Monday, July 30, 2012

July Vacationing: Chincoteague 2012

We took back-to-back vacations in July, heading first to Chincoteague and then to Cape May.

Prior to the start of our trip, Helen and Connor had reached a point in the summer where they were making each other a little nutty. I enrolled them in only one week of camp (which they participated in together), precisely because I wanted them to have a summer of playing together. Too much of a good thing? Maybe.

In any case, cramming them into a car for our annual trek to Chincoteague either went really well or so badly that I've blocked it out because only a few weeks later, I have no memories of the event. Did I sleep the entire ride?

We arrived to our friends already settled in, and Connor and Eamon wasted no time picking right up where they left off last year - boogie boards.

It's amazing how much time those things can consume. Helen tried her hand at the boards a bit, but she'd still prefer to play in the surf and head out deep with someone holding her.

And Connor suddenly looks a lot older to me. Is it a sign that summer's almost over and 2nd grade will be starting soon?

Day 1, in the books!


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Summary of Learning in First Grade

Tonight, I started going through Connor's writing notebook. I learned the following.

9-27: Write about a time when someone helped you. "My mom helped me play soccer." For the record, I have no idea what Connor is talking about here. I don't play soccer.

1-2-12: "On Christmas morning I ran down stares. I saw a big pile of pres". Apparently, he was so excited by the reliving of this memory that he couldn't finish the word presents. And just how do you run down a stare?

In answer to another writing prompt which is not in the book, Connor wrote "We would do whatever we wanted to do." Good luck on that one, friend.

Facts about Susan B. Anthony. "She died in New York. She died in 1906. She worked in New York and Kansas." I have no idea if any of this is true, but way to fit Kansas in there!

Facts about Pocahontas. "Pocahontas made peace. Pocahontas learned how to read. Pocahontas was a princess." Clearly, she was busy. And clearly, girls are not the only children who are impressed by princesses!

A lesson on hygiene? "It is important to care for my teeth because if you do not have teeth, you can't chew." I see Connor has forgotten here that he doesn't actually like to eat. Having no teeth might be a good thing for him.

A budding environmentalist, in March he wrote "The dumps are almost full. They take some garbage to a barge that takes it far away. The environment is getting dirty." Then stop creating so much trash!

"If you give a dog a race car, he'll want to get a license. He'll want to be famous, so he'll go to the racetrack." Eat your heart out, Laura Numeroff.

Grading himself? "My poems good cas it has too in it a lot and it has 100 words." If only I could see the poem.

"I am silly."

Definition of a dragon. "A dragon is big and eats deer and is very fast." Thank you, I know just what I'm looking for now.

Baseball game. "A dude was going to 2nd base. I had the ball. I tagged the base. That dude was out." Yep, I saw it all.

5-15-12 "One time I was helping my mom set the table. Every dude was hungry." I'm not sure I've ever heard Connor refer to me as a dude.

"I will never eat brussel sprouts. I love to eat ice cream." Yeah, well what about brussels sprouts flavored ice cream?

The future. "When I grow up I want to be a bike racer caus I'm good biker." I hope so, because grammar isn't your thing.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Legos and Confidence

The National Building Museum had had a Lego exhibit for freaking-ever, but somehow, I didn't take Helen and Connor there until a couple of weeks ago, and then I took them back last Sunday! If you're sitting in the DC area and haven't been yet, you have until September 3. It's worth the trip.

Helen fades in and out of being interested in legos, and Connor loves them, except he loves the sets because his little brain just wants to organize those buggers into something that makes sense. I want to organize those buggers into one giant mess of a box at some point and watch his imagination run wild, but right now, our legos are all divided by which set they belong to. Connor makes random things out of the two containers of basic bricks that he has, but the sets (with their oh-so-many cool pieces) remain intact. He gets this gene from me, so I can hardly complain about it.

Our first visit to the NBM was inspired by a playdate with my friend Stimey. Back when it wasn't 100 degrees every day in DC, we decided to meet up some day after school let out. As the date approached, I was super excited for the playdate, but not super excited at the thought of being outside. As it turns out, I do not like 100 degree weather unless I am neck deep in water. So we went to the one indoor place where children that span from 4 - middle school could find something to do. Brilliant, we are.

Connor took the opportunity to build a rather large yellow house.

Connor, carrying bricks to his design center.

Then, he noticed my friend's son making a lego army of robots, so he decided to get in on that action.

Cool, eh?

Helen spent her time building completely random things that were prone to breaking apart.

Let's brick here, one brick there, voila! I just made a refrigerator, or a car, or a piece of pizza.

The best thing about Helen's stream of creations is that she would finish one and then insist that I put it "up high" so it could be on display. I really think she looks at her haphazard creations and sees an exact replica of the Eiffel Tower. What a way to look at the world! Confidence - she has it in spades.

