A Travelling We Go

Travelling with children is loathsome for me, be it plane, train, or automobile.   I spend a solid month preparing myself for it, mentally and physically.   I go through a checklist with things I may need for every possible scenario and for each child.   The boys have their own back packs now, so I do my best to load them down (without tipping them over) with every book, movie, colored pencil, and stuffed animal they may need.   Still, I’m not as fully prepared as I’d like to be.

When we go to Rochester to visit family, we fly, ALWAYS fly.   Being cooped up in a car with my two boys for 12 hours or more is not my cup of tea.   With flying, it’s usually five hours total, with a two hour layover built in so the boys can at least walk around, in their cases run, and expend some energy.   Of course, at times there are delays at the airports, thereby extending my time of misery as I find myself sprinting to catch up with Henry as he’s climbed onto the moving sidewalk and is strategically trying to look into other passengers’ bags.   Fortunately, most people just smile at the boys, while giving me an “I’ve been there before” pity look.

flying

This past Thanksgiving’s travel started out cumbersome and was a bit foreboding.   We arrived at the airport early, about an hour and a half before our flight was to leave, only to find out that it was delayed an additional two hours.   Unfortunately, we didn’t find out about this delay until AFTER we’ve already gone through security, meaning we were stuck in the terminal with two overly excited and rowdy boys.   I was at my wit’s end and needed a drink.   Actually, I was tempted to have my flight, and ONLY my flight, moved so that my husband could experience the joy of flying solo with the boys.  I’ve been there and done that.

Henry didn’t sleep during that flight.   He cried a lot, wanted to roam around the plane, kicked the seats in front of us.   Davey watched his movie on my iPad before finally laying his head on my lap and falling asleep.   Thank goodness!

pre flight

So, Saturday morning, as we were busy packing, I went back through my mental checklist, bringing back everything bothersome that had occurred on the flight up, and a solution for those problems.

Unlike the flight up, I was not given a pre TSA boarding pass for having an infant in my lap.   Side note…Rochester, NY is HORRIBLE with their security.   HORRIBLE!!!!!!   So, I had to practically undress myself, including my vest, which the TSA agent called a coat and I nearly lost my cool as I wanted to yell, “it’s not a coat”, and encourage Henry to walk through the metal detectors and wait on me.   After we made it through and were fully clothed and loaded back down with our carry ons, I needed  a coffee, and here’s where the adventures began.

hello Baltimore

While getting my coffee, the boys sat at a table howling like dogs, their howls reverberating and bouncing off the walls in the terminal.   Both sat with their heads towards the ceiling literally howling.   I pretended not to know them for as long as humanly possible.   Once we were in the lobby area waiting for our plane, I gave the boys my iPad so they could watch “Land Before Time”  (I love that they love what my husband and I watched as kids), along with their own personal headphones we’d just bought.   It went off swimmingly for about 15 minutes, before Henry wanted to shove Davey and take the iPad from him.   Of course, once Davey fought back for his fair share, Henry took off the headphones and went for his normal sprint through the airport.

Once we were on the flight, Davey watched another movie, Henry and my husband napped, and I was actually able to read a book!   Can you believe it?  I certainly can’t.   The last time I was able to read a book on a plane, that wasn’t about dinosaurs and knights, was on our last cruise in 2010.   It was nice, so nice.

on the plane

When we landed in Baltimore for our standard two hour layover, we found a restaurant carrying the Clemson/Carolina game.   Naturally, we had to stop there, but the downside was that all the tables were high top, and there were no booster seats or high chairs for Henry.   We weren’t going to be enjoying our lunch and game in peace.   Nope.   It’s quite exhausting trying to eat with one hand while using the other to keep a busy toddler in place.

trying to catch the game

During our layover; however, Davey did what he does best…he made new friends.   This time they were fellow Clemson Tiger fans, decked out in their orange, much like my entire family was.   Davey did his C-L-E-M cadence cheer, and the sweet lady gave him her Tiger Rag!

Davey and tiger rag

We killed a bit of time before boarding the final leg of our journey by walking the boys back and forth on the moving sidewalk.   Finally, when boarding the plane, the flight attendant did something that I despised her for the entire flight.   She asked Davey if he’d like to sit in the cockpit and get his picture made when we landed.   Why oh why, would you ask a child, MY CHILD, this and expect him to not want to do it?   So, for the hour and 15 minutes we were in the air, Davey whined off and on about wanting to go into the cockpit right now.   Couldn’t she have asked this as we were exiting?

