Category Archives: Travel

The 30-Day Summer Adventure Challenge!

AND THAT’S A WRAP!

We started this adventure to get out, come rain or shine, and see Central New York. The weather can be brutal here; there are entire weeks of rain and continuous cloud cover. Living to the fullest when the weather is exceptional is more important than I ever fathomed.

Our little family spent 30 days exploring our community. We targeted fun, inexpensive family friendly places. We mapped the days and stayed within budget (under $40 a day). Team Turtle often took hours just to get out the door. I am certain many people thought I had lost my mind. Maybe I did; it was a lofty goal with two little guys under 5-years old—all their stuff, all my photography stuff, and just getting us all dressed was sometimes monumental, so I skipped a few showers. I edited the photos (developed in film terms) at night and wrote about the day. I took it all on with a new blog and without any knowledge of Word Press. I’m tired now, and I want to enjoy my kids and hubs for the rest of our summer without these crazy, self-imposed deadlines.

And so, after all the fun, all the bribery with popsicles, snow cones, and candy, all the meltdowns, the belly laughs, the hugs, and more love than I can ever express, the 30-Day Summer Adventure Challenge is a wrap!

Watch the video: It’s a Wrap!

For more local and family photography, check out Lightningbugsphotography.com, and “like” Lightning Bugs Photography on Facebook for photography tips, tricks, and updates!

Day 19: The 30-Day Summer Adventure Challenge

“If you build it, they will come.”

I appreciate quality. Gone are the days when I reached for cute little shoes with a cute little price tag. I’m too moody and fussy now, and hopefully too wise, to suffer in shoes that hurt my feet. So instead of buying two or three pairs of cute, “affordable” shoes, I buy one comfortable pair. I guess I’m in the no-nonsense season of life.

Since foreign markets gobbled up American manufacturing, quality has become hard to find, even in the coveted name brands of years past. Those jeans I once loved, the tailored suits that fit so well and felt so nice—gone. I hunt for quality, not just for big-ticket items, but for food, too. I find myself triple checking labels to ensure my kids aren’t drinking apple juice from China or Guatemala. (New York is second only to the state of Washington in apple production, yet most of our apple juice comes from foreign countries. I am not making this up. Check the labels.)

When I find quality goods and hard working folks, I drive the extra miles and spend a little more. I want quality-driven, local businesses to succeed. North Star Orchard is way out of my way, but it’s a local gem worthy of the loyalty. I’ve been a customer since we landed in Central New York eight years ago. They have built a solid business and they’re willing to spend time with their customers. I like that. But their products have to rock too, and they do.

North Star Orchard is an “old fashion” market. I love the smells wafting from the bakery any time I visit. They make their own iced blueberry cookies, as assortment of muffins, breads, pies, buttermilk biscuits, and on, and on. They have New York cheeses in large bricks–blue, aged cheddar, horseradish. They grow their own tomatoes, cucumbers, and corn. Right now they have a long tent with rows and rows of drying garlic, hopefully to be braided (I can never find braided garlic). Their blueberry fields are LOADED this year. Team Turtle did what we could yesterday in the hot sun, but Little Man wanted to eat more than I could pick (Shhh! Don’t tell. He’s only 2!). The 4-year old wanted to talk, a lot, while Mommy chased Little Man, took photos and picked berries. Sigh!

In spring, I go to North Star for their annuals. They are a little pricey, but the plants always grow well and I have blooms from purchase time through the first frost; I know I’m getting quality. With perennials, the store is particular about selling only plants that are zoned for our climate. Unlike big chains, they don’t sell lemon trees in Zone 4.

The store is open from April through December. Spring and summer are bustling with berries, plants and produce. In fall, they rev it up again with a corn maze, apple cider, donuts, kettle corn and hay rides. In November, customers put in their pie orders well in advance for Thanksgiving deserts. During the Christmas season, they make beautiful, handmade wreaths and garlands. I am always a little sad when we near the closing date. They shut down around Christmas and don’t open again until April. I hate to see North Star Orchard all buttoned up for four months. I almost want to celebrate when they reopen in April–their reopening means we can finally come out of our dens.

What I’d like to see: I almost don’t want to say it because I want the store to maintain its homegrown, old fashion wholesomeness, but here is goes. I’d love to see a café at the store, with a few menu items (centered around the fresh food from the gardens), along with a few nice wines. It would be a big endeavor—serving food is never easy–but from the looks of it, nothing they’ve done so far has been easy. I bet they could pull it off, and with class. If they do, I’ll revisit and maybe I’ll blog about it again–what a great excuse to keep going back.

