Family visits

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.

Putt-putt fun

Posted in Family outings, Family visits, Leah, Molly on October 28th, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

In September we had visitors from a far away land. Emmie, JJ, Aunt ‘Chelle, and Uncle J flew up to spend a couple days with us. While they were here, we went for a fun outing of putt-putt. We split into two foursomes, with the girls requesting me to accompany them while JJ and the other adults made up the other foursome. There was some intense concentration.

Putt-putt

Jen putting

The girls had fun golfing, but also got a bit of time to relax while waiting on the other group to catch up.

Relaxing on the green

It was fun!

Golfers

Silly golfers

The putt-putt course is right next to Rita’s, so we had to stop in for a treat.

After golf treat

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.

Callaway comes to an end

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

Our time at Callaway was fantastic, but all good things must come to an end. The younger kids have an awards ceremony at the end of the last day (Molly’s now in a group that is too old for this). Leah was named Future President (which Leah’s talked about as far back as preschool, though she is not currently planning for a term in the White House).

Future President

Emmie was given the Natural Leader award, so I guess we’ve got some leaders in the family.

Leadership

Leah, Emmie, and three of their circus performing counselors.

End of camp

That evening was the final circus, and they held the awards ceremony shortly beforehand. I won the tennis tournament (as I had done the last time we were at Callaway), and got another t-shirt (though this one was in a smaller size for Leah).

Tennis champion

The kids again paraded around the tent.

Closing parade

And then the held the final circus. Afterwards, Leah and Emmie had to get a final hug from their counselor, Jess.

Final hug

Circus counselor

Molly got a picture with her counselor, Brooke, after a very busy circus performance including the Spanish Web, the Triple Trapeze, the Bicycle Built for Five, and serving as Ring Master.

Talented counselor

Camp at Callaway was again incredibly awesome. I used to think Jen’s family was crazy for going to the same place every summer for ten years. I now totally get it. We wish we could go every year (and if any of you have a plan that might entail us going every year, I’m all ears).

Giant chair

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

Under the stars

Posted in Family outings, Family visits, Trip on July 29th, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Fireworks weren’t the only thing we saw in the sky at night. We again went to the astronomy program and saw all the stars we can’t see living surrounded by light pollution. Last time around, Aunt ‘Chelle stayed behind with little JJ. This time, JJ was old enough to join in, so no one had to stay behind. And most of our friends joined us as well.

Here’s our family (minus me) gazing at the sky.

Stargazing

It’s hard to convey the sky we saw, but here’s a small taste of a tiny portion of the sky.

Stars