Family outings

Disneyland

Posted in Family outings, Trip on October 19th, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment
Castle pic

On Tuesday, the four of us took a break from the beach to go to Disneyland. We had hoped to go with one of my coworkers and his family, but they ended up not being able to go. So, it was just a Sellers family outing. We left our beach house early in the morning to avoid traffic and get to Anaheim before the park opened. Sadly, Molly got carsick on the way there, but she recovered quickly after we arrived.

Our first stop was to sign up for Jedi Training. We were expecting a long line like we found in Orlando, but found there to be no line at all and we had our pick of times to train.

We had hoped to take the girls on Space Mountain for the first time, but it was sadly closed during our visit. So, instead, we got on our first ride - Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters (which also had no line).

Buzz Lightyear

Buzz Lightyear

We then went across the park to the Indiana Jones Adventure. The girls did not like this one (too scary), but they made it through. I think Leah said she just kept her eyes closed the entire time.

There was much debate about whether to do Splash Mountain or not, as the girls didn’t want to get soaked. After seeing it, they were happy to try it. Here we go down the big drop at the end.

Splash Mountain

We ate our packed lunches in New Orleans Square, then went on one of our favorite rides - Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, which we actually rode a second time later in the day because we liked it so much.

The girls did Jedi Training, as they had done in Orlando. Leah is excellent at calming her mind to use the Force.

Use the force

Half the kids fight Darth Vader, while the other half fight the Seventh Sister. In Orlando, they fought the Seventh Sister, so I was glad they got to fight Darth Vader this time.

Fighting Vader

Fighting Vader

Fighting Vader

After Jedi Training, we had to ride on Star Tours to continue the Star Wars fun. We only rode it one time this trip.

That wasn’t true of the Matterhorn Bobsleds, which we rode twice unintentionally. We rode it once, but then the staff said they needed to take our sled off the course for a minute to help with flow control. So, we slid off to side for a couple of minutes. When they let us back on the course, they told us we’d get to ride for a second time for our trouble without even having to get out of the sled.

It was a hot day, and we got the perfect cold treat. As a kid, my favorite thing at Disney World was the Mickey Mouse ice cream pop. So, we of course all got one. It was fantastic.

The best treat

Most of the stuff in Toontown was geared toward little kids and uninteresting to our girls, but Gadget’s Go Coaster caught their eye. It’s really small and short, but there was no line. So, we rode it three times in a row.

Gadget's Go Coaster

We enjoyed the afternoon parade, including Mary Poppins.

Mary Poppins

We rode on the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, cooling off under the sea.

Finding Nemo

We ate dinner at the Jolly Holiday Bakery Café. We walked through the castle, and then went on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Afterward, the girls demonstrated how they looked while riding it.

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

We rode the Mad Tea Party, and did Big Thunder Mountain Railroad again.

We stayed all day, so got a picture in front of the lit up castle at night. The girls appreciated that Disneyland has a different castle than Disney World (Sleeping Beauty’s instead of Cinderella’s).

Night-time castle

I think we all gave Disneyland a big thumbs up.

The eclipse

Posted in Family outings, Leah, Molly on August 24th, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

We saw the eclipse! Well, at least the 80% eclipse that Maryland got. We did not travel long and far to full totality like some of you. Instead we traveled 10 minutes to our local library branch. I even got a picture of the eclipse with this contraption.

Photographing the eclipse

I wasn’t sure if I could photograph the eclipse, but I ended up pulling it off. I didn’t have a proper solar filter, so I used eclipse glasses and some gaffer tape to hold it on. Picture taken with my Panasonic GX7 (Micro Four Thirds), a cheap old Canon FD 300mm lens on an old Canon FD 2x tele extender, attached with a cheap Micro Four Thirds to Canon FD adapter. With the 2x crop sensor, that’s a 1200mm full frame equivalent, so the sun filled much of the frame. Here it is at its peak.

Eclipse

OK, enough photography geekery. Stacie brought Simon and Matilda (and a friend) to join in the fun, so we got to hang out with them two days in a row.