For more local and family photography, check out Lightningbugsphotography.com, and “like” Lightning Bugs Photography on Facebook for photography tips, tricks, and updates!

Day 18: 30-Day Summer Adventure Challenge!

It’s really about Team Utica…

Utica’s 15K Boilermaker takes place in my backyard—not literally, but close. Yet, this was the first year I dragged myself out to watch it. The stories, the characters, the international pack that led the race to the winner’s tape, the slow pokes, the wheelchairs, the young, the old, the serious, the fun crowd, the rock-hard abs, the softies pushing themselves to finish…. It was all there. But there was one story that struck my heart more than any other today: Utica’s community spirit is gripping and has its own heartbeat.

Uticans faithfully show up on a Sunday morning in July every year. The race starts at 7:30, and being in place earlier is sound advice; there are police roadblocks, and the logistics of walking to an optimal spectator spot takes planning and time. I watched this morning’s race from Valley View Golf Course, at about the 3.5-mile mark. Within minutes, the first wheelchairs whizzed past. Then the pack-leading international runners arrived and they didn’t quit until they crossed the finish line. You might think it’s a sacrifice to get up that early and watch a race, but the Boilermaker is an event. It’s a weeklong celebration that binds this community: Locals fly Boilermaker flags; there are pre-Boilermaker breakfasts and parties; there’s a run for kids and a walk for adults; and there’s one big party after the race.

If you live here, you either run the race, you know several people who do, or you show up to support runners that you’ll likely never meet. The cheering, hootin’ and ringing of cowbells didn’t stop today until the last runner brought up the rear. It gave me goose bumps to think of the loyalty in that. It also made me vow to never again miss it as long as Central New York is my home. Watching the race made me want to be part of it. It’s a big deal and it’s full of community spirit.

About 17,000 runners ran this year. Registration opens yearly in spring for just one week. I’ve heard rumors that it usually fills up in 15 minutes. I wonder…could I possibly have it in me? I have some time to think it over. It did look a bit painful for some. Either way, I’ll be there next year as a spectator, and if I get real gutsy, maybe I’ll try to run it. It I do, I know I’ll have quite a few Uticans along the route to cheer me on and keep me going.

To my friend who kept after me to experience it, thanks for pushing me Margaret! I have a much better understanding and appreciation of why this race is such a big deal, and of the spirit that drives this community.

For more local and family photography, check out Lightningbugsphotography.com, and “like” Lightning Bugs Photography on Facebook for photography tips, tricks, and updates!

Day 17: The 30-Day Summer Adventure Challenge!

I panic when graced with a warm, sunny day in Central New York. I feel like I have to fill the day with outdoor activities until sundown. I know I’m not alone—don’t you want to get wild when a CNY day greets you with sunshine? Yesterday, we met the challenge. We found another local gem that I had no idea existed until a friend said, “Let’s go!”

The Wild Animal Park in Chittenango is a big petting zoo (except for the black bears, lions and gators—I wouldn’t pet them). But we did pet and feed a camel, giraffe, goats, llamas… To Team Molasses, we had a great time! Tammy, Zach and Abby, thanks for getting wild with Team Turtle yesterday.

Here’s the skinny on the park: It’s a 45-minute drive from Utica. We took Rt. 5, which is more scenic than the Thruway and has more stopping opportunities for the little people. Zoo parking was easy. It cost under $30 for our team of three, which included the entrance fee and food for the critters. The buildings are fairly new and have an Adirondack flavor—honey-stained wood galore, carved benches and bears, stone accents… There’s a new building under construction that looks like it will be the entrance area, store, and (according to their Facebook page) it will house more exhibits.

What I liked: The Adirondack theme is a real treat. The animals are kept in sizable enclosures, and many have shade or covered areas for weather relief. The park is strict in not allowing food or drinks “to keep the animals safe.” They sell hot food and cold drinks in the food pavilion, which is about halfway around the park. A covered picnic area next to the lake makes for a breezy break. The park’s size is perfect for a family outing; there are enough animals to keep it interesting, yet it’s not so big that it’s exhausting. Although Teams Turtle and Molasses took longer than most (my 23-month old had his own timeline), it was an easy stroll.

