Sunday, October 29, 2006

Swarm of kiddies

Spent yesterday afternoon at my friend Debbie's house; the kids, especially Alex, had a blast. Debbie and Kurt have two little boys - Zach, who is nearly 3 and Leo, who is 8 months and quite possibly the cutest baby I have ever seen. Except my own, of course! And we were joined by her brother and sister-in-law, Josh and Kristin, both of whom I know a bit as they both went to the same university I went to and I was close friends at uni with Kristin's older brother Eric... Anyway, they have Ian, who will be five in January, and Riley (a girl) who is 18 months old. So with my kids, that's 5 under-fives and the two older girls (Sarah keeps complaining that none of my friends have kids her age - like I can do anything about that!). Anyway, the girls were a little bored at times, although Kurt, bless him, played Scrabble with them for a while, but Alex was in heaven, as Debbie has even more trains than we do...

Friday, October 27, 2006

Day trippers

Drove down to Hampton, Virginia yesterday (3.5 to 4 hour drive) to visit my Andy (my former step-dad) and Robert (step-brother) and his wife Susan and daughter Brenda, who is just a few months younger than Alex. It was a lovely drive, through a lot of rural southern Maryland and Virgina (we went the scenic way, not down I-95, which is mostly trucks) and we had a good time with the guys down there. I hadn't met Susan or Brenda before, and hadn't seen Robert in years - the girls loved him of course and he's a big kid at heart and happy to play games with them and chase them around... and I enjoyed getting to know Susan a bit and meeting Brenda and seeing their house and where they live and so on. They live really close to the water, which is nice in principle, but unfortunately it was a little too close earlier this year when their house flooded - once again, I am glad to live somewhere where natural disasters are few and far between. Anyway, a lovely time was had by all, and next time we visit (which could be ages, of course) we will try to schedule a longer trip to the area, which has lots to do. (More photos here)

We were lucky to have Robert on vacation for a few days, and therefore able to spend time with us, although the down side of that is that he's in the navy, and the leave was essential demob leave, as Monday he is leaving to report to a new command - 6 or 8 weeks training in Texas before returning to Iraq for another tour of duty - this time on land rather than on a ship, which of course none of us are thrilled about. I think he said it was 450 days - so we'll be thinking about that whole situation a lot. I don't think I'd have the fortitude to be a military wife, personally, but we all do what we have to, and Susan is lucky to have her parents and Andy both very nearby. OK, it's not the same thing, but I'm sure it helps a bit.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Happy birthday to Olivia...

So, today is Olivia's birthday and what she wants to do is go ice-skating, so we are off ice-skating later. Right now, we are hanging out waiting for Uncle Steve to leave to go to the airport - he's been here for about a week. Which is part of the reason I haven't blogged much - not just Uncle Steve being here, but Grandpa Karl and Grandma Nancy, too. So we've been busy! On Friday we went up to Baltimore to a place called Port Discovery, which is a fun kids place, kind of combination adventure playground and museum - it has a three-story climbing thingy in the middle, and the fact that Daddy and Uncle Steve were both here meant that I actually didn't have to climb around in it.

Saturday was a lovely day, so we just packed a small picnic and went to one of the large playgrounds in Columbia, Centennial Park, and the kids spent an hour or two climbing around the playground stuff, before we went over to Columbia Mall to ride on the restored Carousel and have the grandparents buy presents. (photos from those events here) Sarah decided she'd rather go back to the house with Daddy and Uncle Steve, who was planning to make a lasagne for dinner. She adores her uncle and he's been very good at putting up with them, I have to say. Even if he does tend to make them hyper - I guess that's uncles for you, though! Geoff was due to fly home later that night, so after dinner, Karl and Nancy left to go back to their hotel (they were due to leave early in the morning anyway) and the kids and I took Daddy to the airport. They don't really miss him too much when he goes, because there is so much exciting stuff still to do after he leaves - including Halloween this year, of course.

