Celebrations

Christmas tree

Posted in Celebrations, Family outings on December 24th, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

As usual, we headed to Greenway Farms to cut down our Christmas tree. We’re very busy, and really only had one day that was convenient to get a tree. That day turned out to be cold and snowing, but we didn’t let that stop us. We quickly found a great tree. It’s a Norway Spruce (a first for us).

Christmas tree

Christmas tree

Christmas tree photobomb

Christmas tree photobomb 2

After finding our tree, we got a picture of all four of us amongst the beautiful snow covered trees.

Snow covered trees

The next day, it was time to decorate our lovely tree. After our trip to Harry Potter world at Universal this summer, the girls wanted the first ornament on our tree to be Harry himself.

First ornament

Molly is a goober.

Goober

Decorating with attitude

This year Leah got to put the angel on top. She was a bit scared to go this high on the ladder at first, but she overcame her fear and accomplished her task.

Angel on top

Here’s our fully decorated tree complete with presents.

Christmas tree

Another cousin

Posted in Celebrations on December 19th, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

My sister (Aunt EA) is expecting her second child. Leah and Molly are excited to get a fourth first cousin.

New baby

Aunt EA and Uncle Scott had a gender reveal cake so we could all find out together whether we were getting a new nephew or niece.

Gender reveal cake

Will it be a boy or a girl? You have to watch to find out.

In case you couldn’t tell, I went overboard taking video of the gender reveal (3 cameras plus an extra microphone). I quickly set to work editing the video together. I even got a couple of smaller helpers in my work.

Video processing

We’re all excited to keep growing the family!

Charlie’s second birthday

Posted in Celebrations on December 17th, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Hard to believe it, but Charlie is now 2. His party was lots of fun.

Happy birthday Charlie

These cousins had lots of fun playing together.

Cousins

There were lots of presents. Charlie loves trains, and Thomas was an especially big hit.

Presents

Duplo

Thomas

Pawnee (their giant Great Dane/German Shepherd mix) and I shared a touching moment.

Touching moment

The cake was a delicious Elmo cake.

Elmo cake

Charlie loved the cake, though he (like his mother) is not very fond of the icing.

Eating cake

Happy birthday, Charlie!

Tennessee Thanksgiving

Posted in Celebrations, Family visits, Field trips on December 9th, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

For Thanksgiving, we went to visit G’Mom and Grampa, who live outside of Memphis, Tennessee. This is usually a flying trip for us, but I wanted to try driving it. I really hate flying, and Thanksgiving crowds make it all the worse. Since Jen got a nice new car last year, road trips have become much more comfortable. So, I managed to convince Jen to give driving a shot.

It’s too far to do in one day, so we stayed at a hotel in Abingdon, Virginia. We ended up with between 8 and 9 hours driving each day. We left Monday after school and got in Tuesday before dinner. I thought the driving was great. My family members were less enthusiastic, but they admitted it wasn’t that awful.

Wednesday afternoon, Emmie, JJ, Aunt ‘Chelle, and Uncle J arrived. Tennessee was having a cold snap (meaning it was about normal for us Marylanders), so the kids all had some hot cocoa.

Tennessee Cocoa

Thanksgiving was super special this year. G’Mom’s birthday fell on Thanksgiving day this year, which meant we got to celebrate with her.

Happy birthday G'Mom

Lots of music happened while we were in Tennessee. Molly and Leah even got introduced to JJ’s drum set. They teamed up to try them out, accompanying Emmie.

Drumming pair

Before our Thanksgiving meal, the kids helped Grampa set up the manger scene outside.

Manger setup

The girls decided they needed to ride the manger animals.

Riding the animals

Here’s the finished scene (with Grampa hiding in the background).

Finished scene

There was of course much eating on Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving meal

After eating, we took some family pictures (which you won’t find here) in front of the manger scene. Then we decided to take part in the scene, with everyone playing the part of one of the characters in the scene. Looks like the best live nativity I’ve ever seen.

Acting the part

These kids do have fun together.

Fun together

We finished Thanksgiving day with a concert including a violin/viola duet (which they practiced only a couple times briefly before performing), piano, violin, viola, and the Long family trio.

