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Williamsburg RV Vacation: Part 4

All good things must come to an end, as was true with our Williamsburg vacation. We enjoyed a sunny Thursday at Virginia Beach and a quick trip back to Colonial Williamsburg. Two of the highlights of our last day was a ride in an ox cart and our time spent at Patriots at Play where the kids got to do many hands-on activities.

We left just enough Historic Triangle activities undone so that we’ll have to go back again in a few years. Oh, darn!

Universal Bathroom Stools: a Beautiful Mom Dream

The Census of 2010 reported that 20% of the population of the United States was 10-years or younger. 21 million of those children were under the age of 6. reports that the average 4-year-old is 40 inches tall. That means approximately 1 in 7 people living in the US are 3 feet or shorter.

So WHY on earth doesn’t anyone put stools in their public restrooms?!?

Taking a newly-potty-trained toddler to the restroom is hard enough as it is. They don’t fit on the seat, they’re terrified of the self-flushing toilets, and the two of us barely fit in the tiny stall together. Despite my insistence they don’t touch anything, they manage to rest their hands on nearly every surface. After wrangling their clothes back on, then trying to use the toilet myself while repeating “don’t you dare open that door until I’m finished!” at least 4 times, I am then forced to balance my 30lb toddler on one raised knee while simultaneously turning on the water and squeezing the soap dispenser while they do a half-assed job of washing their own hands.

bathroom stool

I’ll delay my rant about changing tables for another day, but at least one can argue that those are expensive ($400 or more). But a stool? 50 bucks, and you only need one in each room. I have great appreciation for businesses who provide a lower sink, but they are few and far between. I adore business that provide a mini-toilet for little butts (thank you, Knoebels), but I’ve seen that maybe three times in my life. Trust me, moms and dads know what each public bathroom in their community provides and we are more likely to patronize a business if we know we can easily change a diaper or avoid bathroom acrobatics.

No, bathroom stools won’t solve world hunger or house the homeless, but a hungry homeless person with a toddler would probably still appreciate a stool then next time they have to take them to a public restroom.



Our Williamsburg RV Vacation Part 3: Jamestown

Our morning in historic Jamestown started off a little rocky when it failed to catch the interest of the littles. By lunchtime, they were fully engaged and especially enjoyed the Voorhees museum because it had real skeletons. Also, giving James a phone and telling him he’s making a movie increases his interest significantly. We will remember this trick in the future.

Even better for the kids than historic Jamestown was the Jamestown Settlement. Because it’s more of a reenactment, they got to do tons of hands-on activities and explore ships and buildings. It’s a good thing we did that second because otherwise historic Jamestown would’ve been a big disappointment for them.

We wrapped up our day back in Williamsburg with a delicious dinner at Shield’s Tavern.

Fair Week Vacation to Williamsburg, VA! (Parts 1 and 2)

It’s hard believe September is over – especially since we now have to wait an entire year to go on our annual “Fair Week Vacation.” Every year, the thousands of people descending on our town to visit the Bloomsburg Fair make it impossible for buses to transport students safely. As a result, all the county schools shut down for the week and many locals take the opportunity to go on an off-season vacation.

This year, we headed to the historical triangle to visit Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Jamestown with a stop at Virginia Beach. It was a timely field trip because all three of our kids are obsessed with the Broadway musical Hamilton. We squeezed in as much as we could, while leaving enough to give us a reason to go back one day.

For our stay, we chose Anvil Campground. It made for an excellent basecamp. We were 7 minutes from Colonial Williamsburg. The campground was clean and well-maintained. The family owners obviously take great pride in their property. The sites were close, but we weren’t looking for a state park, we were looking for a great location with nice amenities and Anvil Campground delivered. One warning: there is a very-active train track bordering one side of the property. If you are a light sleeper, this may not be the campground for you. We slept just fine.


We did so many fun things that I’ve broken our trip down into smaller videos. Check out the first two:



Our First KOA Experience

When it comes to camping, we are usually state park fans. Most Pennsylvania state parks come with playgrounds, small camp shops, good hiking and fishing, and somewhere to swim – either a man-made beach or pool. Also, you can stay at a state park for less than $30 a night. The downsides are that there are rarely full hook-ups (or even water) and that liquor is prohibited (although if you don’t get rowdy and use unmarked cups you’re usually fine). Also, the bathrooms tend to be dirty because they only get cleaned once each day.

In the past, we’ve stayed at a few private campgrounds, but we’ve never tried a KOA (Kampgrounds of America). We have friends who are kind of new to camping, so we wanted to give them the full hook-up experience. Upon recommendation for some regulars, we booked two sites at Nittany Mountain KOA in New Columbia, PA over Labor Day weekend.

Even though the weather was quite rainy, the kids had an absolute blast all weekend. The grown-ups were relieved there was so much for the kids to do. The highlights for us were all the activities: petting zoo, dance party, bounce pad, mini golf, etc. The kids’ favorite part was the free zip-line. I was most impressed with how quiet it was.

The only drawbacks were the price and the lack of security. We paid $200 for three nights. That is pretty standard for KOAs and it is how they can provide all those amenities and services, so I understand the cost. What I don’t understand is why that cost doesn’t include decent security. At both the private and public campgrounds we’ve visited, there is almost always visible security patrolling the campground. Not once did I see anyone driving around to make sure all was well.  As a result, we encountered large cliques of teenagers, most of whom were from seasonal sites. Some of the cliques were fine, but there was a lot of foul language around little ones and some bullying going on around the playground. At one point, the adults in our party had to stand in the playground like we were on playground duty until they stopped blocking the younger ones from using the playground equipment. Once, a group of teenage boys dismantled some of the toddler equipment and our girls had to report it to management. A more-present security staff would go a long way toward discouraging this kind of behavior.

