Monday, June 29, 2009

Claude Moore Colonial Farm

The only thing separating our neighborhood and Langley (CIA Headquarters) is a little patch of land called Claude Moore Colonial Farm. This area is set up to recreate the life of a poor family living on a tenant farm during the Colonial period, 1771 to be exact. I took the boys there last week and was impressed with the questions Atley asked the farm family and the lengths that the actors went to in their attempt to create an authentic experience for their visitors.

The boys initial reaction to the experience was complete shock and horror. Atley got big tears in his eyes when he realized that the people were not wearing shoes. He timidly asked them why and they explained to him that they were too poor to wear shoes in the summer and that they were saving their shoes for winter. He was also surprised to see the children working along side the adults, that of course, was my favorite part.

It was obvious that cotton was not king in northern Virginia during the colonial period, rather tobacco was the cash crop. The above pictures show Atley next to a young tobacco plant (when mature the plant will be more than five feet tall) and the boys in front of the Tobacco house where the tobacco is dried.

This is a typical tenant farmer's home during the colonial period. This one room home housed seven family members. The yearly rent on the farm was 500 lbs. of tobacco. The family was quite concerned that with the unusually large amount of rain we have received this year that they would be unable to have a successful tobacco crop and therefore unable to make rent.

When the family sat down for their mid-day meal Atley began grilling them with questions. Question #1: Where are your neighbors? Reply: Our closest neighbors are about a two hour walk and we have to walk everywhere because we do not own a horse. Question #2: Where do you go to church? Reply: In Falls Church. One member of our family is required by law to attend church at least once per month, but it is a full days walk to attend, so we do not go often. Question #3: Well, if you don't have neighbors and you don't go to church how do you make friends or get married? Reply: HA, HA, HA!

Question #4: Don't you have any mosquito spray for all of these bugs? Reply: They don't bother us too much because we wear long clothes that cover most of our skin. Atley's Reply: Wow, I'm sure glad I have enough money to buy bug spray so I can wear shorts and not those crazy clothes you're wearing. By the way, Nash was out of commission for the interviewing process because he was whacked in the head by a cast iron skillet while chasing the chickens as the family members were bringing food to the table.

Growing up in such a rural area I never dreamed I would actually pay money for my own children to see a farm, but it was a learning experience for all of us and I am coming to terms with the fact that my children are city slickers. Even more importantly I gained much more gratitude for the blessing of living in modern times.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


We just got back from four fun days in Florida (say that three times fast). Here are some pictures of our adventures.

After we arrived we went to Downtown Disney and had dinner with Scott's brother Todd and his family at the Rainforest Cafe. After dinner we explored Downtown Disney for awhile and discovered a Dinosaur themed restaurant. The boys had a great time checking out all of the dinos. Notice Atley's expression in the picture. He is a little nervous about taking his eyes off the looming dinosaurs to smile for the camera.

The following day we took the boys to Disney World. Amazingly, but not surprising their favorite part was the Monorail. I guess we should have saved our money and just rode the monorail outside the park.

There were only two rides that Nash wasn't able to ride, Splash Mountain and Thunder Mountain Railroad. I took Atley on Splash Mountain and when we received our photo at the end of the ride he says, "Wow, mom you look really happy and I look really scared." Atley got to drive the Jungle Cruise which was really exciting, especially when he tried to turn it around because he was afraid of the crumbling Chinese temple in front of us. The longest wait was for DUMBO 40 minutes for a 45 second ride. The race cars were also a big hit,as were the spouts of water at Ariel's Grotto. Considering that it was 97 degrees outside with a heat index of 110, Atley laid on the spouts and let them shoot into his armpits.

We never intended or imagined that the boys would make it an entire day but here we are 12 hours after arriving waiting for the Electric Light Parade and they were still happy and excited to be there.

After another night in Orlando we drove to Daytona Beach to meet the rest of the Butler's. We spent the remainder of our time at the Beach or in the pool at the resort.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


I heard about a recent study that somehow measured the happiness level of American women today, as opposed to women in past generations. The study concluded that American women are more unhappy than ever. The reason for this unhappiness being the plethora of choices faced in our modern world. Going along with this a woman in church told a story about a man who worked and saved for many years to move from a small African nation to America. When he finally made it, he was asked what he thought of the USA. He replied, "This is a great place if you know God. But, if you do not know God you will get lost in the choices of this country." These ideas correlate perfectly with an uneasy feeling I have had lately about my children and how I am raising them. Sometimes I feel more like the Entertainment Director on a cruise ship, except I don't get paid and I'm not on a ship. I feel an overwhelming urge to be in a constant state of planning things to keep them entertained and stimulated. On any given day there are a million choices-classes they could take, sports they could be involved in, museums, parks, friends, movies, games, toys, TV, etc. But, I am beginning to see how too many choices, no matter how good they are, can cause unhappiness and disharmony. My best days with my boys are days that are unplanned, unstructured, and unbusy. These are also the days with the fewest choices and the days that I know that they can feel my love for them. Maybe I am getting too old and feeling a bit nostalgic for my own childhood. My childhood was one that consisted of two choices play inside or out and during the long winter months inside was really my only choice. Of course I also had the option of watching cartoons but they were over by 9AM. Not like today where there are 10 channels of 24/7 kid entertainment. I am not really sure what my point is to all of this rambling other than I am going to try a little harder to simplify my children's lives by eliminating some choices and trying less to entertain. The hypocrisy is that I am going to start as soon as we get back from Disney World this week. Old habits die hard!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Georgia On My Mind!

Scott had business in Atlanta this week so the boys and I went with him to hang out with the in-laws and Butler cousins. Here is a recap of the week's events!

First, we swam A LOT! Scott's parents have a pool and so does Aunt Robyn. In fact, Aunt Robyn teaches swimming lessons so Atley got some private lessons with Aunt Robyn and he made huge progress in just a few days. Nash prefers hanging out with the girls poolside, soaking up the sun.

No trip to Atlanta is complete without at least one trip to the Varsity for a Chili Dog or two, okay maybe three, followed by a Braves game. Notice Nash's attempt at the Tomahawk Chop.

Catching Fireflies and Shopping "At a girls store!"

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Rumble Jr.

Sometimes I expect to see a monkey swinging from the branches in my backyard trees, or a sloth lazily eating whatever it is that sloths eat, among the leaves. Yes, I think we live in a tropical rain forest (until winter and then I will complain about the arctic tundra). It rains every day. It is warm and humid. Everything is shady and damp but the biggest reason why I have this rain forest feeling is the creatures. This morning I fished 8 frogs out of the pool. We have snakes and lizards and bugs the size of my hand. We have an abundance of rabid looking squirrels and super fat chipmunks, not to mention the occasional rabbit or fox and this morning we found Rumble, a box turtle. We have spotted turtles before but this is the first one that was captured. Believe it or not turtles can be pretty fast- read one of Aesop's Fables if you don't believe me. The animal was named Rumble Jr. because Scott had a turtle as a child named Rumble. The boys know all about him.

Also, my children have been devoured by mosquitoes and no amount of bug spray seems to deter these annoying bugs. A lady told me to tuck BOUNCE dryer sheets into my clothes to keep the bugs away. It really works and explains the pictures of the boys with dryer sheets hanging off their collars.