Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Wrapping up the Week of March 20 - The Traveling Part!

Whew! What a busy week! 

We had planned to go to my parents' house on Sunday, but then there was a chance of snow on Sunday, so we decided to beat the snow (we didn't get any) and drove down after church on Sabbath.

The nice part of that was that we had a nice, quiet day at Mama and Papa's on Sunday. "Mr Cat" came out to say hi. He's a brother (I think) to Ashlyn's cat, Moccasin, and it's funny because their coloring is so similar, but his face is very different. He seemed to enjoy getting lots of love from the girls.  Little Bit also enjoyed riding her bike a bunch. She almost got up the courage to learn to ride without training wheels. 
Monday was "Ice Cream for Breakfast Day" normally I just buy some ice cream and call it good, but Mama made chocolate waffles to have with the ice cream. Yum!  After breakfast Lexie and Ashlyn and I headed out for a fun day at friends' house. As always, the kids spent the day playing in the woods, and with the animals.  This time Little Bit opted to spend the day with Mama & Papa instead of coming with us. They rode metro into Washington DC so Papa could get some National Park stamps he wanted. And while they were there, they went to the Rosslyn metro station to ride the really long escalator (207 ft) there (because what kid doesn't love riding super long escaltors?!?). So she had a fun day too.

Tuesday was the reason for our trip to Mama and Papa's! Little Bit's seventh birthday (which was the 26th). When her sisters turned 7, we went to the American Girl Store in NYC. So we had to follow the tradition and go to American Girl for Little Bit's 7th birthday too. But now there's also an American Girl store in Northern VA which has the huge advantage of being to drive to it instead of navigating the subways of NYC.  As an added bonus, it meant my Dad could drop us off and go do his own thing, since spending a few hours in a 100% pink & girly store isn't really his kind of thing, he went and collected National Park passport stamps instead. Little Bit spent the first while just running around looking at everything. One thing I liked a LOT better about the NY store (when we were there, they may have changed it), is that everything for one doll was in one area. So we could go to the Kit area and see her and all her accessories on display, and then choose the doll & accessories Lexie wanted and be done with it. The DC store had things scattered. I think the idea was that similar accessories were in the same area. For example, in one area there was a display of each doll wearing her nightgown/pajamas with her bed and "bedtime accessories" set. But that meant that, to find Samantha (Little Bit's doll of choice) and all her accessories, we had to go all over hunting down the various accessories. It wasn't a big deal, since Little Bit and Lexie had gone online ahead of time and figured out what she wanted, but if we'd gone in there without having researched, it would have been very frustrating. 

After we made our purchases, we went to tea at the American Girl Bistro. I had called and made a reservation and I KNOW that not only did we say our reservation was for tea, but the woman on the phone repeated back to me that it was for tea. However, apparently that information was not passed on to the actual restaurant. The website says to call an 800# to make reservations rather than calling the individual store directly (after this experience, if I ever do it again, I'll be calling the store directly).  The people at the restaurant did their best (and said we were actually the second table that day who'd made reservations for tea and that information hadn't been passed on. Our reservation was for 2:15 and "tea time" doesn't start until 2:00, so it sounds like ALL the reservations were not being made properly), but because the "tea treats" are typically prepared in advance AND to further complicate things, we'd requested vegetarian, we did have quite a long wait. I was impressed though, I was expecting that "vegetarian" would just mean they'd leave off the meat items and maybe give us more of the non-meat options to make up for it but they actually created a vegetarian equivalent for the meat options. There was a miniature veggie burger to replace "Josefina's rancho burger" and a little heart shaped grill cheese sandwich to replace Julie's "pigs in a blanket". 

After we left Tyson's Corner, we took a rather circuitous route back to Mama and Papa's house by way of Columbia, and our all time favorite Chinese restaurant, Hunan Manor! YUM!!! While the heavy beltway traffic is something I most definitely do NOT miss about living in Maryland, I do, very much, miss getting to go to Hunan regularly! When Rodney & I were first married I worked a few miles from the restaurant and when I wasn't traveling, my co-workers and I went there often for lunch. Now it's a rare, much appreciated treat.

Once we got back to Mama and Papa's house Little Bit, with help from her sisters, got right to work checking out all Samantha's accessories.  Once they'd opened everything up and set it all up and generally checked it out thoroughly, it was bedtime.
So, they changed Samantha into her new nightgown (that Lexie sewed for her) and made a bed for her on the sofa.