Room for improvement: It has been wet, and the day’s heat made for a smelly, steamy entrance area. The stretch of park from the entrance to the food shack needs shade trees or pergolas. The entrance clerk took my water bottle, so I was parched by the time we got to the food shack. While I have zero doubt that proper restrooms are coming in the new building, they presently have port-a-potties.

I love that The Wild is improving and growing. It’s good family fun that is educational and won’t bend the wallet. It’s worth the trip and we will go back. Thanks again Team Molasses for sharing this Central New York gem!

For more local and family photography, check out Lightningbugsphotography.com, and “like” Lightning Bugs Photography on Facebook for photography tips, tricks, and updates!

Day 16: The 30-Day Summer Adventure Challenge!

When in Ireland…

My 4-year old is really getting into these adventures. He was thrilled we were headed to a castle this afternoon. I had grandiose ideas about how the day would play: I pictured driving to a castle, throwing out a blanket and having an afternoon snack with the boys–a tea party on the grounds of a castle. How cool is that! Nope. It rained buckets again, the kids were fussy, we started late… ARGH!!But we did go to a castle.

Beardslee Castle is about 30 minutes east of Utica on Rt. 5. The original owners—Ethel and Guy Beardslee—modeled their 1860 home after Irish castles. With its history, we’re fortunate to still have it. It caught fire twice, first in 1919 and again in 1989. After the 1919 fire, the Beardslees rebuilt the main floor and divided their time between the castle and their home in Florida. The couple had no children, so after their deaths (Guy-1937, Ethel-1941), the castle changed several hands for the next half century.

The present owners found the castle in grave disrepair. Owner Lynn Brown said that when she walked into the castle with her dad, she knew she had to be a part of the home’s history. The home had been sitting in leaking water for three years at that point, and it took the new owners 18 months of cleaning and restoration to reclaim its grandeur.

The castle was built from the area’s fieldstone, and at two feet thick, it’s no surprise that the walls survived both fires. The present owners uncovered and restored beautiful parquet floors, which had been carpeted for decades. They reclaimed the coffered, wood ceilings and scrubbed a century of dirt, grime and soot from the stone walls. I was able to speak with Ms. Brown for a few moments, and she graciously welcomed me to stay as long as I wanted and to snap as many photos as I needed. I could have chatted with her for hours about the restoration project and the castle’s history. Even to my untrained eye, it’s apparent that the Browns went to great measures to ensure a proper restoration.

Rumors that the castle is haunted have circulated for years, but the owner pretty much shrugged that off as fun folklore. I found it curious that Little Man (my 23-month old) had no desire to go inside, even though it was soppy wet outside. He blocked the front doorway, covered his ears and said, “Ouuut!” Maybe he just loves being in the rain. I didn’t feel anything unusual, but when my 4-year old overheard the conversation about haunts, he wanted to bolt. I want to go back.

Beardslee Castle has been a fine dining facility for 21 years. The owners feature local, seasonal fare—strawberry chicken, local beets, cheeses from Poland, NY… They change their menu daily and buy from local farms. I like that! It’s been awhile since I dined there, but I can report that the food was excellent and the service gave me that fine-dining feeling–such a treat.

If you’ve never been to Beardslee Castle, it’s worth the drive. I want to go back for dinner, but I also want to toss a blanket and sit amidst the garden on a warm, dry, summer day.  An Irish castle in Central New York? Makes perfect sense to me. 😉

For more local and family photography, check out Lightningbugsphotography.com, and “like” Lightning Bugs Photography on Facebook for photography tips, tricks, and updates!

Day 9: The 30-Day Summer Adventure Challenge!

I’ll need some recovery time from this MISadventure…

I need to preface this post by saying that the Saranac Brewery Tour is worthy of the time. It’s interesting and steeped with history. So when I say it was an epic fail, that’s all on me. The other patrons on the tour must have thought I lost my mind.

A friend told me that her young daughter really enjoyed the tour. I have wanted to go for years, and I didn’t have a plan for today’s adventure. When I called the brewery’s toll-free number, a nice young lady told me that children are welcome. Moreover, at the end of the tour there’s a special treat: “…complimentary sodas, and pretzels.” My 4-year old got to pick: the Utica Zoo or the brewery tour. He chose the tour. He was a prince the entire time—he walked around with his hands in his pockets, he held doors open for me, and he listened to the tour guide. So to do the tour with a 4-year old is reasonable and it would have been a nice adventure. But my littlest man was off-the-charts WILD!

