RB Winter State Park

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This was our first camping excursion of the year.  I have been coming to this park since I was a kid, so it has a special place in my heart.  I have never really done much camping here though.  We would mainly go to picnic and play on the beach and in the lake, since the park isn’t that far from where I grew up.  Since it’s still early in the season, I opted for a cottage instead of a tent and I am so glad I did.  It was COLD.  I always forget that it’s about 10-15 degrees cooler at the park than it is at home.  So, even thought the forecast was calling for temps in the high 60s, it was much cooler than that….and it rained.  Blah.

We arrived on Friday evening and we decided to eat dinner before heading to the park, since it was supposed to rain all night and cooking over a fire would have been difficult…and miserable.  Thank goodness the cottage had heat and a table with benches.  At least we could spend the evening playing games and munching on snacks…and Evelyn was super-excited that she got to sleep on the top bunk for the very first time.

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Saturday was slightly better.  It only rained for a little while in the morning, mainly while we were trying to boil water for coffee over a fire.  That didn’t turn out very well.  Two lukewarm and barely brewed cups of coffee later, I was kind of grumpy.  We took at nice walk around the lake, but it was too wet for Evelyn to play in the sand.

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We lounged around, made some lunch and then I couldn’t help myself…I suggested that we find the nearest coffee shop for a real cup of joe, a little bit of warmth, and for something to do.  So, we drove about 15 miles, took care of my caffeine craving, and also stopped at Walmart to buy a camp stove.  I’m not giving up on trying to cook over a fire, but it’s nice to know we have a back up now if we need it.   26901293765_7548839ec0_k
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So, it definitely wasn’t my favorite camping trip. It was cold and rather boring.  Michael and I agreed that if we hadn’t paid for the cabin, we probably would have packed it in and headed home. We made the best of it.  But, we have a few other trips planned for this summer and I am looking forward to them.  I’m really hoping that our next trip to this park, over the 4th of July weekend, will be more fun. We will be tenting for the first time with Evelyn and we are also taking our dog, which we have never done, so it should be an adventure. We will have several other family members camping at the same time, so that will make things at least more interesting.

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The Crayola Experience

The middle of winter always inspires in me an urge to escape.  Yes, a tropical destination would be lovely, but, since we’ve been together, Michael and I have yet to find ourselves in a position to take a week-long vacation in the middle of winter.  So, we make do with little weekend jaunts to nearby attractions, just to break up the monotony a bit.

This particular trip was inspired by a statement Evelyn made in the car one afternoon on the way home from work/school.

“Mom, I never stayed in a hotel before.”

“Sure you have, you’ve stayed in a hotel three times before.”

“Yes, but I don’t remember it.”

A few days prior to this, my co-workers had a conversation in our shared office about staying in hotels just for the heck of it, just for something to do in the middle of winter, even if it’s right in your own town.  My practical (and wandering) mind could understand the appeal, but has a hard time justifying spending the money for a hotel, when it’s just down the street.  I also really like to travel and see new things, so I thought, sure, let’s stay in a hotel, but let’s do something new too.

So, I started looking around online for some ideas.  Enter, The Crayola Experience.  Evelyn is the perfect age to enjoy this right now.  We have a 3 day weekend for President’s Day.  Let’s Go.

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Let me preface this review by saying that I am not particularly fond of crowds.  On their website, Crayola does give some tips on how to avoid the crowds.  Basically, go on a weekday, after lunch time (2:00-5:00pm is ideal).  We went on Valentine’s Day (a Sunday this year).  As we approached the building and entered a nearby parking garage, I could tell that my crowd anxiety was going to be kicked into high gear.  There were families with little kids everywhere, braving the coldest day of this winter.  I mentally prepared myself for the afternoon and  I think I managed to keep it together for most of the time.  We spent about 3 hours there and only got to experience about 1/3 of what they had to offer.  There were long lines for many of the activities and Evelyn spent a lot of time at just a few activities that she enjoyed.  The trip was for her entertainment, so it really seemed pointless to pull her away from the things she was enjoying to make her try other activities that she might have had to wait a long time to do.

