Archive for the ‘Family Fun’ Category

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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Summerrrrrrrrrr!  I wait all year for this season.  Bring on the heat, bring on the humidity, bring on summer thunderstorms and campfires and late sunsets and lemonade and (vegan) s’mores and tie-dye day at summer camp and lightening bugs (fireflies, lampyridae…) and sand-between-the-toes and splashing in the pool and paddling the Potomac and Belmont Bay and… I could go on.  I love basically everything about summer, and last year’s weather was such a bust that I’m determined this year will make up for it.  It has to.  I want to do everything, of course, but I’m holding myself to ten things and here they are:

  • 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!
  • The other BIG one: take a family vacation to a new-to-us spot on the Outer Banks.
  • Build up my running base, and sign up for a fall 5K.
  • Take the family to a Washington Nationals game.  #natitude
  • Make mini pizzas on the grill.
  • Read from my own shelves.
  • Celebrate Litha by candlelight in the garden.
  • Go back to Shenandoah National Park and hike a new trail.
  • Make homemade popsicles.  (This is basically mandatory if you’ve seen Nugget’s popsicle dance.)
  • Help Peanut host her girlfriends for a “reading party” in a neighborhood park.

I could think of so many more, but the above should make a good start toward a pretty epic summer, don’t you think?  Now, pass me a vegan s’more.

What’s on your summer to-do list?

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I’m on record as not loving spring.  Mud, allergies, sheets of rain – meh.  Give me the hazy hot days of summer, thank you very much.  But for better or for worse, spring is one fourth of the seasons of the year, so I do try to make the best of it with all the spring activities (at least, when I can breathe).  I think we did spring right this year – daffodil picking, hiking the bluebell trail, enjoying the blossoms in the neighborhood.  I didn’t check every item off my list (read on) but I did enough that I can say this was not a lost season.  In spring, that’s really all I’m looking for.

  • A MUST: hike the Bluebell Loop Trail at Bull Run during peak week.  Done!  This is indeed a must, and we’ve made a point of getting to Bull Run to hike the bluebell trail every spring for the past three years.  I had a brief moment of panic when the park reported on Facebook that a freak storm had destroyed all the bluebells, but then I realized that it was April 1st, and I could breathe again.
  • Help Peanut and Nugget hunt for eggs in the churchyard after a joyous Easter service.  Hmmm – I’m calling this one-third done.  We did go to church on Easter, and Nugget did hunt for eggs in the courtyard, but I didn’t get to enjoy watching him because I was dragging his sister home as she finished off a massive temper tantrum that started toward the end of the service.  Keeping it real, folks.

  • Host my mother-in-law, my parents and our dear family friends on successive weekends in April.  Done!  Grandma visited Easter weekend (she missed the above excitement, because she was already on her flight back to Florida, lucky duck) and the following weekend my parents and our family friends stopped by for an overnight on their way back north after spending a month on Hilton Head Island (must be nice, amirite).  It was such a treat to see all those beloved faces two weekends in a row.

  • Stock up on the gear that Steve and I will need for our kayaking trip to the San Juan Islands this summer.  My REI dividends just arrived and will be put to good use!  Done!  We set up a date night and booked a gear fitting appointment, and came home laden with shopping bags.  The dividends were indeed put to good use, and I’m hoping that we also get lots of good use out of our purchases over the years.  (Steve came home with the Nemo sleeping bag he’s testing out in the picture above – can’t you tell how happy and contented he is?  It’s stuffed with real down, so wasn’t for me, but I ended up with a cozy Marmot sleeping bag stuffed with recycled synthetic down and am snug as a bug.)

  • Related: get into eco-touring shape with regular gym-going during the week and weekend paddling as soon as the boathouse opens.  Done!  I’ve been hitting the gym a few days a week, running on other days, and we’ve made it out for two mornings of paddling, including a windy day on the Anacostia last weekend – that was a workout indeed.  I don’t know if I’ll ever feel really in eco-touring shape, but I’m doing my best.
  • Read Wives and Daughters, by Elizabeth Gaskell.  Didn’t.  Darn library deadlines.

  • Clear the winter detritus off the back patio, stock up on herbs, veggies and fruit (!!!) and get my container garden started for the season.  Done!  The garden is planted and is producing already – wahoo!  Check in with me throughout the summer for gardening updates.
  • Get my dad’s old camera fixed and cleaned, and start shooting film.  Another one I’m calling one-third done.  I took the camera in for an estimate and it took the store three weeks to get back to me – frustrating – and then the estimate was so expensive I’m now not sure I want to go forward.  I really want to get the camera fixed, and I really want to shoot film, so I might see if they will do a payment plan.  Otherwise, this item may appear again on the fall list.  After all the gear we needed for our upcoming trip, I’m just not in the mood to make another big purchase right now.
  • Listen to the new Decemberists limited edition EP, Traveling On, on my record player by an open window.  Haven’t done this as of press time, but I still might.  My windows are open most nights right now.  So… maybe Saturday night?

