Trip

More Williamsburg

Posted in Trip on April 27th, 2019 by c-had – Be the first to comment

We spent Wednesday at Colonial Williamsburg as well. We got there in time to see the Welcome play in front of the courthouse. We went to the market house. We explored the courthouse. We wandered around some more. We walked across the street from the historic area to get some lunch. Then we headed to the art museum, which Leah was excited to visit.

We spent a good bit of time in the museum looking at everything. We were captivated for a while by these creepy colonial child portraits. The girls tried to look creepy too.

Creepy pictures

In this creepy picture, the older sisters are trying to restrain the youngest. I think Jen and the girls reproduced it well.

Creepy reproduction

We stopped into Kilwins for some delicious ice cream.

Kilwins

We went on a tour of the Governor’s Palace, which was very interesting. Out back of the Governor’s Palace, there was a hedge maze that I walked with the girls. You may be able to see my head in the back, left corner.

Hedge maze

And there were pretty gardens.

Palace gardens

After our day in Colonial Williamsburg, we walked back to Kilwins to pick up some more sweet treats (fudge and cream eggs). We thought about buying them when we were there earlier, but we worried it would melt as we walked around. While picking these up, Leah and Molly decided to have some more fun with ice cream.

More sweet treats

That evening for dinner, we introduced the girls to a bit of nostalgia from our childhood - Cracker Barrel. It was beautiful out, so we had to sit in rocking chairs on Cracker Barrel’s porch and play checkers while waiting for our table.

Cracker Barrel checkers

Of course, the girls had to experience the classic Cracker Barrel triangle peg board game.

Triangle Peg Board Game

Leah may have been a beginner, but she won!

Leah won!

Like true tourists, we also bought a bunch of sweet treats in the Old Country Store. I got to build my own 4 pack of fancy sodas, and we all got candy sticks (they were 7 for $1, so we got 7).

Cracker Barrel goodies

Busch Gardens

Posted in Trip on April 26th, 2019 by c-had – Be the first to comment

While in Williamsburg, we spent Tuesday and Thursday at Busch Gardens. We got there right when the park opened, which I highly recommend to hit the rides before the lines get long.

Busch Gardens

Tuesday, we went straight to the Loch Ness Monster. Leah’s excited to be back on a roller coaster.

Loch Ness Monster

Next stop: Invadr - a wooden roller coaster. Yes, Jen rode it, and every other ride Leah was big enough to ride.

Invadr

Adults were not up for all the spinning on Le Catapult, so the girls went by themselves.

Le Catapult

We saw a couple shows - Pet Shenanigans and Celtic Fyre. We experienced the Battle for Eire (a VR ride I wasn’t a fan of). And Leah rode her biggest coaster yet - Apollo’s Chariot (we may have had to round her height up to get her on...), which she loved. We had a good day.

On Thursday, we rode Invadr again. Molly found her favorite coaster - Alpengeist, which she and I rode 3 times (Leah was not tall enough for it). Jen was kind enough to get Leah a cupcake to reward her for her patience while Molly and I rode it for the 3rd time.

Cupcake while waiting

We rode Apollo’s Chariot again (this time Molly and Jen rode it with us). We also rode Verbolten, which was my favorite due to being so different and unexpected (I won’t spoil it for you). We ate gelato. Leah talked me into paying for her to play a carnival game so she could win a plush. We saw Oktoberzest. And we eventually called it a day.

Goodbye Busch Gardens

Colonial Williamsburg

Posted in Trip on April 25th, 2019 by c-had – Be the first to comment

We’ve long thought of taking a trip to Williamsburg, and decided to finally make it happen over Spring Break. This was a church folk Spring Break trip, where we have to wait to leave until after singing in Palm Sunday service, and we have to get back in time for Saturday rehearsal and leading worship on Easter Sunday. But Monday - Friday was plenty. Jen bought us a Spring Bounce ticket (admission and parking for the week at Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens) and we hit the road first thing Monday morning.

We went straight to Colonial Williamsburg to see what it was all about. We wandered around a bit getting our bearings. We went through the Silversmith’s shop, we wandered through some stores, we got snacks. We then got in line for the tour at the Capitol.

Colonial Williamsburg Capitol

On the Capitol tour, we learned about colonial times while sitting in the same place Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and others discussed the American Revolution.

Capitol tour

The Capitol also housed the highest court in the Virginia colony.

High court

We stopped in to Charlton’s Coffeehouse to learn about coffeehouses of colonial times. Jen had some tea, and Leah had some chocolate popular in colonial times.

