Czesc OHMommy

I got into blogging and reading blogs right around the time we moved to Cleveland a little over 4 years ago. I had read some before that, but moving to a new town prompted me to search out local blogs to see what other people were doing in the area. Somewhere in that timeframe is when I stumbled on Pauline’s blog. Her youngest was the same age as my oldest and she had two older kids. She knew the parenting ropes and I loved reading her stories. She was born in Poland and I’m 1/2 Polish so reading about some of her family traditions was both familiar and fascinating.

I think the first time we met was at the Blog It Forward event at the Greenhouse Tavern to raise money for a blogger in need. So it was fitting last night when a group of local bloggers and social media friends gathered at the Greenhouse to wish Pauline “powodzenia” (good luck) as her family moves back to her hometown of Chicago.

Michelle, me, Amelia, Pauline, Jess, Kelly & Amy (Allison joined us later)

Over the last 4 years, what I found on the screen has translated into a real-life friendship. Our kids have had playdates, we’ve attended her famous Halloween parties, my daughter had her first crush on Pauline’s sweet Jay, and we’ve enjoyed family dinners together. When Madman was born Pauline delivered an amazing dinner of homemade stuffed peppers; I baked a cake for her Lola’s 8th birthday party. Her family recipe for bigos has become a regular dish on our table; and we’ve been lucky enough to be the recipients of Lola’s baked goods. We’ve had girls nights out and in. Madman has all of Jay’s old Thomas train stuff. Our husbands have run road races together. Heck, her husband even became our dentist.

I can never thank her enough for sharing her family secrets with us. For me, Pauline is the expert voice when it comes to family activities in the area. She may not be a native Clevelander but she loves this place like no one else. She introduced us to our favorite river wading spot, complete with a waterfall. Because of her suggestions we enrolled Matilda in dance lessons at the Solon Center for the Arts – a quality program for little kids that doesn’t cost too much and has recitals that are only an hour long. This past summer Matilda enjoyed the heck out of a camp that had been stamped with the OhMommy seal of approval. Pauline introduced me to my trainer and several other local bloggers. She has a knack for finding hidden gems and we’ve never ever been disappointed with any of her suggestions. We have a running list of “OhMommy Approved Sites” and still haven’t gotten to all of them.

Her kids are an absolute delight. Jay is hands-down the sweetest boy I’ve ever met. I’ve witnessed him show kindness to everyone around him; from gently help my toddler climb a play structure to checking in with Matilda to make sure she’s having a good time at a party. If Madman has half of Jay’s compassion at age 10 I will consider myself lucky. Lola is a whirling dervish of ideas and action. She doesn’t mind my 5 year old tagging after her like a lost puppy and in fact seems to love to play with¬†Matilda. I will always remember watching from across the room at a Halloween party when Lola noticed Matilda sitting on the sidelines: Lola walked over and pulled a tootsie roll out of her pocket, handed it to Matilda with a big smile and told her to join the dance floor. As a parent moment like that make your heart smile. Speaking of smiling, Feenie just makes you smile. I swear she’s a mini version of Pauline – her alter ego if you will. Sweet and funny and wise beyond her years. You will never forget and encounter with Feenie. I’m so grateful my kids have been able to play with and learn from the OhMommy kids.

Pauline and the entire OhMommy family: Cleveland will miss you. I can’t thank you enough for all the advice, food and, most of all, friendship you’ve shared with us.

Chicago: you are very lucky to get this lady back in your midst. If you ever have the chance, make sure you meet the entire crew. Your life will be better for it.

I’m not going to say good by, but good luck. Because you aren’t rid of us yet. We can’t wait to visit you in your new old house and read about the adventures you discover in this next chapter of your lives. And you know, our door is always open when you need to smell the sunshine on an Ohio meadow.

Powodzenia!

 

Weekend Recap: Family Fun in Put-In-Bay (giveaway)

Back when I posted our summer bucket list I mentioned that I wanted to check out Put-In-Bay since I had never been there. One of the ferry operators to the island saw that post and invited us to visit. South Bass Island suffers from a bit of a party stigma – known as the Key West of the Great Lakes, it has more than it’s fair share of rowdy, drunken stories. So, could a family of 4 have an enjoyable island adventure? We were willing to try.

