The Devil is in the Details

IMG_4660I love a good Groupon or Living Social offer. I’ve purchased Groupons for massages, go-kart racing, museum tickets, and New Balance sneakers. I found a cleaning service and tickets to the Cirque on Living Social. My most recent purchase on Living Social was for Monster Jam tickets, which if you’re not familiar with Monster Jam, it’s like professional wrestling for trucks.IMG_1187Cars, trucks, and trick tracks were an everyday backdrop to my life, and prominent figure in my boys’ lives for a long, long, time. IMG_3614My kids loved their Hot Wheels and monster trucks, racing and lining them up, endlessly. IMG_1021Like a sad scene from Toy Story, though, they are now, for the most part, regulated to big bins in their closets, but still, no one will part with their cars. Their obsession with cars and trucks has not ended, just shifted to racing games like Forza 5, posters on their walls, oohs and aahs at Ford Raptors and souped up Mustangs passed on the road, and almighty reverence for the McLaren.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband took the boys to a local raceway to watch funny cars and drag races, and the boys loved it. But after Little Lady arrived, drag racing and monster truck shows weren’t an ideal family outing.

But Little Lady’s older now, so when I saw the $12 offer for Monster Jam tickets on Living Social, I jumped on it. Sixty dollars for a fun family night out seemed pretty cool to me.

Except, it wasn’t sixty dollars.

It was a $130 dollars, which I’m embarrassed to admit, I didn’t even notice until my husband pointed it out on the receipt.

You know, they say the devil is in the details, and well, I’ve never been much of a detailed oriented person. I much prefer the bigger picture. Had I been a more detail oriented person, someone, who let’s say, might have read the fine print, then I would have seen somewhere on the page where it talked about a $12.35 ticket fee.

Yes, that’s right, there was a fee, for I don’t know what, tacked onto each ticket, that cost more than the actual ticket itself!  So much for a bargain.

Since that night, I have tried to go back over my purchase to find out what I paid a fee for, even consulting my old friend, the Internet, for answers. But for the life of me, I can’t find anything. Which is crazy, since I have never been able to ask the Internet a question that hasn’t already been asked (which makes me feel so common, but anyway….).

In the end, Monster Jam was fun. The boys thought it was awesome. Little Lady got a little more enthused than I would have thought, even standing on her chair, at one point, pulling me out of my seat in an effort to catch t-shirts being launched into the crowd.IMG_3857In between the truck contests, there was a best of three dirt bike racing series, Philadelphia vs. the visiting team, St. Louis, that was complete with trash talking, insults, and Eagle’s bashing, hence the WWE atmosphere. This only made the kids love it more.

And I can’t forget the fire breathing dragon vehicle that ate a car. That was interesting.IMG_3854My husband thought it would have been way cooler if we had seen the show in a larger arena, my boys thought it was cool that two of the trucks flipped, and my daughter thought it was cool that the dog truck was driven by a girl (and that there was even a dog truck in the first place). IMG_3859As for me, I thought it was cool to spend a fun night out with my family.IMG_3855Would we have went if I knew the tickets were actually $24 a piece instead of $12? No way. But it was a family friendly (believe it or not), fun time for the kids. Just make sure you bring your headphones, because it is loud.

 

Catching Up

I should be cleaning the bathrooms right now, but I missed you, so I will forgo wiping pee from toilet seats and instead spend this time having coffee and catching up, all because I love you.

Can you believe we are eleven days into August, already? Me, neither. My kids are starting their second week of summer CCD, which is awesome! What? You don’t have summer CCD, two weeks of  reasonably priced morning camp where your kids go to church every morning and are forced to be nice. I don’t know who thought of this one, but I guess they’ve been taking the school year extracurricular activities, seriously, in this town, for some time now, because two weeks in the summer sure beats every Monday at 4pm during the school year.

We also traveled to Ocean City, MD, again, with my husband’s family the last week of July. IMG_3237Thankfully, we had some good weather so the kids could soak up sunshine and cousin time. IMG_3198This year, we did a lot of touristy things, because why not?

Touristy things also means shopping at the local Ron Jon because I forgot my daughter's bathing suits. I have told you what an efficient packer I am, right?

Touristy things also means shopping at the local Ron Jon because I forgot my daughter’s bathing suits. I have told you what an efficient packer I am, right?

