Tag Archives: adventure

Tyler is a Teenager!

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I have no idea how it happened and where the years have gone, but my baby is now 13!!

I think I am more shocked by that realization then I am about Molly heading to college and Grace getting married. I suppose Tyler is forever frozen in my mind as an impish, dirty, forever moving, six-year-old boy. I look at him now and catch glimpses of the man he will one day be and it causes me to pause and question where the years have gone.

I am now exclusively a mother of teens and young adults…wow!

Thirteen is a big birthday so we wanted to do something special for our boy’s big day. We already had plans to buy him a bike for his birthday gift, having outgrown his last one and knowing that a means of burning off energy is a wonderful self-regulation tool for Tyler, but we wanted to plan an experience as well…

This required some creative planning as his birthday week was packed to the brim with activities. His actual birthday was already designated as set-up day for Gracie’s bridal shower and his birthday evening was her bachelorette party,

So we moved everything back a day and celebrated his birthday on the 22nd.

His request was to go to an indoor trampoline park…a perfect activity for my bouncy Tigger,

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We allowed him to pick a couple friends to accompany him.

On Thursday we headed to Cranberry to Urban Air, the coolest trampoline park we have ever seen!

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In addition to the expected trampoline areas for bouncing,

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This trampoline park included…

Climbing Walls:

Dreaming of free climbing? Maybe start in the harnessed safety of our climbing walls. Build muscles and hone your skills as you defy gravity and master your ascent while enjoying some cliff side fun.”

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A Ropes Course:

“Get some extra hang time with our gravity-defying obstacles on the Urban Air ropes course. Learning the ropes has never been more exciting; with another up-n-the-air adventure that tests your balance and agility. The stakes are high as you and your friends learn confidence, however safety is assured since you are securely harnessed as you make your way through the course.”

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A Ninja Warrior Course:

“You’ve watched those warrior ninjas from your living room, now try it for yourself. Perhaps one of the most exhilarating team building events, Warrior Obstacle Course lets you face off against your friends while you test your balance and strength. Give it your best as you battle to be the last Warrior standing. Maybe we’ll see you on Mt. Midoriyama.”

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A Battle Beam:

“Think balance beam plus sword fighting. Only the swords are foamy. And the pit below is lined with cushy blocks. Sort of a foamy battle to the death. But instead of perishing, you’ll probably just giggle. Is it all in good fun? Or is there really no better feeling than defeating your friends on the Battle Beam. Decide for yourself.”

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The Drop Zone:

“Drop on in for a little fun, while practicing your flips, spins or other amazing acrobatics, all with the confidence that you’ll land safely on a giant, inflatable airbag. The perfect testing grounds to perfect that new trick. This attraction is safe, fun and available to all ages.”

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An Indoor Zipcoaster:

“Time isn’t the only thing that flies when you’re having fun. You can too with our Sky Rider indoor coaster. Strap in and zigzag overhead while you scout out all the other attractions. It’s literally a way to take your fun to new heights.” 

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A Dodgeball Court:

“The funnest sport in PE plus trampolines? Yes, please. All ages are welcome and everyone loves the experience. Only downside is that once you’ve experienced Ultimate Dodgeball, you’ll never want to play normal dodgeball again. Bring a birthday party or friends from work. Or jump in on pickup games that are held daily. So hop on in and let ‘em fly.”

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The Slam Dunk Zone:

“Get your inner Jordan on and show off your favorite dunk moves. Even if you’re not a seven footer, you can still sail above the rim while testing out your famous back flip, behind the head, windmill, double clutch slamma jamma.”

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It was an awesome place and perfect birthday location for our overgrown Tigger and his teenage friends.

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Happy 13th birthday, Tyler!

 

Ready for an Adventure!

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Part of the fun of vacationing on a houseboat is the fact that you aren’t tied down to one area and one view for the week. Each day we are able to untie from the previous day’s location and go exploring for a new “home.”

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Riding on the top deck while we are moving from one location to another is my favorite part of houseboat vacationing. It is so thrilling to head out on the water with the wind blowing your hair, uncertain of what you will find around the next bend.

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On Wednesday, we found our best cove yet!

