The Red Caboose Motel

9.16.2014

This weekend, we took a short trip to Strasburg, PA to sleep at the Red Caboose Motel and ride the Strasburg Rail Road, which just so happens to be 1/4 of a mile away from the motel. 

Planning the trip started back in early August when I saw that Thomas the Tank Engine and his friend Percy would be visiting the Strasburg Rail Road.  Being into trains, I knew Lewie would love the trip, and I also knew that he would enjoy seeing Thomas.  (I'm trying to get these special moments in before Lewie decides he's too old for Thomas.)

Needless to say, our trip didn't disappoint.  After packing our suitcases after work on Friday, we left our house in Connecticut around 7 p.m. and arrived at the motel around 12:30 in the morning.  The main office wasn't open, but they left our key in an envelope with directions to our room right on the front door.  (You've got to love the trustworthiness that  exists in the heart of Amish Country.)  Most people that stay at the hotel sleep in a real caboose; in fact, there's 49 unique ones to be exact.   However, since it was "Thomas Weekend," the cabooses were all taken when I called, so they put us up in their farm house, which turned out to be wonderful and have its own distinct charm.

The next morning, when it was light out, we had a chance to explore the area, and we soon learned that the Strasburg Rail Road could actually be viewed from the motel's front porch in plain sight.  Even cooler, Thomas the Train and Percy were running past the motel every 30 minutes, so we could either see them right at the train tracks or even from the windows in our farm house.  (As you can imagine, my son didn't want to miss a single one, so he stayed planted by the window while my husband and I both took showers.)

Our first daytime view of the country side on Sat. morning...

Lewie waiting for breakfast in a train car...

One of the many, many cabooses...

The view of trains passing by our farm house window.
 
On Saturday, we ate our breakfast in an actual train dining car and then spent the afternoon and evening riding Thomas, Percy, and the "Executive Train" at the Strasburg Rail Road.   That night, the motel sponsored an outdoor movie night of "Thomas and His Friends" where they actually projected the movie against the side of their white barn.  It was the coolest movie night ever!  We brought our dinner with us as we sat and watched Thomas episodes in the barnyard.  (I could get used to this country living.)

Eating breakfast in a train car...

Another picture of our new breakfast joint.

Waiting for another train to come by...

Percy...

Riding Thomas...



Yay for Thomas!

In front of the Strasburg Train Station

Waiting in the "Executive Train"



This is how the outdoor movie looked against the barn wall!

In the morning, we woke up at 4:30 a.m. thanks to the dozen or so roosters that live directly below the farm house.  We didn't remember them crowing on Saturday morning, but on Sunday morning, none of us could get back to sleep.  My little boy started yelling to the roosters, "Stop cock-a-doodle-doing!  It's not even morning time."  (Technically, it was morning time, but to my son, morning doesn't happen until the sun comes out.)

We reluctantly got out of bed and started our day early that morning, but we soon forgot about the roosters as we spent most of our day eating a big, Amish style buffet at Hershey Farm and then visiting a 1700 sq. ft. model train layout at the Choo Choo Barn.  Quite honestly, this was one of the best train layouts we had ever seen!

Bunk beds inside a real caboose!

Wonder what a bathroom looks like in a refurbished caboose?  Well, here it is...

Here's the main room of a caboose...

Can you believe that you just saw the inside of this caboose?

My personal favorite...Love the colors!


The Canadian Pacific and Lionel Lines


Our Farm House

One of the little buggers that woke us up at 4:30 a.m.

My two boys and their trains...

Goodbye Thomas!
After the Choo Choo Barn, we decided to make the five hour trip back home.  I had wanted to take a horse and buggy ride, but we were unprepared for the cooler weather, and my family promised me that we could come back to the motel again.  After all, we still have to sleep in a caboose and visit the Amish Village!  For a trip that was planned around our little boy and his love of trains, I have to say that I think Mommy and Daddy enjoyed themselves just as much if not even more!  Thank you Lewie for helping us plan all these wonderfully, crazy adventures; your love of trains has introduced us to this whole, new, exciting world.

Currently

9.08.2014

Today I'm linking up with Jenna, founder of A Mama Collective.  I thought it might be fun to write a generic post of life "currently."

Thinking about// the fall.  Although we still have summer weather here in Connecticut, the start of school is usually the milestone I use to realize that our carefree summer days of going to the beach, visiting amusement parks, and running tiptoe through the sprinklers until 9 p.m. at night is no longer an option.  In fact, it's getting dark by 7:30 now.  We celebrated our last "day" of summer on Labor Day weekend with a final trip to Lake Quassy, a local amusement park.

My son in front of the "train" ride

and on the Merry-Go-Round.

A "selfie" on the Merry-Go-Round since that's the only time I get my picture taken these days...

Lewie and Daddy on the boat ride.

A picture of Lewie and me too.

My sweet boy sitting in the "Captain's Chair."

Thankful for // my son's new school.  Since our town only offers half-day kindergarten, my husband and I spent many months going to open houses at other "private schools" in the area to find a full-time program.  We finally settled on one that was convenient to home and that seemed to offer a very loving and nurturing environment. 

