Summer vacation adventures special needs-style: A Loving Journey

It’s that time a year again when we all are thinking about summer vacation. One thing I get asked a lot is if having special needs kids keeps us from going on vacation. Absolutely not! We still do family vacations regardless of our special needs twins. Even camping! And I’m not talking RV camping, I’m talking tent camping.

So how do we do it?

Well, we keep in mind our sons’ needs when choosing a vacation spot. For example, for places with larger crowds we may need to bring along his noise-canceling headphones or take a break throughout the day in an area away from noise and people. We keep in mind how long we are out and about on vacation.

Camping is great way to save money and have a fun and memorable family vacation. We started with a camping trip as our first-ever family vacation, and as a dry run for an actual big vacation. We stayed at the camp site for a weekend to try it out: it went well and the kids loved it. The only thing we overdid was packing too much stuff. But now I know for next time exactly what we need to bring camping with special needs twins

When we go camping, we need to get a tent site with electric for Alex’s nebulizer or any other medical equipment or machines. Alex sleeps cozy on an air mattress during camping trips because of his CP.
For great family-friendly camping spots, check online through the PA websites. Check out the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources website for information on accessibility in Pennsylvania State Parks. The camping spot we had was handicap friendly and it didn’t cost any extra. We were even fairly close to the lake front.

Having a kid in a wheelchair makes going on vacation a real deal for planning; we have to make sure that travel destinations are handicap accessible. Luckily, many places do offer handicap accessible actives. Even beaches have handicap ramps down to the ocean.

One of the things you have to remember when planning a family vacation is simply to ask if you are not sure. Most people are understanding and friendly and will help you with accommodations. Some restaurants even offer a menu for people with food allergies.

When booking a hotel for vacation, keep in mind that many hotels will let kids under a certain age stay for free or discount and many hotels offer free breakfast. This will keep vacation cost down.

Now, for parents needing an adults-only vacation, look into respite care services or to family and friends to help watch your special needs child. It is always good to have a chance to charge your battery away from the kids, even if for a weekend. My husband and I have already gone on vacations for just the two of us to the Pocono Mountains, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and a bed and breakfast in Gettysburg. It is a nice experience to get away from your kids and the annoying sound of an alarm clock from time to time. When my husband and I get away just the two of us on vacation, we will pick up brochures and even take a look around at the place and see if our kids would love to visit in the future. Yet again, planning ahead for a family vacation.

Check back soon and I will have more tips and tricks for camping with special needs kids. There are so many more details to share, from keeping your kids in their tents and not going astray, to how to take your special needs child fishing. Yep, we have even done family fishing trips with Alex in his wheelchair! All you need to do is be a little creative, plan and be brave enough to go out on your family adventure. Have lots of fun with the family this summer and go somewhere you have always wanted to go. Be adventurous and have fun.

Trish Schaeffer is a mom of three boys—two with special needs—and a blogger for Central Penn Parent. Follow her at www.centralpennparent.com/A-Loving-Journey. You can follow Trish on Twitter @Alovingjourney and on her Facebook group A Loving Journey-Parents of special needs kids.

7 reasons to take your Lego-loving kid to the new Legoland Discovery Center in Philadelphia


Family travel blogger Karen Bumbaugh of Been There Done That with Kids is giving Central Penn Parent readers a sneak peek of the new Legoland Discovery Center just outside Philadelphia in Plymouth Meeting. Slated for a grand opening on Thursday, April 6, Legoland Discovery Center is definitely road trip-worthy, and Karen shares seven great reasons to load up the car and head east!

Legos have played a part in childhood creativity for decades. For the same amount of time, parents have been stepping on Legos while trying to sneak out of a sleeping child’s room in the dark. Dang, they can be excruciating on bare feet.

What started as little interlocking bricks has blossomed into a movement—from teaching children how to construct sturdy buildings, to creating fast race cars and programing their first robot. Legos even grow up with the child as kids move from Duplo to Juniors, and then branch out into Lego brands like Friends, Ninjago or Mindstorms. Even my 30-something husband has his eye on a Star Wars Lego Death Star, but I’m not sure he has the patience (or the time) to build it.

