2nd Annual Mini Vacay-Great Wolf Lodge

We’re heading back to Great Wolf Lodge this weekend! Check out my review from last year’s visit!!

One of our family Christmas gifts from my in-laws this year was a trip to Great Wolf Lodge. Located in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, Great Wolf Lodge is loaded with tons of activities for kids and families, but the biggest attraction is the huge in-door water park! The water park is over 79,000 square feet, with attractions including water-slides, a wave pool, and a “zero-depth entry” area for smaller children. The resort also includes a bowling alley, in-door mini golf, spa, nightly dance parties, story times and much much more!

We traveled with my husband’s sister, her husband and two children, and also my husband’s cousin and her two daughters. The kids ages ranged from 6 months to 15 years old and not one person was lacking in things to do.

Not only is there a lot to do but the rooms are pretty amazing! We stayed in a family suite and had more than enough room for the four of us. The two queen beds were super comfortable and the sectioned off sitting area was nice for the girls to hang out and play in. They also include a mini fridge and microwave which came in handy for bottle making and snacks.

Our girls had an amazing time playing n the “zero-depth entry” area. There was just enough water for them to feel comfortable and shallow enough that my husband and I weren’t paranoid that someone was going to drown. Our oldest daughter loved standing in the wave pool and our youngest liked hanging out in the warm springs.

In addition to all the fun things to do, the resort has many food options. From a Starbucks (which came in very handy for a momma with a 1 year old who didn’t sleep) to a buffet with everything you can dream of! The food can get a bit expensive so if you are on a budget I suggest taking a meal or two and some snacks to save a bit of money.

Over all we had a great time at Great Wolf Lodge; if it weren’t for a few meltdowns and the lack of sleep, I would say it was a perfect mini vacation; but where’s the fun in perfect?

For more information, click on the link: Great Wolf Lodge.

Advertisements

Angels on Earth !

Today I will write my post while fighting tears.  They are a mix of selfish tears and joyful tears.  Many know, but for those who do not- my baby sister Stevana Estime has dedicated her life as a missionary.    Today she leaves for her permanent move to Haiti where she, her husband and Haitian native, their son, and the rest of the New Life Mission- Haiti team will build and maintain a children’s home.

It stings a little to imagine her closeness growing with her in-laws, as they watch her son grow, and celebrate special moments with out me by her side.  Of course I know her mission is bigger than birthday cakes and family outings.

I never stop feeling astonished at what a strong women she is.  Its really hard for me to imagine denying the American lifestyle.  Giving up not only luxuries and entertainment, but basic amenities.  Mostly it would be hard for me to commit to a life where my family is not a car ride away.    The thought of becoming a minority in a land where the language for her is second at best would terrify the average person.  The list of sacrifices for my sister and her small family is long- and for that I am beyond proud of her and her selfless journey.

I know at least in less than 5 short months my baby sister, angel on earth, and matron of honor will be home to stand beside me on my wedding day.

I think her story is best shared through their missionary website:

Zacharie & Stevie met when Stevie went to Haiti for a one week trip in 2011. They became friends, but never thought they’d meet again. However, after college graduation, Stevie returned to Haiti for a 4 month trip to teach english to the children in Charrier. Zacharie was her translator over that time. Soon into the trip, Stevie & Zacharie were drawn together by their passion for children’s ministry. Both had lost their fathers at young ages. So in their different countries yet similar family situations, they both witnessed firsthand, the struggles of a single parent home and the challenges it can cause.  Their hearts go out to the many children in Haiti who grow up in like scenarios whether with one parent or without any.  A lot of these kids are sent to live with another family because their own cannot provide for them. Many are forced into slave labor like conditions and never have the opportunity to even go to school or feel the true love of a parent. They feel called  to return to Haiti to help these kids. They want to raise them in a loving home where they can grow up with hopes of a future. They want them to learn to be confident in themselves and help them realize their potential. They hear God telling them to rise up leaders in Haiti who are proud of their country. They hear God telling them to teach these children about his never ending love for them.

