Thursday, July 30, 2009

More Vacation...

On Tuesday we decided that we were going to head back to DC early and drive into the city to take in a couple of museums.
DC is always crazy and crowded in the summer, but we were that close...so why not.
The weather was gorgeous, hot and sunny.

As we were driving through the city, I commented that I had never seen so many police vehicles. They were on every corner and there were cops, with rather sour attitudes, all over the place!
All we wanted was a place to park. We found a garage with an empty space (really...one) and parked and headed upstairs. Turns out we were parked under the AARP headquarters.

Anyway, as we were about to exit the building, we noticed that the streets were actually blocked and the cops weren't even letting anyone cross the street. There were a few people hanging out with cameras, and yes, you-know-who was supposed to be passing by.
I kid you not, the weather had been perfect, this is a true story. As the motorcade went by, a cloud passed over and it started to rain...

Just a little. As soon as he was gone, the sun came out and the weather was perfect again.

So the rest of our day was great!
We went to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum.


It was crowded and crazy, but the boys enjoyed it. Brendan loves anything Egypt...



I finally got to see the Hope diamond. I had never gotten close enough before. Very impressive!
There was a really neat exhibit of a dig that is ongoing down at Jamestown, VA. Here is a sample of what they are doing...

The crush of humanity finally got to us and we decided to visit the National Gallery. It was quiet and cool and blessedly empty. I just walked around soaking up all the fabulous Art. I could have stayed all day.


My favorites were this painting of Napoleon and this Marquis. I was just amazed at the way the artist was able to capture the facial expressions and the skin tones. John said this must have been Napoleon before the Louisiana Purchase. He looks rather smug.

I also love Dega. He loved horses, I love horses. It follows.


He also loved dancers and this is such a sweet sculpture.

I also loved the face of this little girl. She is looking up and away and she is just so sweet.
So we came home after our journey, and we were so glad to be home! Bosco was very glad to see us.
Last night we decided to attend the Cecil County Fair.
The culture up there is a little different...
Yep! Lawn tractor racin' is a big deal. It was fun though, until it started raining and we had to come home.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Luray Caverns

Today was just awesome!
The boys wanted to play putt-putt golf here at the hotel this morning. Brendan is quite a little golfer! They all had fun, and it was good that they played early, because it got really hot later on.

We got out and headed for the caverns at around 11:00 and bought our tickets. It wasn't cheap, but it was so worth it! God is an amazing artist!

The Luray Caverns are just incredible. There is no way to describe the beauty of that particular piece of Creation.

The formations are like nothing you would ever see in any other environment.

Most of the formations have developed over millions of years due to the seepage of water through the mountain, carrying acidified water through the limestone that is the basis for the Shenandoah Valley. After the limestone was carved out and the caverns were created, then God started decorating them. Crystallized Calcite is deposited by the seeping calcium carbonate.

Stalactites form on the ceiling and as the water drops from them to the floor, deposits build underneath, and stalagmites are born and grow to meet them. When they meet a pillar is formed. These deposits accumulate at the rate of one cubic inch every 120 years! Our God is a patient artist.
These "Drapes" are formed in flat, fluted shapes that really look like flowing fabric!

There is a lake in the caverns that is only about 18-20 inches deep, but with the ingenious lighting effects that have been put down there, they have created a perfect mirror image of the
Stalactites hanging from the ceiling.

One of the "dripwater" formations looks just like the craggy face of an old mountain man.

The size of this place and the time that it took to form is just mind boggling. I just kept thinking about what it must have been like for the men who discovered it! Wow!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Virginia is for...

They say Virginia is for lovers, and that appears to be true. It is also for families, which is why we are here.

We had a great trip today!
We left the house at about 9:30, and since traffic was so light, we got onto the DC beltway at 10:30, and managed to find the Air and space Museum by 11:15!


We had our dear friend Matt Newell with us. He is up in Emmittsburg, MD for a couple of weeks, attending the Fire Academy. He took the train up to Aberdeen last night and we had a very nice visit.
He wanted to see the museum and I am so glad that it worked out.

There is so much to see there. Many famous planes and others not so famous, but weird and wonderful.

My all time fav is the SR71 Blackbird. I got a real close up view.



The Space Shuttle Enterprise is there (sort of) and is just so huge that it is mind boggling.






We saw the Enola Gay. I went over to Paul and asked, in a "teacher voice", "Paul, do you know what that plane is?" He looked at me like I was just ignorant and said, "Yes, it's the Enola Gay, it's the plane that dropped the first atomic weapon." Yeah, well, I just wanted to be sure that he knew.

There were lots of helicopters,

fighter jets Great Huge things...
and odd little things...
John had a chance to sit in a Cessna cockpit and dream...


There were rockets, missiles, and satelites. This one was so beautiful, that I thought it must have been designed by a woman!



The boys even found a friend to hang out with...