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It was tucked away off the main channel, and was stunning!

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The rock formations erupting from the water made the cove appear magical, as if at any minute we would spot a mermaid sunning herself on one of the rocks or Peter Pan and the lost boys peeking out from the surrounding trees.

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It was our favorite stop so far!

We spent the afternoon enjoying our private cove.

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Some of the kids headed out on the paddle boards to explore.

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And Gracie took Tyler and Olivia out for a ride in the boat.

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When everyone returned home from their adventures, we reconvened in the water and watched as the kids jumped from the upper deck.

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Eventually, our numbers started to thin as some took a break from swimming and others left in the fishing boat to try their hand at fishing.

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Those left behind decided to undertake an adventure of their own and swim a ½ mile to check out the cluster of massive rock formations at the mouth of our cove. It was an impromptu decision, made with enthusiasm.

With everyone grabbing a board or floatation device we began the swim, eager to check out the garden of boulders rising from the water.

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We arrived and the kids climbed atop the rocks for some cool photos and the opportuning to jump from the boulders to the water below.

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It was amazing!!

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Well worth the laborious swim to get there!

Just as we were preparing to swim back to the houseboat, angels of mercy arrived in the form of Woody and Tyler in the fishing boat. Back from their excursion, they volunteered to tow us back to the boat a few swimmers at a time.

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It was a lovely turn of events as everyone was a bit weary from the against-the-current swim it took to get there.

Toby and I were the last group to be towed back to shore. I climbed aboard his paddle board and enjoyed the ride back to the boat.

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This wasn’t an adventure planned ahead of time,

It was one of those spontaneous, magical adventures that we find ourselves stumbling into when we are cruising along with the Hudak family.

Oh, how I love moments like these!

 

 

A 21st Century Adventure!

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This post is weeks overdue, but the craziness of life has left me scrambling for an hour of solitude and silence to sit and blog. In the absence of either, I find myself stealing free moments, a bite at time, so as to try and catch up on recording the events of our life that occurred weeks ago.

In the week leading up to Mother’s day we had our annual all-school field trip with 21st Century Cyber Charter School. Despite the million reasons why we shouldn’t attend this year (ie: multiple kids in crisis) we decided to press forward , especially for Molly’s sake, given this is her senior year and final 21CCCS field trip.

Our cyber school offers multiple field trips and outings throughout the school year and across the state for their students that are spread all the way from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, but the event of the year rolls around every May when everyone comes together for one huge, school-wide adventure. Past trips have included the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Annapolis, Mt. Vernon, Gettysburg, etc. This year’s end of the year field trip was to Washington D.C. Buses were sent to the four corners of the state to pick up 21cccs families and shuttle them to D.C. for the day.

We had originally reserved eight spots on the Pittsburgh bus, but on Thursday morning we found our numbers down to four. Rather than miss out when some of the kids weren’t able to come, Toby decided to stay home with those who weren’t up for the trip and I enjoyed a rare, easy-breezy day with the O3- Grace, Molly and Rusty.

And it was a gift….

Such a gift!

We left the house at 3:30 am to drive to Monroeville and catch the chartered bus to Washington D.C. with the other 21cccs families.

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The size of our group warranted 2 buses and we found ourselves traveling with our good friends, the Hudaks.

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The day ended up being my Mother’s Day gift to me.

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We loved the t-shirts for this year’s field trip!

It was a treat having some special one-on-one time with my “non-squeaky wheels”…those kids who find themselves setting aside their wants for the more pressing needs of our hurting kids.

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For 18 hours they had me all to themselves and I reveled in the treat of being able to enjoy the joys of motherhood with none of the work. It truly was like a day off from real life as I enjoyed the company of my oldest kids and our dear friends, had hours of quiet reflection, looking out the window as someone else drove us the 5 hours there and back to Washington D.C., and a day of fun in one of my all-time favorite cities.

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Our large school group was split into two groups. We were visiting two Smithsonian museums with half the group beginning at the Air and Space Museum and half visiting the National Building Museum.

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We started our day at the Air and Space Museum:

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At noon all the 21st Century families and staff came together on the grass of the Mall and enjoyed a picnic lunch.