The Meltdown – We decided to go straight to the fourth floor to start, where  there were huge stations full of melted crayons.  The kids could dip long cotton swabs into the wax and paint with it.

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Next we ventured into this play area, which was fun for Evelyn, but a nightmare for me.  Once the kids got inside here, it was nearly impossible to see them and instead of only one way in and out, there were at least 4 ways in and out of the thing, on all different sides of it.  My guess is that someone loses a kid in here, if only for a few minutes, on a daily basis.

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Of all things, this was probably Evelyn’s favorite feature.  It was a series of interactive videos projected on the floor.  For example, the floor appeared to be covered with leaves and as the kids walked around on it, the leaves moved away from them, as though they were really walking through them.  The picture changed every few minutes to something new (balls that they could “kick”, etc).  We had a hard time dragging her away from this one.

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She enjoyed a variety of other features…a computer-generated display of her own artwork, watercolors, a water/boat feature, a diy puzzle, and we got free crayons with our names on them.  Overall, she had fun.  It was a bit too crowded for my liking and the long lines at many of the activities made it hard to do everything.  We were exhausted by the end of it all and since she was so looking forward to staying in a hotel, we didn’t have to fight with her when it was time to leave.

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Michael put me in charge of planning the itinerary for this trip, which was awesome, by the way.  I’ve always fancied myself a travel agent or a tour guide.  Anyway, I found this great little Lebanese restaurant for dinner.  It got great reviews online and it was something very different from what we would find in the culinary desert that we inhabit.

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I know, “Daddy’s Place” sounds a little…I don’t know…   BUT, the food was amazing…AND apparently it was named as such because the owner’s 4-year-old daughter thought that’s what it should be called.  So cute.

We got a mini pie sampler and every single one was delicious.  Michael got the lamb shawarma and got the falafel/hummus plate.  There was seriously enough food to feed six people and every single thing was so amazing. I had to finish it off with a Turkish coffee. If you ever find yourself in Easton, PA, definitely stop here.  Did I mention that they have 250 beers to choose from?

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And finally, Evelyn got to stay in the hotel.  We went for a swim and had some Valentine treats before heading off to bed, which turned out to be a two-hour long process.  I’m going to blame it on the coffee that Michael let her guzzle before dinner.  She told me multiple times that wanted to stay there for at least 10 days. Maybe next time, love.

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And Then She Was Four

It’s been a little while since I have contributed to this space.  We got all caught up in the holiday madness, with places to go, people to see, guests to entertain.  Now that things are a little calmer around here, I can take a breath and reflect on the past year.  What a crazy year it’s been.  Every day, when facebook shows me my memories from the past years, I find myself half smiling/half dying inside.

Last year at this time, I was pregnant and expecting a little boy.  After losing him tragically at 16 weeks, we decided it was too much bear.  We couldn’t go through it again.  While we have decided that we are fine with leaving our baby days behind, I am still coming to terms with Evelyn being an only child.  We are so very blessed to have lots of families in our lives.  Evelyn started preschool this year, so she gets to be around other children all day.  She’s also been cared for by family friends before and after school, so she gets to play with their children as well.  Truly, she’s had the best of both worlds…surrogate siblings with friends and the perks of being an only at home.  Still, she caught me off guard when she asked my why God made three babies for our friends’ family and He only made one baby for our family.  The tears welled up in her eyes as she asked and I don’t know exactly why that would make her sad, but she seemed sad about it.  I could only tell her I didn’t know why and fight back my own tears.  It amazes me how much she has grown and how the questions come when I least expect it.

Aside from the sad memories on my facebook news feed, things are pretty good around here.  I returned to work a few months ago after our financial situation was upended a bit.  Now, Michael and I are both doing work we love and Evelyn seems very happy at preschool.  She seems to have grown so much since she started school, from toddler to a true preschooler.  She’s still having the occasional terrifying tantrum, but they are fewer and farther between and I have been really trying to change my own response to her, which I think has helped a lot.  I am trying to be more patient and positive and she is learning some calm-down methods at school that she actually tries to employ at home.  She will sometimes stop in the middle of a screaming fest to take a few deep breaths and calm herself.

