Wednesday, July 29, 2015

My Favorite Year


I told someone recently that this is the "pay off" year. This is the year when all the hard work I've put into parenting is paying off.

All the years of reading books and trying to figure out the best way to discipline my kids.
All the years of sleepless nights.
All the years of training and molding them into who they are today.
All the years of building foundations.

All the years have led us to this one.

And while I have loved all the years... this is my favorite one yet!

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I am having such a great time with Liza and Jason this summer! They were the best little travel companions when we went to Maryland to visit family. They are lots of fun to go on bike rides with and they push themselves and go far... 15 miles is the longest ride for them so far and that's pretty good for a 7 and 8 year old! They go on hikes with me and know how to just go slow and take it all in. We spend long days at the lake and would probably just stay forever if we didn't get so tired.

I'm loving this summer because it is easy. Because I can say let's go spend the day at the lake and the kids get excited and pitch in. They make their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and help pack up lunch. They play well together all day and then help unpack when we get home.

They have real conversations with each other and with me. I love being able to know what goes on in their minds!

I love their behavior and their attitudes. And no I wasn't just blessed with easy kids. I have worked for this... constantly... from the day they were born. And I never quit. And I still have years and years of work to do. But I no longer have to do things like changing diapers and cutting up food and being up at night.

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I feel like I got to hit the cruise control of life and we are just riding along, enjoying life.

Yes, we have our grumpy days and our days of whining and bickering... but they are few. And so we continue to go and do and have fun.

This is the good life.
This is the life I hoped for... worked for.
I wouldn't trade it for anything!!

Especially when as we are pulling into the driveway after a long day out and...

JASON: Thanks for taking us to the lake mom!
LIZA: Thanks mom!
ME: Thanks for being kids that are fun to go to the lake with.
JASON: Thanks for being a good mom.

Worth it.
Worth it all!
Worth the years of changing diapers and spoon feeding and talking endlessly about choices and how they are in control of their own behavior. Worth the time spent reading all the books and working out a discipline that works.

Worth it.
Because my kids are worth it and summers like this are the payoff.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Travels

Liza and Jason are excited about traveling to other states. Last year they went to Ohio. This year they have been to Maryland and a few steps into Delaware. We plan to ride a bike trail from Pennsylvania into West Virginia before the weather gets too cold. And this weekend we are heading to New York to see Niagara Falls.

It's a summer of new-to-them states. They have a map and are coloring in all the states they visit.

Liza likes to brag that she has also been to Florida... because she has been... she just doesn't remember it without photos and me talking about it, because she was only 11 months old when we went.

But "contechnically" as Jason would say, he was there too... because he was... in my belly. I was only a few weeks pregnant with him.

The debate was once again happening in the car today, and I just let them go back and forth about it. Jason argues that "contechnically" he WAS in Florida and therefore should color it in on his map.

After some thought Liza said, "Well your soul was there, so I guess you were. You can color in Florida."

Body and soul... Jason was "contechnically" in Florida. But we'll have to take him back some day so he can SEE it while he is there. :)



A few photos from too many years ago when Liza (and Jason) went to Florida with me. :)






Monday, July 27, 2015

Moraine State Park Bike Trail

When the kids were at camp, me and Mike decided to do a bike trail that we didn't want to take the kids on yet... Moraine Bike Trail.

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The bike trail is on the North Shore exit and you can start at the Bike Concession... where you can also rent a bike if you don't have one.

The trail is a little over 7 miles long... one way. You can park a second car at the other end, but what's the fun in that!?

The day we went was a hot day and after the first two miles I was certain I was going to die on the way back. We have been riding the rail trails and they are pretty flat and straight. The bike trail at Moraine is different... bends and curves and hills. And it seemed like we went downhill for the first two miles. But we kept going.

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It was a really nice trail with great views along the way. It was also a nice change from the easy rail trails. Mike enjoyed the hills and curves and made his boy fast car noises along the way. :)

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This is us at the beginning... ready to go.

