Archive for October, 2019

Molly’s mission testimony and more

Posted in Church, Molly, Music on October 8th, 2019 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Last week, Molly had a very busy Sunday morning at church. She played with the youth orchestra at both the 8:00 and 9:30 services, but that was just the start. She also gave part of the sermon at the 9:30 and 11:00 services. It was Missions weekend, and we had a few testimonies from folks who had been on mission trips in the place of the sermon. Most of these were adults, but they did include a couple of youth. Molly was the only middle schooler to speak.

You can see her testimony here:

And if you’re interested in seeing all the testimonies from all 4 services, you can watch them here (Molly’s is at the 48:55 mark):

And here she is playing with the youth orchestra:

We’re so proud of you, Molly!

Slumber party

Posted in Celebrations, Leah on October 7th, 2019 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Leah has wanted a sleepover birthday party for several years, but we’d told her she had to wait until she was 10. This year was finally the year! The party began with a little painting.

10th birthday sleepover

The girls picked their designs ahead of the party so that Jen could have the canvases prepped and ready for the party night.

Personalized projects

Same design, different colors


Chatting while creating

While the paint projects dried, Leah opened her presents. She was very excited about a new fuzzy unicorn squishie.

Excited for presents

The girls returned to the table to remove the vinyl and reveal their painted designs.

Design reveal

They all did a great job creating one-of-a-kind designs!

Finished paintings

Leah decided she wanted her friends to decorate their own cupcakes at the party. So Jen made the cupcakes and frostings, then set them out with all the toppings.

Cupcake decorating

Leah had fun showing her friends how to use a piping bag to frost the cupcakes.

Future cake decorator?

There was some very original decorating on these cupcakes!

Completed cupcakes

After making them, it was time to sing to Leah and eat them.

Then Molly left to sleep over with some of her friends, leaving just the 4th graders. But there was still more to do. Next up - a fun take on the classic game of Spin the Bottle. The girls ended up with rainbow painted finger nails.

Spin the (nail polish) bottle

The girls then watched a movie (the new Dumbo) and then finally went to bed. They chatted for a while and fought going to sleep, but the last of them was asleep by midnight.

Donuts for breakfast has become a tradition on our house for sleepovers, but not just any donuts - Krispy Kreme donuts!

The best breakfast

Happy birthday, Leah!

Leah’s birthday weekend number 1

Posted in Celebrations, Family visits, Leah on October 6th, 2019 by c-had – Be the first to comment

As always in our family, birthday celebrations go on and on. This year was no different, as Leah’s birthday celebrations spanned two weekends. The first weekend (detailed here) included most of the family stuff, while the second weekend was her big friend party (next post).

As usual, we let Leah pick a restaurant for celebrating with family. She chose Uncle Julio’s, a Mexican restaurant at the mall. The reason Leah chose Uncle Julio’s was the chance to get a chocolate piñata for dessert. When we went there for Mother’s Day, the girls wanted to get this extravagant dessert, but we of course said no. “Maybe if we came for your birthday.” Leah remembered that months later, and finally got her wish.

Chocolate piñata


Hit it


Chocolate piñata

Cracked open, there’s a lot of deliciousness spilling out, including lots of fruit and tiny churro bites.

We also opened presents. These rainbow unicorn Toms from Aunt Caroline were a big hit.


Rainbow unicorn Toms

G’Mom and Grampa flew up for the weekend. So, in addition to special events, there was time for hanging out. Leah and G’Mom had fun playing Speed. I think Leah’s especially happy here, since she has no cards left in her hands.


And there were more presents on her actual birthday.

Mini backpack

Leah asked Jen to fix chocolate lava cake for her birthday. She remembered when Jen made them almost 3 years ago for Grampa, and wanted to have them again (yes, she remembers desserts well). They were delicious again.

Chocolate lava cake

Chocolate lava cake

Thanks to G’Mom and Grampa for joining us.

With grands

First day of 7th and 4th grade

Posted in Leah, Molly, School on October 6th, 2019 by c-had – Be the first to comment

A month ago, Molly and Leah started school! 7th grade and 4th grade. And of course they had to wear their new jackets.

Molly first day of 7th grade

1st day of 7th grade

Leah first day of 4th grade

First day of 4th grade

Neighborhood picture

Touring Boston

Posted in Family outings, Trip on October 5th, 2019 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Our final destination on our road trip was Boston. After getting into Hamilton this summer, we’ve learned a lot about the American Revolution, so this was a great opportunity to explore it further. So, we drove into the city and headed straight for the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum.

When we arrived for our experience, we were each given an identity of a Tea Party participant to play. We occasionally participated throughout the experience playing our roles. Our first opportunity to do this was in a meeting of the Sons of Liberty. Then we headed outside and boarded a replica of the Eleanor. We learned about the Boston Tea Party while reliving it.

Boston Tea Party ships

We got to throw tea in the harbor! (and then pull it back up by the attached rope so the next person could throw it in)

Throwing the tea

Throwing the tea

And steer the ship.