Davey in cockpit 2

We were the last ones off the plane, which is usually the case, and as we were exiting, the same flight attendant said to have a great weekend, while looking at us and not registering who we were.    Seriously?   I’m the tallest female on the plane, you looked at me when you asked Davey about the cockpit, and now you act as if you don’t recognize me?   Naturally, I reminded her and she happily got the pilot and Davey was allowed the chance to see in the pilot’s seat.   The pilot let him grab the yoke and even told him what buttons to push, as I cringed the entire 3-4 minutes.   Please don’t tell my 4 year old he can push the buttons on a multi-million dollar plane.

Davey in cockpit

So, for now this adventure and the travels that go along with it are over, and not a minute too soon for me!

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Cruisin’, On A Friday Afternoon

I sat here this morning, perusing through the memories my family and I had made over the past couple of weeks and it hit me that I hadn’t once blogged about our 3 hour tour of the Erie Canal.   Fortunately for us, the weather didn’t get rough and our tiny ship wasn’t tossed.   We did add an almost 4 foot tall crew member mid tour, but we didn’t set ground on an uncharted desert isle.

Friday, July 3rd, we decided to take advantage of my in-laws close proximity to the Erie Canal and the much cooler weather, to go on a cruise and enter one of the many locks along the 300 + mile stretch of water.   No, we didn’t travel the entire 300 odd miles, but our tour was informational, historical, and even eventful.

Our ship
Our ship

Of course, having two young children who are not only adventurous, but also inquisitive, we just HAD to sit at the top of the Colonial Belle, the ship that took us out onto the canal.   We left from Fairport and went under the infamous lift bridge, a one of it’s kind structure built in the early 1900s.   The entire bridge is lifted by 40 horsepower electric motor.   The bridge can reach a clearance level of 16.3 feet depending upon the water levels of the canal.  The sound of the horn, reminiscent of those found in lighthouses and on ships who are coming into harbor during a fog, and the bells that signal to those around that the bridge is lifting was our first excitement, more so for Davey than Henry.

Lift Bridge at Fairport
Lift Bridge at Fairport

Once we made our way under the bridge and watched it lower again, we began the sightseeing.  Along the canal is a paved trail with bicyclists, runners, walkers, and even the occasion fisherman.   I once lumped all New Yorkers into the category of being too fast, too inconsiderate, and too stuck up.   Growing up, I thought a New Yorker was the polar opposite of a Southerner.   Well, that may be the case in some areas of the state, but not in Fairport where people wave at you as you cruise by.   We shared the canal with pontoon boats, kayakers, and those on pedal boats.   Docks jutted in and out of the water, haphazardly spread about, giving me the visualization of a bar graph when seen from the sky.

One of the many flood gates along the canal
One of the many flood gates along the canal

The docks were surrounded by trees, some littered with chairs and tables, lights and swings, and even the occasional hammock.  Couples and friends, families and neighbors were already enjoying pre July Fourth festivities on many of the docks and back porches of the houses.   I like to think that at least one person was enjoying a good ole glass of sweet tea.

The houses ranged from modular homes, to four story mansions and condos and townhomes.   As we cruised by, it felt like our own low country in South Carolina.   I had an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia, of sitting on porch swings under the oak trees with the Ashley River flowing in the distance.   If it weren’t for the low-humidity of the day and the obvious northern accents, I would have thought I was back in Charleston, SC.

It wasn’t just an adventure for me, but also one for Davey.   Henry seemed to be much too young to really understand what was happening.   He just knew that he was, once again, confined into a space where he couldn’t get out.   Dave ended up taking him down below, where doors were bolted and windows were too high for him to climb out of and go overboard.   He had free reign of the lower deck.

starting in Fairport
starting in Fairport

As with any adventure we undertake as a family, there is always the consideration with how long our boys will be able to keep their attention focused.   Davey lasted longer than Henry, but once there was no longer bridges to go under, which by the way we had to actually duck our heads on a few of them, or animals to see in the woods (a LOT of deer), then he quickly became bored as well.   It wasn’t until we made it to Lock 32 when he became enchanted once again.

I’m sure many of you know about locks on a canal.   Some of the well known locks of the world are on the Panama Canal.  I’ve never visited, but would put it on my bucket list.   For those of you who don’t know what a  “lock” is on a canal, let me give you a brief rundown.