Viewing

Looking up

Eclipse viewers

How did we end up at the library? Well, that’s a longer story similar to some of yours. We originally thought we’d just watch the eclipse at our house, but we didn’t think about getting solar glasses for the eclipse until a week beforehand, when they were impossible to find.

The Robinson Nature Center nearby said they were getting a shipment of glasses on Wednesday and would say when they arrived on their Facebook page. Jen watched it throughout the day and jumped in the car with the girls when the message went out that they had arrived. Sadly, they were sold out before she arrived. Apparently a bunch of people just hung out at the center waiting for them to arrive, and they were sold out within 10 minutes.

Our library handed them out at all branches the Saturday before at 11:00. Leah and I got there 30 minutes early, but the line was already giant (this is just a small portion of it). I’d guess over a thousand people. Only the first couple hundred got glasses, which did not include us.

Search for solar glasses

The library was also hosting an eclipse viewing party where they would have some more glasses for use, so we decided to make that our last ditch effort to see the eclipse. Given our previous experiences with getting glasses, we got there at 12:30 (party started at 2:00). We found there was already a pretty long line, and it just kept getting longer. Eventually, they gave out tickets for each pair of glasses they had, and we were fortunate to be far enough forward to get tickets. We ended up just taking half the glasses we were allotted, though, to help out with huge number of people who didn’t get tickets. Here’s a view of the party on the front lawn of the library.

Eclipse party

We all enjoyed experiencing the eclipse, and were glad we managed to do it. We even topped off the fun with a sweet treat. The library is just down the street from a Rita’s. Since we’d failed to get custard at the Rita’s in Six Flags, this was a good chance to make up for that failure. Yum.

Six Flags America

Posted in Family outings, Leah, Molly on August 23rd, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Leah participated in a reading program at school this past year that awarded her a free ticket to Six Flags America. It’s been a very busy summer, but we finally found time to go. And not only did we go, but we got to go with a bunch of friends from playgroup. Simon and Matilda, Keira, and Jake all joined in the fun (as did some of their parents). In fact, Molly’s first trip ever to an amusement park included Keira and Jake. Simon and Matilda were sadly not there (Matilda would have been 3 months old, so she probably wouldn’t have remembered it if she had gone). Leah was sort of there, as Jen was pregnant with her at the time. Here they are all those many years ago:

Holding hands

We got to Six Flags at 10:30 when the park opened. This was our first trip to Six Flags, but the others were experienced (most had season passes). All the older kids were tall enough now to ride all the rides (something new for Molly), but Leah and Matilda couldn’t ride the largest of them. That said, Molly was still scared of any roller coaster that went upside down or was too extreme. We tried to convince her to try one, but she was quite resistant. So, we started with some tamer rides that everyone could ride. First, the Flying Carousel:

Flying Carousel

Flying Carousel

Then the Tea Cups

Tea Cups

Our first roller coaster was the Ragin Cajun, a spinny mouse coaster that everyone could ride. And, surprisingly, everyone did ride it including Jen. She took a couple Dramamine before arriving so she could try some coasters, but I was still surprised to see her on it. I think Stacie deserves the credit for pushing Jen to ride this ride (and many other rides). The girls rode together, so Jen and I got to ride in a car by ourselves.

Then another smaller ride: French Quarter Flyers

French Quarter Flyers

French Quarter Flyers

We then went on Wild One, a wooden roller coaster originally built in 1917 at a different park and moved here in the 80s. Again, everyone could ride this. Both our girls said afterward they didn’t like the big drop at the beginning, yet both of them wanted to ride it again. So, most of us rode it a second time.

One of the reasons we rode it again was that there was no line. We apparently found a great day to visit the park, because there were almost no lines all day long. It was awesome.

We took a lunch break, then some of the kids really wanted to do Shipwreck Falls. It’s a big boat that crashes down into water (like Splash Mountain, but a lot wetter). Molly tried to get out of it when she saw how wet the boat was, but Jen said, “If I’m riding it, then so are you! Sit back down!”

Shipwreck Falls

We all ended up completely drenched. Even with the sun, it took hours to dry off.