Chocolate and tea

Molly though the chocolate was not good (it was very bitter, a bit thick, and not very sweet).

Weird chocolate

While waiting for a table at Chowning’s Tavern, we wandered over to the Courthouse. One thing led to another, and the girls ended up in the Pillory. Molly is showing proper remorse for her crimes. Leah’s thumbs up makes me think she doesn’t appreciate the gravity of the situation.

Pillory

Still waiting for our table, Molly tried out the game of graces with the tavern keeper.

Game of graces

We had a delicious dinner at Chowning’s Tavern. Brunswick Stew, Shepherd’s Pie, a crock of cheese, and more deliciousness.

Chowning's Tavern

We then headed to our hotel (Fort Magruder) to get some sleep so we could get to Busch Gardens right when they opened.

Trip to Auburn

Posted in Family visits, Trip on February 12th, 2019 by c-had – Be the first to comment

We were determined to get to Auburn this year, and homecoming ended up being the weekend we could make work. We flew in to Atlanta late Friday, spent the night in a hotel, rented a car, and drove to Auburn Saturday. We met up with Jen’s family and had a great time around town.

Trip to Auburn

The Wesley Foundation hosted a homecoming brunch, so we got to hang out and see old friends. The kids especially enjoyed the ping pong tables. Then we got lunch, did a little shopping, and wandered around reminiscing.

Auburn trip

Of course, part of homecoming weekend is the football game. Sadly, just before half time they suspended play due to lightning in the area. We left the stands and hung out nearby during the ensuing downpour for a while, but eventually decided to leave when it lightened up a bit. We ended up seeing the conclusion on TV as the kids got ready for bed.

Football game

We stayed the night (thanks Julia, Earl, and Daniel), then got up early to drive back to the Atlanta airport to fly home. Hurray for getting to Auburn!

US Open 2018

Posted in Family outings, Trip on September 4th, 2018 by c-had – Be the first to comment

After a day of touring around New York, we were ready for a day of tennis. I actually waited to buy tickets until the night before in our hotel room. This meant we could see who was playing when selecting our tickets, and that we could get a great last minute deal (our tickets were just $47 each for some good seats in Armstrong). We woke up, ate breakfast, checked on Leah’s teacher assignment, checked out of our hotel and drove over to Flushing Meadows. We got in the gates just before 11:00 when the action began.

US Open

We wanted to see some different things while at the US Open. Instead of starting with big names, we started with women’s doubles with some future stars. Whitney Osuigwe here recently won the Girls 18s Nationals (she’s 16), but we got to see her playing with the adults.

Young Americans

Caty McNally was the older member of her doubles team at 16 and a half.

Young Americans

Back in March, Leah moved up to a bigger racquet (a 25” Babolat Pure Drive), but I guess she’s ready to move up to something bigger. That racquet may be taller than she is. Molly said the giant ball was the same size as a basketball.

Bigger gear

We got tickets to the brand new Armstrong Stadium. We made sure to get to our seats early so we didn’t miss any of Venus Williams’s match. It was very hot (95 degrees plus serious humidity), but I made sure our seats were in the shade at least. The seats on the other side in the sun were mostly empty as no one was willing to bake in them.

New Armstrong Stadium

We got to see Venus Williams take on Camila Giorgi in a very tough second round match. Despite being almost as old as me, she survived the heat and humidity to win the match.

Venus Williams

The new Armstrong stadium is really nice. I think I may keep trying to get tickets there. It still has big names like Ashe (maybe slightly smaller), but you get to be so much closer to the action without spending the big bucks. Just make sure to get seats in the shade. As you can see, the sunny seats are mostly empty because it was so hot.

Louis Armstrong Stadium

When we walked in, we passed a kiosk called Melt selling fancy ice cream sandwiches. After the match, we headed straight for it to get a cool treat. Both the girls went for the “Lovelet” (red velvet with cream cheese ice cream). Jen and I split a Brambleberry (honeycomb cookies with blackberry and lavender ice cream). They were delicious and refreshing in that heat.

Melt ice cream sandwiches

After the Venus Williams match, we watched a bit more women’s doubles. Here’s Taylor Townsend (who we’d see play for the Philadelphia Freedoms just a few weeks earlier).

Taylor Townsend

The great part about the outer courts is you can get so close to the action. Leah and Molly were especially close as they tried to find some shade to hide in. They could have easily reached over the fence to hand a ball to the players (they didn’t, that’s frowned upon).

