Thursday, September 25, 2014

Summer Travelin' - Houston & San Antonio

I'm getting so far detached from summer that if I don't soon document it, I'll let it slide.  Recently I looked through some pictures on our camera and computer and thought, "Too bad I never blogged about that".  Most of those pictures are over a year old now.  So here's a whirlwind report of our summer travels. (Sadly, our camera is lost, with most of our pictures of TX, but I did take a couple of camera phone pictures).

In mid July we flew to Houston to visit my two brothers and their families.  Earlier in the Spring Matt and I decided that we'd add an extra leg to our summer travels so we could vacation somewhere other than Utah - which isn't bad at all, but we want to see other places too:) .

And we had the perfect excuse.  My brother's youngest daughter was going to be baptized, my parents would be visiting too, so that meant everyone would be there, except my sister's family.  It was the closest thing to a family reunion on my side of the family that we'd get for this year.

It was awesome!  My brothers live 30 or so minutes from each other so we stayed at one's house and played at the other.

The baptism was lovely and our children LOVED being with cousins.  They swam, played, and enjoyed being together.

When we lived in CT we never went to a Red Sox game, something we somewhat regret, but we had the chance to see them play during our TX visit.  The first half of the game was spent going from one seating area to another as my brother would call us and say, "come down to section x, seats 1,2,3. The view is MUCH better."  Then we'd get there and he wasn't there.  Soon he'd call and say, "we found another place, and it's MUCH better."  We decided to stay put since my mother's knees were tired of the work out:).  It was a lot of fun, and so good to be with my family!

Afterwards there was a big fireworks show.  Our children stayed up until midnight - CST, 1 a.m. Eastern, and all this after getting up at 4 a.m. EST to drive to BWI for our flight.  Needless  to say, we were beat.

After a fun weekend together we left early Monday morning and drove to San Antonio.  It's close about 3 1/2 -4 hours from Houston.  My brother had business in SA so he drove us there, and made sure to introduce us to more TX flare, including a stop at Buc-ee's (pronounced Bucky's).  It's a gas station/convenience store, but it is more of a destination than anything.  Probably 50 fueling up stations (not exaggerating), and a HUGE convenience store, which really is a mini mall.  The bathrooms were awesome too.  Good grief it was a spectacle.  When we got to SA my brother said goodbye for the day and dropped us off at Sea World.  Going to Sea World on a Monday was the best decision!  The crowds were very minimal.  We saw every show we could squeeze in, went on The Ride to Atlantis at least 3x's, got soaked, and took in all the other rides we could muster.  It was SO HOT!  But we applied sun screen at least four times and kept refilling our water.  I think that's what saved us from heat stroke.

Later that night my brother came back, picked us up and took us out to eat for some real Texas BBQ.  It was a place called Rudy's Country Store.  Which is kind of weird to have a restaurant in the midst of a store, but it was way cool.  The food was good and we were tired after a fun day.

Tuesday morning Jeremy dropped us off at the Alamo.  We LOVED it!  Wes had just finished reading a book about Davey Crockett so he kept chattering on about Davey Crockett this, and Davey Crockett that.  It was awesome.  We watched a movie about it in the hospital wing (stone rooms) and toured through the beautiful gardens.  It's much smaller than I envisioned, and right smack dab in the middle of town.

After that we walked to the San Antonio River Walk.  One of our Stake Presidency members had suggested we take a boat tour on the river, and I'm so glad we did!  It was awesome!  The tour guide was a dry-humored, older gentleman who added the perfect touch.  The river walk is the #1 tourist attraction in San Antonio.  It's lined with shops and restaurants.  You have to walk down several steps to get to it and there are trees and flowers everywhere.  It was just so tropically beautiful!  More detail about the River Walk ... it's one story below the main streets in SA.  It was designed to help control flooding of the area, blending natural and man-made elements.

After the tour we went to The Republic of Texas restaurant, another recommendation from a friend.  And then walked back to the Alamo to meet my brother.  He taxied us off to the airport where we caught our flight to Salt Lake City.

What a perfect detour!  We absolutely loved it.  And even though it was a relatively quick stay (even quicker for Matt, who couldn't fly in until Sunday), it was filled with family, great food and plenty of fun!  I told Matt that I'll have a hard time going back to a regular trip to Utah again, now that we've done this detour.  I think it's going to have to become somewhat of a regular part of the trip, somewhere new every time, of course. :)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Quaintness of Life on the Eastern Shore

Yesterday was one of those days you have to remember.  We started it off by spending a couple of hours at the Cove.  It's a small beach area on the Chesapeake Bay side of the Eastern Shore.  It's perfect because the water is really no more than waist high for children for a couple hundred yards.  The only downside can be the tiny jellyfish which seem to come more when the water has warmed - which hasn't been a problem this year.

