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….).

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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.

College Visit: Home of the Hokies

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Burruss Hall

I feel that one of the most hopeful and optimistic places one can visit is a college campus. I am invariably left with respect for the bright, articulate and hard-working tour guides who fearlessly walk backwards while introducing us to the universities they love. Their pride and passion is contagious and creates a surge of optimism within me for what these young people will accomplish for themselves and for our greater world. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, known as “Virginia Tech” or “Tech”, in Blacksburg, VA is no exception.

I missed out on my older son’s visit to VA Tech so I was determined to accompany my younger son to Blacksburg. It is a 4.5-5 hour drive from our home in Maryland so I wanted to make the most of the trip. After an easy but monotonous trip down Interstate 81 we arrived at the beautiful Inn at Virginia Tech. The hotel, with its exterior of  limestone “Hokie stone”, was a gracious and welcoming break from the road. After resting a bit, we were driven by the hotel concierge and Tech student to Blacksburg’s #1TripAdvisor restaurant, Cabo Fish Taco Baja Seagrill.

Cabo Fish Taco was amazing! Our friendly waitress served us the complimentary chips and their corn and tomato salsa. We then had the crab and shrimp dip appetizer with warm and crispy parmesan pita bread. I was almost full but had no problem eating my entree of lemon grilled shrimp tacos with the Cabo Fish Taco signature side of cheddar jalapeno mashed potatoes. It was so good! Cabo Fish Taco has only one other location in Charlotte, NC but I think they would be a big hit in many other college towns or Washington, DC maybe?

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As we walked back to the hotel through campus, I was stunned by the beauty of Virginia Tech’s campus. I have been touring colleges with my three kids since 2013 and Virginia Tech is truly gorgeous. My photos do not do it justice but hopefully give you some idea. We walked across the drillfield at dusk to Burruss Hall and then past the duck pond to our hotel.

20170724_104604.jpgThe next morning was spent on the official admissions tour of campus. We had both a bus tour of sites not covered by the walking tour, including Lane Stadium, and then we were led on the walking tour which ended at the impressive War Memorial Chapel, a tribute to the alumni who have died while in military service. The figures sculpted in limestone represent the values of Brotherhood, Honor, Leadership, Sacrifice, Service, Loyalty, Duty and Ut Prosism, the Latin motto of the University meaning “That I May Serve”.

20170724_105313We finished up our tour with an informative session at the College of Engineering and then were ready for lunch. At our tour guide’s recommendation, we ate at the Cellar, located conveniently off campus on Main Street. We were revived by our delicious sandwiches and iced tea, picked up by the hotel driver to get back to our car and we were on the road headed home.

I thoroughly enjoyed my first visit to Virginia Tech. The university, campus, and downtown Blacksburg are all impressive. My son came home wearing maroon and burnt orange so we may be back.

 

 

Senioritis: Not Just for Kids

Ah, senioritis, that dreaded high school affliction. High school seniors, finish line in sight, are reported to lose their motivation and focus. Once meticulous AP/IB Honors scholars are now supposedly missing assignments, deadlines, and are generally just not as engaged in their high school careers. Is student senioritis real? I am a not a teacher so I don’t know. I expect there is some truth to the stereotype, albeit overblown.

 

As I embark in the senior year college admissions process for the third time in four years, what I can tell you is that parents can contract senioritis as well. Just as a wide-eyed freshman turns into a savvy high school senior, parents also change a great deal from being first-time parents of seniors to experienced parents of college students.

 

The official kickoff for the college application process for my oldest child was his high school’s junior parents meeting held in spring of junior year. I attended with great excitement and anticipation. My baby was going to college! Armed with pen and paper, I sat near the front, listened carefully and assiduously took notes on key events and dates. As the meeting progressed, I became increasingly overwhelmed with each new slide and alarmed that my student may already be behind in the process: no College Board profile, no Naviance profile,no hard list of targeted schools. I came home in a mild panic, interrupted my son at his homework, and made him answer the College Board profile questions: Big college? Public or private college? What do you want to do for the rest of your life? In short, temporary parental insanity ensued.

 

I bought the Princeton Review and my son, husband, and I scoured its rankings on

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The book that began it all

accceptance rates, majors, and quality of life. Are the students safe, happy? Is the food good? Do they find jobs? Not content with the Princeton Review’s descriptions, I supplemented my research online with College Confidential and Niche. University A vs University B; surely the online sites have the real scoop.