There was one more bit of excitement on Thanksgiving day. The kitchen sink decided to stop draining, meaning we couldn’t wash the dishes from Thanksgiving dinner. We ended up disconnecting the pipes, draining into a bucket, and washing by hand (occasionally emptying the bucket in a nearby bathroom). Thanksgiving plumbing problems are fun!

Friday morning, we decided to head to IHOP for breakfast instead of creating dishes. The girls thought it was amazing (they split red velvet pancakes).

IHOP breakfast

Thankfully, the plumber came out that morning and cleared the clog, so the kitchen resumed operation.

Friday afternoon Emmie, JJ, Uncle J, and Aunt ‘Chelle headed back to Alabama. Afterward, Grampa and I picked up a Christmas tree. The girls enjoyed helping decorate it.

Tree decorating

Tree decorating

I don’t think Leah is sure about the placement of this ornament.

Up high

The girls liked these ornaments so much, G’Mom and Grampa said they could keep them.

Ornaments for the road

Saturday we got up and hit the road for the drive back. Sadly, that meant we could not watch the Iron Bowl (where Auburn defeated #1 Alabama to win the SEC West), but we did enjoy listening to the broadcast in the car on our drive to our hotel. The drive home had a bit of traffic, but was mostly uneventful and took us almost the exact amount of time that it took to drive down.

Harry Potter Halloween

Posted in Celebrations, Family outings, Leah, Molly on October 31st, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment
Harry Potter Halloween

For Halloween this year, we all went with Harry Potter costumes (which I am very excited about). I am Remus Lupin (possibly my favorite character), Molly is Luna Lovegood, Leah is Hermione Granger, and Jen is a Quidditch fan.

Harry Potter costumes

Harry Potter costumes

The girls really got into character. They even had a wizard duel.

Wizard duel

And they cast their spells. I don’t think they’re trying to hurt each other, given the smiles on their faces.

Cast your spells

On Halloween day, the girls had a Halloween parade at school as usual.

Halloween parade

Halloween parade

Then they had their class parties. And perhaps even took some time to learn something afterward.

As evening approached, it was time for some serious trick-or-treating. This year, Molly’s friend Grace joined our crew of trick-or-treaters.

Trick-or-treating crew

We trick-or-treated for about an hour.

Trick-or-treating

Jen handed out candy this year while I walked around with the girls. We didn’t have very many trick-or-treaters visit us early on, so we thought it might be a light Halloween. But eventually they showed up, totaling 139 trick-or-treaters this year.

Trick-or-treating

After returning home, Grace really wanted to keep going. Leah was done, but Molly agreed to go back out after thirty minutes of warming up and eating candy. So, Grace, Molly, and I headed back out to a street further than we've been before. This was later than we’ve trick-or-treated before, and Molly learned that late-night trick-or-treating can be awesome as folks are trying to unload candy. Every time someone said “just take a couple handfuls” she was very happy. She ended up filling up her pumpkin twice by the end of the night.

Rainbow unicorn party

Posted in Celebrations, Leah on October 27th, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

The day after Leah’s actual birthday, she had her birthday party. She had no doubts about the kind of party she wanted - a rainbow unicorn party. Yes, not just a unicorn party, but specifically a rainbow unicorn party. Throughout the summer, Leah typed up an outline brainstorming the details of her rainbow unicorn party. Yes, she is her mother’s child.

Happy birthday banner

Rainbow unicorn decorations were everywhere - even outside.

Mailbox decorations

As guests arrived, they were given a unicorn horn and tail, then headed to the table to color a bit until everyone was there.

Coloring

Coloring

The girls then painted a canvas with rainbows. The canvas had a unicorn sticker, that was later removed after the paint dried.

Painting

Painting a rainbow

Here are the girls' rainbow masterpieces after the sticker had been peeled off (picture taken after the party).

Final product

After painting, the girls all made unicorn balloons. They picked a balloon, stuck everything on, and decorated the horn. We had a little trouble sticking things on (glue dots didn’t work the way we’d hoped), but made it through. Leah clearly likes her creation.

Unicorn balloons

We had a couple of activities that were not on the original plan, including tail braiding. The girls had all been given unicorn tails when they arrived. After the balloon craft, one of them decided to braid their friend’s tail, which led to everyone braiding each other’s tails. They loved it.

Tail braiding

Another unscripted activity was the tail shaking dance party. They had the best time shaking their tails and dancing to the music.

