Ohio, April 2015

Lake Erie! An amazing library! They’re play clothes, Captain! Well, lets start with that.

We watched the Sound of Music, and I was reminded of one of my favorite parenting mantras. During the many, many times over the years when I was in public with one or more children clad in stained, ill-fitting, and /or torn clothing, I would silently say this to myself.  I would get the hairy eyeball from people with and without children, at least I would think I was getting the hairy eyeball, and I would realize how we looked unkempt and possibly homeless and I would recall the scene. Julie Andrews (as Maria, the nun-apprentice-turned-nanny) says it beautifully as the captain’s children are embarrassing him, climbing trees, wearing outfits that Maria had made of discarded curtains. “Children should be able to play without worrying about their clothing,” she says, or something like that. YES! Thank you, Rodgers and Hammerstein.

ReCreation Land

My brother went camping so we only saw him briefly. Interestingly, he went out to a place in southeast Ohio called ReCreation Land. It looks like it is worth a trip someday.  I have been hiking in Hocking Hills area near beautiful Athens, Ohio, and this is not too far from there to the northeast.  Apparently, the energy company AEP reforested some land they had strip-mined for coal.  A depressing way to start out, but I guess we have to take what we can get sometimes.

Lake Erie

Lake Erie never disappoints. We went on a day that was warm and sunny at my parents’ place, but as we got closer to that large body of water just a few miles (as the crow flies) north, the weather got cooler and foggy.  By the time we reached the waters edge, we couldn’t see far at all. But that, of course, didn’t stop us. I was only a little bummed that we didn’t get to see any ice that may have been floating out farther from the shore- we just couldn’t see that far.

imageimageimageIMG_3996

The Morley Library

Wow I thought I’d died and gone to library heaven. I had gone to the library in Painesville, Ohio as a teenager, and again as an adult but I hadn’t visited for many years. I had heard it was rebuilt but I was flabbergasted by what I saw as we pulled into the parking lot. It was a new, giant, brick and stone building that I later found out was built in 2005.  The children’s area was larger than our whole library!

IMG_4001 IMG_4007

 

Easter

We had the egg hunt in my parents’ back yard, fancy clothes, a big dinner, and lots of movie-watching.  Three generations of females posed on the back deck, photographed by my Dad the proud husband/Dad/Grandfather.

IMG_4027

And that is what we did between driving West and later back East across PA a couple of weeks ago.  It was bittersweet knowing we are not planning to be there next year, and seeing the kids-ok, I guess all of us- get older during the Easter egg hunt every year.  Welcome Spring!

Advertisements

Ohio, Jan. 2015

IMG_3612 IMG_3624

snowy roads, Truly selfie

Over the river and through the woods, and across the looooong state of Pennsylvania, we went for our usual post-holiday grandparent extravaganza.  The temp was a balmy 56°F at home when we left, so I didn’t pack the usual amount of snow gear, but that turned out to be a bit of a mistake.  As we got closer the Lake Erie and the snow belt, temperatures dropped and snow fell.  We soldiered on and ended up driving through the, well, driving snow in a typical Northeast Ohio blizzard for over an hour before reaching my parents’ door.  Their thermometer showed a chilly 7ºF and a windchill below 0.  Happy New Year indeed!

 Bliss

IMG_3627
Aleksander Gamme and Really rejoicing in found cheese doodles

I won’t lie- I survive some of the gorier portions of car trips by listening to various songs and podcasts. On this particular road trip as the sisterly bickering got past my tolerance level, I plugged in to a Radiolab show on, of all things, Bliss. In the first few minutes, I was captivated by the story of a Finnish explorer who is giddily surprised as he opens a cache he had buried in the Antarctic drifts for himself to find towards the end of a 90-day trek there.  His expression of surprised elation- a joyous, very Northern European YAAAAAAAAAHHH!!!! -seems so genuine yet so misplaced because he is rejoicing in the unlikely glory of… cheese doodles.

Seriously. You can listen here: https://www.wnyc.org/radio/#/ondemand/257194.

So of course I had to play this for the unblissed sisters in the car and we all had a moment of entertainment during the long drive.  Later, of course, we reenacted the scene on a cold, snowy trail.