Drenched

Since we were already drenched, we went ahead and rode Renegade Rapids. And then we headed to our first coaster that the smallest girls were not big enough to ride - the Mind Eraser. Molly did not want to try it (you go upside down), and Jen was happy to sit out. I rode it though. It’s fun.

Our next stop was Coyote Creek Crazy Cars (bumper cars), where all the kids (and Zach) joined in. Leah thought Matilda needed some directions on who to bump into.

Coyote Creek Crazy Cars

Molly does not have a lot of experience driving a car, and so had a little trouble getting the hang of using the pedals and steering wheel simultaneously. This gave the smaller girls ample opportunity to ram into her and Keira.

How does this work?

Now you’re getting it, Molly.

Now you've got it

It’s fun to crash into Jake.

Crash

We then went to the other wooden coaster - Roar. Everyone could (and did) ride it. It’s a bit shakier than Wild One, but still lots of fun. After riding it once (and cleaning up the drink I spilled in my backpack), some of the bigger kids wanted to ride Apocalypse. Molly did not, and the little girls couldn’t. So, I joined the three of them and we rode Roar again while the others rode Apocalypse. There was still no line when we finished, so we rode it a third time. Then we stopped riding it, both because the others had returned and because we had fully shaken our brains after riding the wooden coaster three times in a row.

The kids and Zach then hopped on High Seas (not my kind of ride).

High Seas

After that, it was time for sweet treat. We headed to Rita’s and had to stand in line for a while before finding out their custard machine was broken. We still got some ice, but we also got some Dippin’ Dots to make up for the missing custard.

After our treat, we headed to Gotham City, home of most of the really serious rides. Our first stop was The Joker’s Jinx, a seriously twisty coaster. The little girls couldn’t ride it, and Molly didn’t want to, so the three of them went with Jen and I to Riddle Me This (like an open air Gravitron that tips up on end). The girls got to ride it a couple times before the others finished on The Joker’s Jinx, and they loved it. I mentioned to Molly that she was going upside down on this ride, and if she could handle that she could handle it on a coaster. To my surprise, she thought that made sense, and asked if she could now go on The Joker’s Jinx. So, we went back to The Joker’s Jinx along with the other older kids.

Molly was pretty scared as we got strapped in. It’s also a ride with a fast launch (0-60mph in 3 seconds), which freaked her out. As soon as the launch was over, we emerged into a twist followed by a loop. As we finish the loop, I hear her screaming with joy “I like going upside down!”. She loved the ride, and was suddenly emboldened to ride all the most extreme rides. Here she is after conquering her fears.

Joker's Jinx

All the kids, Zach, and Jason then went on The Penguin's Blizzard River, a water ride that doesn’t really get you wet.

The Penguin's Blizzard River

The newest ride at the park is Wonder Woman Lasso of Truth, an extremely tall swing ride. To our surprise, all the kids ended up riding this daunting ride. Neither Jen nor I did. It was really high.

Wonder Woman Lasso of Truth

High flying

We then went to Superman, the biggest, steepest, fastest roller coaster of the park. It starts with a huge climb followed by a 200 foot drop reaching speeds of 73 mph. The little girls couldn’t ride it, but everyone else could and did (even Jen). Molly said she wasn’t even scared to ride it (her attitude was really transformed by her success at The Joker’s Jinx). Superman was a favorite of many of us.

As if that wasn’t crazy enough, we then went on to Batwing, a coaster that lies you on your back at the start, then flips you over so your flying (held up by the shoulder straps) and zooming around. Again, the little girls couldn’t do it, but everyone else (even Jen and Molly) did it. However, Molly, Jen, and I were not a fan. It was just too much for us. Rather than screaming about how great the ride was, Molly was screaming “I don’t like this” over and over throughout the ride. I don’t think we’ll be riding this on future visits.

We then made our way back. Several of the kids rode Wonder Woman again as we went by it, though Molly did not as her head was hurting from Batwing.

We then stopped for dinner. Jason and Keira left to head home, but the rest of us enjoyed park food for our second meal of the day. We got a picture of us all beforehand.

Our crew

After dinner, Jen and I would have been happy to head home, but the others weren’t done yet. The kids hit the Flying Carousel again. Then they wanted bigger rides.

