Our Western Adventure: The Hoover Dam

Today I am embarking on a mini-series based on our recent trip out west, an adventure that has actually been in the works for a number of years. It was one of those trips that we’ve talked about and wanted to do before the kids all grew up on us, so this year we decided to just go for it! I’m so glad we did, because it was awesome and we had many amazing adventures together.

The first day involved a flight from Baltimore to the Las Vegas airport. This was the first time our youngest three have flown in an airplane, and they did remarkably well. We definitely had a “you’re not in Pennsylvania anymore” moment right away as we immediately encountered rows upon rows of slot machines, literally upon stepping off of the airplane. They were everywhere!! We flew to save ourselves many days of driving and so we could use our vacation days to really focus on the things we most wanted to see. After picking up our rental car, we decided to take a little jaunt to the Hoover Dam before driving on to our house in southern Utah.

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I obviously knew the Hoover Dam was huge, but it’s really nothing like seeing it in person. It is enormous. We took what was called the Power Plant tour, which lasted about an hour.

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Some of my boys are very into engineering, so I thought this was a neat opportunity for them to learn about how it was built, the turbines, water flow, etc. The tour itself was pretty interesting overall, and you go underground quite a ways for part of it, so a bonus was that most of the inside tour was nice and cool! I was amazed that it was only built in less than 5 years, a really remarkable feat given that it happened in the 1930’s.

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The inside museum part also has some neat interactive things for kids to do. I was really taken with this series of sculptural panels.

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Seeing this clock outside should have prepared me for the different time zones. In Nevada we were 3 hours behind our norm. In Utah it was 2. In Arizona it should be 2, but they don’t observe daylight savings, so it was 3 hours behind when we were out there. Are you confused? Because I surely was for the first day or so, especially as the clocks in our rental were set to several different times as well and we traveled between those three states.

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We honestly did not spend a ton of time outside and walking along the whole thing. For one thing, it was very crowded. Number two, it was literally 111 degrees there when we visited. Number three, we had just traveled many hours with several hours to go, and were ready to be on our way at that point.

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With all that said, I really was glad we made this a stop. It was worth seeing, and I felt like the tour was worth doing as well. Below is a very large sculpture of one of the workers who helped build the dam.

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My next post will be on our experience at Zion, including our hike of The Narrows!

Goodbye 2017, Hello 2018

Happy New Year everyone!

I pray that you have experienced a joy-filled holiday season and are eagerly looking forward to a brand new year. I’m sure I’m not alone in that this time of year makes me pause and reflect on happenings within the past year, plus look forward to some new things as well.

Here are some highlights from our year as a family:

*Our oldest two boys were able to go to Sea Base, a high adventure base in the FL Keys. They had a wonderful experience there, including paddling across the ocean in a canoe, snorkeling, deep-sea fishing, and kayaking. They loved it. Oh yeah, it was the first time they’ve ever flown as well. My highlight was watching a video someone took of my boys’ faces that first time the plane really took off. I was dying!!

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*My husband left his job of many years and began afresh in a completely new career. This time last year we had no idea what the future held in this regard. God is SO good and brought about a new place of work that has been a refreshing change for him, and for us as a family. (Plus now he brings home really cool wood and makes things out of it.)

*My oldest turned 16! And got his learner’s permit! Want to feel completely powerless? Be a passenger in a vehicle where your oldest child is driving YOU for the first time. We’ve been cursed at, almost rear ended, had a line of traffic behind us multiple times, and passed in dangerous ways about every time we venture out. Fun times.

*We are experiencing our very last year in elementary school. We have loved it there, but I’m certain my littler guys are ready to move on. Me too.

*My daughter and I took a day trip to New York City. It was the first time her and I did something like that. Though it rained a good part of the day, we still had fun and got to see many neat things.

*We had a couple day excursion to the Jim Thorpe area. It was a good way to wrap up the summer all together.