Driving the ship

We also got to go below deck and explore around. The ships are really not that big. It’s amazing that they sailed these across the ocean.

Once off the ship, they had a bunch of outdoor exhibits. This exhibit simulates pulling a crate of tea up onto the deck to dump it overboard (they had no stairs on the real ships). It’s also a physics lesson. Molly is pulling with the rope over a single pulley (and clearly struggling). The other girl has the rope over a system of two pulleys, halving the amount of force needed to lift the crate.

Pulling up the tea

The girls found their roles on this sign (though clearly Molly was more excited about it than Leah).

Our roles

After we finished, we ate some lunch in Abigail’s Tea Room (the restaurant in the museum). I went full Boston, including Clam Chowder and some Boston Cream Pie. Then we headed out. Once outside, the girls posed with this statue of Samuel Adams.

Samuel Adams

We then walked over to land (did I mention that the Tea Party museum is floating out in the channel) to Faneuil Hall. We bought tickets for a Freedom Trail walking tour, but had an hour to kill before it left. I saw a Uniqlo store and wanted to duck in. Leah found this jacket and had to have it. Jen was resistant, but I gave in. And then Molly got one too. And now they wear them practically constantly.

Uniqlo store

We did the Walk Into History Freedom Trail walking tour. We followed our fantastic tour guide all over Boston learning about its history leading up to the American Revolution.

Freedom Trail

Old South Meeting House

Our tour ended a bit early as there was a Straight Pride parade and counter-protest going on in Boston at the time. So, our tour guide pulled us aside at the statue of Ben Franklin next to the old Latin School (where Ben Franklin was educated), and told us about the remaining sites we would have seen and could now explore on our own if we wished.

With our tour guide

Since the tour was over, the girls did some jacket modeling.

Jacket model

Jacket model

After our tour, we did explore a bit more on our own. When we got to the Boston Common, there was a truck there called Cookie Monstah serving ice cream and cookies. Leah stayed on theme, getting the Green Monster flavor (mint chip).

Boston Common

We made sure to go see the Massachusetts State House and it’s re-gilded dome after our tour guide had described it so well.

Massachusetts State House

Then we walked back to our car to head out. It was a very interesting and educational day.

We stayed the night in our hotel again, then got in the car Sunday and drove all the way back home to Maryland. It was a whirlwind of a trip, and we were all glad to have Labor Day off for a little rest before school started.

Around Newport

Posted in Family outings, Trip on October 4th, 2019 by c-had – Be the first to comment

After Six Flags one day, the US Open the next, and a busy day of tennis already, we decided we needed some more time on our feet. So, we took the girls on the Newport Cliff Walk, a long walk along the cliffs between huge mansions and Easton Bay.

Newport Cliff Walk

We took lots of breaks.


And saw lots of great views.

Cliff Walk

Cliff Walk selfie

Cliff Walk selfie

Part way along the cliff walk, there was a way to walk out onto the rocks, which the girls were excited about.

Sitting on some rocks

Cliff rocks

While one side of the cliff walk looks out over the cliffs, the other side has lots of Gilded Age mansions. These places are huge and very cool to look at. Today, they mostly serve different purposes (museums, etc.). Seven of these estates were actually combined together to form Salve Regina University, which is what you see in the background of the picture here.

Gilded Age mansions

After about 1.5 miles, we decided we’d walked enough. None of us wanted to walk back, so we waited on the bus.

Tired of walking

After some dinner at a pizza joint (Nikolas Pizza, which was exactly what we wanted), we walked a little bit more for a sweet treat. Sticks and Cones has fresh made gelato, soft serve ice cream, fancy cones (Molly has a chocolate chip cookie cone), and waffles on a stick. It was great!

Sticks and Cones

While the girls may have been more modest in their treats, I went all out with a hot waffle ice cream sandwich. I also went for one of their more unique flavors - sweet corn gelato. They put this in between two fresh waffles, drizzled on some caramel sauce, sprinkled on some powdered sugar, and it was amazing.

Waffles and ice cream

We then finally walked back to our car and drove back to our hotel in Massachusetts, exhausted after a great day.

Tennis Hall of Fame

Posted in Family outings, Sports, Trip on October 3rd, 2019 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Day 3 of our road trip took us to the real impetus for the trip - the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island. I’ve wanted to visit here for years.

I’ll give you a little history so you understand the place. As many of you may know, Newport became the place many wealthy families spent their summers during the Gilded Age (late 19th and early 20th century). That’s why there are so many huge mansions in Newport. Of course, wealthy people had the time and money to engage in lots of activities, so there were a bunch social clubs. One of those was the Newport Casino, which had lots of activities including lawn tennis. Since all the rich folks were there in the summer, this became the site of the first United States Lawn Tennis Association championships. This tournament grew, eventually moved to New York, and then later became what is now the US Open.

