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Friday, July 25, 2014

Photo Blog of our Maine Vacation 2014

Maine is known as "vacation land," and for good reason. It is a vast, friendly state, which is easily accessible and has more than 3000 miles of coastline, together with what seems like endless ports and villages to frequent, along with clean campgrounds and beautiful state parks.

We just finished a 10 day vacation in Maine; it was our 15th summer in a row going to Maine. Here's a photo from an early vacation:

I believe that was 2006.  Here's a recap of Vacation 2014.

Days One and Two:  we started out our vaca with a two-day stay at a hotel in Saco, Maine.  From there, we spent our time at Old Orchard Beach. We let our 10-year-old pick the very first place we would visit. If you've got kids that age you may have guessed it:
Yup, Our first stop was miniature golf at the Pirates Cove in Old Orchard Beach, which we would all highly recommend.

It was a little pricey but they did let us keep our car parked there all day, thus  avoiding the expensive daily parking fees at the Orchard Beach Boardwalk. People either love boardwalks or find them a little seedy.  We fall into the former category. The Old Orchard Beach boardwalk is very clean as boardwalks go -- and family-friendly. It has just the right amount of thrill rides, kiddy rides, overpriced corndogs, and games of chance. I will say that it was way easier to win the games of chance here than at any other boardwalk or County fair we have been to. Just what we needed: more stuffed animals.

For the next week, we rented a house in the Kennebunkport, Maine area with a private beach. If it is within your budget, I would highly recommend looking into house rentals or cottage rentals.  If you have a family of four or more and you're going to stay in this area for a week or more, you should check it out.  When you price out the hotel to house rental ratio, you can judge for yourself which works best.

Day 3: the first thing we did in Kennebunkport was hit the beach and then go to our favorite restaurant, Bartleys Dockside, in the village of Kennebunkport, for lunch.  The village is filled with beautiful shops, from the Christmas shop to the candy shop, to boutiques filled with jewelry, apparel, artwork, toys, and beach decor.

I love renting a house on the beach. The very best part of every day was waking up to the beautiful sunrise from our back deck and enjoying a cup of blueberry coffee on the deck.

There are several beaches in Kennebunkportport: Goose Rocks Beach, Gooches Beach, Cleves beach, the tiny but beautiful Colony Beach, Middle Beach, and our favorite -- Mother's Beach (So named because of the playground and the fact that you can see your kids no matter where you yourself).  We also spent a good deal of time in Biddeford, slightly north, at Fortunes Rock Beach and Biddeford Pool (which ironically, is not a pool but a beach surrounded by a bay).

Day four: we went to Mass at the lovely St. Anthony's Franciscan Monastery in Kennebunkport. There is also a beautiful garden there, which is open to the public with walking trails and a gift shop which benefits the monastery. The Franciscans also operate a guesthouse which is open to the public and, while quite sparse, is very affordable.
Days five and six were all beach days filled with swimming, boogie boarding, fishing, playing Frisbee and beach football, body surfing, picnicking at the beach, taking long walks (Fortune Rocks Beach is our favorite for long walks -- it's 2 miles from point to point, making for a round-trip Beach walk of 4 miles) and generally enjoying Beach life.
Day seven was my birthday and my family asked me what I wanted for my birthday -- and what I wanted to do that day.  The answer to that one was easy. Nothing and nothing. I already have everything I could ask for, being here at the beach in Maine.  All I wanted to do was read my Nook on the beach and watch my kids playing in the sand, which is exactly what we did. 

 For my birthday dinner, our family went into the village of Kennebunkport and I chose my favorite restaurant, Bartleys again, for my birthday dinner. I had the lazy man's lobster, which means they take the lobster out of the shell for you --and the rest of the family enjoyed the other house specialties which are the lobster, lobster bisque, lobster roll, and clam chowder.  Yes, they do have land lubber food for people like my youngest son who is allergic to seafood.  There's only one thing on the dessert menu, Mrs. B's famous homemade blueberry pie, which is not to be missed!

 Kennebunkport is probably best known as home of the Bush families' summer estate at Walker's Point.  There is a connection between the owners of Bartleys dockside restaurant and the Bush family; it is said to be the Bushes' favorite restaurant in town. Hence, there are decades worth of Bush memorabilia and photos signed by both presidents throughout the restaurant

Days Eight and Nine were spent -- not surprisingly -- at the beach. We also went on our third annual kayak adventure with Coastal Maine Kayak, which is based in the village of Kennebunkport. I would highly recommend this tour. They also rent kayaks if you know the area well. It's nice to go with the guide simply because they take care of everything from watching the tides for you to keeping you in the boat channels to trailering the kayaks and oars and giving you a little history lesson as you go out. 

We again chose the Cape porpoise tour in which you launch from Cape porpoise, paddle around -- you might go out on the Atlantic Ocean -- and then paddle out to goats head Island, home of an allegedly haunted lighthouse but beautiful nonetheless, which is only accessible by boat. The only inhabitants are the family of the keeper of the lighthouse .There we enjoyed a nice picnic lunch and after that paddled back to Cape porpoise.  It's about 16 miles roundtrip.
Eventually, we had to wrap up another idyllic 10 days in Maine by packing up our rental house and hitting the road. One thing about a rental house -- you do have to clean the house before you leave, wash all the towels and linens that you used, and put some elbow grease into it before you pack up -- it's not like checking out of a hotel. It is however, in our opinion, eminently worth it. We pretty much pretend we live here and only ventured out a couple of times to eat out at restaurants; we grilled right here at the house and did all of our cooking and meals here at the house, which is not only fun but budget friendly. We were paying for a house with a private beach why would we ever leave?