Snowbound!

The temperatures were low, winds were high, snow flew, and I was readying us for another foray to Pine Lodge and cross-country skiing like we did last year.  I knew we wouldn’t be skiing outside for very long, but I thought it would be worth it since we so seldom get the opportunity.  I loaded into the beleaguered car some gear, snacks, four sisters in various levels of agreement with the plan, and turned on the reluctant heater.

We were parked partly on the grass since the driveway had been so full when we arrived, and the wheels began to spin without gaining traction.  Cleverly, accustomed to such minor car crises, got out and started pushing while I was at the steering wheel.  A kind neighbor joined in and soon we were backing out of the driveway.  I began driving up the mild incline out of the housing development when the wheels again slid.  The snow was heavy and the winds strong at this point and I began to picture the rural roads between us and Pine Lodge.  My parents were away on an errand all day so would not be available if we got stuck.  My chops for this type of driving, if I indeed ever had any, were seriously degraded from the 20+ years ago I had lived in the area.  I had just driven most of the previous day getting here, and my parents house was so warm and dry… I turned the car around.  Cable TV and hot chocolate beckoned, and we heeded the call.

Penitentary Glen

IMG_3561 IMG_3559

We did venture out to go hiking one frigid day, back to this lovely park with the animal sanctuary and nature center. We took a short hike and a few takes on the cheese doodle scene, and also spent time inside the nature center. They had a recuperating possum and a kestral as well, and we enjoyed bird-watching at the glassed-in area near the bird feeders. There was even a microphone outside so you could hear the bird calls!

IMG_3564 IMG_3565

Mentor, Ohio 

Armed with my mom’s library card, and my brother’s gift card to a candy store for the kids, we went into the wilds of Mentor for part of a day.  The library system in Ohio is enough to make this homeschool mama in an underfunded urban system weep.  IMG_3576In addition to a well-funded park system, the library systems all over the state are repeatedly nationally recognized for excellence.  They had a children’s section larger than our entire local library!  Of course, East Coast cities have other charms like diversity, progressive politics,  and historic architecture, but sometimes I wish I could trade a little of something for better libraries.  Anyway, this is the library that started it all for me back in the early 1980’s.  It has been enlarged quite a bit, and modernized over the years.

Next stop, Malley’s!  This is a Cleveland-based chocolate and ice cream company with a new (to me, anyway) store not too far from the library. No need for words here, we loved the place!

IMG_3577 IMG_3578 IMG_3580 IMG_3581

Miscellaneous

I went to Chardon and Sage’s Apple Orchard again with my Dad, this time the cute streets were blanketed in snow.  We went sledding at the sled hill.  There was more snow and cold. We drove off back East on a cold sunny morning, back to the other side of Pennsylvania and home.

IMG_3599 IMG_3601 IMG_3595 IMG_3613 IMG_3610

Chardon and Lake Erie, Ohio, End’o’September, 2014

It was time to visit the grandparents again, so we headed West across the Allegheny Mountains and north to our favorite Great Lake.  The trees were beginning to change color, yet the weather was warm enough to take a dip in Lake Erie.  First, though, we had dinner in the lovely little city of Chardon.

While there are many small cities and towns in Ohio that have succumbed to economic woes and the accompanying population loss, Chardon was looking quite well.  There was a town square with a lovely gazebo flanked by historic brick buildings, and there were flower baskets hanging along the shops, and a neat bricked sidewalk.  Also, there was live bluegrass music in the gazebo on that Friday night.  We  saw a farmer’s market in the square, an historic town clock that was working, and people enjoying the music.  I was marveling at the surroundings and the perfect evening, while my less-optimistic brother, who grudgingly survived last year’s harsh winter there, commented “yeah, enjoy it now because there will be three feet of snow on it next week!”

IMG_2939 IMG_2943imageIMG_2944

The weather was sunny and warm every day, and every day I attempted to get the kids to the beach, but they wanted to be spoiled by my parents, jump on the neighbor’s trampoline, and play with the neighborhood kids instead.  One day I finally succeeded.