We dropped Matt off at the airport, and drove through the beautiful Virginia countryside and came up one side of the Blue Ridge and over the top and were looking down at the gorgeous Shenandoah Valley.
We found our hotel and then took off exploring and found a great restaurant for dinner.
We came back to the room and the boys changed and got into the pool until it was too dark to see. Now we are getting ready for bed and the camera battery is charging for tomorrow morning and our trip to the caverns...

Friday, July 24, 2009

CakeWrecks...

I couldn't resist posting this because you just have to see it to believe it! You can see the whole post HERE...

I check in at CakeWrecks every so often and it never fails to crack me up, but THIS is just beyond anything I have seen there before...

Yes, that is Lenin...in cake...Why? Well, I would guess that this is some kind of Russian function,
but I may be wrong. The winning caption doesn't provide any clues.


"No, not the cold shoulder; I want a slice of the iron fist! Now quit Stalin and get me some Lenin-ade to wash it down with, or this joint won’t be getting any high Marx from me."


Thursday, July 23, 2009

And the Doctor Said...

Had a fairly uneventful visit with the doc.
Had an EKG and I am assuming it was fine because the nurse who did it didn't say "Excuse me" and rush from the room...
BP nice and low.
I have a little pile of blue slips with orders for tests, consults, etc.
Have to visit the lab so that they can drain 5 or 6 tubes of blood for various tests.
The usual CBC, thyroid, and a couple of extras to check for arthritisy things...yay.
I am also going to have a colonoscopy a bit earlier than the usual 50. Dr G thought it would be a good idea.
Have to get a dermatology consult and have a couple of things removed. Nice that they aren't things I need!
Oh, and the cardiologist. I have had these odd PVCs for years now. No other symptoms, just a missed beat now and again. Dr G really wants to get a nice, boring explanation for these so that he can put it in my chart and be done with it. Guess I'll follow through this time, so that he doesn't have to ask me again...

So, as long as all these things don't yield any surprises, a nice routine appt. and I'm done with that for the year. Always good to be routine.

Poor Nina is not having a routine month.
Two minor car accidents have left her with some pretty bad back and neck issues.
Lots of docs and chiropractic these days. It's a tough deal but at least both wrecks were the other guy's fault and she will have the bills paid.
She's so young to have all these things to deal with. Life is long enough without a bad back!

July 23rd, and Counting.

The past few days have been so blissfully free! This week has been free of appointments and evening obligations. It is so nice to get my Google calendar reminder in the morning and to have it say, "You have no events." Ahhh...

I do have a Dr, appointment today over in BelAir but that will be quick. Maybe if we are over there anyway we can find something interesting to do.

The boys are enjoying summer too. Sleeping in, building amazing creations with Legos and Bionicles. John has taken up his journal again and is writing and drawing. He has been reading a book a day, because he can...
The boys have been swimming almost every day and we have had "S'mores" fires in the backyard several times.

It is nice to really take advantage of these days.
We will have to get started on school next month again. Piano starts at the very beginning of August, then I will get my planning finished. I think I have all my books, except for a few supplemental things for Lit and History.
That is nice. It wasn't as expensive this year, since I have the Math and History books that the boys need. I only had to buy those for John.

We have done a few little "field trips" for last years Earth Science this summer. We have studied erosion, rock formations, fossils, mountains, and we will be getting a first hand look at some amazing caves next week. I still want to see a few more water falls.

I have a gift card from Tim for a day with a kayak. I want to do that soon and go out with the boys so that they can see what it's like on the river. I think, if it goes well, we may try to find a used one. The boys are very strong swimmers and I don't worry too much as long as they are out with an adult. Though, with my swimming skills, they will have to rescue me!

We want to get back up to Western Md for some biking and hiking. Laura and Andrew have some really amazing things to do near them. We just have to get going, the summer seems so short this year! I am torn between packing a ton of great experiences into what is left of it, and just letting everyone relax, swim and have slow days.

But right now, I need more coffee!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Photo AP

Really? It seems an awful lot like Monopoly to me. Barry, you are the bank, and you dole out just enough funny money to keep everyone playing. The problem is, you don't play fair. You keep changing the rules. Reform is just a nice word for redistribution, and you know it.
Well, Barry, it's our board and our houses and hotels (and hospitals) that you are playing with and we don't want to play anymore. It's time for the people to take the board back and tell the spoiled neighbor kid that he has to go home....

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Classic Veggies and A Parable for Our Times...

If you can just substitute "surgeon" for "Veterinarian", this could be our health care in a few years!
"If you go a little loopy, better keep your nurse well paid", indeed. Loopy seems to be the theme of the Obama administration...

Have You Ever Driven With a Kid in the Car?

This article caught my attention:

Critics say that the failure of the Transportation Department to pursue the role of driving distractions in car crashes has resulted in traffic deaths and allowed multitasking while driving to grow. The research findings were obtained by the Center for Auto Safety and Public Citizen through Freedom of Information requests, the Times said. The newspaper posted the documents on its Web site Monday night.

The findings included:

_ Cell phone usage by drivers increased 50 percent, from 4 percent in 2000 to 6 percent in 2002.