Some things we are looking forward to:

*A vacation out west. Yup, this is my main one. This has been on our family bucket list for years and we decided that this is the year to just do it! The plan is to fly (instead of driving many days cross country), rent a vehicle, and spend most of our time near Zion National Park. We also plan to visit the Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon National Parks, plus maybe a couple of other things. I’m super excited!!

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*Turning 40. This happens in May. Pray for me. My 20’s were terrific, my 30’s have been great, what will the 40’s bring? Who knows?? I don’t really feel “almost 40″…time flies.

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*Having another driver in the house. It terrifies me a little, yet I am ready for someone else to be able to take on chauffer duties a bit. Even if the oldest just drives himself to work and his own activities, that will help.

*Having kids all on the same bus/school schedule. I’ve had approximately one school year where everyone was in the same building, and that year the twins were in half-day kindergarten, so I still had 3 different bus times to worry about. Since then it’s been 4 different bus times. When they hit middle school this fall, everyone will have the same bus time. I may feel like I’ve gained another hour each day! Woo-hoo!

Well, those are the main things, but really, it’s a lot of little everyday things sometimes, isn’t it? I pray that you will have a blessed 2018, full of lots of those moments that bring joy. May you look forward to what the Lord has in store for you this coming year.

 

 

 

Our Jim Thorpe Getaway

Several weeks ago our family squeezed in a mini vacation. We were looking for something that was just a couple of days, very low key, and not far away. Jim Thorpe was an area we’ve been meaning to explore, so we decided to head there this year. Here are a number of pictures taken while we were there:

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Our first stop was to Hickory Run State Park. One attraction there is this huge boulder field. It’s a great workout to work your way any distance across this jumble of boulders, though I did wonder how many broken ankles and twisted knees it has claimed. Don’t worry, we came through unscathed!

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Our next stop was a hike to Hawk Falls.

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The last thing we did at Hickory Run was a trail called “Shades of Death.” It was my favorite!

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Despite the name, this trail had lots of beautiful sights to behold. It was slightly challenging, but well worth it.

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It was the perfect way to end our adventures at Hickory Run.

After a fast food supper, we stayed overnight at a Holiday Inn Suite. Actually, we stayed both nights there and had a great experience. The free breakfast was probably one of the best I’ve ever had at a hotel. Lots of hot foods and even a pancake machine, which my gang was kind of fascinated with. For this big family, it was well worth it. The free hot breakfast, along with a packed lunch and snacks meant we just had to buy dinner out.

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The next day brought us to the actual town of Jim Thorpe. We first stopped at the Jim Thorpe Memorial, which is where I took this cool statue pic.

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Next we went to town, which is pretty and has plenty of neat architectural building details. There were a bunch of cute little shops and such, but traveling with a pack of boys was not conducive to my checking out “cute” shops. So…we were in the town for maybe 55 minutes and they were itching to leave. Nice, huh? (This Real Family Vacation moment brought to you by the Craig family! You’re welcome.)

Oh well, our next stop was enjoyed by all.

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Our next destination was the No. 9 Coal Mine.

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I was able to get about zero good pictures within the mine, but I can tell you that we all learned a lot and enjoyed our time there. Our tour guide, Larry, was hilarious and made it even better. My take-away was that I would never, ever want to work in a coal mine.

This next picture was from the museum portion of the tour.

I think the sign says a lot, don’t you?

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After the mine we stopped at Lehigh Gorge State Park, which boasts a gorgeous waterfall trail called Onoko Glen Falls. This sign is what we first saw once approaching the trail. A little disconcerting, especially while hiking with kids, but we pressed on.

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Onoko Glen was SO beautiful, though And we didn’t die. Or fall. Or anything like that.

This is a shot looking down some of the falls.

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My photos do absolutely no justice to this place. In person I found it breathtaking.

We wrapped up our day by stopping at a Butterfly Sanctuary and eating at a fabulous Italian restaurant. The third day we were planning to drive to Ricketts Glen State Park and do some hiking and exploring, then head home in the late afternoon/evening. However, a very ugly forecast (which included extreme thunderstorms/hail/etc.) for the whole area convinced us to pack it in and head home early.