We went to Fairport Harbor, home of an historic lighthouse and its little corner of the Lake Erie beach.  It was summer-like weather without the crowds and parking fees, what not to like?

IMG_2949 IMG_2948IMG_2964 IMG_2950

We saw sailboats – too bad we didn’t have the Dragonfly along.  The kids were happy cartwheeling and enjoying a little bonus summertime.

After a few days there, we headed back East, but not quite home, we had another adventure up our sleeves, stay tuned for part 2 of this little trip!

Chicago, May 2014, part 3

So we said goodbye to, as the Blues Brothers called it, Sweet Home Chicago.  We were headed South and East to the capital city of The Buckeye State – Columbus, Ohio.

IMG_2464 IMG_2465

pit stop and beautiful sunset between Chicago and Columbus

Mr. Fantastic and I met in Columbus at Ohio State back in the day, and we still have some friends here.  We surfed our fourth couch in as many nights and stayed in the crafty, kitschy paradise of Seth, Olivia and their son Joban.

IMG_2466 IMG_2467 IMG_2478 IMG_2475

 

clockwise from bottom left: our hosts in caricature, purple wall with artwork, salt-n-pepper shaker collection, our kids playing with Joban’s collection of vintage toys

The next day, we went to Olivia’s store, Wholly Craft, wow!  It is a colorful, dreamy shop of handmade items, with a basement workshop space.  We all loved it and got to shopping and crafting immediately.

IMG_2483 IMG_2485 IMG_2486 IMG_2489

Next, we spent some time at the Center of Science and Industry, or COSI.  This is a large science center in downtown Columbus that not only accepted our reciprocal membership but gave us two tickets to their special exhibit on Sherlock Holmes.  Fiercely and Cleverly used the tickets and said the exhibit was good, they solved a crime and also saw some props from the BBC series, to which Fiercely and I are addicted.  The rest of us looked at the other exhibits.

IMG_2495 IMG_2496 IMG_2497 IMG_2498

clockwise from top left: Fiercely out front, a giant wire skeleton, Really trying out a space toilet, the twins getting mesmerized by a rotating disk  

There is a cool restaurant in Columbus worth mentioning – The Spaghetti Warehouse.  It appears to be a chain but a small one – 15 total locations with 4 in Ohio and 5 in Texas, go figure.  Anyway, we used to frequent the one in Philadelphia until it sadly and suddenly closed.  The place is full of antique paraphernalia in a large former industrial space.  Not too expensive or formal, big enough for the kids to run around when they were smaller, and cool old stuff like a trolley car, giant posters and chandeliers, bed frames, and statues to look at.

IMG_2499 IMG_2500 IMG_2501

We stopped there to eat before heading back north to the grandparents’.  Above is the outside of the building, trolley car inside, and (left) the kids by a red mill wheel inside.  Back in Northeast Ohio, we spent our final night for this trip in a hotel near my parents’ house.  My Dad was still recuperating so we visited but slept elsewhere.  Our first hotel of the trip!  Lucky for us, prices are friendlier than in Chicago and Columbus.  We stayed here in one room with 2 double beds and a pull-out couch, it was great, and it had an indoor pool as we had hoped.  We took advantage of the pool and gym, had breakfast the next day with the grandparents, and headed back home.  We discussed this crazy long trip and the ups and downs as we again crossed the long state of Pennsylvania.  The kite flying, Detroit, Columbus, we pondered all of it as we returned with the sun behind us and our lives, guinea pigs and all, waiting back at home as Harry Potter played in the background.

 

Lake County, Ohio, April 2014

Easter came and again we were drawn to Northeast Ohio like… like seagulls to the shores of Lake Erie?  Like bargain shoppers to the Great Lakes Mall?  I don’t know a great metaphor here but I did in fact travel I-80 with my offspring to cross the substantial width of The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in both directions yet again.  The trip exceeded my expectations since the kids opted to stay six days instead of four, we had a great Easter egg hunt and an amazing Easter dinner, we celebrated my parents’ 53rd (!!!) wedding anniversary, we had some sunny weather, and we explored a castle ruin on a misty day.   We took advantage of three parks not too far from the grandparents’ place, two of which were new to me!  First, the castle.

