Sunday, December 27, 2015

Christmas Bike Ride 2015

We had a very warm Christmas this year.  It was in the 60s and so mild that we decided to take advantage of the nice weather.  After the morning's activities of Christmas, we piled our bikes into the back of the truck and went to Nutter's Golf Course. 
We have a friend from the ward who is the grounds manager for Nutter's.  He has told Matt multiple times that Christmas is kind of an 'open day'; so the last couple of years Matt has gone golfing Christmas morning - since the weather allowed.  This year we changed things up and decided to bike the golf path. 

It was such a fun family memory made.  Joshua's not pictured because he was riding with me.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Reading Reindeer

Because sometimes it's more comfortable to curl up with a book at the bar, with a reindeer headband on. :)

Friday, October 23, 2015

Pumpkins ... we may never be satisfied again

We have a ward member friend who works for the state extension office.  This fall he told us to bring our truck to one of his fields and load up on the pumpkin varieties he grew.  He had literally sowed seeds of dozens of different kinds of gourds and pumpkins and grew them all in this one field.  We loaded up on Cinderella pumpkins, goose neck gourds, tiny yellow, orange and green gourds, and then regular pumpkins.  We had such a bounty in our truck that I knew it was the last of me being satisfied with the variety typically found in the grocery store.  Our porch never looked so good this fall!
The kids each got a couple of pumpkins to carve and placed all the little gourds along our porch railing.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

St. Louis (from Matt's Perspective)

I need to get Matt on here as an administrator.  He would do a much better job of keeping up.  He also is more of a photographer than I am.

Last week he emailed me all of his pictures from our trip and a healthy chunk of them were from St. Louis.

Before starting our tour of the arch we started in what I think was the old state house, or maybe a courthouse.  I feel badly that I didn't take note. 

This building had a beautiful rotunda where we even got a short solo vocal performance from a tour guide/ranger man, to demonstrate the amazing acoustics. 

It was gorgeous.  And although it wasn't air conditioned it was much better than the stifling heat and humidity we would step out into.
I apologize for making this next comment but my self-conscious self has to.  No, I am not expecting, even though all of the pictures I'm posting in the coming days would say otherwise.  My poncherello is sadly, very visible. Moving on.

The short walk to the arch was beautiful, despite the heat. Wow, it was a beast.  We thankfully ducked into the underground visitor's center and waited for our turn in the arch.




 I could've sworn I'd been in the arch as a child, but I sure don't remember getting in the egg-like compartment we had to sit in to ride to the top.  It reminded me of a rickety old wooden roller coaster, except it moved slowly like a Ferris wheel that is letting passengers off.   I can't find the picture, but will load it once I do.  There were only five seats, so Joshua sat on Matt's lap. 

Once at the top it was very cramped and I had a sensation of uneasiness.  After a couple of minutes of adjustment, we all were awed by the sights below. 



Our children were pretty excited by all the facts they learned and the movie we watched.  The arch is 630 feet high - pretty awe-inspiring that they would've even attempted a feat like that in the 60's.  The had no way of building higher than a crane could reach, so they had to invent a way.  That turned out to be a crane that basically hooked onto the side of the arch and moved on tracks up as they continued to build.  When the contractors took on the job they had figured that they would loose 12 men in construction-related accidents.  They didn't loose one!  It's thought that because it was such an ominous project that they workmen took such precautions that accidents were prevented.  Such a cool experience!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Wasp Nest

We had some nasty run-ins with wasps this summer.  It first happened when I was mowing the lawn in the front yard, I think.  I felt a terrible burning, stabbing pain in my hip.  And the thing is, the pain lasted a good 30-seconds at the same level.  When I looked at the spot I instantly knew it was a wasp sting, or some similar insect. 

The second instance came when we were playing crochet in the front yard.  Sophia suddenly yelped in pain and covered one of her eyes.  I know realize it must have been VERY painful because it was in the thin skin right below the eye.  And if it burned/stung like mine did for several seconds, I'm surprised she didn't howl more than she did.  Tough girl.

Her eye swelled to where it was open just a sliver.  I know I took a picture but can't find it.  Poor thing.

We started looking in the ground for a nest.  At one of the ball fields I had seen wasps going into a small hole in the ground, so we thought this might be the same thing.  But we never found anything.  We started avoiding outdoor activities in the front yard. 

