Friday, August 27, 2010

Our Week With George, Abe, and Their Furry Friends

Our school year started out with a long string of field trips. We accompanied Ted on a TDY to Northern Virginia, and the kids and I spent the days sightseeing in Washington, D.C., while Ted learned all about being an Inspector General and what his new job will entail.

We spent a day at the National Zoo, and I didn't lose any children. This is significant because on one occasion at this zoo many years ago we did lose Mary Beth for fifteen minutes or so. Riley specifically requested a trip to the zoo, and I think we all had a blast. They loved the misters throughout the zoo. Lucy called them sparklers since they came out of them with little sparkly droplets of water. Of course the animals were a big hit, too, particularly the giant pandas, the giant anteater and the giant sloth bear (that's a lot of giants).

The Museum of American History was our second stop. We especially enjoyed seeing the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write The Star Spangled Banner and helping "Mary Pickersgill" unfurl one of the 43 foot lengths of red for the stripes.

Mary Beth was excited to see the display of First Ladies' dresses. I think she gets that from her Grandma Gatlin.

We spent the third day in and around some of the monuments along the Mall. We picnicked near the Washington Monument, visited the World War II Memorial, where Cory personally thanked a veteran for serving, and took some silly pictures at the Lincoln Memorial.

Then we found an ice cream vendor, which could very well have been the highlight of the day.

Our last day was at Mt Vernon, George Washington's home.

This was one of Cory's special requests since he had studied Washington last school year. We had an adventure filled day there. The kids all had a map with clues to use and discover more about the life and times of Washington. I thought it was engaging and well thought out. We also liked the indoor museum and education center, which showcased many of Washington's personal items, to include his false teeth.

We are glad for adventures like this ... It's one of the many reasons we wanted to homeschool, and is one of the best parts of living this crazy military life that we love.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Jungle Book

Again this year the girls participated in Missoula Children's Theater. They've been anticipating this year's play since taking their final bows at last year's show. In fact, we even had to cancel/reschedule vacation plans after confirming that the two would be in conflict with each other.

It was worth it, though, after watching the girls rehearse during the week and then seeing them on stage Saturday. They each performed marvelously...Ted and I were both beaming.

Riley played a wolf in the wolf pack. She swooned over the 'leader of the pack' and didn't miss a dance move or line.

Mary Beth played the part of an elephant. She was seen stampeding
across the stage numerous times in fear of a mouse (which turned out to be a mongoose, and nothing to fear). She, too, did an awesome job with her lines and acting.

Already they are hoping that MCT comes to Aviano so they can do it again! I'm still trying to clean the makeup off their faces.

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Monday, August 23, 2010

On The Road Again (mall cop style)

We've only been on our road trip for a couple of days, and already we've found lots of adventure. We arrived at our friend's house late, late, late Saturday night, which meant that we had all day Sunday to hang out and have fun. As we were discussing what we might do, they mentioned that outdoor rec. rents out Segways. Cool...that seems like a ton of fun.

The girls went first. We drove them along the Potomac River, enjoyed the scenery, and had a couple of speed trials on a basketball court.

We came back by their house, where the guys and kids came out to see us. They took over a little and gave some of the kids some rides before their turn.

And then it started raining. Hard. So the guys drove them back to outdoor rec in the driving rain and didn't get a turn. I knew he was disappointed.

However, their luck turned when the rain disappeared about as quickly as it arrived, and we convinced them to go back and rent them again.

Now, when the guys took them out there was apparently racing and goose chasing along the Potomac River. The racing was a contact sport as well, and Ted took a pretty good hit on his wrist, breaking his watch. I guess the helmets were a good idea after all.

When they came back by the house, Cory got a little ride and then raced his daddy on foot. That y chromosome is something else!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, August 19, 2010

August is CRAZY!

The girls are having a whirlwind August. They began the month in Egypt walking with Joseph from prison to palace at the Chapel's Vacation Bible School. They really enjoyed the makeup booth where they could get their eyes done like Egyptians. On Friday they dressed up in their "Indian-turned-Egyptian princess" costumes, wore the various crafts they made during the week and had me do their makeup before we left.
It was a great week for all 4 kids. Lucy loved going to her class, which was across the parking lot in another building. She called it "the middle of the circle," and it took me a long time to figure out that she wasn't talking about Freedom Circle. Cory also had a blast with his group--the first time he's done some sort of activity like this that he didn't cry and cling to me at drop off.

