Archive for July, 2014

Cousin fun

Posted in Leah, Molly, Trip on July 31st, 2014 by c-had – 1 Comment

After dinner, Uncle J taught me a few ukulele chords, which of course led to a ukulele dance party before bed.

Ukulele dancing

Nice dancing, Leah.

Nice dancing

The next morning, the girls decided to begin our first full day in Memphis by giving a presentation on dinosaurs. Or at least on this dinosaur.

Dinosaur presentation

This was the first time that the cousins were together since Jen made them all mermaid dresses. They were excited to wear them to G'Mom and Grampa's church together.

Matching mermaids

JJ may not have had a mermaid dress, but he wanted to be in the picture as well.

Don't forget JJ

After church and lunch, G’Mom and Grampa took the girls to a playground for some fun.


We went to G’Mom and Grampa’s pool as well (thanks to Coach for admitting us in spite of the rules!). Despite the intense splash pad calling to the kids, Leah wanted to jump straight into the big pool.


The splash pad had a water slide, and Emmie was quick to try it out.

Splash pad slide

Molly was quick to use the slide as well. If you’re wondering about the mask, Emmie had just given Molly and Leah a snorkel set which Molly had to use immediately.

Molly too

JJ got his dad to go down the splash pad slide with him.

JJ too

On the way home from the pool, we stopped by the side of the road to feed a couple of horses some recently mowed grass.

Horse feeding

Aunt ‘Chelle put curlers in the girls’ hair to sleep in for the first time. Molly’s ready for bed with four of them. Unfortunately, most of them fell out during the night.


I asked Leah if I could take her picture with the curlers as well. She immediately gave me the over-the-shoulder pose. My little model in training.

Nice pose

Then, after a very busy day, the girls went to bed. The adults stayed up long enough to play a game of Texas Rummy, which Susan dominated more thoroughly than I've ever seen.


Posted in Family outings, Trip on July 30th, 2014 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Shortly after arriving in Tennessee, we headed to G’Mom and Grampa’s friends’ house to check out their outdoor model trains.


Emmie showed off how much stronger she’s gotten since the last time we saw her.

Strong girl

JJ loves his pockets, though he had a little trouble with these ones. He asked me to help him put his hands in his pockets, and I of course was happy to help.


I had to use an ultra wide-angle lens to get the entire train track in, including the left and right loops and the bridge in between.

Train yard

Here’s the main loop of the track.

Main loop

JJ loved to run alongside the train.

Running with the train

JJ stopped running after the train to consult with me on the next photo. He’s got a good eye.


I see the train! It’s coming!

Here it comes

There it is! It’s the train!

There it is!

Nice work, Mr. Train Engineer. I see you in there.

Train engineer

Here's one of the trains, on the move, after crossing the bridge behind it.

A train

A shared train moment with a father and son.


The girls enjoyed the train, but not as much as JJ. So, after a while, they retired to the swing.


Thanks so much to Mark and Sheryl for all the hard work in creating and maintaining the trains, and for sharing them with us.

I love air travel

Posted in Trip on July 29th, 2014 by c-had – 3 Comments

Last week we traveled to Memphis to visit G’Mom and Grampa. I’ve got lots to show you from the fun of the trip, but before I do I wanted to tell you about the fun of getting there and back. Hopefully you find our difficulties entertaining.

We try to always fly out of BWI airport, as it is much closer to our house than Dulles or Reagan, and is usually much easier to deal with than the two larger airports. So, when my mom dropped us off at the airport Saturday morning an hour and twenty minutes before our flight, we thought we were in good shape. Once we walked into the terminal, we knew we were wrong.

The place was packed. The line to check in at Southwest wound through the entire maze and continued on for just as long beyond it. We had to check out bags, so we got in line. We were panicked that we’d miss our flight, and as we slowly made our way through the line, we were more and more sure of it. We ended up spending 50 minutes waiting to check in. When we finally did, we were informed our bags were late and might not make it on our flight. We then had 25 minutes to get through security and to our gate. The agent checking us in was kind, and suggested we go down to Terminal C since the security line there was shorter.

We ran to Terminal C security, which was indeed short. We made it through security in 10 minutes, leaving us 15 minutes before our flight was scheduled to take off. Unsure of when they’d close the doors, Jen and Molly started running back to Terminal B while I put my shoes on. I then picked up Leah and ran after them, catching them half way down Terminal B. We made it to the gate 7 minutes before take off time, wondering if we’d be able to get on the flight and get seats together. Fortunately, the flight was delayed, and was just about to start boarding. So, we made it on, not knowing if our bags would make it as well.

When we arrived in Memphis, we went to baggage claim and were happy to find the girls’ booster seats had arrived. Sadly, our suitcases had not. They ended up arriving later that afternoon (after spending a bit of time in Chicago’s Midway airport).

On our return flight, we knew Memphis airport would be less crowded, but we still arrived almost 2 hours ahead to make sure we had time. Of course, the airport was almost empty, and we were through checkin and security in 15 minutes. But we didn’t want to risk any problems since our flight was scheduled to get into BWI at 9:15pm, and we wanted to get our girls home and in bed as quickly as possible. We actually had even more time to wait, as our flight ended up departing 45 minutes late.