We prayed on the decision, and as it turns out, our prayers were answered.  After the first day of school, my son proclaimed, "Mommy, this new school is everything I wished for!"  The next day I dropped him off at school, and his kindergarten teacher greeted Lewie with a huge hug:

"I have to tell you..." she said, "at the end of the day yesterday, I gave all the children a blank piece of paper, so they could draw their favorite thing about kindergarten.  Do you want to know what Lewie drew?"

(A train...I thought to myself.)

"Why he drew a picture of me," said the teacher beaming and getting teary eyed.  "He's the reason why I love what I do..."

I couldn't be more proud of my little guy.  He told me he liked his new teacher.  If he were a couple of years older, I would accuse him of being a "kiss-up," but at his age, I know Lewie can only be one thing, and that is authentic to the core.  I'm so glad he's already developed a good rapport with Mrs. Kranz. 

Yay for Lewie enjoying school and looking forward to learning everyday!


Loving // country fairs.  While it's tough to say goodbye to summer, I must admit that I enjoy the fall--fair season, apple picking, pumpkin picking, apple crisp, apple fritters, jack-o-lanterns, Halloween, leaf peeping, etc.  My mom and I took Lewie to a couple of country fairs, and they did not disappoint.  Besides enjoying yummy food and carnival rides, so far we've seen motorcycles flip 75 feet into the air, tractor lawn mowers race for the Gold (just like NASCAR), and talented dogs jump the length of 25 feet or more into a swimming pool.  It's been fun!

Motorcycle stunts!

Tractor "lawn mower" racing

Lewie enjoying himself at the races...

Diving Dogs!

Besides going to country fairs, we're looking to enjoy the great outdoors this fall.  I even signed up Hubby and I to go on a canoe trip during the second week of October.  I can't wait!

What plans do you have for autumn?

We're Moving Up to Kindergarten

9.02.2014

Today was Lewie's first day of Kindergarten...  It was tough bringing him to a new school and starting a new routine.  Still, after all my anxiety, his first day was a SUCCESS.  He reported that his first day was "GREAT."  He likes his teacher, he likes his classmates, and he loves being able to warm his food in the microwave.  (Oh, it's the little things in life...)

He didn't have any homework for his first day, but I'm sure that will change as we progress further into the school year.  For now, I'm just happy that both of us made it through this milestone...

Dear God, I pray that you take care of Little Lewie on his first day of kindergarten.

I pray that his teachers show him empathy, patience, and grace...

I pray that he acquire a love of learning and a desire to try his very best...

I pray that he makes new friends and always has the confidence to be himself.

And I pray that he is loved, nurtured, warm, and safe in his new environment.  Amen.

It's hard to let go.... It's times like these when I'm thankful for the quiet comfort that comes from answered prayers.  Here's to wishing everyone a very happy, healthy, positive, engaging, and fun new school year!

Profile of My Six Year-Old

8.28.2014

Last year I started a tradition of "interviewing" my five year-old and writing down all of his milestones.  Now another year has come and gone and I find myself writing about my (gulp) six year- old.  Oh, watching my son grow up is bitter-sweet for me.  I'm so proud of my little guy--his sweetness, his enthusiasm, his joy, and his empathy.  He's my best buddy, and we have lots of special and even "deep" conversations when we're together.  Still, I miss the baby days of grabbing his hands to help keep his balance and having him cuddle with me until he falls asleep in my lap...  I try to savor the moments, but they still seem to go by much too fast!

Drying off at Veteran's Memorial Park.


Characteristics:
Lewie, you are a people person to the max.  You enjoy talking, and you want company wherever you go.  If you're watching a cartoon or even one of your train "YouTube" videos, you ask Mommy, Daddy, Grammy, or all of us to join you.  If you're playing with your Legos, you'll often exclaim that you're "missing" a piece--your secret ploy to get someone to sit by your side and be with you.

You are thoughtful and kind.  This year we started taking you shopping to pick out presents for your friends and family, and it turns out that you're really good at choosing the perfect gift.  You told Daddy to buy me the most beautiful bouquet of flowers for Mother's Day (how did you know?), and when we shopped together for Father's Day, you saw the fireworks display at the supermarket, and said, "Mommy, I want to get him this!"  (You know Daddy way too well!)

You are passionate.  Your love for trains only seems to grow stronger each year, and we're now realizing that your hobby is not a fad.  While you're slowly starting to grow out of Chuggington and even Thomas (though you still like movies like "The Blue Mountain Mystery"), you have not stopped playing with trains.  Now your interests have switched to Lego trains and Lionel trains (which are harder on our wallets) as you see them on YouTube and exclaim that you'd love to get TRAIN X for (insert holiday).  Your love of trains have even prompted us to make special trips near railroad stations--two of which are happening this fall--the Stasburg Railroad in Pennsylvania and the Green Mountain Railroad in Vermont.  It seems that your excitement has now gotten the entire family involved :)

You are inquisitive.  When Uncle Terry passed away, you had so many questions to ask about God, Jesus, and heaven.  Your innocent questions forced me to ponder deeper answers to "the meaning of life" and "why are we here?"  The birth of your youngest cousin Lily also prompted questions like "where do babies come from?" and "why can't daddies have boy babies and mommies have girl babies?"  You've admitted you would like to have a baby yourself, but I reminded you that 1) you're too young, and 2) boys don't have babies.