After VBS wrapped up, we got the girls packed up for camp at New England Camp Cedarbrook.
Riley has gone the past 2 years, and this was Mary Beth's first opportunity to attend. They had so much fun, and came home calling each other Sissy. Very sweet. Their week at camp was not without trouble, though. Unfortunatley the staff had to deal with cases of head lice during the week. That had to have been a nightmare! Luckily for us, the girls came home clear of the little buggers. I bet you feel a little itchy right about now, don't you?

This week they're participating in a Missoula Children's Theater production of the Jungle Book. We'll watch their performances on Saturday and then leave immediately for a week in Northern Virginia. After that we head to Arkansas for a couple of weeks. They can hardly wait! It's definitely a crazy August for us--especially Riley and Mary Beth

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


In an effort to do everything in the area that we can possibly think of before we move in 3 short months, we took a day trip to New Hampshire one beautiful Saturday. While there we rode an aerial tram up to the top of Cannon Mountain where we were blessed with these amazing views. We were also a little panicked when Ted's iphone fell down this little animal home/hole. I don't think Ted was too excited about sticking his hand down there, but he sure wasn't leaving behind his phone, either!
Then, we mosied over to the Flume Gorge where we hiked through the gorge and alongside these waterfalls,

crawled through rock caves that were a little bit of a squeeze for Ted and me, but just the right size for little Lu,

and climbed on rocks being hugged by tree roots. Or maybe we climbed on the trees that were hugging the rocks...

Either way, we had a great day of adventure!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Pirate's Life For Mom

We visit the library regularly. Cory loves picking out two kinds of books those about parents who are deployed and anything to do with pirates, particularly this one:
Let me just tell you that this book is a mother's worst nightmare. It seems harmless, innocent and fun, but it's W-O-R-K. Because this book is filled with all kinds of fantastic crafts to do in order to become a pirate. Crafts like making a sign for your 'cabin,' making a 'treasure chest,' and the jewel at the end--making invitations for your pirate party!
And these crafts involve cutting, gluing, painting, staining...all kinds of nice, clean, no mess projects, right? We have checked this book out on multiple occasions, and every time it is the same. Cory goes through the pages and wants me to help him with every single project. Because, since it is in the book we have to do it, right? How else can he become a pirate?
So, this last time he held it up at the library I tried to say "no, absolutely not," but we were finishing up the summer reading program that had been a pirate theme, and it seemed like a logical book for him too want to check out, so I caved.
I told him he could do any of the projects he wanted...I would get him the supplies but I wouldn't actually sit and do them with him. He would need to enlist his sister or an older friend if he needed more help. I thought that would be enough.
They made cabin signs and a treasure box with some success, and I figured all would be happy. But, apparently he noticed the page about having a pirate party, and WHILE I AM COOKING DINNER! he is in the kitchen asking me to help him make his pirate party invitations. It had to be done right then. He continued to nag, and I continued to try to tell him that it would have to wait, but he was persistent.
So I heated the water to put the tea bag in, because the paper had to be stained and old looking, while I continued working on dinner. I told him to get 3 sheets of paper and have his sister help him write an invitation. Yep, we were going to have a pirate party the next day. Nevermind the fact that I didn't have any game ideas or food, and less than 24 hours to come up with them at that. I think Riley was not happy that she was stuck writing the same invitation 3 times, but they got them finished and we put them outside in the tea water to stain. Afterwards we laid them out to dry. Cory was so eager to deliver them to his friends--every 5 minutes he was bringing me the papers asking if we could hand them out. Finally they were dry enough, and we handed them out...then I ran to the commissary for a few things to eat at this 'pirate party.'
The next morning we made all the final preparations and Cory donned his pirate outfit (the same one he wore to his preschool 'graduation' a year ago). Pretty soon his friends arrived and it was a party.
I had created a map of the neighborhood with a trail that led us to various activities.
The Ga-Ga pit became an ocean, and they sat in little boats and waged battle against each other with wadded up newspaper for bullets.

In the end, it was a great morning and a lot of fun. But I guarantee that I will not be checking that book out again in the near future. Until he holds it up and looks at me all sweetly, and then I cave. Because, truth be told, I enjoy the creativity too.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Reports from Mars

Now for my version...

