Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Saints Anne and Joachim: Celebrating Jesus' Grandparents and My Kids' Grandparents

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On July 26, the feast day of Saints Anne and Joachim are celebrated in the Catholic Church.  Saint Anne and Saint Joachim are our Blessed Mother's parents, which means they are the grandparents of Jesus.  This special feast day is a great day to not only honor the grandparents of Jesus, but also my childrens' grandparents as well!

Our family is blessed to have both sets of grandparents living about 15 minutes away from us on opposite ends of town.  I should have thought to invite my parents and my in-laws over for dinner as a way to celebrate this feast day waaaaaay before this year, but better now than never right?  But, I think this will have to become a feast day tradition each year from now on, God willing!  

I think I was first inspired to celebrate my children's grandparents on this particular feast day because I remember reading Nicole's post at Children of the Church last year where her children honored their grandparents in special ways.

We had a simple celebration and dinner where my children and I set the table "fancy" with some books about St. Anne (which included text on St. Joachim) and we lit a candle with an image of St. Anne and St. Joachim holding their child Mary.  I printed out an image from my computer of the three of them and taped it to a white candle to add to our celebration.  The flowers were used for table decorations, but then each set of grandparents took them home as gifts from our family.  

 The book on the left is Saints and Angels and the book on the right is Picture Book of Saints.

After I read information about Saints Anne and Joachim and said grace we snapped some photos of both sets of grandparents and then of my children sitting in front of them.

My husband's parents on the left and my parents are on the right. 

On the dinner menu we had eggplant lasagna with meat sauce and then lasagna with noodles and meat sauce, salad, bread and ice cream for dessert (with toppings too!)  Before the meal I set out pita chips and Homemade Guacamole from Jessica at Shower of Roses. Her recipe is yummy!  Here is a photo of mine: 

This feast day is also my oldest daughter's "Name Day" because her middle name is Anne like myself and we were both named after my grandmother whose first name is Anne.  So she ate her lasagna, salad and bread on her "You Are Special Today" plate that we try to remember to have our kids eat on when each of my children have their birthdays, baptism anniversaries and name day celebrations. 

We do not know much about the lives of Saints Anne and Joachim and what we do know has been passed down through word of mouth and writings.  For that reason, when I do hear of information about these special parents of Mary, I am very interested.  I loved reading Jessica's post at Shower of Roses about St. Anne's symbolic colors and Martianne at Training Happy Hearts has a wonderful post about how her family celebrated St. Anne with a breakfast where they learn their "faith through food and fun." So inspiring! 

I'll close this post with this beautiful Grandparents' prayer which I thought is perfect for this feast day:

Good Saint Anne and Saint Joachim, 
parents of Mary and grandparents to Jesus, 
be with me and all grandparents 
that we may be wise and loving, 
may share our time and stories and sense of humor, 
and may enjoy and not spoil too much the grandchildren 
who are close to our hearts, 
for they are the sign of God's life to us. 

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, 
be with our grandchildren and all other grandchildren 
that they may love and respect their grandparents 
and all older people, 
may remember to call, 
visit or write, 
and grow in wisdom, 
age and grace before God.


Friday, July 22, 2016

Family Fun in MD, PA and MA: 50th Wedding Anniversary Celebration

Family Fun in MD, PA and MA: The National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton
Family Fun in MD, PA and MA: Gettysburg National Military Park
Family Fun in MD, PA and MA: Knoebels Amusement Park
Family Fun in MD, PA and MA: CoCo Key Water Resort 
Family Fun in MD, PA and MA: New England Aquarium

Our family's adventures began on Tuesday, July 5, 2016 when we traveled to The National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton and on the same day in the afternoon we traveled to Gettysburg National Military Park.  On Wednesday, July 6 we had fun at Knoebels Amusement Park and on Thursday, July 7 we spent the day at CoCo Key Water Resort.  On Friday, July 8 we visited the New England Aquarium and then walked around downtown Boston before a family pool party and cook out.

Here are a few photos from the pool party on Friday.

 Our oldest daughter helps her little sister jump off the diving board for the first time!