Here's one of the more stable of Helen's creations, along with Connor's yellow house, now guarded by the lego robots. They are placed on a shelf, that kids at the exhibit have decided is for display. The woman monitoring the display disagrees, and starts busting up the creations occasionally. I begged her to wait until we left, after she informed me rather curtly that I wasn't supposed to be putting legos on the shelf. Thankfully, she allowed these two creations to stay while I snapped a photo and ushered the kids out before they saw their creations be turned back into the big lego bins.

We wore ourselves out, but because no outing  with me this summer goes without some sort of forced march (more on that later), we rode the metro one stop, hopped off to see the gates of Chinatown, and then walked to a nearby bookstore to snag a free book from their summer reading program.

Despite the searing heat, and the fact that a local news guy interviewed me for having my kids in hats - slow news day, I assure you, we had a ball.

So when the Gulick Group invited us to see the exhibit again last Sunday, we were all over a return visit. Gulick Group is a sponsor of the exhibit, and as part of that sponsorship, they had one of their homes (which they build in surrounding neighborhoods) built in lego. It's their "Winthrop Model", which looks very cool in lego, so it's probably even cooler in real life. This home is stunningly similar to the home of the people I nanned for in Kansas many years ago. Really. There's a 3 car garage on the left side, there's a library, and there's a morning room (along with all the more mundane elements of a home, like a kitchen and dining room, living room, and bathrooms). I have decided that I need a home with a morning room. Perhaps that's what I'll refer to my screened-in-porch as from now on.

Connor and his friend Elliott built a greenhouse while they were at the museum, and if you vote for it on Facebook, they might get to split a prize of $50! I think you click here!/gulickgroup and then "like" the photo I submitted.

And Helen built a car house (you can't see the wheels - because they are imaginary - but that house drove all around the "street") that has a water fountain at the top (the little red piece in the corner). She, too, could win $50 if you vote for her creation.

Both visits were a blast!

Next up: A trip back to the Building Museum to play golf!


Thank you, Gulick Group, for inviting us back to the Building Museum. We had a ball!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Shutterfly Photo Contest!

This summer, we are taking five lovely weeks of vacation. We'll be hitting oceans on both coasts, and stopping in Kansas to head to the same camp my family went to when I was little. I'm betting my mom will have dug up some photo gems to share with Connor and Helen when we arrive.

I'll also be trying to win myself another vacation, because the moment I finish one vacation, I like to start planning the next. Perhaps I missed my calling as a professional vacationer.

I missed out on entering the first week, but I'm not sure I had anything that quite captured the spirit anyway. My entry for Week 2 is below. Find out the details and enter yourself at - or just click here.

•       Week 1(7/9): Americana
•       Week 2 (7/16): Great Outdoors
•       Week 3 (7/23): Water Fun
•       Week 4 (7/30): Sports & Activities
•       Week 5 (8/6): Parties & Celebrations

Helen has a new "best friend", and she has fallen for him madly. Thankfully, he fancies her as well, so her tendency to want to smother works out well. I wrangled a visit with her friend, Alexander, a few weeks ago while his big sister (who is Connor's age) was rehearsing for a show she was in. We headed over to Lacey Woods where all three children found logs that were quickly turned into magical things, with magical properties, but I'll tell you what was magical - watching three kids play together for a long time without bickering at all.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Let's Go Orioles, Let's Go! Take 2.

Dear Mom, Dad, and Aunt Linda,

I tried to raise my children right. Really, I did. Even though Ed objected every time I suited Helen and Connor up in Royals garb, I did it anyway - for the love of the game, I would tell myself. I sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame", changing "Root, root, root for the HOME TEAM" to "Root, root, root for the ROYALS!" every. single. time. But in the end, I have failed. While Helen will occasionally claim to be a fan of our beloved boys in blue, she's really partial to the mythical "Flower Socks", a team she made up last year. And as if that weren't bad enough, Connor has fallen hook line and sinker for the Cubs and the Orioles. I admire him for having an NL and AL team, but sheesh, couldn't he have chosen the Royals for that AL spot?

A few weeks ago, the Orioles sent me a package of O's gear, which was a huge hit. They followed it up with an invitation to watch a game from the players' wives' box, and invited the little people to attend as well. We hopped in my friend Jessica's car, filling it to the brim with her two kids and mine - and the giant Orange finger that we had received in the mail a few weeks earlier. We battled traffic while the kids did everything they could to distract Jessica from driving, with Helen "fake crying" at one point, which is a sound that is so unbearably horrible that I'm not sure I will ever get it out of my head. Jessica is nothing, if not impressive, for deciding not to just throw herself under a tire right then or throw Helen under a tire!