Well, that’s it for this trip. Next year we seriously hope to travel out west, specifically looking at Zion National Park and a few others in that vicinity. I am super excited for this to possibly finally happen!

Dear Kiddos…

Dear Kiddos,
We are only a couple of days away from a brand new school year. Are you excited?!? I kind of am, though a quiet house will take some getting used to again. I enjoy it, but boy am I glad to see that bus roll up in the afternoons! It’s not the same without you here.
I can’t believe you’re all as old and as big as you all are. I am blown away that this will be the last year our family will have kids in elementary school… AND that we have not one, but TWO in high school!! And yes, once again I am writing you a letter to prep you for a new school year. Bear with me please. I’ll keep it short and sweet this time.

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First, I’d like to remind you to be kind and respectful to each one of your teachers. There will be some that you love and some that probably won’t be your favorites. You know this already. Each one is to be treated with the utmost kindness and respect. Teachers have one heck of a tough job these days, so please do your best to brighten their day. Look for ways to help them out in any way you can. You have no idea what a big influence you may have on them!
Try your absolute best, even if you have a subject that doesn’t come easy for you. We are at the point where you older guys are required to take some subjects that may not be such a piece of cake. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! A teacher would rather you ask for help than see you struggle and not admit that you need a bit of help or need something explained in a different way. Dad and I are always here for you, in whatever way we can assist. Yes, we are old and our school days are long past, but we’re not total dummies either. Please don’t forget that we are always on your team and are cheering you on.
Now onto your classmates. Oh boy, what can I say? Pretty much what I always have, and that is to be a little light to everyone around you. Treat others the way you’d like to be treated. It’s very cliché but oh-so-true. Boys, respect the young ladies around you and be good role models. Act like the godly young gentlemen we have strived to raise you to be. Daughter, continue to be a godly young lady. We are SO glad that you all don’t try super hard to “fit in.” It’s not worth it. Be who you are, but more importantly, remember WHOSE you are. No matter what.
You guys are awesome. We are so stinking proud of each one of you. I pray that you will all have a great school year! Dad and I are here for you.
Love you all SO much.
Mom

****To read the letter I have posted the previous two years, click here.

Taking a Different Path, Part 2

I’m back again, this time with Part 2 of our story. (If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, take a minute to do so. That way you can have a clue what I’m talking about!)

I pick up at the point where my husband went to his first ever interview since deciding to leave his job of many, many years. He had been injured that very morning, but went ahead with the interview, and did NOT get the job. Bummer, but we figured it was not meant to be.

Within the next week there was a big meeting to discuss future plans within his company. Since all of the head honchos were there at the same time, he shocked the lot of them by telling them he meant to leave the company, plus some reasons why. Within the next several weeks he was convinced by them to at least stay on through the holidays, which he finally agreed to do (He is truly my better half—he was so much nicer and more gracious than I think I would have been.)

In August we took a big family vacation to Maine. It was truly a time of refreshment for our family, and also the time we sat our kids down and told them what was up. We had a time of honest sharing and praying over the whole situation. I asked Jeff what HE would really like to pursue as a future job, not taking into account wages, benefits, etc. Topping his list was anything involving wood, a longtime passion of his (when we had free time, which was not very often). Other then that he had no one thing that he was honed in on trying.

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Post-vacation, Jeff went back to work, but with a very clear sense that he no longer belonged there. Before we knew it, the holiday season was again upon us, historically their company’s craziest time of year. In the back of our minds was always the question of “what in the world is going to happen to us after this?” However, working oodles of hours doesn’t allow one to complete a job search very well. I watched my husband working himself to death, trying to do a good job and making sure the company was well prepared for his leaving. He would leave super early in the morning, come home maybe by dinnertime, and be sound asleep by 7 pm every night. He was working like a madman and I was feeling like a single parent.