Tail shaking

Jen made a fantastic 3-layer funfetti rainbow unicorn cake for Leah’s party.

Cake

And we sang Happy Birthday (with a little extra unplanned fire).

Jen also made a great rainbow piñata for the party.

Rainbow piñata

The girls all got to swing at it several times.

Piñata swing

Piñata swing

Piñata swing

Piñata swing

After several rounds, the piñata was defeating the girls. So, they called in a big strong hitter to take it down. Jen only needed one swing.

Big hitter

Candy

Thanks to everyone for coming!

Party people

Silly one

Leah’s actual birthday

Posted in Celebrations, Leah on October 24th, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

The celebration continued on Leah’s actual birthday. Leah shares a birthday with one of her best friends (Grace), and their birthday fell on a Saturday this year. So, we made sure their parties wouldn’t conflict, and decided Grace would have her party on their actual birthday and Leah’s would be the next day.

We decided to go out to lunch for a family birthday meal rather than dinner, and Leah surprised no one in choosing Ledo Pizza for our destination. After lunch, there was no time for presents because Leah headed off to Grace’s American Girl tea party. After she got home, she was eager to open them up. Molly made a great card for her.

Actual birthday

Star Wars is still a big hit, and the new Forces of Destiny toys are a favorite of our girls. Molly already has Leia and R2-D2 (which she got in Disneyland), and now Leah has Rey and BB-8.

Star Wars

Leah’s wanted Heelys for a long time, and was very excited to get them. Now she just needs to figure out how to skate in them.

Heelys

The girls really enjoyed playing with a marble run toy that was at the beach house in California, so we gave Leah one for her birthday. While Leah was enjoying her other new toys (that’s Rey in her hands there), Molly was quick to open up the marble run and construct a fun run.

Marble run

After dinner, Leah got to blow out a candle. The cake had to wait for her party the next day, but no one complained about the homemade chocolate ice cream Jen made for us.

Homemade ice cream

Leah turns 8

Posted in Celebrations, Leah on October 23rd, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Shortly after school started, it was time to celebrate Leah’s 8th birthday. This started a week early at Grams’s house. There were of course presents.

Early birthday

These perfect presents combined two loves of Leah - Minecraft and plush toys.

Minecraft plushes

Good things come to those who wait. Hatchimals were impossible to find at Christmas, but now Leah’s got one of her own.

A Hatchimal

Minecraft, Lego, Roominate. Do you get the idea that she likes to build?

Lego

Roominate

Thanks to all for the presents and the fun celebrating early.

Goodbye Aruba

Posted in Celebrations, Trip on August 19th, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Eventually, our trip to Aruba had to come to an end. It was a great trip, and it was great to get away together. I don’t think it was our favorite island destination we’ve been to (that would probably go to our Puerto Rico trip or the Bahamas), but it was a great place. And, if you’re the sort that likes to just sit on the beach for a long time, Aruba’s beaches are awesome. Sadly, that’s not us.

I think this will be our last trip to an island for a while. Jen’s motion sickness keeps getting worse, so water activities are becoming bad choices as evidenced by this trip. So, maybe next time we’ll have to check out the Grand Canyon or New England or something.

I can’t end this on a negative note. We had a great trip to Aruba, and got to spend an entire week just the two of us. Thanks again to Grams for keeping the girls so we could do this.

Sun and aloe

Posted in Celebrations, Trip on August 18th, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

We tend to focus more on active things than chilling on the beach, but we did spend a little bit of time on the beach in front of our resort. We also discovered that by staying in the area that caters more to Europeans, you get the occasional (to our right and our left) topless sunbather (not pictured).

Beach time

Most of Aruba is dedicated to the tourism industry, but they do have at least one product that they are known for exporting. Given that they get so much sun, that product is a logical choice - aloe. We went to the Aruba Aloe factory and got the tour. Here our guide shows us the inside of the aloe plant right next to rows of aloe on the aloe farm.

Aruba Aloe

Aloe farm

Aruba Aloe farm

We also got to tour the factory, though it wasn’t fully operating since it was the weekend.

Aruba Aloe factory

Aruba Aloe factory

They make lotions, creams, soaps, and more. And we managed to make it out of the place having only bought a couple of things, which I call a win.