Archive for the ‘Family Fun’ Category

Halloween 2019

Happy November!  It’s no secret that I’m glad it’s here – while I’m still busy at work, at least my crazy October is over.  We all have months where it’s especially hectic, but it made me really sad that my turn happened to fall in October, which is my favorite month.  A lot of the fall fun that I was hoping for didn’t happen – no apple-picking, no pumpkin patch – and that was largely because of my work schedule, complicated by fall colds for the kiddos.  So I was really looking forward to Halloween, even more than I usually do, because it meant my ridiculous month would be behind me – finally.

Halloween started as they always have in recent years – with the adorable costume parade and class festivities at the kids’ school.  Only the early childhood hallway actually parades, so this was the first year I only had one in costume and walking.  My parents were in town to see the fun this year – yay! – so I met them at the school and we watched Nugget and his buddies strut through the school hallways.  Then my parents headed off to do their own thing, while I hung around to help first with the junior kindergarten class party, and then with Peanut’s class “pumpkin day.”  (Which involved estimating and then taking size measurements and then counting the seeds in a few pumpkins that the parents had donated to the class.)

While I’d have loved to stay at the school all day, I eventually had to drift off back to my computer and do some work.  I picked the kids up promptly at the end of the school day – no aftercare for them – and we headed home to get ready for trick-or-treating.

Ever since we moved back to NoVA, we’ve been celebrating Halloween on a particular street in Old Town.  The street closes to traffic and becomes a big, wild block party.  The residents go all out – dressed to the nines in their costumes, and with elaborate decorations on every house.

The scene was as happening as it always is, and the kids were extra excited this year, because they finally got to share it with their grandparents.

They were really into going from house to house and collecting candy this year.  I followed along behind, snapping pictures of all the over-the-top decorations (as I always do).

Spiders were big this year – literally and figuratively.

Skeletons, too.

While most of the houses went all-in on crazy Halloween kitsch, a few were more understated.

The kids made out like little bandits.  This was their biggest haul ever – they hit every house and more than half filled their (large) treat bags.

This Halloween was especially fun, because everyone was in the mood to celebrate our World Series-winning Nationals!  I spotted nods to the Nats all over town.

This dinosaur with a Nats flag was the hero we all needed.

Also this guy with a “City of Champions” sign taped to his Washington Capitals jersey, with recent championships recited on it.  I appreciated that he was celebrating D.C. women’s sports, like the Mystics, too!

The Bryce Harper skeleton made me feel very seen.

Our family pumpkin celebrated the Nats too, of course.  (Victory parade tomorrow!)

Happy Halloween!  I hope you had a fun, safe night with lots of treats and not too many tricks.

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The Fall List 2019

I’m on record as saying that I love summer and fall almost equally, but fall just barely edges out summer in my affections.  What’s not to like?  Turning leaves, crisp air, wood smoke, the return of hockey season, Oktoberfest beers, fall baking, apple-picking mornings with friends… it’s all wonderful.  And as always, I have a long list of things I’d like to get around to doing, and ideas to record in the Great Ledger of Family Adventures.  It’s never easy to whittle it down to ten.  But when it’s all said and done, here’s what I’m hoping to do this fall:

  • Make it up to New York at least once (preferably twice), and visit my grandmother.
  • Related: get back into the habit of writing letters to my grandmother.
  • Get in a birthday hike somewhere cool – maybe Shenandoah, maybe one of the farther-afield state parks.
  • Finally watch Hocus Pocus.  Can you believe I’ve never seen it?
  • Go apple-picking with friends (a tradition!) and make a big batch of applesauce (and maybe a pie).
  • Finally start working on a big family memory-keeping project I’ve been plotting for ages.
  • Take the kids pumpkin-picking at Wegmeyer Farms and to the blockbuster neighborhood trick-or-treating extravaganza.
  • Re-read Poems Bewitched and Haunted.
  • Run a fall 5K.
  • Ride the Potomac Water Taxi.  How have I still never done this?

Here’s to a fall season of fun, joy, and memory-making!

What do you have on the agenda for fall?

