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.

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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.

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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.

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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 

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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.

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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.