The couple has now wed and while on their honeymoon in Haiti purchased about 2.5 acres about a mile down the road from Zacharie’s Momma’s house and New Life mission’s mission house. A wall has been built around the property and construction projects have begun! They are living stateside now as they are expecting their first child this August, 2015. They are making the move to Haiti in January 2016. Their hope is to open up New Life Mission’s children’s home by September 2016. Please pray for them as they prepare for these upcoming changing.

The family though close- is still collecting funds to make this lofty goal a reality.    The team is always looking for others to travel to Haiti and donate time or resources to those in need.  Although financing and travel may be outside of your abilities- the team is also collecting clothing and other softly used home goods as well!

 

estimes estimes1estimes3

I ask for thoughts and prayers for my sister and her family on this fabulous journey  !

Is it Fall yet?

It’s no surprise that we’ve already started thinking about Fall.  The past few days have brought with it cooler weather to Western PA and that can only mean one thing that Fall is right around the corner.  That brings apple orchards, flannel shirts, anoraks, boots, shorter  days, and the impending Winter on the horizon.  Before Summer is over I wanted to make a list of some fun things that are still going on and few things to look forward to in Western PA.  We still have a few weeks of warmer weather and we need to take advantage of it (as we can all remember last Winter and negative wind chills…boo!)  I am jam packed these next few weeks but these are some things I’m hoping to squeeze in and also things I’m looking forward to doing!  Cheers to End of Summer!  

Must Do’s (if that is even a correct phrase)!  

  1. Pirates Game – I have no gone to one single baseball game all summer!  What kind of Pittsburgher am I!!
  2. Kennywood – This is very unlikely and I don’t really for-see this but I thought I would put it on the list as something I like to keep in the back of my mind because I’ve never been there.
  3. Falling Waters – I have heard some many amazing things about this place, I think this could be a Summer or Fall activity
  4. Hiking, Hiking, Hiking! – We were on a pretty good role with Mike and Rachel during the earlier months of summer.  We have both gotten so busy but I would love to explore more of Western PA.
  5. Trax Farms – This place is supposedly an amazing Fall spot for pumpkin picking and enjoying the cooler outdoor temps.
  6. Gateway Clipper  – This is a “steamboat” that carries you all over the three rivers.
  7. Host more Fall parties – We love to entertain and the best season is Fall, it always revolves around food!

Enjoy!! Check back next week as I give you the run down of the Gwynnie Bee subscription!

Let’s Go Bucs !!

I have always enjoyed a good baseball game.  I was never a devote follower or a true loyal fan to one team :/  I just loved to be around the excitement, the commitment, the ballpark foods, smells, and sounds.

bucs9

A good old American Ball Game has never been as fun as it has been since becoming Pittsburgh Pirates “Buccos” fan!  Michael is  a die-hard, in fact growing up just right outside of Pittsburgh- his entire family is.   Learning the game, the players, and how to develop opinions on a sports team has been a really great way for us to share in one of Michael’s true loves and hobbies.  He is a know-it-all too 😉  So I am lucky to have an incredible teacher.

bucs1

bucs6

 

It would have been that I should be a huge sports fan, had my father not passed when I was 11.   He was the kind of dad where the entire family proudly wore Cowboys (or whatever sport was in season) gear from head to toe and there was little-to-no talking when a game was on (unless it was yelling or cheering of course).  I was the quintessential Daddy’s-girl.  I would follow that man anywhere in a baseball cap and a ratty ponytail just hoping to please him.  After he passed, sports fell to the wayside– and so it is not that I grew up not enjoying sports- but I had no connection because I had little understanding.  My teacher was gone.

bucs5

 