Sophie, Joshua and I are still on our own for a few more days so one of our jobs is Matt's garden.  It's a plot of land owned by a ward member's father about 20-25 minutes from our house.  It's one of Matt's hobbies.  It's where he gets to be a little bit of the farmer that he really is.  :)  We have a smaller garden at our house, but this other one is where Matt gets to really dig in.

Based on the geography of our home, the Cove, and our bigger garden, it made more sense to go directly from the Cove to the garden via the ferry.

The Eastern Shore has quite a few waterways throughout it, and a few of them have ferries.  It's very cool, and hasn't gotten old in the four years we've been here.  So Joshua, Sophie and I took off from our morning at the beach and explored the back roads of the Shore.  It was beautiful!  If I weren't driving I would've provided pictures. 

Soon we were in line for the ferry.
Sophie asked who lived in that big house.  When I told her it was a Bed & Breakfast, kind of like a hotel, she said it didn't look like a hotel.  :)

These small ferries hold two vehicles, or maybe three small cars.  Soon enough the ferry had made its way back to our side and we and the truck in front of us drove on board.
It's a short ride, less than five minutes, but pretty awesome.

We wound our way through more back country and I kept thinking, "I'd be willing to drive a little farther to church and shopping to be able to live out here."

Soon we were at our garden.  Holy Smoke, Matt would be proud.  It's doing awesome!  In fact I was ill-prepared for the bounty.  So we ended up turning on the water, weeding a bit, filling our 6-gallon bucket with tomatoes and other produce, and then took off farther south to the nearest town to get another bucket.  The plan was to visit a local creamery for a tasty Eastern Shore ice cream cone as well, but I couldn't seem to find the place.  I have a better idea of where it is now, so that's on our to-do list at the end of the week when we go to harvest more.

When we got back to the garden we turned off the water and picked some more.  We ended up with this.
So today our home smells of onions, tomatoes and garlic as we make spaghetti sauce.  Sophia loves the idea of harvesting and preserving food for the winter.  She's a true Laura Ingalls Wilder kind of gal and true gardener at heart.  She'll often say that we need to go check "our crops". 

What a wonderful day.  We returned home so thankful for where we live and the simple pleasure of a garden.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Capitol Fourth

By this point all my intentions of staying in chronological order have gone out the window.  With that in mind, here's a bucket list event we checked off in July.

Matt's a huge fan of PBS Memorial Day and Independence Day programs, the one's that usually rerun on a Sunday night of music, celebrities and a whole lot of patriotic fanfare.  Ever since we moved here he thought it would be fun to go to one of these celebrations at the U.S. Captiol, but the idea of throngs of humanity kept us away.  Finally last year he said, "Let's go for the Capitol Fourth." 

Armed with advice from friends who've gone, we parked at one of the farthest out train stations and commuted in.  After weaving our way through security we found there was plenty of lawn space in front of the Capitol, as long as you were okay with being in the wings.  We were totally fine with that, and settled in for a couple hour wait before the show started.  Some of our friends came shortly after and that added to the fun.
By the time the show started it was pretty packed, but there was room enough to dance along if you wanted to ... which Sophia did.  :)
The show was surprisingly short - only about 75-90 minutes, which was just perfect for our crew.  The fireworks themselves were only 15-20 minutes long.  But it was pretty cool seeing them with the backdrop of the Washington Monument.

A ton of people started packing up to leave just as the fireworks were starting, so by the time they were finished, we left with relative ease.  We walked back to the underground station.  We had to wait in a line for about 15 minutes to get onto the jam-packed trains, but we learned later that our wait was a breeze compared with our friends' two hour wait.  They went to a station right at the heart of the Mall, along with just about every other Tom, Dick and Harry.  We got home by 1 a.m., and they rolled in at 3 a.m.  (the drive home takes about 2 1/2 hrs).

It was pretty neat.  Probably not something we'll do every year, but on occasion. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Joshua's language

This boy of ours has more personality than you can shake a stick at.

He was very non-verbal for a while and I started to wonder if he was following in Wes' footsteps, but over these last several months, he's grown into his own little language.  He's got a lisp that will either correct itself eventually (Kate's did), or we'll help him with a Smartie method that Matt's cousin shared with us last month.  But for now it's really cute.