Every day I see updates from friends on facebook….babies growing up, rolling over, sitting up, and crawling for the first time.  It makes me a little sad that those days are over.  Maybe I would have cherished them a little bit more, I don’t know.  But, even though I am sad to see her baby days passed, I am also having quite a bit of fun with this spunky, dramatic little girl that she’s become. Instead of babbling and cooing, we’re playing Uno (and she’s winning) and telling made-up stories at bedtime.  She helps me to cook scrambled eggs for breakfast and rushes the grab the dustpan when we give her dad a haircut. It’s fun to have a little partner-in-crime.

Even though this past year has been a difficult one, I prefer to look back on the fun moments with my 3-year-old girl that I will never get back.

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And, just like that, she was four.

 

Evelyn is 4

The Dollhouse Remade

A few years ago, I posted about my dollhouse.  When I was about Evelyn’s age, I got a dollhouse for Christmas.  Despite the fact that it’s not in it’s pristine original condition, I have been hanging onto it for roughly 35 years.  I can’t even believe I am typing that number.  Makes my head want to explode.  Anyway, I always imagined that one day, I would refurbish it and give it to my own child. Since Evelyn is almost 4, I decided that I have been procrastinating long enough.  This will be the year that I give her my dollhouse.

I started ordering the furniture long before I started working on the house itself.  I chose some sturdy wooden furniture made by Hape.  I wanted the pieces to be durable and appropriate for a preschooler’s hands.  Sure, I love the elaborate dollhouses with delicate Victorian style furniture, but I wanted her to be able to really play with this.

I think I had originally planned to take my time and work on it slowly.  Yeeeaaahhh, that didn’t happen. I am a master procrastinator.  I started working on it approximately one month ago.  I removed the wallpaper and discovered that the walls are a little rough.  I bought some wood filler to try to smooth out the texture of the wood a bit, but soon discovered that working in the tiny spaces was challenging and I didn’t have enough time or patience to bother with it.  So, I just started painting.

At one point, I invited Evelyn to help me work on it.  I showed her how to dip her paintbrush just so to prevent drips from getting on the carpet. Even though we had a moment when she came close to tears after she accidentally started painting the floor instead of the walls, we mostly worked side by side and just chatted about our work.  I told her how I had received the dollhouse when I was her age and that I had been saving it just for her for 35 years.  I told her how I was going to paint the walls to make it look like our house and she started to verbally plan out the rooms.  She even wanted to add a toilet to the basement, just like we have.  I knew that I had made the right decision to invite her to help when she told me, “I love helping you, mom.”  All the dreams and plans I had for this dollhouse were right there in that little statement.

So basically, I just painted all the walls, reattached the borders around the windows and doorways, and gave the exterior a good coat of paint.  The dollhouse used to have a balcony and a staircase. The opening where the staircase used to be left a huge hole in the floor, so I got the idea to cover the hole with carpet to make better use of the space.  Now, I am not so sure that I like the look of the thick carpet, so I might eventually try to rebuild a staircase and try some different materials for the carpet.  I would also love to try to rebuild the balcony someday, but for now the master bedroom has a big doorway to nowhere.

Once I finally got everything painted and felt like I was close to being finished, I started looking at dollhouse tutorials on Pinterest.  That opened a huge can of worms.  The possibilities are endless and I had no idea.  After seeing some of the beautiful dollhouses out there, I am almost embarrassed to post pictures of my own.  I decided that I just had to at least add some wallpaper and some little artwork on the wall.  Eventually, I would also love to make some curtains and add some other little touches.  I imagine this is something that Evelyn and I can do together for as long as she is interested.

It’s not perfect.  I wish I would have started working on it sooner and done a little research ahead of time, but I know she will love playing with it and we can make changes to it as often as we want.  I was already looking for tutorials on how to make a little Christmas tree!

The pictures are a little dark…it’s hard to get in all those little corners, but without further ado…

the Dollhouse

That room at the top was my nemesis last night when I was trying to wallpaper it at the eleventh hour.  I could not get the paper to stick.  I will eventually have to pull it out and start over.  Maybe we’ll turn it into a nursery or a game room.

