May 31, 2013

New Hampshire: Storyland & The White Mountains

One of our first stops once we were back in the Northeast was traveling up into the White Mountains of New Hampshire and to a magical place called Storyland.  Brian went there as a child and many of the cousins still go almost every year.  It is an adorable amusement park set up into the beautiful mountains.

It's always more fun when you go with tons of cousins!

Here are some lovely photos from our exploration of the beautiful White Mountains in New Hampshire.  Our journey to the top of Cannon Mountain:

The tram to the top of Cannon Mountain.
We spent the afternoon exploring The Basin at Franconia Notch State Park.  It was beautiful!

May 12, 2013

I Love You, Mom! And Other Musings from a Grownup Daughter.

My mom is an amazing woman.  She's taught thousands of people how to read and write.  She's served hundreds through serving in church.  She is a strength and an example to me.  Here are a few of the many things my mom taught me that help me a be a better mom.

(All photos are from when we were together in Texas recently.)

I can do hard things.

While I was little my mom worked full time and earned a graduate degree while still fulfilling her motherly duties at home.  When I was 12 years old my parents divorced.  When I was 14 my mom lost her job.  We had no income for a year; she was the main provider for the four youngest kids still living at home.  When she wasn't diligently searching to secure employment she volunteered and helped teach young mothers, who had been addicted to drugs, how to mother to their babies.  When she finally found employment she had to secure 3 different teaching positions in order to pay the bills.

My mom can do hard things.  She works hard and she figures out how to make it through life's challenges.

Although my challenges right now are very different from what I saw my mom experience when I was a child I am reminded that I, too, can do hard things.  When I stand fearful, or feel like I am failing at all that the Lord has handed me, I stop and remind myself, "I can do hard things."  It empowers me to continue to work hard and be the mother I want to be, especially when it all feels too difficult.

Stay close to your sister(s).

My mom has 3 younger sisters.  I love my aunts and adore them. One of the reasons is because I feel like they adore me.  But the main because they bring my mom so much joy.  Growing up I would wake up Saturday mornings to the sound of my mom's laughter.  Many an early Saturday morning my mom spent chatting with one of her sisters on the phone.  She was always in a good mood those days.  My mom is happiest when she is in the company of her sisters.

I love and adore my older (and only) sister.  Even though I don't have the opportunity to call and chat with her early Saturday mornings I am always uplifted when we do chat and love the frequent texts and love sent to my phone.  She makes me laugh, she offers good advice (even if unsolicited at times...she is my older sister after all  :)), and she offers a different perspective on life's challenges.  I am a better mom because of my relationship with my sister.

Use peanut butter when necessary.

When I was bouncing off the walls, as was common in my rambunctious youth, my mom would make me sit down on a kitchen chair and hand me a spoonful of peanut butter (all natural, of course).  I was not allowed to get out of that chair until the spoon was clean.  It never felt like a punishment, just a cool down time.

I forgot about this perfect "calm down" gem until recently.  What an amazing trick!  It takes my kids so long to work through that spoonful of peanut butter that they calm down.  It's slow and methodical.  It's a diversion rather than a punishment.  Simon likes it so much that he usually asks for a spoonful of peanut butter whenever I pull out the jar.

Often, it's the simple things that can make all the difference in a child's (and mama's) mood.  How much happier we all are when a spoonful of peanut butter is consumed rather than yelling, "Stop doing that!" or "Calm down!" Motherhood is about creativity and finding uplifting ways of discipline rather than constant threats of punishment.

Mom, I love and adore you!  You have taught me so much and are such a strong, awesome woman.  Happy Mother's Day to THE most amazing mom in the world!!!

Coming Home

As we drove north along the Blue Ridge Parkway the temperature outside became chillier and chillier.  We also had several raining days and we were feeling fatigued.  There wasn't a spot where we wanted to stop for a couple of days to relax, cause it was cold and rainy.  We had planned on visiting the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, but with cold, rainy conditions combined with the park services not opening for another week, we decided to skip it.  And once we got north of Shenandoah we felt too close to home to stop and enjoy the things that are close enough to visit from home, on a weekend trip (i.e. Washington D.C.).

So we drove as long as we could drive, landed in Princeton, New Jersey for a night and made it to NYC on a Saturday morning.  The church was having their annual tag sale to raise money for the youth to go to camp, so we stopped by there and surprised many friends.  It was so good to see so many of our favorite people again.

And it was a very surreal experience to be "home" again.  While we were on the road it felt like we had been gone forever.  February was forever ago.  Winter was gone, we had been to so many neat places and done so much time really slowed down while we were traveling.  But as soon as we drove into the city a time warp happened again.  I felt like we had not been gone hardly at all.  The city was just as it was when we left it, although much warmer.  Even though we had been traveling for almost 3 months once we were back in the city that all seemed to shrink and I felt like we had been gone only a week.

Since we returned sooner than planned our apartment was still being used by the subletor, so we couldn't go home.  But NYC is our home; our apartment is just the place where we sleep.  After stopping for a few hours we then drove to Brian's parents' home in CT.

Returning to Connecticut in May was lovely and perfect.

May 9, 2013

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina

When we traveled from the Great Smoky Mountains to Asheville we took the longer, beautiful route along the Blue Ridge Parkway; the most southern portion.  Then we continued along the Blue Ridge Parkway when we left Asheville and drove north.  We intended to take it all the way to the northern most point, but encountered days of fog and rain.  Not the best conditions for driving on small, tight, winding, scenic parkways.

The few days we drove along the parkway were extremely beautiful.  We were surprised that spring was only beginning in the mountain tops.  Even though the trees were bare the bright, luscious  spring green was stunning.  We were at the Blue Ridge Parkway a little before the official season started, so most of the visitor centers were still closed.

Difficult children.  :)

The next several photos were when we hiked to Second Falls near Graveyard Fields. It was a perfect hike for our kids and I thought it was one of the most beautiful short hikes I've been on.

Other beautiful stops along the Parkway...

I had to document our usual lunch.  I made tons of pb&j sandwiches while Brian drove over the course of our travels.

The below photos are of our campsite at a state park in North Carolina.  It ended up being our last night camping (not what we had planned) and we hurried home the next day.  I will explain more about that decision in my next post.

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