The place fell into disrepair, but was eventually restored. Today, it has a museum as well as a fully functioning tennis club with outdoor grass courts as well as indoor courts. Every year it hosts a professional tournament and inducts new legends into the Hall of Fame.

I really wanted to play on the grass courts. I’d never played on grass before, so I booked a court for Leah and me a few weeks in advance. It was expensive ($120 for an hour), but totally worth it. Because we were playing, we were allowed to park in the private club parking lot for free (all the parking around there is paid). We stopped by the club house to get a discount coupon for the museum (another perk of playing), then headed to the museum. They had a green screen photo booth, which we had fun with while waiting for our tour to start.

Here are some more videos and pictures from the photo booth, if you’re interested.

We then took a very interesting guided tour of the museum. We learned about many of the Hall of Fame inductees and the history of tennis. One of my favorite parts was about early racquet sports as well as Court Tennis. Court Tennis, also called Real Tennis or Royal Tennis, is an old more complicated version of the game. More on that later.

Tennis history

One of the fun features of the International Tennis Hall of Fame museum is this broadcasting booth. It lets you record yourself doing commentary on a famous tennis match, then plays it back for you.

Tennis broadcasters

We ate lunch across the street from the Hall of Fame at the Newport Creamery. Leah was excited they had a Waffled Grilled Cheese, and both girls were excited to try an Awful Awful.


After lunch, it was finally time to play tennis on the grass courts. We of course had to wear our tennis whites to be allowed to play.

Grass Court Tennis

Grass Court Tennis

Grass Court Tennis

Leah and I did some serving practice side by side. If you’re wondering why she’s inside the line, it’s because she currently plays orange ball tennis, which has a shorter court.

Serving practice

Not sure what’s going on with Leah’s serve technique here, but it cracked Jen up for hours.

Interesting technique

This summer, Leah’s school is doing a thing where they encourage kids to take pictures of themselves reading with the Wildcat in interesting locations. After we finished playing, Leah read a bit and got a picture.

Reading with the wildcat

There are lots more pictures of our grass court tennis on Flickr, if you’re looking for even more. Playing on grass is very different from hard or clay courts. The ball bounces so low, and there are so many odd bounces. It’s very challenging.

After playing, we explored the grounds a bit more. Not only did we learn about Court Tennis in the museum, they even had a fully functioning court that people still play on. This sport is largely unchanged from the days of King Henry VIII (who apparently played all the time). Sadly, no one was playing while we were there.

Court Tennis court

Court Tennis court

We bought some souvenirs, then finally left the Hall of Fame. But our day in Newport was only half over. I’ll tell you about the rest of our day in the next post.

US Open 2019

Posted in Family outings, Sports, Trip on October 2nd, 2019 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Day 2 of our road trip took us to the US Open. Last year, I had gotten a great deal on tickets by waiting till the last minute. This year did not go as well. We left our hotel in New Jersey Thursday morning without any tickets. I kept checking when we stopped, but eventually gave up and bought some tickets at the rest stop right before crossing the George Washington Bridge. No deals for us, this year.

We also had trouble getting there, as there was traffic and Molly eventually got car sick. We finally got in the gates about noon, grabbed some quick lunch, then hit the courts. First stop - Armstrong Stadium where Naomi Osaka (world #1 and reigning champion) was about to come out.

US Open

Naomi Osaka

Naomi Osaka

While we did not get to see one of our favorite players, Bethany Mattek-Sands, play tennis, she was with us in Armstrong Stadium in the broadcaster booth.

Favorite broadcaster

Osaka was playing Magda Linette, who I had hopes of putting up a good fight to make it a competitive match since Linette had won the lead-up tournament in the Bronx the week before. This was not the case, though, as Osaka played great and won fairly easily.

One of my favorite parts of the US Open is the outer courts, where you can sit or stand right next to the court. It’s so up close and personal. We had limited time, so I didn’t get to do this as much as I would have liked, but I did manage to go see a player I really wanted to see. Bianca Andreescu is a super talented teenager, and I got to see her playing her second round match against veteran Kirsten Flipkens. It was a lot of fun. Little did I know she’d go on to defeat Serena Williams in the final and win the whole tournament.

Eventual champ

Bianca Andreescu

Bianca Andreescu

Bianca Andreescu

Gotta get a picture with a giant racquet.

Giant racquet

And the tennis ball couch was back.

Tennis ball couch

Our purchased seats were in the giant Arthur Ashe stadium, but we didn’t get there till the end of our day as we enjoyed going all over the grounds earlier. We saw unseeded American Taylor Townsend take on #4 Simona Halep. It looked like Halep was going to roll over Townsend, but Townsend managed to come back and win. Sadly, we did not stay for the entire match. We had a long drive to Massachusetts that night, so opted to take off early and beat the traffic.

Our seats

Simona Halep

Simona Halep

We ate some dinner and hit the road, driving from New York to our hotel in Attleboro, Massachusetts. We were all ready to get some sleep after a long, fun day.