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This is us at the end... when we had to turn around and go back and I was dreading all the hills I would have to go up.

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But the trail is deceiving. I thought it was going to be a torturous uphill ride on the way back but it wasn't. It was pretty balanced. Just as much uphill and downhill as the opposite direction.

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We definitely enjoyed this trail! We are by no means serious bike riders and it took us approximately 45 minutes each way. We decided that we would take the kids on this trail once they had bikes that had gears... because we don't want to have to ride it without gears.

At one point Mike said, "My gears are getting a workout!" When we ride the rail trails there is no need to shift gears. It was a good workout for us!

Biking... it's what we have been doing lately. :)

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Butler's Farmer's Market

We live just a few blocks from the Farmer's Market but for some reason it took me almost three years to actually check it out.

Two weeks ago we finally remembered about it and went.

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There were about ten stands both times. Lots of garden produce. Pretty sure someone was selling meat and eggs. Oh! And quail eggs?? Baked goods. Goat milk fudge... which I really need to try one of these times to see if my stomach handles goat milk better than cow milk.

We have been buying cucumbers, zuchinni and beans. Good food! Good prices! And the cucumbers are HUGE!!

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I've been making cucumber water.
And zucchini bread.
And just slicing the cucumbers and topping with tuna.

Farmer's Market in the City of Butler... it's where we've been buying our produce lately!


205 S. Chestnut St.
Open Saturdays from 8-1.
Check it out!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

McConnell's Mill - Hell's Hollow

Last week I asked the kids what they wanted to do, and they answered with take a hike! So... we went to one of our favorite spots early in the morning and had the trail to ourselves.

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To get to the Hell's Hollow trail, you have to drive across the covered bridge and go about five more miles. Grab a map of the park from the info boards at either restroom on your way into the park. There is not a restroom at the Hell's Hollow trail, so I recommend using one when you stop to get your map.

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Hell's Hollow is a beautiful, easy trail that is only a half mile one way. As long as it hasn't been raining a ton, and the path is dry, you would be able to use a stroller on most of the trail. It ends with steps down to a waterfall.

We love the leisurely pace we can take on this trail, and the kids love stopping along the creek to look for critters or unique rocks. I love the scenery. It's all so green in the summer and it's stunning in the fall as well! We love this trail and walk it several times a year.

Hell's Hollow... it's where we've been hiking lately!


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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Jennings - Celebrate the Bloom

We were looking for something a little more laid back than our usual for Saturday and found Celebrate the Bloom at Jennings Environmental Education Center. We have been to Jennings plenty of times for hiking but we had never been to Celebrate the Bloom.

We are glad we went. :)

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It was ridiculously hot out but we still enjoyed our time. We started our day there by watching a demonstration on how bee keepers extract honey from the hives. They gave us a taste of the fresh honey at the end and OH MY! I could drink that stuff!

After that we went on a walk to learn about the different flowers and plants that grow at Jennings. Liza and Jason were surprisingly really into it.

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After learning about the flowers, we joined the insect walk for a little bit. Liza loves nature and has been really into catching critters lately, so she was also loving this hike. She learned some new things... like there is a bug that flies around and just likes to eat people's sweat... or something like that. When we were eating lunch I was swatting this bug away from me and Liza said, "Mom, it JUST wants your sweat." Well gee Liza... sorry that I don't love bugs all over my face! :)

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We checked out the vendors and bought some goods, and then we found our way to the music where we sat, snacked, and relaxed for a while. If we hadn't had evening plans, I think we would have stayed all day. Good music in the woods... hard to find a better way to spend the day!

We really loved Celebrate the Bloom! If you are in the area and see signs for it next summer make sure to check it out! Jennings is just up Route 8 North. Turn onto 528 just before the Old Stone House. But don't wait till next summer to check the park out! There are lots of trails and it's a great place to hike with the kids!

Hiking, flowers, bugs, outdoor life... it's what my family has been up to lately.