I suppose I can go on and on...but now, it's time for your list of favorites:


Eating strawberries at March Farm.


Favorite Book:
The Little Engine that Could

Favorite Cartoons:
Thomas the Train--sometimes
Sponge Bob
Paw Patrol
Peppa Pig

Favorite Colors:
Pink and orange

Favorite Dessert:
Chocolate ice cream with hot fudge, whipped cream, and Oreo cookie crumbles on top

Favorite Food:
"Well, it's dairy, but my favorite food is macaroni and cheese."

Favorite Friend:
"I like everybody, Mommy"

Favorite Game:
Tag

Favorite Movie:
The Lego Movie
The Polar Express
Frozen

Favorite Number:
100

Favorite Pastime:
Legos
The Lionel Polar Express Train
Trampoline
Swings

Favorite Place:
The Shoreline Trolley Museum
The Danbury Railway Museum
The Naugatuck Valley Railroad
Home
Mommy's and Daddy's workplace
Any parks (where there's kids to play with)
Any hotel (especially ones with elevators)
Any pool or beach

Favorite Sayings:
"Daddy, are you going to lawn the mow?"  (We're to blame for this one.  We never corrected you.)
"Mommy, you're never gonna a believe this."
"Mommy, you made my day by saying that."
"Stop interrupting my good time."
"Easy, peasy, lemon squeezy."
"On aboard." (Instead of "All aboard.")
"Mommy, can I watch train movies?"  (YouTube train movies...)
"Let me show you the details on this train.  Also, you can hear the crew talk sounds..."  (This is you creating your own train YouTube video just like you watch from Eric Siegel from http://ericstrains.com/.)

Favorite Songs:
"Best Day of My Life" - American Authors
"Happy" - Pharrell Williams
"Let it Go" - Idina Menzel - Frozen

Milestones (from Age 5):
First time "jumping" off the swings
First time parasailing
First time swimming underwater with a mask
First time getting dressed by yourself
First time putting a 100 piece puzzle together
First time making a  Lego car, camper, train, boat, etc. by following directions (all by yourself)
First time writing your full name
First time playing soccer (although you've decided this is not your thing!)
 


Lewie, every year it's a joy to watch you grow.  For the first time this year, you've already surpassed Mommy.  When we bought you your Lego train set for your birthday, in no time at all, you had the train wired and moving around on its train tracks.  I don't even think you looked at the instructions. (Not having a mechanical mind at all, I was amazed by your genius;  even daddy was impressed!)

I don't know where next year will take us little guy, but your first day of kindergarten is coming up next week.  As always, I look forward to many more new and exciting adventures with you.  Just do me one favor--don't grow up too fast!

Forever yours,

Mommy

Meeting a Dear Bloggy Friend for the First Time

8.20.2014

Since I started blogging back in 2009/2010, I've been an avid reader of my favorite blog, Mama's Little Chick.  It didn't take long before we both noticed that we lived in the same state, and so we vowed to meet up one day.  Well, yesterday, after a four-year long, bloggy friendship, we did just that!  (You can read her post about our get-together here.)



We became instant friends online because we both shared the same values--a love of family and friends, nature, God and all of God's creatures, and, of course, our little ones.  She is a very sweet, spiritual, and inspirational person, and perhaps, my favorite part of her blog is her uplifting quotes that remind us to live in the moment and be thankful for our blessings. 

Yesterday brought the "online" world to life.  While I had the chance to finally meet my long-time bloggy friend, Lewie had a chance to meet her daughter, Little Chick.  It was such a happy, exciting moment!  Since we decided to take our little ones swimming, we met at a wonderful hotel that provides day swim passes for use of their outdoor and indoor swimming pool.   As we approached the pool, Little Chick was the first one to spot us: "Miss Annette and Little Lewie are here!" she said excitedly.  Her warm, cheerful enthusiasm set the mood for the rest of the day.

Both Little Chick and Lewie "hit it off" from the start.  While Little Chick is a few years older than Lewie, they are both born in August and have the same extraverted, friendly, and warm personalities that are known to be characteristic of "Leos."  They both enjoyed swimming together, and Little Lewie left proclaiming that Little Chick was his "new best friend."




While the kiddos were in the pool, my dear bloggy friend and I also had a chance to talk, reminisce about happy posts on our blogs, and learn more about each other.  We were amazed at just how much we had in common, and we both ended the day knowing that we would enjoy many more visits. 

In my four short years of blogging, I am sad to say that I've seen many bloggy friends come and go.  Many have stopped their blogs or moved on to other things, and I would be lying if I didn't say that I missed them dearly.  I suppose "real" life is very much the same way.  Still, I'm happy to say that I have one long-time bloggy friendship that's survived "the test of time."   Now our online posts to each other will be complemented by real life get-togethers.  To use Mama Hen's very own quote:

"God blesses us all with special friendships.
It is up to us to nourish them and watch them grow."
~Mama Hen