Well, Christmas soon came and I nervously wrote out our situation in our Christmas card letter, asking folks to lift up our family in prayer. At this point he hadn’t applied or sent a resume anywhere else yet, and I started to get very nervous. On January 2, the kids went back to school, but Jeff had a day off. He had by then compiled a list of possible places to apply and I helped him sharpen his resume. Many of them had no job openings listed, but he took a chance and sent or dropped off a resume anyhow.

For the place at the very top of his list, he physically stopped in to drop off a resume. The owner of the company, who often travels, happened to be there and ended up giving my husband about an hour-long tour of their facilities and talking with him. The owner told him they had no openings, but they were thinking about maybe hiring someone else. He took his resume and Jeff came home wound up, excited about this particular place. About two weeks passed and we had no leads, other than one other place that was maybe interested in him. At this point he had already given his company a final date, even though there was not a new job lined up. I remember one day I was feeling incredibly anxious about the whole thing, having no idea what our future held. I was lifting the whole thing up to God, and had a clear comfort from Him: “My daughter, don’t you fret. Trust me. I’ve got this.” Immediately I had a calm that can only be attributed to coming from Him. I laid my trust in Him and recognized that His plan would be revealed in the right time.

In mid-January, Jeff had an unused week of vacation time from the previous year to use or lose. He used it to keep on the job hunt, still not having much luck. That same week he got a call from the wood place he was most interested in. Could he come in for an interview that week? Sure! He went in for the interview and was offered a position that very same day. (Of course, he said he would consult with his wife first before making a decision.) I really felt like he should go for it, and it was set that he would start in February. He went immediately from one job to the other, without any period of unemployment, so that was a huge praise.

Well, that’s the long-winded back story on how my husband decided to leave his career and start completely fresh somewhere else.

How has it been? Well, strange for him to start out as the new guy who knows the least, especially coming from somewhere where he had worked there pretty much the longest and knew all the ins and outs of the company. Great in that he now is home for breakfast with his family every morning, has about a 10-15 minute commute, and has great hours. Oh, and a long mandatory lunch break. We’ve been sneaking little lunch dates at least every other week together. Not so great is a huge initial drop in income and navigating new insurances and the like. I had to learn about COBRA and  rollover benefits and fun little things like that. We’ll survive, it’s just a matter of adapting for awhile. With money we had diligently scraped up and saved, we paid off our mortgage 2 years early, so that’s been a big burden lifted. (Another praise item–one of our kids had an injury needing stitches at the ER. It happened the same week we all became insured again! Thank you Lord that my boy wasn’t hurt worse–and for that timing.) But it’s all been worth it to see my husband not completely burnt out and passionate about learning new things. His new company does some very interesting things and has “interesting” customers that he tells us about at dinner. He now has more time for us and is toying with different wood projects. (Let this shock you–he is now on Pinterest! It’s too funny, actually. Never saw that one coming….)

Thank you to those who have prayed for us these many months. I give God the glory for lining things up the way only He could do, and we are completely trusting Him for whatever the future may hold.

Taking a Different Path, Part 1

I have shared approximately zero about this topic on my blog yet, but today’s the day. Those who know us personally know that our family (well, my husband specifically, but it affects us all!) has undergone a big life change in 2017. My dear man, back in mid-February, chose to leave his career of nearly 28 years.

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Here’s the back story….

Jeff has been a butcher all of his adult life, and for the same company too. He had learned and mastered many different roles within the company and enjoyed his work. It was where we had both envisioned him working until retirement. Back in 2015 he lost a finger–ironically, not at work, but at home on a lawnmower belt. At that time the surgeon informed him he was not to work for 6-8 weeks, as the risk of infection was too great to be handling raw meat and other such things. So, very unexpectedly, my husband was off for a good portion of a summer. At the time, though it was a complete bummer that he was now minus a finger and temporarily out of work and a paycheck, it wasn’t the end of the world, could have been much worse, and I had the strong sense that it happened for a reason. Why, we had no idea, but I really felt like when that happened it was a catalyst for a change of some kind.

