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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A New Chapter of Life Begins: Grandparenthood

Last Friday our first grandchild was born, and a new chapter of our life has begun.  It's been a surreal experience for me, and I still don't feel that I can clearly articulate how I feel.  It seems like it was just last week that I was coming home from the hospital with my own babies in my arms, so I can't possibly be old enough to be a grandmother.  But the reality is that I am nearing 50, and I most definitely am old enough to be a grandma.  How did the time pass by so quickly that we have grown children having their own babies, and our house is now filled with teenagers, preteens, and only one younger child?  The high chair, bassinet, pack & play, and changing table in the attic can now be used by our grandchildren when they come to visit.  After decades of my life being devoted to carrying babies, birthing babies, nursing babies, and raising babies, it's now my time to get to hold and love the grandbabies without having to do all the hard stuff.  I get to snuggle and adore this tiny grandson, but I don't have to get up with him at night or worry about his every cry or stress out about feeding him in a public place.  I said to my husband last night that grandparenthood is getting to fall head over heels in love with a baby again without all the anxiety.  It's really a sweet deal.  It's fantastic, actually.  The only hard part so far is giving him back to his mom and dad and having to wait days to get to see and hold him again.  Oh, and taking turns sharing him with his grandfather and his numerous aunts and uncles who all want a turn to cuddle this adorable little boy.

I think this is going to be a great chapter.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Tons of Fun for Everyone in Erie (Part 2)

Continuing with our Erie vacation, many of the fun family activities can be found on Presque Isle.  We spent a lot of time there, and there was plenty we never got to do because we ran out of time.  We had wanted to go on one of the pontoon boat tours of a lagoon, but it was too windy that day, so the tours were canceled.  We also never got around to hiking on the numerous trails that wind their way through wooded areas.  That's definitely on the list of things to do next time.

We did manage to swim at one of the many beaches on a calm, sunny day.  Unfortunately, everyone else had the same idea, and the sand quickly filled up with umbrellas, towels, and lots of people.

Many of the days we were there, the waves were too high and the undertow too strong that swimming was unsafe, and the beaches were closed.  I'm sure this contributed to the crowds showing up on a Sunday to swamp the beach for the afternoon.  It was also Roar on the Shore, so there were bikers everywhere.  Even so, our younger children had a great time in the clear waters of Lake Erie.

Two hours of 90 degrees in the sand and sun were enough for us grownups and the teenagers though.  Much to our younger children's dismay, we packed up and headed elsewhere for the remainder of the day.  

Sunday evenings are Family Night at Presque Isle Downs & Casino.  You can't take the kiddos into the casino, but they are welcome out back at the race tracks.  Admission is free, and there's food and beverages, and lots of horses to admire and bet on.  

We're not a gambling kind of family, so we just watched the races and tried to guess which horse would win each race.

And it's good we don't gamble because each of us would have lost every single race, except for the kids' MeeMaw who predicted the winner twice.

It was fun for awhile, but most of my children lost interest after the first two races.  Only our horse-loving daughter wanted to stay.  But if you like horses, this would be a good place to come with your family to have dinner and watch the races.

Probably one of my most favorite places we visited was the Presque Isle lighthouse.  This was an actual working lighthouse for many years, and families lived in the attached building.

It is open to the public and you can have a tour guide share its history and walk you up the winding staircase to the very top of the lighthouse.  Once you're up there, the view is spectacular.  It's narrow though, and the railing at your back is kind of low.  On the windy day that we were there, it whipped your hair around and sometimes made you feel like you could be blown right off the ledge.

But like I said, the views of Lake Erie are amazing from up there.

Another great place for views of Presque Isle is the Tom Ridge Environmental Center.

Admission is free, and there are two floors of local nature/ecological/science-related exhibits.

Some of it is a little odd in a Ripley's Believe It or Not kind of way.

But most of it gives a decent introduction to the wildlife and habitats of the area.  They currently feature information on fishing in Lake Erie.

You can either take the stairs or the elevator to the top of the tower, and you get a great view of the roller coasters and water slides at nearby Waldameer Park.  This is both an amusement park and a water park.  This is another place we didn't go to on this trip.  There's also a Splash Lagoon in Erie that our kids love.  

On our last night in Erie, we went to a Seawolves baseball game.  For some of our children, this was their first time to watch baseball.  In fact, it was only the second game I've ever been to.

It was "Buck Night" so sodas, popcorn, hotdogs, and the cheaper beer (yuck!) were only a dollar.  We took advantage of that and ate dinner there before the game started.  And we all donned Seawolves baseball caps to get in the spirit of things.

This is probably the only time you will catch my husband and me in baseball caps.  They're just not our thing, and I spent the whole evening adjusting mine because it felt so uncomfortable.  I don't know how so many people go through the whole day with these on their heads.  It drove me crazy.

We cheered and we clapped and we ate popcorn and cotton candy.

And we thanked their grandparents for procuring the tickets.

But in the end, the Seawolves lost the game, I am sorry to say.

Those were the activities we packed into about five days in Erie, PA.  We had such a good time that some of us weren't ready to come home.  But it's good we did because a few days later our family had an event that none of us would want to miss.

More about that news later in the week... 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

So Many Things to Do & See in Erie (Part 1)

Our family just returned from a trip to Erie, PA.  Six days were not enough to fit in everything there is to do there.  If you go though, you must take in a sunset over the lake.  They are breathtaking.