There are 35 locks on the Erie Canal that run from the Hudson River to Lake Erie.   The canal rises 566 feet through those locks and in order to get from one section of the canal to the other, one must enter into a lock, which is an enclosed compartment.   You sail into the lock and tie up.   The “lockmaster” (if that is what he is indeed called), then closes two steel doors behind you.   He opens up tunnels that release hundreds of thousands of gallons of water.   It takes approximately 10 minutes for the lock chamber to fill.  Once it is filled, then steel gates open in front of the ship allowing for passage through.

At this point in our adventure, Davey became intrigued once again, although only for a few minutes.  It’s quite dull to wait around 10 minutes for your boat to rise, after all.  The opening and closing of the chamber seemed to numb the pain of sitting through the lock itself.   When we turned around and came back through the lock, we went through the same process as before except this time, tunnels were opened to pump out the water and the wait wasn’t quite so long.   It was immediately after this when the Colonial Belle took on a new shipmate, in the name of Davey Doser.

Davey stated he wanted to thank our captain for doing such an excellent job at navigating us into and out of the locks.   That token of appreciation in the form of a handshake from Davey, led in turn to the opportunity to become captain of the vessel, an exciting feat even if only for 60 seconds out of a child’s life.  At this, he became happy once more and found the need to tell everyone on the boat how he’d been in charge of chartering us back up the canal.  A round of applause ensued, along with pats on the back, and I’m convinced my child may have a future in politics thanks to his outgoing congeniality.

Davey navigating the ship
Davey navigating the ship

Bridges were the most exciting parts of the boat ride, but I’m afraid 3 hours was a bit much for my two boys.

Should you happen to make it to Western New York, take the time to find a cruise along the Erie Canal, especially one that goes through one of the many locks.  For us old people, it was an educational experience.

Go to http://www.eriecanal.org to learn more.

New York State of Mind

When Billy Joel sang those words, I am well aware that he was referring to New York City, the concrete jungle of the United States.   For me and my family; however, a New York State of Mind applies to Western New York, where the land flows with farms and fields, liberalism isn’t quite as strong, and being referred to as Southern Canadian comes with the territory (well, maybe I’m the only one who uses that reference, and more specifically to annoy my husband).

As many of you are aware, my husband is from western New York, specifically from the village of Fairport within the confines of Rochester.   It’s located along the Erie Canal and boasts the status of Top 100 Best Places to live in America.  There are row houses, old Victorians, and those that give you the feel of New England, although my husband doesn’t like being referred to as New England.  There are festivals, parades, and a warm hometown feel.  It’s quaint, simple, and laid back.   Gosh, if it weren’t for the horrible winters and atrocious taxes, I’d consider living up here.  Fairport is my husband’s native home, and our home away from home for me and the boys.

We love to visit up here, usually making it 2-3 times a year, more specifically during the warmer months.   This time around, I decided to make it a two week visit for me and the boys, with my husband joining us for the final five days.   How is that going? you ask.  We have our good days and we have our bad days.

My boys are out of their element, so that can create some difficult times.   I stick to their normal day to day schedule as much as possible, but going for over a week without daddy, and staying in not normal surroundings, has caused for some hair pulling issues.   My hair, that is.   Fortunately, I have an awesome support group in my in-laws.  We’ve managed to find ways to keep the boys active, even on the rainy days, involving them in coloring binges, and games of Memory.

Davey’s learned how to bowl, we’ve had awesome Tom Wahl’s burgers, enjoyed ice cream sundaes, ridden bikes, visited Great Grandma, taken advantage of the cooler weather and lower humidity to play on the playground, and practiced our artwork on Gammy and Guh Guh’s driveway.   We’ve had exciting days, but days that are still trying.

We have a week left and fortunately for all parties involved, Daddy joins us tomorrow.   Our New York State of Mind is still going strong and today we’re going on an adventure to The Strong: National Museum of Play, a children’s museum known throughout the country as one of the best and greatest.  Davey’s been twice, although I’m sure his memory may be waning, but Henry has never been.

So, for now I sign off with the encouragement for all of you to check out Fairport, NY.

http://www.village.fairport.ny.us

As well as the The Strong.

http://www.museumofplay.org

And stay tuned for a recount of today’s adventures.