The living room…

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The dining room….  I think this one is my favorite.

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The kitchen….   I had a blast picking out little pictures to hang on the walls.

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The bathroom was one of my biggest challenges.  It’s the narrowest room in the house and the furniture doesn’t fit very well.  We probably could make do with just the tub and no shower, but the set came with both.

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The kids’ room…

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The parents’ room…

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I think it’s safe to say my girl loved it.  Now, I wonder who’s going to play with it more??

Old Becomes New Again

Photo Credit: Dustin Lee
Photo Credit: Dustin Lee

Once upon a time, I thought I might try to increase my followers here on the blog and try to use my writing to earn a little extra money for our family.  The first thing to do, all the best bloggers said, was to move over to a self-hosted site.  So, I did that.  However, I soon discovered that I just didn’t have the kind of time and energy that is needed to monetize a blog.  I also wanted to stay true to myself and write on my own terms.

I’ve been thinking a lot about where I want to go with my blog and the truth is, I’m not really sure that I want to go anywhere.  I mainly just want to write about my life and my experiences so that I can stay in touch with family and friends and so that I can leave our history for Evelyn someday.  When it was time to renew my hosting services this year, I started to worry about what would happen to my blog if something should happen to me.  If nobody had access to it and if nobody paid the fee to renew it every year, my blog would just shut down and the people who I most want to share it with would not be able to see it anymore.  So, after some thought, I have decided that it’s time to return to my free wordpress site.  All that means for you is that you can find my writing at a different address now.  Previously, I was blogging at ascenicdetour.com.  Moving forward, you can find me here at ascenicdetour.wordpress.com.  I have moved over all my old posts, so they are still available here and I have been working on a new design and layout.  The plan is just to keep it simple and write about whatever strikes me at the moment.  I’m still working on some details, but if you have been following along, it shouldn’t be too hard for you to keep in touch with what’s new.

I hope to see you as I move forward into this new chapter.

 

Becoming a Family of Three

When Evelyn was born, we became a family of three.  It was such a magical time, as it is for many families.  An adorable, wrinkly little being enters the world and a mother is born, a father is born, a family is born.  Despite the fact that I had to travel a long, hard road to motherhood, once I finally did get pregnant, I was certain that we would have another baby in the future.  I carefully chose all of our baby items to be gender neutral, so that they could be used again, regardless of whether we had boys, girls, or one of each.  Several hours after giving birth, I was already talking about the “next time” and the nurses teased me, since apparently most women are a little too traumatized to start talking about having another baby so soon.  I never had any doubt that we would have another baby.  When Michael and I discussed the future, I always referred to “our kids” because I knew that another one would be joining us eventually.  We were a family of three, but in my mind, that was only a temporary situation.  We would eventually be a family of four.

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Once I got pregnant, I naively believed that it would be a snap to get pregnant again.  And actually, it was.  I’ve been pregnant four times since Evelyn was born, but we’re still a family of three…and the difference now is that I’m pretty sure we always will be.  Two chemical pregnancies and two miscarriages kind of left us worse for the wear.  After our last miscarriage at 16 weeks, I was pretty sure that it was time to just let go of the idea of another child.  We were so weary from the losses and just not sure if we could go through it all again.  We are both getting older.  Can you believe the medical term is ‘elderly’?  I seriously thought my OB was teasing me when he used that word. Physically, I am not what I used to be.

I think for most women the decision to be done having babies is huge, whether you have one or fifteen.  It’s hard to close that door forever, even if you think your family is complete.  Unfortunately for some, there is no choice in the matter.  For me, it’s been a process.  At first, I was really mad at the idea of leaving my childbearing years behind after such a negative experience.  I didn’t want my last memories of pregnancy and child birth to be so painful and traumatic.  I also didn’t want to go through another loss.  I started by getting rid of all the baby things.  It was so hard.  I still had ‘what if?’ in my mind.  But my mom and Michael gently reminded me that I could always get more baby things if I needed them.  So, I had a yard sale.  I cried when I went through all of Evelyn’s things.  I cried in my car when I met with ladies to sell her cloth diapers.  I cried a lot.