What in the world went wrong? For starters, I was solo with both kids. You’re probably thinking that’s already a deal breaker. But my husband’s job keeps him busy and he travels. Life goes on, and I am a determined gal. I was sticking to my promise and this is a personal challenge that has become important to me. Blog on…

Okay, I had no idea that Saranac is the 2nd oldest brewery in the United States, which means it is old, and definitely NOT stroller friendly. To the 23-month old, “Get up. You’re walking.” Let the meltdowns begin.

“OKE! OKE! OKE!” All soda is “oke” to Little Man. He has aquired a taste for it, so when he saw 2000 6-packs as we entered the store, of course he wanted one. “You have to wait,” I told him. That’s when he threw himself on the floor, face down and flailed like a fish. “OKE! OKE! OKE!” Nothing in my bag of tricks was working…juice, water, unt-uh, he wasn’t having it. “OKE!”

Crackers worked for a minute.  Eat one, throw one is his eating style at the moment, and when the tour finally started (late), Little Man left a trail of cheese crackers en route. I first did my best to retrieve the mess, but I couldn’t keep up with the tour and my janitorial duties. (Saranac, sorry for the long trail of smushed cheese crackers!)

There were steps. Lots of steps! I had a diaper bag, both kids in tow, my camera with a heavy lens attached… Little Man, sprouting his independence, insisted on climbing every stair. Team Turtle, as the last ones at each stop, got lost, twice. Other tour patrons had to double back to find us.

At that point, I was pleading inside my head, Please get us to the bar! I needed to get my kid a soda so I could end my self imposed torture. And I needed a double of whatever had the highest alcohol content!

When we caught up to the group, I felt like I had boarded the school bus without any clothes—everyone was still and quiet because they’d been waiting for us. Little Man unabashedly whined and cried for most of the tour. I could see the cogs in every patrons’ head: What the devil was this woman thinking?  “Is you stupid or somepin?”

The stairs, the meltdowns, carrying the baby when he’d let me… I was a furnace inside, more from embarrassment than anything. I kept thinking, Man, I really stink at being a parent right now. This is monumentally humiliating.

Finally, finally…the bar! There was no mercy from the other patrons. I was imagining balloon quotes coming from their mouths as I chased Little Man around the crowded bar. “Hey, mother of the year with the screaming 2-year old… you brought two kids on a beer tour so you can just wait your turn.” I did. Little man: whine, cry. Me: chase, sigh. Mercy! Uncle! I just needed to get up to the bar to get my kid a daggum “OKE.” So desperate, I almost screamed, Hey, I’ll give up my beer tickets and pay if you let me up to the bar.

Finally, our turn. The sweet, young tour guide obviously did not have children, or, she was intentionally torturing me for my poor judgment. She served us two sodas (full) in real GLASSES. I got to carry all of that while coraling two kids. I barged back into the table I had staked with my bag. Folks were sitting there now. They turned out to be nice, even after one guy almost got a full glass of Shirley Temple in his lap. Little Man and I got drenched in his sticky soda as he fought me over holding the glass himself. Who was in charge? Clearly not I.

I cannot remember a time when I was more thrilled to exit an establishment, especially one that makes my favorite beer. As Team Turtle walked down the stairway to leave, I think I might have heard a collective sigh of relief from every patron in that place. If it wasn’t real, it was certainly real in my head.

As for Saranac, it is a very interesting establishment and I’ll go back (sans kids!). It’s definitely affordable at $5 for the tour. As an FYI, kids are free, but under 4-years old? This gal will get a babysitter for such outings henceforth.

Here’s what I overheard between tantrums: It’s one of the top 20 beer producers in the United States and is the 2nd oldest brewery. It survived prohibition by starting a line of sodas—ginger beer, root beer, orange cream… They use real purees in their beers. They just started the fall batch of pumpkin ale and it smelled like grandma’s kitchen in the mash section. And that’s about all I heard. Apologies for sloppy fact finding.

