Thursday, May 11, 2017

May Field Trips

As I mentioned in my last post, we did a BUNCH of field trips, back-to-back.

Day 1:  Gettysburg and Eisenhower Farm
We had hoped to do both in one day, but ended up only doing Eisenhower Farm (but you have to park at Gettysburg and take a bus from there to get to Eisenhower Farm. It was a gorgeous day! When we got off the bus we were met by the tour guide and had to jump straight into the guided tour. Given the choice, I would have preferred to go to the visitor center first and gotten the girls' "Junior Secret Service Agent" books, watched the video, etc. But . . . there was no choice, so we went with it. It amused me that both Little Bit and Lexie asked questions that the tour guide couldn't answer . . . After we finished the tour, we got the girls' "Junior Secret Service Agent" books and they got busy. It was a pretty cool program, but nobody at the site seemed to really want to answer their questions or help them. And, of course, it would have been much more efficient if they could have been watching/listening for answers DURING the tour. So it ended up taking all afternoon, but at least it was a pretty day to hang out on a farm :) 
Even though we didn't have time to do the Gettysburg driving tour, or Junior Ranger, since the bus left from (and returned to) the Gettysburg Visitor Center, we snapped a picture of Little Bit with Abraham Lincoln, outside the visitor center :) 
Day 2: Washington DC - Ford's Theatre and the Library of Congress
The next day we took Metro into Washington DC. Dad wanted to get the newest state quarter, so we tagged along, but did more fun things than buying quarters :)  First we went to Ford's Theatre. Lexie and Ashlyn did that Junior Ranger several years ago, but Little Bit hadn't, so she (and my mom) did their Junior Ranger. There were some school groups there so it was pretty crowded, but still interesting. 
Thomas Jefferson's Library
Then we headed to the Library of Congress. I'm not sure how, but we'd never managed to stop there on all our visits to DC. We will DEFINITELY be going back! We opted to just wander around on our own, rather than take a guided tour. The only bad side of that was, at one point, my Dad had asked the employee in the room a question and we were all listening to the answer and the rest of us were told we had to "move on" because a tour group was coming. 

After looking at the Gutenberg Bible, and a similar-age, hand-written Bible, and the unknown room we were told to leave (at the time we were told to leave, I was waiting for the employee to finish answering Dad's question so that I could ask what the significance of the room was, since it wasn't labeled. But I didn't get the chance), we headed upstairs. There was a docent there with a display showing how the building was built.  He grabbed Little Bit's attention effectively by telling her, as we walked up, that the building was "like an Oreo cookie" (it's a brick building with granite overlay on the outside and marble overlay on the inside). He proceeded to explain that and then answer questions. In addition to the information on how the building was built, he had tons of information about all kinds of things. He showed us the "stories" of the murals on the ceilings in the area we were, and also gave us information about the ceiling murals in the Main Reading Room. He told us about Thomas Jefferson's library (pictured above) and how it came to be donated to the Library of Congress. . . he did an excellent job answering the girls' questions in easy-to-understand, but informative ways. It was awesome! 

Once we left him we visited some more of the exhibits, before heading to the "Young Reader's Room". By the time we got there, it was near closing time but we had time for Little Bit to find the Elephant & Piggie toys, and look at some books. Lexie and Ashlyn browsed the teen section for awhile before they kicked us out :) There was still more to see, we plan to go back next time we're in DC!
Day 3: Wheaton Park and Brookside Gardens

 The next day we planned to go see the live butterfly exhibit at Brookside Gardens. The 18th Century Market Fair had inspired Lexie to research making 18th century clothes, and she'd been researching authentic fabrics to use. Since there's a  big fabric store near Brookside, we stopped there on our way down and Lexie happily browsed until we told her it was time to go :) She claims to hate shopping but forgets that if there are books or fabric involved :)  When we left G Street Fabric, it was near lunchtime. So we decided to go to Wheaton Park so Little Bit could play on the playground and we could eat our picnic lunch.  I'm not sure we'd been to Wheaton Park since we moved away from MD when Lexie and Ashlyn were 5. They've completely re-done the playground, and it's just as cool as before. Even Lexie and Ashlyn enjoyed playing on it (though they didn't want pictures taken!)

I couldn't resist snapping a picture of Lexie reading WHILE swinging though LOL.

After playing and eating lunch, Mom and the girls and I walked through the gardens at Brookside to the greenhouse (Dad drove around so we wouldn't have to walk all the way back). As we walked through the gardens, we noticed someone waving to us, and some friends from home, who are in the process of moving to Maryland, were there! They had come to see the butterflies, and then were eating their picnic in the gardens. So we stopped and visited with them for a few minutes before heading on to the Greenhouse where the butterflies are.

It was pretty much perfect weather for visiting the butterflies. When it's hot, the butterflies (mostly tropical varieties) love it and are active but it's miserable for people because it's so hot. When it's chilly, the butterflies are too cold and aren't active. We managed to hit a day where it was cool enough to be comfortable for people, but warm enough that the butterflies were active. Little Bit is finally old enough to get into it, and spent her time asking the volunteers questions and using the magnifying glass they provided to check out the butterflies up close. The big girls and I found a comfortable bench and just enjoyed watching the butterflies fly around and land near (and on) us. Lexie is never without her book, so she was reading part of the time, and a friendly butterfly stopped by to see what she was reading :)