Winter Wonderland

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The snow flakes began falling, light little flakes of dandruff from the clouds. We’d seen it before, nothing spectacular, but still a beautiful sight.

Slowly the ground began to transform into a crystal layer of white fluffiness. It looked like a powdery sugar goodness. The branches of the pine trees were beginning their acrobatics of swaying in the wind and somersaulting to the ground. They dramatically bowed after each little gust of wind, sweeping the snowy wonderland under their tips.

At first, Davey wasn’t impressed. He didn’t like snow, or so he claimed. We all know better. He was just being difficult, contradicting every thing we said. Henry; however, stared out the sliding glass doors onto the deck now covered in snow. With each passing moment, the flakes became bigger, each one a unique little gift from heaven. What a magical site for the kids and I found myself sitting alongside Henry, watching the flakes fall softly to the ground. What was he thinking? Was he comprehending what he was seeing? Man, I wish I could be inside his mind, to see the wheels turn.

Davey eventually warmed up to the snow, an irony in itself. We drove down the road and he was mesmerized with the plows, their huge shovels hooked to the trucks. What were these machines with their added mechanical arms and why were there so many on the roads? He watched the people pushing their snowblowers. He sat for minutes watching the machine till up the snow and then shoot it out feet into the air. How exciting!

The best side effect to the snow, though, was how just its sheer sight encouraged my boy to WANT to take a nap. If he napped, he concluded, then he could go outside and play it in. How right he was because two and a half hours later, a good nap under his belt, Davey was pulling on his snow boots and snow pants for an afternoon adventure that rivaled anything he could experience down south.

The snow was still coming down when we went outside. The flakes were changing from small to large and the wind had begun gusting more. When Davey set his first foot into the snow he let out the loudest giggle as the snow came up to his knee! He stepped in with another foot and once again, the snow engulfed his knee! So much snow! So much beauty and so many things to do! We made snowballs, at least to the best of our ability with the light, powdery flakes. Davey tried running and found that it was like having a weight tied around you. He couldn’t go as fast and had to raise his legs higher.

We made snow angels. We stood tall, our arms held out to our sides, and fell backwards into the cushion of snow. We laid there, letting the snowflakes touch our lashes. It was marvelous. I snapped pictures as Davey and his daddy tossed snowballs at each other. I smiled when he wanted to help shovel the driveway (always wanting to be like his daddy). Most of all, my heart was content as Davey played.

It’s a hard time to be away from family especially at Christmas. I’m grateful that if my husband’s family must live so far away, they live in a place that provides my children an adventure that they otherwise wouldn’t have. I’m thankful we get this opportunity to be with them and I praise The Lord for providing His wonderful beauty for my boys to see.

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Spreading Our Wings

And we’re off! This marks Davey’s 8th trip to Rochester. He’s been on a total of 30 plane rides in his 3 years on this earth. I think I hit 30 plane rides when I was 30 years old. This is Henry’s 2nd trip to Rochester, with a total of 10 plane rides and he’ll be a year old a week from today! Where has the time flown?

When we first began flying with Davey, I had much trepidation. I worried that he wouldn’t be able to handle it. I worried that I would be surrounded by travellers much like myself pre-baby. I was all prepared for the evil stares when we boarded the plane. We didn’t have any of that and we didn’t have a fussy baby either. Davey was a pro and has been ever since that first flight.

Henry did well his first time around, but I worried this time since he’s sick and just because he’s a lot more active and not exactly eager to sit still. Thankfully, the plane rides were not packed and we had empty seats in front of us. Davey chose his seat alongside the window and spent the better part of the flight staring out it. Henry? Well, he fought sleep and coughed and sneezed all over everyone. I’m sure people were panicking that my child would give them some sort of dreaded flu. But as we flew, I found myself reflecting on life before babies and what flying was like.

Ready for the first flight.
Ready for the first flight.

I’m envious of those people who get the luxury of putting earbuds into the ears and listening to music. I loathe those who get to sit back and read a book on their flights, and I absolutely abhor the ones who are able to recline back and sleep. It’s an Olympic sport just trying to maintain two children while flying. Once Davey was bored with looking out the window, he moved on to pretending that every barf bag was a bad guy and began to punch them profusely. When the seatbelt light when off, he thought it would be wonderful to try to crawl under every seat like it was a tunnel.

