Summer Travels of 2021

It’s been a wonderful summer, here in our home, and I hope you can say the same! I took some much needed time away from the blog, during what has become my July blogging break. That, plus 2 vacations without cell service or internet, gave me the time to unwind and focus on making memories with our family. More on that technology part later, but for now, let’s talk summer!

Emma ended PreK on Thursday, Nathan ended 1st grade on Friday, and Andy left for a week in Washington DC with his 8th graders on Monday. That was the way our summer started! Andy is a history teacher, and this trip is one of the highlights of his year – for him and his students. This year, he took his students from this year as well as quite a few students from last year, to make up for the cancelled trip.

While Andy was gone for week, the kids and I kicked off our summer with a DC summer bucket list – including lunch at Chick-fil-a, a “P” food party day (pancakes, pizza, popcorn, and pudding), a playdate with friends, and a trip to the library to get started on our summer reading programs. It was a busy week for all of us!

Towards the end of June, we headed to southern Missouri for a week with my family. It was good to be together with my 3 siblings, and parents and all the nieces and nephews. We are up to 13 grandkids, which makes taking a picture quite challenging….but the memories are all worth it! My parents like to buy the kids matching shirts for a family picture. These shirts from Children’s Place were just perfect for this year!

All 22 of us stayed together in a house that had a big covered porch where we ate all our meals, and a huge field next door where the kids could play. There was also a river on the property where we spent time wading and playing every day. It was a nice relaxing time together.

Since we were together from Monday afternoon until Friday morning, each of my siblings and I took a dinner meal, and leftovers and sandwiches were had for lunches. Breakfast tacos (we did grow up in San Antonio!) were the theme of the week for breakfast, along with muffins and cereal for the kids. I brought all the baked goods and cookies, while my one sister brought fruit, and my brother brought snacks. Needless to say, there was plenty for us to eat during the week.

After our time together in Missouri, we all caravanned to Camp Cilca, near Springfield, Illinois. We made a memorable stop at the Lincoln Museum, at the suggestion of Andy. If you ever have a chance to visit, go! It is definitely worth the cost of admission. It is an excellent museum, and the kids and adults all enjoyed it.

At Camp Cilca, we joined my Mom’s 6 brothers and their families for a Lehenbauer family reunion. We were unable to get together for my grandmother’s funeral last year, due to COVID, so this was a time for us all to gather again. All my Uncles were there, and almost all of the cousins with their kids, for a reunion with around 60 of us. I hadn’t seen some of my cousins in years, so we spent a lot of time visiting and catching up, playing games and watching our kids swim in the lake.

We had a nice afternoon spent singing songs (my Grandma was an amazing organist and pianist who loved to sing), and sharing memories of Grandma and Grandpa. Sunday morning, my Pastor Dad and Pastor Uncle John led worship together before we all headed to our separate homes. (It’s a handy thing when you have a lot of Pastors…and pianists…in the family!) We did manage to get one picture of my parents with the four of us kids. Yes, I’m the oldest and the shortest!

We came home for a week and spent the 4th of July with friends from Michigan. Then, we woke up the next morning and headed out on a family trip – just the 6 of us – to visit the New England states. Since we didn’t travelled last summer, Andy was itching to travel again! Our first stop? Niagara Falls! It has been years since I visited the Canadian side of the Falls when my Grandparents lived in Canada. We took a hot walk to see the various views on the American side. Everyone was impressed!

We drove through Vermont the next day and explored some waterfalls, and then ended up in New Hampshire for a trip on the Mt. Washington Cog Railway. It was the most expensive outing of our trip, but definitely memorable! The trip up the mountain took 45 minutes at a steep 11 percent climb. When we stepped out at the top of the mountain, the temperature had dropped from 60 to 40, which we expected. What we didn’t expect? The winds! The winds were blowing at 65 mph, with gusts up to 83 mph, while we were on top for an hour. See the picture below? It captures how all my kids felt about it. Nathan loved it, Emma and Lily cried through most of it, and Caleb was just confused. See how his curls were blown straight by the wind? It was crazy winds indeed and very memorable!

The next day found us driving to Maine. I was excited to cross this state off my list! ME, VT, NH and CT were all new states for me – and the kids! I have now been to 45 states, and am trying to catch up to Andy’s 50 states. Nathan and Emma have been to 30 already, which isn’t bad for being 7 and 5! What can I say? We like to travel. Having our new (to us) Suburban that we bought (for cash!) in March made this trip much more comfortable for all of us.

