Philly Special

20180208_144255.jpg

Logan Square, Philadelphia, February 8, 2018

I was struck by many things yesterday as I attended the Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl Victory Parade in the City of Brotherly Love. Chief among them is the power of sports to unite so many people from disparate backgrounds into a palpable presence of love. I have to admit I had my own preconceptions about the city and its fans as I came to the parade as part insider but part outsider, too.

 

My husband grew up in the Philly suburbs and has always been a devoted Eagles fan, despite our residing in Washington Redskins territory for the past 28 years. Sometimes a local team slowly works its way into a fan’s heart, but my husband’s loyalty to the Eagles has never wavered. I knew that there was no way that he would miss returning to Philadelphia for this historic moment.

 

I, however, grew up in a small south central Pennsylvania town with no clear team loyalties. There was definitely support for Philadelphia’s sports teams but the local fandom also stretched west to Pittsburgh and south to Baltimore and Washington, D.C. I would spy Ravens banners and Redskins flags as well as Eagles and Steelers gear upon visits to my hometown. So, although I have supported the Eagles, I must admit to not having the true passion of a die hard Eagles fan (like this guy in search of a great view of the parade).

20180208_131017.jpg

With that in mind, I felt some trepidation about venturing into center city Philadelphia along with the projected two million other people descending on Broad Street. It would be cold. It would be crowded. There would be porta potties but maybe not enough of them. The crowd might be raucous, dangerous even. Don’t tell epic Eagles speech-giver Jason Kelce but I was told to bring my health insurance card with me in the event I got hurt by the vicious Eagles fans and the denizens of Philadelphia. Visions of terrorist attacks in Boston and New York lingered in the back of my mind. All of that left me feeling that I may be safer sitting this one out.

 

20180208_110053.jpgFortunately, my sense of adventure kicked back in and off on a sold-out Amtrak train from BWI to PHL we went. I had to settle for wearing my collegiate Penn State gear (awfully close to the vanquished Patriots team colors) because I don’t own any Eagles garb. I learned the lyrics to Fly, Eagles, Fly on the train on the way up because I didn’t want to be the only one standing in a sea of green who couldn’t even sing the fight song.

 

The moment we stepped out of 30th Street Station we were hit with our first of many E A G L E S  EAGLES cheers! It was an awesome start to a day I will always remember. Yes, it was cold but the sun hitting the steps of The Franklin Institute kept us warm. Yes, it was crowded but in a fun way. Logan Square was like one gigantic block party. The crowd was spirited but in no way destructive. There were young people dancing and throwing footballs in the blocked off street. There were little girls dressed in green tutus playing on the steps. There were babies and toddlers wearing Eagles clothes. Dogs on leashes were looking for errant treats. Planes flew above us writing “PHILLY PHILLY DILLY DILLY” in the clear blue sky. There was music blasting on the loudspeakers while the jumbo screen on the square projected scenes from the parade. There were classic songs that I knew the lyrics to and songs that everyone under 30 knew every single word to that I have never heard.

20180208_115118.jpg

There were people of all ethnic and religious and social backgrounds, all shapes and sizes. I’m sure there were Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives and everyone in between. Whatever their background, it didn’t matter one bit when a random person started with E  A – the whole crowd stopped what they were doing and finished the cheer.

 

I genuinely felt love in that city yesterday. People were kind and friendly. Hard-working cops and sanitation workers were smiling and answering questions and giving directions, even as the day turned into night. We met a grandmother in from Delaware by herself and a grad student who flew in from the University of Wyoming to attend the celebration. We even witnessed a marriage proposal in front of the crowd and heard about a fan traveling to the parade to spread their loved one’s ashes at the event.

 

Love, in all its glorious and messy forms, was truly on display in Philadelphia yesterday and the thing that brought the city together was sports in general, Eagles football in particular. Say what you want about football, about its scandals and the legitimate health risks to its players, I haven’t witnessed anything else close to what I experienced yesterday in terms of unifying a city.  The National Anthem controversy may have taken a toll on the NFL’s popularity but there wasn’t a dry eye as most of the city of Philadelphia belted out Fly, Eagles, Fly together.