After I had a successful Kayak trip to the Old North Bridge with the guys from church Kristi mentioned she loved canoeing. She reminded me she had taken a class in college about canoeing (sounds like a tough curriculum I know) and she thought the kids might enjoy it with the family. My first thought was - no we'll all end up in the water. Our kids don't sit still. Canoes tip over - we all end up wet, Lucy can't swim, are you serious? Time goes by - weeks - nothing happens. Then she mentions canoeing again, I remind her that Lucy can't swim and we'd all end up wet. She doesn't agree but in the response I don't hear her say let's go rent a canoe, just the longing of her younger days when she could be adventurous. Time goes by. One weekend a neighbor takes his family canoeing.

Kristi gives me the look.

OK now I know she is serious and wants to go out.

I ask her to get the details of the place the neighbors rented and suggest we could do it this week when the girls are at camp and the 4 remaining titanfans could go out in one watercraft.

I take off early and we make it to the rental place at about 430 in the afternoon. We complete the paperwork to rent the canoe, get the kids secured into safety equipment and a some pads to sit on. No problem. As we leave the dock I verify with the deckboy - which way to the North Bridge? Because that is what I thought we were here for - a nice afternoon trip to the bridge. Similar to the experience I had before (but much shorter since this place is only 1.5 miles from the bridge and the men's group had almost 3 times that distance). He points the same direction we are going and says it's about a 1.5 hour round trip. That cues me to ask what time they close. 6 he says. Although posted closing time was 1 hour prior to dusk - so I knew it was not exact. I'm still heading for the north bridge. No words from the front of the boat about not wanting to press on.

Eventually Cory wants a turn rowing. Kristi gives him her paddle. I keep pressing on. Kristi and I struggle to keep the canoe going straight down river but it's ok we are just out for the North Bridge. I continue to paddle at a moderate pace, we do need to get back prior to close. I think his estimate of 1.5 is lowest common denominator and we will easily beat it since we are constantly rowing. We get most of the way to the Bridge and then Kristi mentions for the first time that she didn't want to go to the bridge or row seriously or anything like that.

Great. Now we are more than 3/4 the way there. What am I to do? The head of the challenge ministry can't turn back. I can't log a DNF (for all you geocachers), I can't not charge into the endzone...

I express my sadness, but keep pressing to the GOAL! Remember I said we were flowing downstream on the first leg - I knew that would cause trouble on the way back, but the current was not that strong and figured we could still easily return by 6 - closing. We loop around the Old North Bridge, hear the National Park tour guide mention to a group "what a perfect day to be on the river!" as we pass under the bridge without another boater in sight. Kristi waves to someone she knows, we shoot some pics...and turn back upstream.

As we progress, Cory wants more time with the paddle. We tell him we kind of need to row. But he's not deterred in asking. We finally establish that after the last of 4 bridges and the rental dock would be in sight - he could row all he wanted.

We see plenty of wildlife, birds, turtles, fish, beavers and the like. Lucy and Cory seemed to have a good time. I've had a great time and feel the sense of accomplishment. Kristi mentions she might be sore the next day.

Just another great example in how sometimes despite our best efforts we just talk right past each other. It's okay though because I'm the luckiest man in the world being married to the most beautiful person I know!!

Gotta run, I hear the conductor calling. It's time for my shuttle back to Mars.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Her Side

I thought I had a great little idea for a family adventure...canoeing. I enjoy canoeing quite a bit, although I rarely actually do it. My first trip was when I was a kid, floating the Buffalo River in Arkansas with my parents and brother. In college a canoeing course filled the square for my physical education requirement. Since then I've been in a canoe only a handful of times, but I've always enjoyed it.

Recently I suggested to Ted that we take the kids canoeing on the Concord River. He had taken a group of men from the church on a canoe trip last fall, and I thought it might be fun for us, too.

It took a while for me to convince him that I was serious. It wasn't until neighbors of ours spent one Sunday afternoon going canoeing, that I finally said, "See! I'm not crazy! Other people do this, too!" And so, yesterday, we headed out in the afternoon for a canoe trip with our two youngest kids. I packed a few snacks and drinks, verified the boat house location with our neighbors and Ted came home from work an hour early so we could canoe.

We arrived at the South Bridge Boat House in Concord. It was about 4:30, maybe a little after. We signed in and got our gear and canoe. As we pushed off Ted asked which way to the North Bridge. The boat guy pointed us in the direction and said it's about an hour and a half trip. Ted asked when they close. 6:00. It seemed obvious to me that we wouldn't be doing that.

