A Year of Cub Scouts - Bear


In first grade, Little Lewie joined Cub Scouts as a Tiger.  The following year, he became a Wolf, and now he's completing his third year as a Bear.  It's hard for me to believe that in just two short months, Lewie will be crossing over to a Webelo (an acronym for We'll Be Loyal Scouts).

His years in school are certainly going by fast, but for some reason, his years in Cub Scouts seem to go by even quicker.  His year as a Bear flew by, but we managed to accomplish some exciting things--from his first camping trip, to using a pocket knife for the first time, to planning a "carnival," to learning about safety, history, and wildlife.  Unfortunately, I don't remember to take pictures during all our den or pack meetings.  (It's hard to squeeze it in when you're running the show.)  Still, here's some of our few camera worthy moments....

First Camping Trip
Lewie's First Camping Trip was a two-nighter at Matthies Memorial Park in our town.  Since our family is not very good at camping, the location was perfect!  We pitched our tent for one night and still had to drive home twice (five minutes away) to retrieve things we forgot!  My husband refused to poop in the outhouse, so he drove home again for a third or fourth time.

The kids did a nature walk, they fished, they played tag, they made s'mores, they sang campfire songs, and they watched Return of the Jedi on a big inflatable screen.  The most memorable part for me, besides sleeping in our tent, was little Lewie falling asleep on the movie.  This kid rarely falls asleep on movies at home, but a full day outside hiking and fishing was the perfect sleep sedative.

Scouting for Food
For three years now, every Oct./Nov. we collect cans and non-perishable food items from our neighbors for our local food pantry.   When we did this with Lewie as a Tiger (seven years-old), he thought we were collecting food for the pilgrims.  Now, at age nine, Lewie understands we do this to help people in our community who are struggling.  Each year, we donate more of our time, and this year, I'm proud to say that we not only collected the food, but we sifted through 100+ bags to check food labels and helped stock the pantry.

Pinewood Derby
This year's Pinewood Derby was fun!  Lewie did not have the fastest car, but he won the most colorful award.  When he was a Tiger, he held back tears for not winning.  This year, after he lost, he happily cheered on his friends, and in fact, two of his good friends came in first and third place.  My husband, as Assistant Cubmaster, had the joy of handing out all the participation awards and certificates.

The three winners:  Erik (First), Jack (Second), Hunter (Third)
This was a GREAT year for Cub Scouts.  Thankfully, even once Lewie becomes a Webelo, we'll still have two more years left...  I hope to cherish every moment.

The Lancaster Marionette Puppet Theater


During our Pennsylvania trip to Hershey Park and Koziar's Christmas Village, we made one more stop--the Lancaster Marionette Puppet Theater.  Admittedly, the city of Lancaster itself, a college town, has lots of cool restaurants and small businesses to explore; I was disappointed that my two boys (Big Lew and Little Lew) voted to return to the hotel rather than visit the area.  Still, we made it to the Theater, which 1) taught me more about the art of marionette puppetry and 2) inspired me to see how the owner, Robert Brock, has turned his passion and talent into his livelihood.

Our tickets to the theater, $15 per person, were to see "Cinderella's Christmas."  We were advised to come early for seating, so we arrived about 20 minutes beforehand and were pleasantly surprised to be given a backstage tour.  The owner showed us his studio (filled with marionette puppets) and explained how he was not only the one to write, memorize, and perform the play but also the one to make the puppets (crafted from recycled water bottles and cardboard Lean Cuisine boxes).

Before coming to the theater, my only exposure to marionette puppets was in The Sound of Music, where the Von Trapp children performed "The Lonely Goatherd."  This part of the movie was fun, entertaining, and whimsical.  So, to see such puppets up close and personal was quite unique.  Mr. Brock explained how he used his hands to control the puppets' mouth and arm movements, admitting that sometimes the strings will get caught, which can be frustrating but also part of the entertainment.