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A bit belated, since it’s already fall, but I wanted to share a few snaps from our recent (ish… it was Labor Day) family paddle out on the Potomac.  Steve and I had been talking about how we hadn’t been out on the water since we got back from the San Juans, and we were both jealously eyeing the kayakers and canoeists out on Lake Burke during our family hike there over Labor Day weekend, and we decided a family paddle was in order as soon as possible.  We’d initially planned to go to Lake Anna on Labor Day, but swimming was prohibited due to a harmful algae bloom (yuck, and also, what are we doing to this planet?).  So we quickly shifted plans and headed to our favorite local kayaking spot – Fletcher’s Cove.

Fletcher’s is upriver from Georgetown and on a particularly narrow, calm and sheltered stretch of the Potomac, making it especially good for the little duffers – yet we don’t make it there nearly as often as we’d like.  In 2018 we didn’t even get to Fletcher’s once – every time we tried to paddle, it was closed for high water, and I was working on the 52 Hike Challenge anyway, leaving little time for river fun.  This year, we bounced from boathouse to boathouse, checking out the paddling options on other stretches of the Potomac and on the Anacostia.  Closing out the summer at our old favorite boathouse seemed like a long-overdue treat.

Nugget and I were first to launch this time, and instead of paddling upriver toward Chain Bridge, we meandered downriver while we waited for Peanut and Steve to catch up.  The dock employee who launched us suggested we might see some interesting birds on the way, and he wasn’t kidding – there were waterbirds aplenty, and we got up close and personal with this Great Blue Heron.  (I think we also saw a cormorant – we weren’t able to get close enough to positively identify it before it took off, but it had the trademark awkward cormorant flight.)

Steve and Peanut caught up with us soon, and got to check out the avian life too.  The water was so peaceful!

As we headed downriver, I spotted a familiar landmark ahead.

The Washington Monument!  I didn’t realize we would catch a glimpse of it, and now I’m kicking myself for all the times we paddled to the Chain Bridge instead of exploring in the downriver direction.

Eventually, we turned around and headed back to the dock – but it was a great morning of paddling (despite the blister I was working on; Steve accidentally shrank my paddling gloves in the wash after we returned from the San Juans, and I haven’t replaced them yet).  Both Nugget and Peanut were totally into paddling.  Steve said that Peanut’s paddling form was great and they actually got into a paddling rhythm for awhile!  She’s growing up, you guys.  Hold me.

Totally self-indulgent and way belated, I know, but I couldn’t let the month get away from me without sharing these snaps from a gorgeous morning on the water.

Do you have a favorite local paddling spot?


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Mabon and the autumnal equinox is approaching, which means: fall is upon us.  As we bid summer goodbye until next year, I’m looking back at a season full of sandy shoes, sunscreen smeared on faces, waves jumped, pool moves perfected, sunshine soaked up, popsicles slurped and so. much. joy.  I am always a little conflicted at this turn of the seasons, because while I love all things fall, I’m never quite ready to see the end of summer, either.  But it helps when I’ve had a long, bright, full season and built up a trove of memories to see me through the dark days of winter ahead – and I definitely did that this year.

  • The BIG one: spend five days on a kayaking eco-tour around the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington State.  I can’t wait!  Done!  Steve and I had an incredible trip to Washington – the experience of a lifetime.  We spent five days paddling blissfully alongside new friends, saw tons of wildlife (orcas, porpoises, seals, bald eagles and more!) and got to really unplug and disconnect from the hectic everyday life.  It was wonderful.

  • The other BIG one: take a family vacation to a new-to-us spot on the Outer Banks.  Done!  We usually visit Frisco, down on Hatteras Island, but since it was just our immediate family this time, we decided that returning to our usual haunts would cause us to spend the whole time missing the extended family.  So we checked out Duck, one of the northern OBX towns, instead, and had a wonderful week of family bonding.  The kids still think they were in Antigua, but what they don’t know won’t kill them.

  • Build up my running base, and sign up for a fall 5K.  Done…ish.  I didn’t get as much running in as I’d hoped, but I got more than nothing, and that’s better than I had been doing.  I haven’t signed up for a local race, but I am planning to do the Wonder Woman virtual 5K again, just as soon as back to school excitement calms down.