Overall, we had a very nice weekend, but I don’t see us becoming KOA regulars. Particularly if we are camping at a distant location where sight-seeing is our main goal, I can’t see paying that amount when we wouldn’t be around to use all the amenities. That being said, I can definitely see us staying at another KOA in the future.



Why I Write Online Reviews (and Why You Should, Too!)

I’ve written them all: campground reviews, product reviews, restaurant reviews, book reviews, and amusement park reviews. Some have been paragraphs long with accompanying pictures. Some have been only a sentence.

Years ago, when I was attending a book club meeting, one of the members commented, “Oh, I never read the online reviews on books. I can just imagine what kind of person actually writes them. I mean, have you ever written one? No, because you’re normal.” At the time, I simply smiled and nodded, not having actually written any reviews. If I heard that comment today, my reaction would be much different.

Now, whether I’m shopping for a new bra or looking for a nearby restaurant, I rarely make a decision that will cost me money without first checking online reviews. Yelp, Trip Advisor, and the comments sections of my favorite online stores play a huge part in whether or not I purchase an item or make a reservation. Often, if no reviews are available, I won’t consider purchasing a product at all. I so heavily rely on the recommendations of others, that it feels only right to return the favor by describing my own experiences.

On one of our camping journeys, we travelled to Little Pine State Park near Waterville, PA. It was a beautiful, clean, quiet park and we loved camping there. We had gone on the recommendation of a friend, but I had been unable to find any online reviews. Because I loved the park so much, I made a point to take lots of pictures of the facilities and surroundings. I believed this little park deserved a voice online apart from the cursory information available on the State Parks website. Others should know that this is a wonderful place to visit. As soon as I got home, I wrote the first Trip Advisor review for Little Pine.  It even took them a few days to post my review because they first had to determine it was indeed a real place. Since then, several others have added their comments. Together, reviewers have been able to share a small gem of PA with others who may not have even known it existed.

Certainly some reviewers can’t be taken seriously and one must be discriminating when reading comments, but if there are enough reviews for a product or business the true value will be clear. I write reviews because I want to help good businesses find patrons and protect patrons from bad businesses. I want to help people know what they’re getting for their money because that is what other reviewers have done for me.

Reviews don’t have to be long essays. The next time you get an email that asks you to write a review of a recent purchase, please consider typing at least few helpful sentences. We’ll all be better off in the long run.

Not surprisingly……

So, the government shut down this morning.  Luckily for my family, my day was completely different in absolutely no ways at all.  Still, the whole thing is so frustrating – no matter which side of the aisle you lean.  Even more depressing is this clip from last night’s Jimmy Kimmel show:

Jimmy Kimmel – Six of One

Whether you’re for or against Obamacare (and I think many people are for AND against Obamacare), you should at least know what you’re talking about if you’re going to answer a reporter with a camera.

I did, however, enjoy some of the comments below the video:

“Most of America is Lenny and the rest of us are George, just trying to keep them calm and stop them from destroying something.”

“If we had the government we deserve, we’d be living in Thunderdome.”

“In the age of information, ignorance is a choice.”



Remembering Shirley

This morning, I’m thinking of a dear friend.  I’m reminded of her because we’re nearing the second week of August.

For years, while I was in high school and college, I would spend the second week of August on vacation at Treasure Lake.  Treasure Lake is a golf community with two highly-rated golf courses that also offers boating, swimming, and many other fun summer activities.

I originally began going as a helper to my Aunt (my father’s sister) and Uncle.  They had young children and I spent several of my summers babysitting them.  At the end of each summer my Aunt and Uncle would generously bring me along on vacation so that they could both enjoy some rounds of golf together.  I would take the kids for bike rides, to the beach, and to the pool while the adults played their 18 holes.  My relatives covered all of my expenses and the kids were a dream to babysit.  I was basically being paid to go on vacation.

We were joined every year by another couple, Shirley and Wayne.  Technically, Shirley was my uncle’s aunt, but they were so close in age she seemed more like a cousin.  Still, all the kids (including me) referred to her as “Aunt Shirley.”  She was kind, generous, and a great deal of fun.

After a few years, I stopped babysitting, but I was still invited to come along simply as a family member.  I was often invited to join them for their daily rounds of golf.  My Aunt, Shirley, and I would golf together while the guys (who took their scores very seriously) went on ahead.  Our team motto was “Hit it toward the cart path!”  Shirley was actually a very skilled, avid golfer.  She taught me everything I know about golfing (which, admittedly isn’t much).  I always golfed better when I was with her.  Her most important advice was repeated to me year after year in a sort-of mantra she had learned from a golf instructor once-upon-a-time:

“Keep your head down.

Keep your head down.

Keep your God-damned head down!”

Outside of our vacations, I didn’t see Shirley and Wayne that often.  I would attend picnics at their house and run into them at some family functions. They both danced at my wedding.  Still, there’s a familiarity that develops when you spend a week with people year-after-year – a bond akin to those one develops at summer camp. I considered Shirley and Wayne to be good friends and was extremely fond of them.

My Aunt, Shirley (center), and myself during a round of golf.

My Aunt, Shirley (center), and myself during a round of golf.

A few years ago, Shirley succumbed to cancer at an unfairly young age.  She left a gaping hole behind in the community and in the hearts of her loved ones.  Her funeral was beautiful, yet terribly painful.  She was a nurturer, a leader, and a doer.  She is fondly remembered by all who knew her and her memory continues to live on in her friends and family.

Often, not just in golfing but also in everyday life, I can still hear her voice telling me to “Keep your head down!” and simply trust that, if I do what I’m supposed to, things will go the way they should.

We miss you, Shirley.