Before the game, we got to tour the stadium and when we were walking right out onto the field, we were instructed to "not run onto the grass" and I admit, I dearly hoped one of my children heard "run onto the grass" instead, because I totally wanted to chase them through that field. Sadly, they just stood there and posed.

Note: Helen assured me before the game that she was wearing her best Orioles outfit. I couldn't figure it out either.
Connor and Helen loved the game.

Ed enjoyed meeting the Bird.

Thank you, Orioles! We had a ball watching the game. And it was such a sweet surprise when I learned that Orioles stadium was designed by the same group that designed my beloved Kauffman stadium. I knew there was a connection to the two teams somewhere!

Sorry Mom, Dad, and Aunt Linda - but I do think we've lost the boy to another team!


Monday, July 16, 2012


Connor and Helen would love a dog. Occasionally, I start to think maybe my home needs a dog. Then, I remind myself that dogs shed, need nearly as much attention as a child, and jump on the counters to snatch food. I, most definitely, do not need a dog.

My sister, who adores dogs, once found herself at her home, completely exhausted from dealing with two very young children. She decided to treat herself to a steak dinner after she had settled the two children into bed. Unfortunately for her, her basset hound decided it was more deserving of the dinner than she was, and the basset was also quicker. This pretty much sums up dogs for me.

But…just in case I was wrong about myself not wanting a dog, I decided to answer an ad looking for a dogsitter for an old, blind dog. This dog seemed perfect for my family since she would no doubt, not be a high energy, high demand dog. The dog came to live with us about three weeks ago. My babysitter was completely thrilled at the opportunity. She told me that she had once investigated getting a puppy but since it would be very difficult for her to take that puppy back to Sweden with her when she moved back home, she decided not to get it. I almost had a heart attack right there, and all I could think of was “do you not actually know me?” because I’m pretty sure I would never allow a dog to live in my home.

After the dog’s arrival, she spent a couple of days sitting on our screened in porch in the scorching heat. I think she was waiting for her family to come back for her. Then, she gave in and decided she was stuck with us, so she spent the next several days trying to figure out where to sleep. If the kids slept upstairs, she slept upstairs with our babysitter. If the kids slept in the basement (which they did first, because they thought it would be fun and later, because we had no power for 30 hours and their second floor bedroom was just not an option), she slept outside the basement door (when there was no power), or outside my door (when there was power). She refused to go upstairs with the babysitter until Ed and I were home for the evening, which is a pretty nice trait.

In her short time with us, the dog scored one extra breakfast (Helen’s French toast) and helped herself to a few verboten licks of dirty dishes in the dishwasher. She also spread tuna pasta sauce on the playroom rug when Ed left our swim bag there as he went to brush the kids’ teeth. Ed was mad at the dog. I was mad at Ed.

And, while I’m glad we had the opportunity to take care of a dog, I also reaffirmed for myself that I’m not a dog person. The kids had great fun with the dog. The babysitter enjoyed the dog a lot. I don’t think Ed had an opinion on the dog except he was mad about the mess of the pasta sauce and having to remake Helen’s breakfast.

For the record, a dog can eat a piece of French toast in two bites. I hope my sister’s dog savored her treat a few bites longer than that.


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Annual Summer Outing - Wolf Trap's Children's Theatre in the Woods

It wouldn't be summer if my kids didn't head out to Wolf Trap's Children's Theatre in the Woods. This theatre is a true gem, tucked away in a little hollow at Wolf Trap. The venue is absolutely perfect for bringing a picnic lunch, and then enjoying it after the show beneath the tall trees that ring the theatre.

This year, we were treated to Dino Rock, which plays this venue annually, it seems. I have a soft spot for them because I was once called on stage as a helper when they performed at the National Zoo, and while no video survives this outing, it was a hoot. Eventually, Connor and Helen joined me on stage!

Just as in year's past, there are loads of shows I'd love to see, and I'm sure we'll head out to catch at least one more. Leading contenders for our next visit are Robbie Schaefer and Matthias Kuchta. I know we'll be hitting the latter and I'm hoping to squeeze in the former.

Every year these shows amaze and delight, and every year I almost let the heat scare me away from going, and every year I remember that tucked into this little hollow, it really is a pleasant place to be - even when it's really hot outside!


Disclosure: Thank you to Wolf-Trap for providing two free tickets to the Dino Rock performance. We're already looking forward to heading back! It wouldn't be summer without Theater in the Woods!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Unless There Are Extenuating Circumstances, Dress Your Age, Dad!

We've been dogsitting (more on that later) and while Helen and Ed were taking Blue (which Helen has renamed Bluebell) for a walk, she told Ed he needed to tuck his shirt in, because that's how old people wore their shirts.

Ed complied.

Helen noticed Ed's belt loop was torn and requested he untuck the shirt to cover the tear up.

In the choice between dressing your age and showing falling apart clothing, I guess hiding the flaws is more important.