Cousins conversing:  My younger sister's son and our youngest daughter chatting it up in the hot tub. (Note: Temperature of water was just warm water and not scorching hot, in case anyone was wondering. :) )

This is a photo of 2 out of 3 of my siblings along with lots of guy cousins.  One of my older brothers is on the far left and then my younger sister is next to him.  The rest of the guys around me are my cousins.  I haven't seen my cousin in the white t-shirt next to me in over 30 years!  It was such a great weekend to reconnect with family I haven't seen in awhile and hang out with them! 

Our final destination and the main reason for our travels was celebrating my Aunt and Uncle's 50th wedding anniversary on Saturday, July 9.  What a fun time! We first celebrated Mass on Saturday evening where my Aunt and Uncle renewed their wedding vows and then we had a dinner and dancing that lasted several hours.  Here are just a few photos from the special and memorable evening.

These are statues that surrounded my Aunt and Uncle's church on the hill surrounding the parking lot.  I took these photos from the car window as we were leaving, hence some of them look crooked. :)

After Mass was the dinner and dance.  I loved their cake and the two melon love birds in the center of the fruit platter. It was a delicious dinner and cake!  My Aunt and Uncle looked so cute dancing together!  Then the rest of us of joined in and danced late into the evening!

This photo of our family was taken in the foyer of the reception venue. 

Concluding our family's adventures with this 50th wedding anniversary celebration was a perfect way to end our vacation.  The next morning on Sunday, July 10th, we left Boston at 5:30 AM and stopped 3 times during our 15 hour drive home.  We got home at 9:30 PM Sunday night.  Whew!  What a blessed, fun and long trip!  I am so grateful for all the fun memories made and the safe journey home! 

Family Fun in MD, PA and MA: New England Aquarium

Family Fun in MD, PA and MA: The National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton
Family Fun in MD, PA and MA: Gettysburg National Military Park
Family Fun in MD, PA and MA: Knoebels Amusement Park
Family Fun in MD, PA and MA: CoCo Key Water Resort
Family Fun in MD, PA and MA: 50th Wedding Anniversary Celebration

On Friday morning, July 8, after a fun day at CoCo Key Water Resort the day before, my family and I headed to New England Aquarium, located in Boston, MA.

Our family, along with my sister and her family and my Mom, arrived soon after it opened for the day which was a good plan because it got more crowded throughout the morning hours.

Our family is very grateful that the aquarium's staff mailed us 4 complimentary adult admission tickets a few months before our visit in exchange for this post to share our visit with others.  With our family of 7 this was a big help when budgeting for our trip.  Thank you New England Aquarium staff!

After we headed over to the ticket counter we entered the aquarium for a morning of wonder and learning....

Our kids loved the spiral walkway that runs through the center of the aquarium and it's what they noticed first when we walked in.  Throughout the aquarium are several interactive exhibits to enhance learning.  Two of my children checked out the Sea Turtle Hospital interactive exhibit.  

Throughout the aquarium there are several presentations.  Our family enjoyed listening to the penguin presentation at the penguin exhibit

There are also a few touch tanks and our family didn't get a chance to explore the Shark and Ray Touch Tank, but my daughter loved touching the sea star at the Edge of the Sea Touch Tank

We also walked outside onto the breezeway for a photo opportunity with the family and to watch the seals glide gracefully through the water in the Atlantic Harbor Seals Exhibit.  The seals were so fast I didn't get a chance to snap a photo of them!  

We saw so many wonderful tanks filled with beautiful and intriguing sea life!

This North Atlantic Right Whale hangs in the center of the aquarium and can be observed from several different angles as you walk up the spiral walkway.  

At the top of the aquarium we enjoyed observing the Giant Ocean Tank where Myrtle the green sea turtle was fed lettuce leaves.  We also listened to a great presentation about the animals in the tank and the speaker answered several questions from the audience.

As a homeschool mom, it's great to know that the New England Aquarium provides several learning opportunities for schools, groups, families, teens and teachers and if you are a homeschool parent or classroom teacher be sure to check out the Classroom Activities page to use before and after your next New England Aquarium field trip.   
Summer Camps are also offered to have children discover more about sea life!   And did you know the aquarium also has a lecture series where different topics are presented by speakers who specialize in a particular field of marine life?  To find out more about learning opportunities and updates you can follow the New England Aquarium Facebook page or admire all their beautiful photos on Instagram.

Our family had a wonderful time at the New England Aquarium and enjoyed all that we learned!  We didn't have time to explore the entire aquarium due to tired children, but what we did see was fantastic.  If we ever get an opportunity to go back to the aquarium we look forward to seeing more!  