Tonight we will go to possibly our 10th game of the year?  We are so lucky to be a ride down the “Incline” and walk across a bridge (well- TWO) and just 30 minutes later we arrive at PNC park where one will find one of the most breath-taking views past the outfield that a ball park has to offer.   PNC has an incredible pre-game.  Most tailgates require parking lots packed full of cars that are packed full with coolers and tables and all your pre-game supplies.  Instead here in Pittsburgh the city closes federal street and just for a few hours allows all the fans to flood in front their beloved stadium and Roberto Clemente Statue and enjoy a few pre-game brews.   The federal street “Block Party” is one of my favorite Pittsburgh perks.

bucs2

bucs8

Tonight I will put on my brand new “Gregory Polanco #25” t-shirt that my Fiance bought me to satisfy my love of the new player.   Meet his wonderful parents for a Pittsburgh Downtown dinner at one of many amazing restaurants that our city has to offer.  Then we will walk across the Clemente bridge to our favorite block party at our favorite stadium and happily cheer : “LETS GO BUCS!” and pray for another sweep!

bucs3

bucs4

 

RV Camping with an Infant

Camping with a infant sounds crazy, right? But we discovered that it can be very enjoyable if we packed and planned correctly.

Unknown

  1. Distance- Traveling close to home was an absolute must when we planned our trip.  We looked for campgrounds that were within 2 hours of our house.  In a worst case scenario, we could drive home if it was raining or things weren’t going well.  (Fun fact- for the first 3 months of my Ainsley’s life, she cried in the car seat.  It was terrifying…I mean she cried real tears.  We felt helpless and confused.  Around the 3 month mark something magical happened, and she began to like traveling in the car.  That was the green light we needed to plan her first trip.)
  2. Sleep- We wanted to keep Ainsley’s naptime and bedtime routine consistent so we packed things that made her feel comfortable like books, her lovey, and a sound machine.  We had enough room in our camper to take along her pack and play, but if space is limited, I would recommend buying a peapod.
  3. Extras- Campgrounds can be remotely located, so pack plenty of extra diapers, burp cloths, onesies, etc., for all of the “emergencies” that happen with an infant.
  4. Toys- Keep it simple!  We spent the majority of our time going for walks and relaxing by the fire, but we still took along her kick and play mat, and two or three small toys.
  5. Diaper Changes– I’ve said this a million times, but chuck changing pads are a life saver!  They turn any surface (pack and play, picnic table…) into a changing pad.  I also took along my handy-dandy wipes clutch for quick and easy diaper changes on the go.

Pack those bags and get moving!  You’re sure to create many new family memories!

Toys: Kick and Play / Octopus // Bath time:  bath tub // Diaper Changes: chuck pads / wipes clutch // Sleeping gear: monitor / sound machine / Pack and Play

Our First Family Vaca with a 2month Old! `

Lance and I decided last minute to take a vacation while I was still on maternity leave. We knew Miles would be a lot of extra work and may take the relaxation out of it, but we really wanted to give it a shot. We asked the best sitters we knew to come along for the ride and Grammy and Grandpa gladly accepted! And so began our trip to Ocean City, Maryland!!

The beach meant instant nap time for Miles but we did capture a few moments with his eyes open right before the blow out happened. I’m pretty sure he was grunting and we couldn’t hear it over the ocean!

We went out to eat to casual, noisy restaurants and Miles was well-behaved and pleasant so we ended up having a lot of fun. Lance and I even went on a date and had all you can eat Blue Maryland  Crab. It was delicious and somehow romantic .

All in all it was a fabulous time, but I learned a few things about taking a newborn to the beach. Here are some tips.

1. Bring 1,0000 burp cloths. We brought about 20 and we were washing them every day. I forgot that other people don’t want to re use a burp cloth with spit up all over it.

2. Rent an umbrella if you can. We brought one, but it was flimsy and turned inside out often, not to mention it was a pain to carry and assemble. We rented an umbrella for $12 and they set it up for us and took it down when we were finished.  Miles was happy as a clam under it and protected from the sun.