After the visit backstage, we all took our seats in the theater (Little Lewie and the other children had their own seating upfront) and the lights dimmed.  Mr. Brock wasn't kidding about being a "one-man" show.  He coordinated all the puppets' movements with his hands while simultaneously doing all of their voices and controlling the background lighting and Christmas music.  The show was enthralling and funny.  We (the audience) belly-laughed multiple times--first at the ugly step-sisters and their vanity and then at the Fairy Godmother and her celebrity-like persona.  The lines were humorous, all made-up by Mr. Brock himself.

I was sad when the 45 minute show came to an end.  We were allowed to take pictures after the performance, so I snapped a few more pictures of "the cast," and then we exited the theater, knowing a lot more about marionette puppets than when we first arrived.

In my mind, the "charm" of the theater was really Mr. Brock himself.  He explained that he always loved puppets and putting on puppet shows as a kid and now, forty+ years later, he is still living out his childhood dream.  He LOVES what he does, and he's talented at it too.  (He has an amazing singing voice.)  He asked his audience to leave good reviews of the theater on Trip Advisor, so he could stay in business another 30+ years; now that's what I call passion!

New Year's Resolutions 2018


Happy 2018!  This year, I still want all the same things I pined for in 2017-- a healthier lifestyle, quality time with my son, more date nights, increased time with friends, and a larger bank account.  Still, this year, I want to focus on something more...

For once, my New Year's Resolution is to be me.  I think every spouse, parent, sibling, and employee can identify with me when I say that I've spent the last decade pleasing people.  (I think moms can especially relate.) I spend my valuable time at work, and when I'm not working, I'm helping my son with his homework, driving him to after-school activities, planning den and pack meetings for Cub Scouts, scheduling play dates, playing doctor, filing paperwork, planning budgets, grocery shopping, doing laundry, and keeping the house tidy.  (I'm sure I can add other burdensome chores to this list.)

The point I'm trying to make is that when there is always so much to do, I put me, the authentic me, on the back burner.  I forget who I am or what makes me happy.  This year, I'm coming back out, and my family needs to either learn to love some of the activities I enjoy or else let me have free time to enjoy them without making me feel guilty.  Of course, they really don't make me feel guilty--I'm the one that makes myself feel guilty.  So, my first resolution is to stop the guilt and let go...

What do I want to do in 2018?

1.  Bike, hike, walk, and be out in nature.  (My family can do this with me, and I'm going to request an outing at least once per week; during colder temps, it may need to be twice per month.)

2.  Read - I honestly can't remember a time I finished reading an entire book.  I'm going to dedicate at least 15 minutes per day to allow myself to read a favorite article, and on my car rides to and from work, I'll be listening to audio books.  During the summer, I'll try to squeeze in some reading days also...  Even better, I'll schedule in some family reading time.

3.  Blog - I need to get back into the groove of posting once per week and responding to my friends weekly, too.  Sharing our life and reading about others is just good for the soul.  I love my bloggy friends.

4.  Coffee Dates with Friends - I need to schedule at least one day per month to spend time w/ a friend--in-person.  Each month when I put together a calendar, I will schedule a "date" with a friend--even if it's just for an hour or two.  (I also want to plan a trip to visit my best friend, Mary Ann, in NJ.  She moved to her new home three years ago, and I still haven't had a chance to see it.)

5.  Date Night - Ideally, I would like for my husband and I to go on two date nights per month, but at this time, I'll even settle for one.  This is true time to connect by either spending time outdoors or going for dinner and a movie.  I'll begin by setting a date on the calendar each month.

6.  House Tours, Garden Tours, Historical Museums - These are all things I LOVE to do in my spare time.  I need to start scheduling days to do this with family, friends, or by myself.

7.  Time to Daydream - I need to set aside time each day/week to daydream.  What do I want to do this year?  Next?  In five-years?  I usually do this during my afternoon walks, which I hope to resume at work.  For a while, I was working through lunch to get things done.  I need to stop this trend and give myself back this hour of "me-time."

