Wednesday, August 14, 2019

My First Deliberate Break From Life

Walking in the pouring rain at Valley Forge. Believe it or not, this was part of my break from life. I don't typically find myself walking in the rain at historical places, teaching my kids history as they have meltdowns. 

It was noted during the past weekend's gatherings that I haven't been doing a lot of writing. I have been pretty silent on the blog except for our vacation posts. Usually silence on things means I'm focusing on something else. But for the first time in what seems like forever, I haven't been. I haven't been doing much of anything other than living.

I took a deliberate break from life. A much needed, refreshing break from my busy life.

It took some planning in numerous areas of my life: financially (could we essentially afford for me to take a two and a half month break from my freelance writing jobs on top of an 18 day vacation from daycaring?), physically (would the things I usually do and plan at the Museum be covered?), mentally (do you have any idea how hard it is to prepare for such a break?? I had to make sure everything was turned in on time or ready ahead of time--neither or which are my strong suites). But I had a solid year, seriously a full year, to prepare for my break and I used every minute of that year just so I could have my break.

I realized I had never truly taken a break in, well, eleven years. Despite every vacation we've taken in the last three years alone, I haven't taken a true break from my life. I still received (and responded) to texts and emails, I used my relaxed state to write instead of relaxing more, I deliberately posted on Facebook and Instagram, I looked at my calendar to make sure I could do everything that needed done as soon as I was available. Vacations or times off weren't a break from life, it was just living life in a new environment. There was no true break.

Last summer, the summer of no vacation because of our big spring break trip to Florida, I made myself a promise that I would take time to enjoy summer. I love summer. I love craziness that comes with my children having their friends here day in and day out. I love our time spent outdoors. I didn't want to let another summer go by and be overworked. I wanted the break and to be completely present in my vacation.

My WAHM (work at home mom) status gives me a lot of wiggle room. I can take time off when it suits our family, I can choose how much money I want to bring in each month (which is tied directly to how busy I am). What's the fun in owning my own businesses and working from home if I don't take advantage of it?

I spent the entire month of May running and making it so all of my writing projects were wrapped up at the beginning of June. Ironically, I spent June running around like I had my head cut off, so I was really happy I didn't have anything extra on my plate. When we left for our eighteen day East Coast adventure, the emails, texts, and business communications went on silent. I found myself posting pictures on social media for fun and not just "to keep my name out there." 

To be perfectly honest, coming back from an eighteen day vacation was so refreshing and rejuvenating that I decided to take off more time from my writing. I slowly started back to my life and our every day craziness. It was a good summer. It's been a summer to remember. I'd like to say I plan to take a deliberate break from life every summer, but that may not always be feasible. What I do plan on doing is taking more breaks throughout the year (as determined by this year's school schedule and the numerous breaks my children get). Sometimes in order to go forward one must take a step back to see clearly. I know what I value in life and what feeds my soul, but sometimes a break from everything extra is needed....and eleven years is much too long without a true break.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

2 Days in Pennsylvania

Philadelphia isn't my favorite city, but it did provide us plenty of memories. We had one full day in Philly to see all the sites and we fit in as much as we could. We saw the Liberty Bell, toured Independence Hall, drove through Valley Forge, and ate at an Ethiopian restaurant for dinner with a friend.


Our first stop for the day was the Liberty Bell in Independence Park. There were the usual security lines we had to get through and  quick informational plaques about the history of the Bell before we saw the Liberty Bell. The middle mini had initially been beyond excited to see the Liberty Bell. I'm not sure if it was so much of the "historical stuff" on our trip or the heat of the day, but the minis felt kind of blah about Independence Park. Unfortunate because Hubs and I loved it! But we knew that they had had enough, so we took a break after seeing the Liberty Bell. 

I wasn't coming this far to not see Independence Hall, so after a quick coffee for me and muffins for them, I talked them into waiting in line to see the old United States Capital and Independence Hall. The significance of both buildings were lost on them (except for the oldest mini who understood their importance, but is still a tad too young to really care), but they stuck it out so Mom and Dad could geek out on history.



They deemed these the best chocolate chip muffins they've ever had.

When you are bored standing in lines so you start putting your water bottle between your knees and jumping up in down to see if you can keep it in place....