20180208_133733.jpg

Yes, maybe we should be able to unite for something more “serious” than football and lots of people do, but right now I am so grateful to have soaked up that love and joy yesterday. It is something we all need more of in our society. As we boarded our train home last night with one last slightly hoarse EAGLES cheer, my hope is that the city of Philadelphia and all of us who experienced her brotherly love yesterday can take that spirit back home with us and share it wherever we are. It may be “only football” but I for one am glad to take it. Thank you, Philly, you are special.

New Year, New Czechoslovakian Me

20180207_120157148610575.jpg

As January 1 came and went and the Chinese New Year approaches, I struggle with the whole “New Year, New Me” idea. At this point in my life, I don’t see how I can reinvent myself, either physically or emotionally. Appearance wise, I have been thin and not-so-thin. I have had straight hair, curly hair, long hair, short hair, brown hair, red hair (with dyed eyebrows to match) blonde hair, and for my 50th birthday trip to Vegas…pink hair. If I was in one of those spy thriller movies where the female character has to drastically change her look, I would have to practically shave my head to do something I haven’t already done.

pinkhair1601888287.jpg

 

But change isn’t just about looks, is it? There is all of that emotional growth one gains upon stepping outside of one’s comfort zone. And step outside is what I did most of the last decade. I started with my martial arts journey from watching my kids at karate to training in kickboxing, karate, jiu jitsu, boxing and a little Krav Maga thrown in for good measure. I honestly did surprise myself and a few sparring partners to find out I am a natural “brawler” as my Golden Gloves boxing coach told me (one of my proudest moments).

I also explored my more soulful side with yoga and my more expressive side with zumba. I ziplined over treetops and ran through obstacles and crawled Army-style under barbed wire through mud pits for fun. In short, I tested my boundaries and was exhilarated each time I passed one. 

mudrun493118786.jpg

zipline41887530.jpg

For most of my 40s, each year produced an ever more daring “new me.”

That change all came to a crashing halt when both of my parents passed away as I was turning 50. The air left my balloon and I was left feeling suddenly much older than my true age. I lost my fighting spirit and turned to my husband and children for love and healing. I spent more time reading and thinking about faith and love and what the rest of my life might look like. I also spent hours looking through boxes and more boxes of photos from my parents’ lives. I became curious about family roots in a way that I think only people feeling bereft of family truly do. I submitted a DNA sample to Ancestry.com and my results gave me a new little spark in life.

I am part Czechoslovakian! For some reason, this changed my internal view of myself. For not only do we want to project a “new me” to the world, we want to feel new inside, which gets harder as we get older. My family lore had led me to believe I was 50% Irish, 25% Polish, and 25% Lithuanian so I always knew I had roots in Eastern Europe. Despite this knowledge, I related more to my mother’s Irish ancestry. Aside from a few ethnic dishes, including the stuffed cabbage dish of halupkies, most of my self-indication was Irish. My mother sang Toora Toora Looral to me as a child and I, in turn, sang the Irish lullaby to my own babies. I also grew up around my mother’s five siblings who epitomized Irish good looks and charm. I remember meeting great aunts and second cousins on my mother’s side of the family, which I got to know better than my father’s side.

So I was surprised that according to Ancestry, my Eastern European background is 51% of my DNA with 40% coming from both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Census information would have me believe that both my paternal grandparents’ families were from Czechoslovakia, which was never mentioned once to me.

It may simply be the result of shifting borders in Eastern Europe but the fact that my grandfather was listed as being born in Czechoslovakia makes me want to learn more about my neglected Eastern European heritage. Sometimes, the best way to feel new is to explore the old.

Christmas Grief, Christmas Gifts

FB_IMG_1513610093182.jpg

photo credit WAA-Indiantown Gap National Cemetery

As the holiday shopping season kicks into its final frenzy, I feel both anticipation and sadness; anticipation for buying gifts for my immediate family and sadness that my mother and father are no longer here to be a physical part of the celebrations. My mother loved to shop but unfortunately or fortunately depending on your view, I did not. My childhood memories include shopping at our local department store with me begging “when are we going to leave?!” and my mom desperately trying to get whatever it was she needed.

 

What I wouldn’t give today to be able to spend an afternoon aimlessly shopping with my mom and treating ourselves to a cup of coffee and something sweet to eat after our purchases were complete. Part of the irony of middle age is that I now have the time and more money to spend on people I cherish but they are no longer here.