Squire’s Castle/ North Chagrin Reservation 

IMG_2061

I cannot believe I had never been to this place in my years growing up not too far away. Besides being in a beautiful 1,700 acre park with wetlands and a plethora of trails and picnic areas, it might be haunted by Mrs. Squire!  It seems that Feargus B Squire, wealthy V.P. of Standard Oil in the late 1800’s, had planned to build an estate here but abandoned plans and sold the property.  Feargus was indeed planning big -what we explored is the shell of the gatehouse, which was used as his residence while planning the rest of the property prior to his ditching and selling the place.  The ghost story goes that Mrs. Squire didn’t like the rural life, died there and haunts the castle.  Deadohio.com, a website I clearly need to spend some time with, has some great photos and a few more details on the legend.  As for us, it was a great place for hide-and-seek and there just may have been unicorns in the distant fog that day!

IMG_2057IMG_2055IMG_2075 IMG_2067

 Headlands Beach

Lake Erie beckoned and we heeded the call.  I try to go there every visit, but the January weather this year kept us away.  April was much nicer and we went to the East end of the beach this time.  There are lovely sand dunes there, a unique protected habitat for certain grass species and the birds and butterflies that use them.  It was very peaceful there as it was too cold for swimming so the crowds were elsewhere.  The wind in the grasses was beautiful, as were the driftwood and rocks we found.  This beach doesn’t have the playground on the beach like the Fairport Harbor Beach, but sand, driftwood and stones are just as entertaining, maybe more so.

IMG_1925 IMG_1928 IMG_1932IMG_1978IMG_1934IMG_1963IMG_1972IMG_2037

We had the place to ourselves, the sun was right, and I took too many pictures.  Really built this amazing driftwood structure and we went back later and it was still there!  And there were ladybugs and headstands at Headlands that day.

Gully Brook

We are always happy to explore muddy areas and creeks, and we did just that at Gully Brook Park.  This natural area has a long history of appreciation from Ohio nature lovers and was made into the park and protected land only in 2011.  It was another new Metroparks park for me, and not too far from Squire’s Castle.  About a hundred years ago, this land was known for wildflowers, hawk and owl habitat, and large elm trees.  As it happened, I-90 was routed through the area in the 1950’s and changed it drastically.  The preservation of a mile of creek and over 170 acres of natural lands is a triumph for people and wildlife here, since it came after years of organizing and since it is bordered by the large highway and could be further ruined and paved over to the detriment of the non-human inhabitants.  As it is, the wildflower-covered hills are no longer.  But we can enjoy the wetlands, ravine, and paths that are now there.

IMG_2079 IMG_2085 IMG_2091 IMG_2083

 

 

NE Ohio, Jan 2014

Over the river and through the wood we went, in a glorious blizzard, to see my parents and celebrate the holidays as well as my dad’s 73rd birthday.  I love snow, I don’t even mind driving in it in Ohio since the drivers and road crews are used to it and no one freaks out.  The 8-hour road trip with my offspring is another story.  I won’t dwell on the gory details but you can imagine the quarrels that can erupt in a car of four sisters and limited entertainment options – tragically, the car has no DVD player and only Fiercely has any type of device-an ipod touch.  Sometimes I mediate, sometimes I yell, and sometimes I check out and listen to Ira Glass on my headphones.  Occasionally they are quiet and content.

IMG_1467 IMG_1468

Mama!! She bit me!!! I did NOT!!  Are we there yet??

For reasons beyond the scope of this blog, mostly regarding marital harmony, Mr. Fantastic does not join us on most trips to see my parents.   Poor Mr. Fantastic, all alone with none of our offspring… and me stuck in a car with them for a day each way. sigh.  But we did have a great time once we got there.

The Snow Belt of Lake County and Lake-effect Snow are well known in this area.  Apparently, we have it in common with parts of Japan and Russia.  It has to do with air movement and the taking up of moisture over large bodies of water.  Whatever the reason, the snowfall in this part of Ohio is vastly greater than surrounding areas, and we were there during a fierce winter storm- yay!