They loved taking the geography quizzes. They did surprisingly well on them too.

Caught in the act of playing with his little sister's hair during a presentation. It cracks me up because I don't think he realized he was doing it and she won't let anyone besides Max (and a few other select people) do this to her hair. We have numerous pictures from this vacation of him absentmindedly playing with her hair on tours or at museums. Totally saving these for future use!


Loudly complaining about our wait time to see the old US Capital. With our guide standing right next time. I kept sheepishly looking at him because I wasn't sure what to say. I could apologize to him, but they're kids. Awesome kids who stuck with us through 16 days (at this point) of tours and things they didn't/don't fully understand. I didn't feel it was necessary to apologize for their behavior. I did tell them to keep their complaints down....which only made them sigh and groan louder. Typical.


Sitting in "the Congress seats," said in a special, elite way by my 11 year old.










There was a lot of hand holding this trip due to the crowds we found ourselves in (often). I had to snap a pic when I looked down and realized I was holding two kid's hands and no one said anything. I hope they grip onto my hand for a little bit longer.





Best selfie we could manage before meltdowns happened.


When we were in Gettysburg there was a map or historical places in Pennsylvania. Of course Hubs noticed Valley Forge and it's proximity to Philly. We weren't set on going here (I would have preferred to go to Love Park in Philly), but when the rain started for the afternoon, a trip to Love Park was out and an easy drive through Valley Forge was in. This would have been great for hiking and walking to take in the sights because it wasn't as expansive as Gettysburg. Of course, we were short on time and chose to drive. We did get out to see Washington's Quarters and a few other important must sees.



There were several meltdowns on this day. Considering this was day 15 on vacation, I'd say we made it out pretty good!


Gettysburg was marked by canons throughout the battlefield. Valley Forge was marked by these barracks throughout. Very neat to see even though they were (clearly) not original, the NPS rebuilt them so visitors could get an idea of the Park.


Caught in another down pour!






We visited the train station that Washington famously rode into.



Crying because she didn't want to see Washington's Quarters. She wanted to stay in the car by herself.


The boys had sooooo many questions for the Park Service Ranger who was manning the house. "Where did Washington sleep?" "What did he eat for breakfast?" "Where did he work the most?" "Where's the bathroom?" "Why can't we get to the third floor?" "What happened up on the third floor?" "Why isn't there a fourth floor?" I remember none of these answers, but the boys do!




We came across a (possibly) injured bird on the trail we were walking. There were tears when I said we couldn't bring the bird home and help it. Sigh. At least I know they have big hearts.




The fava beans and cabbage was my favorite!

Cuddles before bed



Our second day in Pennsylvania was filled with mixed emotions. Our end goal for the day was to get closer to home so we could finish our drive on Saturday, leaving us Sunday to recoup after 17 days away. Two of us weren't ready for vacay to end, one mini was ready to go home, and two members of our family didn't care one way or the other. We wanted our last full day of vacation to be memorable so we brought it all. We woke up early and drove from Philly to Hershey, PA. Since it was morning rush hour, the usual two hour drive took us three. No worries though because we arrived at Hershey World with time to spare before our Create Your Own Candy Bar scheduled time.

We decided to skip Hershey Park since we have season passes to Adventureland (here in Iowa). It worked out well because we mostly wanted to make our own candy bars! I pre-booked our spots a couple of days in advance. I didn't have many times to choose from because apparently it's a popular activity, but there were still a few options. I chose the 11:45 a.m. time slot. This gave us enough time to take a factory tour, hit the massive gift shop, and then make our chocolate bars.












Creating our own candy bars took 30-45 minutes. Honestly, I lost track of time because we were having so much fun! It's all computerized and simple, but involved. You're ticket is used and with you the entire time and is used to make sure your candy bar matches what you've done at each station. For example, at the first station, we took turns scanning our tickets, typing in our names, and then every time we scanned our ticket at the proceeding stations, it would pop up with our names, what we ordered, etc. It was intriguing to see the process they had. Personally, my favorite part wasn't the most expensive candy bars we'll ever eat, but the aprons and hair nets the minis had to wear. I mean, adorable!


Look at that concentration as they watch their candy bars being created.