 

Christmas shopping outside of buying for my young children used to be somewhat of a burden to me, an item I had to check off of my holiday to-do list. I wanted to give my parents special gifts but I didn’t have a large budget and it was difficult to find what I thought was the right gift. My father was notorious for returning gifts because he didn’t “need” them or didn’t want his children spending money on him. He grew up during the Depression and never had a great need for material things so I usually settled on food items that I knew he would eat or at least could not return. Poppy seed nut rolls like my grandmother used to bake and nut and cheese platters were an annual staple.

 

Buying gifts for my mom was both easier and harder. It was easier because my mother was a very feminine woman who loved perfume, and soft and pretty things.It was also harder because as I grew into motherhood myself I felt my gifts were an inadequate expression of my love and appreciation. Some years, I hit the right note. The year my husband and I gave her an electronic photo album loaded with photos of her and my father with my kids was a hit. But other years found me wandering the mall (pre-Amazon) looking at scarves, sweaters, slippers and ultimately giving her something a little too practical and generic.

 

The last Christmas my mother was alive was spent at a nursing home in my hometown. She was recovering from a broken leg and was doing well with her rehabilitation. She loved our golden retriever but we couldn’t bring him in to see her in person so my husband brought him to the window so that she could at least see him playing outside. Our gifts that year included a nativity that my older son purchased from a charity at his school and a thick red shawl that I hoped would both keep her warm and feel like a hug from us even after we had left to return to our home a state away.

 

My mother passed away the following summer of 2013 and my father passed away from cancer December 28, 2014, three days after Christmas. He had recently moved into an assisted living home and was living his final days peacefully in hospice care. The home was decorated beautifully for Christmas and the festive holiday atmosphere should have clashed with the sadness of his impending passing but somehow it did not. My last Christmas gift to my father was an automatic electronic candle surrounded by a fragrant wreath of fresh greens. I placed it in his window overlooking the chapel in the courtyard where the light of the candle reflected in the stained glass window.

 

Remembrance is all I have now but it turns out that it is enough to fill my heart with joy. I have many wonderful memories of baking, decorating, and yes, even shopping with my mom. I can still picture my dad sitting in his favorite recliner cracking walnuts while my young children watched in fascination. The only gift I can give to them now is to make sure the grave they share at the national military cemetery where they are laid to rest is covered with a wreath through Wreaths Across America. The site of thousands of wreaths in neat rows across the snow is a sight to behold and gives me comfort.

 

I no longer feel guilty, either, for some of my lackluster gifts throughout the years. As an almost empty-nester myself, I now realize that the many times my husband and I loaded the kids and dogs in the van and hit the highway was the best gift I could have given to my parents. The love and memories that they gave me throughout my life was the best gift they could have given to me.

 

So when my grown children start bringing gifts of nuts and scarves, I will understand. I will tell them that it does not matter what presents they bring. Their presence will always be the  greatest gift.

The Cove Atlantis: Not Your Kids’ Atlantis

I’ve got to admit waking up to this view from the eighth floor of The Cove Atlantis was something I could easily get used to. It was cold and wet back home in Maryland but here in the beautiful Bahamas, it was sunny with a light breeze and I was delighted to be back at Atlantis. Only this time it was without the kids.

My family of five have been to Atlantis several times, starting with a one-day cruise excursion, moving to a Beach Tower stay then to a Coral Towers bungalow right off the beach.  Each trip was amazing. We love everything about Atlantis: the Leap of Faith, the Rapid River (the Current), snorkeling in the Lagoon and the special Snorkel the Ruins experience (my personal favorite). We also enjoy the food, from snacks by one of the many  pools to fish and chips to the restaurants at the Marina. And we always make at least one trip to nearby Anthony’s. There is so much to do at Atlantis.

So, when my husband and I starting thinking about a getaway weekend for our 25th anniversary we decided we wanted to go someplace relatively close with a direct flight, warm, and very relaxing. We were coming off of a crazy fall and just wanted to bask in the sun. I wanted to be in a lounge chair on the beach with a drink in one hand and a good book in the other.

20171113_123142

Pina Colada anyone?

The Cove was absolutely perfect! Even though we were familiar with Atlantis, The Cove was a completely different experience. It was everything social media claimed it would be. From the stunning open-air lobby to our luxurious room with a magnificent view of the Reef Pool and the beach, the Cove was a wonderful splurge for our anniversary.