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Molly enjoyed catching up with friends from across the state,

As well as getting to spend some time with her learning coach, Mr. Winterode… an all-time favorite teacher of both my girls!

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After lunch on the Mall we walked over to our second location,

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The National Building Museum:

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It was a LONG day, but in a season of many LONG days, it was a gift to have an easy/fun/non-drama sort of long day!

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I love our cyber school!

Molly in Costa Rica #1

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At the airport at 4:30 am.

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After braving the adventure of international travel, Molly arrived in Costa Rica.

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While transferring planes in Houston, Texas she was thrilled to see another young lady wearing the identifying t-shirt of the GLA and got to become acquainted with a fellow Sea Turtle Initiative participant before arriving in Costa Rica. Both girls were glad to see each other. Their seats weren’t together but upon departing they were able to navigate customs together, making the process a little less intimidating.

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Students trickled into the airport through the afternoon from all corners of the globe. Once everyone had arrived GLA staff helped everyone securely exchange their dollars into colones,

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And then they headed to Hotel Pacande to freshen up and settle into their next 10 days of Pura Vida!

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After enjoying lunch at the hotel, students had the option to rest, or participate in activities to break the ice and get to know their new GLA family.

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Because the trip to home base involved a 6 hour trip via car then boat, the group spent the night at this local hotel and left for the remote village of Parismina the following morning.

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Day 2 involved a long drive, followed by a boat ride to arrive at the organic fruit farm where they would live and work for the next 10 days.

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Along the way there was a planned stop at the first adventure of the trip: Ziplining through the jungle of Costa Rica.

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They also stopped at a village store to purchase munchies before heading into the wilds of Costa Rica.

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Located on the Caribbean coast the farm they were staying at was quite remote. Travel to the closest town involved a 45 minute walk through the jungle, but was only about 10 minutes from the beach.

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This beach is known for being the prime location for four species of sea turtles to nest.

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While in Costa Rica, as part of the Sea Turtle Initiative, Molly and the other participants spent their days helping protect and improve conditions for the sea turtles through night patrols with ASTOP (an anti-poaching organization,) beach clean-ups, surveying nesting sites, and raising community awareness.

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After a long day of travel, the students and staff arrived at the eco-lodge Friday night and settled in for a week’s worth of adventures. As parents we were privy to some of their adventures through blogs written by the students and posted every few days on the GLA website. Since they can better express the experiences they enjoyed than I can retell, I will be posting their recaps of their days in Costa Rica. (Because internet access is spotty in the jungle there were not blogs posted every single day, but I will share what they shared.)

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Here is their first blog entry:

This morning we all woke up in our new rooms in our lodge here on Parismina. A lot of us learned an important lesson about tucking our mosquito nets into our beds, because we woke up with upward of ten bites.

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We then had some morning free time and many of us headed downstairs to rest in the hammocks.

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The “living room.” This open area, filled with hanging hammocks, was the gathering area of the home.

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After our breakfast we got ready for our first walk of our organic farm tour led by our house leader Jason.

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The “dining room.” Molly said she loved the sand floor.

Here we saw various plants, fruits (some of which we got to taste!) and insects.

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The tour of the organic fruit farm.

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The students got to taste many of the fruits grown on the farm.

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Molly sampling the fruits…

During our nature walk we got to see a sloth, some iguanas, grasshoppers, a ribbon snake, and a nest of biting fire ants.

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A Sloth!

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Molly said this plant felt and smelled like soap.

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After some free time we got to see a presentation from ASTOP, an organization for the preservation of sea turtles. This group taught us the reasons poaching of sea turtles occurs here in Costa Rica and what they have been doing to stop poaching.

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This information got us very excited for our first night patrol. The very nice man left and then we were given time to go swim in the ocean.

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The ocean was gorgeous, and had black sand which many of us had not seen before.

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After we passed a swim test (which we all did AWESOME at) we got to swim.

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About half-way through swimming, more and more people went off to go play in the sand. Some people were buried while others of us just relaxed on their towels. The heat of the day was wiped off of us while swimming.