At the end of summer Matt was in the front yard doing something and found the nest.  It wasn't in the ground, but from a branch in one of our trees.  He cut off the branch and burned the nest in the backyard. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

US Traveling 2015

It may be time for me to hand over blogging responsibilities to Matteo.  When we were not far from home he announced that he had the opening idea for our blog to document our summer travels.  I didn't realize he thought about our blog so much ;) ...

5880 miles
23 days
14 states (MD, WV, PA, OH, IN, IL, MO, KS, CO, UT, WY, SD, MN, IA)
3 family reunions
2 national monuments (Gateway Arch, Mount Rushmore)
1 temple open house (Indianapolis)

Back in April I went out on a limb and suggested we drive to Utah this summer instead of fly.  Matt's learned by now if he gives me an inch I take at least a mile.  He didn't seem too keen on the idea, but allowed my dreaming mind to go wild.  After back and forth and figuring out logistics we decided to actually do it.  And now that we've been home a few days I'm already planning a different route to take when we do it again (surprise! Matt:)).

No, seriously, it was better than either of us ever anticipated!  Our children traveled exceptionally well and we had less than a handful of complaints - no exaggeration.  So join us for the recap!

We decided to put into practice the idea of not traveling on Sunday if possible, but that meant if we wanted to make our Thursday morning family reunion breakfast time, we'd have to make up some travel somewhere.  So Monday morning, just after midnight, we woke up our kids and piled into the van.  This was a brilliant idea.  Everyone was excited for the first hour and then slowly, one by one, fell back asleep for the next several hours.  Matt will fondly look back on driving through the foggy hills of West Virginia.  :)

During the entire trip Matt and I would trade off driving every 2-5 hours or so, and those would be our bathroom breaks.  This wouldn't have been possible with smaller children, but I think we hit the timing just right with our two 9-year olds, 7 year old and 4 year old.

Once again, I can't say enough what good troopers they were during all of this.  I think part of it was preparation - we told them we'd be in the van for a very loooonnnnggg time, part was the travel books we'd made, part was our van's dvd player :), and part was blessings from heaven.

St. Louis, Missouri was a first destination.  We made it there by late-afternoon and were able to secure a 5:30 boarding time for the Gateway Arch. 

It was smotheringly hot - 97, I think.  The humidity wasn't as high as MD's, but it was still present and made us thankful for the air conditioned visitor's center.                 
 To go up the arch you ride on these egg-like enclosures that seat 5.  We were able to fit all six of us with Joshua riding on my lap.
  Some of us had to take deep breaths at the top to get used to the idea of being 630 feet up in the air, but the site was pretty spectacular.  The little slice of windows show the city below on one side, and the Mississippi River on the other. 
This picture with Joshua looking out the window actually shows the arch's shadow on the river.  Pretty cool!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Father's Day Fun

Our Primary presidency did a cute take-home for the kids on Father's Day this year.  It was one of those fill-in-the-blanks gifts that deserve to be written down.  Matt raked in the microwave popcorn this year, since the lists were wrapped around the popcorn packages.  He was really nice to share with the rest of us. :)

Man, I wish I could rotate it, but I'm really tired and will just transcribe tonight. I've left their spelling as is, just because. :)

Joshua (age 4): 
My dad is 14 years old. 
His favorite food is turkey
My Dad is so strong that he could lift me
When my Dad wants to relax he likes to go to the beach
My Dad is the BEST at building
I love my Dad because he likes me.

Sophia (age 7):
My dad is 42 years old.
His favorite food is lazonya.
My dad is so strong that he could lift a heavy box.
When my wants to relax he likes to read books.
I love my dad because is careing.

Kate (age 9):
My Dad is 41 years old.
His favorite food is resess cups.
My Dad is so strong that he could lift a chandleir.
When my Dad wants to relax he likes to watch sports.
My Dad is the BEST at making breakfast.
I love my Dad because he is my best friend.

Wes (age 9):
My dad is 41 years old.
His favorite food is chocolate.
My Dad is so strong that he could lift a tree.
When my Dad wants to relax he likes to watch a basketball game.
My Dad is the BEST at golf.
I love my Dad because he's always there to protect me.