Neighborhood snow

The grandparents’ back yard was untouched snowy bliss.  I could sit around and eat Xmas leftovers after the long drive while the kids ran around out back unsupervised-  all hail the suburbs!!

2012-12-26 15.29.582012-12-26 15.38.252012-12-26 15.38.482012-12-26 15.38.11

Truly, Really, Fiercely, Cleverly in the backyard

And then there is the sledding hill at the subdivision’s park.  Now, I wouldn’t trade our big-city park with its vibrancy – farmer’s market, dogs, festivals, litter, chess players, unending basketball, homeless people, Shakespeare-in-the-park, strollers, food trucks, etc – for the sterile Ohio suburbs, but the suburban sled hill is pretty excellent, and, let’s face it, much snowier.  My Dad even joined us!

IMG_1509 IMG_1504 IMG_1512 IMG_1505

that’s my Dad, 73, in purple at bottom left!

I insisted that the kids come cross country skiing one day.  They invited two kids who are neighbors of my parents and off we went.  Again, the Lake Metroparks system did me right.  Rentals are $5 per hour, $3 for kids, and the 2nd hour is even less.  You can even have the skis, poles, and boots for the whole day and go to another location if you like for only $15, or $9 for kids – all day!!  Using the trails is free.  It’s like they want you to get out there and enjoy, so different from the East Coast where I don’t even know where we could do this.

2012-12-27 16.35.21 2012-12-27 15.55.16 IMG_15352012-12-27 17.13.25

Clockwise from upper L: the kids skiing, all 6 kids in front of the lodge, all of us in front of the lodge’s woodstove, taxidermied squirrel on ceiling of lodge!

There are miles of trails and I actually went back alone the next day to explore further – you know, with 6 less bladders and 36 fewer skis/shoes/poles to deal with – and had a great time.  The trails are lit at night.  The lodge was way more crowded since it was a weekend day and I had taken the kids on a weekday, but there are enough trails that I found it easy to break away from the crowd.  Cross country skiing in my opinion compares favorably with downhill skiing in that is it safer, easier to learn, the equipment is more comfortable, and it costs less.  It is also less invasive on a natural place – there are no noisy ski lifts, just the soft hush of the forest.

Penitentary Glen

We were here in the summer, and now there were different activities.  The kids played the Wild Days of Winter Game, an indoor life-sized board game that featured vintage toys from previous decades as well as facts on winter ecology.  I couldn’t persuade them to try snowshoeing with me, so I went myself.  It was ok that day and the trails were beautiful in the snow and ice.  I’m glad I tried it, but I ended up bagging it for more xc-skiing at Chapin instead.

IMG_1533 IMG_1534 IMG_1531 IMG_1529

selfie w/snowshoes, more snowshoes, snowy forest, icy river – so beautiful!!

Apples and the Trip Home

My Dad took me to Sage’s Apple Orchard, a darling, family-owned fruit farm with amazing apples.  We got large bags of Cameos, not as sweet as Gala the kids love and which are too sweet for me.  We packed them and all our gear to head East into another blizzard.  This one on a day where school was cancelled in NE Ohio, mainly due to the bitter cold.  I heard a radio announcer explain that frost bite was likely in under 10 minutes on exposed skin that day.  I scraped the car, blasted the heat, counted 4 kids, said goodbye to the grandparents, and drove back into the snowstorm.  After a few hours, the skies cleared and snow stopped.  We had left the Snow Belt of Lake County, until next time.

 

Northeast Ohio, October 2013

Oops we did it again.  Found ourselves on the grandparent’s doorstep for a random visit to that round-on-both-sides and ‘hi’-in-the-middle state, O-hi-o.  It was autumnal and gorgeous in The Buckeye State and I can report that the skies were blue and the trees were bustin’ out all over.