  • Take a photography walk with my dSLR through my neighborhood once the blossoms are out.  Three-quarters done?  I didn’t bust out the dSLR, but I did take a photography walk and captured the redbud blossoms – my favorite! – blooming all over Old Town.  Get a load of that purple!  I probably could have gotten better snaps with my actual camera, but the iPhone worked fine.

Not too shabby!  Like I said, not being a major spring lover, I had to motivate myself a little bit to do these things, and obviously not all of them got done.  But I did feel like I had a nice season.  Even at its best, for me, spring is just the opening act – I’m a summer girl at heart.  The mercury is rising every day, and so is my mood, and Litha is still ahead of us – check in with me on Friday for my summer list!

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Happy summer!  My favorite-season-tied-with-fall is finally upon us, and I’m on a mission to make the most of it – as always!  This year, we decided that the beach was the best way to ring in the season, and on the Friday before Memorial Day we rolled up to the kids’ school with a loaded-down car, ready to drive to Virginia Beach for the holiday weekend.  I hope you’re ready for a photobomb of a recap post…

We arrived too late in the evening for any beach time on Friday, but the kids were up bright and early and ready for sand and saltwater on Saturday!  We were staying with our dear friends Rebecca and Eric, who live walking distance from this lovely, calm, clean and uncrowded beach on Chesapeake Bay (the Atlantic side of VB is much more the party side; this is a residential beach, frequented mostly by neighborhood folks, and we love it).  The kids made right for the water.

Rebecca joined us, along with Brandy the dog – who was eating up every second of all the extra attention the kids gave her.

There was ball-throwing.

And hugs-n-love.

We made a trip back for lunch, and then returned for the afternoon, then went back to the house for dinner, and made a third trip down to the beach to watch the sunset in a big crowd with the neighbors.  Beach sunsets might be my favorite thing ever.

The sun was starting to dip when we got to the beach, but we still had a good hour of light for splashing.

Soon the sun started dipping lower and lower.

Eventually, the sun dipped all the way down below some low-hanging clouds, and our light show was over.  It was gorgeous while it lasted.  And some people were worn. out.

Sunday morning dawned just as early as Saturday (and every other day, for that matter).  We’re always diligent about sunscreen, but after Mom got a little crispy on Saturday, we were extra-vigilant.  Peanut made sure my face was protected.

Loaded up the golf cart for another fabulous morning at the beach!  The paddleboards came this time…

(Who let Peanut drive?)

We got right down to the business of having fun.  Look, I caught a mermaid!

Mommy and Aunt Rebecca took the paddleboards out for a jaunt in the bay.  It was too choppy to stay out long – just staying upright was a major effort.  Rebecca and I each fell in once and I lost my hat, but the water felt good – at least, until we were back on shore and Rebecca remarked “I’m glad I didn’t think about the great white shark that’s been hanging around in the bay before we took the paddleboards out.”  Great… white… what’s that now?

After another morning of cooking in the sun and fortunately not meeting any sharks – we did spot a pod of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins swimming near shore, which was super cool – we headed back to the house for some downtime before sunset.

This is Peanut’s houseboat, where bubbles are blown.

They played horsey and drank virgin daquiris, because why not.

And then it was time to clean up and head out to dinner before the sunset!  Nugget fell asleep in the car and snoozed through most of the dinner (keeping it real, folks) but Peanut had fun soaking up all the aunt and uncle attention while her brother slept the meal away.

And then it was time to load up the golf cart and trundle on back down to beach for one more sunset.

Please don’t make us leave!

It was a wonderful weekend.  Warm, salty, full of laughter and fellowship with good friends.  I’d love it if we could make it back here before Rebecca and Eric move to Florida, but if this was the last hurrah, it was a good one.  And I do hope it’s a sign of things to come, because we are so ready for a magical, light-filled summer.

How did you welcome summer this Memorial Day weekend?


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It’s here!  It’s here!  IT’S HEEEEEEEEEERE!  Pardon me, friends, but I can barely control my glee, because – paddling season is here!  I adore pretty much all paddlesports, but kayaking is my first and most enduring love, and I was starting to develop a twitch after only making it out on the water once last year.  (As old friends may recall, we spent pretty much every moment we could on the hiking trails last year, churning through the 52 Hike Challenge, which was a lot of fun but which definitely got in the way of kayaking.  It also didn’t help that we had such a wet summer last year – most weekend days saw a steady downpour, and when the weather was actually nice enough to get out, the boathouses were closed due to high water from all the rain.)  But as I said when I recapped the #52HikeChallenge, that was not going to be the story of 2019.  As Steve and I prepare for a weeklong ecotouring adventure in the Pacific Northwest, we are taking every chance we can to get those paddling muscles into shape.  And since last weekend was the first weekend the boathouses were open – some of them, anyway – we loaded up our gear and headed out as soon as we could.

We’d planned to put in from our favorite spot – Fletcher’s Cove, just upriver from Georgetown.  But it was closed due to – what else? – high water.  So we hurriedly scrabbled together a Plan B and headed off to check out the Wharf Boathouse instead.  The boathouse staff were duly impressed (or maybe amused) when we rolled up all holding our own paddles and with 3/4 of us sporting our own PFDs.  All we needed were the kayaks and a PFD for Steve.