Like many things Central New York, I was introduced to Saranac when we moved here. TERRIFIC beers—I especially like their IPAs. If you enjoy a robust, spicy beer with a kick, the Imperial IPA is one of my hubby’s favs, and the Legacy IPA would probably be his second pick. They are spicy and super filling and it’s easy to stop at one—probably a good thing as their alcohol content is high. I came to love Saranac’s White IPA about three years ago. When I couldn’t find it in stores, I thought it was discontinued, but much to my delight, they simply renamed it. It’s now called Cloud Splitter. I found it in their 12 Beers of Summer, along with the Legacy IPA, Summer Pils and Gen IV. Yes, I walked out with a 12-pack of beer and I wanted to chug a couple  by the time we got to the car. For the record, I did not.

I was quite embarrassed about the day and wondered how on Earth I could bring myself to share it. But what the heck, some days are just like that. Tomorrow is another day and I get to try again. I need a low-key, kid centric adventure to redeem myself. Maybe I’ll take the weekend off to recharge. I’ll decide tomorrow. Right now, today’s monster is sleeping like an angel and I am having my second glass of wine–You probably guessed that I can’t bring myself to look at beer at the moment. 😉

For more local and family photography, check out Lightningbugsphotography.com, and “like” Lightning Bugs Photography on Facebook for photography tips, tricks, and updates!

Day 8: The 30-Day Summer Adventure Challenge!

Locals Know!

Growing up, the phrase, “We don’t have the money…” was probably our family mantra, or close to it. It was true; we really didn’t have money. But in my adulthood, I have learned that not having money is simply not an excuse for boredom. Nothing on our adventures to date has cost us more than $40. Granted, a vehicle is a must, but having fun doesn’t require big bank. It does require some imagination, a little effort, and a little research. And the research is as simple as listening to what the locals have to say.

For instance, if you want a kickin’ restaurant, look for a place with a packed parking lot and local license plates–no brainer, right? But most community gems aren’t as transparent. You almost have to “pay your dues” by living in a place for a while to get the gouge.

There are some nuggets that I almost want to keep secret; I’m selfish that way. I don’t care for large crowds and I like things to remain special. But at the risk of turning this gem into a hot spot, I’m going to give it up…not that I could keep a state park a secret anyway: Green Lakes State Park in Fayetteville. As a fresh water kind of gal, I fell in love yesterday. When I turned onto the park’s main roadway and saw slivers of emerald green water sparkling through the trees on the left, and lush fairways on the right, I knew I’d found a big, local secret. People, it is breathtakingly beautiful!

Green Lakes State Park is an easy 40-minute drive from Utica. It’s $8 to get into the park to enjoy the beach, hiking, bicycling, picnicking, and a very well-designed playground that’s even suitable for kids under 5— Moms, you know that’s a sweet bonus. It’s very challenging to find playgrounds that are safe for the real little guys.

There are several lifeguards on duty in the beach area, which I always appreciate with two little people. I found the bathrooms neat and clean, even toward the end of a sunny day. There’s a snack bar that serves hot food, and a first aid station. As for golf, well, I have never played the game. But I have heard the name Robert Trent Jones and Green Lakes was one of his first golf course designs. And I am an expert in beauty. The golf course is stunning.

If I had a magic genie, I’d have the park provide nice beach chairs so beachgoers wouldn’t have to lug quite as much stuff (especially with kids in tow). Also, as a warning: the water is COLD! June is still early in these parts, so I’m anxious to feel the water temps as summer heats up.

Okay Central New York…I get it! It’s beautiful here…you just have to know where to go. Summer comes, and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune to enjoy it. Observe, do a little research, and listen to the locals. Finding something special and fun, and dang near FREE, is that simple.

For more local and family photography, check out Lightningbugsphotography.com, and “like” Lightning Bugs Photography on Facebook for photography tips, tricks, and updates!

Day 7: The 30-Day Summer Adventure Challenge!

Everything Old is New Again…

With looming thunderstorm threats, we kept it simple today. To my pleasant surprise, we wound up between the Whistle Stop Café and a scene in “Stand by Me.” Donovan Park has some of my favorite elements: big shade trees, lots of lush greenery, and railroad tracks straddled over an active creek bed. I know we writers love the dramatic, but I swear the day was right out of a Hollywood screenplay.