  • Take the family to a Washington Nationals game.  #natitude  Done!  I gave Steve the tickets for Father’s Day and we went to see the Nats play the Braves in late June.  We made it five innings and ate way too much ballpark food, so it was a success (even if the Nats lost, like pretty much the only game they’ve lost all summer).
  • Make mini pizzas on the grill.  Didn’t happen… maybe this fall?  I really want to do this!

  • Read from my own shelves.  I feel like that Daniel Radcliffe meme (I think it’s from How to Succeed in Business Without Trying, maybe?) – “I tried, and therefore no one should criticize me!”  Okay, I really tried.  And I did read a few, including knocking off a couple of Classics Club reads.  But the library addiction continues strong.

  • Celebrate Litha by candlelight in the garden.  Done!  It was peaceful and lovely, except for when a woman started screaming at her boyfriend because of his terrible parking job.  Ah, city life.
  • Go back to Shenandoah National Park and hike a new trail.  Didn’t happen – hopefully this fall.  It would be lovely to make it there when the leaves are turning.
  • Make homemade popsicles.  (This is basically mandatory if you’ve seen Nugget’s popsicle dance.)  Didn’t happen – booooo!  The kids did eat a lot of popsicles, though.  Does that count?

  • Help Peanut host her girlfriends for a “reading party” in a neighborhood park.  Done!  She’d been asking for this for months and I was so glad we made it happen.  We tossed down a woven blanket, ate cookies and cake and drank lemonade, and read our books.  Now I’m thinking that making a kids’ book club with the girls in Peanut’s class would be a fun thing to do.  We’ve been talking about finally getting a Girl Scout troop off the ground, which I still would like to do, but a book club strikes me as an easier endeavor.  We’ll see…

Not too shabby!  I’m always ridiculously ambitious with my summer and fall lists (much more than winter and spring) but I feel like we had a good season.  We got a lot done from this list, and we have hours of sunshine, splashing, and family fun to look back on when the cold settles in.  As a bonus – I spent the summer recording short videos to mash into a “One Second Everyday” video documenting the season – and now that it’s done, I can’t stop watching it.  What a happy, peaceful three months we had!

How was your summer?

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Gone to Carolina In My Mind

When Steve and I sat down to discuss summer vacation plans, we knew that in addition to our planned parents trip to the San Juan Islands, we wanted to do something with the kids.  We kicked around a few ideas and ultimately decided that a trip back to our beloved Outer Banks was in order – after all, we hadn’t been down that way since Nugget was a baby.  But knowing that it was just going to be our family – no grandparents, aunt and uncle, or family friends along for the ride this time – we decided to mix it up and go somewhere different; we figured if we went back to our regular stomping grounds, we’d spend the whole week missing the rest of the family.  I’d heard good things about Duck – one of the northern OBX towns – and we decided to give it a try.

Our first stop upon rolling into town was the iconic Duck Donuts.  I know it’s not that big of a deal anymore – there’s a Duck Donuts in the shopping plaza where my kids get their haircuts, for goodness sake – but we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get Duck Donuts in Duck.  Peanut got cinnamon sugar with frosting and sprinkles, Steve had a glazed with salted caramel drizzle, and I got chocolate with graham cracker crumbs.  Nugget insisted that he didn’t want a donut, then proceeded to eat three quarters of mine.  Oof.

After fortifying ourselves with donuts (or a quarter of a donut, in my case) we headed to our beach house – home for the week.  I spent a lot of time searching for the perfect house – tried Airbnb, VRBO, and the traditional realtors.  The main requirements were: not too exorbitantly priced, soundfront, and with a deck.  I finally found a house that fit the bill, right on Currituck Sound and about a half mile’s walk from the ocean beach.

Little people loved the screen porch, and spent quite a few hours playing out here (while Mom relaxed with a book and a La Croix – the life).

Down the stairs from the deck, we had a beautiful boardwalk right down to a little private beach on Currituck Sound.

The kids spent a decent amount of time splashing in the warm, shallow sound waters, while Mom took in the views (and picked up trash from the beach, because I have to be me).

Of course, while we loved our sound mornings, the real highlight came in the afternoon each day – the ocean beach!

