The kids and I were able to visit my family in Ohio for almost 2 weeks after leaving Northland. First we stopped at my dad’s place for a few days. He lives in a suburb of Columbus, in a small town called Groveport. There are many parks surrounding the area, and he happens to live across the street from one. There are walking trails, fields, and playgrounds. My dad and his friend live in a condo, so the park was a blessing! The kids were able to ride their scooters and get out of the house a bit.
Our first full day with my dad we spent swimming at a local YMCA. Since we have a membership, we were able to swim for free. It was a beautiful facility with a large outdoor pool and baby pool. The weather was overcast so the water was a little cold. The kids swam for about an hour before we moved to the indoor pool. We swam inside for another 3 hours or so. It was fun (and free)!
The next day we went to the park in the morning and then after lunch we loaded up and went to Chuck E. Cheese’s. The kids played on the indoor play set and enjoyed the arcade games. They all earned enough tickets to redeem them for candy and other prizes so everyone left happy. Our last full day was spent visiting my aunt who lives about 45 minutes away from my dad. We got there just before lunch time and grilled out. The kids rode their scooters, played a lawn bowling game, blew bubbles, played with the dog, and just enjoyed being outside. I had a nice time catching up with my aunt and just being with family. My aunt had so much food that we all left stuffed to the brim, but it was a very nice day.
The last day, my dad helped the boys and I pack up the roof topper. We enjoyed lunch and got on the road to drive to my mom’s shortly after. My parents live about 2 hours away from each other. When I arrived at my mom’s, my grandpa pulled into the driveway right behind me. My sister and her family arrived shortly after him.
The kids swam (my mom has a pool) while my mom, my grandpa, my sister, my brother-in-law, and I all chatted. I haven’t seen my grandpa in about a year so it was nice to visit with him. He travels extensively and was leaving the next day to tour various parts of Canada for a week. I’m glad our schedules aligned so that I could see him.
The next day, my mom and I took the kids to a park along Lake Erie to picnic and swim. It was so nice! It truly was like the beach at the ocean with sand everywhere. The only difference was the smaller waves. The sun was hot, the water was refreshing, and the beach was busy! After swimming and picnicking for a few hours, we showered and changed (so nice when there are places to rinse off the sand!) and headed back to my mom’s.
We enjoyed a quiet weekend at my mom’s, with my sister and her girls visiting and the kids just enjoying the company and the pool. Sunday we attended church with my mom. It was not a traditional preaching service but instead an opportunity for the youth mission team to give an update on their recent trip to Florida. It was so nice! I thoroughly enjoyed the testimonies, watching the update video, and just seeing how God is working to build His kingdom all over the country! At the end of the service the pastor challenged the congregation to pray every day for one of the youth team members. The boys and I were able to acquaint ourselves with a young lady, a rising senior at a local high school, named Morgan. As she spoke, I saw myself as a high school senior in much of what she said. That worship service is one I will never forget!
Along with swimming and hanging out at my mom’s, we also drove 2 hours to Pittsburgh, PA to visit my brother. He is attending culinary school at the Art Institute. I had never been to Pittsburgh before and I was pleasantly surprised. The city is very clean and easy to navigate. I was able to reserve a parking spot online the day before, so that really alleviated many of my fears (remember Chicago?). I found the parking lot, a valet came and parked the car, and we were on our way. He (the valet) was so nice! He allowed us to use his bathroom (inside a locked office building that required a key code) and happily provided directions to the subway entrance. I felt totally comfortable giving him my car keys.
The kids were so excited to be in a big city, and the fact that we were taking the subway to meet my brother was even more exciting! We found the station, descended to the platform, and found our stop on the map. Once the train arrived, we boarded without a hitch. It was so fun watching the excitement on their little faces! I’m so glad they got to experience riding the subway as it is not a common occurrence for us.
We met up with my brother and he gave us a tour of his apartment. We then walked a few blocks to see his school building, and then a little further to picnic in the city square. There happened to be a downtown celebration going on that day so there were games set up for the kids to enjoy. Disney Junior was also there playing music and offering prizes to the kids. It was really fun to just experience life in the city, surrounded by people and city noise and tall buildings!
From there, we walked a few more blocks to another park to see the water. Pittsburgh is surrounded by 3 rivers. We watched the barges and saw the trains coming and going into the city. There are old, steel bridges, a mix of new and old buildings, and trolley cars on cables that go up and down the mountainside. From where we stood, we could see everything at once. We also saw Heinz Stadium (where the Steelers play) and the Carnegie Science Center. All in all it was an excellent day!
Another day was spent doing what I love: treasure hunting at the flea market! My sister lives in a small town characterized by Mennonite families. They own most of the businesses in town, and have successfully operated a flea market for many, many years. I remember going to this same flea market (only smaller and at a different location) when I was a child. The new location is both an indoor and outdoor facility.
Inside is full of Amish and Mennonite shops. My absolute favorite is the deli. They sell local cheeses of all varieties, but the Swiss is the best! They also sell their “cheese ends,” which are the rounded ends of the cheese that are difficult to slice. They package a small variety together and sell them really cheap. I always buy whatever cheese ends are available for that reason. Along with the cheese, the kids love a locally made summer sausage called “Trail Bologna.” It is made in nearby Trail, Ohio and can be found only in select stores near there. It is soooo good!
The outdoor part is where the really good deals can be found. Local (and not so local) residents rent a space and sell everything from kitchen sinks to fresh produce, old coins to old razors. Every visit means the possibility of finding something new. I just love looking for a great find, and my kids have learned to love it, too!
We also spent some time at my sister’s house. My long-time friend Chelsea brought her boys over and we spent the afternoon catching up. Later we all went to a local candy store and let the kids pick out a treat before heading to the park to play. It was so nice to see her as it had been a year since our last visit together.
My time in Ohio was enjoyable, yet very busy. I miss my family so much, and it’s so hard to leave. The kids cry every time because they miss their grandparents, cousins, and friends so much! But, as sad as we were to leave, we were all very ready to come home. We had been gone for 20 days and hadn’t seen TJ for almost 2 weeks. We have been home now almost a week and are slowly returning to our normal routine.
One thing is certain, this summer has flown by!