Erin Virginia

Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


Several months ago, my brother Sean booked tickets to see Riverdance here in Minneapolis, and the show happened to coincide with Easter weekend. Sean flew out with my niece Cora (5 years old) and spent a long weekend with us. Cora and Fiona were ecstatic for a sleepover. Over the long weekend, we saw Jamie before he set off for his own vacation, spent time with my parents on Friday (our house) and Sunday (their house), dyed Easter eggs and just hung out around the house. Sean and Cora drove downtown Minneapolis for Riverdance on Saturday, about the same time that Fiona attended a birthday party so it worked out well.

We opened up the porch the evening Jamie came over. Greta loves her sheepskin rug. 

Waiting for Uncle Sean to get up and not caring about the two hour time difference from California.

Easter eggs. Eloise showed me her blue-dyed hands later in the car.

Easter morning, we ate a leisurely breakfast, the girls tore through their Easter baskets and then we went to church. Fiona was antsy to put on her Easter dress all morning (the adorable dresses were Christmas presents from Bonny, er, I mean Bonny AND Sean). We drove straight from church to my parents' house where my mom and dad had set up a mini-candy hunt in the living room.

My parents have such a large property that my dad tells Fiona that the three bears live in the woods there. She called him on the story and asked to see where they lived.

Sean attempted to read to all three girls. Afterwards, Chris fended off a three-way attack. 

We had lots of fun with Sean and Cora. Fiona and Cora often wandered around the house in their nightgowns, even during the day, and all three girls played decently well together.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Eloise's Song

Eloise composed her first song recently. The lyrics are very profound: "Mommy, Daddy, yeah, yeah, yeah." Fiona likes to sing it with her.

Travel Activities for the Kids

While searching the internet for activities to keep the kids occupied on the plane, I found lots of lists and suggestions. Here's my "best of" list for Fiona and Eloise who are 3.5 years and 20 months. I packed separate backpacks for the girls to give them a sense of ownership over toys and food.

Activities both girls liked:
  • Dot Sticker Pages with Dot Stickers: I downloaded Alphabet pages online, printed them and purchased cheap dot/label stickers for the girls to cover the circles on the pages. Both Fiona and Eloise loved this activity. Here's a link to download the alphabet pages: Here's a screen shot of the dot stickers we used.

  • Plastic Container & Pom-Poms: I cut a hole in a plastic container and purchased little pom-pons that the girls could push through the hole. Amazingly, it kept them occupied for long stretches, and they fought over this silly toy. (By the end of the trip, Fiona had decorated the top with the dot stickers).

  • Melissa and Doug Tape Activity Book: The girls needed me to help tear off strips of tape, but we used this book quite a bit. 

  • Lauri Primer Pak: I really liked this set because it is made out of rubber and extremely lightweight. Fiona and Eloise both loved the alphabet puzzle, and Eloise especially loved the circular puzzle cut-outs. I couldn't download a picture so here's a screenshot. I brought a large Ziploc bag and stored the items in the bag during transit. 

  • Stickers: We did lots and lots of stickers. The girls love dress-up dollies. We went through a couple books so I don't have pictures of them all. But here's a link to a favorite besides the pictures below:

  • Coloring Books and Crayons. I bought some special crayons, coloring books and blank notebooks for the girls. Fiona loves coloring and Eloise will scribble for a bit. 

Examples of coloring by Fiona and Eloise

Eloise, being a year younger, also loved these items:
  • Buckle Toy: Every time she gets into a shopping cart or even her booster seat, she plays with the buckles so this toy was a hit even though it was bigger than I expected after ordering online. 

  • Melissa and Doug small puzzle set: The four puzzles each have four pieces, and Eloise loved taking them apart and putting them back together. The puzzles fit into a small wooden carrier with elastic to keep them in place during transit. 

  • Flashcards: ABC animals, numbers and colors.

  • WaterWow!: As both our girls hit about 20 months, they began to really like the water wow books that are paintable with a refillable water brush. The pages dry and the colors disappear. The only mess is/can be water so great for travel.
Fiona liked these:
  • Magnetic Dolls

  • Marker Books (Eloise wanted to get into these, too)

    The girls also played with a few other small items, such as travel-sized Play-Doh, little dolls, a stack of Duplos, etc. They also watched plenty of shows on the plane, favorites being Dora, SuperWhy, Little Einsteins, Daniel Tiger and Creative Galaxy. I downloaded several shows from Amazon Prime (you can download shows that are available on Prime for a set number of days, which is such a nice feature) and purchased a few, as well. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Australia - Part 3 (Bondi Beach)

We spent our last couple days in Australia at Bondi Beach. We booked an apartment through Airbnb, a couple streets from the beach. The apartment was two levels with the bedroom downstairs, but we navigated it without too much trouble. We actually constructed a makeshift bed for the girls on the floor, as the apartment only had one bed. After we dropped off our suitcases at the apartment, we walked with the kids a block to a police station and asked for information about clinics where Eloise's ears could be checked. The police officer was very helpful and spent about 10 minutes investigating before she gave us options. I made an appointment that evening at a local clinic a few blocks away and took Eloise while Chris and Fiona explored the beach. Eloise's ears were on the cusp of infection, but I still filled the antibiotic prescription since the idea of her ears getting worse for our flight home in two days was unbearable. The visit was $75 out-of-pocket and $15 to fill the antibiotic.

During our days off Bondi, we took long walks, ate ice cream and played on the beach. The water here was a beautiful turquoise and the sand fine and soft. Fiona was disappointed that there were few shells to collect, and she resorted to a clutching a handful of small rocks. Our airbnb host left instructions where to access his surfboard, so Chris took it out a couple times, once with us and the other time by himself. I couldn't get any good pictures of him swimming since I had to keep Eloise out of the water and alive (she likes to run straight into the water). You can see in the second picture below an action shot of Eloise making a break for the water while Chris chases her. Before the trip, I had imagined leisurely hours on the beach wading in the water or building sandcastles, but the kids were too different to allow such an idyllic scene to occur. Fiona wouldn't even touch her toes in the water, and Eloise wanted to be in the water so much she wouldn't play on the sand. So we didn't spend as much time on the beach as expected. The rock pool in one of the last pictures was pay-for-entry so we didn't try it out.

We all enjoyed going to the grocery store in Australia, including the kids who would grab an apple from the "free fruit for kids" basket. We found some fun restaurants with kid areas, and one evening, we took the kids to a grassy area overlooking the water and let them run around.

In the first picture, Fiona arranged the chairs so she could play "doctor." Chris suggested he be the doctor, but Fiona laughed and said that boys aren't doctors (her pediatricians are women).

An evening walk our last night in Australia. Fiona figured out how to stick her head out the back of the stroller.

A last picture of the flight home. Fiona let Eloise sleep in her lap for a couple hours. We soldiered through the 14 hours with lots of shows, coloring, sticker, toys and snacks. Everyone was very excited to arrive home.