Don’t get me wrong, my kids would love The Cove too! And soon they will all be over 18 years-old and able to enjoy the 18 and over only Cove guests Pool complete with DJ, delicious drinks and food at the new Sip Sip, and a small gaming area. This pool is gorgeous, although slightly shady and windy. It is definitely the pool with a young “scene” although we felt perfectly comfortable there too. I imagine this place is lit (as the kids say) at a busier time but in November it was easy to get a lounge chair with a prime view of the pool and the beach beyond.

20171113_143857 (1)

Relaxing at The Cove Pool

We finished off our arduous daily schedule of beach, pool, drinks with delicious dinners. Two were old favorites; Anthony’s and Bimini Road. Two were special occasion treats; Luciano’s of Chicago and the exquisite Cafe Martinique. We ventured off of Atlantis for Luciano’s, which a quick cab trip away. Luciano’s has a wonderful view of Atlantis across the water which makes for a romantic setting and the food was fresh and delicious and our server, Ronnie, was very friendly and told us about the history of the building housing Luciano’s. It is definitely a restaurant my part Italian family would enjoy.

As romance and indulgence goes though, there is no better place to celebrate a special occasion than Cafe Martinique in the Marina Village. We had the only bad weather of our trip on our walk to Cafe Martinique so we arrived at the restaurant slightly soggy from the rain but no matter, we were seated at the corner window table facing the Royal Towers and overlooking other Marina visitors trying to escape the downpour.

FB_IMG_1511910684795We toasted  with a bottle of champagne, enjoyed the most tender steak au poivre, and were treated with a celebratory dessert. It was a magical end to a magical anniversary trip. And after twenty-five years of marriage through richer and poorer, in sickness and in health,  in times of joy and sorrow, and raising three kids, it was special to get back to my husband and I as a couple and there couldn’t have been a better place to do it. It really is better in the Bahamas.

 

 

 

FB_IMG_1511910657331

Thanks, Atlantis, see you for our 30th?

WWFD? When your life is like an episode of “The Middle”

WWFD? What would Frankie, Frankie Heck of “The Middle” that is, do? That’s the question I found myself asking these past few days that left me longing for my own stashed can of whipped icing. Last Thursday, I had grand plans to shake it at zumba, clean my house, and search for some freelance writing jobs. Instead, I whisked my 17 year-old son with a bad stomachache from the pediatrician’s office to our local hospital emergency room. There, in the pediatric ward, lay my 6 foot 6 inch son on a way-too-short hospital bed wearing an also way-too-short hospital gown. Hashtag #tallpeopleproblems. The surgeon confirmed the pediatrician’s preliminary diagnosis of appendicitis and my son had surgery late that night. After my son was finally resting in a Dilaudid induced sleep and I was uncomfortably ensconced in the chair/bed for the remainder of the night, my husband returned home only to find the dogs’ room covered in diarrhea and vomit. Not knowing if our senior golden retriever or our young boxer was the sick pup, my husband cleaned up and we all tried our best to call it a day.

The next morning I woke to the insistent beeping of the intravenous alarm and the nurse quizzing me about my son’s ability or inability to pee during the night. All of this mind you, BEFORE COFFEE. My family will tell you that I am a walking, talking personification of the “But first coffee” meme so this was a rather incoherent and cranky exchange on my part. A muffin and a latte later, I was feeling much better and my son had met his two goals on the whiteboard: urinate and perambulate. Yay! I left the hospital to check on our dogs and found that it was indeed our golden, Lucky, who was obviously feeling very unlucky. I cleaned up, grabbed clean clothes for my son, and headed back to the hospital to meet with the surgeon to find out when my son would be coming home.

Fortunately, recovery was going well and we headed home late Friday night, exhausted and ready for a good night’s sleep…which was not to be because my daughter at college texted at  2 am that she was at the hospital near campus, she was okay, just there to help a friend. So relieved that she was fine, but no more sleeping for me. I begin the first of many pots of coffee. She later decides to come home to rest for the weekend because she was beginning to feel sick and then my husband actually got sick after going to get her and bringing home dinner and suddenly I was that most dreaded of all family members: the last well one standing. The healthy one, the one caring for drainage tubes and incisions, administering pain meds and antibiotics, making tea, serving jello and pudding, boiling chicken and rice for the dogs, and pasta for my daughter to take back to college. In short, I wanted my own mom, whom I miss very much every day but especially on days like this one. Instead, I said a few Hail Mary’s and was comforted by my mother’s favorite adage of “This, too, shall pass.”