Close to the action

We headed back to our seats in Armstrong stadium to catch the last set of the Juan Martin del Potro match. American Denis Kudla tried his best, but del Potro was just too much for him.

Juan Martin del Potro

Denis Kudla

Then we headed to the Food Village for some dinner (we’d had lunch there too) before hitting the road to drive home. We got home around 11:15, which was a vast improvement over 1:22am from two years ago.

New York Trip

Posted in Family outings, Trip on September 3rd, 2018 by c-had – Be the first to comment

When our school year shifted to starting after Labor Day, a new opportunity became available to us. This meant that the first week of the US Open now happened during summer vacation. Two years ago we went to the Open for one day during the very busy Labor Day weekend, but this change meant we could go during the less busy opening week. So, this year we decided to make the trip.

The girls really wanted to see a bit of New York as well, so we decided to make it a two day trip. We’d drive up, see a bit of New York on day one, then see some tennis and drive home on the second day. So, Tuesday we got up and drove straight to our hotel (the Belvedere, one block away from Times Square) to check in.

After we checked into our hotel, we first took the subway down to the World Trade Center. We wanted to go up high to see the city, and chose the new One World Observatory to do it. The building is pretty impressive from the outside.

One World

They had tablets to rent that would tell you about what you were looking at. I wasn’t interested, but the girls really wanted to get them. I’m glad we did. I imagine the girls would have gotten bored quickly without them. With the tablets, they enjoyed learning all about New York and the landmarks we were looking at from above.

Tablets

Here’s the view of Manhattan from the One World Observatory.

Manhattan

The girls wanted a picture of themselves with the Statue of Liberty in the background.

Girls and Lady Liberty

The place the girls were most excited to go was American Girl Place, the large American Girl store by Rockefeller Plaza. Molly has been saving gift cards for more than a year. We’d offered to take her to the Washington store, but she wanted to wait to go to the fancy New York store. The girls of course brought their dolls.

American Girl Place

Molly used her gift cards to buy the Girl of the Year - Luciana. Leah also got an outfit and a pet (not pictured).

New doll

Our dinner plan was to go to Ellen’s Stardust Diner (where the wait staff are aspiring Broadway folks who sing while serving you). We got there and got in line (there’s often a line) for 10 minutes or so, when the staff came out and said they were not taking any more customers that day (no idea why). So, we found a pizza joint for some New York pizza. However, it had no seating, so we opted to take our pizza back to the hotel to eat.

New York pizza

After dinner we headed back out to M&M’s World. It’s a fun store with everything M&M you could imagine.

M&M World

The coolest thing at M&M’s World is customizing your own M&M’s. You get to create 4 custom designs to put on your M&M’s. Ours were “Leah is cool”, “Molly is awesome”, a picture of a unicorn, and a picture of a microphone.

Personalized M&M's

The next step was to fill a cup with M&M’s of the colors of your choosing. Ours were yellow, pink, teal, and purple.

Choose your colors

You then pour those M&M’s into the printing machine.

Pour them in

And the printed M&M’s come out at the bottom. The M&M’s still have an M on one side. The machine prints your designs on the other side.

Here they come

And here’s our finished product. It was fun to make, if a bit overprices for M&M’s (that cup cost $20).

Finished product

Then we headed back to the hotel to get some sleep before a fun day of tennis. More on that to come.

Alabama without Dad

Posted in Family visits, Trip on August 31st, 2018 by c-had – 1 Comment

Over July 4th week, Jen and the girls spent a few days at Lay Lake in Alabama, while I was on mission trip to VA. So, for the first time in forever, Jen had to sit with the girls on the plane.

Flying with Mom

It didn’t take long for the family to be out on the Dottie B.

Sunset cruise

Sunset smiles

Jen made all the kids festive July 4th tees.

Festive cousins

Sporting the red, white, and blue

She also made a patriotic fruit trifle for the July 4th dessert.

Patriotic trifle

A trip to Lay Lake is not complete without tubing!

Ready for tubing

G’mom and Grampa surprised everyone by being the first out on the tube.

Grandparents can tube too

Molly's going solo.

Molly's going solo

Jen and Leah too.

Hang on tight

One last picture opportunity before leaving.

Family photo

Back at Aunt ‘Chile’s house, the kids had fun on the double Slip ’n Slide.

