Parenting Tales

A Virginia Vacation

We normally don’t go on two vacations in one summer, but this year was different. A couple of weeks ago we went to Raystown Lake for a few days with my parents, which you can read about here. Then, this past week, my husband, kids, and I went to the Luray area of Virginia for a few more days away. We had a good time and it was so pretty that I took tons of pictures. I won’t share them all, but here’s a brief recap of all we did.

On the way down, we stopped at Belle Grove Plantation. Unfortunately it was like a million degrees outside, we were all roasting, and we were ready to get to our cabin– therefore we didn’t stay too long.
The plantation house at Belle Grove.
On our first full day there we explored Luray Caverns. I would highly recommend visiting the caverns. It was absolutely spectacular. I didn’t get many great pictures down there due to the lighting.
So many amazing formations!
Outside of Luray Caverns there is a museum and outdoor historical site.
I especially liked seeing the one room schoolhouse and how it was set up. One thing I didn’t get a picture of was the old Mennonite meeting house/church. That was interesting as well, especially since I also attend a Mennonite church.
My kids’ favorite activity was panning for gemstones. I think they could have done this all day!

Our cabin was just about a stone’s throw from the Shenandoah River. The kids spent several afternoons wading and playing in it.

Yours truly enjoyed spending time at the river as well.
Our kids had their first hot tub experience at the cabin. Is soaking in a hot tub with 5 kids relaxing? Not so much.
Two of my babes after a long hike at Lake Arrowhead State Park.
On the way home we traveled through Skyline Drive. Such amazing scenery!!
Josh checking out the view with his brother’s binoculars.
Parenting Tales

Family Fun at Raystown Lake

I’ve been a little MIA this week and have done nothing really creative or even domestic. Actually, I didn’t even touch a single computer or phone the entire time–and it felt quite good!

We took a mini family vacation for 4 days out to Raystown Lake, which is about 3 hours from where we live. If you’ve never heard of it, the lake is one of the largest man-made lakes in the eastern United States. In fact, at 8,300 surface acres, it’s pretty huge. Surrounded by even more acres of woodland scenery, it’s a beautiful destination for anyone looking to kick back and relax for a few days. Even though we’ve lived in PA our whole lives, not one of us had actually been there to visit. Here’s some pics that I took from our stay:

A majority of our meals were eaten outside at this picnic table, which sat near the cottage my parents rented. We also had a campsite rented nearby where my husband, myself, and a couple of our kids slept.
Our first day there was Father’s Day and also my son Daniel’s 11th birthday. His big birthday wish was to get a pair of binoculars. They got lots of use during the week and rarely left his neck!
That is, except when his double trouble little brothers “borrowed” them to look for chipmunks.
We did take a boat ride around part of the Lake.
Me snuggling up with one of my little guys on the boat deck. He promptly fell asleep on me 10 minutes into the trip and slept the entire ride.
One of the highlights for our family was visiting nearby Trough Creek State Park. It is an absolutely gorgeous place to sightsee and hike.
We crossed this very cool suspension bridge. You feel as if you’re still swaying for awhile once you get on solid land.
The beautiful Rainbow Falls.
At the top of our hike at Trough Creek was this Balanced Rock, a huge boulder that sits on the edge of a cliff. It looks as if it could be pushed off, so my gang tried to push it with all their might…
After his siblings abandoned the effort, Andrew pushed and pushed…
Then my husband got in on the action…
Nope. No luck. This rock will just have to sit there for the next ?? years.
This is one of my favorite pics from our trip! My crew after a hike to the top of another set of cliffs, looking out over the lake.
The fire ring outside of our cottage got lots of use!
This mama duck and her babies were too sweet.
My 9 year old budding scientist insisted on taking a picture of these mushrooms. In his words, there was lots of “interesting fungus” around there. Hey, fungus can be beautiful too, right?
My little Miss, watching something from the deck of the cottage. What is she looking at…?
Oh, that’s what she’s looking at. My husband and older boys carrying the tent down the road to a sunnier spot to dry out before packing. That’s a very manly solution for you!
Parenting Tales, Uncategorized

Sarasota Highlights

It’s good to be home, even though I just spent a week in beautiful, sunny Sarasota. Our family had the opportunity to take a “real” vacation, not something we do too often. In fact our last family vacation was almost 3 years ago, when the twins were a little over a year old. You wouldn’t believe how much I had to pack for THAT one! Luckily we had purchased a roof storage bag to hold all of those extra baby goodies. This time around wasn’t so bad, but still a lot of stuff to haul. Fortunately we had access to a washer and dryer this time too, so I went a bit minimal on the clothing.