I love peace, nature, and beauty.  I love reading, writing, and learning.  I love instilling confidence in students, friends, family, and loved-ones.  I love green drinks at New Morning, plays in the park, movies at the beach, bike rides on the board walk, hikes in the forest, board games in the evening, star gazing at night, s'mores from a campfire, hot chocolate after sledding, and ice-cream at Rich's farm.

When it comes down to it, I just need to take time to "smell the roses."  I need to let go, savor the moment, be present, and forget about my "to-do" list.  If I can accomplish this in 2018, it WILL be a beautiful year...

The Greatest Christmas Display in the U.S.A.


During our Pennsylvania trip to Hershey Park, I deliberately made sure our last night would be spent at Koziar's Christmas Village in Bernville, PA.  Koziar's Christmas Village has been dubbed, "The Greatest Christmas Display in the U.S.A.," and as a fan of the Christmas holiday and Christmas lights, I made sure we would someday go to this place, especially while Lewie was still young.

Koziar's Christmas Village has a website, which describes the attraction, but I honestly didn't understand what it would be like until we went there.  I had questions.  Did the Christmas Village have stores?  Did people enjoy the light display while going into little shops and restaurants?  Would there be rides?  I was so used to commercialized attractions that I thought this one would have the pomp and circumstance of a mini theme park.

I couldn't have been more wrong.  The Christmas Village started in 1948 when a young couple, William and Grace Koziar, began decorating their farmhouse for their four children.  They ran a farm, Koziar's Spring Lake Dairy Farm, and back in those days, they "had to wait until the cows were milked to turn on the lights as [they] did not have enough electrical power to do both at the same time."   Each year, more and more lights were added to the farm so that it became a local attraction called "The Christmas House."

As "The Christmas House" attracted more and more visitors, the narrow road leading up to the farm was no longer safe.  The Koziar family added a parking lot and then started turning their chicken coops into mini houses with different Christmas themes for people to see.  For example, there are small buildings like "The Old School House," "The Post Office," "Santa's Workshop," and "Christmas Under the Sea" that people can peer into to see different scenes.  (Many of these displays were created by the Koziar children themselves.  They donated their own toys, which adds to the charm and authenticity.)

Soon, "The Christmas House," came to be known as "Koziar's Christmas Village."  With all the lights and mini houses on display, the Koziars then started adding train displays, "the Kissing Bridge," a refreshment shop (which is more like a stand), and a gift barn.   Today, it is just like this.

We pulled into a grassy parking lot, paid for our tickets at a little booth, and then followed the path of lights, which brought us to the train displays, mini houses, wooden displays, and "Santa's Headquarters."  It was a little chilly but not too bad.  "Lewie, do you want to meet Santa?" I asked.

He looked at the line and responded, "Mommy, I know that's not the real Santa in there.  You know there are many Santas."

How could I argue with him?  I felt lucky that this nine year-old still believes in Santa.  I could never try and convince him that this particular Santa was "the real one."   He knew we were at a former dairy farm--not the North Pole.

We proceeded to follow the path that led to more little houses (chicken coops), the refreshment stand, and the gift barn.  With both Little Lewie and my husband not being fans of shopping, they voted to leave me at the gift barn while they went back to the car to warm up.  There were tons of ornaments and Christmas decorations for sale--I was in love with a few of them.  Still, keeping to my budget, I bought a Koziar's Christmas Village ornament and a little book that discusses the history (which has helped me with this blog post).

Inside the gift barn...there were tons of Christmas decorations for sale.

Koziar's Christmas Village attracts many people, but it is not commercial.  It is a former dairy farm with classic decorations from the 1940's, 50's, and 60's.  The allure is in its history and in its replica of a simpler time--a time when children played with rag dolls and wooden toys; a time when children spent days using their imagination; a time before TV, the internet, and cell phones.

I'm glad we went.  There is no question that the most amazing part of this place was the light display seen from a distance.  The description is captured well in the book: "Driving through the darkened countryside and coming over that last hill on the unlit road is like driving into a fairyland.  Suddenly you find yourself in a dazzling valley set aglow with more Christmas lights than you've ever seen before."

We stopped on the windy, narrow road, so I could get this last picture of "the Christmas Village."