It hasn’t stopped with just the bricks, either. Lego now has movies, games, clothing and theme parks to keep their fans occupied. With the recent opening of a Legoland Discovery Center in Plymouth Meeting Mall near Philadelphia, we now have easy access to a Legoland close to Central Pennsylvania, where we can be easily swept into the Lego universe.

Here are 7 reasons to make the trek east on the Turnpike for your child’s Lego adventure.

1. It’s a place where magic wands actually work. An interactive ride greets kids at the doors of Legoland, where they can use a magic wand to burst bubbles, open clam shells and even blast stars in outer space. It’s a great way to get excited about the fun awaiting at the end of the ride.

2. You can visit the entire city of Philadelphia in record time. It’s the city, built in miniature, completely out of Legos. The time it must have taken to construct is astounding. There’s the Philadelphia Museum of Art, complete with Rocky running up the stairs. One and Two Liberty Place tower over the miniature city, along with City Hall and even the stadium. If you wait until dark, there’s an extra special surprise that appears above the river.


3.There’s an area for every age and Lego skill level.

The Discovery Center has multiple stations for Lego play, and while stations vary by subject, they also vary in size and skill level. There’s large, softer bricks for the toddlers and the traditional small brick stations for the big kids. For those advanced in Lego building, there’s a creation station to make race cars that I couldn’t even figure out, but somehow the 7-year-old beside me was managing just fine.

4. Kids can join their Lego characters on a 4D adventure.

It now seems like kids expect movies to come to life in front of them. Upon entering the theater inside the Discovery Center, my daughter shrieked as she thought a bird was flying right by her face. Not only is the movie 3D, but the smells, splashes and vibrations the Lego characters experience come into the theatre as well. Yes, you read that right, I said smells. It’s not that bad, actually.


5. Not only can you exercise kids’ minds, but also their legs.

For kids who need to burn off some energy after sitting and building with Legos for hours, there’s a multi-level pirate ship ready for active play. If you’re visiting during sandal season, make sure to bring socks for your kids; they are required.

6. It’s possible to race cars and kids at the same time.

How many times have you seen a kid push a toy car down a slide ahead of them? Legoland has a slide that’s built just for this purpose with a kid’s slide right beside a race track. Now your kids can construct their fastest, most aero-dynamic race car and actually race it down the slide.


7. You can check out the other kid-friendly activities the mall has to offer.

Plymouth Meeting Mall isn’t your typical mall with a nice fountain in between rows of stores. Well, it does have a nice fountain, but there’s more. The mall features a kid’s play area outside the Legoland Discovery Station, as well as a two-story carousel.

If you read these reasons to your Lego-loving kids, and they are now jumping around the house in pure excitement, you can plan your own Legoland adventure with their Grand Opening on April 6th.

Legoland Discovery Center Philadelphia
Plymouth Meeting Mall, Unit #1055
500 West Germantown Pike
Plymouth Meeting, PA 19462

Mon-Sat 10 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Sunday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Timed entry tickets for all days
Discounted online prices start at $19



Karen Bumbaugh is an Information Technology professional who enjoys spending quality time with her husband and two children, ages 1 and 5. Outside of her family and career, her passion is helping parents find places to have fun with their children.  In 2014, she founded “Been There Done That with Kids” a website and blog that includes trip reports, tips, and ways to prepare for family outings. Follow Karen and “Been There Done That with Kids” on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and BeenThereDoneThatWithKids.com.

Saddle up the horses for my next big adventure!: Southern Yankee

We’ve been on several Southern Yankee Journey’s together—from season changes and Southern fashion to sightseeing and Texas travels. Now I have another exciting journey that I’d like to invite you to join.

For me this journey has already started, so I’ll need to give you some background info to bring you up to speed. Pour yourself a Mason jar of sweet tea and sit down for a spell.

I’ve done my fair share of traveling, and I will admit that my Southern “bent” for adventure is not much different from that of my Northern friends. There are places I love to travel that most people would also like to visit:

  • In 2009, my husband and I enjoyed a wonderful trip to London and sang at the same hall the Beatles performed.
  • On a Caribbean cruise vacation, my husband and I had a blast with close friends while visiting the islands and beaches.
  • Through our church’s outreach, I’ve had some great times helping others with church planting and missions in Mexico.
  • Throughout my life, I’ve lived in three different states (well…maybe that’s not on everyone’s adventure check list).
  • Creating countless memories with family and friends on all my adventures? Check!