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After that, we came back where we all rinsed off and then had some downtime to relax and talk with everybody. All in all we had a great day and are looking forward to hopefully seeing a turtle on our night patrol.

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If not, at least it will be an awesome week!

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Panama Rocks

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Years ago Toby and I enjoyed a weekend away for our anniversary. He booked a hotel in western New York near Jamestown. While staying at the hotel a fellow visitor told us about a hidden gem, revered by locals but widely unknown by those outside the area, called Panama Rocks. It was recommended we check out this scenic park before leaving the area so we did and were so glad we did. It was one of the most magical places I had ever seen! 

When Grace and I made plans to visit Jamestown I knew a visit to Panama Rocks was a must, so following our morning at the I Love Lucy museum I told Grace we had one more place to visit while we were in the area, not giving her any clue of the magical world she was about to enter…

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Panama Rocks Scenic Park:  “an enchanting world of towering rocks, deep crevices and passageways, cool, cavernous dens, and small caves.”

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Formations are composed of conglomerate sedimentary rock, according to their website, and extend “about a half a mile and read upwards of 60 feet tall — one of the largest of its kind in the world.”

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There’s not many people in this day and age that aren’t familiar with the J. R. R. Tolkien’s famous trilogy, Lord of the Rings. Most of Tolkien’s well-known story line takes place in the magical setting of Middle Earth, a fictional fantasy world that’s covered in vibrant green landscapes and mythical wonders. If the idea of not being able to visit such whimsical place like this has always broken your heart, then no need to get upset…

We found Middle Earth!

And it is only a 40 minute drive from Erie!

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Operating since 1885, Panama Rocks Scenic Park is touted as one of the best outdoor attractions you’ll find in this area of New York.

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From deep crevices to cavernous dens, there was so much to see and explore in this extraordinary scenic park.

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Not only does the scenic park feature a one-mile long trail that leads visitors to fascinating places, off-trail exploring is also allowed here! Grace and I were able to make our way through passageways and explore crevices that looked like places from out of this world.

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The trail is great for visitors of all ages but does feature moderate inclines and pathways that will take you over the many roots you’ll find exposed throughout the park. (Which adds to the magic but requires watching your step.)

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One of the main reasons that this park is so eye-catching and unique is that the mosses and ferns create a lush scenery amongst such rough formations.

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It really was nothing short of magical and we found ourselves looking for the fairies and gnomes that we knew must call this fantasy land home.

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Pictures just don’t do justice to the awe-inspiring magnificence of this magical park. It really is another world and by far one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.

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I was so grateful I was able to share the experience with Grace but we both agreed we must return soon with the entire family so that we can enjoy a day of exploring together in this fairy tale forest.

 

 

 

 

Spread your Wings and Fly!

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And she is off!

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Last Thursday Molly embarked on a trip of a lifetime.

Her 3:00am arrival at Pittsburgh International Airport was a culmination of 6 months of prepping, planning and praying her way to this adventure. For the next two weeks she will be joining teens from all over the globe on a Global Leadership Adventure in Costa Rica where she will be working with Peace Corps volunteers as part of the Sea Turtle Initiative. This is an experience she sought out in hopes of “trying on” this field of work as a possible future calling. Driven by desire to serve she looked into opportunities offered to teens that mimic the Peace Corps experience in hopes that her experience will guide her future schooling and career decisions. She prayerfully approached this experience, petitioning the Lord to lead her to the program she was meant to pursue, and diligently setting aside funds to pay for this experience out of her Philly Pretzel Factory paychecks. After 6 months of eager anticipation she was off on the adventure of a lifetime. Below is an overview of the Sea Turtle Initiative program and all it entails as well as the first blog posting of her adventure with GLA. It is our prayer that Miss Molly might be a blessing to the people of Costa Rica and that this experience might be a blessing to her…

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Highlights of Costa Rica’s Sea Turtle Initiative

  • Protect endangered nesting sea turtles and their hatchlings
  • Assist with night patrols and visit an animal rescue center
  • Spot sloths, monkeys and exotic birds as you cruise through the mangroves
  • Soar through the rainforest canopy on a zipline adventure
  • Learn to surf the warm, mild waves of Costa Rica
  • Explore a small beach town and the local market

The population of Costa Rican sea turtles has declined by 90% since 1980. Sea turtles face a myriad of threats, including boat traffic, climate change, accidental catch by industrial fisheries and pollution in their ocean and beach habitats. As a volunteer, you’ll live and work on the coast of Costa Rica, assisting a turtle conservation organization with critical efforts to preserve the natural areas where this endangered species lives. Ensuring that the turtle population will thrive for generations depends largely on our ability to educate the local community and protect the places where turtles nest. With the right timing and luck, you might be rewarded with the sight of turtles hatching.