They were pretty close on all of them!  We love our Dad and are so blessed to have him!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Revisiting History

When we moved east we planned on being here one year for sure.  With that year as a certainty, and everything beyond it an uncertainty, we traveled like gypsies during that time.  Actually, I don't know how gypsies travel, but we were constantly spending weekends away from our home, exploring history and country we were unsure we'd visit again.  But seven years later, we're happy to start re-visiting them, and hoping that somewhere along the way they'll stick as memories in our children's minds.

We first visited Philadelphia in March of 2009.  We've had subsequent visits to the area since, but never revisited the Liberty Bell, the Betsy Ross house, and others, until this weekend.  There was a chance of rain, but there always seems to be some excuse, so we hopped in the van anyway and a little over 2.5 hours later saw the Philly skyline.  Here's a double decker bridge.  I think it's the one that takes you over the Delaware Canal.  Driving back over it is when you're on the upper level.

 We parked and went into the Independence Visitor's Center.  They have people dressed in costume sharing facts and items of life in the 1770's.  This man let us draw our names on parchment for a bookmark using a bamboo quill dipped in an inkwell.  Our kids thought it was very Harry Potter-esque. 
 Here are Wes, Kate, Sophia and Joshua dressed up in period clothing in front of a poster of the Liberty Bell.
 And here's the bell itself.  Joshua was refusing to be in the picture and Matt was outside with our lunch in the drizzling rain.  Bless him.
 Along the way during the day we stopped at various story-telling benches where story tellers would share stories of people in Philadelphia history. One cool story I learned that helped with local history was the story behind Caesar Rodney.  I have friend's who've taught at CR High School in Dover, and wondered who this Caesar Rodney was and why he was important enough to name schools and roads after him.  We found out that he was the Delaware delegate who rode through a stormy night on horseback to make his affirming vote heard to support America's independence from Great Britain.  Without him, the unanimous vote needed would have failed.  He's the horseback rider on the Delaware state quarter.

From here we went to the U.S. Mint, which was very cool, but you're not allowed to take photos.  It boggles the mind to think of how much money they make everyday.  That day the quarter machine was up and running.  We saw the roll of metal being fed into a machine that punched out the blanks.  It was quite the site.

Just down a couple of blocks is the Betsy Ross House.  It was near closing time so we didn't go in, but the storyteller there shared with us the invention of the slinky - made in Philadelphia.
 It doesn't look too wet in these pictures but everyone was soaked by the time we got back into the van to find the temple.  I was the lucky one with the umbrella, holding all the paper maps and story-telling flag souvenirs.  But I joined the soaked crew when I jumped out of the van to take this picture.  The temple is being built kitty-corner to the Philadelphia Museum of Art (where Rocky runs up the steps in the movie).  It's pretty cool.  We just got word over the weekend that we can expect to be part of the cultural celebration late next summer, so we're really excited about its progress!
After that we headed home.  It was such a fun day!  So often we go to D.C. for our history fill, but it's nice to have another culturally rich city within striking distance.  We plan to make another trip in August to finish our story-telling flags, and see a whole lot more!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Piano Recital

Our piano recital will be in May this year.  So right now we are in the middle of practicing our pieces.  Wesley's, Kate's and Sophia's songs are stretching them in good ways, although two of them might not agree. ;)

We find that they do excellently with hands separate; but once we try to put hands together, it requires brain muscle that is not fully developed yet.  It's been awesome (and sometimes frustrating) to see (because I tend to get emotionally involved).

Wes denied my suggestion to play a piece that I can't even remember what it was right now.  He was determined from the get-go to play Flight of the Bumblebee (Rimsky-Korsakov).  Kate is playing Sugar Plum Fairy (Tchaikovsky).  And Sophia's is Ode to Joy (Beethoven).  Simplified versions, of course.

A few weeks ago Wesley secretly recorded Kate while she was practicing.  The result has caused much re-playing of the footage, and laughter all around.  I think I laugh more at their reactions than at the recording itself.  But I think it warrants documentation here.


Baltimore Break

We live about 2.5 hours from a whole lotta history.  That's fantastic!  But it's amazing how. far. away. it seems sometimes.  Plus, there's a toll road.  I dislike toll roads.  But nevertheless, we do venture over the Monster Bridge about a half-dozen times/year.  Probably more, but I've never really kept track.