And I sat down to watch the new episode of “The Middle” and reflected that this week was a reminder of just how fast life can change and how I had been feeling a little down and unneeded (careful what you wish for) just a few days ago. This time next year, I will be an official emptynester and the Heck family’s future will be resolved by the series finale. I will miss the Hecks. I never had their financial worries but I grew up in a small town in rural Pennsylvania, not unlike Orson, Indiana. My own children are different from Axl, Sue, and Brick and my husband shares Mike’s good qualities without having his blue collar profession but I still feel an affinity for their family. I have three kids also; boy, girl, boy of similar ages and stages. My oldest two are both away at college like Axl and Sue with my younger son at home like Brick. And on a scale of Frankie Heck to Nancy Donahue, I definitely skew to Frankie Heck. So while I am sad to see them go I am happy to spend this last season with them. The Hecks are one of the truest representations of family life on television. They go through their tough times, but persevere with love, faith, and humor, exactly the things that got me through this week (with an assist from my dear friend coffee). We could all use a little more Heck in our lives. And just wondering…did Brick ever have his appendix out? It could make a great story line……

 

 

Mother of Dogs

20170901_110245

Who wouldn’t want to be Daenerys Targaryen, beautiful Mother of Dragons, soaring on the back of an incredible creature capable of annihilating enemies with one whisper of “dracarys”? I, for one, would. I think humans have always had a longing to forge close connections with wild animals. We seek their companionship and are enthralled by those who are able to seemingly be one with their wild creature. It is not just that Daenerys’ dragons obey her; they trust her and have an emotional bond with her. They are her children and she is their mother.

I would like to think I have this same connection with my dogs. I am the dog mother to an eleven-year-old golden retriever and a ten-month-old boxer puppy. While I am a devoted dog mother and try my best to raise good canine citizens, I would be deluding myself if I thought I could be as regal and commanding as Daenerys  with her “children”.

I occasionally get this omnipotent feeling in the two minutes of our daily walk when my dogs are walking calmly side-by-side and I am feeling dignified and in control. Invariably, this comes to a miserable end when one decides it’s time to do his business, the other wants to chase a squirrel, I am bending to pick up the poop, and we inevitably become entangled. This is usually the moment when some other dog mom comes towards us, nicely dressed, easily walking a 15 pound dog, and looking slightly superior and somewhat disapproving of my current situation. “Where were you two minutes ago I think?!” as I try to disentangle myself without stepping in poop. Today, I actually got a sympathetic “you look like you have a lot to handle there” remark from a very nice woman.

20170313_161639

It’s true. Sometimes my dogs are a bit too much for me, but they have brought me much joy and comfort during some of my most painful times. My boxer, in particular, is both my grief dog and my almost-empty-nest dog. Having lost both of my parents in recent years, I was feeling blue. I was also afraid of losing Lucky, my golden, just as my real children were heading off to college. Enter Rory (as in Rory Gilmore). I wasn’t planning on a puppy but she fell into our laps and lives shortly after Christmas. Other family members already had adopted her brother and knew Rory needed a home. It was an impulsive move but one I do not regret. Rory starts each and every day with boundless enthusiasm, which has rubbed off on Lucky and me. It is impossible to be in anything but a good mood with an adorable pup licking your face.

20170901_102436

So, if we are an unwieldy trio coming your way on a neighborhood path, please don’t judge us too harshly or feel too sorry for me. I love my wild beasts and we will get better at this. My fortune cookie last night aptly stated “you have a lively family”. Dogs to me are family and yes, they are quite lively, but I would not have it any other way. I am sure Daenerys would agree.

 

 

 

My Last First Day

Untitled drawingToday is my last first day of being a school parent. Yes, I have two older college students but being a college parent is not the same as being the parent of a child still at home. Since my oldest child’s entry into kindergarten, I have sent at least one child off to school for the first day of classes. It began with walking our oldest child with younger siblings in tow to the kindergarten bus stop, then walking all three of my children to our neighborhood elementary school, to occasional runs to middle school bus stops, and finally, carpools and drives to their private high school. As I sat in line at the school entrance today, I felt like a visitor to a familiar yet strange land.