3. Take a baby carrier and wear your babe to the beach. This freed up my hands to carry other things, and I knew if I tripped in the sand, I could free my hands to catch myself.

4. Take something to put baby down in. We took our rock and play and Miles napped in it. We also took the pack and play with bassinet attachment for sleep.

5. Prepare for exercise. Two months post c-section, I wasn’t prepared for all the walking, sand strutting, and step climbing. I was sore, but it made me realize how out of shape I am and that I need to take it easy when I start exercising next week.

We can’t wait for next year when Miles can play in the sand!

IMG_0861

Summer in the Lehigh Valley

Summer time is the best time for adventure, every week or so I have tried (emphasis on “tried”) to do something fun and new with the girls. At the beginning of the summer I made a list of all the places in the Lehigh Valley that offer great activities for kids, so far we have hit two places on my list: The DaVinci Center in Allentown, and the Lehigh Valley Zoo at the Trexler Nature Preserve.

The Da Vinci Center is filled with fun exhibits and hands on activities for kids of all ages. This summer the big exhibit is National Geographic Presents: Earth Explorers. The exhibit features all sorts of hands on activities and information on places that most people will never visit. Kids and parents alike get to experience everything from the African savannas to the Himalayas in Asia and everything in between.   My girls loved starring into the eyes of a Great White Shark and discovering bugs that live in the Amazon.

Driving a tractor @ The Da Vinci Center

Driving a tractor @ The Da Vinci Center

Just riding on a dog sled.

Just riding on a dog sled.

The Da Vinci Center also offers hands-on activities geared toward younger children (ages 2-6) every Monday from 10:30am-1:30pm. On the particular day we went they had huge blocks to crawl on and a car that the kids could add gears and car parts to. The girls love playing in the car and stacking and climbing on the blocks! Our favorite part of the day was the touch tank! There is something so exciting about touching a star fish and being face-to-face with a little crab.   The girls loved learning about all the different types of fish and creatures that were swimming by them.

The Da Vinci Center has a ton to offer and it is reasonably priced. I strongly suggest making a visit if you have kids; there is something for everyone!

The Lehigh Valley Zoo is on my top favorite days spent with my family.  The girls LOVED every second we spent wandering around and it’s the perfect size for younger kids. They offer a petting zoo and they also have a little playground set up. The girls loved watching the otter swim around and our youngest loved the goats. My personal favorite were the Mexican Gray Wolves! We can’t wait to go back again!

20150717_11431720150717_11070620150717_111820

Here is a list of a few of the other attractions we hope to visit this summer:

Crayola Factory-Easton, PA

Sesame Place-Langhorn, PA

Philadelphia Zoo/Adventure Aquarium-Philadelphia, PA/Camden, NJ

Please Touch Muesum-Philadelphia, PA

PIT to SAT to PHX to SD

Well I’m slowly returning to Earth following our epic #sotysouthwestadventure.  Trying to catch up on work and home is always a hard adjustment after being gone for a week and a half.  We were all over the place exploring new places and visiting family and friends we haven’t seen in ages.  It was so much to escape from reality and have total rest and relaxation.  Here are my favorite places that we visited that we visited throughout our trip!

First Stop: San Antonio, Texas 

My husbands work conference was perfectly located atop one of the sprawling hills in San Antonio, TX.  I was fortunate to be able to relax and enjoy this view for two days.  The La Cantera Resort was amazing, everything was there or a short shuttle ride away so there was easy access to all that San Antonio, TX has to over.  I would definitely stay here again or within their hotel group Destination Hotels.  The conference also offered a chance to see an authentic Texas rodeo at Tejas Rodeo.

Second Stop: Phoenix, AZ 

This was just a day and half pit stop for us to pick up my brother-in-law and head on over to San Diego, which was about a 5 hour car ride from PHX.  It was a cool 110 degrees so we were at the pool the full day we were there.

IMG_2161

Quick shot of the desert between naps for me!