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IMG_3368IMG_3342We also decided to skip the rides, since we do them at the other Ocean City, and instead rent a boat for the day. Isn’t it awesome that you can just rent a boat?  IMG_3290And a tube.IMG_6189Sitting on the boat was the most relaxing part of the vacation.IMG_3321

No tubing for her, but she wanted to take a turn sitting in it.

No tubing for her, but she wanted to take a turn sitting in it.

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It was a good time, but I came home sick and only started to feel better, yesterday. Actually, everyone’s been sick at varying times over the past few weeks, except for my husband. It started the weekend of the garage cleaning with Second Son. I was concerned. But after my oldest started with a fever two days later, I breathed a sigh of relief realizing that, in fact, it was not Hantavirus, contracted from that mess we called a garage, but just a regular old summer virus. Then, my daughter got it, and Hantavirus turned into meningitis. Do not, I repeat, do not google “fever for three days and headache” unless you are prepared to lie in bed for eight hours worrying that your daughter has contracted a deadly virus, while you have been pumping her with Advil, believing she only had some dinky summer virus.

So, the morning we were set to leave for MD, I was trekking to the doctors to make sure my Little Lady was ready for travel. The doctor assured me that, indeed, it was just a summer virus. So, off we went for five and half hours of traffic hell that we repeated exactly one week later.IMG_3157 There is just no good road to the DE and MD beaches on a Saturday.

Little Lady perked up half way through the vacation, just as I began to feel as if I had an elephant on my chest. I’m glad I’m starting to feel better because summer time is not going to last forever.

The Power of Nature

IMG_5343In all my end of the year chaos, I neglected to tell you about our family camping trip. A tradition, on my mom’s side, that began with her brothers and their sons hiking deep (according to them) into the woods with sleeping bags and just the bare necessities (according to them), has evolved into brothers, husbands, wives, a sister, nieces, nephews, and cousins, bringing tents, beverages, grills, coolers full of food, swim suits, fishing rods, beach chairs, radios, and in some cases RV’s and a pop-up (aren’t we fancy), parked conveniently near the bathrooms.IMG_5418

IMG_5492Change is good.

IMG_5333Our destination, as in prior years, Otter Lake, in PA. A little bit of a hike for us, but well worth it. Our sites were on the lake which with the weather, was just beautiful.

This was the first time my husband and I had been camping since before we were married. Our last trip, to Otter Lake, though fun, did not end well for me, when on the second night (we only stay two) I spent more time in the bathroom than in my sleeping bag. My mom swears it was the Mike’s Lemonade that did me in, but I don’t know, I still think food poisoning. After all, grilling over an open flame without a kitchen nearby doesn’t always lend itself to proper food handling.

This year, we decided to take the plunge, again, figuring the kids were old enough to make the trip, which is funny in that we would have never taken either of the boys when they were my daughter’s age, but like I’ve said before, she’s different. She can hang.

Honestly, we didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t set the bar very high, declaring that any camping trip that I didn’t get sick on would be a success. But there were other variables, too. Would Second Son be up every hour in the night asking us what that noise was? Would First Son wake at 4a.m., and declare he was ready to get up for the day? All these things have happened to us on vacation, and I can tell you, it makes you never want to go away, again. But, you know me, I’m an eternal optimist (a.k.a glutton for punishment) so those feelings never last and we, thankfully, always find ourselves fortunate to be able to take another trip.

I am happy to report that camping rocked. Sure, we were a little more tired than usual, nothing like waking up to the birds at 5a.m. Sure, we weren’t very clean. IMG_5475It was a toss up between my younger niece and Second Son to see who stayed in their clothes longer, with my niece winning, since she ended in the same outfit she started with, and my son, in a moment of weakness (or being forced by his mother) changed his shirt. But, overall, it was a really great experience.