*Side note:  we need to start calling the bridge by it's actual name, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.  We never actually call it that, so if someone asked our children the bridge's name, they'd answer "the Monster Bridge".  A common common question as we're traveling is, "have we hit the Monster Bridge yet?" 
photo credit: MPT




Another side note:  I have a fear of heights.  It's not a crippling fear, but enough that I find myself tense up and hold my breath a little longer than usual while crossing this bridge.  I've had more than one dream of us plummeting over the edge of the bridge, mainly due to a news story from last year when a big rig inadvertently did exactly that to a poor little passenger car.  The college-age gal was unhurt outwardly, but had to spend some time in the psychiatric wing of the hospital.  More than once I've asked Matt what to do in the event this actually happened.  His response - crack the windows a little so the water slowly comes in, equalizing the air/water pressure, while I quickly unbuckle seat belts.  Good grief, I'm a basket case.

Back to Baltimore.

We had a long weekend in February in the middle of snow storms, in which we declared a Field Trip Friday!  It was a chilly one, but ended up being so much fun.  Matt had school so it was just our kids and me.  (I really try to say children instead of kids, but sometimes I just want to be relaxed and say what comes naturally.  :)  My mission president's wife would cringe - we had a talk about this.  And the first thing that probably pops into my sister's mind is that I'm talking about goats.  But I do draw the line at saying - my kid - singular.  That sounds like an object, not a person, to me at least.  I'd much prefer to hear my child, or my daughter/son.  Good grief I'm picky and somewhat fickle. :)) 

On we go.

Our first stop was Fort McHenry: best known as the Fort that withstood British bombardment during the War of 1812, thus inspiring Frances Scott Key to write the Star Spangled Banner.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_McHenry
I love National Parks that have special programs for children.  We got a booklet and started on our journey of discovery.  After 90 minutes of looking for clues and learning of the fort's extensive history and uses, we earned our Junior Ranger badges.  :) 
Jail Quarters
Barracks
I think we could've spent another hour or two taking our time exploring the fort, but it was late afternoon and we had another stop to make.

The first year we lived here (I think that's when it was), we visited the Baltimore Aquarium.  It's a sister aquarium to the National Aquarium in D.C., although MUCH cooler and much larger.

Once a month they have a discounted night, so it was pretty packed. 



 We were pretty beat by the time we got home that night.  I love days like that!  Full of fun, learning, and adventure. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Shark Teeth ... the sequel

Sophia's mouth is full of wonder.  Just last month our dentist said, "she seems to be the one that everything happens to."  Other than the time when Wes' front tooth broke off in an unfortunate accident, the dentist is right! 

Sophie had shark teeth on the bottom last year.  She also had a rapid decay of a tooth that even astonished the dentist.  Two pustules along her upper left gum that won't go away - sorry for the graphic description, but the poor thing has constant drainage that hasn't cleared up with series of antibiotics, and x-rays say the cavity's filling should've taken care of the problem.  And now upper shark teeth.

This picture was taken just before Christmas. 
 And this is her mouth, as of last week.  WOWZA! 
We have a dentist friend who goes to our church and he gave us the hint to start twisting the teeth, rather than jiggle.  He said, and our dentist confirmed at our appointment the next week, that her roots are most likely dissolved, but the ligaments are what's holding them in. 

The poor thing.  She talks with a major lisp now - who wouldn't, with a mouthful of teeth right at the front.  Her lips protrude.  Her baby front teeth are overlapped.  She looks like a neglected little lady whose parents are oblivious to her needs. 

The dentist has given us a few more weeks to pull them out ourselves or else we'll be contributing to her vacation fund (the dentist's, not Sophie's). 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Snow Days ... (ahem) Weeks

This winter has been exceptional.  By that I mean an exception from the norm - at least from our short 4 1/2-year history of living here.  I guess it happened a bit last year too, but from what we hear, isn't usual.

I'm talking about the excessive use of Snow Days by the county board of ed.  I do and don't object to them.  I don't object to them because everyone stays home!  But I do object because it means the days have to be made up at the end of the school year. (boo)
Joshua on the only hill in SBY  :)


Kate and Sophia
Our friends and family in the West would laugh at the amount of snow we have to receive in order for schools to be closed, but then again, this is the Eastern Shore, and it isn't the norm.  Last week we didn't go to school even though it didn't start snowing heavily until after everyone would have gotten home from the school day.  There must be a history of an terrible accident of which we're unaware.   

