Leah

School finally arrives

Posted in Leah, Molly, School on September 5th, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

After an extra long summer with lots of trips (one of which I’ll post about soon), school finally started in Maryland today. Leah is now in second grade, and Molly is a fifth grader ready to begin her last year in elementary school. It’s hard to believe that this time next year she’ll be a middle schooler.

First day of school

We took our usual kids on the block picture before the first day of school. Several of the kids from previous years have moved on to middle school, but we’ve still got a good crowd.

Kids on the block

There was a lot of excitement at school, including the wildcat and a TV news crew. The girls (and their friends) got a picture with the wildcat.

Wildcat pic

We’re excited for a fun new school year!

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.

Daddy date

Posted in Leah on August 11th, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Molly had an event at karate a couple Fridays ago, so Leah and I had a date night. She chose Cheeburger Cheeburger, and an Oreo Shake to share.

Sweet date

We then went roller skating to complete our date. We’ve been roller skating together a lot, but always during an afternoon session. This was our first evening session, and it was very different. Crowded with teenagers and rap music (afternoon sessions are less crowded, lots of kids, and mostly pop music). It was still fun, but I don’t think we’ll be back in the evening any time soon.

Super Duper Hula Hooper

Posted in Family outings, Family visits, Leah on July 25th, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

On Sunday night, Callaway Gardens holds a luau to welcome everyone to the Summer Family Adventure (SFA) program. Apparently all these kids need for fun is a checkered napkin.

Welcome dinner

Per tradition, the highlight of the evening was a hula hoop contest, and our three girls were ready.

Hula hoop contest

Leah opted for the minimal technique - crossed arms and no extraneous movements.

Technique

Molly was a bit more of a show off.

Show off

Emmie had hula hoop skills as well. All 3 of them made it to the finals.

Cousin makes 3

All but one of the finalists lost their hoop when they had to lift one foot in the air, leaving Leah as the champion. She was officially proclaimed the Super Duper Hula Hooper for the week.

Our winner

The Super Duper Hula Hooper and her prize (a cup that gets free refills all week long), with her two finalist attendants on each side.

Champion

And the eight of us, ready for camp to get started.

All of us

Hibachi

Posted in Celebrations, Leah, Molly on July 22nd, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

For some time, Molly’s been asking to try out Hibachi. So, the week after school ended, we took the girls as a celebration of a great year of school. We went to Koto Sake, and the girls loved it. They were immediately planning to have future birthday dinners there.

Hibachi

First carpentry project

Posted in Leah, Molly on June 28th, 2017 by c-had – 1 Comment

The girls love their American Girl dolls. Since Leah’s birthday, they’ve been asking for a triple-decker doll bunk bed. After Christmas, I told them we could build one together. They got very excited about the idea, so we embarked on a long-term project to build one.

We started by getting some graph paper and drawing up some designs. From the designs, we created a materials list. Then we headed to Home Depot to buy wood, screws, and paint (thanks to a Home Depot gift card from G’Mom and Grampa). You’ll have to wait till the end to see what color they picked.

We worked on the project over several weekends. We started work in February, but it was very cold in the garage making it hard to motivate ourselves to make too much progress. We still managed to cut several of the pieces (I was the only one to operate the miter saw, but the girls were excellent helpers). They then sanded all the pieces smooth to get them ready to assemble. I used the router to create slots for the side rails.

In May, it warmed up so we managed to pick up the pace and make some significant progress. They also finally got to use some power tools. They used the drill press to drill holes (with counter-sink).

Carpentry project

Molly made sure to keep the screw straight up as she drove it in with the impact driver.

Driving

After a lot of work, we had 3 frames for the 3 beds.

Frames

Leah measured how long the slats needed to be so we could cut them.

Measure twice, cut once

And marked where I needed to cut.

Make your mark

And more sanding.

Sanding

The impact driver works much better if you scrunch up your nose.

Attaching

Nice job Molly (and nice photobomb, Leah).

Molly too

Once the beds were constructed, it was time to paint them.

Painting

Painting

We each painted a bed.

Painting each bed

Leah covered the bed well, and her face a little. We put two coats of paint on them (as well as a little touching up).

Face painting

The final step in construction was to drill hole in the top/bottom of the posts and cut dowels to connect them. Here we are with out finished project.

Put together

Jen used her sewing skills to make mattresses, and the dolls were ready to snooze.

Ready to use

Silly one

Another silly one

I loved working on this project, and the girls seemed to really enjoy it as well. I hope we can do it again soon.

Water guns

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

While Jen was out of town, the girls spent a day with their friend Matilda. They had a water gun fight, and were very excited about getting their own water guns when I picked them up. I of course loved this idea, so we went to 5 Below and picked up some Super Soakers.

Water guns

Schools out

Posted in Leah, Molly, School on June 27th, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

The girls finally got out of school on June 14. They love school, but were very excited for summer vacation.

Last day of school

Summertime

After school, the neighborhood kids again took a picture at the circle, as we’ve done every year.

Neighborhood kids

After the big picture, the 5th graders who are moving up to middle school took a picture on their own. Meanwhile, the other kids snuck off to gather water balloons. The 5th graders went from smiling to soaking in an instant.

Water attack

This, of course, led to an all out water fight.

Water fight

The girls then took a quick picture for me before running to a neighbor’s house for an ice cream party.

End of the school year

Let summer begin!

Strawberry picking

Posted in Family outings, Leah, Molly on June 25th, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Jen likes to take the girls strawberry picking each year. This year, it was a group effort.

Strawberry picking

Stacie and Zach were making grand plans for thier fresh strawberries, including a strawberry pie.

Parents pick too

The girls filled their buckets, then added the strawberries to Mom’s box. The picking was much slower without Dad, G’mom and Grampa this year. Thank goodness we had friends to help out.

Filling Mom's box

About 10 minutes after arriving, light rain started. Molly and Matilda found a unique way to cover up in the field.

Strawberries in the rain

Jen and the girls made a second stop at Woodbourne Creamery at Rock Hill Orchard. It is about 15 minutes from the strawberry field and the homemade ice cream was a perfect snack.

Snack after strawberries