 

My son put together a list of possible colleges, including the recommended reach schools, safety schools, and target schools. Comparison spreadsheets and analysis commenced. I enjoyed plugging universities into the Naviance scattergram to see if my son’s current stats yielded a green or a red dot. My husband put sticky notes on the large United States map we have in our home office and we started planning visits as our summer vacation. Our office became a college application war room.

 

As the notifications began, I was so excited for each and every college acceptance and scholarship offer. I shared my son’s nervousness as he waited to hear from his top colleges. I eagerly viewed all the online notifications and gleefully trotted to the mailbox to retrieve the big envelopes. My son attended accepted student visits at his top universities and finally made his choice.

 

Fast forward three years to my third junior parent meeting this past spring. I attended just in case there were changes in the school’s process of teacher recommendations, transcript requests, etc. No real changes were announced so I was able to sit in the back and observe the first-time parents sitting in the front taking notes and asking questions and felt relief that it wasn’t me. I came home feeling confident that our third time through this would be smooth sailing.

 

With my youngest, we are already familiar with several colleges he is considering since he has already been dragged on several college tours with his siblings. We looked up some new schools in our old Princeton Review and have begun to visit them. He has taken the SAT twice and identified colleges with comparable admissions requirements. I am very much looking forward to seeing where my youngest will go to college and I will be happy and proud of him wherever that may be. At the same time, it is nice going through the application process as a seasoned parent. There may not be the thrill of the newness of it all but there is also less stress and angst. Each child’s situation, even within a family, is different but like all endeavors the college application process gets easier with repetition.

 

Maybe both high school seniors and parents perceived to have senioritis aren’t lazy or uninvested in the future. Maybe we know we have gone through the work and experiences needed to get to this point and are confident enough to “trust the process”.  Just like the college counselors told me at that first meeting.

Wife, Mom… And Peggy!

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Richard Rodgers Theatre

As a woman named Peggy and a huge fan of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton the Musical, I was thrilled to share my name with one of his characters. My daughter introduced me to Hamilton when it first began, the summer of 2015, and convinced me to listen to the soundtrack after mentioning Peggy. I was excited to leave my childhood days of being called Miss Piggy for the adventures of Peggy Schuyler only to find out it is “Angelica, Eliza…And Peggy”. Angelica is the independent and charismatic sister, Eliza is the kind and loving sister, but Peggy Schuyler is the afterthought.

The Schuyler sisters, especially Peggy, spoke to me. We all have our roles to play in life: child, parent, sibling, spouse, worker, student, friend, neighbor. It can sometimes be hard to remember who we really are separate from our roles, no matter how much we love them. In that vein, I decided to name my blog “And Peggy” to remember and celebrate that part of myself that stands alone but doesn’t want to be forgotten. And also because, like everyone else out there, I love Hamilton!

My daughter strongly hinted that it would be a perfect high school graduation gift in 2016. I naively thought it would be easy to get tickets. Yeah, right! Fast forward to spring break 2017 and she and I were actually, finally, for real sitting in the Richard Rodgers Theatre to see Hamilton on Broadway!!

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Showtime!

While it must have been incredible to see Hamilton with the original cast (I love Leslie Odom, Jr.), the wait did not diminish the experience. The anticipation and excitement of the line of ticket holders waiting to get in the theater was contagious! As I walked to my seat, carrying my brand new Schuyler Sisters t-shirt and my adult beverage in a keepsake cup, I could hardly believe I was there! And when I finally heard the lyrics “my name is Alexander Hamilton” I got goosebumps. Hamilton has all the feels, as they say: love, war, betrayal, death, legacy.

“Who lives, who dies, who tells your story” is my favorite line. After surviving the deaths of my parents, I am left to tell their story but who will tell mine? And what will it be? Oprah always says that everyone has a story. I may not be “young, scrappy, and hungry” but my story is not over yet. Just you wait.

Welcome to And Peggy

Hi! Welcome to And Peggy! I am a wife, mom, dog lover, avid reader, traveler, coffee fanatic, Chianti enthusiast and lover of all things Italia. The springboard to this blog was writing about my midlife experiences in my Grown & Flown article SANDWICH GENERATION: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOUR SANDWICH FALLS APART?

So, this is me putting my sandwich back together or better yet, building a brand-new sandwich.

I invite you to join me on my journey to empty nest hood as I navigate this next chapter of my life. I promise heavily-caffeinated tales of food and travel, and adventures in fitness. And puppies, there will definitely be puppies.