For the first time, Nugget and I got a double kayak.  Last year, I kept him close to me in a single kayak, but at four, he’s old enough to follow directions and to understand that he needs to do what I say around the water in order to stay safe.

Peanut’s an old hand in the double kayak.  Can you even handle how bored she is?

We put in right at the Wharf and started paddling right away.  I loved the little blue and yellow ferries they had for transporting people across the river (which was very narrow at this particular spot).

That view!  I’ve never seen the Washington Monument from the water before – what a cool perspective.

Waved hello to the big yellow water taxis.  Nugget is the only one in our family who has ridden on one.  (How? you ask.  His nanny took him on an outing to National Harbor.)

There was also sightseeing for Mommy.  This boat is the Sloop John B.  Singing happened.  Around Nassau Town we did roam

We headed to the nearest bridge, which was the boundary point for the Wharf kayak fleet, then turned around and went as far as we could in the opposite direction.  It was a lovely day out, and wonderful to feel the sun – but I have to admit, I couldn’t forget that I was paddling an urban river, the way I do when we’re at Fletcher’s.  I spotted a few pieces of debris in the river and it just felt busier and less pristine than the upriver area where we usually paddle.

Anyway!  We turned around again and headed back to the dock, but not before detouring briefly to check out the D.C. fire and police boats.  Nugget is obsessed with the Alexandria fire boat and we visit it about once a week, so he was delighted to see Fire Boat 201’s big city cousin.  The biggest of the fire boat fleet we saw was the John H. Glenn, Jr., and as we waved and turned our bow away we had NO IDEA how soon we would see that fire boat again – but the very next day, as we were walking the waterfront trail down in Alexandria, the John H. Glenn, Jr. came puffing along up the river, passing within 20 feet of our beloved Fire Boat 201 with streams of water spouting from every hose.  We were pretty sure it was some kind of a challenge.  Reports that we started snapping our fingers like the Jets and the Sharks are not exaggerated.

Heading back to the dock, checking out that view one more time.

And there we are – back to shore.  It was a short hour of kayaking, but felt so good to shake the dust off and be back out on the water.

The kids were decently good – good enough, at least, to earn a nice long stomp ‘n splash session in the fountain right by the boathouse.  Nugget enjoyed using his paddle to redirect the water sprays at the adults.

All in all, a successful first time out on the river, with many more to come!

Pssst – if you’re curious about our equipment:

  • Me: Werner Camano paddle, Stohlquist Flo PFD.
  • Steve: Werner Camano paddle, rented PFD.
  • Peanut: O’Brien kids PFD, youth paddle purchased on Amazon and no longer available.
  • Nugget: Speedo toddler PFD, youth paddle purchased on Amazon and no longer available.

Now back to daydreaming about the next paddle…

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Spring Scenes

I’m not recapping all of our spring fun here – just the highlights.  Mainly that’s because I don’t want this blog to turn into a “family activities” blog – I’m trying to keep it mostly focused on books, with some fun here and there.  And I don’t want to burn out on writing recaps before the high season of summer fun hits.  But I’ve been snapping pictures all over the place as we are out and about, enjoying the warmer weather.  In addition to daffodil picking and the Raptor Fest, we’ve done quite a lot.  Here are some snippets.

We visited Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens for the first time.  My parents and our family friends joined us, and we had fun exploring the ponds and boardwalks.  The kids earned their Junior Ranger pins – adding to the collection.

I hear it’s really beautiful in July, when the water lilies are blooming!  Made a note to go back.

Steve’s mom visited for a weekend.  She loves the zoo, so that’s always on the agenda when she’s in town.  Grandma thought she was going to the zoo with two kids, but – SURPRISE! a cheetah and a wolf came instead.  (Fun fact: I was the face-painting girl at my church’s children’s programs in high school, and at Peanut’s request I recently dusted off my old skills.  Steve said that I could have a lucrative side hustle if I set up with my face paints at the entrance to the zoo – at least until someone asks me to leave for not having a valid vendor permit.)

Nugget got a new scooter for his birthday (thanks, Nana and Grandad!) and obviously, the first place he rode it was the firehouse.

We took a walk around Old Town to look at the blossoms.  Don’t you just love redbuds?

Visited #MirrorMirrorALX, a cool new art installation by the waterfront.  If you think it was hard to get Peanut out of here – it was.

Picked strawberries on our neighbor’s patio (with permission – she’s sweet and generous and planted these just so the kids could pick them)…

And at a farm out in Bealeton – or at least, we did our best.  Nugget and I were the only ones picking (Steve is colorblind, so he had an excuse) and I was in Birkenstocks, so I couldn’t exactly wade into the puddles between the rows.  But we came home with a good haul even by picking around the edges.

Steve and I went on a date night to a secret bar.

And I met up with my friend Susan to see “Rightfully Hers: Women and the Vote” at the National Archives museum.  The perks of working in downtown DC = free museums!

So – not a bad spring!  Lots of fun here and there.  But I’m ready to move on, now.  My nose is finally clear, the sun is baking down, and Memorial Day weekend is right around the corner (we have fun plans!).  SUMMER, let’s do the thing!

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