Thursday, November 3, 2016

Something Odd Was Happening on 10.31.16

I love posting our Halloween photos here each year.  They are by far my most pinned posts and I love getting to share our ideas with others.  

This year, we thought we had our Halloween costume ideas in order earlier in October, and then, we went to an Odd Squad Live show at a theater nearby recently.  The kids loved it.  And I loved hearing a theater full of kids whispering math problems excitedly.  But, I didn't love the prices of the souvenirs.  After we walked out with $20 worth of badges attached to the older two, and them still wanting the shirts that would make them look like Odd Squad Agents, my cheapskate side quipped that I could make them whole nice outfits for the price of the shirts.  And with that statement, their costumes for the year were born.

A quick trip to the thrift store and asking around to borrow things yielded blue jackets, red ties, and white button-up shirts.  Elijah already had red shoes.  And I learned what "Chuck Taylors" are when Brian said Theo really needed those for his outfit (plus they should be good motivation for him to learn to tie).

Realizing that we already had a black stroller and shirt that said "genius", Thomas's outfit came together instantly.  He was Baby Genius.

While very few adults knew who they were (most guessed detectives, policemen, or Trump), when fellow devotees of Odd Squad recognized them they got plenty of admiration.  And I gotta say it made my "teacher side" pretty happy.

Words Kids Say, 4 Year Old Edition

Despite the title of this post, these are actually some of my favorite words that Elijah has said (repeatedly) while he was 3 years old.  I didn't get a chance to write up a nice update for his fourth birthday, but all of these words trigger lots of little memories about his personality at this age, so I thought it would do nicely in place of an update.  I say all the time how much I love this age on him.  He wears it well.
  • Mucus 
  • Balloon 
  • Guacamole 
  • Neighborhood 
  • Kindergarten 
  • Earth 
  • Toothpaste
  • Caizzo (his teachers name)
  • Narrow 
  • Bacteria 
  • Golfer 
  • Dessert 
  • Breakfast
  • Helicropter 
  • Electricity 
  • Marshmallow 
  • Samples 
  • Giraffe 
  • Drawings (tattoos)

Oxon Hill Farm, Take Two

Oxon Hill Park, located just a few miles from Brian's work, was the setting for another birthday morning for Eli.  We actually came here on his second birthday, and took some of my favorite photos of him and I thought why not run up for the morning on his fourth birthday as well. 

The farm is a nice little oasis near National Harbor and DC proper.  It is a little tricky to find with google maps, so be sure to get good directions if you decide to visit.  This free park lets the kids run around visiting farm animals, milking the cow (10:00 most days), and riding on a hay ride (10:30 most days).  There are some fun activities in the Visitor Barn as well, and picnic tables and bathrooms to make a stay with pre-schoolers manageable. 

Train Birthday: Burke Lake Park

We don't always have big birthday parties for the boys, but we have tended to go all out for one pre-school birthday party.  For Elijah, that meant this year when he turned 4 (since he'll turn 5 two weeks into kindergarten).

As evidenced by his Halloween costume last year, the fact that one of his first words was "caboose" and his constant requests over the summer to visit the train station, my four year old is and has always been a complete train fanatic.  With that in mind, I planned a sweet little party for him at one of the nice regional parks in our area, a county over in Fairfax.  Burke Lake Park (click here for more info) is famous in my circles around here for the great running/fitness trail that circles the lake, and the fact that it has a miniature train.  One very similar to the one at the Fort Wayne Zoo where I grew up.  It only runs during the week through the summer, so we planned an early party before school started and while the train was still running.

I basically rounded up every train item in our house, and we headed to the park.  Elijah handed each guest a train engineer hat to wear when they arrived.  I basically set up several stations, in case the main attraction-our huge set of engines and wooden tracks-got busy.  I had a whole table full of train books, a train tattoo station, and do-a-dots art station. But the kids all played beautiful with the tracks for the longest time. 

Eli's old costume made for a fun photo op:

Next up, the main event was the train ride itself.  As one of the last days in the season, it was pretty busy and we ended up having to wait in line for a while, but the kids had fun on the playground while I held our spot.

Luckily, the wait made us right in the front of the line and Elijah was able to pick the very front seat for his ride.

 After the ride, we finally ate some snacks and enjoyed cupcakes.  Train cupcakes of course.

 I love Eli's face in this picture.  He was almost a little bashful as his friends were singing to him.  It was absolutely adorable.

We ended the party with a carousel ride.  Elijah and Zack picked the stationary seats on the ride... they may have regretted it half way through.

We sent the hopefully tired out guests home with train whistles of their very own, and of course, as Elijah is made of sugar, some hugs.
It was seriously the sweetest party ever, and I was glad to bless Eli with this.  I just wish I'd taken more photos!  Oh, which reminds me that we also had a photo display.  The little boys enjoyed looking at all the trains Eli has visited over the years.  So many trains...

Birthday with Black Bears in Shenandoah

So after our first two iterations of plans for Thomas's birthday fell through, we decided we would go ahead and take him on his first camping trip before he officially turned 1.  Since it has been such a hot August, Brian insisted we head up to the mountains where it would be cooler.  We left without reservations, but were able to snag a "first come, first serve" campsite at Loft Mountain Campground.  Located around mile 79.5, it is in the southern part of the Shenandoah National Park.  We picked up trail maps when we got there, but I think I'll start printing them from the website next time.

We finally upgraded the little pup tent that Brian bought in college, and got a tent large enough for all five of us (plus the dog).  The boys were pretty excited about setting it up, especially with it's windows and "porch".

 After we were settled in (and some campers told us they had just saw a black bear near our site), we headed out on a nearby trail.  Some other hikers pointed out a bear up in a tree just minutes into the hike.  Doyles River Falls trail was all downhill, until finally hitting the first set of falls.  Due to time, we went ahead and turned back after these falls, though we heard the second set were a lot higher.  The walk back up was a little strenuous, but Elijah completed the hike all on his own two feet and Brian only had to hold the baby (in his new, garage-sale-find carrier).  I encouraged Eli with the promise of a "hiking badge", and the boys saw another bear walking behind when we were separated.  The < 3 miles of trail took us about 2.5 hours.

We then headed back and had some delicious grilled chicken, steamed red potatoes and corn on the cob.  Elijah is a huge, HUGE fan of s'mores so we made those as well.

The boys slept like champs that night, though Brian and I were both restless.  Theo was terrified of the bears we'd already seen and heard of earlier in the day, so perhaps that kept me up.  But we all woke up excited to celebrate Thomas's first birthday!

After breakfast we then headed for the Frazier Discover Trail.  We weren't sure to turn left or right upon entering the loop, but we chose left.  It was quite the uphill hike until we finally reached the fabulous views the rangers had told us about.  This one was about an hour and half or less, and 1.2 miles.

We walked out and found the Mobile visitor's center, and the boys got to see some nature artifacts up close.

 Don't tell my third-born, but not only did I not have any gifts for him on his birthday (I finally thought of one the next day), I also forgot his cake so we ended up not having it at the campground but enjoyed it later when we got home.  Poor guy.  He didn't mind though, and he was all about getting as much cake into his mouth as possible.  He loved it, and his brothers were excited to celebrate with him (as long as we all kept our party hats on, and they could blast Kids Bop).