We were so fortunate last week to be able to travel to upstate New York for our family's vacation. My sister, brother-in-law, and nephew live there and it had been a while since we had seen them. Miss B and I went a few years ago for a visit, but my husband and son had never been to that area. We also usually drive to our family vacation destinations (because we normally go to S. Florida where I grew up or somewhere close to our home in Georgia). You know how it is - it is a bit of a hassle (not to mention costly!) to fly cross country with little kids. Now that our children are nine and five it was so much easier! Here they are with their dad as we get ready to go to the airport. In preparation for our trip we had learned a lot about the area during the first several days of school, and I think this made the kids even more excited!
When we arrived in Rochester we were so happy with the cool weather - it never got much above 75 the entire time we were there. Coming from 100 degrees at home, this felt great! My sister and her husband took us to a jazz concert. The park system in their small town seems very good, and this concert was held at small band shell. We listened to "Paradigm Shift" - a group from Buffalo, NY. They were really good. I also tried sushi for the first time. It was just so good to be out of our normal routine! Here's my sister and my husband, enjoying a glass of wine.
The two big highlights of our trip were The Erie Canal and Niagara Falls. One day we took a three hour boat cruise along the Erie Canal. We went through a lock (what an interesting process) and learned a lot about the history of the construction the canal. We are coming up to this point in our American History, so I know Anna found it very interesting. My nephew (a senior in college) could tell us a lot more than the boat tour guide, so I'm glad he was along. He will be graduating with a major in history next year and is a smart, all-around good young man. I hope my kids turn out like this. Here he is with my sister.
We also saw how the flow in the canal can be stopped in a section called "The Great Embankment". When the canal burst open in the mid 1970s a lot of homes were flooded out, so it's important to stop the water for maintenance purposes, etc... At one point along the canal we were right alongside a highway - I thought how amazed the DeWitt Clinton (the mayor of NYC at the time of the construction) would have been if he could have seen that sight!
The next day we took my sister took us on a tour of an extraordinary place for children, the Mary Cariola Children's Center. My sister serves as their board chair and is very committed to these special children. The center serves several school districts in the area and services children with special needs. At their one campus there were just over 400 children. Words cannot express how moved I was by seeing these children and the amazing progress they were making. I started college as a Music Therapy major and we got to see a music therapy session. Centers like this are not the norm, and from what I understand the State of New York leads in this area. What was so special was that Miss B could go with us on the tour, and she was sobered by so many children that were different from her. I know she has a huge heart for people with special needs.... she also met a therapy dog there that just won her heart. I walked away from Mary Cariola feeling so much richer as a person. I'm proud of the work my sister does for these children.
Later that day GMan and Hal got to attend the Buffalo Bills' training camp on a special family pass. Grant got to meet their center, Geoff Hangartner, because my sister had gotten passes from his grandparents. I think they had a great time; all of the football that happened in the front yard after that was proof. Here are Grant and Geoff:
While the boys were at the training camp, the girls headed to the Margaret Strong Museum of Play. What a fun place for kids! I think our favorite part was their walk through children's literature. I could have spent hours in it, but we really didn't have much time there. Miss B is currently in a Nancy Drew phase, and she learned a lot about that series.
We also had a reservation in the butterfly garden... hundreds of butterflies around us. This was a great followup to our studies of butterflies in the spring. Here is a picture of Miss B and I in the butterfly garden:
Tomorrow I'll try to blog about the rest of our vacation - Niagara Falls!