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Archive for the ‘Family Fun’ Category

Spring in Virginia is truly glorious – and I say that as someone who considers it my fourth favorite season (allergies, mud, rain) – even for me, there are delights to be savored.  Not least of the delights: the Bluebell Loop Trail at Bull Run-Occoquan Regional Park.  I’m sure it’s a pretty walk year-round, but during the one or two weeks per year when the bluebells are in season, it’s something very special indeed.

Shall we embark?  To get to the bluebells, you’ve first got to cross over a long boardwalk that takes you back, away from the road and into the woods.

Juuuuuuuust when you’re beginning to wonder where they are, they appear!  Thousands of bluebells, stretching as far as the eye can see in every direction.

As Peanut said: “It’s like being inside a Monet painting, Mommy!”

Just off the trail is a sweetly bubbling brook, straight out of the Hundred Acre Wood or Avonlea, with thousands more bluebells growing riotously all over the bank and back into the woods.

I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves.  They can communicate the beauty of the trail far better than my poor words can.

Such sweetness.

And such gorgeousness!  We walked along slowly, savoring every glimpse of blue, because it’ll have to last us a year.  The bluebell season may be short-lived, but it’s a favorite spring tradition for us, and we’ll be visiting this trail every spring for as long as we live here.

Do you have a favorite annual hiking tradition?

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Happy birthday (again, belated) to my sweet little hiker!  Turning the dials on the way-back machine to two weeks ago, would you like to see some pictures of Nugget’s birthday hike?  Yes – that’s right – when asked what he wanted to do, out of all the options, for his birthday weekend, Nugget’s first choice of activities was a hike.  Clearly, I’m doing something right!

We chose Piscataway Park for the possibility of seeing animals, and for the mixture of lovely views, a serene trail, and fun farm activities.  The mid-March crocuses were a-blooming.

Don’t be pokey!  We’ve got hiking to do!

Nugget wanted to explore down by the river, so he and I walked down together.  He had about ten minutes of pure glee, throwing rocks into the water (what is it with little boys and throwing rocks into water?) and I was delighted to find a huge stash of perfect spiral shells.  On the banks of the Potomac.  Who knew?

Back up on the trail – it seems we were a bit too early for this hike.  No baby animals, as of yet, the trail story wasn’t posted, and the visitor’s center was closed (fine, because we forgot our NPS passports anyway).  We’re going to have to come back in a few more weeks when the park is hopping.

We made our own excitement.  Don’t worry, Peanut isn’t crying.  She’s dramatically… something.  But it’s not crying, I promise, as you can probably tell from Nugget’s amused expression.

Hello yellow daffodils!  These pictures have made me unreasonably happy.  I’ve looked at them more times than I can count during the long days at the office.

That’s it – just a few!  I was more focused on enjoying the amble along the trails with my newly-minted three-year-old than I was on documenting the whole experience.  But I am still absolutely tickled that my outdoor boy chose a hike as a birthday weekend activity.  Parenting achievement: unlocked!

Do you like to celebrate your birthday in nature?

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The Spring List 2018

I know, you’re probably thinking – wasn’t there supposed to be a recap of the winter list first?  Well – normally, yes.  But I have nothing to recap, because I didn’t do one. single. thing. from that list.  Oops!  Blame work, you guys.  It’s been so insane that I have had legit no time to do anything at all.  So I’m blowing right past it, and getting right to listing out my hopes for spring.  At this point, who knows if any of it will happen.  But at least it’s fun to daydream and plan.

  • Catch up on the 52 hike challenge – I’m several weeks behind.
  • Decide on a destination for summer travel and start planning.
  • Visit Mount Vernon and see the baby animals (that was so much fun last year).
  • Take Peanut and her doll Willa to tea at the American Girl store.
  • Hike the Bluebell Loop Trail again.
  • Read Beverly Nichols’ Merry Hall trilogy.
  • Pick tulips at Holland in Haymarket again.
  • Start the process to get approved as a Girl Scout troop leader.
  • Bake a strawberry-rhubarb pie with a lattice crust (with fruit from the farmers’ market, if possible).
  • Write letters to my grandmother, and get up to New York to visit her at least once.

Here’s hoping that I get around to doing at least some of these.

What’s your favorite spring tradition?