 

I have been driving to this school for the past seven years. It should feel like second nature and in some ways it does but knowing that this year is my last as a school parent made it feel different. I thought back to my first year as a parent there and how new and exciting it was. It was my family’s first experience with private school and uniforms and carpools. Everything was in front of my children and our high school was the center of our lives and schedules. With my youngest, it is the end of our experience here. With two children already in college, our world has expanded. We live in different places now with our own separate schedules.

 

Friends in the thick of raising children have remarked that today is a sad milestone for me but to me it is not. As much as I love my children and have enjoyed being a part of their school community, I look forward to this next stage of life. I will enjoy all the “last firsts” of senior year and I will feel happy and proud to see my younger son walk across the altar at graduation mass in May. Maybe next year at this time, I will feel sentimental about not having to make sure a tired teen is up, uniforms are clean, school supplies are bought, and summer math packets have been completed. Or, maybe not. Maybe I will be smiling at my friends and family members’ photos of their children’s first day back and thinking it is now my own new first day.

The Summer of Sticky Notes (on Grown&Flown)

“This was the summer of sticky notes and late-night texts.”

In my Welcome post, I write that my experience having an essay published on Grown&Flown reignited my desire to write and spurred me to create this blog. It is an incredible online resource, blog, and warm community of parents of older teens and college students and beyond (G&F tagline is “parenting never ends”). I am so excited to see my recent reflections on the summer of 2017 on the Grown&Flown facebook page. It is gratifying to be able to connect with other parents and know we are experiencing the same emotions as our baby birds leave the nest.

My original essay on Grown&Flown can be found  here.

 

 

 

Dewey Beach: Last Gasp of Summer

view from our room at the Hyatt Place Dewey Beach

For families of college and high school students, summer ends early and squeezing in a family vacation with 5 different schedules to synchronize can be tough.  This was my family’s situation when we realized we had a few days open the first week of August but no real plans. Enter Dewey Beach!

My summer vacations growing up were “down the shore” at Surf City, Long Beach Island, New Jersey. I loved the narrow island where it is only a few short blocks from bay to beach. Dewey Beach, Delaware has that same appeal.

Since we were only  staying a few days, we opted for a hotel over a rental. It is hard to find a great beach hotel sometimes, but the Hyatt Place Dewey Beach was perfect for us.

20170802_104545

Dewey Beach is waiting for you

The Hyatt Place is located on the bay, next to the Lighthouse and across from the Rusty Rudder and separated from the beach by Coastal Highway. It is a short walk up to the beach, which is glorious. Beach chairs and umbrellas are available to rent for cash. We settled in for a perfect day at the beach.

20170720_183017

Woody’s crab cake sandwich

When we were ready for a late lunch, we walked a few blocks up Coastal Hwy to Woody’s Beach Bar, famous for their award-winning crab cakes. My crab cake sandwich was so good, we ended up at Woody’s more than once. You just can’t go wrong with delicious crab cakes and cold beer at the beach.

You also can’t go wrong with free tortilla chips and salsa and margaritas for guests provided by the Hyatt Place and Que Pasa Mexican Cantina served to guests in the hotel bar/lounge the evening we arrived.

Not only did the Hyatt make us feel welcome, but the Dewey community offers many activities as well, including a free bonfire offered twice a week on the beach at Dagsworthy Avenue. Marshmallows and roasting sticks were available for a donation and it was a fun way to end the day.

There are many great restaurants and activities in Dewey, but if the thought of walking an old-fashioned boardwalk appeals to you all you have to do is catch the Jolly Trolley tram (our stop was located in front of the Lighthouse) and spend some time in nearby Rehoboth Beach. Rehoboth is a charming beach town full of amazing upscale restaurants and shops. We stuck to the boardwalk and enjoyed the classics of Funland, Grotto Pizza, Kohr  Bros. Frozen Custard, and of course, bought some saltwater taffy at Dolle’s.

Even though breakfast was included with our room at the Hyatt, we couldn’t leave Dewey without stopping at the Fractured Prune for their warm, customized cake donuts. Customers can pick their own glaze and toppings to make their own fabulous creations. If that is too overwhelming, the Fractured Prune lists the favorites in the area so all you need to do is order and eat. Yum!