Community Service

Each year, leatherback and green turtles come to Costa Rica’s beaches to lay their eggs. Poachers steal the turtles and their eggs to sell on the black market for profit. Although this practice is illegal in Costa Rica—as it contributes to the depletion of the endangered sea turtle populations—it is hard to enforce without the help of the local community’s participation. You’ll be assisting on night patrols with a local nonprofit and anti-poaching organization started by a Peace Corps volunteer, to protect nesting animals and safeguard their eggs. During the day, you’ll participate in beach cleanups, survey nesting sites and raise community awareness of environmental challenges. Your projects will improve living conditions for turtle species hovering on the brink of extinction.

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Hands-On Learning

You’ll be fully immersed in topics centered around the animal world. Learn how critical each species is to the health of all life in the ecosystem, including human. Hear local speakers’ and community members’ perspectives on sustainable conservation efforts, and begin to understand how competing interests of the civilized and natural worlds can intersect. Visit an organic farm and learn about growing and maintaining local fruit trees such as the cacao, vanilla, and banana.

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Adventure

In Costa Rica you’ll be constantly surrounded by incredible natural wonders. Fly through the treetops of the nation’s lush inland as you go on a thrilling zipline adventure. On the coast, ride a boat through a local mangrove, where you can spot sloths, monkeys and exotic birds. You’ll also connect with the strong cultural roots of Costa Rica’s coast by visiting the local market and taking workshops on traditional dance and cooking. Finally, learn Costa Rica’s soul sport—surfing—with a lesson on a calm beach.

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COSTA RICA – The Sea Turtle Initiative – June 28 – July 7, 2018

Thursday June 28, 2018

¡Bienvenidos a Costa Rica!

It’s a lovely day in San Jose! Our local and international staff have excitedly been preparing for our newest GLA arrivals! FINALLY the big day is HERE!!!

Here is our staff from left to right: Local Director Jason, Mentor Brittany, International Director Adriana, Mentors Emily and Erin at the Green Gold Lodge in Parismina, Limon, Costa Rica.

Each student began their adventure by securely exchanging their dollars into colones with the help of a mentor, and arrived safely at Hotel Pacande to freshen up and settle into their next 10 days of Pura Vida!

After enjoying lunch at the hotel, students had the option to rest, or participate in activities to break the ice and get to know their new GLA family.

Tomorrow, we will depart for our beachside rainforest home base, but not before stopping in the cloud forest for a zipline excursion! We are so excited to share updates and photos of our trek to the Caribbean coast where students will call home.

We are so excited for Miss Molly and will continue to keep you updated as more GLA blogs and photos are posted.

Smooth Sailing- Part 2

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It has been a week now since the boys rolled back into town after their road trip/ sea trip adventure. As the days pass more and more stories of heroism, shenanigans, and the thrill of everyday chores when living on the high seas are shared. I continue to relish in the stories that are being revealed as time passes and have been jotting down notes so as to try and do a decent job retelling their story of adventure…a tough task when the writer wasn’t there to experience it herself.

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Their time on the high seas quickly settled into a routine of sorts. Their days typically began around 6 or 7 am, when everyone rolled from their sleeping bags to begin their day.

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Just like at home their day was filled with trivial tasks like teeth brushing:

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And food preparation:123_1519962637018

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Typical tasks that take on an atypical slant when done in the unusual confines of a sailboat.

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Breakfast varied day to day but was typically a hot meal of some sort, prepared by the scouts with the assistance of Keith who graciously pitched in as sous chef.