Duck Beach was a long, beautiful strip of pristine white sand, dotted with colorful umbrellas.  The one downside to vacationing in Duck, we found, was that there was no public access to the beach – if you couldn’t walk to an access point for your neighborhood, you were pretty much out of luck.  Unlike in Frisco, where we stay with my parents, there is no public parking or beach access.  But we had a beach access point for our neighborhood about a half mile’s walk from the house, which was very easy – and the upside to the beach not being as accessible as some others was that it was a lot cleaner.  I barely saw a speck of trash on the ocean beach all week, and the water was clean and fresh.  I’ll take that bargain!

Wave jumping was the activity of choice.

And dancing, too.

We did have some weird weather roll in during the week, so I filled up the non-beach hours with a few mandatory OBX activities.  Nugget and I stopped by Kitty Hawk Kites (just the Duck outpost, not the huge flagship in Kitty Hawk) and picked out kites for both of the kids.  And whenever you’re in the Outer Banks, you have to visit a lighthouse, right?

We had one dreary morning that wasn’t sound material, and I needed to get the kids out of Steve’s hair so he could work, so I loaded them in the car and drove them about half an hour to Corolla, to check out the Currituck Beach Lighthouse.  Although I’ve been to the Hatteras and Ocracoke Lights many times, I’d never seen Currituck’s version – this lighthouse connoisseur was suitably impressed.  Nugget wanted to climb, so I bought a ticket, and we made it about halfway up – a success, I think.

Saturday dawned drizzly and dreary, too, so we pulled out our other rainy-day plan – a drive to Roanoke Island, to visit the North Carolina Aquarium.  (Making it a two-aquarium trip… we stopped at the Virginia Aquarium, in Virginia Beach, on the way down to Duck, to break up the trip.)

Peanut almost touched one of the stingrays in the touch tank.  Almost!  She put her hand in the water – nowhere near a stingray, but in the water.  Which, I have to tell you, is a hell of a lot closer than I’ve ever gotten to touching any of the animals in any touch tank, anywhere, ever.  I prefer to stay at least twenty-four inches from the edge.  So I was fist-pumping her bravery.

Sharks were a major highlight – there was a huge shark tank, which was super cool.  The whole aquarium had a shipwreck theme, and the animals swam in tanks that were decorated with sunken wrecks – very on point for the Graveyard of the Atlantic.

The highlight of this aquarium, though, was seeing the sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation center.  I had no idea this was a thing the North Carolina Aquarium operates, so it was a total surprise and delight to walk through the doors and watch the wildlife rehabilitators at work.

Each turtle was floating in its own little tank, with enrichment toys and a carefully controlled environment.  Nugget raised his hand and asked the volunteer interpreter what the turtles’ names were and what parts of their bodies were sick.  (Good question for a four-year-old, right?)  The interpreter explained that the turtles have a variety of health issues that they are working through, and showed us one that had a chunk of its shell missing from a boat strike.  (SOB.)  She also explained that the rehabilitators work through themed names and that the current group all had names from Harry Potter.  Not having read the books or seen the movies, she had a hard time remembering the names, but she pointed out Longbottom, in tank number 7, and Bertie Bott, in tank 2.  (The rehabilitators haven’t named any turtle after Harry himself, yet.  As it was explained to us, they have to be really sure that they will be successful with that turtle.  After all, Harry Potter is the Boy Who Lived.)

We just loved seeing the turtles, hearing about the rehabilitators’ work to heal them and return them to the wild, and reading about the aquarium’s efforts at sea turtle conservation.  Second only to cetaceans, sea turtles are my favorite ocean creatures.  What a delightful surprise to find this work going on at the North Carolina Aquarium.

It was a lovely week.  Not restful, exactly, but the change of scenery was much needed – and it was good to get some time away as a foursome.  I had no idea how much we’d been missing that until we made it happen.

The perk of staying soundside, of course – evenings on the deck watching the sun set over the water, a rare sight on the East Coast.  The sunsets weren’t especially spectacular while we were there, thanks to some weather systems that always seemed to roll in at dinnertime.  But we caught a few light shows.  The best, by far, was the first night of our trip:

Such a gorgeous spot!  I wish I was back there right now.  Thanks for the memories, Duck!  I’m sure we will be back – maybe not for a full week, but at least en route to and from Hatteras.  We have such a long history with the Outer Banks, I always know we’re going to return.