He went back to work with gusto at summer’s end and things were basically back to normal. At the end of 2015, after a very stressful holiday season with many long hours, one night he was nearly crying and told me “I can’t go through another holiday season there.” We felt a change coming but had no idea what that was yet, so we just prayed about what that may look like in the next year. He trudged through the beginning of 2016 and worked as normal. I felt the call to begin working part-time and got a job as secretary at our home church.

One evening in July, Jeff was feverishly working on something on the computer. I could see the frustration etched on his face and asked what he was working on. “A resume” was all the response I got. Though I knew this was likely coming, I was still a bit in shock.  He had seen an ad for a wood distribution place that he apparently was interested in and planned to send a resume to. We both slept little that night, tossing and turning and praying. He sent it in and got a call for an interview the next week.

The morning of the interview he went to work early, before anyone else was in yet. As he was pulling out a rolling metal cart out of the smokehouse, it tipped over and landed on top of him, about 1,000 pounds between the cart and the meat on it. I was later sickened when I heard that a metal bar or pipe was firmly lodged right on his windpipe. Miraculously he was somehow able to wiggle out with just some burns on his face and neck, bumps and bruises, and a sore back. (I was also a little ticked that he didn’t tell his wife until late that afternoon!) The poor guy went to a job interview with a bandaged face and neck, a missing finger, and limping badly from his ordeal that morning. He didn’t get the job….

Stay tuned for Part 2, Coming soon!

Making Your Home a Refuge

Refuge. That word has been rolling around in my mind for the last several days. It keeps popping up in my thoughts and, though I have not blogged in awhile, I knew I had to write about it.

Here’s what got me started….

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This building in the picture. St. Paul’s Chapel, New York City, NY.

My daughter and I took a bus trip to NYC this past weekend. We visited a lot of the main tourist spots you would likely think of—Brooklyn Bridge, Times Square, Central Park, and so on. But this place, St. Paul’s Chapel, was one of my favorites. I have no explanation why, other than it felt like a place of refuge to me. It was used as a refuge for many on the day of 9/11, plus for rescue workers in the many months following that tragic day. It was used as a center for rest, meals, sanitation, etcetera round the clock. Entering it for the first time almost 16 years later, I could see why it felt like a refuge. For myself and my daughter, hustling around NYC all day, it certainly felt like a refuge as well. It was beautiful, fairly quiet, and not completely humming with activity.

Since then the word refuge has stuck with me, and since I am a Mom, specifically the question, “am I making my HOME a refuge?” I sure hope the answer is yes. You see, we don’t exactly live in a war zone or anything like that. It may seem like quite the opposite, as we live amongst rural, beautiful farmland in a relatively conservative area. However, we aren’t locked up in our own little world all the time. I have a husband who dutifully goes to work every day, providing for our family. My kids all attend public school, plus are involved in other activities. I work part-time, plus attend to the myriad of details that come with running a household of 7. We certainly don’t live in a bubble.

Here’s why I hope my home is a refuge. The world out there can be tough–for the grown-ups as well as the kids. They need somewhere, after a long day at work or at school, to feel like they can rest, be refreshed, be loved, and not feel bombarded by the world. As my kids keep getting older (funny how that happens, eh?) I see the need for them to have a refuge more than ever. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard one of them say after coming in from school, “Oh, I’m so glad to be home!” Or I’ve heard my husband say, “It’s so good to be home.” This is why I’ve made it a point to be home when my older guys get home. Some of the best and most open dialogues we have had is that first hour after school. This is why I try to have a nice cooked meal (and a hug) awaiting my man when he gets home from work. This is why I try to keep things at least semi-organized and not chaotic feeling. There’s enough chaos out in the world, they don’t need it at home too.

Sure, our house is no showpiece. It won’t be on the cover of Better Homes & Gardens any time soon, and that’s okay with me. My crew is comfortable here and they don’t feel like they live in a museum. My kitchen is not perfect, but it’s well used….like, all the time. I’m not serving up gourmet fare, but no one goes hungry and they all seem to enjoy my meals. We’re not always wearing the trendiest outfits and my kids might wear the same three shirts all season long (their choice), but the laundry is kept after and we’re not in debt paying for superficial things we can’t afford. We’re not perfect parents, or even the perfect husband & wife, but we try our best and try to honor God in what we do.