While we were sad to leave Dewey, we had one more stop to make, Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, DE. Dogfish offers free family-friendly (Dogfish rates it as PG) tours of their brewery and a free sampling of four beers for those 21 and over guests  with  valid IDs. My favorites were the Flesh &Blood IPA and the 60 Minute IPA.

20170803_112508

Dogfish Head samples

Dogfish also has a gift shop and some fun photo opportunities so even those under 21 or those people who are not beer aficionados should still find it interesting.My family felt there was something for everyone in our brief stay at Dewey Beach. We have all moved on to our fall activities of school and work, but we have great memories of our trip. Hopefully, next time we can stay longer.

Hersheypark Happy (to be Home)

 

hersheypark entrance

Hershey, Pennsylvania bills itself as the “sweetest place on Earth” and I have to agree because Hershey and its primary tourist attraction, Hersheypark, hold a very sweet spot in my heart.

Growing up in nearby Lebanon County, going to Hersheypark with my family was an annual summer event. I still remember the anticipation I felt going through the entrance gates and walking up the steep path to the carrousel with the feeling that the whole park and day were full of possibilities.

During college, I spent two years working in the park’s Guest Services, located just outside the main entrance. I helped give directions to lost guests, surveyed restaurant diners, helped care for lost children and my favorite, led trolley tours of the town of Hershey (“over on your right you will see….).

guest services

Me at my old information booth

I returned with my own three young children when visiting my parents. Hersheypark, with its famous wooden rollercoaster, the Comet, was one of my mother’s favorite places. To this day, I feel that every ride I take on the Comet is a tribute to her and her love of life. The Comet brings me back to my youth. I have ridden it as a child, teenager, young parent and older parent and I will feel young at heart every time I ride that clackety track up that first steep hill.

This year’s experience was an extended family trip that gave me the chance to see my young nieces and nephews enjoying the park. The Coal Cracker 

skyrush

Skyrush at night

water flume and the iconic SuperDooperLooper (they still sell t-shirts proclaiming “I survived the SooperDooperLooper) were big hits with the newer crowd. My local family members enjoy annual season passes so they are experienced riders on all of Hersheypark’s newer attractions, including the exhilarating Skyrush coaster, the indoor Laff Trakk spinning glow-in-the-dark coaster and the Triple Tower.

Hersheypark made a major addition to the park with the opening of The Boardwalk in 2007, the 100th anniversary of the park’s opening. The Boardwalk is a water park complete with a wave pool, lazy river, several tube slides and the East Coast Waterworks, a climbing structure with slides, water cannons, fountains, and an enormous bucket of water that splashes down at intervals. It is a huge area and visitors could easily spend an entire day playing in the water. For families that aren’t sure if they will want to get wet or not, I suggest bringing in your swimsuits (swimwear is required) and placing them in a locker for the day ($15 for a small locker and $20 for a family locker). You will get a bracelet to wear that can be scanned to reopen your locker. Trust me, the parking lot is far away and you will not want to return to your car if you now decide to enjoy The Boardwalk. Hersheypark also offers private cabanas with many amenities included which must be reserved online prior to your trip and this year have an advertised starting cost of $265.

Speaking of parking, we took advantage of Hersheypark’s preview pricing which gives visitors a sneak preview of the park the night before with one of the perks being that the parking ($15) on your preview night waives your parking fee the next day. Holders of full-day admission tickets are admitted to the park the evening before which enables you to get the lay of the land, especially with the use of the Hersheypark App, and enjoy much shorter ride lines as the night goes on. We were admitted at 7:30pm sharp on a Saturday night with an 11:00pm closing. That gave us 3.5 hours to enjoy relatively short lines on the Comet, Skyrush, SooperDooperLooper and other attractions. Nights in the park are magical. There is nothing better than being at the top of a rollercoaster with the twinkling lights of the entire park below.

20170729_224036

Hersheypark Carrousel

We didn’t want to waste valuable time at our preview eating so we saved our appetites for a late dinnner at the nearby Red Robin, with its always hot and delicious french fries. For food in the park the next day, we enjoyed chicken tenders and a large bucket of seasoned crab fries at Chickie & Pete’s at Pioneer Frontier and our season pass holders said no trip to Hersheypark is complete without the park’s best ice cream at the Comet Creamery in the Hollow. Sweet, indeed.