Wednesday, the girls packed up all of Samantha's stuff and all of their stuff and loaded it all into the car, and we headed home.  . . and I think I'll stop here and do a separate post about the rest of the week :) 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Wrapping Up the Last Week of Winter

We've been enjoying the spring-like weather this last week or so of winter (and now that we're to the first day of spring . . . Brrrrr!!) The girls are finally getting to enjoy our nice big yard and I'm trying to figure out how best to add a garden without detracting from the nice big open expanse of grass for playing in :) 

We also had our first grill out of the season. I think I want to move the grill to the back deck, but it works nicely on the front porch too. Either place is much more convenient than in the driveway at our old house, which involved carrying all the food down the back steps from the kitchen and carrying all the dirty dishes back up the steps afterward. 

Last fall we were supposed to take Lexie's rental violin in for a "check-up" but with moving and such (actually not only did WE move, but the violin shop moved too so things were hectic for all of us), one thing led to another and we FINALLY took her violin in week before last. As I suspected, he immediately confirmed that she had outgrown her 3/4 size and was ready for a full size. Which led to the discussion of renting vs buying. He showed her 3 different violins and she played them all but decided to think about it before making a final decision.

So, we went back in on Tuesday and after much playing of all the violins, and thinking she chose her violin and bow. The violin is approximately 100 years old, from Germany. The bow is also old, refurbished (apparently different bows sound different, and will sound different depending who's playing them. I have to admit, to my decidedly NOT musical ear, all the violins and bows sounded the same, so I was no help). Interestingly, from the first time she played the various violins, the shop owner said that this was the one that was the best fit for her, but she had to decide it for herself.

Thankfully we managed to do this while Mama and Papa were here, helping us get our old house ready to put on the market, so Little Bit got to spend the evening with Mama and Papa's undivided attention instead of being bored at the violin shop for the almost 2 hours that we were there.

Little Bit and I went to a friend's house during Lexie & Ashlyn's music lesson this week. The plan was to let Little Bit and her friend listen to the first Herb Fairies story, and then go hunt for Chickweed in their yard, but their attention span isn't long enough to listen through the whole story in one setting, and it was rainy so not a good day for harvesting. So they listened to part of it and then ran off to play.  Still a fun playdate, definitely preferable to Little Bit than grocery shopping during music lessons :)

Much to Ashlyn's delight, the same friend asked if we wanted to watch their dog on Wednesday. They were going to be out of the house all day and figured he'd rather come snuggle with us than be home alone. He got much love and attention :) And when they came to pick him up, Lexie got to show off her new violin, and Little Bit got to play with friends, so it worked out well for all of us :)

As soon as Little Bit decided on the American Girl doll she wants for her birthday, Lexie started talking about sewing doll clothes for it. She found patterns online of most of the original clothes (from when American Girl was owned by Pleasant Company), and spent a good bit of last week sewing Samantha's birthday dress. She got it done, all ready for Samantha to wear on Little Bit's birthday next weekend! Now she's busy again, working on Samantha's nightgown :)

I think that pretty much sums up our week. We finished the week off with the threat of snow, the perfect way to welcome spring, right?

Friday, March 11, 2016

Busy Days

As always seems to be the case, when life gets busy, blogging is one of the things that tends to not happen. . . which means that, when I have time to blog, I don't have much to blog about and when I have lots to blog about, I don't have time to blog . . . sigh . . . 

Here's at least a brief summary of our recent adventures . . . 

A couple weeks ago we spent a day at Franklin Institute (a museum in Philadelphia). Their special exhibit was on Egypt. One of the hands-on exhibits was trying to put "pottery shards" together into a bowl or vase. It was pretty cool, the "pottery shards" were magnetic and the form that they were supposed to put the "shards" on was also magnetic. Lexie and Ashlyn worked on it for quite awhile. I have to say, I was rather annoyed at the employee/volunteer in that area, we're not talking about toddlers here, they're almost 13, old enough to figure it out by trial and error but she kept telling them if they put a piece in the wrong spot or putting a piece in for them. URGH!!! But they enjoyed it despite the unwanted help. Little Bit "helped" Lexie a little, but pretty quickly moved on to other parts of the exhibit.
Like riding the camel. What's fun is we have pictures of Lexie & Ashlyn riding the same camel (or a very similar one) at a the COSI museum in Ohio when they were a few months younger than Little Bit is now (see them here).  How fun is that? 
Little Bit also loved being able to walk through Franklin Institute's giant heart (you get to be the "blood" and follow the path blood takes through the heart). And they had another exhibit that was supposed to be traveling through all the connections in the brain, but was basically just a big climbing thing for kids. She didn't like that there were flashing lights in an otherwise rather dark room, but once she got over that, she did it several times while her sisters read the other exhibits in that area in more detail.