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Dear Puppy,

In two days, you will be three years old!  Where does the time go?  You’re still a baby, aren’t you?  Yes, I say, but no, you say.  You’re a BIG MAN, according to you.  You want to do everything yourself.  Getting dressed, washing your hands, brushing your teeth, putting on your sneakers and your jacket, even buckling yourself into your car seat.  You’re a fiercely independent little fella, and I love your determination and your fire.

You are Daddy’s “buddy bear,” and Kelly’s “Prince Charming,” and Mommy’s “puppy.”  You are the sweetest, silliest, most hilarious little soul.  Twenty times a day, I catch myself gazing at you in wonder.  How can you possibly be so big and bright already?  Weren’t you just placed in my arms for the first time yesterday?  You were, and yet you weren’t.  But just last Sunday you fell asleep in my arms and napped on me on the couch, so you’re still a baby.

On to the things about you.  Your love of fire trucks is going strong – especially the trucks from the firehouse near our home.  You love nothing more than to walk or ride your bike over there, shoot the breeze with the firefighters, and inspect the vehicles.  You’ve amassed such a fleet of toy fire trucks that I can’t even count them anymore, and you even have two toy firehouses.  I love that you love trucks that help people and keep your neighborhood safe.  You have such a big heart.

A more recent love: gorillas.  You’re a big zoo fan and you love lots of animals, but gorillas and orangutans have your heart.  A trip to the zoo is not complete without a visit to the Great Ape House.  (Come spring, there will be a baby gorilla.  I can’t wait to see your eyes light up.)  You love to comment on what the apes are doing – especially Baraka, the gorilla, and Redd, the baby orangutan.  Your delight in them is infectious.

Then there’s soccer.  If you see a ball, you have to kick it.  (This has caused some problems – like when you kick someone else’s ball, or when you kick a playground ball into something suspicious and liquidy.)  You’re really athletic for such a little guy, and you can kick the ball halfway across the field if you want to.  The soccer field on our block is one of your happy places, and the big kids are so nice about letting you play with them when you come tripping up to the field, clutching your big sister’s soccer ball to your chest, all hopeful smiles and impatient feet.  The best is when the field is empty, though.  Then we run and run and kick and scream with laughter until we fall down exhausted.

I can’t even tell you how much your smiles light up my world.  And your mischievous smirks, and your sweet arms reaching up and around my neck.  “I love you, Mama.”  Or, “Pretend I’m Redd and you’re Batang.”

You’re shockingly smart.  Not to be all braggy, but – your brain is truly amazing.  You know more about orbital dynamics than most adults I know, and you’ll hold forth on the topic to the whole playground (while wearing your space shuttle cape backwards, of course).  Your vocabulary includes hydrationintransigent (you told your beloved nanny, Regular Kelly, that she was being intransigent the other day – sigh), echolocationantagonizepaleontologist, and more.  People are always shocked at how clearly you speak and at the big words that come out of your little mouth.

You’re unabashedly you.  You love to put on your Darth Vader jammies and have a tea party (#KyloRen).  You adore Darth Vader and shout “Hey, it’s my buddy!” every time he’s on the TV screen – which is often, because you ask to watch Star Wars on a weekly basis.  (80% of your wardrobe, at least, is made up of fire truck and Star Wars-themed clothes, and you often request your “Master Yoda glow-in-the-dark” shirt.)

You love to be outdoors.  The outdoor world is your happy place and immediate cure for anything that troubles you.  If you wake up grumpy from your nap (bad dream?) I always know how to make it better – throw on your sweatshirt and sneakers and hustle out the door to play on the playground, kick the soccer ball, dig in the sandbox or just breathe fresh air.  You love nature, too.  You’re happy to hike on foot most of the time, these days, and you find opportunities to hike everywhere – from the dirt road at Mount Vernon to the bushes on the edge of your favorite playground.  When asked where you’re hiking, you always answer: “Shenandoah.”

You’re so very sweet.  You share your nanny with a baby girl, and you’re so very gentle and loving with her that your nanny is constantly getting asked if you and the baby are siblings.  You’re teaching the baby to crawl and you love to hold and kiss her.  You’re also crazy about your sister’s friends – especially her BFF, S, and another friend, C.  Really you’re just a dear kindhearted little spirit with so much love to give.  You’re forever hugging and kissing and reaching up to hold hands.

And you’re still a mama’s boy.  You are looking for me from the minute you wake up, and you’re in my arms every chance we both can get.  There is a special place in my heart reserved just for you and I must kiss your little cheeks a thousand times a day.  They say there’s nothing like the love between boys and their moms and I can attest to the truth in that.  You’re my treasure; you light up my life.  I really can’t see how the world muddled along for so many years without you, and I sure am glad you’re here now.

