Steve took responsibility for all 5 kids plus others for VBS at his church, Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Rochester. Such a nice surprise to find ourselves with 4 hours of free time downtown. We meandered to a cool coffee shop near Eastman School of Music. Our only goal in exploring the city was to visit the library, because we’d heard it was cool. And it totally was. We read about Stonewall in a clear and well-written exhibit, wandered around admiring the details, perused the bookstore, and read silently above the Genesee River. It was pretty perfect. Without knowing anything about it beforehand, we discovered we really liked downtown Rochester! We ate lunch with Carina and then picked up the wild ones for nap time/reading time.
Playtime and pool time finished up our day. I didn’t swim because I have Floridian standards (the water was just too dang cold for me!) The water should warm up tomorrow because the heat wave puts the temperature here as the same high as Seminole FL (93 degrees!). Where is the cooler weather we deserve for leaving Florida in July? Arriving soon, I hope, with summer rainstorms in the forecast.
When visiting upstate New York, one simply must view Niagara Falls, America’s First State Park. Since we were in the area, we made the trek there today and it mesmerized us all.
Everyone loved the Maid of the Mist! Donning our hot and sticky blue ponchos, we felt part of the waterfall as the mist (and outright splashes) tumbled over us, from a safe distance away. El knew when he had felt enough of the mist and was ready for a break. Henry kept laughing with gleeful delight every time the water splashed over us. We were on the fence about it prior to our trip, but I’m so glad we decided to ride.
Both the Horseshoe Falls and American Falls were bigger than I expected since my encounters with waterfalls primarily stem from trips to North Carolina and Colorado. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to go over them in a barrel. We walked to the Canadian side for a better view and a quick stroll along the Niagara River and Rainbow Gardens across the street. Henry was the first of us to cross the border! By mid-afternoon we were all done with touring the falls and tried to squeeze in one last family picture – it turned out exactly as it should.
After getting sandwiches for dinner from the local Amish store, we headed to simultaneous youth soccer games where kids ran amok in the best way in the sidelines while kids played soccer on the field. I assume they did anyway, because I practiced outdoor Body Flow under the trees. We finished our long, fun day with ice cream from Lugia’s. With sizes ridiculous, the flavors innumerable, and laughter constant, we joyfully wrapped up our night.
Four years ago, the Hen and I were flying together to see his Tía Nesa in DC for his first visit to the Capitol. So it’s fitting that we said goodbye to the Brownes this morning as we head north on our adventure. El was inconsolable at Vanesa leaving for work; he may have thought he was going to work with her to be a Boss Baby and that we were staying longer. Next time, little one.
Continuing the day of seeing Godparents and Godchildren, we briefly stopped by the Costa’s house on our way out of DC, even though we’ll be seeing them again in a week and a half. Totally worth it for the hugs and the kids to see/play with each other.
We got back on the road and drove until lunchtime where we stopped at Kidsgrove Park (247 W Sassafras St) in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. A wooden fortress of a playground, it had ladder tires, a wooden train, tunnels, turrets, and swings! Sadly, we didn’t have all day to play or else I think the boys would have tried. We ate lunch at the adjacent Major Anthony Selins Park (241 W Sassafras St), which had a small colorful playground and a shaded pavilion. Keith took a walk in it’s tree museum, kidnapping the Doritos and having a peaceful time up in a tree.
Several hours later, we made it to the Meyer’s house and it’s just so wonderful! Too fantastic to remember to take pictures. I’ll be sure to take plenty in the next few days while we’re here.
We moved by bus, metro rail, and our own two feet today as we navigated the DC transportation system through construction sights to the National Mall. Elliot’s first time in the Nation’s Capitol was a smash! He recognized the Capitol Building from our USA cartoon placemat map, so he’s clearly a genius. Despite the incredibly hot weather (because July), we made it to three Smithsonian Museums today.
First up (and the one we spent most of our time at) was the National Museum of the American Indian. There’s a fun children’s discovery area called ImagiNATIONS, where kids can learn about different tribes from around the globe. The boys weaved a basket and paper, built an igloo, skateboarded, cooked fish and tried other hands on activities. Their favorite included stamping their passport with stamps representing various tribes. We ate lunch in the cafeteria and enjoyed a plethora of Native American foods. We highly recommend the food and the museum!
We saw there was no line for the Air and Space Museum (there was a long one first thing this morning), and it’s the 50th anniversary of the moon landing so we headed inside. It was packed! So much so that we looked at a few rockets and a lunar module and then split.
We metroed to the National Portrait Gallery and prioritized because nap time approached and the kids were cranky and energetic (as only tired kids can be). The main portraits I wanted to view were the Obamas – and we saw them in their full glory! President Obama was in office for both boys’ births, and he’s been the only president elected by me since I became voter eligible in 2000. Hopefully, my vote will change things in 2020 and I’ll once again elect an excellent president into the White House. Their portraits were so vibrant and lovely! I also enjoyed seeing President Kennedy’s portraits and the four female Supreme Court Justices.
After returning back to the Brownes, they planned a little Lutheran Campus Ministry get-together with the McKenzie-Harwells (Leanna and Drew) and the Bells (Brad, Erica, and Samuel). Catching up in person seems to rarely happen these days so I’m happy Vanesa facilitated it. Henry said the best part of his day was hanging out and playing with this new friend, Samuel. He relished being the big kid amongst the little ones.