IMG_5382The boys fished, and fished, and fished some more. IMG_3125And when my son could not find someone to help him untangle his rod, bait his hook, etc., he resorted to throwing rocks in the water, and he was happy doing it.IMG_5485 They took my cousin’s canoe out on the lake, rode scooters around the campground, and even did some arts and crafts.IMG_5460

Don’t worry, she got her turn.IMG_5462

IMG_5470But, by far, the biggest highlight of the trip was fire. They were determined to build one using flint.IMG_5401More determined than I would have liked. IMG_5391I’m not sure if they succeeded, but they did learn how to keep a fire burning 24/7.IMG_5525And, of course, became experts in the art of making s’mores, which aren’t just a dessert food, you know.IMG_5316Just like when we went skiing and were outside and active all day, I couldn’t help but notice a peacefulness that came over my middle son. He, who can become consumed with angst and anxiety, was content. Each night, he lay down in his sleeping bag (on his air mattress, of course) and quickly fell asleep. He never said he was scared, or asked did you put the camp fire out, like he will ask about the stove. He was relaxed.

IMG_5561My oldest didn’t play a video game the whole time he was there and he wasn’t bored, though he did scrape his chin in a scootering accident.

IMG_5537And, Little Lady, well, what can I say, give that girl a tub of bubbles and her cousins and you won’t see her for two days. IMG_5478

IMG_5312She even stayed in the tent with my mom, the second night. She was, as they say, a happy camper.

Nature, I tell you, is the answer.

A Mid-Week Getaway at Bear Creek Resort

IMG_4090All winter long, our boys have been begging us to take them snowboarding. They believed they had mastered sledding and all its nuances, and were ready  to move on to the big leagues. So, my husband and I thought we would indulge their Olympic dreams and take them on a ski getaway. Enter Bear Creek Mountain Resort in Macungie, PA.IMG_2160Recommended by a friend for its beginner friendliness and close proximity to Philadelphia, we decided to try one of their mid-week ski and stay packages, that start at $100 per night, and includes an overnight stay, free lift tickets, and discounted rentals and ski school, because lets face it, skiing is an expensive sport, especially for occasional skiers, like us.

We arrived at the hotel, Tuesday morning, and were immediately impressed with the decor and cleanliness of the lobby. The rest of the hotel lived up to its first impression. Our first stop was for skis. The hotel has a separate rental shop for its guests, which was very convenient and efficient. My husband even remarked that it was easiest rental experience he has ever had. The staff was friendly, helpful, and patient, and gladly obliged when, on the second day, I wanted to switch out my boots to try to find a wider pair. I did this on whim, when I took my son back in to take advantage of the rental shop’s one time swap policy, to trade in his snow board for skis, so I didn’t have my skis with me. Rather than making me walk back to get my skis, because walking in ski boots is just ridiculous (Seriously, I can’t believe no one has come up with a better design for ski boots?), the attendant gave me another pair of skis and told me to bring the other ones back later. Score one for customer service.

I don’t know if you’re like me, but getting everyone ready when there are layers of clothes, buckles, bindings, rentals, zippers, helmets, gloves, and hats is really hard and annoying. If I was bundled in layers, sweating, and trying to get my self ready at the same time as all my children, it would have been a disaster. A middle-aged woman having a melt down is never pretty. So, since, I have only been skiing a handful of times in my life, and my husband was, at one time, an avid skier, I made the executive decision to ready the boys first, because they were chomping at the bit, and send them out with my husband until their lessons started. Then, I got Little Lady ready and dropped her off at her lesson, checked into the room (which became available in the middle of all this readying), and then took care of myself. It worked out much better that way, but it also meant that I didn’t get skis on until a little after one that first day.

To be honest, I didn’t mind, I have mixed feelings about skiing, I’m not really a cold weather person and skiing wasn’t a sport my family participated in, so I have no history. On day one, my feelings could pretty much be summed up with the question I asked my husband, “Who thought of this, insert expletive, sport?” I mean it’s cold, you can’t walk in the stupid boots, you’re in seventeen layers of clothes. It’s kind of annoying.