We ended up arriving at 9:50 with some tired girls. We headed to baggage claim and picked up our suitcases. Our girls’ seats, however, were not there. It seems none of the special baggage on our flight made it. So, we yet again had to file a report for missing luggage. The girls were not fans of riding home in Grams’s car without their booster seats, but they were so tired at 11:00 that they didn’t complain much. Southwest delivered the booster seats to our house the following afternoon, completing our adventure.

It makes me exhausted just to write this.

Vacation Bible School

Posted in Church, Leah, Molly on July 22nd, 2014 by c-had – 1 Comment

Our church does a couple of weeks of Vacation Bible School (VBS), and last week was the week our family participated. I joined in the fun one day as the official preschool photographer, though I snuck upstairs to briefly check out Molly and the elementary kids before heading down to preschool.

Vacation Bible School

I’m not sure what Molly’s shouting at the opening of VBS, but she’s definitely getting into it.

Excited kid

Jen taught Leah’s class. Here they are with everyone for opening singing.

Opening singing

Jen’s an expert VBS teacher. She even gets asked if she teaches in school year-round.


At the beginning of outdoor games, this counselor said the first two kids to tag him would start off as sharks. Leah was one of them. She isn’t the fastest kid, but she’s quick to move.


Jen’s not the kind of teacher who sits on the sidelines and watches. She’s right in the middle of the action.

Fun with kids

The game they played was Sharks and Minnows (a land-based version). When they got the go-ahead, the kids made their break.

Sharks and Minnows

Run, Leah, run!

Running Leah

Leah wasn’t the only kid clinging to Jen.

Hugging Jen

It was a great week, and all of us had a lot of fun. The girls were sad it had to come to an end, but not too sad as they knew a new adventure started the next day...

No training wheels

Posted in Molly on July 17th, 2014 by c-had – 1 Comment

Molly has been unwilling to take her training wheels off her bike for some time, but a while ago she said she’d do it this summer. So, with a beautiful Saturday, I removed them from her bike, then we went to the school blacktop to learn. I started holding the bike for her, while she got the hang of it.

No training wheels

Molly enjoyed pulling me around, and I didn’t realize how much work it would be. I had just taken a shower after my morning run, but I was dripping with sweat again in no time.

Having fun

She quickly progressed from being held up by me to mostly balancing on her own while I just prevented falling over.


Leah rode her bike most of the time while I worked with Molly, but did take a bit of a chalk break to do some drawing. Not a long enough break to warrant taking off her helmet, though.

Chalk break

Eventually she was doing so well I started letting go. She didn’t realize I was doing it at first, but eventually noticed.

No hands

Then we progressed to just having me follow her around to catch her if she happened to fall over.

Follow along

In no time, she was riding like she'd been doing it for ages. Here's a video of her in action with scenes from me helping and scenes of her doing it all on her own.

The girls kept asking to take a break from bike riding to play on the playground, and we happily obliged since Molly was doing so well. They really love the playground. I think they’re part monkey.


Leah, upside down again, this time with a bare midriff.

Bare midriff

After some playground time, it was back on the bikes. Leah, Molly, and I decided to have races around the blacktop. I usually lost.


Great job, Molly!

Zoo VIPs

Posted in Family outings on July 16th, 2014 by c-had – 2 Comments

Charles’s mom, Carol, who works at the National Zoo, arranged a special behind-the-scenes tour of the Small Mammal House for us. We felt like VIPs getting to go back into the exhibits to meet the animals. Kenton was an excellent tour guide and taught us a lot.

Zoo VIPs

The first animal we got to meet was this Small Madagascar Hedgehog Tenrec named Sansa. She may look like a small hedgehog, but she’s actually a tenrec and not related to a hedgehog at all. It just looks like it due to convergent evolution.

Small Madagascar Hedgehog Tenrec

Molly was happy to pet the tenrec, though it would have been a bad idea if it was scared and had its sharp spines up. Leah was not up for petting anything with spines.

Petting a tenrec

The next animal we met was Bonnie the three-banded armadillo. She was just waking up, so still curved into her defensive ball.

Bonnie the armadillo

Leah did pet Bonnie the armadillo, but she was so quick in doing it that I didn't hit the shutter on my camera fast enough.

Quick pet

Molly of course pet Bonnie the armadillo as well.

Molly too

After we pet her, Bonnie was allowed to run around a bit. She seemed happy to stretch her legs.

Running around

Molly was really enjoying the tour and eager to see what was next.

Having fun

Next we met Clark the prehensile-tailed porcupine, who was very happy to see us as it meant he got a tasty snack. He started with some corn on the cob.

Clark the porcupine

Here's Clark patiently waiting for his next snack after finishing some papaya.

Hi Clark

Here's Jen feeding Clark his favorite treat - bananas. In fact, when he was first born he almost died, but bananas helped save his life. Scroll down to Porcupine Problems there for his story.

Feeding Clark

We then went to a different section of the small mammal house to meet a couple of naked mole-rats. These are some seriously weird animals, but Leah had no problems getting up close to them (without touching, though).