Snow Fort built into the Crepe Myrtle at the end of our cul-de-sac
Snow Fort at the end of our cul-de-sac
We're woefully unprepared for snow - gear-wise.  But Wes made do by cutting some holey socks to make double-layered gloves that extended down the arm to cover that part between where your glove ends and sleeve begins.  (They do have gloves, hats and scarves, but they're the cheap 99¢ yarn kind. No snow pants. My excuse is that we usually don't get enough snow to justify pants and if we did, children grow so fast they'd wear them once.  Matt's is, "I never had them growing up."  :))

Each storm only brought about 4", but with two storms back-to-back, and living in a cul-de-sac, the plowed snow was a child's dream.  :)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Activity bush

The other day I went outside and the rhododendron bush at the corner of our house looked like this.
Sophie and Joshua had been playing outside earlier in the day so I asked them about the bush.

Sophie:  "It's our activity bush, Mom" ... "anytime we want to play something we just have to go take it out of the bush."

Works for me.  Ü

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Jobs

Taking the job of unloading dishes from the dishwasher from a seemingly mundane task to a creative experience.

Friday, January 30, 2015

New Year's Eve

Matt and I haven't really been big New Year's Eve goers.  In fact, this year Matt said to me, "I stayed up with Kate last year, so I guess it's your turn this year."  The year before that, Wes and I were the only ones to make it.  So this year we planned with a purpose.  :)

We made up a bunch of games, blew and taped up balloons so that we could pop one as each hour went by, and watched a movie. 



We didn't expect Joshua to make it until midnight, so it wasn't surprising when he fell asleep at 9:30.  I think Matt made it until 10:30.  But Wes, Kate and Sophie were going strong until about 11:30.  That last hour was hard.  I was tired, and by that point didn't care if I/we rang in the new year.  But we made it!  We bought those little blow horn things and some firecracker snaps, and made a tiny ruckus in our neighborhood.  It ended up being really fun.

Some of our family goals for this year: 

*Kindness - work on it  Ü
*Have a service-oriented FHE once per month.
*Train to run in the Lamb Scram (Wes & Kate:  1-mile run at Lamb Days in F.G., UT)
*Eat more healthy.
*Complete Personal Progress (me), Bear (Wes), Faith in God (Kate).

Spa Night

Matt works with the Young Men at church and so one night when he was at an activity the rest of us decided to have a spa night.  Wes acted like he was appalled at the idea, but I knew he secretly wanted to get in on the action.  ;)

We started off by applying the necessary mud masks.  Sadly, I didn't have any cucumbers. Ü

We then went to pedicures.

(Yes, Joshua and Wes included.  Joshua chose a translucent-y brown polish.  Wes opted for the no-polish option and just got a nice buffing.)

I still had some old Mary Kay product from at least 13 years ago to do the magic hands treatment. And then I painted three of the four pairs of hands.

It was a fun night!

Christmas Break 2014

We had a full two weeks of family time over Christmas Break this year.  It was heavenly!  We planned a lot of outings, but ended up doing just a couple of them, and opted for a much quieter Christmas.  It turned out to be so relaxing and enjoyable.

Ice skating was on our 'must do' list, with D.C. as the destination.  But with distance, and a few stomach blahs, we decided to stay closer to home, so we opted for O.C., instead of D.C.  Ü

Our kids were so excited to get on skates.  Matt wisely stayed outside of the rink, making it so an adult was with the kids who were taking a break.  This allowed me more one-on-one time with Sophia and Joshua.  Wes and Kate had been roller skating before so they were had a little experience. 

The rink was a small indoor one in the courtyard of a hotel.  When I first saw it I thought it would be too confining, but it turned out to be perfect for beginners. 


At one point Kate was really struggling and we were asked to leave the rink so the Zamboni could smooth the ice, so this nice teenager helped Kate off while I helped Sophie and Joshua.

These metal walker thingys helped beginners and Joshua took to it like a fish in water.  He barreled around so fast that I often had to catch up to him and steer him away from slower skaters.  'No fear' is his mantra.

Sophie was very timid at first but after the first 30-45 minutes, she felt confident to go with the walker on her own.

I think we found a new Christmas Break tradition.  Ü