Day 4: South Mountain Creamery
One of the things the girls had said they for sure wanted to do while we were in Maryland was go to South Mountain Creamery to feed the calves. Even though we drove by it (more or less) every day, we never managed to be in the area at calf feeding time, so the next day we just went to feed the calves. Got there a bit early, and ate ice cream (yum! Though they didn't have the mocha flavor that Ashlyn was hoping for). And then, even though it was still a half hour till feeding time, we went to visit the calves. They figured if people were there, they should be fed, so they were very "friendly" hoping for food. Since there was no food yet, they settled for having their ears scratched and generally being loved on until feeding time. Lexie's favorite was one with long white eyelashes. 
Little Bit's favorite was one she named "Droopy" because she said it's ears were droopy.  It happily chewed on her shirt while she petted it until the milk bottles got there, and then she got to feed "her calf" :) She has since re-named her stuffed cow "Droopy" and drawn countless pictures of "Droopy the calf" :)   Once all the calves were fed, we made a quick stop back by the store to get chocolate milk and headed home. Little Bit didn't remember the chocolate milk from previous visits, so when we got home and I poured her a glass her eyes got big and she declared it SOOOO GOOOD!!! Yes, yes it is!!! Later, as Lexie was drinking a glass, she commented that it's "so creamy" and Little Bit gave her a disgusted look and said "Well it IS called South Mountain CREAMERY!" I was amused.
Day 5: Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival
Our final field trip of the trip was the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. Most years it's beastly hot there but this year it was almost COLD. We figured the vendors didn't mind, it was probably easier to sell all the gorgeous wool shawls and such with cooler temperatures :) We enjoyed wandering through all the vendor areas, stocked up on wool for felting projects this next year, watched the sheep shearing and sheep dog exhibitions, and petted lots of sheep, and rabbits, and alpaca.  We were amused that, in one barn, there were sheepskins hanging on the side of the pen where the sheep were. Seemed a bit twisted to have the skins of their "friends" hanging on the side of their pen LOL. 

And that was our busy first week of May! 

Monday, May 1, 2017

April Field Trips

As I mentioned in my last post, we finished up April with back-to-back field trips.

Wednesday we went to Indian Echo Caverns with our homeschool group. It was awesome! The caverns are beautiful! My camera was giving me fits, so I only managed to get one or two pictures, and it doesn't do the cave justice, but it was very cool! The tour was interesting, and the kids had fun learning about the cave, and spending time with friends. After the tour, we ate the picnic lunches we had brought and all the kids (from preschoolers through teenagers) played on the playground and eventually they were all participating in a huge game of tag. So fun!

We left straight from the caverns to go to my parents' house so that, on Thursday we could go to Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. My zoo membership expired the end of April, so we wanted to sneak in one last zoo before it expired. The "nests" at Maryland Zoo have been a favorite photo spot since the big girls were little, but now only Little Bit will humor me :)

The real reason we made sure to go to this particular zoo was the baby giraffe! When we got there, the parking lot was more than twice as full as I've ever seen it! (granted, we try to make a point of going on not-busy days, apparently a Thursday in late April doesn't fit that category, who knew!). I was concerned that, with so many people, the giraffe house would be mobbed and/or closed because the baby needed a break. But we ended up, rather randomly, choosing to do the "other half" of the zoo first, then ate lunch and THEN headed to the African animal area.

By then the school groups, and many of the other people had cleared out (and/or were in the section we went to first), and there were only a couple other families in the giraffe house when we got there. The baby giraffe, in addition to be adorable (of course), is a complete natural at this zoo thing! The entire time we were there she stayed right in front of the windows, and often right up AGAINST the windows, seeming to pose for pictures! Little Bit was over the moon!

Friday, we headed to the 18th Century Market Fair at Fort Frederick. It was HOT, and we all got a little sun burned, but it was sooo fun!! I'd been wanting to go for several years but had never figured out the logistics to actually be in Maryland for it. This year it worked out! And I think it's going to be a priority most years from now on. The "living history demonstrations" in the fort itself weren't as impressive as I'd have expected . . . the barracks were open, but not that much more than normally, and there was a musket shooting demo while we were there but we're not nearly as interested in guns as we are in the rest of history. BUT there were tons of "sutlers" (vendors) all over the grounds. The rules are pretty strict to make sure that the vendors are historically accurate, which means there's tons of really cool stuff to see AND all (or at least most) of the vendors are true history nerds!

By the well inside the fort.
We spent probably an hour talking to a woman who makes 18th century clothes by spinning and dying her own wool, weaving it into cloth, and hand-sewing it into period clothing. It was fascinating! The other vendor we spent a LONG time talking to was a "blanket historian". He has spent years studying a specific type of 18th century woolen blanket known as "rose blankets" (they have an embroidered design on the corners that looks similar to a compass rose). He not only taught us TONS about the blankets, but told the girls that if they're interested in history, the key is to "specialize" in something nobody else cares about. Because if you go into a museum and ask to see something that ALL historians want to see, the curator's not likely to let you, but if you go in and ask to see something that's shoved in a back room being ignored, they're likely to turn you lose in that back room, happy that SOMEONE cares about it. He said he's gotten to dig through cabinets full of blankets at museums from tiny little ones to the Smithsonian. We probably talked to him for 45 min. or more and could easily have stayed longer if we hadn't wanted to see the rest of the vendors before we left.
Some of the sutlers' tents as seen from the wall of the fort.

The day re-inspired the girls' interest in making colonial costumes and they're busy researching how to make stays, and historically accurate costumes. We figure, even if it's a couple years before we make it back to Williamsburg, we should be able to make it back to the Fort Frederick Market Fair every year so they can wear their costumes there :)

The last couple days of April were quieter, and in a few days I'll have another post with our "early May field trips" :)