Another favorite was an electricity exhibit. Fitting at the Franklin Institute huh? Though as one of the big girls pointed out, it's rather ironic that Ben Franklin gets so much credit for being the "Father of Electricity" when he was actually doing an incredibly STUPID thing by flying a kite, with a metal key on it, in a lightening storm. One of the exhibits had a metal ball that transmitted low voltage electricity to you when you touched it. You were then SUPPOSED to touch various other things in the exhibit (like a "windmill" looking thing and I don't remember what else) and transmit the electricity to it so that it would move. That didn't actually work well, but the girls discovered they could do some pretty impressing "shocking" of one another while one of them touched the ball. 

Another day recently, Lexie went on a baking spree. . . the night before, while watching a BBC series on life in Victorian England, she announced that she was making baked custard for breakfast. Which she did. The flavor was rather bland. I'm not sure if it was the recipe she used, or if our vanilla extract is old enough to not be as potent as most. But otherwise we all (well, except Daddy, but he doesn't like anything sweet, so we didn't expect him to like it) liked it ok. 

While searching for the custard recipe, she apparently came across a lemon curd recipe, because when breakfast was over she asked if she could make lemon curd. Our "history" that day was an audiobook, so we turned the volume up a bit and she made the lemon curd while listening to history. Once it was done, her sisters asked what she was going to use it for, so she decided to make scones to eat the lemon curd on. They turned out great, as did the lemon curd, and made for a yummy "lunch"! She made a half pint of lemon curd and I think it lasted slightly over 24 hours before it had all been eaten . . . once the scones were gone, the girls ate it on bread, so it was a big hit! 
Little Bit is enjoying her new "school" set up. And it's doing a pretty good job of achieving it's purpose of forcing me to actually get stuff together for her to do. One of her Bible stories was the wall of Jericho, so that week's activity was building "Jericho" out of toothpicks and marshmallows. It's hard to see because of the pattern on the table cloth, but she had fun building it.  
And then marching around it 7 times before tearing it down (and, of course, eating (some of) the marshmallows)!!
Lexie joined her in building a marshmallow/toothpick city, but her's was much more elaborate and after it was done, she didn't want to tear it down (and so, 2 weeks later, it continues to act as our centerpiece LOL). 
I discovered a homeschool/unschool facebook group that plan various field trips and get togethers and everyone just joins in on the ones that work for them. Perfect for us! Last week we went to a Maple Sugaring demonstration at a park. It was very well done. The teacher did a great job of keeping it simple enough for the preschoolers in the group, but explaining things in enough detail that the big girls and I found it interesting as well. The kids got to taste sap dripping straight from the tree, and learned about the various ways that trees have been tapped, going back to the way the Native Americans did it before Europeans were here, to the modern methods used now. Then she showed them how the sap is cooked down into syrup and finally cooked down even more into maple sugar. And everyone got to taste a little piece of the maple sugar. Very interesting, and well done! 

 This week we joined the group for another field trip. This one was at a wildlife conservation area only about 10 min from our house! I didn't even know it was there, will definitely be going back for nature walks and such regularly! Every year the snow geese "rest" on the lake there during their migration. So this week there were thousands (literally) of snow geese on the lake! One of the dads in the group is an avid birder and had the day off, so he brought his super fancy binocular-thingy and led the group, pointing out any birds he saw, including a blue heron rookery that he'd discovered (it was way far away, only visible through his binocular-thingy, and sooo cool!). He was great at answering questions and explaining things and did I mention THOUSANDS of geese . . . it was very impressive!

The weather this week has been amazing! Up into the 70s, sunny . . . heavenly! So instead of our normal weekly co-op, we all met at a park. Some of the swings were high enough for the big girls and moms to be able to swing without dragging their feet, so we had fun with that.

 And Ashlyn was pretty proud of herself when the baby, who was much too interested in everything going on around her to actually, willingly, take a nap, finally fell asleep while Ashlyn was holding her.

One of my reasons for setting things up in this house with the litter boxes in the garage, and a cat door between the house & the garage, besides the obvious (keeping the mess out of the house), was so that, when the weather is nice, I can open the garage door a little bit and hte cats can come and go as they please. So we've been doing that this week. Overall it's worked well, but I discovered an unexpected down side when we got home the other day and I walked into the laundry room and discovered a dead mole laying on the floor. My first thought, not thinking about the fact that I'd left the garage door open  enough for the cats to get in and out, was that they'd caught it IN the house, but then I realized that it's much more likely that one of the cats caught it and brought us a present, sigh . . . I guess as long as they deliver their presents to the laundry room and not, say my bedroom, AND that all presents are thoroughly dead, I can live with it, but EWWWWWWWWW!!!!