The Miller Boat Line gave us round-trip tickets for the ferry along with a golf cart on the island (care of Island Bike & Cart Rental) and tickets to some of the attractions at Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center. Armed with those, coupons from the web, and a couple of hours worth of internet searching we were off.

Miller Ferry bound, We’re on a boat!

After picking up the cart, which was equipped with a child seat for the squirmy Madman, we motored to town. After a quick loop around we parked and let the kids play in DeRivera Park which is a beautiful green¬†space between the main street and the marina. The park has lots of playground equipment, tons of picnic tables and ample shade. There were even kids doing chalk drawings up and down the sidewalks. I was kicking myself for not bringing a picnic lunch because the park was a perfect spot. We decided instead to check out nearby Boardwalk and ended up in the Upper Deck because we wanted table service. The food was what you’d expect for a tourist place‚ĶI can’t complain about my perch sandwich, but it was standard sandwich and fries fare. The Lobster Bisque was indeed very good and Matilda ate most of our bowl. We were disappointed we couldn’t sit outside (highchairs don’t work with the patio tables) but they put us by the windows so the kids could watch the boats come and go, which kept them entertained throughout lunch. Pro tip: check your coupons before you eat. We forgot to use a coupon for a free kids meal here.

DeRivera Park fun

After lunch we headed over to The Aquatic Visitors Center where I might have freaked out a bit about the size of some of Lake Erie’s fish. The kids loved it there – it’s full of fish tanks and some¬†hands-on displays about the fishery and ecosystem of the lake. They also offer free fishing off their pier (equipment provided) and Matilda was determined to catch a fish. After a few attempts she¬†caught a round gobie, much to her excitement. The Center is staffed by Ohio State University Stone Lab students who were patient and very kind to the kids. The best part was when Matilda’s gobie was put into the trough to feed the bigger catfish and pike. She was pretty excited.

Pretty view from the Aquatic Visitor’s Center, Hands-on displays

Fishing off the pier and feeding her gobie to the bigger fish

It was time to head to the main attraction – Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center – which seems to be the hub of kid activity on the island. With our Combo passes we checked out the Butterfly Garden (tip: the nicest bathrooms of the trip were found here), Perry’s Cave and Fort aMAZE’n. As you can guess, Matilda loved it here. She thought the cave was really cool (so did I) and really enjoyed the maze. Madman was a bit of handful but he enjoyed the little antique car display and then just had fun hanging out on our parked golf cart while Matilda and Mark were navigating the maze. Best part – kids 5 and under free for most things here and the combo tickets save you 25% over individual ticket prices.

Fun at Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center

Since Matilda was dying to get in the water we drove over to South Bass Island State Park to check out their swimming beach. While it was nice enough we were totally unprepared since neither Mark or I brought our suits. Both kids got in the lake but the rocky bottom and waves got the best of us and we made them get out after just a few minutes. They were not happy but my shorts were soaked and I didn’t want to get wetter. If we had been better prepared, this would have been a nice way to spend an hour our two as it wasn’t crowded, the water was warm and the views of the bluffs were pretty.

After our traumatic exit from the beach we decided to drive past the memorial¬†(which was closed for repairs but opens up again this week)¬†and check out the east side of the island. We got to Scheef Nature Preserve but decided to not get out and walk around since the kids were starting to get tired. We buzzed back past the memorial and went back into town for a snack. After walking around a bit we ended up at the little ice cream parlor at The Candy Bar for an air conditioned break. We thought about riding Kimberly’s Carousel but the kids were’t having it.¬†Around 5:00 the village started to get a bit too rowdy for us (admittedly, we are kind of prude when it comes to our kids who are only 5 and 2) with foul language and scant clothing. Although we had intended to check out the Goat Soup and Whiskey for dinner, which is mid-island and away from the main strip, the kids were D-O-N-E so after another quick romp on the DeRivera Park playground we headed back to the ferry dock.