Slip 'n Slide kids

Molly's run

Leah's turn

Old friends

Posted in Family outings, Trip on October 22nd, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

After spending Friday at the beach, it was time to leave L.A. However, rather than head back east, we chose to head south to see an old friend. Bill’s my best friend from high school, and he now lives (with his wife, Lauren, and daughter, Sloan) in San Diego. So, we though we could spend an extra day in California to see him. This was tough, as the girls started school that week and Bill’s family was flying in from Hawaii Friday, but we were determined to make it work.

We planned to leave very early Saturday morning, hoping to get to San Diego in time to go to the zoo around when it opened. Sadly, Molly didn’t feel well before we even got in the car. She felt sick the whole way, and we had 4 vomit stops along the way. Given how hot it was, we decided taking her to the zoo was a bad plan. Instead, we headed to Bill’s house to hang out and let her rest.

Amazingly, after we arrived and she got some time out of the car, she was fine. We hung out at their house for a bit, and got to meet Sloan. Since Molly was doing better, we decided she could handle going out and doing something. They live right off the beach, and the girls were begging to go back to the beach, so that’s what we did. We figured if Molly relapsed, at least it wasn’t far to get back. She didn’t though, and we had a lot of fun at the beach.

San Diego beach

The girls enjoyed playing with Sloan. They may be much older than her, but Sloan has much more beach experience than them, making her the beach expert of the bunch.

Kids on the beach

Kids on the beach

Sloan on the beach

After the beach, we got cleaned up and headed to a local pizza place (which our girls were really pushing for).

Pizza time

Old friends

We had intended to get a hotel room that night. Since hotels in San Diego are expensive, I’d been trying to grab a deal last minute on Hotwire. But Bill and Lauren were very kind and offered for us to stay with them instead, despite the fact that they’d just gotten back in town the night before. Bill and I even got to go on an early morning run together for the first time since high school cross country.

Then we got ready and headed to the airport, ready to get home Sunday night after a long but very fun trip. The girls at least got the next day (Labor Day) off before starting school on Tuesday. The timezone change right before starting school wasn’t ideal, but we managed.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Posted in Family outings, Trip on October 21st, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

OK, I guess this post should be titled Universal Studios Hollywood as we did explore the whole park, but honestly, the part we were really excited about was The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Thursday we skipped the beach and drove to Hollywood to go to Universal Studios (and Molly again got carsick on the drive there). The girls were decked out in their Gryffindor robes and Harry Potter shirts that Jen made them (and I’ve got a Harry Potter shirt as well).

Universal Studios Hollywood

We got to the park when it opened and headed straight to Hogsmeade. As there weren’t many people there yet, the conductor of the Hogwarts Express motioned our girls over to talk about the train and take a picture.

Hogwarts Express

Hogwarts Express

It’s Hogwarts!

Hogwarts

We then got in line for the wand choosing experience at Olivander’s. It was really cool. They pick one child from each group and replicate the wand choosing experience (like in the Sorcerer’s Stone). Sadly the wandkeeper did not choose one of our children, but the show was still really cool. After the experience, you go into Olivander’s where you can purchase a wand. We opted to wait to do so, but had fun looking at all the wands (can you identify the wand Leah is looking at?).

Olivander's

Harry Potter world is so fantastic. Part of the fun is using a special wand (you can buy them there, but we already had one that we borrowed from Aunt EA and Uncle Scott) to make magic. Three are lots of places around Hogsmeade that have spells for you to do. If you say the magic words and move your wand in the proper motion (which is actually quite hard to do), things will happen. Here Molly was making some Quidditch balls fly around.

Magic

Leah managed to unlock the magic hidden inside this window with Alohomora.

Alohomora

We did this a lot all over Hogsmeade, and it never got old.

They had a lovely a cappella performance of Harry Potter songs (some from the movies, some new) by these students and their toads.

A cappella

We rode the Flight of the Hippogriff a couple times. It’s a small, family-friendly roller coaster, but it’s still a lot of fun. And there was hardly any line.

The most impressive ride in Harry Potter world was Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. It’s a hybrid ride - part simulator, part practical. Your seats are moved around by by a giant arm, sometimes with screens simulating flying on a broom, sometimes being surprised by giant dementors. It’s a lot of fun. And even better, the line goes through Hogwarts castle, making it the most fun I’ve ever had in a line. I rank this as definitely the best ride at Universal.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

The morning was nice, but as it approached noon, it started to get really hot. So, we got a couple Butterbeers. Molly has the soda variety (similar to cream soda) while Jen has the frozen version. Both were delicious.

Butterbeer

We explored some of the shops in Hogsmeade, all made to be like those in the films. One of the best was Honeydukes, where the girls were very excited about the chocolate frogs. We didn’t get anything at that point, though we came back later for some treats.

