Sunday, November 10, 2013

Fall's Rite of Passage

This was the weekend we had to start managing our serious leaf problem.  While, it is one of the kid's favorite fall activities it makes Scott and I nostalgic for Arizona.  The kids helped a little, a very little. Mostly they jumped in the leaves, swam in the leaves, wrestled in the leaves and when just jumping was no longer enough they upped the ante and started riding their bikes into the leaves.

Nash counted 88 bags of leaves, but I think it was more like 75.  Now if you'll excuse me I need to take a nap and prepare for the 30 more bags of leaves that fell in the night.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute & The Shenandoah Valley

The Smithsonian has a Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, VA.  It is not open to the public but since Scott had some work to do there this week, the kids and I hitched a ride to the Shenandoah Valley for a day of exploration.  I am convinced that it is one of the loveliest places on the planet.  The trees were amazing.
Our first stop was a little diner, on the side of Highway 522, that is famous for its apple donuts, not to mention southern charm.  We scarfed down a dozen donuts in about 5 minutes.

After we dropped Scott off at the farm, the kids and I went to Skyline Caverns.  We discovered what I think is Harley's only fear, Spelunking. She was not a huge fan of the caverns especially when they turned off all the lights and told us if we stayed in such darkness for more than a week we would go blind and if we stayed in such darkness for 10 days we would go crazy. Let's just say she didn't need 10 days to go crazy only about 10 seconds.

One of my favorite things about Virginia is everywhere you drive you will find a historical plaque commemorating some significant event in Civil War History. I love Civil War History and one of my favorite characters was the female confederate spy Belle Boyd who owned a home in Front Royal, Virginia. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that just outside of Skyline Caverns she met up with Stonewall Jackson to trade secrets.
The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute is essentially a farm. Animals from the zoo in Washington D.C. are taken there to breed, receive medical treatment, be studied or because they cannot get along well with others, like Frog the pony who bit off the finger of a zoo patron last year.  The institute also provides the hay and/or feed that is given to the animals at the zoo. The institute was built on federal property that was formerly used by the army to train cavalry horses. There is still a horse cemetery where famous horses were laid to rest, including Kentucky Derby horses and famous war horses. On our behind-the-scenes tour we saw buffalo, wolves, crane, reindeer, elk, gazelles but those are not the only animals there. There are also red pandas and cheetahs. Unfortunately,  they were about to give birth and were therefore off limits. While the animals were pretty fantastic, you couldn't beat the view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.


Friday, November 1, 2013

The Biggest Halloween Post in the History of the World

Let me start by saying that I am exhausted and more than a little happy that Halloween is finally over. It was fun, but seemed to drag on forever. It all started 3 weeks ago when Harley and her preschool friends attended a Fall Festival in Rockville, MD. (not pictured)  Last week all the kids went to a super fun Halloween party at a friends house. Yes, Nash is shooting icing directly into his mouth, completely bypassing the cupcake.

The next day our neighborhood had their costume parade.  By the way, Harley insisted on being Minnie Mouse, Nash a Jawa from Star Wars and Atley a fly. 

Pumpkin carving came as it always does the Monday before Halloween.

These little chocolate pies are one of my kids favorite treats because they can make them all by themselves with the mini-premade pie crusts, a box of chocolate pudding and whipped cream.
The next day we had a Trunk or Treat activity at our church.

Wednesday was Harley's preschool party at our house. Unfortunately, I didn't snap any pictures because I was too busy teaching but after school Harley taught the boys to play some of the games like Don't Eat Pete and Pumpkin Bowling.

As most activities in our house, even Pumpkin Bowling ended in a wrestling match.  I love the picture of Harley above when I caught her sneaking even more candy.
Thursday Halloween finally arrived.  Nash had a Halloween parade at his school, that I watched with Harley and Atley's class.  In the afternoon Atley and Nash both had class parties and of course Harley was right in the middle of it all.  Halloween evening we had some neighborhood families over for dinner. I served soup, bread, cider and some other fun things pictured below.  You will also notice that Harley tired of her Minnie Mouse costume and opted for a cowgirl costume instead.

Finally, ready for Trick or Treating!