Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Thanksgiving Weekend: Three Great Days Ain't Bad

Considering the weekend was only four days, I think three great ones is some good odds.

Thanksgiving: It didn't start out great. Our neighbors' dogs were left out all night and their barking woke me at 4:30 a.m. When the boys woke at six, I kicked them out of their bed and I got an extra hour of sleep in their bottom bunk. (Their room is on the opposite side of the house from the offending dogs.) After a long run and a full can of fully-caffeinated diet soda (!), I was ready. We cooked some and relaxed until we realized time was short and then we cooked a lot and didn't relax. We ate dinner with friends at 4, and it was lovely. Dinner was even outside under heat lamps. It's so nice having big kids that I can ignore during dinner. Hmm...maybe that's not the point of Thanksgiving. But it certainly was when I was young, so maybe that's okay. Sadly I got no pictures of dinner. But this kindergartner, oh I love him.

The Day After Thanksgiving: Wanting to avoid all things Black Friday, we bargained with the boys for a hike. This probably worked because we didn't tell them the hike was four miles long. But they crushed it! It helped that the hike was really rocky and these boys love rocks. Weather was chilly but perfect. I may have overdressed.

Kids and climbing.

We even saw this Park Police helicopter come right up the river. So cool! Ollie loved that the pilot waved right at him.

We didn't plan that great (no snacks other than three crunchy granola bars for each boy and nothing for the adults. ha), so when we were done hiking, we were all famished. And where does one go when famished? Taco Bell! Well, maybe not, but we did. We all enjoyed our lunch and then got the Christmas tree. The kids have been begging for Christmas decorations since Halloween, but I only allow it after Thanksgiving. And once the tree was done, we watched "Elf." It was really a great day.

The Day After the Day After Thanksgiving: We will not speak of this day.

The Day After the Day After the Day After Thanksgiving: After church (wherein I was released from teaching Gospel Doctrine!), we got lunch and then headed downtown to see the Botanical Gardens trains display. The theme this year was National Parks and it was pretty awesome. This is the Grand Canyon and I love how they handled the rock strata.

Mount Rushmore

Kennecott and Denali, which you can't see. I have been to both of these places, so that's fun. I will say I was disappointed by the absence of Utah's parks. I mean, Utah has more national parks that any other states except for Alaska and California. They had one for Arches, but it was kind of lame. I mean, no Angel's Landing? No Bryce Canyon? Oh well.

And then, because Chuck wanted left over turkey, that evening we did a mini-Thanksgiving for dinner. It was easy because rolls had already been made, frozen, and thawed. Sweet potatoes were reheated from Thursday. Mashed potatoes were made as was the turkey, but it was pretty easy. And delicious. I think my apple pie this year was the best it's ever been. And yes, that is china we're eating on. We're fancy like that.

It was a pretty good weekend (Saturday excepting) and we all have much to be thankful for! Tomorrow is December! AHHHHHH!

P.S. Oh, and Monday's FHE fun activity was pretty great too: making popcorn and cranberry garland for the tree. Well, it was fun when the boys weren't driving us crazy.

P.P.S. My parents are now back on the American continent! Only two time zones away! So excited for them (but mostly me)!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Written by Oliver

My boys are driving me crazy. Rhett can't keep his hands off Ollie or Ollie's food. Ollie can't obey to save his life. And neither one is interested in eating any dinner I cook, only in crying about it. It's definitely a rough patch in our house right now.

Thankfully Oliver is unintentionally offering a bit of comic relief through his writing. He writes a couple of notes every day, and pretty much every one is hilarious. He's a small sample (translations underneath):

"I am happy now today." (This after a note that said he was really, really sad. He bit his lip pretty bad.)

"I am sorry because I just don't like playing Splendor." (This after a fight with his brother over the board game Splendor.)

"This is because I don't talk because I don't want to say bad words and I don't want to say ????" (This after Chuck asked him why he writes us so many notes!)

"This is why I was so mean. I don't like girls and I have not seen you." (This after he said he was bored so I told him to write a letter to a cousin. This was for Lucy. Obviously.)

"What the hell." (This after...who knows. Nice use of the sacrament meeting program.)

Friday, November 18, 2016

I Made Something

Can you believe I sewed something? I can't. But I did. First, let's talk about my sewing. My production this year has been very low. And why? Not because I don't have the time; I do. I think it's I don't have the reason. Now that my boys are pretty big, finding appropriate projects for them is hard. Same goes for my nieces and nephews, who frequently got homemade gifts from me. Also, a lot of my friends aren't having babies anymore. Sure, I could make quilts for the house, but fabric for those are expensive and then there's the quilting I'd have to pay someone to do! So what's left? I don't know. I guess what I'm saying is that I'm available, should you need me.