But, by the second day, with rentals out of the way, I got my groove back, and by groove, I mean, I could ski successfully on the smaller hills without wiping out, I was having fun. And, then, I wished (if it wasn’t so damn expensive), that we could have stayed just one more night. We didn’t even get to check out the indoor, or outdoor pool, which was tempting us with the steam coming off it. Though, when I later thought about it, since my kids are still young, unless I was actually in the water, I would have had to have been outside in the cold, watching from the side, so maybe it was a good thing we skipped that one.IMG_4035Anyhow, the first day, we insisted the boys go to ski school for two hours, if they wanted to snowboard. It was worth it and they were happy they went. Little Lady, because she was under six, had to have a private lesson, which was good because it got her up and skiing immediately, but it was bad, because it canceled out the savings I got from having a child who is under six, because they don’t need a paid lift ticket.IMG_4069Little Lady took to skiing like a fish to water, but the first day she stayed on the beginners mountain and rode the magic carpet (picture a people mover), which meant she, and whoever she rode with, had to take their skis off each and every time. Torture!IMG_4012This, combined with the boots, was enough to make me never want to ski again. (See above comment to husband.)IMG_2207But by day 2, we were all about the ski lift, and she was all about skiing past everyone, so things got way better. I think my daughter may have had the best time of us all. We were also lucky enough to get some fresh snow that morning.IMG_2199As for the boys, snowboarding was challenging. On the beginners hill, they were doing well. Once they got on some other runs, and actually needed to make turns, it was a fifty-fifty mix of snowboarding to falling. And they fell hard.IMG_4055By day 2, my oldest had taken such a bad spill that he was willing to swap his board for skis. He never looked back.

Second Son, stayed with the snowboarding the whole time. He did well, but again, he took a lot of hard falls.IMG_2205I would have liked to have seen him try skiing, because I think he would have had a better time with it, but you know the old saying, you can lead a horse to water…

We skied until about five the first day, went back to our rooms and freshened up a bit before dinner. I tried to get some pictures of the room before we left our mark on it. I thought our room was great, clean, modern, and spacious with comfortable beds. The couch pulled out in the sitting room for another bed.IMG_3979

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IMG_3985We then headed down to dinner at The Grille, the nicest restaurant at the resort. We did not have a reservation, thankfully it was only a small problem. There was a forty-five minute wait for a table, but we could sit at an available high top in the bar, which was what we chose to do. Next time, I’ll be sure to make a reservation, preferably with a view of the mountains. IMG_2167The menu had plenty of fine dining options, but we opted for sandwiches, which were awesome, and the kids ate off the children’s menu.

Since food allergies are always a concern for me, I would be remiss not talk about it, and since, as a mom of a food allergic child, I specifically seek out online people’s experiences at places we intend to patronize, I always like to put our experience out there for our fellow food allergic friends. However, if you don’t care, feel free to skip this paragraph. For those of you new to these parts, my son has a tree nut and sesame allergy, so these are the foods we avoid. Eating in the cafeteria part of the ski resort was easy. The staff had a chart that showed what foods contained the eight major food allergens. However, as any food allergic parent knows, that’s not always the full story. The staff was very obliging in handing over packaging so I could read ingredients, which was very important, since their peanut butter had a tree nut warning on it, and hot dog buns often contain sesame. Their buns, happily, did not, so my son had that as an option. Also, we were told they do not use a shared fryer for their fries, so he was also able to have french fries with his lunch, which is always a bonus. It is also worth mentioning that you can bring a cooler into the Mountain Eatery, which would also save you from spending $15, every time your kids were hungry for snacks. In The Grille, because we sat at the high tops, the bartender took our order. I ordered pasta with butter for my son, and then told her my son’s food allergies, which seemed to leave her a bit confused because she asked me what (of what I ordered) those ingredients might be in. It was a reasonable (possibly tinged with sarcasm) question, I suppose, but I told her that I was more concerned about cross contamination in the kitchen than if the pasta contained nuts. It was the same thing in the morning, when we ate in the Trail’s End Cafe. The girl behind the counter clearly thought I was crazy when I asked her about the pancakes and what else was cooked on the grill where the pancakes were cooked. But you know what? I’m not crazy, because when we stayed at the Hershey Lodge, my son couldn’t have the pancakes there because they were made by Krusteaz, and that brand has a tree nut warning.  I don’t take much for granted when it comes to food allergies. All in all, though, I think there were plenty of choices for my child, though he would have loved to seen mac and cheese on one of the menus.

We skied until 3pm, our second day, and we were home by 5:30, happy and exhausted. Would I go back, again? Definitely. I really loved everything about this resort and it was especially perfect for novice skiers like my kids and me. It might be great for more experienced skiers, too, but since I’m not one of them, it would be hard for me to say either way.  However, we all agreed it was a great mini-vacation.IMG_4009

*After the glowing review, I just want to make it clear that I am in no way affiliated with Bear Creek Mountain Resort.