Happy birthday, my puppy.

Love,

Mommy

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2017 was a great year on the trails!  Our hikes took us all around our local area, up to the Adirondacks and clear across the country to California.  As we look ahead to 2018 hiking – and I have some big plans for this year, as you know – I don’t want to forget all the fabulous trails of 2017.

JanuaryRiverbend Park, Great Falls, Virginia.

FebruaryLake Accotink Park, Fairfax, Virginia.

MarchU.S. National Arboretum, Washington, D.C.

AprilBluebell Loop Trail at Bull Run Occoquan Regional Park, Manassas, Virginia.

MayMason Neck State Park, Lorton, Virginia.

JuneFirst Landing State Park, Virginia Beach, Virginia.

JulyGiant Mountain, Keene Valley, New York.

SeptemberJoshua Tree National Park, Twentynine Palms, California.

OctoberSky Meadows State Park, Delaplane, Virginia.

November Stony Man Mountain, Shenandoah National Park, Luray, Virginia.

December Jiminy Peak Ski Resort, Hancock, Massachusetts.

So, there we have it!  Twelve months of fresh air and trails across five different states (Virginia, Washington D.C., New York, California and Massachusetts).  Countless miles tramped, birds spotted, high fives exchanged and views enjoyed.

Here’s to another year of hiking in 2018!

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Well, December was a busy month indeed, and our planned hike at Shenandoah National Park didn’t pan out when Skyline Drive closed due to snow, but I managed to get out on the trails anyway – in a slightly different way this month.  When, rather at the last minute, we decided to visit my parents between Christmas and New Year’s, my dad offered to take us all skiing at our local mountain, Jiminy Peak (in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts).  Steve ended up needing to work, but the rest of us bundled up to hit the slopes.

The kids had never been skiing before.  I would love to get them out on the slopes – we do have a few mountains around us, and there is some decent skiing in West Virginia in particular – but since Steve doesn’t ski, it’s been too much of a challenge and I have (I am ashamed to say) just not gone for it.  But the prospect was much less daunting with my parents’ help.  My dad is a ski instructor for a program called STRIDE, which teaches skiing to disabled children and adults, and he also taught me and my brother to ski when we were kids, so I jumped at his offer to give a lesson to my little ones.  He also was able to get them free rental equipment from the mountain, which was very nice indeed.

Our first (and, as it turned out, only) stop was the bunny slope, Jiminy Cricket.  We let the kids watch for a few minutes so they could see other littles their ages on skis and get over some of the fear, and then they took short runs between my dad’s legs and clinging to a ski pole.  This is exactly how I learned, so it was pretty cool to watch.  Full circle.

NUGGET HATED EVERY MINUTE.  I was shocked, because I really thought he would be the one who would have fun – he had been talking for days about going skiing – and his considerably more timid sister would be the one to flip out and go off the deep end.  They both surprised me.  Nugget went completely insane and screamed in the lodge for two hours (keepin’ it real, you guys, keepin’ it real) and Peanut ended up tearing up the slopes like a miniature Lindsey Vonn.

After a couple of runs with my dad up and down the “magic carpet,” she even ASKED TO GO ON THE CHAIR LIFT.  This is big stuff, you guys.  She was really quite nervous before getting out on the slopes, but she faced her fears and ended up having a fabulous time – hooray!  It helped that she had her trusted Grandad by her side.

As for my dad, he was beaming the whole time.  It meant so much to him to share skiing – which is one of his favorite things in the entire world – with his granddaughter.  We are definitely going to have to get her back on the slopes soon.

…So, was this really a hike?  Well, I’m choosing to call it one and say it counts.  I didn’t end up getting to ski – my dad and I were hoping to take a few runs together on the expert slopes while the kids warmed up in the lodge, but Nugget had gone so far off the rails that we all had to go home.  But I did a great deal of tramping around the bunny slope and the trails surrounding it.  Walking – check.  In the woods – check.  Wearing boots – check.  It’s a hike!  (Feel free to leave comments agreeing with me.)

And that concludes it!  Final hike of the year.  I know I’m not alone in getting intense cabin fever if I have to sit indoors, and I am so grateful that I’ve been able to get outside with friends and family year-round.