Third Stop/Final Stop: San Diego, CA 

The part of the trip I was most looking forward too was CA.  I got to hang out with my girlfriends, E got to hang with his old best friend and we got to beach it!  We rolled into our place which was situated in the Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego.  We have always stayed downtown but it was nice to be in the suburbs and we rented a duplex  (Dwain was so accommodating  and the place was a great value) so it made us easy to prep breakfast and sandwiches for on the run.  The highlights for me were seeing our friends and reminiscing about our time living in CA.  San Diego is an amazing place with so many things for do for people of all ages.  The weather was incredible while we were there and I wouldn’t have changed anything about our trip except I wish we could have stayed longer!

IMG_2170

PEACE OUT SD UNTIL WEEK MEET AGAIN 🙂

 

Best Eats of Rehoboth Beach!

Last week my family and I ventured off to our favorite vacation spot, Rehoboth Beach. The week was full of family, sun, naps and delicious food! If you know my family, you know how much we love to go out to eat, that doesn’t change when we go on vacation!

Every year we find a new spot that we fall in love with and this year was no different.

Last year my sister and I stumbled upon a little café called Lori’s Oy-vey Café, not only do they serve amazing coffee drinks and smoothies they also have an extensive breakfast and lunch menu! If you are looking for fresh ingredients and quiet atmosphere check it out. On mornings when we wanted to grab a coffee and go we stopped by Café a go-go, the perfect grab and go coffee shop. Their coffee was amazing and they had tons of delicious treats and sandwiches.

One of our all-time favorite lunch and dinner spots is Arena’s Deli. It has a great laid back atmosphere and the food is amazing and the quantity is more than enough. They also have great beverages and an extensive beer list. It’s the perfect fresh-off-the-beach lunch spot.

For the past ten years our first stop for dinner has been Obie’s by the Sea. Obie’s never fails to offer delicious, fresh food and the perfect casual atmosphere. The food is amazing and the ocean views are equally as perfect! Another one of our favorite dinner spots is Dos Locos Fajita & Stonegirll Mexican Restaurant. If you like Mexican food and beverages than this is the place to visit. Make sure to order a margarita!

I’m counting down the days for next year’s vacation and all the amazing food and restaurants Rehoboth has to offer!

Beach essentials for babies and toddlers!

Summer vacation here we come!!! Next week the girls and I will be heading to the shore for some much needed fun in the sun; unfortunately it is the busy time in my husband’s line of work so he will not be able to join us but I will be joined by my parents and siblings! Traveling with kids and toddlers is not easy but if you go in prepared it makes things much more relaxed and fun! I have two beach trips with the girls under my belt so this year I feel confident that the items I pack will come in handy! Here’s what I will be packing this year!

20140623_125740

1) A baby pool-the past two years these have been lifesavers! It does not have to be anything fancy or big. We usually purchase one the first day and use it all week. It’s great for on the beach; we fill it with water, and toys and the girls are occupied for hours! They are can play and people watch and I can work on my tan, it’s a win-win! Just make sure to keep applying sun screen!!

2) Baby Powder-my girls love to play in the sand so baby powder comes in very handy. Pour a small amount on to their arms and legs and lightly brush them off. The sand comes right off!

3) Our little red wagon-I love this thing! It’s great for hauling your babies to the beach but once you get there, you take the babies out, put your stuff in and find your beach spot, hands free!

4) Baby gates-we have stayed at the same beach house the past two years so I know exactly where I will placing baby gates this year.

5) Extra flat sheets-without fail I am always 1 or 2 flat sheets short. There are a number of things I use them for when we travel. I always put one out at our beach spot, this gives the girls plenty of sand-less room to play; I use them as back-up in case the pack-n-play sheet needs to be changed and they are great to use as laundry bags when it’s time to head home!

Now if only someone could unpack and do the after-vacation-laundry for me! What are your essential vacation items for babies and toddlers?