Besides all the learning opportunities at the aquarium, it is also conveniently located in downtown Boston so it was great to take advantage of the sights and sounds of the city after we left the aquarium. We walked in downtown Boston and ate at Quincy Market and saw a juggling act and acrobat show.  We also listened to young ladies playing violins and cello.  We enjoyed watching the entertainment!  

Toward the end of the show where 2 men performed acrobats and a trick with a tall ladder, my Mom volunteered to hold one of the ropes for the ladder stunt. (She's in the blue/white striped jacket in lower left photo.)  That was fun to watch!

And I took a quick photo of this headless man standing on the sidewalk that we noticed as we headed back to our car in the parking garage.  We left the aquarium to go to my cousin's pool party and cookout where we got to hang out with friends and family who came to celebrate my Aunt and Uncle's 50th anniversary weekend!  It was a fun day! 

Family Fun in MD, PA and MA: CoCo Key Water Resort

Family Fun in MD, PA and MA: The National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton
Family Fun in MD, PA and MA: Gettysburg National Military Park
Family Fun in MD, PA and MA: Knoebels Amusement Park
Family Fun in MD, PA and MA: New England Aquarium 
Family Fun in MD, PA and MA: 50th Wedding Anniversary Celebration

After we got in during the wee hours on Wednesday morning on July 7 and tried to catch up on some sleep after spending the day before at Knoebels Amusement Park, we met my sister and her family and other family members at CoCo Key Water Resort at Boston North Shore which was located attached to the hotel we stayed at for the remainder of our trip.

If you have every been to a Great Wolf Lodge Water Park, CoCo Key Water Resort is very similar with a kiddie pool section/slides, lazy river, water slides and water park which is all indoors.  It was very fun and a great way to keep the kids busy and visit with family.  Here are a few pictures from our day at the CoCo Key Water Resort.

Our daughter loved swimming with her cousin (my younger sister's son) and going down the water slides with him that were in the kiddie section.

When we were done, it was time to meet up with other family members for dinner at a restaurant and get rested up to visit the New England Aquarium on Friday, July 8!

Family Fun in MD, PA and MA: Knoebels Amusement Park

Family Fun in MD, PA and MA: The National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton
Family Fun in MD, PA and MA: Gettysburg National Military Park
Family Fun in MD, PA and MA: CoCo Key Water Resort
Family Fun in MD, PA and MA: New England Aquarium
Family Fun in MD, PA and MA: 50th Wedding Anniversary Celebration

On Wednesday, July 6 we spent the day in Elysburg, Pennsylvania at Knoebels (pronounced "Kah-nobles") Amusement Park.  My husband's co-worker told him about this fun place and it is and has been America's largest free-admission park for 90 years of operation.   But free admission doesn't mean we rode rides for free.

What is unique about this family fun park is that you don't have any admission prices, rather you spend money on tickets since each ride cost a certain amount and riders hand in their tickets to ride.  Some rides are 75 cents (kiddie rides) and some are $1.00, $1.75, $2.00 each and so on.  No ride cost more than about $3.00/each.  For our family of 7 we spent about $150 on rides which is a savings if you think about how much amusement park admission fees are these days.   With no admission tickets comes no admission entrance so you literally park in this huge parking lot out in a valley in PA and walk anywhere into the park and buy your tickets at a booth. Knoebels has kiddie rides, as well as big coasters so our entire family enjoyed it!  Here are some highlights of our afternoon of fun!

This ride is called "IMPULSE". You go straight up and then straight down then upside down. Oh my!  I was not feeling so good after this one!


TWISTER: Old, wooden, tall fast coaster that I think literally shifted my brain around in my skull! was tough for me to recover after this one too! My kids loved it though! 

After spending about 6 hours at the amusement park we were hot and a bit tired, but had so much fun!  So there's was only one thing to do then...get back in the car and drive another 6 hours to Massachusetts and get to our hotel at 1AM on Thursday, July 7! Rest up and then spend the day at CoCo Key Water Resort!  Whew!


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I'm Tracy. I love my faith, family and on most days, homeschooling my 5 blessings. When I'm not busy baking cakes for my family or making memories in real life or dreaming I had a housekeeper or professional chef, I enjoy documenting a slice of Smith life in blog land.

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