In between the travels of the past seven years, my husband and I have been planting roots in Central Pennsylvania. Since our first visit to the area, we knew that this was going to be our forever home and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed the immersion (or, as my family would say, “brainwashing”) into the Yankee lifestyle.

At the start of this year, we made an offer on a great home in Central Pennsylvania and will be relocating in March – one last move!

In of our 10 years of marriage, my husband and I have enjoyed many wonderful and awe-inspiring moments, but we’ve only experienced life as a couple. Yes, like many couples, we’ve be trying to add to our family. Sure, like most newly-weds, we added a four-legged member—Mikey, our deer head Chihuahua—but we don’t have little ones.

This past week, I had been struggling with some sickness; I’ve heard from many of our readers that they have been experiencing the same sickness. So after a few days of lingering illness, I knew I needed to see my docs over at Lancaster General. I thought this would be an easy visit, maybe get some antibiotics and hear the usual remedies: drink plenty of water and get some rest.

To my surprise, my normal 10-minute appointment turned into a several-hour appointment.

Towards the end of my appointment, my doctor asked if I was pregnant. My response of course was no; and if I was pregnant, it would be a miracle since my husband and I have been trying for 10 years.

After doing blood work and then moving straight to the sonogram, I let out a loud scream—which may not have been a good idea to do in the hospital as I was instantly swarmed with docs and nurses asking if I was OK.

My immediate reply was “I’m better than OK. You’re seeing a miracle.”

That’s right, I am now 11 weeks into my first pregnancy after a 10-year journey and I can’t wait for this new and exciting chapter in my life.

Care to join me on this journey? Saddle up the horses and let’s ride!



Laura Page is a self-proclaimed “Southern Yankee” and invites readers to experience the lifestyles, culture, places and happenings within Central Pennsylvania through the eyes of a Texas girl. Email Laura at [email protected]

Waco, ‘Fixer Upper,’ and visiting my hometown in Texas: Southern Yankee

The new year is upon us and that means many of us have made a few resolutions, some that we’ll keep and some we’ve already broken. One of my resolutions this year is to become a better home improvement aficionado, since neither my husband or myself are very handy when it comes to home improvements.

Home improvement shows seem to be all the rage and everyone has their favorite program. One of the widely popular home improvement TV shows has been “Fixer Upper” with Chip and Joanna Gaines of Waco, Texas – my hometown! Wouldn’t it be fun to make a New Year’s resolution to travel to the great State of Texas and visit Chip and Joanna in Waco?

Magnolia Market (from City of Waco website) Magnolia Market (Photos from City of Waco website)

When packing for your trip to Texas, there are a few things you’ll want to leave behind.

First, you’ll need to leave behind the “yous, you-ens, yous guys” and any other plural form of you that doesn’t start or end with “y’all.” Second, ya might consider leaving behind the heavy coats if traveling to Texas during the winter. And when I say “winter,” I mean “January 1st to January 31”—yes, winter is very short in Central Texas. In fact, my parents told me that this past Christmas Day, the temperature was in the 70s with the AC running. Lastly, you’ll want to leave behind your spurs; it’s a common misconception that everyone in Texas rides a horse.

Dr. Pepper Museum Dr. Pepper Museum

Waco is a large city with a population of over 130,000 residents, but has a small hometown feel. Your Texas destination trip to Waco should include some well know sites, such as the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame, the Waco Mammoth National Monument and recently preserved woolly mammoth, the Magnolia Market at the Silos (owned and operated by Chip and Joanna Gaines), the Dr. Pepper Museum (Waco is the home of Dr. Pepper), and you can make a drive past the Crawford Ranch aka “The Western White House”—the popular living space for former president George W. and Laura Bush.


Waco Mammoth National Monument

Waco Mammoth National Monument

In Waco, you’ll have plenty of choices for great places to rest your bones and hang your spurs—well, maybe not your spurs, since I said you should leave them at home.

If you are a true follower of Chip and Joanna and want the full Fixer Upper Experience, you could make early reservations to stay at the Magnolia House in McGregor, a small suburb not far from Waco.

