Sunday, September 30, 2012

C&O Canal Paw Paw Tunnel

Ever since we moved here nearly five years ago, Troy has wanted to hike the Paw Paw Tunnel.  The tunnel is part of the C&O Canal, which runs parallel to the Potomac River from western Maryland to Washington, DC.  When building the canal 200 years ago, they decided to burrow through a mountain rather than dig six miles of the canal along the edge of the river.

Today's weather forecast was very conducive to such a trip, so we drove two hours west in search of the Paw Paw Tunnel (named after the paw paw trees that grow in this area).
 The hike is really, really easy.  First you go along a level trail that leads from the parking lot to the tunnel entrance.  Julia was our fearless leader, showing the way to the tunnel.
 We're all ready to take on the 3,000-foot-long tunnel...
 ...for which you need flashlights.  Julia's ready to go!
 If you look waaaaaaay off in the distance in the picture below, you can see the light at the other end of the tunnel.
 One last look at the way we came in - this gives you an idea of how dark it is inside the tunnel.
 After making it through to the other side, we walked along the base of the mountain.  We considered climbing over the mountain to return to the parking lot (and our lunch), but the trail sign warned that the mountain hike was steep and strenuous.  That's not for our crew.  But we did spot some birds and frogs in the water along the trail...
 We hiked back through the tunnel, which seemed to go faster than the first trip.  Here we are, nearly two and a half hours (and about a mile and a half) later.  We certainly earned our lunch!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Favored Sleeping Position

The picture below was taken October 26, 2008, when Julia was six months old.
This picture was taken tonight, four years later.  I think it's interesting that Julia has always preferred sleeping on her back, hands behind her head.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

My Birthday!

Yesterday we girls headed to the Bethesda location of Georgetown Cupcake to pick up my (pre-ordered) birthday goodies.  I got quite an assortment...chocolate, lemon berry, carrot cake, vanilla, caramel apple, red velvet, cookies and cream...
 ...I chose my favorite for today - chocolate coconut.  Nobody else in the family likes coconut, so I know I don't have to fight anyone for it.  Ha!
 Not wanting to cram 37 candles onto one cupcake, one festive candle did the job just fine.  Here I am, with two of the best gifts, ready to celebrate and enjoy my sweet treat!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Julia's Wednesday Soccer

Julia goes to soccer for preschoolers on Wednesday mornings.  It teaches them the basics of soccer (don't use your hands!) and gives them a chance to run off some energy.
 The fall session is held outdoors, and Julia has had great weather so far (this is the third week).  I'm not sure which game she's playing in the picture below, but she's certainly having fun!
 Run, Julia, run!  And kick the ball!
 Here Julia is playing one of her favorite games - steal the tail.  Everyone has a jersey tucked into their pants (like a tail), and they have to run around and grab other kids' tails.  Julia is speedy, so she usually has two or three tails by the end of the game.
 At the end of her 45-minute class, Julia helps pick up the cones by pretending they are ice cream cones and her soccer ball is a scoop of ice cream.  Very clever!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


This evening, when I got home from a meeting, I heard an owl hooting in the forest across the street.  I have never heard a real, live owl, so I made a bee-line for my camera to record the sound.  Naturally, it's pitch-black outside, so you can't see anything in the video; I just shot it out my opened front window.  But if you crank up the volume and listen closely (and try to tune out the crickets), you'll hear it hoot once.  This owl went on hooting about two or three times per minute, and it carried on like that for over an hour.  Clearly it had a lot on its mind!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