Joshua's language is a whole lot more than verbal though ... that picture above captures it perfectly.  One of Sophia's favorite things to do now is to ask Joshua to go cross-eyed.  He's masterful at it.  He reminds me a lot of Kate, which means he doesn't require the sleep that Wes and Sophie do; he's very high energy.  Which tells me that this little guy is going places - we just need to help direct him in the right way.  ;)

Just today I was making Monkey Bread and I said, "Joshua, are you my little monkey?"  To which he answered, "No, Mommy, I a people!"

He's a keeper.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity, Jig

We had a lovely almost-3-weeks away from home in July.  I don't have the camera with me (and am hoping it's with Matt), but I do have some phone pics I've sent to myself.  At some point I'll document our trip, which included a detour to Texas, because I've committed myself to journaling more - mostly because it's so much fun to go back through and read.

But in the meantime Sophia, Joshua and I are home.  Matt, Wes, and Kate are still partying like it's 2009 (since 2/3rd of them weren't born yet  in 1999:)) in Utah. 

There was such a whirlwind of events leading up to our trip (Young Women's Camp, youth conference planning, school meetings, etc), that now that we're back, I feel a bit lost.  With no pressing deadlines, I find myself wandering.  So I've made some deadlines of my own, which all point to when our family will be reunited. 

Sophie and Joshua are making the most of it, but will tell me, no less than 3x per day, that they miss Dad, or Wes, or Kate.
We've hung out at the playground a few times and eaten fast food so many times that I'm embarrassed at my parenting skills.  But it's reminded me of how quickly I've forgotten this stage of a child's life.  It's a lot more interactive.  And it's also shown me how much attention Wes and Kate demand (not in a bad way).  They just seem to run things a little more in our home and Sophie and Joshua go along for the ride.  So when they're the only one's there, it's a very different dynamic. 

Just some observations as we're hanging out for a while.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Mud Pies

Our nephew's birthday is at the beginning of summer.  To celebrate the event and the season Kate whipped up a very artistic birthday mud pie. Quinn doesn't live around the corner, so a quick picture and text message had to be the only way he enjoyed it.  :)

End of an Era for Wes and Kate

The school where our children have attended so far, houses PreK, K, 1, and 2 grades.  That means Wes and Kate are finished with their first school.  What started out as a very rocky relationship has ended with as a sweet one.  During those first few weeks of Kindergarten with Wes and Kate, in particular, we developed a good working relationship with the Principal, Mr. Curtis.  He made sure the lines of communication were wide open, and worked hard to make sure we were happy with where our children were.  We're very sad he retired this year, but we know enough of the staff to feel happy that Sophia is still there.

I only had photos of Wes and Kate's awards ceremony on my phone, so I'll have to find Sophia's to load later.
 (Wes just happened to be sitting in front to show up in Kate's picture:))
  (I will not miss the yellow lighting in the cafeteria!)

Matt 24 - 2014

Last year our family was introduced to Math 24.  I don't think that's its official name, but it's what Wes and Kate call it.  In 1st grade Kate was the Chipman representative in the county competition, and this year Wes was it. 

Wes' class started each morning with a Math exercise and shortly after the start of school started playing the Math 24 game.  Kate's class never played it ... the entire year.  I had issues with that, but now that it's mid-summer, I'm over them.  Anyway, Wes worked hard and took the honors. 
 Last year both Matt and I went to the competition, but this year Matt was somewhere else, (I can't remember, Sophie's ballgame, maybe?) and so Wes and I went alone.  I wasn't nearly as nervous as last year since I knew what to expect.  Many of the same children from past years were their school's reps again.  Winning is very important to Wesley and so I gently tried to tell him that the competition was tough and that it was an honor to even be there.  Well, that boy went through the competition and ended up winning the whole thing.  I was so surprised.  Some of those kids were so fast and had every fact memorized to the smallest detail, but what served Wes well was that he kept his cool.  Speed is key in the game (how fast you buzz in), and can work against you if you pull your trigger too quickly.  He worked his way through the rounds and by gum, he won.

Congratulations, Wes!  You did well:)



Saturday, March 22, 2014

Shark Teeth

We got the term 'shark teeth' from some friends whose daughter went through the same thing earlier this year.  One night when I was helping Sophie with her teeth I noticed her two permanent bottom teeth were up through the gums.  Her baby teeth were loose, but not enough to pull.  But through our friends' experience with their daughter, we knew that in time things would work naturally.
Finally the big day came this week when Sophie was brave enough to let me pull the loosest one.  It came because she was having a hard time eating.  So out it came and seriously, within four days, that baby has almost moved completely forward.  But I'm pretty sure this little lady will need braces.  She was not blessed with a gigantic mouth like her sister.  She's the only one of our children who's had dental problems because her teeth are so tight that she's had cavities between teeth.  The blessing from all of that though is that she is very good about flossing and fluoride. 
She was so excited!  I tried to get her to let me loosen the other bottom tooth, but she wasn't having any of it :)


Chess

Two months ago Wes bought a chess set at the store for $2.50.  That day he took it out and asked if we could teach him how to play.  Fast forward to now and he beats me more than 50% of the time, and has nearly beaten Matt a couple of times.