Bike Path Adventure

The big girls headed out with the Grandma one day so the twins and I decided to try the bike path I’d been eyeing for some time.  My Dad dropped us + bikes off in his wonderful old rusty pick-up truck and we pedaled off for a few miles on a somewhat confusing bike trail.

imageimage

twins + the truck, Truly and a truly confusing sign

Depending on which sign you believe, we were either on the Maple Highlands Trail or the Metroparks Greenway Corridor.  I suppose we were on both since they seem to meet up.  However, after a couple of miles, we were abruptly on neither as we were unceremoniously bid adieu and dumped on to a rather busy street with almost no shoulder.  And no bike trail that I could see.  We biked on that road for about a mile before we came to an intersection with a major freeway (interstate Rt 90) and a hilly country road, again with a pronounced lack of shoulder or bike path or anywhere to be with your twin 7-year-olds and your 3 bikes.  So we went back the rather busy road for about a mile again to the bike path.  It is a pretty path, and apparently there are covered bridges and a bridge over the interstate at one point, but try to explain that to the younger generation who were tired of biking and would rather take a break and play in the drainage ditch.  We had a picnic and found some cool leaves.

image

Where’s the path?  Why does Mama keep making us bike back and forth?

imageimageimage

Your intrepid correspondents

Well, despite much-loved rails-to-trails action all over the country, the fact remains that these projects are often non-continuous and full of detours on roads made for cars.  After some study of the trail map, it looked like we needed to go on the shoulderless, hilly, two-lane road for over a mile and risk disgruntled government employees on furlough, half-blind retirees, harried stay-at-home moms, the bitter unemployed (7.3% in Ohio as of August 2013), overambitious homeschooolers, or whoever else happened to be on these back roads on a weekday driving like they are on fire and unaware of two small pedalers on two-wheelers and their travel-happy mama.  I didn’t want to risk it so we didn’t make it to the other trail sections, maybe another day.

The Farmpark

Even though my kids are probably aging out of its target demographic, I have for years kind of wanted to check out the Lake Metroparks Farmpark, another agrotainment facility, this one Northeast Ohio-style and proud of it.  We were lucky enough to be accompanied by a genuine Lake County resident, aka my mom, which got us in for free (they have this deal about twice a month).  So, the price was right, the piglets were ready for our attention, and we even got to milk a cow.

imageimage

Cleverly petting Mama pig who is nursing her piglets, Truly milking a cow

The place is big and full of reminders that we Fantastics have progressed beyond toddlerhood.  I was all smirking self-satisfaction that I needed no stroller, no diapers, no carrier for my offspring as I watched moms, some of them pregnant, struggling with the unwieldy gear of the under-5 set.  Of course I was also practically moved to tears that my brood is growing and we don’t have a toddler to chase after or an infant to carry.  No worry, my big kids were happy to wallow in nostalgia as they shamelessly played with the kid tractors.

imageimage

Yes, that is Cleverly, almost 10, on the left and Fiercely, recently turned 13, being shuttled by Truly on the right.

The cool thing about older kids is that they really paid attention to the demonstrations.  Being the freewheeling homeschoolers that we are, we basked in the attention of the cheesemaking demonstrator, and again in the grain milling area.  The teachers there loved the 4 highly interested kids – it was worth their while teaching, and the kids proved to be inquisitive about the details of making cheese as well as enthusiastic millers of corn and wheat.

imageimageimage

Cheesemaking demo and the grain area.

We were not too cool to take a tractor ride to the Plant Science Building.  This turned out to be housing for hydroponic tomato-zilla specimens alongside some educational stations about tomatoes.  Most people don’t know this- I happen to know this since I worked on a farm there around 1991 –  but the small central Ohio town Reynoldsburg is known as ‘the birthplace of the tomato’.  This fact is applied generously to the exhibits in the Plant Science Building, despite its location 167 miles northeast of the famous town, and you can read about tomato lore while gigantic plastic tomatoes watch over your shoulder the whole time.

imageimageimage

Tractor ride, Fiercely dwarfed by hydroponic tomato plants, Big Brother Tomato watching Really at a station

Seasons of Love

Not sure what the blank CD was, we put it in the player and hoped for the best.  Randomly and without warning, we were subjected to four show tunes, the last of which was that catchy song from Rent.  There was something about hearing that song unexpectedly while watching the explosion of color in the hills of central Pennsylvania and contemplating our visits to Ohio, the grandparents, the kids getting older – and they happened to not be fighting for a few minutes-  it was just a lovely moment among the 525,600 minutes that we get this year.

imageimage