Let me just say that we had a great time as a family. I think we really needed this trip together, just us and the kids. It was wonderful to get away from all of our normal daily activities and have nowhere we had to be at any certain time. In fact, once we were away from all that, I realized just how much we are involved in.The kids had Mom and Dad with no distractions–that’s right, no phone calls, no internet, no e-mail, and we actually didn’t even turn on the TV until near the end of the week. May I just brag on these kids for a minute? Our road trip was about 20 hours each way with stops, though we only stopped about every 4 hours. Those kids kept themselves occupied almost the whole time with books, little toys, songs, etc. Yes, there were a couple of squabbles here and there, but nothing like you would imagine. Thank you Lord!!!

I’ll stop rambling now and share some highlights of our trip. The first highlight for me was the beaches. We tried several in the area out. The kids favorite one was Caspersen Beach, which is famous for people finding shark’s teeth. My gang was SO psyched when they really did find a bunch of shark’s teeth, amongst lots of pretty shells.

My little diggers, hard at work.

This is the first beach we tried out in Florida and I was struck by how blue the water looked. So pretty!

The pier at Caspersen Beach.

We also checked out the beach at Siesta Key one evening. I had heard that the sand there was like baby powder or like sugar. I found that to be totally true! My toes were loving that sand and it was very pretty as well.

My fab 5 at Siesta Key.
I love this crew!
Stealing a smooch at Siesta.

We also went to Turtle Beach on our last day, which was similar to Caspersen and great for shelling. 

Since we’re from PA and my boys are Phillies fans, we also caught a Spring Training game up at Clearwater. I could just kick myself for not getting any pics! Our entire family had Philly gear on and we did see several innings.  Unfortunately, it dumped rain on us all and we didn’t see the whole game 😦  I have an amusing story to tell about that one, but I’ll save it for another blog. Trust me, if you know me personally, you may get a kick out of it.

On my twins’ actual birthday, we drove to Myakka State Park, which was well worth it. They have an awesome “canopy walk,” which is a bridge you can walk across supended between two towers, therefore you can walk across the treetops and see all around the area.

Don't look down!

Another highlight at Myakka is the airboat tour. My kids really wanted to see some gators, and this tour did not disappoint! We saw lots of ’em, plus tons of other wildlife. Our guide/airboat pilot was extremely  knowledgeable. He told us that for every gator we saw, there are an average of 5 more that are under the surface. I didn’t get a picture of this, but there were fishermen out in waders, standing in the lake. Better you than me!

Just one of many beautiful birds we spotted on our tour.

We topped off our trip and the twins’ 4th birthday with a trip to Yoder’s Restaurant to get one of the yummy pies they are famous for. The boys chose a strawberry cream pie for their birthday treat. Let me just say that that huge pie was obliterated by the next morning.

Trust me, it tasted just as good as it looked.
Going to see gators and strawberry cream pie. What 4 year old could ask for more?

Yet another highlight for us all was the pool. We do not have a pool and it was glorious to walk right out on the lanai and have a sparkling warm pool to jump in. The kids got lots of practice swimming and Mommy got lots of books read poolside.  As a bonus, they were good and tired by the end of each day.

My Joey learning to swim. What he's wearing are called Puddle Jumpers and they are a wonderful invention!

A couple of other things the boys got to do are going to Mixon’s Fruit Farm and visiting the Mote Aquarium. My daughter woke with a fever Thursday am and I stayed at the house with her while Daddy and the boys had an outing. He is not a camera guy, so no pics there either. Oh well, the guys were excited about the different creatures they saw at the aquarium.

The highlight for our oldest was driving through Washington DC at 2 in the morning. This was completely unplanned as we were planning to drive AROUND the city. Our GPS (an early B-day gift for me from the man) took us a weird route, but it actually worked out in our favor. Our kids have never been to DC and got to see the Washington Monument and the Capitol all lit up at night.

All in all, a great trip! As I mentioned earlier, a good time as a family, quality time with our kids. The icing on the cake was a beautiful location to spend it at  and new experiences for our kids.