2012 National Book Festival

Even though today's destination was the National Book Festival, we got to Washington, DC with about an hour to spare.  So we headed over to the National Archives to see the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.  Evelyn has slowly been making her way through a Thomas Jefferson biography, and she just read about the writing of those two documents.  It was perfect timing for her to see the real deals.
 After seeing the National Archives and grabbing some lunch, it was Book Festival time.  Troy came with us this year to help with the tricky timing of seeing the two authors on our list.  We girls listened to Patricia Polacco's author talk at 12:55, while Troy headed over to the author signing line for Polacco (which started at 2:00).  Patricia Polacco, who has written and illustrated over 40 picture books, was very entertaining and insightful, and Evelyn enjoyed listening to her talk (Julia, well, she wasn't too terribly squirmy).  We especially liked hearing about where she gets the ideas for her stories.
 After Polacco's presentation was over at 1:40, we girls walked to the other end of the book festival to stand in her signing line.  (Troy wasn't done being a line-holder, yet; we needed his help with another author.)  Here's a cute picture of the girls - they are the next ones in line to have Polacco sign their books, and you can just see the eager anticipation on their faces.  I can't believe she's right there!  Is it our turn now?  How about now?  Can we go now?
 We're in!  Patricia Polacco didn't personalize the signings, but she did sign all five of our books (wow!).  She also took the time to chat with us for a bit.  The picture below is right after Evelyn told Polacco that her name is the same as Polacco's 1st-grade teacher (also a clue that we were paying attention at her presentation).  Polacco's response was, "Is it really?"  We also found out what the inspiration was behind one of our favorite books, For the Love of Autumn - it's based on two strangers she met on a train trip long ago.  It's so cool to learn this stuff!
 Avi, the second author on our list, was scheduled for book signing at after our visit with Patricia Polacco, that's where we found Troy, holding our place in that line.  Julia was basically done with waiting in lines (can you blame her?), so she and Troy headed across the street to visit the Museum of American History.  Meanwhile, Evelyn and I parked ourselves on the grass.  Since we're at a book festival, it only made sense to read while waiting, right?  (Evelyn is reading the aforementioned Polacco book.)
 As we got closer and closer to Avi's table, the book-signing news got more and more bleak.  It went from signing three books to two books to only one book per person (we had hoped for five books - eek!).  I figured Evelyn and I each count as a person, so we were able to get two books signed in all.  Avi has written over 60 books, mostly chapter books, and his genres vary greatly.  Evelyn is almost finished with Book 1 in the Poppy series, so she chose to have the second book (titled Poppy) signed.  While signing her book, Avi told Evelyn that having a gap between your two front teeth is supposed to be a sign of good luck...he also has a gap there.  Then, once he was finished signing Poppy, Avi asked Evelyn if she had met Ereth, yet.  When she said no, she hadn't, he gave a sly little smile.  Let me tell you, we cannot wait to find out who this Ereth character is!
 We had some time to dink around before Avi's presentation at 4:35, so we met up with Troy and Julia for an ice cream treat.  I haven't mentioned, yet, the incredible parking spot I got this morning - we parked right on the mall, so we frequently made stops at the car throughout the day.
All four of us listened to Avi's presentation, and 75% of us really enjoyed it.  Evelyn was brave enough to go up to the microphone and ask him a question:  What's it like being a writer?  At first, the question stumped him.  He really had to think about it.  Then he came up with the answer - being a writer is like seeing everything in the world as a writer, everything has a beginning middle and end.  This really struck a chord with Evelyn.  She always comes up with story ideas on her own, and she writes story both by hand and on the computer.  I wonder if our Peanut will publish a book someday?  At the end of his presentation, I noticed people went up to Avi, asking him to sign Evelyn and I snuck over there and asked him to sign one more book, Julia's book, The End of the Beginning; this is when we found out where he got the characters' names for that book - Edward is named after him (his legal name), and Avon is a good friend of his (also a writer).  He he even remembered Evelyn from earlier that day, with her lucky gap.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Getting Ready

We're headed to the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. tomorrow.  We will focus on seeing two authors - Patricia Polacco and Avi.  The girls have been reading as many of their books as possible lately.  Here's the stack of books we're bringing with us tomorrow...I wonder how many will get autographed?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Strasburg Day Out with Thomas 2012