Naked mole-rat

Naked mole-rats have no fat under their skin and no hair on it, which means their skin is fairly translucent.


Kenton then opened up the exhibit to let us see the three naked mole-rat colonies and ask questions. This meant that everyone could see us as if we were part of the exhibit. I think this was Molly's favorite part, both because she liked seeing the animals and because she liked feeling special.

Us on exhibit

After our behind-the-scenes tour, we walked around the public parts of the Small Mammal House. Of course, the meerkats were a highlight. Leah and this meerkat had a staring contest.

Staring contest

There was not much more than a big piece of plexiglass separating Leah from this meerkat.

Up close

Molly knew that meerkats eat insects, so she decided to try to attract the meerkat by showing off the ladybug on her shirt. It was not fooled.


Leah thought she'd follow Molly's lead and show off the giraffe on her shirt to attract the meerkat. I think she's a bit confused about what might interest a meerkat.

Giraffe shirt

After the Small Mammal House, we wandered most of the zoo. As always, otters are very entertaining. Here's Molly (in the reflection) and Leah off to the side checking out an otter swimming around in front of them.


Molly and Leah are squinting without their glasses, but these otters sure do look cool.

Cool otters

This panda was chowing down on some bamboo.

Panda snack

Not only did Carol get us behind the scenes at the Small Mammal House, she also got us a bunch of tickets to ride the carousel. The girls were very excited to get to ride it twice. If you ever ride it, you can see the cuttlefish is dedicated to Charles's mom and sister.


Checking out the turtles, as we have done before.


Hello, Mr. Lion. We're happy to see you, even if we are exhausted having been at the zoo for more than six hours.

Hello lion

It was by far the longest trip to the zoo we've ever had, but the girls were troopers and did very well. To my surprise, they even stayed awake as we drove home through traffic.

The finale to the day's adventure was eating dinner at Chick-fil-A for the first time since they closed for renovations. The girls have been ready for their favorite restaurant to reopen for some time, and they were happy to see how fancy it is now.

Fireworks and friends

Posted in Celebrations, Family outings on July 15th, 2014 by c-had – 1 Comment

We had not planned to be home for the 4th, so we had not made plans to see any fireworks. We decided last minute to head to the UMBC parking lot we'd been to 2 years ago to see the Catonsville fireworks. When we arrived, we were surprised to find friends already there.

Fireworks and friends

Leah's got something to say to Maya about her Rapunzel doll.

Something to say

Keira and Maya were kind enough to share some glow bracelets with other kids, which our girls very much appreciated.

Glow bracelet fun

They were about 20 minutes late, but the fireworks did eventually arrive.

The fireworks begin

The fireworks were pretty amazing. Just look at Leah's face watching them.


Despite being July, it was a bit chilly after dark. But we didn't mind, as we just cuddled up together with our jackets and a blanket.

Watching the fireworks

Here are a few more shots of the fireworks, to give you an idea of what they were like.





Sadly, the fireworks came to an abrupt and early end. We're not sure why. Some said it was due to an injury, others said it was due to wind causing the fireworks to land in the crowd. Regardless, the evening was fun despite the lack of a grand finale.

Another birthday

Posted in Celebrations on July 14th, 2014 by c-had – 1 Comment

Aunt Caroline’s birthday may have been more than a week earlier, but we ended up celebrating it on the 4th of July with dinner at Carrabba’s.

Fourth of July birthday

Molly was a big fan of the bread, both for eating and for facial hair simulation.

Bread mustache

They don't sing at Carrabba's, but we do. She seems to be enjoying our rendition.

Birthday singing

Make a wish!

Make a wish

Fourth of July

Posted in Celebrations, Family visits on July 13th, 2014 by c-had – 1 Comment

Since Hurricane Arthur ruined our plans to celebrate the Fourth of July at the beach, we decided to instead celebrate at our house. Here we all are at our celebrator lunch.

Fourth of July

After lunch, it was game time. Aunt Caroline, Charles, and the girls went to the basement to play Xbox while those of us over 30 played Texas Rummy. It’s a fun card game similar to Phase 10 that Scott taught us at the beach.

Game time

Jen decided very last minute to make the girls 4th of July skorts. I'm sure the girls will be showing their patriotism all summer long!

Patriotic skorts

The skorts make the girls giggle. Or, maybe that was Uncle Scott.


Vacation interrupted

Posted in Family visits, Trip on July 12th, 2014 by c-had – 1 Comment

We had the beach house for a full week - Sunday to Sunday. Sadly, despite being very early in the hurricane season, the first tropical storm of the season headed straight for us. Then it became a hurricane, and kept on coming. Hurricane Arthur was due to hit us Thursday night, which made it the earliest hurricane ever to hit North Carolina.

We debated whether to stay through the storm or evacuate. We'd been through plenty of hurricanes in Louisiana, and this was only a Category 1 storm at the time (it ended up reaching Category 2 by the time it hit land). But we'd never weathered a storm in a house that was only a few feet from the ocean. Combined with the fact that it would ruin much of Friday leaving us with only Saturday, and the likelihood of losing power and running water, we decided to cut our vacation short and drive home Thursday.