Last year at our children's elementary school I remember seeing signs for a chess club so I told Wes he should ask about it.  Turns out there isn't one this year.  But one day as I was reading the board of ed website to see how they were going to make up all the snow days we've had (I think it's 8 or 9 now), I noticed a chess tournament.  I emailed his teacher to get information and signed him up.
Grades 2-5 were included in the tournament and he was one of sixteen 2nd graders, and the only one from his school.  It's funny to see your child's personality and what's important to them.  All he wanted was a trophy.  We've really tried to help him see the fun in the experience and the friends you make, but he always seems to be so set on prizes.  Anyway, he just knew he was going to win :) .  One thing we really worked on during the weeks leading up to the tournament was sportsmanship because he always really had a hard time when he lost at home.  So I was really pleased with how he handled himself that night.

They played four games and Wes won twice, tied once, and lost once.  He ended up 4th place which we thought was awesome considering he just started a few weeks ago and isn't part of a club at school.
He didn't get a trophy but he was pretty happy with the medal and told me that next year he's going to win a trophy for sure;) . 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Anniversary

Matt and I celebrated our anniversary in January.  He was still out for winter break and so we planned a day-date, since three of our children would be in school.  Joshua was the lucky duck who came along for the adventure.

We decided to go to St. Michael's- a quaint, little community with a history and current economy which is sea-driven.  Our plan was to visit the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum and visit shops downtown, grab a bite to eat and just enjoy the day.  It ended up being a drizzly day, so we just played it by ear.

Because of the weather, and since it was the middle of the week, we only saw a handful of other people throughout the day.  It was perfect!
There were a dozen or so buildings located on the 'campus' of this museum.  We mostly went to ones that had some interactive things for Joshua.
 This is a lighthouse that was rebuilt after the original was dashed to pieces during a particularly terrible storm.  It was relocated to the museum acres many years ago.
 We smiled at this explanation of how to tell a male from a female crab.  You know you live close to the nation's capitol when markings on the crabs are compared to national monuments;).  (The male's markings look like the Washington monument, and the female's look like the Capitol building)
Here's Matt showing us how to get oysters from off the ocean floor.



A couple of the museum buildings had ships you could walk on with mannequins portraying the work that was done on them.  We didn't stay in those buildings long since it was wigging Joshua out a bit, but they were pretty cool.  I realized I would never make it as a seaman.  They work long, hard hours out in the most brutal of elements.
This last building we went in there were several men building a large fishing oat.  We kind of felt bad when we saw sign asking for pine donations.  We had just finished cutting down our Loblolly Pines in front of our yard and two of them would have been large enough for the museum's ship building project.  They would have even come and hauled it off for free!  We wished there were some sort of communication between the museum and the tree companies so that good wood could have been used.  We probably should have done some more homework.  Oh well.  If we ever decide to cut down the remaining four pines in the backyard, we'll know who to call.
 
We started running out of time and needed to pick up Wes, Kate and Sophie from school so we had to bag the stroll downtown, but it was still raining so we figured we'll do that with the family sometime this summer during nicer weather.  It's so fun to learn about this area and it's long ties with the sea.  We still haven't made it out to Smith Island, but hope to this summer.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Snow Week

Tonight is the unofficial end of 'Winter Break part 2'.   We're just ending one full week out of school.  Monday was a holiday and Friday was a teacher prep day.  Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday ended up being Snow Days.
The big storm that was supposed to happen didn't really, but we did get four inches and some really cold temperatures, for this area especially.

We loved the week off!  I just wished I would've been a bit more organized and realized day to day that we might be out the whole week.  But we managed.  Here's to us facing reality again:).

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Messages .... not in a bottle

Sophia (she prefers to be called that now;)) and Kate are very artistic.  They are leaving pictures and messages taped and left all around the house.  These are two that I thought were picture worthy:).

This first one is Kate's message.  Since our hot chocolate stand last year, she's got the entrepreneurial bug and is always making and trying to sell stuff, mainly to her family.  This is what I found on our kitchen bar one afternoon.
*fresh water ... get it from the sink yourself it's free.  If I get it it's 75¢.