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Lunch occurred during the busier part of their day and as a result was usually a grab and go meal like sandwiches or snacks.

Dinner was another hot meal, prepared after the events of the day. As the sun set and the cabin darkened the addition of head lamps helped the scouts get dinner on the table.

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Their meals were largely built around the pantry items they stocked at the start of the trip with the addition of seafood caught through the day.

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Much fishing occurred each day and the troop was able to enjoy the fruits of their labor, feasting on meals of Jack Crevalle, Grunt, and lobster.

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Yes, you read that right.

While we were home eating spaghetti and grilled cheese the scouts were feasting on fresh lobster.

Their captain explained that scattered through the waters of the Florida Keys are hundreds of lobster traps, many of which are ghost traps. Ghost traps are lobster traps that  have lost their distinctive buoy that brands that trap as belonging to a particular fisherman. After the most recent hurricane many lobster traps lost their markers and are now considered ghost traps; unclaimed by any fisherman, sitting on the ocean floor, catching and not releasing the lobsters within. The boys found a few of these ghost traps during their sailing adventure.

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If ghost traps couldn’t be found in the waters nearby there was always the means of catching lobster with nets and a tickle stick. The boys would snorkel down to a hole in the rocks and prod the hole with a stick while positioning a net at the entrance of the hole. If it was the hiding place of a lobster they would come scuttling out, right into the net.

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The caught lobster then had to be measured to ensure its maturity and if it was big enough it would end up in the supper pot.

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Only on a Sea Base adventure do teenage boys add fresh lobster to their Kraft macaroni and cheese and call it dinner.

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I was a tad jealous when I saw the pictures!

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It seemed their days revolved around meals and sailing. The task of sailing their 44-foot sailboat fell mainly on the Boy Scout’s shoulders. They had an experienced captain to teach them the ropes and guide them along, but aside from the guidance they received from the captain 90% of the tasks were performed by the boys while the men sat back and enjoyed the ride.

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As Crew Chief Rusty was given the responsibility of managing and assigning tasks, something far outside his comfort zone. He later confessed that he found himself often choosing to do the necessary tasks rather than assign jobs to others because it was more within his comfort zone. I see this is an area where we could use some work, but I can’t blame him. I am much the same way. I would rather be a hard-working Indian than a chief any day of the week.

Luckily, he was blessed with an awesome crew of guys who were more than willing to take on any task assigned to them. It was really a great group of boys and leaders.

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Following a predetermined route, troop 558 made their way from Sea Base out into the ocean and onto Marathon Keys, their stop halfway through the trip. To leave the bay they had to pass under a drawbridge. With a mast reaching 40 feet in the air their boat didn’t fit under the bridge, so they had to wait for the scheduled hourly draw that lifted the bridge up into the sky and allowed the tall sailboats to pass underneath.

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As they sailed they had the opportunity to stop and snorkel at reefs along the way. The experience was neat and they saw some awesome sea life. Their only regret was that they sailed during a week of high winds which resulted in big waves and silty water. Which made swimming and snorkeling a bit of a challenge.

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On Monday they arrived at Marathon Keys. They were scheduled to dock there for the night, fill the water tank, shower, restock supplies, and perform the service project that they were assigned by Sea Base, which was cleaning the restrooms and bath house.

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Tuesday morning, they were back on the water and on the second leg of the trip taking them back toward Sea Base.

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During the day, while they sailed from snorkel sight to snorkel sight,

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most of the troop congregated in the cockpit around the scout who was at the wheel. This became the “living room” of their home away from home as they sat and chatted while sailing along.

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Some would use the travel time to troll for fish.

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While on the water they were privy to many wondrous sights including dolphin, barracuda, eel, puffer fish, sea turtles, and one shark sighting…

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Not to mention the spectacular sunrises and sunsets that would bookend their days.

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 Each night the sun would start sinking beneath the horizon around 6:00 pm and by 8:00 pm these weary scouts and their leaders were tucked in sleeping bags and falling asleep to the rocking of the waves.

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Now that’s the life!

 

What a Trip it has Been!

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It was almost 10,000 miles.

We traveled through 22 states.

Over the period of 7 weeks.