All in all, we were blessed with great weather, a staff that can run our law firm while we're away, and a simply great family. Once again, for the 15th year in a row, we had a truly magical 10 days here in Maine. I could not think of a better nickname for this State than "vacationland". If you're ever looking to plan a fun and active vacation, please consider the great state of Maine. Have a great day everyone and as always, remember to count your blessings!  <3 Mrs. Lo

Saturday, July 19, 2014


By the time this Blog is published, we will be in Kennebunkport, Maine for our 15th summer in a row.  I can scarcely believe it has been that long.  It seems like just yesterday we were packing Baby Christian into his carseat to come up here for the first time, but in fact, that was 2001. Neither of our kids can remember a time when they didn’t go to Maine for part of the Summer.  I often blog about the importance of creating and maintaining traditions for your kids and grandkids.  It’s more than just a fun thing to do, it’s actually a building block for raising happy and successful adults.  (A great read if you have time is "The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness,” by Dr. Edward Hallowell). 

There have been a lot of changes over the years but some things about our trip to Maine have remain steadfast traditions.

The first summer we came up to Kennebunkport, we only stayed for a long weekend.  We were still building our careers and I was only working part-time, so it was a financial stretch for us to come to such a “fancy” place.   We ended up falling in love with the beautiful, pristine beaches of Kennebunkport, and the sleepy, quaint New England village where cars actually STOP when you're in the crosswalk and life moves at about the pace of fictional Mayberry.  We vowed to come back every year.  We came home, learned to cut coupons, collect our loose change and started a vacation club account.

By the time Michael was born, in 2004, we were able to rent a house a few blocks from the beach.  Michael was just 5 months old when he first came to Maine.  Christian towed him around in a little red flexible flyer wagon, that we used for many years.  That was the year I forgot to pack Michael’s clothes and had to run out to the mall two towns over just to clothe him (hey, everybody makes mistakes!).

Over the past 15 years we started our own law firm and have other businesses, we have both worked very hard, lived modestly, and God has blessed us with success.  We now go up to Kennebunkport for a week and a half and rent a house with a private beach.  The first thing we do when we arrive is park the car, pile out and head straight to the ocean just to feel the waves at our feet and our toes in the sand, there's nothing quite like it.

Every summer, the first thing I do is make a grocery run, which is necessary with all rental houses.  I started out being able to walk into town to the village grocery store with the red wagon and haul back enough food for the week.  At some point, I had to move on to driving to the Supermarket one town over.  Now, I take one of the boys and head for the nearest Sam’s Club; it's four towns over, but it’s well worth the trip.  We pretend we live here and eat almost every meal right at the kitchen table or on the back porch facing the ocean.  Anthony grills up burgers or chicken, and I make the fixins’.  Sometimes we will walk into town after dinner for ice cream or knick knack shopping but usually we just sit and watch the waves roll in.

Our days are pretty simple -- we spend them at the beach.  We might squeeze in a trip to the Boardwalk or the waterparks but in general, the kids spend pretty much the whole day boogie boarding, body surfing and building sand castles.  The first time Christian was able to boogie board on his own was a major victory, complete with hundreds of photos and videos.  Anthony and I used to go in the waves to “lifeguard” him.  Now Christian is the “lifeguard” and takes Michael out to boogie board.  One summer, my heart was in my throat as I watched Michael go INTO a wave and not come out right away; I didn’t see my older son either.  But that was because Christian had gone in to retrieve him.  Michael was able to swim back on his own with Christian kind of pushing him from behind.  Five minutes later they were both back boogie boarding like nothing had happened.  

We only eat at one restaurant -- we make an annual trek into town to Bartley’s Dockside Restaurant where they serve the best lobster in town, the only dessert on the menu is Mrs. B’s homemade blueberry pie, and the owner always comes out to greet us.  Every year, we include a trip to the old-fashioned candy store and to the book store in town.  We have also made an annual tradition out of renting kayaks and paddling the Kennebunk River together. 

This is really the only 10 days of the year that we truly relax, unwind, and connect again as a family; just the four of us, with Nana and Pop Pop always coming up to stay in a B & B for a few days and join us on the beach.  It’s time together that we look forward to all year.  Okay, I think it might be fair to say we live for our time in Maine.  

Of course, time will march on when we get back -- there will be Summer Rowing Camp, Freshman football starting in August, and theatre academy at Just Off Broadway for Michael.  I will be busy getting ready for Michael's return to Bishop Dunn and Christian's freshman year at Don Bosco Prep.

But none of that will matter for the 10 days that we are at our idyllic beach house in Maine.  For that wonderful, magical period, Time won’t just slow down, it will stand still.

Have lots of fun this summer creating your own Summer traditions, whether it’s time at the beach, camping, backyard campfires, or outings at the park.  And, as always, remember to Count Your Blessings!  <3 Mrs. Lo 
For more of the Mrs. Lo Blog, go to (photo of the LoBiondo boys in Kennebunkport, Summer 2013)