Did you get any outdoor time in last month?

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2017: A Year in Review

Well!  What a year it’s been.  Laying aside the state of the world – which is completely horrifying – for us personally, it wasn’t too bad.  Our first full year back at home in northern Virginia, and we packed it full of friends, family, and lots and lots of fun.  Highlights of the year included trips to California (for a dear friend’s wedding and a family reunion on my mom’s side) and Florida (for another dear friend’s wedding, in which Peanut and I both participated as Maid of Honor and flower girl, respectively), and our fabulous friends Zan and Paul’s return home to the D.C. area.  But beyond those top three things, there was so much joy and fun in every month.

In January… we spent a quiet month recovering from the holidays and chipping away at lots of chores and tasks around the house.  I shared my two-part reading retrospective for 2016 and spent a lot of time thinking about how to deal with the new national reality we found ourselves in after the Inauguration.  We did make it out to the zoo once, meeting up with my friend Carly and her family, and we hit the trails at Riverbend Park – Steve’s favorite Great Falls trail.

In February… there was some unseasonably warm weather – like, in the 70*s!  We felt a bit guilty about enjoying it (because: climate change) but we made the most of it, hopping from playground to playground and spending a beautiful sunny morning on the trail at Lake Accotink Park in Fairfax County.  Later in the month, we had to drive up north for a wedding.  It was a looooooooong and pretty painful drive, but we were able to squeeze in a visit to my parents, which brightened us up!

In March… we celebrated TWO YEARS of Nugget!  Seriously, how is he two?  (Actually, how is he almost three?  I’m about to start planning his third birthday party.  What is that about?)  Having a March baby is so much fun – before Nugget came along, March was my least favorite month of the year, because it always seemed so long and blah.  But now March is all about my sweet little boy and all the joy and fun he brings to our world.  In addition to celebrating our favorite small guy, we started our patio garden for the season, watched the restoration of the Apollo 11 command module out at Dulles, and explored the trails at the National Arboretum.

In April… we did All The Spring Things.  Our hike for the month was the Bluebell Trail at Bull Run Regional Park, and it was a magical fairyland of blue blooms to which my camera did no justice at all.  We also visited the baby animals at Mount Vernon, where the gardens were a riot of color, and we spent a morning out in Haymarket, gathering up armloads of the brightest tulips ever at Burnside Farms.  Spring has always been my fourth favorite season, because it’s bleak and cold in New York, and my allergies run wild in Virginia.  But in 2017, for some reason, my allergies really weren’t bad (even though the pollen was as prevalent as ever) and I was able to enjoy the season for the first time ever.  I can see why people love it.

In May… we kept up the spring fun.  Almost every Saturday morning found us walking to the farmers’ market and coming home with a big bouquet of fresh flowers from my favorite vendor, who always presents Peanut with a rose and often tells me to grab another bouquet for free (love him).  We could feel summer’s approach in gradually hotter temperatures, and we cooled off on the trails.  On Mother’s Day I requested a hike at Mason Neck State Park, which was gorgeous and wonderful, and I mused about raising kids on the hiking trail.  We spent our weekends bouncing between the waterfront and the garden center.  Peanut and I marveled at the green sprouts shooting up in our little patio garden, and I had a painful incident with some cayenne pepper in an attempt to repulse squirrels right before I left for an overnight business trip to Philadelphia.  Whoops.  We finished the month with a Memorial Day weekend packed end-to-end with fun – including a visit to a lavender farm and exploring Jones Point Park for the first time.

In June… summer began in earnest.  The big event of the month was a weekend visit to my best friend, Rebecca, in Virginia Beach; we also squeezed in our June hike that same weekend – just under the wire – at First Landing State Park.  Those visits to the beach are moments of true peace.  Peanut enjoyed playing mermaids with Aunt Rebecca (who loves merfolk as much as her niecelette does), and Nugget had a blast driving the golf cart, cheering Uncle Eric in the tuna fishing competition, and wandering around with his hand buried in his belly button all weekend (what a weirdo).  My other travel for the month was a business trip to Chicago (for an all-hands meeting of my practice group at our firm’s headquarters), but I squeezed in a little fun while I was there, in the form of a sightseeing run around Chicago’s biggest tourist attractions.  We spent Father’s Day enjoying a recent discovery – the splash pad – and put in some quality time at the neighborhood pool, which opened mid-month.  And I celebrated the beginning of summer in the best way I know – by talking about BOOKS.

