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!

Happy Birthday Leah

Posted in Celebrations, Leah on February 11th, 2019 by c-had – Be the first to comment

We celebrated Leah's 9th birthday with a Double Dare party. Jen and Leah were in agreement that a non-messy version was the way to go! Jen did the planning of all the fun "Minute to Win It" type games, and I created a display for the game show. It’s a QLab workspace for showing the scoreboard, displaying the graphics just like the TV show, countdown timers, and sound effects.

Double Dare display

After watching an episode of Double Dare so everyone knew how to play, Round 1 Opening Challenge was a Hula Hoop Relay between all three teams.

Hula Hoop Relay

The teams then rotated answering trivia questions. Because there were three teams, we threw in an extra "triple dare." The kids loved playing all of the physical challenges. Below are a few that we played.

Into the Hanger: Players attempted to fly 2 paper airplanes into the hanger. (Jen made use of the strawberry we made for a bean bag toss for one of Leah's previous parties.)

Into the Hanger

Elephant Head: Players stretched panty hose with a tennis ball placed in the toe end over their heads. They then tried to swing the balls around on their heads until they knocked down a dozen coke cans in 45 seconds.

Elephant Head

Snowball Shake Down: With a dab of Vaseline on their nose, and without using their hands, players must transfer 10 cotton balls from one end of the table to the other.

Snowball Shake Down

Cool Shot: Players used the squirt guns to try to knock all of the balls off of the tees.

Cool Shot

Final team challenge: Hanky Panky. The first team to empty their box got an extra 200 points!

Hanky Panky

The game was tight, but the Caticorns managed to barely defeat The Savage Kittens in the end, and headed to the final Obstacle Course!

Final score

The final Obstacle Course consisted of stations in which a small orange flag needed to be found and passed along to their teammate. First up, Duck Hunt.

Duck Hunt

While the two remaining teams caused a pillow fight, a flag had to be carried down the stairs to a teammate.

Pillow fight

Someone then had to pop the balloons to find a flag.

Balloon Pop

Opening all the Easter eggs to find the small flag was little challenging because Jen put so many eggs in the basket. Oops!

Easter Egg Hunt

After the winning team ran the course, we reset the stations to allow the remaining teams a chance to run it. They were all so excited to run through the house!

Finally, it was time for cake and ice cream. Jen and Leah designed an ice cream slime cake. This was the only slime allowed at the party, and it was delicious!

Ice cream slime cake

We sang to the birthday girl.

When the house was again calm and quiet, Leah opened her gifts. Leah has wanted a giant cat (a Beanie Boo) since Molly got hers. So, Molly got her one for her birthday.

Giant cat

Leah's best friend introduced her to Lost Kitties.

Lost Kitties

Panda + Unicorn = Pandacorn slippers!

Pandacorn sleepwear

The toy that has made the largest impact has to be Winston, a Squishmallow. He seems to constantly be with Leah. So soft, so squishy…

Squishmallow

Happy birthday Leah!

Youth Orchestra September 2018

Posted in Molly, Music on February 10th, 2019 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Molly has joined the Youth Orchestra at church. Here she is in her first performance with them from back in September.

Pardon the interruption

Posted in News on February 9th, 2019 by c-had – Be the first to comment

I find myself needing to apologize for failing to post things here for so long. Other than 1 post about Halloween costumes (which were so awesome it had to be posted), I’ve failed to post things for this entire school year. So, I’m sorry about that.

It’s been a rough year so far (with lots of awesome stuff mixed in as well). In September, we found out Grams has ovarian cancer. I won’t go into details about it (though you can find them over at CaringBridge), but it’s been a lot to handle. G’Mom has also been battling ovarian cancer (details about that are at her CaringBridge). She’s been on a break from that battle, but the battle is now back on. So, we’re pretty fed up with ovarian cancer around here.

Don’t think that has slowed us down from all the other activities happening in our household. Things are busier than ever here - so busy, that between those activities and cancer-related activities, I haven’t had time to post anything. But now it is time to catch up. So, sit back and pretend it’s September, and I’ll walk you through some of the stuff that’s happened in our household since then. It may take a couple weeks, but it’ll be fun to relive the school year so far.

Greek goddesses

Posted in Celebrations, Leah, Molly on October 31st, 2018 by c-had – Be the first to comment

The girls decided to be Athena and Artemis for Halloween. Thanks to Rick Riordan/Percy Jackson for inspiring them to learn about Greek mythology.

Habadabadoodoo

Jen made the toga dresses, belts, bracers, bracelets, and quiver. She originally thought she might get away with a simple T-shirt toga, but then found this awesome post (thanks Make It & Love It). So, the costumes ended up much more extravagant than originally thought.