The playground was deserted and the kids were restless, but I was determined to turn this into a worthy adventure. We walked along a fence line until we found a break that led to the tracks. This part gets a little scary for moms, because the embankment was rather high. I was as excited about skipping stones as I was nervous about keeping the boys safe. As is true to character, the baby was oblivious to any dangers, while the oldest stayed attached to me like an appendage. “You can never go on the train tracks, Mommy, because that’s the law,” he informed me. He’s so smart—even at four, he’s up on the latest rules and regs. 😉

When he settled in and started skipping stones, I noticed that he was wearing his father’s t-shirt. I’ll leave age out of this, but suffice it to say, that t-shirt has survived many decades. It was among several boxes of things that my hubby’s mother kept. He often recalls the story of getting that t-shirt from one of their many family vacations in Kenora, Canada. It was at a little place called Frosty’s Lodge. I wish we could find that lodge. His memories make it sound like the perfect place for kids to spend summer vacations— fishing and swimming off the dock, a little rustic cabin, and a rugged, old owner who made nightly bonfires with a stack of rubber tires. I imagine the EPA would have something to say about the latter, but the rest sounds like good old fashion fun that the boys would love.

I envision my husband as a little boy playing along railroad tracks and skipping stones into a creek bed, and when I do, he’s wearing that shirt. It brings waves of emotions every time our son reaches for it. It has holes and dangling threads, but he loves it. And when I hug him while he’s wearing it, I somehow feel generations of love. It’s a small, tangible slice of the past. It’s soft as a kitten from a million washes. It’s fragile, but I let our son wear it anyway, because I feel the life and love that emanates from that shirt. I hope it lasts a few more generations.

I have a heap of stuff that needs to go to charity or a yard sale, mostly baby and kid stuff—nice stuff that could pay for a family vacation or something cool. It’s all just sitting in plastic bins on shelves. But it’s hard for me. There were a couple of years between our boys that I didn’t have to let go of anything because of the unknown, and the anticipation of having or adopting another baby. But the reprieve is over; we have our babies and that chapter is behind us. So to keep our home from being showcased in a horror show on TLC about people who keep gum wrappers, I need to weed. I’ll be an emotional basket case, of that I am certain. But it needs to be done. The only thing that could possibly get me through letting go of our of boys’ baby things will be two boxes marked: KEEP!—one for each boy. Things like their “coming home” outfits, their first baby combs, and I’m sure several  t-shirts that drive me nuts now, will all be prized possessions in those boxes. Getting rid of things is a way of accepting and embracing that things change, and babies grow. But keeping a few things lets me hold onto, and hand down, a little piece of our precious moments together.

And, hey boys–the older versions of yourselves– if you ever get to read this, I hope your kids skip stones in your old t-shirts. I hope they’re tattered and well worn. And when you hold your kids while they’re wearing them, feel my love and make the mark on their chests that I make on yours: INFINITY.

Day 6: The 30-Day Summer Adventure Challenge!

Happy Belated Father’s Day… “It takes a village!”

It doesn’t get more Americana—baseball. I love the sport and here’s why: I understand it (pretty much); the players look super sexy in their uniforms (sorry Hubby, but it’s true); fans get to be close to the action; the entertainment is lively and family centric; kids get to play under the bleachers and catch occasional foul balls; and the players aren’t smashing their opponents’ heads or checking each other into glass—those sports are fun, too, but baseball has my heart. It’s just FUN and rather gentlemanly. I like it at all levels, but I especially love the minors and the small ball clubs. The young men play their hearts out and for very little pay, and for the Utica Brewers, NO pay.

For Father’s Day, Dad got to pick the adventure, so baseball it was! For two kids and this mom, we paid $7.00 for tickets. Dad got in free in honor of Father’s Day (thanks Brewers, that was super classy!) Dinner at Donovan Stadium: hotdogs, soft pretzels and soft drinks, about $20. Overall, entertainment for a family of four for the entire evening was under $40. Pinch me! That, my friends, is a steal. What I don’t understand is why the stands were nearly empty. We just learned about the Brewers this year. I know, we’re late bloomers on many fronts, but I had no idea Utica even had a baseball team and I am THRILLED to learn that we do. This is a tight city. Locals really support one another. There’s a strong sense of family and community here, so seriously, I’m baffled as to why more people aren’t enjoying this gem. It’s affordable, fun and, at the risk of being cheesy, it’s wholesome.

No politics here, I PROMISE, but you know that phrase, “It takes a village,” coined by a former first lady? I find great wisdom in those words. My father wasn’t in our lives, so the whole load was on my mother. Without the little league ball clubs and the caring parents who attended EVERY.SINGLE.GAME, I would have gotten into a lot trouble. It’s a little late, but thanks to all the caring moms and dads who kept those ball clubs going. You were there, as active participants. You could’ve dropped your kids off and kept going, but you stayed in the thick of it. Thank you, thank you, thank you! You were shining examples for me because you stayed.