In July… we basically lived outside.  We started off strong with a Fourth of July visit to my parents in Albany, which was everything a weekend should be.  We enjoyed a cookout with some of our dearest friends, a hike at Grafton Lakes State Park with Christine, two days of fun at the lake (kayaking, sailing, blowing bubbles, pretending to fish, and splashing in the baby pool) and – to top it all off, quite literally – a climb up our third Adirondack high peak, Giant Mountain.  Back home in D.C., we still didn’t go inside, like, at all.  We continued to tend our garden and splash at the pool and splash pad; spent a morning picking blueberries with Peanut’s friend C and her mom; and cruised the mighty Potomac in kayaks.  July was everything I love about summer – long, hot days, starry nights, and a life lived out-of-doors.

In August… our adventures took us clear across the country!  We packed up the little ones and jetted off to California for the wedding of a dear friend in Huntington Beach, followed by a family reunion two hours up the coast in Santa Barbara.  It was an epic trip – one for the ages.  We hiked in Joshua Tree National Park, Channel Islands National Park, and Carpinteria Nature Preserve; kayaked the sea caves at Channel Islands National Park; and enjoyed an incredible day out whale-watching with my parents.  We also celebrated twelve years of marriage, five years of Peanut, and one year back home in northern Virginia.  We bid goodbye to August, and hello to September, from the sunflower fields at Burnside Farms.  A busy month, indeed.

In September… we turned our attention to fall and fall things.  Peanut headed back to school, and Nugget to another year with his nanny (we adore her, and are already breaking out in cold sweats about his leaving her and starting preschool next year).  We dove right into fall fun at the apple orchard, hiked at Piscataway Park, and continued to tend our garden all through September.  The best part of the month was the last weekend, when we headed down to Florida for a wedding on the beach!  My best friend, Rebecca, married her longtime love in a beautiful sunset ceremony, and Peanut and I were proud to be by her side as flower girl and Maid (not Matron!) of Honor, respectively.

In October… we were in The Room Where It Happens!  My mom flew down to D.C. for a weekend so that Steve and I could slip away for one night to see Hamilton on Broadway!  The show was every bit as spectacular as you’d think – more, even – and we also squeezed in visits to the NYPL and Morgan Library, and a night at the Library Hotel.  Lucky us!  It was a Hamilton-heavy month for us, because Peanut and Nugget dressed as Eliza and Alexander Hamilton for Halloween – and most of the rest of our weekends were devoted to carting our miniature Treasury Secretary and his Mrs. around to various children’s Halloween parties.  We also trick-or-treated – and Peanut visited her first haunted house, hosted by our Senator, Mark Warner – and picked pumpkins out in Loudoun County.  I celebrated my birthday on the trails at Sky Meadows, and we hosted my parents and friends for a flying weekend visit that included a swing by the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum (of course!) and wine touring.  October, you were good to us.

In November… we ended up on top of a mountain!  My parents came down for Thanksgiving, and after spending a cozy day at home on the day itself, and decorating our Christmas tree on the Friday after, we all headed out for a weekend in Little Washington.  The main purpose of the weekend was for Steve and me to use a gift certificate to the Inn at Little Washington that his sweet and generous mom had given us the previous Christmas – we did, and it was one of the most fabulous meals we’d ever tasted.  The next day, we worked it off with a climb up Stony Man Mountain in Shenandoah National Park, and drank in the views from on top of the world.  We also celebrated Steve’s 40th birthday with a trip to the Kennedy Center to see The Book of Mormon, and I participated in Naomi and Sarah‘s readalong of The Blue Castle, musing on the power of names in LMM’s work.

In December… we have been feeling festive!  We started the season with the Scottish Walk – Old Town’s answer to the Christmas parade – a trip out to Little Washington for the annual Christmas parade there, and a snowy walk around Old Town after we got a surprise dusting.  We did lots of Advent reading, Peanut made her first visit to the Kennedy Center to see Mr. Popper’s Penguins, and we celebrated Christmas by watching the big guy in red fly down the Potomac on waterskis, then opening presents the following morning – Santa was good to those little rugrats.  And now we are warm and cozy, getting ready to ring in the new year with our family around us, and feeling grateful for the blessings of friendship and love that we enjoy every day.

Happy New Year, friends!  I hope you’re ringing it in somewhere fabulous, and I wish you a happy, healthy and joyful 2018!

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