Athena and Artemis

Artemis

I was excited to make a bow for the first time for Molly. At first, I tried to make one using scrap pine from studs, ignoring the advice of the Internet that pine was not strong enough. And after a lot of work, it snapped. So this is actually the second bow I made, and it is made of oak. Some stain, a few coats of lacquer, and it looks quite nice.

Artemis

The arrows are made from dowels spray painted gold with feathers glued on for fins. The tips are actually foam earplugs (thanks Jen for the idea).

Athena

I made Leah a spear (modeled after this statue of Athena) from a thick dowel and some scrap wood. This was much easier than Molly’s bow. It just took some work on the band saw, some sanding, some lacquer, and gold spray paint for the spear head.

Athena

Goddess fight

Walking in the woods

First day of school

Posted in Leah, Molly, School on September 4th, 2018 by c-had – Be the first to comment

It’s the day after Labor Day, which means it’s the first day of school! It’s a big day for our house, as Molly is now in middle school!!! We can no longer pretend that this isn’t happening. I guess we really had to stop pretending last week at 6th grade orientation.

Middle School Orientation

Middle school means our mornings are now earlier, as middle school starts an hour earlier than elementary, and also requires a bus ride instead of walking around the block. So, there is no picture of her with her sister, as Leah is still asleep.

First day of middle school

There were of course pictures with kids on the block.

Middle school friends

Middle schoolers on the block

And then waiting at the bus stop. We have so many kids around us that her bus stop is ridiculous. I counted 35 kids at the stop. It’s the first stop, and fills more than half the bus.

Bus stop

Then it was time to wake up Leah. She’s very excited about this start of 3rd grade.

First day of 3rd grade

One of the main reasons she is excited is that Madison is finally in her class.

3rd grade friends

We got a picture with some of the elementary kids on the block.

Elementary kids on the block

And of course with the wildcat.

Wildcat

And then she was off to class. Not only is Madison in her class, but lots of her other friends are too. And not only that, her teacher is Mr. Chen who Molly had and Leah has wanted ever since.

Best class

When Leah got home, she said it was the “best first day ever”!

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.

National Philharmonic Prep Summer String Institute

Posted in Extracurriculars, Molly, Music on September 3rd, 2018 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Molly was selected to attend the Prep Summer String Institute put on by the National Philharmonic this year. This is a week long summer camp put on by folks from the National Philharmonic (who play at the Strathmore in Bethesda where we saw Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban earlier this year). They only take really advanced students, so Molly was excited to be selected.

This camp was serious. They mailed Molly music a month in advance so she could practice it ahead of time. Then camp itself was an intense week of music. She rehearsed pieces with the full orchestra, had sessions on technique, worked on movement exercises (e.g. bounce a tennis ball to the beat of a song), and broke into chamber ensembles to work on more pieces. She even got to have private 1-on-1 lessons with the principal violist of the National Philharmonic. Combined with having to wake up early to fight traffic driving down toward Washington, the days were exhausting but so much fun.

They put on a concert at the end of the week. First each of the chamber ensemble's performed.

Chamber Ensemble

Chamber Ensemble

Here’s Molly playing with her chamber ensemble.

After all the ensembles played, the full orchestra came together.

Orchestra

Molly was one of only 2 violas in the orchestra (the other was the daughter of the institute director). They were really glad to have Molly, as the previous year they had no violas. I guess most kids that start early enough to be at this level choose violin or cello.

Orchestra

And finally, here’s the full orchestra playing together. It’s amazing that they can sound so good after just a week long camp.

Molly had no friends at the camp, but she did have one friendly face for the week. Margaret (Molly’s regular private instructor, National Philharmonic player, and the children’s minister at our church) was on staff as well. Molly didn’t work with her during the week, but Molly wouldn’t have been at this camp if it wasn’t for Margaret. Thanks Margaret!

Thanks Margaret

Molly may not have started with friends, but she certainly made several. In fact, after the concert we couldn’t understand what was taking her so long to come out. Turns out she was busy collecting email addresses from girls she had made friends with so she could keep in touch.

Thanks to Aunt EA and Uncle Scott for their hospitality as well. Jen, Molly, and Leah spent one night with them as they live fairly close to the camp. That saved one commute each way, and meant Molly got to sleep a little later one day.

Molly hopes to do this again next year, and we may also try to catch a National Philharmonic show to see some of her teachers in action. It was a really great experience. Thanks to the National Philharmonic for offering this great program!

Basement fort

Posted in Leah, Molly on September 3rd, 2018 by c-had – Be the first to comment

The girls decided to build a fort in the basement.

Fort

Inside the fort were two air mattresses and their two sleeping bags. They ended up sleeping in it for two nights.

In the fort