Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sweet Summer

We are on day 2 of our summer vacation and boredom has set in like a champ. It didn't take long.

Today, to break up the unbearable monotony, we went with our friends to a local farm for strawberry picking. This same farm is where we went for apples in the fall. It's a cute place, an easy drive from here, and not overly commercial--yet.
The strawberries have had it tough for the last couple of weeks. The northeast has been in terminal gray clouds and rain, so they are soaked to the core and only the strong have survived. We didn't leave empty-handed, though. Four quarts of strawberries to enjoy over the next couple of days--yum.
The kids were a huge "help." Riley picked about a half quart of quality strawberries.
Cory picked about a half quart of squishy strawberries, which he refused to let me trade for better ones.
Mary Beth stood next to me and took the strawberries I picked to fill her quart.
Lucy also stood near me and ate the strawberries I put into her container.
Comical. Should I thank them?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Vermont: Let's See How Long It Takes Us To Bore The Kids

I know, I know, at this point you're thinking we've said all there is to say about a weekend trip to Vermont. And perhaps you're right-we weren't even there two full days. We may have reached the point of overkill, but we won't let that stop us! So, in the spirit of infomercials...


Saturday evening, after we were finished at mini golf and, in an attempt to escape those pesky bugs, we hopped in the van and headed towards the next town. As I'm playing navigator with the local area tourist map I notice that we'll pass by a covered bridge. This is where the boredom begins. The kids have a slight interest initially, but that quickly wanes. We stop at the bridge to look around for a bit, watch two separate balloon chase vehicles make their way through the bridge and decide we must cross as well.

We cross the bridge and begin driving aimlessly down a country road. Well, not completely aimlessly, but certainly not towards anything in particular. What we happen upon, though, while going nowhere was a third balloon that had also landed in this area. How fun. We stopped and watched them problem solve how they were going to get the balloon and basket out of the field that was surrounded in barbed wire fencing. The kids were moderately impressed, but we were still in the middle of nowhere.

Eventually we continue on our way, still trying to get to that next town. I comment to Ted that the map shows another covered bridge in the town. "NO!" the kids tell us from the back. The map also shows a creamery, so we promise them that after the bridge we'll find a treat for everyone. We find the bridge and stop for some pictures and exploring. I ponder the property values of the homes that sit on the river with this gorgeous views while Ted ponders the cost of flood insurance. The kids keep saying, "come on!" so we head off to the creamery.

one word:

C L O S E D !

Not even a Ben and Jerry's in the area--in Vermont no less. Ugh. So, guess where we go? You guessed it! McDonald's for chocolate shakes, m&m McFlurry and sweet tea.

On the way back, as we passed the first bridge for a second time from the opposite direction this is how it looked. Cool.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Vermont: Child's Play

Having four children under the age of 10 means we don't go anywhere without fully considering a location's 'child friendliness factor.' I visited this area of Vermont last fall on a retreat and determined that it had a couple of important factors that would make it a 'safe' place to visit with the kids--clean, modern hotels, and a McDonald's (this will become important in both today and tomorrow's blog). Those items, along with the fact that there was a Balloon Festival in the area over Father's Day weekend and a nearby Science Museum should weather wreak havoc, made it seem like a good place to visit.

Before we even got settled into our room the kids were asking about a pool. That is a VERY IMPORTANT CRITERIA in hotel selection. Ours only partly fit the bill--there was a pool at the adjacent hotel, and the two apparently had an agreement worked out that we could use it. (big sigh of relief) After our morning hike and train ride, we returned to the hotel for some swimming. The kids had a blast. Just look at those smiles as proof.

Cory eventually worked up the nerve to jump into the shallow end.

And this picture shows why I have gray hairs coming in. She would walk around the pool and dip her foot in. Nearly gave me a heart attack every time.

After the pool we headed to Pizza Chef for some dinner. They had several old-school arcade games and pinball machines--very nostalgic. Ms. Pac-Man and Super Off-Road and a few others. I remember going to Pizza Hut as a kid and playing Galaga while my dad had 'just one more cup of coffee.' And Ted confesses to spending a small fortune on Super Off-Road as a child. Behind the pizza place was a mini golf course. The kids think this will be fun, so we decided to play.

From here we could see balloons launching from the festival-fun. Unfortunately, this was the BUGGIEST place EH-VER. Plus, at every hole we had arguments over who was to go first (more gray hairs--and yes, I know that Ted and I should act like the adults we are and not fight to go first every time). 18 holes could not go quickly enough.
I know, I know, you look at these cute little kids and it's a wonder they ever disagree--they do. Lucy's idea of mini golf was to throw her golf ball from the start, hit it with the club a few times in the middle,
and then pick it up to drop it into the hole at the end.

That, and generally being in the way at any given moment.

Talk about a hazard--I can't tell you how many times she was on the course and our balls would go between her feet.