This one is from Sophia.  Our neighbors handed us down their trampoline and it's a huge hit.  We set it up on a Saturday and it just about killed our kids when we told them we didn't want them to jump on it on Sundays, as a Sabbath observance thing.  Well, that's not about to stop Joshua.  This picture is Sophia's interpretation of the events on that first Sunday morning after getting the tramp.
*Joshua.  Our door leading out to the deck.  Joshua going down the deck steps.  Joshua jumping on the trampoline.  Joshua at our shed.  Joshua riding his bike. Joshua on the trampoline with Wes and Kate trying to get him off.   .......... what she didn't include was Wes and Kate getting on the trampoline, jumping, and saying they were just trying to get Joshua off;).

Baptisms

Wesley and Kate turned eight at the end of November.  This year it ended up being the day before Thanksgiving.  Back in the summer, Matt and I invited our parents to the baptism have Thanksgiving with us.  We were surprised and excited that all four of them said yes!  We even gained the bonus of two aunts as well!  Matt's sisters, Bonnie and Laurel, haven't been to visit us in Maryland and decided to see what all the fuss was about:).

Much planning went into this.  We wanted to invite as many of our school and neighborhood friends as possible, so they could understand a little more about what makes us tick, and the church in general:).  We ended up inviting 30+ friends, and were pleased that five came, a family in our neighborhood and the principal from Wes, Kate and Sophia's school.  Our church family supported us a ton too, and we were even lucky enough to have Matt's cousin and her family come from across the bridge (D.C. area) to be with Wes and Kate (Thanks Caytee and Preston!)
 Kate was most nervous about the Bishop interview.  But after we talked about it and reminded her that Bishop Hoppes is one of the nicest people around, not to mention her good friend, she decided she wouldn't hyperventilate:).

It was a really nice day.  We were so happy to have so many family and friends share this day with us!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Operation "21 Trees"

Well, I think we're unofficially calling it quits with tree removal on this little lot of ours.  21 trees in 2 1/2 years is our official count. With those 21 trees gone, don't worry, we still have 19, and actually there are 4 others that are officially on our lot, but not within our fenced area.

The last eight came down this week - all Loblolly Pines, and all in the front yard.  This picture was after they cut down one and were started on the others.
This is what it looked like after they left.
It may not look like much of a difference in the photo, but it really opens up our lot, especially in the corner of our drive way where there were three of these beasts towering overhead.  I'm SO EXCITED!!! After raking pine needles and cones over and over and over again, I'll be happy with just leaves.

The tree guys told us we'll have to treat our yard with lime quite a bit to bring the pH back from the acidic dead that the needles caused over the past 60-75 years (we counted the rings:)).  Maybe we'll actually be able to grow real grass!  I look forward to mowing that grass instead of weeds all summer.

This was my view from the laundry room as I folded away on Monday.  It gave me great joy:).


Meanwhile, our kids have been in a natural playground heaven for the last few days.  So much so that I've declared some of their clothes unsalvageable, due to pine sap.  But it's been worth it!

Wrapping up December

We've had a really nice winter break.  Our Christmas was nice, we've spent time with extended family, and the weather went from the low 80s on Dec 22, to upper 30s a week later.  We're glad Mother Nature finally realized it was December.  The weather was crisp on Christmas Day, but sunny and beautiful, and perfectly suited for Wes to try out his new roller blades.  After a little persuading he was nice enough to let Kate have a go at them too:). 



 Sophie spent much of the time inside prancing around in her high heels and coloring her cardboard castle.    

On Friday we visited D.C. since Matt's aunt and uncle were visiting their daughter who lives north of the city.  It was so fun and we hadn't seen the train display at the Botanical Gardens since three years ago.  Joshua was totally in his element.  Seeing Thomas and Percy chugging along those tracks was probably the fulfillment of his biggest dream ever thus far.


We walked around a bit, saw the Christmas tree in front of the Capitol, then went back to the hotel for a little swim time.  That is still our children's most favorite thing to do when we go on these little jaunts. 
Saturday I got to go to an early morning temple session and then we hit the city again.  This time starting at the National Archives (we were totally surprised at how faded the Declaration of Independence is!), then went to the Ford's Theater (which was closed due to a matinee of The Christmas Carol) and then on to the White House.  Our feet (and kiddos) were pretty much done by that time.  So we made our way back to the van and headed to the temple.

We got there just as they turned on the lights, within just a few minutes it grew darker and it was beautiful!  Our children have never seen Temple Square during Christmas (I take that back, Wes and Kate were one year old), but they've seen D.C.'s temple square three years running:).


It was such a fun get away!