Really the flight is a piece of cake compared to the layover especially when you have a 3 HOUR layover and it’s from 6:30-9:30 in the evening. That’s prime playtime and bedtime for the boys. They’ve been cooped up on a plane for over an hour and then we’re going to continue to quarantine them when the moving sidewalks and escalators are beckoning them? What could we possibly be thinking and how horrible we are as parents to even consider keeping them constrained.

Fortunately for us, I brought Henry’s pajamas so he was able to get comfortable and snooze. Davey was able to watch Despicable Me on the iPad and basically all was well with the world. And with every flight, you’re unsure as to who or what you’ll encounter. Last night before boarding the last leg of our journey, Davey was able to meet two extremely selfless and brave young men. Our flight was fortunate to have two Marines on board, one of which had just graduated from Parris Island, SC.

Daddy's make the best pillows especially in an airport.
Daddy’s make the best pillows especially in an airport.

My only regret was that I did not get a picture of Davey as he walked over to both Marines, shook their hands, fist bumped them and then thanked them for their service. Of course I explained to my son who these young men were and what they did.

“Mommy, they’re heroes?” he asked me.

“Yes, Davey. They are heroes.”

“They beat the bad guys really bad,” Davey said with inflection on the words “bad”.

“Yes, buddy, they do.”

“I like them, Mommy. They are my best friends.”

Once we boarded the flight, all it took was a matter of minutes with the cabin lights dimmed, and both boys were fast asleep. Too bad the hubs and I couldn’t sleep or read a book or relax like all of our other flight mates. So goes the joy of flying with kids.

Adios, Summer 2014

At 10:29 last night, Fall 2014 officially came into town. Since I’ve been a bit slack this summer with posting photos, adventures, and writing blogs, I thought what better time to give a quick rundown of our summer than with this “Goodbye to summer” and “Hello to Fall” blog!

June 21st, at 6:51 am, was this year’s Summer Solstice…otherwise known as the first official day of Summer! Fortunately, or unfortunately depending upon your view, summer in the Deep South seems to start in mid to late April. We’re hit with hot and humid days, sweltering heat and the occasional thunderstorms that only seem to make breathing worse instead of better. This year was no exception, but we won’t start with when it felt like summer, but instead the actual day. So, without further adieu, here is how we spent our first summer together as a foursome:

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Davey got his first official bicycle and began learning to ride. He was a quick learner at it and we ended up taking it every where with us this summer including Mimi & Pop’s who have a much longer driveway to ride it on.

Bike Riding Davey

We also took a field trip of sorts to our local free “waterpark” located in beautiful downtown Greenville, SC, outside the Lazy Goat. It’s nothing more than water fountains and spouts all along a fake train track, but Davey thoroughly enjoyed it.

Water Park Davey

July 4th we were in Rochester, NY visiting family for the week. We enjoyed everything from go kart racing to miniature golf, fireworks to parades, live music to horse races, and even had a cook out complete with our personal bouncy house. Another first was Henry’s plane ride and Davey now officially getting his own seat. We had a love/hate with Davey having his own seat. It was nice to NOT have to hold him, but ridiculous to pay for his seat.

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July 4th

Davey became a more advanced swimmer this year as we spent 3 days a week usually at Mimi and Pop’s house in their pool. Henry was introduced to his first pool experience and while he eventually came to enjoy it, it was a bit of a labor to get him in.

Swimmer Davey

Swimmer Henry

We threw in some zoo trips with friends and adventures at the Children’s Museum before finally getting our opportunity to enjoy the beach in mid August. We visited aquariums and battle ships. We built sand castles and rode the waves on boogie boards. Henry had his first experience with a crashing wave and quickly learned he didn’t like the taste of sand. Davey hunted for seashells and played miniature golf.

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We managed to find some time to take Davey to his first movie experience where he saw “Rio 2” and “Planes: Fire and Rescue.” We had amusement park rides and outlet shopping. I found time to participate in 2 triathlons with Davey finishing both of them with me.

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Finally, we closed out summer with Davey’s first season of soccer, some apple picking, backyard shenanigans, and 1/2 price ice cream cones.

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To Summer 2014, we’d like to say, “thank you for the memories, the adventures, and the heat. You were not a disappointment.”

And to Fall 2014, we’d like to say, “Bring on the pumpkins and leaves, the bonfires with s’mores, college football Saturdays, chili, and the smell of apple pies baking. Can’t wait to see what you have in store for us!”

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