We visited 13 National Parks,

and hiked miles and miles of this beautiful country.

Brand new shoes, purchased at the start of the trip,

were worn clean through by the end.

A walking testament to all that was seen and done.

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For those who have forgotten or our joining us more recently, here is a recap of where we have spent the last 50 days.

Day 1: Travel to St. Louis, Missouri with a stop at the Columbus Zoo.

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Day 2: Tyler’s 10th birthday! Explore the City Museum in St. Louis, Missouri

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Day 3: St. Louis Arch

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Day 4: Tour Hannibal, Missouri. Home of Mark Twain.

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Day 5: Drive to De Smet, South Dakota

Day 6: Tour Laura Ingalls Wilder’s homestead and then on to Mitchell, South Dakota to see the Corn Palace.

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Day 7: Visit 1800’s town, South Dakota.

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Day 8: A stop at Wall Drug and a visit to Badlands National Park.

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Day 9: Day 1 in Rapid City, South Dakota: Bear Country USA, Storybook Island, the Dinosaur Park, and a chuck wagon dinner.

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Day 10: Wildlife Loop at Custer State Park to see the world’s largest free roaming buffalo herd in the morning and then a visit to a mammoth fossil dig site in the afternoon.

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Day 11: Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse monuments.

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Day 12: Check out Devil’s Tower.

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Day 13: Day 1 in Yellowstone National Park

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Day 14: Day 2 in Yellowstone National Park.

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Day 15: Visit Grand Tetons and go swimming in hot springs.

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Day 16: College tour of BYU Idaho.

Day 17: Visit temple square in Salt Lake City, Utah and swim in the Great Salt Lake.

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Day 18: College tour of BYU in Provo, Utah.

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Day 19:  Travel to Yosemite National Park.

Day 20: Visit Yosemite National Park in California.

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Day 21: Visit Sequoia National Park, California.

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Day 22: A day swimming in the Pacific Ocean at Newport Beach, CA.

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Day 23-27: Disneyland, California. This was the big surprise of the trip. The kids just found out the day before we left.🙂

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Day 28: Las Vegas. Tour Hoover Dam.

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Day 29: See the sites of Las Vegas.

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Day 30: Another (unexpected day) in Las Vegas.

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Day 31: Visit the Grand Canyon.

Day 32: Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

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Day 33: Arches National Park, Utah.

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Day 34: Visit Mesa Verde National Park to see the cliff dwellings and stop at Four Corners monument.

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Day 35: Visit Petroglyph National Monument.

Day 36: A stop in Roswell, NM while driving past on our way to Carlsbad Caverns.

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Day 37: A cave tour of Carlsbad Caverns with my brother, Travis.

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Day 38: Drive all day to Branson, Missouri. (See David and Jen along the way)

Day 39: Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri.

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Day 40: Second day in Silver Dollar City.

Day 41: Explore Branson, Missouri and tour the Titanic Museum.

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Day 42: Branson, Missouri.

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Day 43: Rusty’s 15th birthday. Spend the day in Marceline, Missouri, home of Rusty’s hero: Walt Disney.

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Day 44and 45: Visit Mimi Joy who is serving a mission in the Independence Missouri mission.

Day 46: Visit Nauvoo, Illinois.

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Day 47: Drive toward home.

Day 48: Home Sweet Home!

For 7 weeks our family 0f seven lived in our converted school bus which was lovingly named, “The Rolling Gnomes.”

We slept, ate, did school, and traveled together in 280 square feet.

For 7 of those days our 280 square feet felt like 20 square feet as we lived without the boys’ ADHD medication thanks to restrictive state laws regarding controlled medications.

Our little bus climbed mountains almost 10,000 feet high feet and at Carlsbad Caverns we explored 750 feet below the earth.

We crossed wind swept prairies, majestic mountains, mighty rivers, and desolate deserts.

We made it to the Pacific Ocean and then turned around and drove back home.

Along the way we gained a greater appreciation for our country, and a greater connection as a family.

As a family we grew and learned lessons about ourselves, about our nation, and about each other.

We learned:

About the incredible natural beauty found in the United States of America and gained a greater appreciation for the conservation efforts that have preserved this country’s natural beauty.