It’s important to me that each child feels unconditionally loved, secure, and refreshed by coming home. Same goes for my husband. My greatest role is still as a Mom and a wife to these precious ones, even though they aren’t exactly little anymore.

Am I making my home a refuge? I hope so. And I hope yours is too.

 

How We Do Life

I think it’s fascinating how so very different each family is. Their traditions, their way of operating, and just the way they roll. It really got me thinking about how our family does life, how WE roll. Our family is not perfect. No family is. We have numerous flaws, oddities, and times we have to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and vow to do better. We’re all different….and that’s a good thing, isn’t it?

This is how we do life:

God is the center of our home. Everything revolves around that—our marriage, our parenting, everything else.

We say please and thank you. Even Mom and Dad do this, even with something as insignificant as passing the salt. Manners are important and show respect.

Family dinner is a high priority, and we always pray before we eat together. It’s just not the same when we all have to grab something and rush out the door, or when someone is missing. This is where we share about our day, the highs and lows, and just hang out for a time.

We expect good behavior. I am not a yeller–never have been, probably never will be. And no, I wasn’t really into “time outs” when the kids were little. There may have been an occasional swat on the backside when deliberate misbehavior happened. My kids aren’t angels, but they certainly aren’t brats either. I have no explanation for this, other than that they are just expected to behave!

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We love to read. Yes, all 7 of us. There is no secret technique or formula that we used when our kids were little, except that we read to them a lot and they saw us reading for pleasure. It caught on, and it warms my heart to see them all devouring books.

We try not to overschedule ourselves. This is such a balancing act once everyone gets to a certain age, and right now we’re in the thick of it. Each child is in at least one activity. However, we are deliberate about not being too busy and will say “no thanks” to things that will make for an overly hectic week.

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We have a minimum of technology in our house. Seven people, one laptop. No personal Ipads, Ipods, tablets or anything. (Our oldest did get a very basic cell phone for his 15th birthday.) They ask before they use the computer, and if playing games on it, a timer is usually set.

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We try not to be materialistic. We have learned to live on one income, and live well on it. Secondhand clothes are just fine by us, as well as older vehicles and a not-big house. Christmas and birthdays usually are simple. Things aren’t too important, but people are.

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We serve others as best as we can. My husband is the prime example for this and is literally one of the most selfless people I’ve ever known. My parents are also great examples of this. I have become better at this as an adult (I think), but there’s always room for improvement. It is a joy to serve together, especially when it’s something the whole family can do.

Vacation and time away together is important to us. No, they are usually not fancy affairs, but that’s okay. We shoot for one week in the summer, just us, away from all of our usual stresses and things that pull for our attention. We’re not into overly crowded, “touristy” places. Give us a cabin in the middle of the woods somewhere and we are usually happy campers.

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We try to foster curiosity and a love for learning. I would label my husband and I as self-starters, or perhaps “self-motivated” people. We enjoy learning new things and encourage that in our kids. There is currently a continual pile of books on the couch, homemade contraptions or inventions in nearly every room, a plant cart in my living room, and a cricket farm and “lab” in my basement. No, our house is never picture perfect, but that’s okay with me. There’s a lot of love here and I’ll not squelch their innate curiosity. (Though too much clutter and mess does make me crazy.)

We are foodies. Kind of. My husband and I entered marriage in a unique situation—that is, we both knew how to cook. I do the majority of cooking during the week as I am the “at home” parent, and he does some meals on the weekends. We don’t eat out a whole lot as it gets wicked expensive for 7 people! Plus homemade is healthier. We have taught each kid various cooking skills, so hopefully they know how to fend for themselves once they grow up. As I’ve said before, to their future spouses: You’re Welcome.