The boys wanted to go back to Superman, so they set out on their trek. The girls decided to ride Ragin Cajun again. The girls were going to ride by themselves, but were told they needed one tall person for every short one (Molly counted as a tall one). So, I ran to the front of the line to accompany them on this spinny mouse coaster.

Ragin Cajun

Since the boys weren’t back yet, the 3 girls and I then rode Wild One again (meaning we had ridden each of the wooden coasters 3 times). Then the girls rode the Zydeco Zinger a couple of times.

After their second ride on the Zydeco Zinger, they were confused as to why the ride was not allowing others onto it. We had to explain that it was after 8:00 and the park closed at 8:00. Yes, we arrived when the park opened and stayed till it closed.

We then headed toward our car (stopping at the gift shop to pick up Wonder Woman souvenirs) and completed a long day of fun.

Thanks so much to everyone else for bringing us along. It was so much more fun having friends there, especially friends that we’ve had for so long.

Camp drop-off excursion

Posted in Family outings on August 4th, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Now that Molly has told you all about camp, I thought I’d tell you about the day we dropped her off. We drove Molly to Camp Manidokan (which is a Methodist camp in Knoxville, Maryland, right where Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia meet). It’s about an hour drive from our house (assuming you don’t hit too much traffic).

All four of us went to drop Molly off. Leah really wished she could go to camp too. We had hoped she’d be able to go to their mini-camp this year (that’s the only session she’s old enough to attend), but it fell while we were at Callaway Gardens. But she’s determined to go next year and already trying to recruit friends to join her.

After sign-in, Molly was quick to hit the pool for her swim test.

Camp swim test

Then we hung around for a while in order to say hello to all the families of all Molly’s friends. Leah fit right in with the campers during that time.

Art table

Go fish

Finally, we left Molly for a week at camp. We decided rather than head home, we’d drive over to historic Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia to look around and get some dinner. We had a lovely meal (and ice cream) at the Cannonball Deli. Then we wandered around a bit.

Dinner

Ice cream

We walked across the bridge from West Virginia to Maryland (and back), just like Molly does on a hike with camp.

Bridge

It was a fun outing, though parking in Harper’s Ferry was difficult and there was traffic headed back to Maryland. Between the busy day and the long drive home, we were all tired.

Pooped

Headed home

Posted in Family outings, Family visits, Trip on August 2nd, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Saturday morning, we woke up, packed up, and began our journey home from Callaway. Here we are as we get ready to leave on the drive home after a great week at camp.

Time to go

Longs

We drove about two thirds of the way Saturday, and spent the night in a hotel in Christiansburg, Virginia. We drove over to Blacksburg for dinner at Mellow Mushroom and to see a bit of Virginia Tech’s campus. It was the girls’ first time eating at Mellow Mushroom, and it was very reminiscent of college for Jen and me (eating at Mellow Mushroom just off campus).

After dinner, we went in search of a treat. We found Gardner’s Frozen Treats in Christiansburg, and it was delicious. They had lots of flavors of Hershey’s ice cream, and then a few flavors of their own. Leah opted for Hershey’s rainbow sherbet, while I went for the homemade blueberry lavender (which was very different, but very good).

Ice cream stop

Molly went for homemade double stuff Oreo while Jen went for homemade pistachio. They were both delicious as well.

Ice cream

Then we got a good night’s sleep before driving the rest of the way home on Sunday. I was worried traffic would be awful the Sunday after July 4th, but it really wasn’t too bad. It was still a long trip, though, and we were very glad to be home.

More fun at Callaway

Posted in Family outings, Family visits, Trip on August 1st, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

There were lots of other fun things at Callaway beyond those detailed in the previous posts. I’ll highlight a few of them here. For one, there are lots of great places to ride bikes. We took a family bike ride with all 8 of us. My bike is holding up my phone to take this picture, which is why it did not make it into the shot.

Family bike ride

And we couldn’t miss Bingo!

Bingo

Emmie won! And Molly was kind enough to accompany her to the prize table.

Winner!

We also enjoyed the pool near our house a couple times for some relaxing swimming. Or, perhaps, some flying.