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Monday, July 20, 2015

Summer Camp

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A few months ago Liza and Jason came home from church excited, and Jason exclaimed, "I'm going to go to camp mom!"

I figured I better look into camp and figure out some details.
Blast Camp at Jumonville.
5 days/4 nights.
$300 per kid.

Whew! It was a lot to process.
Could they handle it?
Could I handle it!?
Did we have the funds?

After some conversations with the kids we decided to let them go. They had some money in savings and each paid for half of their cost to go. I wanted them to put their own money in it, because I wanted them to own the decision. They were both a little nervous, and I knew that if they paid their own way they would not back out when it got close.

We got them registered and then had months to wait for camp to get here.

Saturday night, the night before they left for camp, I was talking to Jason while tucking him in.

ME: I'm going to miss you Jason.
JASON: I know.
ME: I might get really bored without you guys here!
JASON: It will probably be like memories of school.
ME: Memories of school?
JASON: Yeah. You know how you drop us off in the morning and we come back home later. 'Cept we won't be coming home every day. And dad will be at work... *shoulder shrug* so it will be like memories of school.
ME: Oooh! It will be like when you guys are at school and I'm at home and have a whole lot of time by myself and have to figure out what to do?
JASON: Yep.

It took me a minute, but I eventually realized what was happening. We had reversed roles. My sweet baby boy offered me comfort and gave me an example to relate to. He was telling me I would be fine and should just think of it like I do when they are at school.

I love him!

We woke up Sunday morning and finished with the last details of packing before going out for breakfast. While having breakfast I thought back to all my years of working at camps and gave them every bit of information I could think of... what to do if the shower is in your face, where to put your glasses to keep them safe, how to keep track of your stuff, where to hang your wet towels. We talked about everything and they loved mentally preparing for the week.

At 2:15 they loaded the buses and we said our final goodbyes.

I won't be talking to my kids until 4:30 on Thursday. I don't think I've ever gone more than 24 hours without talking to them. Already it is not easy, but thankfully the church is posting pictures and updates on facebook for us! And parents were given a schedule of what their kids would be doing this week, so I always know what activities my kids are enjoying. It helps. :)

I know they are having a blast. On the way to dropping them off, Liza said, "Can I go again next year!?" I suggested we all get through the week and then talk about it, but I bet they come home and immediately start making plans to make and save money to go again.

Because summer camp is awesome and it's what my kids are up to lately!


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Friday, July 17, 2015

Allegheny River Trail - Rockdale Tunnel

It's no secret that my family and bikes go together. It's a tight squeeze, but we can fit all four bikes into the back of our van and still fit all of us. Eventually we will need a bike rack. I think we'll look into that as soon as we buy a new van so that we can take our bikes everywhere we go.

Anyways...

We have had a rainy summer, so we like to take full advantage of the nice days. Last Saturday was one of the nice days. I told Mike to pick a trail and we packed up the van and headed out. We drove about 45 minutes to Emlenton, PA, where we were able to get on the Allegheny River Rails to Trails.

Last summer we started at a different point on the trail and rode to the Kennerdale Tunnel. This time our goal was to make it from our start point to the Rockdale Tunnel. It was six miles of nice, easy riding along the river to get to the Rockdale Tunnel where we turned on our lights and rode for a 1/2 mile in cold darkness.

I have to say, it's really strange driving through a tunnel. It makes me forget how to keep my balance and I find myself wobbling all over the place. But we all managed even though it was really hard to see. Small flashlights really don't do much in total darkness.

If you live near Emlenton, I highly recommend this trail! It's beautiful. It's easy. It's relaxing. Just don't forget your lights!

To get there... Take PA-38 to Emlenton. (Exit 42 if you take I-80.)
Continue toward Emlenton.
Take a left on Main St. after crossing the bridge and go to the end where you will find parking and a port-o-potty.

If you are really adventurous you can keep going after you go through the Rockdale Tunnel and ride another 7 miles to the Kennerdale Tunnel. I can't wait till the kids are a little older and can handle a 26 mile round trip so we can do that ride!

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