Now, the vest. The boys' morning care provider had a grandson earlier this year and requested a Mickey vest. Done! The boys picked out the fabric, so please don't judge. I love these little vests from Dana. Ollie wears his pretty much every day.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Working from Home

Metro's Red Line, the one I take to work, was hit with a major surge of track work starting around Halloween. Not only are a few stations closed, but trains aren't even going through the stations. For me to get to work using Metro would require a train, a shuttle around the affected stations, and then back on the train. UGH. It would likely take two hours each way. So um no thanks. I was given permission to work from home the entire time (through Thanksgiving). SWEET.

Or not.

I thought I would love working from home. And there are parts I love. I love waking up and just going upstairs to turn on the computer and start working. I love not having to pack a lunch for myself. I love being able to listen to music a little bit more loudly than I would at work. (I've been listening to Hamilton a lot.) I love signing off and joining my family for the rest of my evening.

So what's the problem? I don't love that I snack all day. I don't love that I forget to brush my teeth. I don't love how grubby I feel at the end of the day. I don't love not having access to a printer. I don't love how little I move during the day.

Now that I'm in week three, I am learning my strengths (getting up early), and weaknesses (see above). So I had to make a conscious effort to brush my teeth. And instead of spending my lunch hour perusing the paper, I sped-read and then took Bruno on a walk. So maybe it'll be okay after all.

P.S. This tree. I love this tree. It's a gingko tree and we found it in Jellystone. The yellow was stunning and I walked by it about 40 times and took about that many pictures of it.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Last Camping Trip of the Year: Shenandoah

Even though we were camping down the mountain from the park, that didn't mean we couldn't go in for the day. Saturday afternoon we enjoyed the amenities at Jellystone, but Sunday we got up early (thanks for nothing, DST). So we packed up and headed into the park. My plan was to do a four-mile hike and then see how we felt. I didn't care how long it took us, just that we finished.

I made the boys pack their backpacks. Glad to see they brought the necessities.

At Dark Hollow Falls.

It's kind of fun to have a kid big enough to take pictures. And when I say, "pictureS" I certainly mean plural. Multiple. Plethora of.

One of Rose River's many cascades.

One of our many water/candy/real food breaks.

The hike was gorgeous. We had incredible weather, slightly chilly but beautiful blue skies. Overall, the boys did great on the hike. Ollie had some weird breakdown at the start of the hike that was loud and long, but I just thought, "Hey. He's keeping the bears away." But once that was over, he did great. And once the hike was over, they were done. We headed back to our lovely camp and enjoyed its amenities.

Monday morning we wanted to do another hike before leaving. Rhett wanted a peak hike and chose, of course, the highest in the park. It's a fairly steep, but relatively short (only two miles roundtrip) hike.

At the summit.

Chuck stripped the hiking sticks bare. The boys received many compliments on them!

Lessons Learned: If we're going to camp in Shenandoah in the fall without reservations, we must take off Friday. Regardless, we had a great time! Sure, it was cold, but manageable. Especially with a heated Scamp.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Last Camping Trip of the Year: Jellystone

Months ago I created a plan to camp the first weekend in November. The little boys were out of school on Monday because of a teacher workday and all three boys were out on Tuesday for Election Day. The plan was for a Saturday departure. (Because we couldn't leave until 5ish on a Friday and because traffic in DC is the worst on Fridays at 5ish, this made sense.) And even though we couldn't make reservations and even though only one campground in Shenandoah was still open, we were pretty sure that we'd have no problem getting a campsite Saturday.

We were wrong.

It was made even more painful because the last 0.5 mile of the drive took over an hour. Apparently half of DC decided to take a day trip to Shenandoah and getting all those cars through the entrance took that long. It was just insult to injury. After tears were shed (by me and Rhett), we knew we had to do something. Driving home wasn't an option for me. I knew that on the other side of the mountains was a town called Luray. I knew that there was a KOA down there, so down we went. But before we could reach the KOA, we saw Jellystone. I must admit, I had some serious reservations about staying at a place called Jellystone. But what choice did I have? Between that and the KOA, well, did it really matter?

And guess what? I was wrong. Jellystone, while never outranking state and national park campgrounds, will now be a Plan B or C or something. But they'll be on the list of possibilities. Because let's be honest: I have kids. And kids don't care if the campground isn't all natural. They like the bouncing pillows. They like the mini golf. They like the playgrounds and dog park. They don't like the "Goodbye Yogi" dance party (for which I am truly grateful). But they would have liked the swimming pool and waterslide. And you know, sometimes (but only sometimes) it isn't all about me.