Overall we enjoyed our trip. There was more to do in PIB than we had expected and I think we will return when the kids are a bit older so we can do things like kayaking and more hiking. Cost-wise, I think a day-trip is on par with a a day a Cedar Point, just make sure you look for coupons (and then remember to use them!). Put-In-Bay’s reputation for being a party place isn’t totally unfounded, but if you get there early enough and leave around dinner time a fun day is in store – there’s lots of history on the island and plenty to do. Plus if your little one is 5 or under almost everything is free. A golf cart is a must with younger kids but I think older kids could handle traversing the island on a bike. Either way, it’s a perfect day trip that’s just a bit out of the ordinary.

Much thanks to @MillerBoatLineand especially their Communications Manager, Katrina, who put up with a lot of indecisiveness as to when we were going to visit. Thanks for showing us another local spot for us to enjoy with the kids!

Here‚Äôs the fun part ‚Äď When we arrived on PIB, the owner’s of Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center gave me¬†4 Combo tickets to give away to my readers.¬†Just leave a comment below telling me your best PIB story or about your favorite Lake Erie getaway.¬†Giveaway ends June 12, 2012 at midnight. One commenter will be chosen by random.org. Good luck!

Disclosure: I was given 2 ferry tickets, a one-day golf cart rental and 2 Combo tickets to Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center for our trip – a trip we were planning on taking on our own. As always, my thoughts are 100% my own. I only share things that my family plans to attend or has attended in the past, so I know they are worth the visit.¬†

Camp

Matilda just finished with 3 weeks of day camp, and while that seems like no big deal, I’m so very proud of my girl. I’ve been talking about her kindergarten readiness for over 2 years for good reason‚Ķshe has some emotional issues around new situations (that’s to say she doesn’t handle them well). It’s a big enough issue that we decided her on the cusp birthday warranted another year of preschool. When I heard from Pauline about a small day camp that focuses on outdoor fun along our favorite river it sounded perfect and I signed her up for a 3-week session. We thought she’d know another kid or 2 at camp but that didn’t work out. She was going to camp without knowing anyone. We braced ourselves for the worst‚Ķ

Day one came and she was SO! EXCITED! for camp. She bounded out the of the car and into the area for her group like it was something she had always done. I watched, as my usually-timid girl introduced herself to another girl and started chatting away. My fears subsided a bit and I headed to work half-expecting a mid-day call. Although she’s been in daycare most of her life, my girl just does not adapt to new situations all that easily. When left in the care of an experienced daycare teacher with only 8 other kids that’s one thing, when leaving her with 3 teenagers responsible for 16 other kids I was a bit worried. No call came that day and when I picked her up she was so happy with her day that she wouldn’t stop talking. There had been bouncy houses, science experiments, baking and a river walk (well, a river SWIM for my waterbug). The fear of the unknown was no where to be seen.

Camp day one: before and after

As one day tumbled into the next she did great. There was fishing and bike riding, hiking and t-shirt decorating. More baking, a photography workshop (all of her photos are of things like spiderwebs and trees), exploding coke bottles, crayfish hunting and fort building. One of the kids in her group got bit by a water snake in the river and Matilda was mad she didn’t get to see it. A day trip to a local amusement park was the highlight of week one and she got to wear her official camp t-shirt.

 A chilly morning start, field-trip day, by day 3 camp caught up with the camper

The end of week 2 was the main attraction – a camp out in tents. We prepped her all week with what to expect and when we returned to camp on Friday night to drop her off she barely noticed us leaving. My baby would be spending her night away from family for the first time ever. In a tent in the woods. Neither Mark nor I slept much that night, always on alert for a phone call to pick her up (the camp has a strict “no forcing” policy – if a kid utters that they want to go home they call the parents for pick-up). It never came. We picked her up Saturday morning, clad in pink and full of grins. Her favorite part of the camp out? “Sleeping on the ground”.

Week 3 was more classes and sessions: fencing, karate, a visit from the bubble lady, a carnival and a fashion show. Frogs were found, more crayfish uncovered and each day she came home in her spare outfit because her 1st one was so dirty. This is also when she learned that camp was continuing on for another 3-week session that we hadn’t signed her up for; she wasn’t too happy with us. But now we know that not only can she handle camp, she rocked it. Next year she’ll be an old pro and attending for all 6 weeks.

With her beloved counselors on the last day

And for me, those three weeks of camp helped prepare me for this fall when I send my first born into the abyss of school with 25 classmates. If she can handle a camp with snakes I think she can handle kindergarten.