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In lieu of the usual Monday reading post, I thought that today I’d pay tribute to my favorite holiday – Independence Day – instead.  Hope y’all don’t mind!  I’ve been torturing the kiddos with forced Fourth of July pictures every year since 2015.  They hate it, but I just tell them it’s their Independence Day gift to me.  It’s just so much fun to look back on the pictures months or years later.

2015.  We went to Canalside in Buffalo and the kids sat together in a mini Adirondack chair while I died of the cuteness.  Peanut was delighted that she was actually getting to hold Nugget.  Nugget was hilariously skeptical.

2016.  We were back at Canalside, but Nugget got his own chair this time.  What a difference a year makes!  He was a lot more enthusiastic this time around.  Why are mini Adirondack chairs so darn cute?

2017.  We spent my favorite holiday in my favorite place – my parents’ Adirondack camp.  Nana blew up the baby pool and we took turns hauling buckets of freezing cold water from the lake.  I wouldn’t have wanted to sit in there, but these two chuckleheads have basically no sense of temperature.  Also, Nugget refused to take his life jacket off all weekend.

2018.  Nothing major on the Fourth, just a low-key wetlands hike at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria.  I think this was about when Peanut started striking poses.  Pictures have been really interesting for the past year.  We headed up to the ‘dacks the next day.

So much growing!  I just love this holiday, and I love looking back at the fun we’ve had over the years, not to mention babies in Old Glory colors.  Wonder what crazy poses I’ll get this year…

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Who’s got #natitude?  We do!  As I’ve mentioned, I’m on a mission to make my family into Washington Nationals fans.  Steve is ride-or-die for the New York Yankees, but he’s open to a solid second-favorite team (and the Nats almost never play the Yanks).  Peanut couldn’t be less fussed about sportsball if she tried, but I’ve faced down challenges before.  And Nugget is a blank slate when it comes to baseball (he’s already committed to the Buffalo football and hockey teams, poor fella).  So I feel like there’s room to play here.

For Phase One of my mission, I dragged the family down to the Ballpark Boathouse for a morning of exploring the Anacostia River by way of our paddles, and checking out the view of Nationals Park from the water.

Super cool.  Let’s go, Nats!

Yes, Mom, that is a very nice ballpark.  Can we go home and watch cartoons now?

It was crazy windy on the river – you can’t tell from this picture, but paddling into the wind we were almost stationary.  Definitely a good workout for the crazy kayaking adventure Steve and I have planned.  (About which: more soon.)

Definitely a home run on the water.

A few weeks later, we got a different view of Nationals Park – the inside view!  For Phase Two… that is, for Father’s Day, I bought Steve four tickets to an afternoon game against the Atlanta Braves.  He was surprised and delighted.  The tickets were for last Sunday, so we packed up the dugout and headed to the game.

First things first: food!  I was looking forward to trying out Field of Greens, but it was so far away from our seats that other options seemed better.  Nugget and I grabbed veggie dogs from Nats Dogs, and Peanut and Steve picked up chicken tenders and fries next door.  Eaten while wearing a hooded towel version of Screech, the Nats’ mascot, because obviously.  (It was a free kids’ promotion, and I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t part of my decision to buy tickets for this particular game.)

Dessert was cotton candy, obviously.

Nugget had a blue goatee and blue hands.

Also a blue tongue.  And got blue goop all over the Buffalo Bills jersey he insisted on wearing.  Luckily I’d stopped in the fan shop and bought him his own little Nats jersey, so he had something clean to change into.  Were Peanut and Nugget the cutest little fans at the game?  Yes, yes they were.

Nugget brought his red baseball glove in case of fly balls, but none of them made it up to the nosebleed seats.  Maybe next time!

In any Nats game, the Presidents’ Race is a highlight.  Giant-headed George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abe Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt teeter around the field and sometimes fall down, which is everyone’s favorite.  This time, it was a relay race – Washington and Jefferson against Lincoln and Roosevelt.

Teddy anchored his team to victory, and George was MAD.  Look at him waving his arms angrily at Thomas.  Run faster next time, Tom.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy!  Go Nats!

What’s your favorite baseball team?  If you don’t have one, would you consider rooting for the Nats?

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