Family outings


Posted in Family outings on August 20th, 2021 by c-had – Be the first to comment

We went tubing with friends on the lazy Shenandoah River, and had a great time.




I opted to skip the tube and get a kayak instead.

Chad's kayak

After tubing, we had a delicious meal at the Guide House Grill, our favorite place to eat around there.

Guide House Grill

Bonus North Carolina

Posted in Family outings, Family visits, Trip on December 30th, 2019 by c-had – Be the first to comment

We had one bonus day in North Carolina after the Batson family Christmas gathering. This was great, as it gave us time for yet another Christmas celebration - this time with the Long family. We met up with them in G’Mom and Grampa’s hotel room.

The cousins had fun sharing a couch.

Cousins on a couch

We opened presents.


Another gift exchange

We had lunch at Moe’s, hung out at Ann and Steve’s house for a bit, then headed out for a fun (and new to some) activity - an escape room! We made it out with over 19 minutes to spare.

Escape room

Then we met back up with cousins for some pizza and sweet treats.


This was the end of our time in North Carolina, but not the end of our time with Batson. More on that next time.

Batson Family Christmas

Posted in Celebrations, Family outings, Family visits, Trip on December 29th, 2019 by c-had – Be the first to comment

On Saturday, almost everyone came to Ann and Steve’s house for the big Batson family gathering. Of course there was food, and before eating we all said the Batson family blessing (and a few even did the second stanza).

Batson family gathering

Jen, Leah, and Molly

Mike and Mary were not able to attend, as they were stuck in Arizona with newborn baby Jacob. So, we all gathered around and FaceTimed them. It was great to see them, though I wouldn’t generally recommend videoconferencing with almost 30 people on one end.

Newest addition

And here are the new parents and new baby.


I took a picture of all in attendance to document the occasion.

Batson family picture

Silly one

There was of course a gift exchange. JJ seems excited.

Present opening

Maggie’s now the tennis coach at her school, so we made her this bottle.


It was great to gather together with everyone!

North Carolina trip

Posted in Celebrations, Family outings, Family visits, Trip on December 28th, 2019 by c-had – Be the first to comment

After our quiet Christmas, we hit the road. The big Batson family Christmas celebration was in Mooresville, North Carolina this year (which we love because it’s so close we can get there in 8-9 hours driving). We drove down Friday the 27th, checked into our hotel, then headed out for fun activities with everyone as they arrived. Jen joined a bunch of the ladies for dinner. The girls and I headed to The Pit.

The Pit has serious kart racing, an arcade, putt-putt, escape rooms, laser tag, axe throwing, and more. The kids played arcade games while we waited for others to arrive. Then we headed down to axe throwing. Best of all, their minimum age for axe throwing was 12, so Molly got to participate. She loved it.

Axe throwing

It’s very tough to get the correct rotations to get your axe to stick, but Molly eventually did it!

Got it to stick

And again!

Another stick

The axe throwing was a lot of fun for all. Afterward, the kids wanted to try the kart racing so a few of us headed that way. This was very serious kart racing (more serious than we needed). But a lot of us did it. They had a kids race first (with Molly, Leah, Emmie, JJ, and a bunch of very experienced teenagers). Then they had an adult race with several of us and a bunch of other people who clearly do this a regularly.

Kart racing

Molly driving

Leah and Emmie

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.

Six Flags with friends

Posted in Family outings, Leah on September 20th, 2019 by c-had – 1 Comment

While Chad and Molly were off on their NYC adventure, Leah and I took a few of her friends to Six Flags America.

Six Flags with friends

Smiles on Wild One

Rides are more fun when you are getting squished by your friends!

Friends squished

No surprise, Roar was the favorite coaster of the day!

Favorite coaster of the day

The girls decided to have a mid-afternoon treat together. We did get more than one, but this one was definitely snacked on by everyone.

Sharing snacks

It was the first visit for both of Leah's friends, and everyone declared it a GREAT day!

Awesome, wow

Posted in Family outings on July 16th, 2019 by c-had – 1 Comment

We saw Hamilton! I know many of you may have been on the Hamilton train for the past couple years, but we did not get on it until this year. Back in May, we bought tickets for the whole family to see it at the Hippodrome in Baltimore. Since we got the tickets, we’ve been non-stop Hamilton obsessed in our house. We listen to the soundtrack constantly, all of us read books about Alexander Hamilton (Jen and the girls read several, I just read the really long one), and we’ve been studying the history of the origins of our nation. Our favorite car-ride pastime is belting out lyrics to the song in a way that our children are both embarrassed by and happy to take part in.

Last week, we finally got to be in the room where it happens. The show was fantastic! Molly and Leah were so into it (especially Molly) that I could just watch them reacting, singing along, smiling, and cheering. We even got comments from the folks behind us that they loved how into it Molly was. Molly had to sit on the edge of her seat to see over the bar in front of us. She told us she didn't mind, because "the show is so good, you want to be on the edge of your seat.”



The one drawback for the show was our seats. Our tickets were the first row in the upper balcony, which we thought would mean we had a railing right in front of us (like at our knees). Instead, it meant there was an aisle in front of us (so lots of leg room) and then a railing. For me, this was perfect, as you can see from my view:

My seat

However, the others in our family don’t have my height. So, Jen’s view was more like this:

Jen's seat

Jen and Molly solves this by sitting forward on the edge of their seat. As mentioned above, this didn’t bother Molly one bit. Jen, however, would have preferred to sit elsewhere. Leah is so short she solved the problem by slouching a bit and watching the whole show under the railing.

Despite the seat problems, we loved the show and would love to go back (we’ve been entering the lottery to try to win tickets to go back this week, but I don’t have my hopes up). We are also talking about seeing it at the Kennedy Center in D.C. next year. We just can’t get enough Hamilton!

In the room where it happens