On Sunday, we met up with my friend Kristen and her mom, sister & niece, Kestrel - Kes is four and a half - at a Fall Festival at Homeland Gardens (a large garden centre). Lots of little rides and things. It was really sweet, actually, and again the weather was fabulous, so the kids had a great time. Then we went out to dinner together - a lovely day. Yesterday we kind of took it easy, just ran some errands, including me getting my drivers' license renewed, and some shopping my mom needed to do. I love being here and visiting, but there are so many things to do and people to see that in some ways, when we get back we need a holiday to recover from our holiday! (Tried to upload a pic from the Fall Festival here, but Blogger wasn't cooperating. Or it might be my mom's connection, which is slow. Anyway, lots of photos here...)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

In and around the harbour...

Spent a nice day yesterday in Baltimore - Andy came up from Virginia for the day and we went up, had lunch at Phillips and then went to the Aquarium. Tiring, but fun. Here we all are (except me of course) at lunch - Andy being silly as usual. The kids adore Uncle Steve, so they had a brilliant time, and he's very good with them, probably because he hasn't really grown up that much himself! More photos here.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Zoom, zoom, zoom, we're going to the moon...

Poor Alex was a little disappointed to discover that we weren't actually going to go in a rocket ship to the moon, but he was happy to see rockets and planes and to be able to walk through one (Skylab) at the Air and Space Museum. He really enjoyed it, and particularly liked the section about planets - he seems to have an obsession about Mars at the moment - I'm wondering if maybe he's seen a cartoon about someone going to Mars or something. The girls enjoyed it as well - I think Olivia read nearly every sign in the section about early flight and the Wright Brothers. It's a good museum, and of course different from anything in London.

We also ducked briefly into the East Wing of the National Gallery and looked at modern art (Picasso, Matisse, a few others) and into the Natural History Museum to have a quick look at dinosaurs and the Hope Diamond. We may go back there another day, as the kids (and Geoff) were really enjoying that, but we did have to leave to take the Metro back to meet Grandma at a set time. And Alex had reached the bursting into tears for no reason stage, too, which is always a sign that it's time to go. A few more photos here from yesterday's outings, and Sunday, which we spent locally and with my friend Kiki and her little boy Kenny, who is nearly 2.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

A trip to the pumpkin patch

Another gorgeous day here, and we took advantage of it by going down to a little local festival - Riverfest - in Laurel. This was a nice small affair, a little like a county fair, only tiny - local vendors and businesses took booths along the riverside path in old Laurel. A few things for kids, like a hayride and a puppet show - and facepainting, of course.

We went home for lunch and a little rest, and in the afternoon, Geoff and I took the kids to Clark's Elioak Farm, which is a little petting farm, with various other attractions. It was crowded, in a good way, as it was a lovely afternoon, and the kids had fun looking at the various fairytale related sculptures and petting the goats. Very low-key, unlike so many American attractions, which all seem to feel compelled to be Bigger and Better.

Pictures from both of these places, as well as more pictures from Patuxent Wildlife Refuge (where we went yesterday) are here. Oh and in the way of kids everywhere, Olivia was just fine this morning and totally back to normal today.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Autumnal Walk

Local time: 7.15am. Yesterday, after meeting up with some friends of Mom's for lunch, we decided to head out to the Patuxent Wildlife Refuge. We were originally intending to take their little tram tour around the area, but found they weren't running on weekdays after school started, so we ended up doing a nice walk around the lake - much prettier than the tram ride would have been anyway. We saw a large variety of birds, most unidentifiable, except for the heron, and a chipmunk and the coup de grace of wildlife - a black snake. Poor snake, Mom stepped on him. Geoff was disappointed not to see him, as he's never seen a snake in the wild (England not being big on snakes). It was a lovely day until the end, when Olivia got sick - I think this is the bug that Alex had last week and Sarah had Wednesday on the plane - Olivia always gets these things worse than the other kids. She's fine now, though she spent a long time yesterday evening throwin up, poor thing.

