dropped our kids off at the same daycare, and went to work with the same awesome and snarky people, just with a lot more PPE. In some ways nothing changed, relatively speaking, but of course everything changed and is still changing.

#1LilBrother explores the open fields at The Willows

We’ve had a few weekends away during the pandemic, some camping, time back in Norfolk with our families, but nothing I would call a vacation. Covid isn’t entirely to blame for that – we also added one more to our family in June 2020 – so #1Toddler has been promoted to #1BigSis to make room for #1LilBrother. Probably also relevant to note is that I’m 24 weeks pregnant with our third and last addition to TeamLouka, a little girl we expect to join us in December.

We’d originally considered a trip to Hawaii, but with the Delta variant surging, passport renewals delayed 5+ months, and #1BigSis occasionally rejecting mask-wearing, we felt like flying was a recipe for vacation heartbreak. As an alternative, we settled on a tried and true staple destination for us, a (drivable) getaway to a home owned by family in Clinton Corners, New York. Stay tuned for an entire post (or two) about this incredible 1914 Craftsman home set on 12.9 acres of rolling green hills.

#1LilBrother playing with the wet leaves as #1BigSis pumps higher and higher

We arrived just before 3am this morning. When Amir initially suggested driving through the night, the exhaustion of just having prepared and sold our current home followed by an unexpected week of me taking care of the kids at home (thanks to a Covid exposure at daycare)… it seemed ridiculous at first pass. But then he pointed out that they would sleep… SLEEP in the car for the majority of the 6 hour drive… SOLD.

Nap Attempt #1

The drive really wasn’t that bad (says the person who didn’t actually have to drive). We were originally going to take Amir’s car, but just before getting on I95, his check engine light came on, then the whole car started to shudder, and the check engine light began to flash. Back home we went to switch over to my car, just happy we didn’t end up stranded in DC or elsewhere far from home. AAA would have been no match for this car full of three tired grumps and a pregnant lady.

Straight shot up I95 to the Taconic State Parkway

Whenever we first arrive somewhere, we always like to walk and explore – to get a feel for the nooks and crannies. Whether an AirBnB or a campsite, it helps us plan our stay.

#1LilBrother wasted no time starting a robust leaf and stick collection

Amir and #1BigSis headed down to checkout the pond and fishing prospects, while #1LilBrother and I trapsed the perimeter of the house. Covered in moss, and with all the bump outs of a true craftsman, we found much to explore.

#1LilBrother finds the original driveway where horse drawn carriages offloaded riders
The formal front entrance now sits unused except by moss
Dressed for success

Team Pond Explorers caught a fish but threw it back. Hearing the jubilant cheers of victory, #1LilBrother and I went to check it out. Unfortunately I stepped on an underground hornet nest and was stung on my ankle. I looked down expecting a snake since we were at the waters edge and was slightly relived to just see flying critters. Man oh man did that burn. It’s easily been 30 years since I’ve been stung. I’ll happily go another 30.

The pond is surrounded by purple, yellow and orange wildflowers.
The many varieties of wildflower surrounding the pond (note to self: try to identify each before we leave)

After some lunch and some ice for my ankle, we set out for some swimming pool time. We still have two non-swimmers on our team, so pool time comes with a level of stress and anxiety only a parent of fast walking toddlers can appreciate. Few things in parenting legitimately give me nightmares – car accidents, choking, unsafe sleep… and DROWNING. I guess in our line of work you see the things that truly hurt kids. It’s not GMO food.

“Dada Island”
Found this friend sharing a swim in the pool
I enjoyed the view from the deck

After the pool, we stopped back by the garden. We’d paid it a quick visit first thing this morning, but had mistakenly arrived without a basket to carry things. Perhaps we made an assumption based on the low output of our city garden… but this time we returned with a proper vesicle.

Someone kept eating the rotten ones in the dirt
Ingredients for tonight’s salad
Amir and #1LilGardener (Not pictured: #1BigSis as she was naked post-pool)

Pools are refreshing and priceless on a hot summer day, but the BEST things about a pool these days is it’s a sure-fire way to guarantee a solid nap by both kids. Back at the house, they were both down for the count in less that 10 minutes.

The Willows, Built in 1914

As I mentioned, we had a big week ahead of this trip. We sold out beloved 102 year old house in Richmond, affectionately known as “Pink Floyd,” for its bright pink front door and address on Floyd Avenue. We’re moving to “the burbs,” something we said we’d never do, to a 4 year old home in a large neighborhood with great schools and built-in activities. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that as we return here to The Willows for what might be our fifth visit over the years, I’m appreciating this 107 year old masterpiece more than ever. Old houses are alive with history.

I want more than anything to sit down tonight and flip back through the large coffee table book that recounts the history of this epic home. With two under 4 though, quiet moments alone are rare, so I’ll just see how the night carries on.

Argentina Day 14: Adiós Argentina

Today is our last day here in Buenos Aires and Argentina as we fly back tonight on two back to back red eyes. Our flight to Bogotá, Colombia departs at 11:50pm which makes for an awkward setup when our hotel checkout time is the traditional 11am.

For $70, we were able to add a very late checkout (7pm) so we could spend the day exploring more of BA and come back to shower and pack before heading to the airport.

Last night we were craving Asian food, so we found a small sushi restaurant, Cherry Sushi. Not the best sushi in the world, but it was fun to get the Argentinian take on Japanese fare.

El Ateneo Bookstore, Recoleta, Buenos Aires

Before sushi, we popped into El Ateneo Bookstore, a spot that made my must-see list months ago. It’s an old theater repurposed as a massive bookstore selling everything from coffee table books to classics to DVDs, vinyl records and CDs. I purchased one children’s book in Spanish.

This morning we enjoyed the amazing $10 hotel breakfast yet again. #1Toddler devoured 5 slices of watermelon, 3 rings of pineapple an half a kiwi fruit. She’s become quite the breakfast fruititarian.

After breakfast we Ubered to the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano Buenos Aires (MALBA). We had hoped to get there during our first stop in BA, but couldn’t make it happen.

Twirling on the mosaic plateaus outside the MALBA

The current exhibit is by Earnesto Neto, a Brazilian sculptor who’s exhibits are biomorphic, made of soft stretchy fabrics, crochet and other natural fibers. They are meant to be touched, stretched and interacted with by visitors.

Inside the heart, creating the beat

The first work we discovered was a red fabric heart that encouraged visitors to climb inside and strike a drum to initiate a heartbeat.

Crocheted curtain with bells and shells

The next work we discovered was a set of crocheted curtains laced with bells and seashells, inviting young visitors to stroke and make sounds with their hands.

Nylon tunnel by Neto

One of Neto’s largest installations was a white tunnel of nylon fabric that visitors enter and walk through. #1Toddler and I went together.

Arte latinoamericano from 1900-1970
Multiple dynamic pieces make MALBA unique

The permanent collection features works from Latin American artists from 1900-1970. Amir describes it well – the collection is “digestible” – small enough to explore deeply, but deep enough to gain an understanding of the artist era and its influences.

Everyone has a breaking point

We are now back at the hotel after a pizza lunch and another tour of the “big park.” Time for another siesta before packing up for our long voyage home to Virginia.

-Steph