There are many great restaurants and eateries to check out in Waco and you can’t go wrong with a Tex-Mex menu! A few Waco original recommendations would be Uncle Dan’s BBQ, Schmaltz’s Sandwich Shoppe, La Fiesta Restaurant & Cantina and Leal’s authentic Mexican. And no Southern Yankee-trip would be complete without a visit to your local Whataburger (pronounced “waterburger,” best burgers around).


Your Texas travel destination may include other great stops like Austin, San Antonio and Dallas/Fort Worth. But deep in the heart of Texas, the city across the Brazos River that connects each of these great hubs, you’ll find Waco.

See y’all there.




Laura Page is a self-proclaimed “Southern Yankee” and invites readers to experience the lifestyles, culture, places and happenings within Central Pennsylvania through the eyes of a Texas girl. Email Laura at [email protected]m

The Zika virus: Should winter travelers worry?

The infected mosquito sits on the skin. Virus. Concept

The Zika virus has garnered a lot of worldwide attention and has been a specific cause for alarm in some parts of the United States, particularly the South and Eastern seaboard.

The virus is spread primarily though the bite of an infected mosquito (specifically the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus) and also can be spread through sexual contact.

Not everyone who is infected shows symptoms and of those who do, most are mild. However, the largest concern is that infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly and other severe brain defects.

“I think it’s something to be aware of,” said George McSherry, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Disease at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Children’s Hospital.

However, McSherry said there’s no reason to overreact. “For someone who lives in Central Pennsylvania and doesn’t go anywhere, the risk is essentially zero,” he said.

For those planning to travel or considering a trip to an area where Zika might be present, McSherry recommended checking with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, www.cdc.gov, which has a comprehensive list of areas that might best be avoided.

Kenneth Oken, who specializes in obstetrics and gynecology at PinnacleHealth’s Women First, Obstetrics & Gynecology, P.C. in Harrisburg, agrees that the risk of contracting Zika in Central Pennsylvania is basically nil.

“There have been no reports of the virus being contracted in Pennsylvania,” Oken said. “If you or your partner are traveling to an area with the virus, i.e. Florida — specifically Miami — you should take precautions.”

McSherry said he agrees with the CDC’s recommendation that if a woman is pregnant or planning to get pregnant, she should just not travel certain locations. He understands that people plan vacations or family events, and it might be hard to pass on those celebrations.

“The odds are you aren’t going to get it,” he said. But there’s always a chance and McSherry said people must weigh if even the chance of infection is worth it. “People should be cautious,” he said.

Since the disease can be transmitted through sexual contact, people whose partners have been to an area with Zika need to be careful as well, he said.

McSherry said about 80 percent of infections are asymptomatic, meaning they don’t show any of even the relatively tame symptoms of joint pain, fever or rash. But the virus can remain in a person’s blood for three days and semen for 24 days.

Because some genetic material of Zika can stay in a man’s system for up to 180 days, experts recommend that men who are infected should refrain from unprotected sex for six months.

Because Zika has a shorter risk period in women, experts recommend women refrain from trying to get pregnant for 8 weeks after an infection.

The good news in those numbers, McSherry said, is that Zika does work its way out of peoples’ systems. It doesn’t stick around indefinitely or stay dormant. The main health risk is not to the adult carrier, but to a potential human fetus.

Oken said the Zika virus was first identified more than 50 years ago and was first identified outside of Africa and Asia in 2007.

“It is unknown what the future holds as to whether this outbreak continues, but to date women in Pennsylvania should not be concerned unless they or their partners travel to an area with Zika virus,” Oken said.

McSherry said he is not particularly concerned about the potential for a widespread Zika outbreak. He said there are many examples of diseases that travel in the mosquito community infected with Zika that have been able to be safely managed. And many of the ways to protect against infection  —  wear clothes that cover your skin, sleep in areas with screens or windows that keep mosquitoes out, use CDC-recommended sprays to help prevent mosquito bites  —  are things most people are doing already.

As far as sprays, McSherry pointed to the CDC’s list of recommended ingredients to help protect against Zika. Those include DEET, Picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD) and 2-undecanone. McSherry said that if parents use the sprays the way in which they are intended (reading and following dosing and application labels), those sprays are safe for everyone over 2 months old.

Oken said although the Zika virus should pose little threat to a child, even if infected, parents who have concerns about possible infection should contact their pediatrician. He stressed though, that most people have little to worry about.