More fun in Vermont for the 10 and under set was at the Montshire Museum of Science. Having been to a few Science Museums (not exhaustive research, mind you, but a few), this one sets the standard. It was big enough to have interesting exhibits, yet small enough to not be overwhelming. The exhibits were well-maintained, the daily happenings were well staffed, and the outdoor extension was all bonus. We had a lovely Sunday morning there exploring the inner workings of popular toys, feeling fossils, watching leaf-cutter ants (and supplying them with leaves)

and experimenting in a 'river.' That, along with a stroll through the woods along the Connecticut River to top off the morning, made it a perfect end to the weekend.

This next part is what makes that McDonald's I mentioned so important. So, the museum is near Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. Surely, we decide, there must be some sort of restaurant that we can stop in to grab a bite before heading home. Doesn't every college town have a Taco Bell or something? Both our Garmin and my iphone bring up little in the way of encouragement, but we decide to drive around a little hopeful that we will happen upon something. We don' fact, we don't until we're back at the exit where our hotel was and that McDonald's I mentioned earlier. Somehow, neither of us is very surprised. That's New England for you. Thankful for something, we stop here for a very late lunch before returning home...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Vermont: doing what we like to do

Day 2 in Vermont we decide to head to Quechee Gorge to hike to the bottom. We started by walking across the bridge the spans the bridge to see this gorgeous view.
All the kids agreed that being on the bridge was a little scary--especially when the 18 wheeler crossed and made the whole thing shake.

The descent is an easy one on a nice, clear, wide path. We were not alone this morning--there were lots of other people enjoying the area. I overheard one family looking for a letterbox. Unfortunately, instead of researching for geocaches the night before, we were being diligent bloggers for our faithful few...grrrrr. So we just hiked. Curses. I bet the caches were fun.

At the bottom we found ways to get close to the water, although most of the paths were steep and/or slippery.Riley found this little jewel, which she wanted a picture of.

I, of course, took a great deal of pictures with which I will now bore you:

After walking around the gorge, we drove to a nearby arts and crafts center, a.k.a. tourist trap, to have lunch at a cute little diner and then bleed from the wallet once again for another train ride. The kids loved it.
We also found some moose (or as Ted likes to say, meese) that were willing to let the kids climb on their backs for photos.

And the bargain of the weekend! For just 25 cents Cory rode a RAZORBACK. He was in, ahem, hog heaven.

Say it with me everybody: Wooooo, Pig Soooie!!!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day

Ted and I are both blessed to have fathers who love us very much. So to them, we send our love, devotion and thanks.

However, I would be remiss not to mention the great father my kids have. Their life would be much less fun without him, because he's the one who is always acting silly and willing to play with them.
I mean, it's not every dad who builds an ice rink for his kids!

We all love him very much, and we're thrilled that this year he's here for us to celebrate the day with him.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Up Up and Away

We're spending Father's Day weekend in Vermont to enjoy the Annual Quechee Balloon, Craft and Music Festival. As a bonus it's a little bit of a family getaway to keep celebrating our wedding anniversary. For those of you who love to keep up with everyone's miserable weather, let me just say that we are having it. Day after day of dreary gray, drizzly weather. I feel like I'm back in Ohio. In fact, I almost suggested cancelling the trip due to weather. I mean, what's a balloon festival in the clouds and rain? However, we trucked on up here, about 2-3 hours north and west of us hoping the weather would be a little different (even though wasn't very encouraging).

After arriving at the hotel (which, by the way, appears to be the hotel for all the balloonists), we snacked up and headed to the "green" in Quechee (pronouched Quee-chee) to see what we could see. No balloons yet, but pay to play jumpees, slides, train rides, rock walls, etc.

Open our wallets and just hand over all our money, right? We indulge the kids a little and head over for some festival fare for dinner. At this point it's drizzling so we're thankful for a tented eating area--even more thankful when a downpour falls while we're still under the tent eating. Wow. There's no bad weather, just bad clothes (too bad we're in bad clothes).

Eventually the rain clears and blue skies roll in behind it (although, technically I suppose the gray clouds rolled out), and the balloons were fantastic. So, so pretty. Well, all except the stupid ones with advertisements--bleck (just consider it a photographer's challenge--how to keep them out of the pictures :) if you look carefully, you can see the balloon in this shot with the ad on it).
After the balloons departed we headed back to the festival fare for dessert--fried dough, cotton candy, all the good stuff. Plus we did a little browsing at all the craft booths. And listened to the band play while the kids danced...very cute. Then it was back to the fields to watch the 'balloon glow' (a few balloons lit up in the twilight).

Now I'm waiting for the more than 300 pictures I took to download from the camera so I can share one or two with you. (ugh--it's painful). Tomorrow we might go back to the festival for a little bit to see some of the other demonstrations. Or we might head to Quechee Gorge for some hiking. If we're lucky we can find a geocache or two to torture the kids with.