Friday, October 13, 2006

A long (but nice) day

After the early start, we decided to do some grocery and other errand shopping (first time in ages I've been shopping by 7am, but we were all up, so why not) - Alex fell asleep on the way home in the car. I let him sleep for an hour, but around 12.30 had to wake him up to eat, and so we could go do something else, otherwise his schedule would be really off. Forgot to take my camera, of course, but we ended up at Brookside Gardens/Wheaton Regional Park. They have a nice selection of playground equipment in addition to the garden stuff - the narrow guage railway and carousel weren't in operation today (to Alex's disappointment) but as the playground is pretty good, there weren't too many tears. Apparently they are going to have a ghost train ride/scary carousel in operation from tonight, so they were getting ready. It's a little far away and probably a little scary for my little ones, so I think we'll skip that, but we'll no doubt do something else Halloween related. There are a lot of Halloween related things here, more than I remember from when I lived here - I think the holiday is bigger than it used to be. The kids are looking forward to it, that's for certain.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


Local time: 4.30am. Yes, the joys of kids and jetlag. Although Alex stayed up to 7.30pm last night local time, he was still awake early this morning, so here I am, awake, too. Luckily, I had gone to bed at 9.30pm, so I won't be quite so sleep deprived as I might otherwise be. 5.30 would have been better, but you do what you have to. But we are here safely, with not too much trouble - Alex threw up all over me on the plane, but that was the worst of it. Luckily the plane was a new one and had individual screens in the seat backs and entertainment on demand which is the best for kids - kept the girls happy for most of the flight with very little adult input. The only other thing is that Geoff somehow managed to leave his jacket somewhere - we think on the plane. "Why didn't you check to make sure I had it" he says, like I wasn't already trying to keep track of nearly everything else we brought! Anyway, nothing too serious, and we shall just add a jacket to the list of clothes we were going to buy for him in the US. Hopefully tomorrow the sleep patterns will be a bit more normal...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

A less drastic solution, possibly...

So today I was in the kitchen rinsing out some dyed stuff in the sink when Olivia comes in, streaming tears. "What's the matter?" I finally, finally get her to speak, and she says "look what happened to my fringe (bangs)". I look, and notice it's a bit shorter than it was, and not quite so even. She has two friends over, so I immediately suspect hairdressing games, even though we've made it quite clear that there is to be NO haircutting. Anyway, I finally get out of her that it was she herself who cut the fringe, not Nina or Gabriella, which is good in a way, but bad in another way. "Why did you cut your fringe, darling, you know you're not supposed to use scissors on your hair..." "Because it was all sticky, Mummy, from the Golden Syrup" (they'd been eating waffles earlier). I literally had to stop and take a deep breath. "Olivia," I said, "Don't you think it would have been a little simpler just to wash it a bit?". Luckily, after being trimmed up by Mummy a bit, it looks ok, just a little shorter than normal. At least it was her OWN hair.

Monday, October 02, 2006

World of Adventures

Well, we went ahead and went to Chessington WoA on Saturday, despite dubious forecasts, and it was a good thing we did as the weather was ok on Saturday (one heavyish shower, while we were inside having lunch anyway, and a few sprinkles, lots of sun) and absolutely foul on Sunday (thunder & lightning, hail, bucketing rain, you name it). The girls - my two and Thalia, Sarah's best friend, had a blast and frankly, I had fun, too. It's been years since I was on a roller coaster that could actually be called such, and I find that I still enjoy them. And I still can't handle those rides that spin you around (I didn't even try - I feel sick just looking at them, frankly), but I was never very good at them, even as a kid - even little merry-go-rounds in the playground made me feel ill (they still do). Anyway, it was a good day, though very tiring, and I'm already getting "can we go to Chessington next year" (maybe). Here's the girls at the bottom of one of those water rides (the third time - they went 4 times in a row as there was almost no queue at all - I only went twice myself...)