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We try to be real. It’s interesting that my oldest, now in high school, is so very perceptive of “fake” people. I can’t stand it either, and hopefully I never come across that way. (You have permission to call me out on it if I do! Or slap me.) Like I said earlier, we are real. We are flawed. We are human.

Well folks, that’s how we do life around here. Each family has their own ways, and that’s cool. So now if you suspected that we were weird before, you got your confirmation by reading this!

Our Maine Adventure

This summer I fell in love.

Not with a person, but with a place.

Our family was finally able to visit Maine, and specifically Acadia National Park. It was something that had been on our bucket list for some time, but we decided to just go for it this year. I’m so glad we did!

Here are some of my photos taken while there:

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First up is the little property we rented. I have had tremendous luck with the VRBO website and found an absolute beauty of a cottage for us. We walked in, looked around, and declared it perfect for our family.  This is the pond in back of the cottage, where we could sit and read or just relax. I have to say that the location of this place was wonderful—well away from Bar Harbor and crowds, on the very quiet side of the island.

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Our first full day there we set out to see the Bass Harbor Lighthouse. To get a great view of it, you need to climb down some steps and make your way over on giant boulders that sit along the shore everywhere.

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This is a view looking out the other direction. This trip was my first experience with this type of coastline, and I loved it.

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Our favorite place to visit was a place called Wonderland. There is an easy trail that leads out to this coastal area that has lots of tide pools. We ended up visiting there a couple of times during our week at Maine.

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Lots of cool little discoveries at this place and we spent hours there. Truly it was a “Wonderland” for my kids.

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The next day we did a tour of the main part of Acadia. We drove the Park Loop road, which I highly recommend. There are many places to pull over and park along the way. We parked at the Otter Point area and hiked the Ocean Path a couple miles up to Thunder Hole.

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Along the way were the Otter Cliffs, as well as many other scenic views. At many points you could go out to the edge, whether it be high up or down along the water.

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We also drove up Cadillac Mountain, where you could see out far in all directions.

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That evening we attended a lumberjack show, which was both educational and entertaining!

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Our family usually enjoys the lesser-known spots and trails. Fortunately for us, we were on the side of the island away from the main crowded areas. It was still full of beautiful things to see and do! Above is a picture from serene Pretty Marsh Harbor.

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I regret that I have no decent pictures from our whale watching excursion.(Those whales are just too darn fast for me!) This was an incredible experience! We saw many different whales and were VERY fortunate to see them in various stages of feeding. Lots of tail flukes, some full rolls, and one that did about a full breach for its rapt audience! Upon pulling back into the harbor, our guide was wowed and said that was the best trip they had all summer! An unforgettable experience for all.

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One morning we visited the Oceanarium, which boasts a lobster hatchery and museum, among other things. At first glance it appears a little run down and ramshackle, but we had a good experience there and learned so much. The guides really took a lot of time to explain things to the kids.

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Another morning we took the gang and hiked up a mountain. Parkman Mountain was one of the neatest hikes I’ve ever done. Though it’s not as well known as Precipice or the Beehive, it was really cool and worth the climb. (And yes, now I can say that I’ve done one with rungs built into the rocks to actually help climb up…it was just in one spot, but whatever. Bragging rights, y’all.) My husband was taken with all of the old cairns that marked some of the original trails. We saw cairns just about everywhere.

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It was a great experience to conquer a mountain as a family. We had a picnic lunch at the summit to celebrate.

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On our very last full day in Maine we hiked around Jordan Pond (which to me was more like a lake…). Part of it was on little boardwalks, as seen above.

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The water that day was a gorgeous blue–my pictures do it no justice.

Some other places we visited were Echo Lake Beach, and my oldest and his Dad hiked Beech Mountain and the Beech Cliffs and said they were awesome.

Honestly, I think we could have stayed a couple of weeks there and still not have been able to do everything we wanted. That just means we have to go back one day…

Seriously, I very much fell in love with Maine and Acadia. It suited us so well and was one of our best vacations ever. If I didn’t love our little piece of Lancaster County so much, I would be very tempted to move!!

Hope you enjoyed my photos.