I worried about Evelyn being an only child.  In many ways, I think I wanted to have another baby more for her than for myself.  Michael and I both come from big families, so the thought of an only child was totally foreign to me.  I don’t want her to be alone in this big, bad world once her dad and I are gone.  I talked to a good friend of mine and read lots of blog posts about the experience of being an only.  I started to see all the positives that can come with that.

As I was slowly coming to acceptance over the idea of an only child, I was also still very much mourning the loss of our son, our last pregnancy.  It was very conflicting to start to feel happy and relieved about the idea of being done having children while I was still so sad over our loss.  At times I felt that if I let the happiness creep in, it was like saying that I never wanted my son in the first place.  I’ve been having to learn how to separate the two experiences and it’s still difficult sometimes.  But, I am slowly coming to a place of acceptance.

So, instead of becoming a family of four, we’re becoming a family of three all over again.  I’m kind of getting used to the idea.  I know we will be able to do a lot of cool things as a family that we might not be able to do as easily if we had more children.  I know that Evelyn will be okay.  I know that our family is not in a position to be starting over with a new baby right now and I am not sure we ever will be.  I suppose that if God decides to add another child (or children) to our family, I am open to that idea, but we are not actively pursuing it.  For now, I am just focusing on contentment, and it feels pretty good.

Thoughts on a Missed Due Date

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I typically don’t waste a lot of time thinking about what might have been.  The past is in the past and I tend to believe that the things that have happened, both good and bad, have taught me a lot about myself, about life, and about how things should be.  I take what I need from those lessons and I don’t dwell a lot on the coulda, shoulda, woulda.

But, when you lose a pregnancy, you can’t help but think about the should-have-beens.

I should be feeling my baby move all over the place.

I should have been preparing the nursery by now.

My belly should be watermelon-sized and I should have a hospital bag packed.

I should have planted more in our garden this year, but since I was anticipating being pregnant this summer, I didn’t.

I shouldn’t be dreading August 20…but I am.

That’s the day (give or take a few) that we would have welcomed our little boy into the world.  Evelyn would have become a big sister. Instead, he was born 24 weeks early.  The baby things have been sold, the nursery is a storage room for the time being, and I’m still hanging on to the weight that I gained in the first trimester….a constant reminder, like my body won’t let go of what it already lost.

How does anybody cope with a due date after a pregnancy loss?  I don’t know.  I’m not even sure how to write this.  I am still getting through it.  In a way, I will be glad when it passes.  It feels a bit like the last mountain to climb before I can work my way back to normalcy.  It also feels like losing him all over again. So far, it’s just been best for me to let the feelings come, experience them, acknowledge them, honor them.  They are what I have of my son….the should-have-beens.

I am grateful that Michael’s vacation time will coincide with the date and several weeks ago, I suggested we take a long trip.  Yep, I’m running away from it….away from all the things that remind me of what should have been.  I guess I didn’t have my head on straight when we planned the return trip because on August 20, the day I should have been holding my son, I will be sitting in a car for 12 hours, with nothing but time to think about it.  Maybe that’s a good thing.  I don’t know.  I guess we all just muddle through this life and try to figure it out as we go.  At least that’s the way I do it.

I’m hoping not to live in the should-have-been for too much longer.  “Should have been” suggests that the world owes us something.  It does not.  We are not owed or guaranteed a single thing.  I think about this when I try to figure out how we might honor our son each year.  I don’t know how we will do it, but I do know when I’d like to do it and it won’t be on August 20.  In the time that it’s taken me to write this, I have realized that I do have more of my son than the should-have-beens.  I have what actually was.  I still gave birth to him.  I still got to hold him.  Not many women who have miscarried get to say that.  Sure, there have been times when the memory of those moments with him made this loss much more painful than my previous miscarriages. But, I’d much rather honor him on the day he was born rather than the day he should have been.

That seems like a huge step, right?  Accepting what was instead of wishing for what should have been?  I’ll keep working on it.  One day at a time.