In Maine, we spent a day exploring Acadia National Park. Cadillac Drive was absolutely beautiful and the kids loved climbing on all the rocks. We went into Bar Harbor for lunch, but ended up bring our delicious grilled cheese sandwiches back to the park and ate in a quiet spot there. We couldn’t believe how busy Bar Harbor was! We went back in the evening, during low tide, and found a parking spot finally, so we could walk on dry ground to a nearby island. Nathan loved that, and all the kids loved collecting shells.

We caught the end of Hurricane Elsa so spent a day driving in the rain, as we headed out of Maine. We made it to a beach, only to be told the riptides were too strong and we couldn’t get in the water. Nathan was in tears. Thankfully, the nice entrance guy let us in for free and we spent an enjoyable couple of hours playing in the sand and collecting shells. We made it to a beach in Connecticut the next day, after attending church with friends. We could get in the water there and the kids were so happy about that!

On the way home, we stopped in Pennsylvania to see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. Yes, my husband is a history teacher, remember? We all have National Park passport books so try to collect stamps wherever we go. We did Lexington and Concord on this trip too, so the kids collected a couple of Junior Ranger badges too.

We were gone for 8 days and drove a total of 2700 miles. The kids were amazing travelers…even Caleb! I will say that the dvd of Wee Sing in Sillyville saved us a couple times when Caleb was about ready to melt down. Thanks to several free hotel nights, courtesy of our IHG / Holiday Inn credit card, we were able to do the trip quite reasonably too. It was a great family trip!

The rest of our summer has been spent relaxing, reading lots of books, playing in the backyard, watching the Olympics, checking off some routine doctor appointments, hosting friends for dinner, and making the most of our summer. My early riser kids have even started sleeping in until 7 or later, which is amazing! It means I don’t have to get up quite as early to write custom books either.

I didn’t accomplish as much as I planned, but that is really not surprising, as I always make ambitious plans for the summer! I read quite a few books and enjoyed time with friends and family. I did get a couple new downloads added to my Etsy shop and redesigned my website. I hope you take some time to look around! My goal was to make a cleaner and simpler site for you all. I hope that it highlights the easy recipes and money saving tips, which is what I love to share most.

Andy is back in teacher preparation mode, as we gear up for another school year. Thankfully, we don’t resume classes until August 18 this year, so we have a little bit more of summer to enjoy – and we are planning to enjoy every moment of it! When do your kids head back to school?

That is a glimpse into our summer. Wonderfully memorable. How was your summer?

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  1. What a fun trip! Are all four of your children as mellow and laid-back as they appear? So impressed with how cooperative they all seem in these pics.

    1. Oh, they have their moment, but what kids don’t? 🙂 We have been traveling with all of them since they were only months old, so that definitely helps. They like to travel and see new things too!

  2. This looked like a great time:) My son, mother in law and I are doing the DC student trip next summer. We are super excited! What great family traditions you have:) I did sign up for some credit cards that give great rewards. Looking forward to using them next summer.

    1. Woohoo, DC! You’ll love it. As for credit cards, yes! There are some great rewards, that I love taking advantage of…as long as we keep them paid off! 🙂

  3. Thanks for sharing your lovely family adventures! Your children are so sweet.

    I’m in Australia, so it’s currently Winter here. However, we are planning a fun family holiday to a seaside town for a week in the upcoming September / October school holidays (Spring), which our two young boys are excited about!

  4. Sounds like a great trip. We want to visit New England.

    Where did you stay and how do you manage to save up for a trip like this especially after paying cash for your Suburban.

    1. We put aside $100 a month into our travel fund, plus we use our Discover credit card rewards for travel each year. All of our nights were at Holiday Inn hotels, and 4 of those nights were free due to points we had accumulated on our rewards credit card. My husband scoped out the hotels before we went to find ones along our route that used less points, too. We ate breakfast at most of the hotels, and packed snacks for the road. We had a couple gift cards which we used for eating out at chain restaurants, but then used our travel fund to pay for more local dining experiences. I packed a lot of snacks for the car too. The Cog Railway was a costly outing (thankfully the youngest 2 were free), but most of our adventures were free or very low cost. Including gas, tolls, tickets, food and hotels, the trip ran us around $150 a day. It can definitely be done on a budget! It is a beautiful area to visit.

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