On the 100 year anniversary of the National Park Service we were able to explore some of the prettiest sites we have ever seen.

In the NPS’s “Find Your Park” campaign we each found “our park…

each of us falling in love with certain areas of the country and the beauty found there.find-your-park

Here are our “Find your Park” National Park choices:

Toby and Grace’s favorite national park was Grand Tetons National Park.

Rusty’s favorite was Arches National Park.

Molly’s favorite park was the Grand Canyon.

Ozzie loved Mt. Rushmore.

Tyler’s chosen park was Badlands National Park.

And my personal favorite was Devil’s Tower.

Some favorite stops included the City Museum of St. Louis, Silver Dollar City, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead, Titanic Museum , 1880’s town,

and of course, Disneyland!

We fell in love with the Black Hills of South Dakota,

and were little impressed with Nevada and California.

But the greatest revelation that came from our travels was how good the people of this country are.

We met some of the kindest people in our travels, and in all our interactions with thousands of strangers we had only one negative experience.

It was reassuring and empowering to see the goodness that shone forth across this great nation. In an era of sickening news reports and political filth, it is easy to assume that the loudest voices, the ones highlighted on our evening news, represent the majority of American opinion.

But I have found that to not be the case.

The people of this country are good…no, great.

They are moral, and kind. They are friendly and helpful.

They are proud people who love their country and long for its leaders to raise their standards and be better.

On this trip we made many new friends and the experience lit a flame of hope in me that despite the immoral, disgusting, self serving faces seen clamoring to be the representative and voice of the American people,

the people of America are so much better than the faces that represent them.

As we traveled I fell in love with my country and came home with a renewed spirit of pride in our history, our culture, and our citizens.

Through this experience I discovered a buried gypsy within my soul that fell in love with the simplicity of tiny house living and the life of a nomad.

It is good to be home…

To see the people we love.

To soak in a bathtub rather than shower in camp showers.

We loved being reunited with our animals,

But I’m already missing life on the road and look forward to seeing where the Rolling Gnome bus takes us in the future!

Thanks for traveling with us.

It has been a grand adventure!

The Houseboat Revisited

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After months of struggling to get Gracie’s “ode to the houseboat” video uploaded I was finally successful!

In September we went on a fantastic family vacation with dear “like family” friends. We spent a week cruising Lake Cumberland (Kentucky) by houseboat. It was an amazing vacation. Gracie and Olivia artfully captured the magic of that special week using music, photography and videography.

Here is a peek at the video journal of our houseboat vacation.

(It makes me wish I could wiggle my nose or nod my head and be back. It was a perfect week!)

Enjoy!

Learning to Fly!

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Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 10.08.45 AMYesterday my children learned to fly.

I am so grateful for a husband that counters my natural tendency to hesitate and be cautious.

I live with the fear of falling.

He lives with the possibility of flying.

The week has been spent enjoying the sun and the water.

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IMG_2304The kids have spent the majority of each day in the water

swimming and sliding.

IMG_2486The big blue tube slide, that begins at the top deck of the houseboat and twists down to the water, has been the hit of the week.

IMG_2511The kids discovered that with the addition of a drop or two of baby shampoo the speed going down the slide doubles, and you can REALLY get going!

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Yesterday the water fun advanced from riding the slide and jumping from the ledge to a whole new level of fun.

IMG_2334After a lot of big talk the dads took the plunge and jumped from the top deck of the houseboat into the water,

teaching their children how to soar.

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IMG_2365I’ll admit the idea of the kids flying off the top deck into the dark waters (and hidden dangers below) made me more than a little anxious.

But after the dads tested out the safety and showed the kiddos how it is done there was no stopping them.

IMG_2373My little chicks took flight, one by one, soaring from the safety of the boat into the unknown.

IMG_2394Oh, how scary!

IMG_2481But they didn’t fall…they flew.

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IMG_2369And they soared and soared again,

IMG_2349until the sun began to sink in the sky.

I thank God for blessing me with a husband that is not afraid of falling,

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because if it was up to me my chicks would never leave the safety of the nest,

and they would miss out on the thrill of flying!