Indulging in her chocolate. Funny thing is, she ate two bites of it, declared that she didn't like it, and I wound up splitting it with Hubs a few nights ago. Typical.


Up until this particular afternoon of our trip, nearly everything we saw, taught the minis about, and experienced was a part of history that Hubs nor I was alive to see. We learned a lot about the Civil War, the Revolutionary War, and WWII. However, with our stop at the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, PA that changed. See, Hubs and I were alive and both have very specific memories of 9/11. I remember the news coverage like the back of my hand. I remember the news anchors voices. I remember panic and uncertainty. I remember coming together and feeling stronger. Suddenly we were teaching them something we had lived through and it was a tough place, emotionally, to be in. 

One of the first things that took me by surprise was the drive from Hershey to Shanksville. Corn fields and mountains is a brief description of the landscape we encountered. The drive from Philadelphia to Hershey wasn't exactly outstanding. A lot of fields and cornfields. But as soon as we headed east out of Hershey, PA the fields turned to rolling hills and then to mountains. It was a gorgeous drive! Of course, imagine our shock when we learned that field in Pennsylvania that Flight 93 crashed into was actually on a mountain top! At no point and time did the news coverage I remember give this description. It was quite a beautiful area.







As we walked to the end of this path to an overlook of the field where the plane crashed, we happened upon a Park Ranger who was explaining the Memorial a bit. I have never been happier to listen to a Ranger speak because we learned far more than we have at other Memorials. The black path we walked along is actually the flight path of the plane from the moment it was (possibly) over taken (a bit of history here, because of recordings and the voices heard on the recordings, we don't exactly know if the passengers managed to take over the plane and crash it before it got to DC. There's still much speculation about it, but it is still unknown) until it crashed. The actual crash site (where the nose of the plane hit) is marked by a large boulder that was part of the rubble. The families of the victims got to choose the Memorial marking and out of everything offered to them (plaques, something built, steel) the families chose a part of the earth where the plane hit. It was interesting to hear the details and how much involvement all of the families had in the Memorial.







The minis got a detailed glimpse at what happened on 9/11. The only thing we didn't let them do was listen to a few voice recordings from passengers to their families. They were released to the public and are on display at the Memorial museum, but we didn't feel comfortable letting the kids listen to those final words without understanding the day and the impact it had. I'm not sure they'll ever fully understand the impact that day had on the lives of everyone.






I was concentrated on the boulder, the kids were concentrated on the ground hog on the path.



After the Memorial we made the decision to drive as far as we felt comfortable with. We chose to drive to Dayton, Ohio so we had an easy drive the next day. I was ready for my own bed, so I booked two rooms. It wound up being girls in one room, boys in the other. The minis went from sleeping in the car to sleeping in the hotel. So much for a fun girly night!



Of course I got woken up the next morning by a "mom! I pulled my tooth!" It was ready to come out before we even left for vacation! Fitting that she pulled it on our final day on the road.

We celebrated with Tim Hortons for breakfast and Skyline Chili for lunch. We now have it planned to try our hand at making Cincinnati chili this fall.



A stop at the I80 truck stop meant that we had to stop in the toy store that's in the gas station. Harrison had me snap numerous pictures of things he'd like for Christmas. Sigh.


By the time we got home Saturday night, everyone was ready for some relaxing. Of course, we were gone for over two weeks and the house needed cleaned. I will never understand how my house can get so messy without us even being there! Regardless of another late night, we chose to use our last day of vacation looking back over our 17 days on the road. It was an unbelievable trip! 


We were beyond spoiled. Sure I had grocery shopping to do (I got some one on one time with the oldest, who accompanied me to the store), but my mom made sure we had food ready to go and eat when we got home! We made us a french toast casserole and walking tacos that were waiting in our refrigerator when we arrived. My dad did yard work and more for us while we were gone! I can't tell you how amazing it feels to be able to give our minis an adventure of a lifetime and still be taken care of ourselves.

The minis LOVE walking tacos apparently. I had no idea.


Even if we weren't on the road and having adventures (one of our favorite things, in case you didn't catch that), but Sunday Funday at home was sweet. Even sweeter since we were energized and refreshed from our road trip.

Patting her head while she rubbed her belly. Things got silly obviously--and competitive, which resulted in one mini running instead crying because he couldn't figure it out.