Honeydukes

We then left Hogsmeade to check out the other parts of Universal Studios. Unfortunately, it started to really get hot (like around 100 degrees hot), which made walking around and standing in line outside tough. We went to the Special Effects Show, which was fun and indoors, where we learned about how they do different special effects in movies.

Then we went on the studio tour, which rides through many of the places Universal shoots movies and TV shows. Here’s a city hall, notably used in Back to the Future.

Studio tour

The studio tour was more than an hour long. It included lots of the individual attractions that are separate in Orlando (Jaws, Fast & Furious, King Kong, Earthquake, and more). It was somewhat fun, but again, it was hot and we would have skipped lots of the parts of it if we could have.

We wandered around a bit looking at rides but deciding their lines weren’t worth the wait in the heat. We tried to get the girls to go on the Jurassic Park ride to cool off, but they clearly had the water turned up due to the heat, so everyone got off completely drenched. None of us was looking forward to that, so we skipped it.

We tried and failed to get ice cream a couple places, and decided to head back to Hogsmeade instead for a treat. We bought those treats at Honeydukes, then found a table in the Three Broomsticks (which is air conditioned) to eat them. Molly loved her chocolate frog, though she would have preferred a different card than Lockhart. Leah had a giant lollipop that she still hasn’t finished.

Three Broomsticks

In addition to the packaged treats, Honeydukes had some fresher options in their glass counter. When I saw they had Butterbeer fudge, I couldn’t pass it up. It was wonderful.

Butterbeer fudge

We then rode Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, which was a lot of fun. It’s a simulator ride, and has all the fun silliness of the Minions. Then we headed to the WaterWorld show, which was pretty good. We at least got to sit in the shade, though the bursts of fire weren’t helping the heat.

As our day was coming to an end, we went back to Olivander’s to buy the girls wands. They’ve wanted them for a long time, and we told them they could each get one as a toy/souvenir. They both chose to get replica wands of characters from the films. Leah chose Hermione’s wand, and Molly chose Luna’s wand (technically, Luna’s second wand). Sadly, they only got to use them a couple of times before it started raining (you can see the ground is already damp).

Wands

As it got close to park closing time, it started to rain. This left us with a choice to find a place to hide and hope it passed, or try to leave before the rain got bad. We were hungry and it did not look like it would blow over quickly, so we chose to leave before it got bad. Sadly, it quickly got bad. And as you might expect, it was a long walk to get out of the park and to our car. Soon, we were completely drenched. After such an exhaustingly hot afternoon, ending with a long hike through a downpour was a bit too much for Jen. She was not amused.

Not amused

Between the heat, the downpour, and us not being into much of the stuff outside of Harry Potter world, the day definitely had its problems. In my opinion, the awesomeness of Harry Potter world totally made up for all that. Jen may disagree with me.

The beach

Posted in Family outings, Trip on October 20th, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

A cool thing about staying in a house by the beach in L.A. is that you can easily interleave beach vacation days with the theme park vacation days. The girls loved the beach, and we ended up spending a lot of time there. You already saw some of our beach fun on Sunday and Monday. After Tuesday at Disneyland, we were back on the beach on Wednesday.

Back to the beach

The house we were staying in had a couple of boogie boards, and Molly was excited to learn how to use them. She took to it quickly, despite the continual threat of being bowled over by the waves (they were pretty big). She left me in the waves many times as she glided toward the sand.

Molly boogie board

She had me come out with her as her coach, telling her which waves to let pass and which to try to catch. Plus, I could give her a little push off when she tried to catch one for a bit of extra speed.

Boogie boarding

Boogie boarding

Chris (my long time friend and boss) joined us on the beach for the boogie board fun.

Chris boogie board

Boogie boards

Molly and Chris even got to do some fun side-by-side boogie boarding.

Boogie boarding with Chris

Leah asked to try the boogie boards once, but changed her mind when she got part way out and found the waves crashing on her. Instead, she preferred the sand. She loved building sand castles (this time with lots of tools).

Sand castles

Thursday we went to Universal Studios (more on that in the next post), but Friday we were back at the beach again. Molly again wanted to play in the water, boogie board, and be active, and I was happy to join her. Leah, on the other hand, is discovering she prefers the calmer version of the beach like Jen. In addition to sand castles, she loved reading in a beach chair under an umbrella, just like her mom.

Reading on the beach

We rarely go to the beach, but we may need to make an effort to go more. These girls love it.