We told Vanesa and Scott that we would be staying and moving in with them – that’s how much we love them. Not actually doing this, but how awesome would it be to live nearby all the people we love most in the world? I don’t think we could contain our joy.
Last night when Keith asked what time the hotel pool opened in the morning the clerk responded with a grin, “Do whatever you want to do. I don’t care.”
We didn’t swim because we had a busy day of driving through three states, but we are doing what we like because we’re living that vacation life.
We had planned to stop to play at a park in Dunn, North Carolina, but Elliot was asleep so we continued north to Rocky Mount for lunch and park time.
Sunset Park (1550 River Drive) was an awesome detour. We rode an antique 1920 carousel and a 1952 Model G-16 Miniature Train around the park including through a tunnel. For train aficionados, it had a 20 horsepower Wisconsin gasoline engine and is a scale model one fifth the size of the train it depicts (F7 General Motors Diesel Locomotive). There were actual seats for 36 people (unlike the Largo Central Park trains) and it went FAST (well, faster than I thought it would, topping out at 8 mph).
The kids’ favorite part was the spray ground, where they ran (until Elliot wiped out) and then walked and chopped their way through the water making friends. For $5 a person (E was free) I definitely recommend it!
Getting out of the car for a bathroom break in Virginia, Henry said to me, “Thanks for planning such a great trip, Mommy. I’m having a great time.” I asked Keith if he prompted the Hen to say this, and he came up with it all on his own. No, I didn’t cry, but my heart soared.
We made it to the lovely Casa Browne in Alexandria just before dinner and we are so thankful to spend some time with Vanesa and Scott. Complete with a champagne welcome, presents for the kids, and a home-cooked meal we feel so welcomed and loved. An evening passeggiata to the playground (actually 4!) combined with races and climbing fun rounded out our evening.
We left an hour and a half past what I had planned. I knew my leaving time was aspirational at best, but I’d still hoped we would leave close to that time. But we made it out of our nearly clean house and survived our first travel day.
Keith is a champion at driving. I drove to Ocala and he drove the rest of the way to Walterboro, SC. The kids ate the dinner of their dreams at McDonald’s (I know, we’re so fancy). They rarely eat it, and I always tell them it’s vacation food. Since we’re on vacation, they get to live their best fast food life.
We stopped in North Jacksonville at Oceanway Park (12215 Sago Dr, Jacksonville, FL 32218) to run off some steam. Located less than a mile from I-95, it was an easy stop. The playground had a tent over it, keeping it cool. Slides, tunnels, and ladders galore; the kids loved it. We didn’t love the lack of bathrooms or the ants surrounding the picnic table like our food was the Last Supper. Keith took a short walk around a natural area and saw a snake!
The kids predictably had a million of the same questions, asked over the course of our 6+ hour drive:
How much longer?
Where’s the hotel?
Are we out of Florida yet?
How long are we driving?
How many miles?
Can I use the iPad?
How long to hotel?
They fell asleep before we made it to the hotel, and easily continued sleeping once we carried them inside.
Tomorrow we leave for a 17-day great American road trip as a family. That’s right, we’re taking our 3 and 6 year olds with us in our Toyota Corolla up the East Coast from Florida to Maine and back. You’re probably thinking we may be crazy, and as I pack, clean, and do last minute preparations, I’m thinking you may be right.
Just kidding, we’ve got this.
I’m mostly sure.
Our idea for this trip was planted when we realized how many people we loved lived from the mid-Atlantic to New England and we missed them so much we knew we needed to schedule a visit. Flying four people anywhere costs a fortune, and then we’d have to rent a car anyway once we arrived. So we drive!
Each kid has a tote bag of car distractions that include a whole lot of Melissa and Doug, coloring books, games, and building toys like Legos and Tegu magnetic blocks. I also have another tote with school-type stuff for Henry – reading and math workbooks as well as books to read aloud so he can get to Home Base for Reading with the Rays (and fill my only official summer learning requirement of reading 30 minutes a day). He’s going to try to read “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” which will be incredibly challenging so wish him luck and persistence. Finally, we have iPads for each kid to watch movies and play games when the time on the road becomes too intense.
The kids expectations regarding our trip are mixed at best.
Henry thinks it will take 3 hours to get there, and that time frame is entirely too long. “Why aren’t we flying?” is the main question he’s been asking. Such a privileged kid, mostly flying everywhere since he’s been alive. He’s most excited to visit Vermont, for reasons involving a horse and ice cream.
Elliot thinks we are visiting Spain and chose it as his top state on this trip because it’s like church. I wish we could drive to Spain, buddy. He has also asked when and how we are seeing Marlon Bundo while we are in DC…Tia Nesa is somehow making that difficult request happen.
I’m excited to see friends and family who we don’t get to see as often as we’d like. So is Keith. Overnight stops include:
• Walterboro, South Carolina
• Alexandria, Virginia
• Spencerport, New York
• Bristol, Vermont
• Wolfeboro, New Hampshire
• Jamestown, Rhode Island
• Rockville, Maryland
• Yemassee, South Carolina
We’ll be stopping at least every three hours so the kids can run around at parks and playgrounds along the way. Hopefully, that will break up the monotony of interstate travel and let them get their energy out. And nap. So no one goes crazy.