Which brings me to my kids and their dad. He’s not just here for us financially; he is here in the thick of it—all of it! He is the hardest working man I know and he shows his love for us in a million ways, a million times each day. I am beyond grateful that my children have an “awesome sauce” dad as their shining example.

I hope the Brewers keep going. I love that we have a wholesome, affordable outlet for our family that has nothing to do with video games or being stuffed indoors, and has everything to do with community. I plan to do my part to keep the club going by showing up with our brood and being in the thick of it. It’s not in me to be a rabid fan, but I’ll show my love by being there. So thank you Utica Brewers. I won’t just show up when you’re in some hot playoff, like a Disney parent, I’ll be there, in the thick of it.

And as an FYI: The Brewers are part of a collegiate league. The team has players from colleges and universities around the country. It’s one of 10 teams in Upstate New York in a wooden bat summer league—the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League or PGCBL.

We plan to make the home games part of our summer. Here’s the summer schedule. And as I mentioned, they don’t get paid, so I bet community support means the world to our players. I hope we’ll see you there!

For more local and family photography, check out Lightningbugsphotography.com, and “like” Lightning Bugs Photography on Facebook for photography tips, tricks, and updates!

Day 4: The 30-Day Summer Adventure Challenge

When was the last time you paused for just five minutes to take in your miracle moments?

The boys and I have the crud—head colds, congestion. We weren’t feeling so great this morning—well, the kids were springing around at supersonic speed while I had to peel myself off the pillow. But the 30-Day Challenge! I couldn’t surrender to this crud; I made a promise to myself—a solid commitment! Then I read an email from a mentor and award winning Denver photographer, Meghan Hof. It was about taking 5 minutes as a photographer and a MOM to capture “…miracle moments. It might be the way the sunlight is hitting your daughter’s face, the steam coming off your morning cup of coffee…” It’s up to interpretation, but they are the everyday moments that “make up your everyday life.”

Wow! When was the last time I took just five minutes and said, the heck with that sink of dishes, lunches that need to be made, showers, or, in today’s case, figuring out how to fulfill my 30-Day Summer Adventure Challenge? Life gets so busy that I often cannot remember yesterday. So this morning, when my babies jumped onto the bed that I was making and dove into the fluffy, white pillows, I let them. In fact, I joined them! I didn’t set a timer or worry about a schedule, or the messy house, or anything else on that To-do list that sabotages my everyday miracle moments. I thoroughly enjoyed those messy covers and playing hide and seek in the sheets. We laughed and played and my baby boys climbed all over me until we were all exhausted.

When my 4-year old wanted to go to a movie, I said YES! He took me on a date to see “Inside Out.” (Precious movie!) The miracle moments came in tsunamis: he held my hand the entire time, and even in the dark theatre, I could see his smooth, beautiful young skin against my wrinkled hand . I nearly cried at the beauty of it–yes, even my wrinkled hand was beautiful because he was holding it. I loved the way he covered his ears and turned his head during inappropriate previews (“Pan” looks scary to me, too!). And as we were leaving, we stopped at the toy vending machines—you know, those chintzy toys in plastic bubbles. In one of those bubbles he scored a metal band molded like a wedding ring. When we got in the car, he pulled it out and said, “Mommy, I wanna go to the place you and Daddy got married so I can marry you.”

He knocked a base hit on his final play of his first Tball season.
He knocked a base hit on his final play of his first Tball season.
Miracle moment: I love how the helmet swallows his entire head.
Miracle moment: I love how the helmet swallows his entire head.
Movie date. He paid!
Movie date. He paid!

Sometimes the adventure takes you home, or to your ordinary places—let it. Truly surrender to it. For five minutes today, my challenge to you is to stop, look around, find the beauty in whatever you’re doing. It can be the way your toes look in fresh cut grass, the way your husband takes your hand while you’re walking into an ordinary grocery store, the way your teenager looks at you when he has something exciting to tell you, the way the Tball helmet swallows your little boy’s entire head, or those tiny hairs on your child’s smooth face as he plays in the sun… These are your miracle moments and there is NO REPLAY BUTTON. Grab them. Savor them. Truly LIVE them.

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