_ Driver distraction contributes to about 25 percent of all police-reported traffic crashes.

_ Cell phone use is growing as a distraction while driving.

Draft recommendations from NHTSA included that "drivers not use these devices when driving except in an emergency."

Legislation forbidding the use of hand-held cell phones while driving was not recommended because it does not address the problem and may instead lead drivers to think handsfree phones are safer.

The problem is that a cell phone conversation takes the driver's focus off the road, the studies showed.- FoxNews.com


This is interesting.

I have been driving and talking on my cell phone for a few years. I have had children in the back seat for many more. I have to say that reaching back to replace a pacifier, or trying to help someone who is on the verge of throwing up while driving down a highway is considerably more difficult than talking hands- free on a cell phone. And how is carrying on a conversation on a cell phone any more distracting than having three children conversing with you at once? A friend of mine was driving down the road, when one of the kids piped up: "Look Mom, look at the toad Tommy caught and brought home!" She has a lot of self control. I do not do amphibians. If a toad is stowing away in my car, one of us is going to have to exit the vehicle.

And don't say that if you have to deal with a child you should pull over. You can't pull over on the interstate, and if you did pull over every time someone needed attention, you would never get anywhere.

I have no idea what the answer is. I guess the Amish have the right idea. If Ol' Betsy is pulling the cart, you can just put down the reins, let Betsy do the navigating, and when the kids hear you say "If I have to come back there...", they'll know you're serious.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Two Great Movies...

OK, these are both older movies so they have been around awhile, but I have been watching "based on a true story" movies lately, and both of these were excellent!


I'm not much of a Ted Danson fan, but this story of an inner city teacher, who is inspired to teach students how to play Chess, is really the kind of story that makes you realize that there is a place for everyone when it comes to helping kids find the best in themselves.
Here is more information on the Scholastic Chess program and it's founder. David MacEnulty.




Last week I watched "Freedom Writers". Another great story of a rookie teacher that encourages teens on the edge in a brutal environment, to journal about their lives. The journals and the book "The Diary of Anne Frank" are keys to turning the kids toward understanding themselves, their challenges, and ways to move forward and beat the horrible statistics of the streets.
I am going to see if the diary is at the library.

You can read more about the "Freedom Writers Foundation" here.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

What a Day...

Sidling Hill on I68


Gee, John had an almost perfect week out in the wilds of Western MD with Laura and Andrew and the girls.
He fished, drove the car on the farm track, went out to a movie, a pirate day, played with his nieces, ate great food, and watched more TV than he probably ever has in his life!
All good things must end, however, and last night when I called I could tell that he just wasn't himself. He seemed very cranky. I put it down to a long week, being tired and maybe a little homesickness. Well, this morning he woke up at four, sick. That meant that Laura also woke up at four. Laura had already been up multiple times with little people, so, needless to say she was running quite a sleep deficit.
John was kind of stuck near the bathroom for most of the morning, and I ended up driving up to get him. Laura could have managed two babies, or a sick brother, or sleepiness, but not all at once, and not while driving.
She and the kids were supposed to go downstate for a birthday party for Andrew's grandma, but she was really afraid to try it.
I left here at 8:30 and got up to the farm at 11:30. John was still going strong, so to speak.
I got all his stuff loaded, and thought we'd try to at least start the drive home. We got to the "FruitBowl", a local roadside grocery, and I had to go in and beg them to let John use the very non-public restroom. We decided to go back to Laura's and wait until things settled down a bit.
He went upstairs to rest and Laura and I had a visit.
Finally, it seemed like things were getting better, so John and I hit the road, and headed back downstate. It wasn't a bad drive. We stopped a couple of times, and John was doing pretty well. We kept passing the little "green" cars fighting their way up the mountains. Annoying little things when you are actually trying to make good time. We did though, and got home safe and sound. John had a banana and some yogurt, but then took another turn for the worse. Guess I'll have him stay home from Mass tomorrow.
We get to go back up to the farm in a few weeks and I am going to take the boy's bikes. They will have a great time!
And we are stopping at the Sidling Hill visitor's center to get a better look at the "big cut". I blew through it twice today, and it always amazes me!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Where a Girl can go Wild...


Today we did something totally Lilly.

We went over to check out a place that we had heard about called "That Bouncy Place". We decided that we should take Lilly, because inflatable bouncy fun just sounded like her!

I was expecting something like a big moon bounce. Well, there is a lot more to do than just bounce. There are about ten different huge pieces of inflated play equipment and the place is extremely clean and well supervised. The slides are huge, but there is a smaller area for younger children that I thought would be perfect for Lilly. HA! Not a chance! Not with Brendan and Paul having a blast going down slides and through obstacle courses.Yes, she did go down this slide over and over....

The age limit is 12, so there weren't a bunch of really big kids running around and the older kids that were there were really pretty good. I only saw one little girl who had gotten hit in the face by her brother's head... and she was fine.

The slides were so fast! Lilly is totally fearless.

This was a bouncer/slide that she could get into on her own. She needed help for the others.