And everything wasn’t always active. There was plenty of relaxing as well. Thanks to Aunt ‘Chelle and Uncle J for bringing their hammocks.

Hammock

Hammock

Hammock

Last time we went to Callaway, they had a Hawaiian Ice truck. This time, it was replaced with an ice cream truck which I consider a vast improvement. We paid it a visit several times. Most of the time we had the girls with us, but this time we went while they were in camp. We tried almost all the flavors eventually, and this was my favorite - muscadine.

Muscadine ice cream

Lots of tennis

Posted in Family outings, Family visits, Sports on July 31st, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

At Callaway, I play a lot of tennis. I don’t get to play daily at home, so it’s fun to get to at Callaway. I played 4 out of 5 camp days (TreeTop conflicted on Thursday). Friday was an especially busy day. I woke up early to run the camp 5K at 7:00. Then played in the camp tennis tournament from 10 to noon. And then, we finally found the time to take the whole family out on the courts.

Family tennis

Leah backhand

Family tennis

JJ and Uncle J came out to play as well (yes, I brought enough racquets for everyone).

Tennis cousins

Family tennis

Thanks to everyone for joining me out on the court.

Tennis players

SFA Summer Theater

Posted in Family outings, Family visits, Trip on July 31st, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

As part of the summer camp program, the kids all rehearse some skits that they perform on Thursday evening. Here are some of them. First, the opening number.

Leah and Emmie were involved in the same skit (though on opposite sides of the law).

And also performed a dance number.

In Molly’s skit, I have to say I wasn’t surprised that she was cast as the mom.

And she danced as well.

Nice job, kiddos.

TreeTop

Posted in Family outings, Family visits, Trip on July 30th, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Everyone also got to have fun at TreeTop, the fancy ropes and zipline course. The kids did the Sapling course (the low ropes course) as part of their camp.

Leah and Emmie’s group got to do the course first thing Monday morning.

Leah TreeTop

Leah TreeTop

The final zipline was the favorite part of the course.

Leah TreeTop zipline

The littlest kids (JJ’s group) were very timid at the course, Leah’s group attacked the course with confidence. Molly’s group took it to the next level, practically running through the course (they all got to do it twice because of this).

Molly TreeTop

Molly TreeTop

Their daring was especially evident on the final zipline. Molly and another girl (also named Molly) chose to hang upside down on the zipline for fun.

Molly zipline

The adults were the last to go during the week, and we got to do the high ropes course as well as the lake course with giant zippiness.

TreeTop

Chad too

Jen zipline

We were joined by our friends on the course, and I even got to be next to Monty in line. Monty was my first boss in a computer job. He hired me to work for him at the Naval Research Laboratory as a UNIX systems administrator when I was a senior in high school. I probably wouldn’t be the software developer I am today if it wasn’t for him, so it was great to get to reconnect.

Monty TreeTop

Jen tried to duplicate Molly’s upside down/feet in the air zipline. She didn’t quite get there, but this was impressive none-the-less.

Almost there

And the highlight (once you get past the incredibly high ladder) is the two giant ziplines over the lake. I’m not sure how long the first one is, but the second one is 700 feet and the first is pretty close to that.

Chad zipline

Jen zipline

Jen zipline

Michelle zipline

Jeremy zipline

I try to play tennis as much as possible while at Callaway, but I skip it to be able to do TreeTop. That’s how much fun it is.

Robin Lake

Posted in Family outings, Family visits, Trip on July 30th, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

We spent a lot of time in Robin Lake throughout the week. The kids went swimming most days at camp.

Swimming

In addition to swimming, everyone had the chance to go to Aqua Island - a huge inflatable obstacle playground on the water. The kids went with their camp groups. The adults had a time during the week to go. Jen, Michelle, Jeremy, and lots of friends all went. I skipped out to play tennis.

Aqua Island

I didn’t get a picture of Leah and Emmie on Aqua Island, but here they are just after the fun.

Aqua Island

Jen and I also went water skiing on the lake. Jen went first and showed us how it’s done.

Water skiing

I remembered how to slalom, and managed to get up on one ski this time around.

Water skiing