We brought a rake. Possibly the best things we thought to bring.

Given how late it was in the season and that we'd be there after the end of Daylight Saving Time, I also brought lots of glow things. Also a hit.

Rhett really perfected his Superman jump into his leaf pile. He also perfected attacking his brother with the rake after said brother jumped into the leaf pile without permission.

Chuck and I feel like these things just showed up. Where were they five years ago? Now they're everywhere.

I couldn't get over being at a place called Jellystone.


Friday, November 4, 2016

Halloween Candy Data

Every year I ask myself, "How much candy do we need for Halloween?" And every year I can never remember. But this year, I resolved to collect data. Because what's more fun than tabulating data while answering the door for trick-or-treaters? Nothing.

You can see our rush came in the 7:00 hour, but really, the trick-or-treating only lasted for 1.5 hours. I like it! Nice and compact. A total of 58 trick or treaters came to our house (not including my own cute boys).

Average group size of trick-or-treaters was 3.4.

And look at me! I ate only two pieces of the stuff we gave out. (Ahem. This graph does not include the number of pieces I ate once my boys came home. The boys were taxed all Almond Joys they received and one Butterfinger.)

Finally, the total candy received. These data combine candy collected on Halloween as well as at Friday's trunk or treat. Because I worked from home the day after Halloween, Chuck was required to take the bags of candy with him to work (to be kept in his car) because I am not to be trusted with nine pounds of candy in the house.

P.S. The candy we gave out was stuff that we bought last year. That's right. We bought close-out candy and kept it in the basement freezer for 365 days. And I didn't touch it once. I knew that once the bag was opened, it'd be over in a couple of ugly days. But as long as it stayed unopened, it was safe. Amazing, no?

Wednesday, November 2, 2016


With the boys in school all day, I have so much energy (and time!) to do fun things for them! Kidding. I just happened to for this holiday, but I promise it won't happen again soon. They were treated to a fun dinner of jello worms, scary apple teeth, and hot dog mummies and spiders.

I also managed to create some Halloween luminarias for our yard. I love these things so very much. Why? Because the luminarias remind me of my growing up and our Christmas luminarias, which I love. LOVE. And because the Christmas ones are not a thing here, our one house would look weird. But at Halloween it works. Well, I made it work.

The boys are ready to trick or treat! Those boxes. Ha. They made climbing stairs a little difficult. Maybe no box costumes again.

One last house...

The loot!

Okay. Let's talk about Rhett's bounty. He carried no bag, so every piece he got counted as a "vote," whether or not the person at the door intended that to be. And even though you can't tell, he got about four times as much for Hillary as he did for Trump. But that's no surprise in our neighborhood. It was quite hilarious listening to people at the door: "One for Trump, and a lot more for Hillary!" And then there were all the people who asked for his picture. Rhett relished in the special attention. And people gave him way more candy than Ollie. Ollie ended up with just over four pounds, and Rhett? FIVE. Five pounds of candy.

Chuck took the boys out for most of the night while I stayed home and cleaned the house. It was the perfect (for me) compromise. The weather was good and everyone had a lovely evening!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Family Home Evening

I recently realized that our family doesn't have fun together very often. Sure, we can laugh at times and enjoy each other's company, but really have fun? All four of us? It's rare. Does it not happen because we're four different individuals with four ideas of what fun is? Does it not happen because there's little room in the day? Does it happen because the parents are tired? Yes, yes, and yes.

To remedy this, I decided that Family Home Evening (FHE) needed a revamp. We needed less lesson and more activity. Not that our lessons were long (maybe read a story from the Friend) but apparently that was too long. So we've changed it. Now we read one scripture and talk briefly about it. Of course this takes longer than expected because some members of the family have a hard time sitting still for even one scripture. But once that's done, we go directly to the fun activity.

So what fun activities are we doing? We've played tennis (that was a hit so we did it twice), taken bike rides, gone fishing (Ollie was NOT excited but changed his mind at the end), played games, and uh, that's about it. Like I said, this was recent. And, of course, we have dessert. It's not changing our lives, but at least, for an hour or so each Monday evening, we have fun together.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Rhett's Primary Program Talk

Chuck and I had no part in helping Rhett craft his first primary program talk. When I received the program script in an email, I was surprised to find he already had something penned. Apparently he had worked on it during primary with his teachers. Great! I didn't have to do anything. Rhett delivered it like a champ, but with a bit of ad-libbing (see below in italics). He told us later that he likes to make people laugh. Uh, it worked!

