Our Journey Raising Two Children with Special Needs

This blog chronicles our life raising two children, Nicholas 14, diagnosed with Prader-Willi Syndrome and Weston 17, diagnosed with Autism/Asperger's/ADHD. It's the ups, the downs, the joys, the sorrows and most importantly, the beauty of living a life less perfect, a life more meaningful.

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Thanksgiving Adventure

We have returned from our Thanksgiving vacation.

I am happy to report, we feel rested and relaxed.

We feel like we have been away for a month...a sign to me that we enjoyed our holiday.

So, where did we go, you ask?

We spent our Thanksgiving here......

This is the Mountain View Grand Hotel in Whitefield, New Hampshire 
Pretty cool huh?

This is one of America's old "grand" hotels and is surrounded by the beauty of New Hampshire's White Mountains.

In 1865, it was a small family farm owned by the Dodge family. Visitors en route to Montreal, whose stage coach had broken down, asked to stay over for the night. The visit was such a success, the family decided to open their farm as an inn to weary travelers. Over the years, many additions were made and in 1912, it joined the ranks of the prestigious elite White Mountain hotels. It could accommodate up to 200 guests.

But unfortunately, due to rising fuel costs and a lack of travelers, the hotel began to struggle and officially closed its doors in 1985.

It was purchased in 1998 by a young Massachusetts entrepreneur and after a $20 million restoration project, opened its doors again in 2002.

To me, the hotel feels like a smaller, more intimate version of the Mount Washington Hotel. It is very family friendly with lots of extras to entertain young children. There is a pool, a farm, a playground, a game room, a movie theatre and plenty of open space with breathtaking views. There is also a 121 ft wind turbine that completely and efficiently powers the entire hotel. There are two restaurants, a spa, a golf course and romantic horse drawn carriage rides.

Our drive up from Massachusetts was long and uneventful. At first the scenery consists mainly of views like this....

Lots of pine and birch trees with distant views of the mountains.

As we proceed northward, the mountains become closer...

Until finally just ahead you can make out Franconia Notch.

This was the infamous location of the "Old Man of the Mountain".  Located on the side of Cannon Mountain,the "Old Man" was a natural rock formation shaped into the profile of an old man's face. It was first discovered in 1805 and became a well-known scenic viewing spot for many visitors to the New Hampshire area.

From Wikipedia:
Daniel Webster wrote:

 "Men hang out their signs indicative of their respective trades; shoe makers hang out a gigantic shoe; jewelers a monster watch, and the dentist hangs out a gold tooth; but up in the Mountains of New Hampshire, God Almighty has hung out a sign to show that there He makes men."

Nathaniel Hawthorne used the Old Man as inspiration for his short story "The Great Stone Face," published in 1850, in which he described the formation as "a work of Nature in her mood of majestic playfulness."

Unfortunately, the Old Man's face collapsed in May of 2003.

Here is a composite photo of the before and after.

photo via wikipedia
As we drive closer to Franconia Notch, we see the impressive basin carved by icy glaciers of long ago.

It isn't long before we drive between the mountain pass known as Franconia Notch:

On the left, this giant mountain looms. My photo, unfortunately, does not do this granite monster any justice. It is very impressive to drive by such a towering sheet of rock and fallen stone.

On the right is another mountain ledge.

Twenty minutes later, we arrive at the sun-drenched Mountain View Grand Hotel. It seems to be welcoming us with a sunny smile.

The hotel is surrounded by spectacular views of the mountains. This is the view from the veranda of the hotel. The sun sets behind this mountain range transforming it into a warm orange silhouette every evening.

A couple taking a horse drawn carriage ride at dusk. Notice the orange glow?

Nine-hole golf course, the gazebo and more of the orange glow.

As we entered the hotel, Nicholas was thrilled to see this.....

A giant kid-sized ginger bread house where children could play inside. (It smelled delicious filling the lobby with the smell of  Christmas)

And of course, no hotel stay would be complete for Nicholas without one of these roaring brightly in the lobby.

Next, we took a ride on this.

The oldest working electric elevator in the country. It required an operator to transport us and all our luggage to the third floor. I don't know how we were able to fit...but we did!

We made our way to our room, notice the lovely hallway bookshelves and decorations

We were delighted by the beautiful accommodations.

The bed was large and very comfortable. 
Hubby was pleased with the plethora of puffy pillows.
The bathroom was the size of a small dance hall.

 Later we visited the Tavern downstairs for dinner, where the hostess sat our little fire-lover here.

After dinner, the energy-burning Weston took a splash in the indoor pool.

Nicholas and I did some splashing of our own.

In the pool area was a spa, a weight room and this.....

A huge bubbly jacuzzi.
The hotel has many large rooms for playing board games or reading.

The next morning it was once again to the Tavern for breakfast. Yummy Eggs Benedict with fresh strawberries.

After breakfast, we visited the barn where the hotel's farmer discussed the fresh fruits and vegetables they grow on the farm. All are used daily on the menu by the hotel chef, including fresh eggs. She introduced us to their large collection of animals.

There were llamas


The group of goats on the platform in the back were like a rock and roll band.
They behaved like rock stars too as they would not let any of the other animal onto their stage!
There were bunnies

And instruction from the farmer on horse whispering.
This really resonated with the nature-loving Weston.


Chickens laying fresh eggs every day for the chef
This hen took a liking to the mild mannered Nicholas

Even some cattle

After our visit to the farm we checked out another of Nick's favorites..

The camp fire where they roast marshmallows and s'mores every night.

Behind us there was a man (in the red jacket) teaching the art of axe throwing!
A big hit with many of the guests.
The dirt area where they are standing is the soon-to-be outdoor ice skating rink.

It was finally time for an early dinner.

Both of my children suffer from sensory issues.
We try to avoid eating when dinning halls are filled to capacity.

The room was empty with the exception of a few families with small children who also seemed to be trying to avoid the crowd and noise.

There was a small group of musicians in the dinning room playing music rather loudly for the patrons. Weston was unfortunately overwhelmed by the noise. He had forgotten his ipod in our room. He ate quickly and requested that he be granted permission to visit the game room where he had made some new friends and learned to shoot some pool. Pete was relieved since it meant he did not have to accompany Weston into the other pool. (Did I mention hubby hates the water?)

A photo of the men

After dinner, Nicholas and I explored the hotel grounds.

We found a hiking trail that took us to many scenic vistas

We ended the day with a request from Nicholas to sit here for awhile.

Staff at the hotel were professional and courteous.
We befriended our lovely Peruvian waitress named Jasmin.
She was working at the hotel to earn money for her schooling.

We were sad to be leaving for home the next morning.
But all of us were ready to sleep soundly in our own beds.

As we checked out of the hotel, staff were hanging holiday decorations.
The hotel felt festive and happy.

Many families were just arriving for the weekend.

I snapped a few more photos before we left.

It was a relaxing and wonderful retreat.
We have found our peace once again.