“Only one in five people who become infected become ill,” he said. “Symptoms of the virus are often mild fever, rash, headache and joint pain but for most parents and children the virus is usually not an issue.”

 Lisa Maddux is a freelance writer who lives in Boiling Springs with her husband and two daughters.


New Year’s resolutions my kids and husband made for me, with love

I really dislike making New Year’s resolutions. Because, honestly, who am I kidding?

No, I’m not going to change my exercise habits. Maybe I’ll add another 15 minutes to my weekly jaunt on the elliptical, but I won’t train for a marathon and I’m not taking up parkour.

I’m not going to make a dent in any 100 Books You Should Read Before You Die list, at least not this year. Maybe I’ll reread “The Great Gatsby,” that one’s fairly brief, as word count goes. But there’s no way I’m tackling “The Complete Works of Shakespeare,” especially not Henry VI, Parts 1, 2 and 3.

I most likely won’t repaint the entire downstairs of our house, something that’s been on my to-do list for the past 10 years. And, anyway, I’ve grown to love the various and colorful smudges along the walls. I never did get around to filling out the pages of my kids’ baby books — you know, “Write about baby’s first dinner” and “On this date, baby took her first step!” — so the handprints and crayon marks along the hallway are a kind of compendium of childhood.

But along with holiday decorations, eating cookies and attempting to return sweaters without a gift receipt, making New Year’s resolutions is both a tradition and an obligation.

So, this year, I asked my family what resolutions they think I should make. (I know…a brave and stupid thing to do. Probably more stupid.)

Here’s what they said.

Ten-year-old son:

“You should pick up your socks. You leave socks everywhere. Also, you should take me to New York City.”

It’s true, I do leave my socks everywhere. I don’t like wearing shoes or socks, because I breathe through my feet. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Also, I do owe my youngest child a trip to New York City. The last few times I travelled to N.Y.C., it was with my teens, and they spent hours in bookstores looking for manga books. I need to make a solo trip with my son to see the more touristy sites. This is a resolution I can keep.

Fifteen-year-old daughter:

“You need to enforce the Everyone Does Their Own Dishes rule. Also, you need to take me to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.”

A few years ago, our dishwasher broke and we never replaced it. Well, I suppose we did replace it — with my two daughters. Every night now, I hear complaints of “These are not my dirty dishes, why should I have to wash them?” (Whatever, kids. I mean that with love.)

As far as a trip to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, well, that’s more like it. I suppose I could add “travel more” as a New Year’s resolution, as long as no one is asking for weeklong trips to the French Riviera.

Seventeen-year-old daughter:

“You need to stop leaving glasses around the house. Also, you need to get more sleep.”

Guilty as charged, on both counts. And, OK, we evidently have a problem with dishes in our house.

As far as getting more sleep, all I can say is being a parent and getting more sleep are mutually exclusive, my dear.

But, sure thing, I’ll try to get more rest in. You all can help by doing the dishes without me badgering you.

Husband’s suggestions:

“You need to put your car keys in the same place every time so you know where they are. You need to turn off your laptop for at least 10 minutes every two hours. You need to eat more leafy green vegetables.”

Harrumph! As far as I’m concerned, I do put my keys in the same place every time. I have no idea why they end up everywhere else. My best guess is frequent, unregistered earthquakes centered beneath our house. Or key gremlins.

And yes, I do spend a lot of time on my laptop. However, my laptop is also my source of income. I probably need more balance in my life. I’ll work on that as soon as the final two credit cards are paid off.

As for eating more leafy green vegetables, yes, I can do that. I love leafy greens. Especially when my husband buys, cooks and serves them. (See what I did there?)

OK, that wasn’t too painful. And I do believe I can keep some of these resolutions. In fact, right now I’m pouring myself a glass of juice, taking my socks off and using my laptop to plan a trip to New York City.

We might even go this weekend…if I can find my car keys.

When Josette isn’t managing Central Penn Parent’s social media sites, she’s at a local ice rink, skating or watching hockey; or she’s threatening her children when they refuse to practice their clarinet–just mild threats, like “You’ll never play Minecraft again if I don’t hear scales in the next 10 minutes.” You can email her at [email protected]