Now, it was at about this point that the experience suddenly changed:

I was on a canoe...with snacks and a peaceful river. I had visions of a leisurely float, watching the turtles, taking in the beautiful scenery.

Ted, on the other hand, was on a canoe with a mission--The Old North Bridge was that way, it's about a 1 and 1/2 hour round trip, and we had just over an hour. Time to paddle.

I ask, "Are we going to the North Bridge?" Ted said, "Of course we are." This wasn't quite what I had in mind.

We made it to the Bridge and back just in time--the boy and lady were definitely closing up shop behind us. And we pretty much paddled the entire time!!! But it was still a lot of fun, and I think we'll do it again--maybe next time I'll do a better job of verbalizing my expectations, though.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Zip Free or Die!

Today I was able to enjoy the final piece of my Birthday present. An adrenaline filled day at Alpine Adventures in New Hampshire (compliments to the State for one of the best slogan's ever!). Kristi and the kids purchased a day of zipline fun and worked it out for two of my buddies to go along with me.

The tour is a series of ziplines criss-crossing down a forested peak in the White Mountains. I recorded a few videos. I used my trusty iPhone to record these. I steered myself with one hand and tightly held on to my phone with the other. In the past I have been prone to iPhone drops when we are out adventuring with the kids, praise God - today no drops.

This first video shows the first two ziplines. I didn't realize I was videoing during the transition, but in the end it's cool to see how it works while he unhooks me from one line and then onto another. Steve had mentioned to the guide as he went down this line before me that this was a birthday present. In the video you can hear him say happy b-day. That was cool. (you might want to turn the music off at the bottom so you can hear the sound)

This second video is another of the ziplines farther down the hill. You can see how the guide on the end really catches you.

The course had multiple ziplines and a small ropes bridge. I also recorded my walk across this one, but it's pretty shaky. Instead of showing that, I included one of my buddy coming behind me.

The last of the lines was the steepest/fastest and most fun. I went backwards based on the guide's advice to make it more thrilling. I did not record that one, but I did record my buddy who went after me. You can see that this one is a little faster. The sound is me yelling as he went know me...always making silly sounds.

This company has another zipline tour that is higher, faster, longer. I'll have to do that one next!

Thanks to the family for a great birthday present!

(gotta love the goofy helmet :)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

My Advice--Go With the Musket

During our friends' recent visit, we made it to Old Ironsides for a looksie. There are two tour options available for visitors. The guided tour that includes a visit to the lower portion of the ship and the fly-over tour that allows visitors to roam around on the top level only. Since there were varying degrees of interest among our group, 4 went for the whole enchilada (to include Cory and Riley) while the other 6 of us simply took the opportunity for a photo-op on the upper deck...

While we waited for the rest of our party, the six of us (to include Mary, Lucy and me) did some looking around the gift shop and visiting the USS Constitution Museum nearby. What I should have been doing is examining the ship more closely before purchasing a sweet wooden model boat of the very ship they were touring as a souvenir for Cory. His friend got a musket. Guess who was mad that all he got was a stupid boat?
Soon after, however, I had him convinced that the boat would be super fun to build, and not to worry, we would definitely be getting him a musket soon--mostly because it would be a fun thing to remember our time living near the historic Battle Trail. Unfortunately, I had him convinced so well, that he could hardly wait to start constructing.

I was able to hold him off until the next day while our friends did some solo sightseeing. After opening the box and examining the contents I realized my mistake. I should have just bought the musket! But no, Cory was now WAY excited and WAY impatient.

I discussed with him his options...he could get going right away and have a ship that looked silly in the end, but would be done quickly, or he could show some restraint and end up with a great boat. He opted for restraint (but really, restraint isn't exactly the word I would use to describe his incessant begging of me to let him get started). After gluing the first three pieces together, we loaded up to head the craft store, because the next thing we had to do was paint all the parts. That's right--paint--multiple colors and designs.

And after painting all the parts, we had to assemble, which Cory tried to help with, and I tried to let him do as much as he could, but there's only so much a 6 year old's hands can do on a boat whose instructions suggested an age of 10 or older. Really, I should have gone with the musket.

And then there was the rigging--over half of the instructions dedicated to rigging the thing! Guess who did that?

FYI--the musket didn't have any parts to glue on, paint or string...and two days later I ended up buying him one. Guess which one he plays with and hung in his bedroom