Today was a school holiday, so we headed up to Strasburg, Pennsylvania to spend a Day Out with Thomas.  This is the third time we have seen Thomas in Strasburg, which is clearly our favorite venue.  We got to the event super early, and we decided to take pictures with Thomas first.  This was a good plan, as we didn't have to wait in line.  (Oh, and Julia wasn't as scared this year...)
 There were pictures of characters all over the place.  Julia wanted to pose with Diesel 10 - she's screaming because he's about to get her with his claw!
 Then the girls played in the activity tent (after getting tattoos).  Again, since we were so early, the girls had the train table alllllll to themselves.
 When it was time for our train ride, we headed to our favorite coach:  the very last one.  The open-air car with wooden benches creates the perfect atmosphere.  When Thomas goes around the bend in the track, you can see him huffing and chuffing.  And it's usually not as crowded as the other cars.
 Of all the Thomas events we have been to, this train ride is the best.  You go on a nice, easy ride through the Pennsylvania Dutch countryside, with fields and crops everywhere you look.  We were lucky enough to run into some friends (from our hometown), and they took a picture of us three train girls.
 After the train ride, we enjoyed some of the other activities, such as the cranky cars.  They were tricky for Julia last year, but this year she totally got the hang of it.
 We also went on a short train ride behind a small, narrow-gauge engine.  (It was nearly impossible to get Julia to look away from the box cars - on the track next to us - in order to pose for the picture.)
 We got a chance to see Sir Topham Hatt at the very end of the day.  Again, Julia wasn't as nervous about the big guy this year.  She wouldn't stand right next to him, but at least she smiled for a picture!
 Since it's a weekday, all of the events closed down at 2:00.  That was all too soon for the girls, especially Julia.  She even got a little teary-eyed when it was time to say good-bye.  Once again, we had a ton of fun with Thomas!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Dairy

Since our good friends Kat and Ross are moving back to Texas soon, we girls made one last trip up to visit them in Belcamp...which is just a stone's throw from Broom's Bloom Dairy.  You want the best grilled cheese ever?  Go to the dairy.
 How about the best ice cream - with the biggest variety of flavors - ever?  Go to the dairy.
 And how about the best friends we had in Maryland?  Well, we used to go the dairy for that, too.  :)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Hill's Gymnastics

Last week the girls started taking gymnastics at Hill's.  This is a facility that is the real-deal; they have produced several national gymnastic champions over the years, even an Olympic gold-medalist (Dominique Dawes).  It takes about 20-25 minutes to drive to Hill's Gymnastics, so I made sure both girls could take their classes at the same time.  Here they are, all suited up in their gymnastics leotards, ready for Saturday morning at the gym!
 Evelyn learned a lot of solid basics at Little Gym over the past several years, but since it truly is a smaller gym, she had out-grown that place.  This facility has 12 (12!) balance beams, so when it's time to work on beam routines, each girl has their own beam to practice on.
 Julia loves all the new challenges at this gym.  The obstacle courses are more challenging for our daring 4-year-old, making her work on balance and agility.
 Her "Super Tots" class also has Julia expanding on her Little Gym foundation - she has to do more difficult monkey jumps (a precursor to cartwheels), among other things.  She comes out of her 45-minute class sweaty but happy, asking eagerly when her next class will be.
 Evelyn's class lasts twice as long as Julia's, so we both can watch our Peanut do other activities like bars, vault and the rope.  This gym is so wonderful and such a perfect fit for both the girls, I wish I would have made the move to Hill's years ago.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

New Stove

About two weeks ago we ordered a new stove.  I mean, you would never guess which appliance hadn't been replaced, yet . . .
 And today the new stove was installed.  I can't wait to get cooking and baking with this guy - it's all clean and new and clean and . . . you get the idea.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

First Day of Preschool

Julia has been looking forward to the start of preschool alllllllll summer, and she was ecstatic that the day was finally here.  (Julia insisted that Teddy Bear be in the picture below, but he did not accompany Julia to preschool.)
 Here's our little Sunshine, waiting in the hall outside her classroom . . .
 . . . like I said, someone's very excited for preschool to start!
 This year Julia starts her day in the creative play area.  She made a bee-line for the grocery store set-up and got right to playing.
 When it came time for Julia to be picked up, she was still all smiles.  Clearly somebody loves her preschool!