After a fantastic dinner on the patio at Lake Shore Country Club, we sat on the adirondack chairs and literally just watched the sun set over Lake Erie.

We must have taken 50 photos or more because it was that beautiful at every stage.  My phone does not do it justice.

It was especially fun to watch since a wedding had just taken place when we arrived, and the newlyweds were photographed in front of that gorgeous sunset, and in front of us.

We stayed until the moon was bright in the sky and we began to be dinner for the mosquitoes.

My next recommendation is to go digging for beach glass.  This was the first activity we did when we arrived and the last thing we did before going home.  Our children spent hours doing this and wanted to stay longer.

The waves were fairly high and the undertow dangerous to swim in on the day we arrived.  

So we kept a close eye on the kiddos at the Walnut Creek Marina that day.

On the day we left, however, things had calmed down considerably, and there were a number of beachcombers there that morning looking for treasures.

Our children came home with bags of polished pebbles, shells, multiple colors of beach glass, and an assortment of other great collections.  Some serious crafting is in the works.

If you have kids, the next stop has got to be the Erie Zoo.

We happened to go on the morning of our youngest son's tenth birthday because it's one of his favorite places to visit.  He is our bouncy one so it was only fitting that he be photographed with the kangaroos.

They have wonderful outdoor and indoor exhibits, plus there's a huge hands-on children's area that's perfect for preschoolers and younger kids.

Even our teenagers loved it.  Go in the morning before it gets hot when the animals want to take their naps.

Another great place to go is the Erie Maritime Museum.

I wasn't sure this would hold the attention of all of my children, but I was pleasantly surprised.

There was a lot to see and read about, as it focused on the history of the US Brig Niagara and the Battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812.

The replica of part of the ship allowed the children to get a feel for what it would have been like to be aboard at the time.

The children were also encouraged to pull the ropes of real sails to see how much effort that requires. Our youngest had to hang from them with all her weight in order to get the sails to budge.

You also get this incredible view of the bay.  My only disappointment was that the USS Niagara wasn't docked, so we couldn't go on board a real ship as I had promised.  She'll be back in September.

Sitting outside the Maritime Museum and the adjoining library is this painted frog.  These are all over the city, and the children had a great time locating them everywhere we went.

These activities, plus a viewing of Finding Dory, along with a shopping trip for the girls and fishing for the boys,  were done in two days' time and we still had time for leisurely dinners.  We don't go out of town all that often, so when we do, I pack as much in as I can without driving the rest of my family crazy.  I'll show you more of Erie in my next post.

Until then, have a great remainder of the week!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Packing for Seven

Throughout the years, I've done my share of packing for family trips---sometimes for only 5 of us, sometimes for as many as 8 of us.  I will say it has gotten easier since no one needs diapers, strollers, high chairs, and pack & plays anymore.  Somehow I managed to not forget too much in my sleep-deprived state back then, but I wouldn't want to do that again.  On those car trips, I spent most of the time sitting beside a toddler or infant in the back of the minivan or SUV singing songs from Barney or reading Goodnight Moon over and over again.  Even so, most of my babies fussed and screamed in their car seats because all they really wanted was to be held and nursed.  Anyway, vacations are now a breeze, relatively speaking.  But I still have to spend most of a day doing laundry, making a list, packing the suitcases, and then getting really creative at making room for everything in the back of the vehicle.  Even with a luggage carrier strapped to the top, we still inevitably end up with backpacks and tote bags in our laps or under our feet.  This summer, our two teenagers went ahead of us and packed for themselves with only a little advice from me.  So the photo above is just stuff for 5 of us for a 6 day trip.  

This is what I've learned to do through the years:

First, I make a list of every possible thing I can think of that we will need.  I often make a more general checklist that I give to the older children so they can pack their own stuff and just cross off items as they're put in their bags.  I also have a list of everything I need to take care of in the days leading up to traveling: paying bills, using up food, getting people to take care of our animals, mowing the lawn, and anything else that's important.  I also keep a shorter list on the refrigerator for the morning we leave: take out the trash, make sure toilets are flushed, wash up any dishes, turn things off, lock windows and doors, etc.  I just can't feel at ease without my lists.

When I'm ready to start packing, I think of all the places we'll be going over the course of our trip, and I plan for all kinds of weather.  Then I lay out everything on the bed for one person at a time.  I aim for tops and bottoms that can be interchanged because you never know when you're going to have drinks (or worse things) spilled on you.

For our most recent trip, I planned for outings to museums, the zoo, the beach, shopping, dinners in restaurants, Church, sporting events, and lots of walking.

I've recently begun rolling most of our clothing instead of folding it before placing it in the suitcases.  This really does take up far less space and remains wrinkle-free for the most part.  Other than a blouse and a long sundress, these are all of my clothes that were on our king-sized bed in the photos above.  You can see there is still plenty of room for my husband's belongings with room to spare.  I did pack our shoes in separate bags. 

Once our suitcase was filled, I simply repeated this process with each of our younger children.  Other than fishing gear and some snacks, everything we needed fit in the top photo.  I really prefer using dufflebags or large tote bags instead of suitcases because they are so much more pliable, but since we needed the luggage carrier to fit all the sleeping bags anyway, I used the bulky suitcases.  I can't imagine how it will be someday to only pack for the two of us.  I think we could possibly fit everything in one of my beach bags.

Safe summer travels to you all!