"I can show my faith in Jesus Christ by trying to keep his commandments. If I make a mistake, I can repent and be forgiven. One time I was jumping on the trampoline with my brother, Ollie. He had something that I wanted. I asked for it and he said, "No." Then I told him I had something in my hand that he needed to live. I said I would trade him for the thing that I wanted. He gave it to me, and then I opened my hand and showed that what I had to trade was oxygen. Ollie was upset because I tricked him, so he scratched my face, and I still have the scars. My mom made me say sorry and give the thing back. I learned that tricking my brother doesn't work and I wanted to say that Ollie is a big tattletale and that I need to say sorry when I trick him."

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Pumpkin Day

These pumpkin days are all starting to be very similar. I think next year we go simple: pumpkin patch, pumpkin food, the end. These patches are getting out of hand. They almost all have the same things and are always filled with people. Can you tell I'm worn out on pumpkin patches? Maybe I'm extra tired this year because Pumpkin Day was the morning after we camped, so I was exhausted already. But all of the boys were out of school/work for Yom Kippur, so it just made sense.

We did a maze, duckie races, slides, climbing things,

more slides, building log cabins with child-sized Lincoln Logs, dug around corn pits,

finally picked out a pumpkin, ate delicious apple cider donuts, pumpkin bread,

and finally got to go home.

Monday, October 17, 2016


When Rhett turned eight earlier this spring, he joined the Cub Scouts at church. Not being a boy and not remembering my brothers' experiences with this, it was all new to me. Unfortunately, they break for summer so it wasn't until just a couple of weeks ago that I think I finally got it. And guess what? I kinda love it. I almost wish I could do it and get all the cool patches. I do love patches, remember.

More importantly, Rhett is enjoying it. Like me, he didn't really get it at first. But now that he does, he likes it! In fact, when his den meeting was cancelled last week, he was actually bummed. We're working on things as a family and he's getting things done with his den.

But really, I should have expected that I'd like it, right? It's about doing fun things and then (the best part, really) crossing them off. Seriously perfection.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Moms and Spawns Camp

Well, I did it again. I took my boys on a campout without Chuck. Last year we ventured north 30 minutes. This time, we went as far as 80 minutes. Whoa. Like last year, my friend Shannon joined us. Thank goodness because I don't know how to build a fire. (Sure, I could guess but it would definitely be ugly and only take with small probability.)

This time we opted for Fort Frederick State Park. There's not too much hiking and the scenery isn't too dramatic, so I thought it perfect for a one-nighter. Plus, it's close. I checked the boys out of school a bit early (surprising them!) and we headed up. We were the only ones there until Shannon arrived and only one other RV'er showed up later. Lovely.

Upon arrival, we walked to the fort and checked it out. As it wasn't summer, nor a weekend, there were no "period actors" milling about. But that's okay. We went back to camp and hopped on bikes for a quick ride on the C&O Canal towpath. So yes, even though I cannot build a fire, I did learn how to use the bike rack. Baby steps, people! (We're hoping for a November trip to Shenandoah during which I will be instructed in fire building.)

Once Shannon and kin arrived, we just hung out at camp, eating and laughing and letting the kids do whatever they want because we were basically the sole inhabitants of the place. Oh, and thank goodness for Shannon's firebuilding skills because it got cold! We were fine sleeping, but man, it was in the 40s (I think). Brrr! That night, we slept okay, but Ollie woke me up at 5:15. I was not happy. At all. We got up and ate and went on another bike ride and called it good!

In the end, I'm glad I went. Yes, it's hard, but not because I was alone. It's hard because of the boys. I work hard to pull it all together, and what do they want to do? Sit in the tent. Sigh. I'll probably forget this and try again next year. (Oh man, those Jewish holidays are early next year! Blah. I like them much better when they're in October.)

Inside the fort.

Roasting marshmallows.

Riding on the towpath.

The mom with her spawn.

P.S. If you're wondering how Chuck did, let me tell you: It was the best night of his life. (Well, maybe I exaggerate.) He got Chipotle for dinner, watched some baseball while texting a friend, went to friend's house to watch game together, late-night Pokemon hunting with friend, and then an alarm-free wake up. Perfect! (For him at least.) My night alone would have looked like: Thai food, pedicures with friends, Breaking Bad, alarm-free wake up, run. But I guess I'll have to remember that when it's Fathers and Sons Campout next spring.