The Great East Coast Adventure, Part 2

We left DC and drove through Baltimore on our way to Staten Island. My favorite part of this drive was stopping to see Nan’s childhood home. It was really fun to see it and imagine her there as a child, playing marbles, staying outside all day long. There was a mannequin on the porch, so that was…different…



We drove all day long. Ivy still prefers to sleep holding my hand when in the car. 

We arrived at our hotel on Staten Island too late to take the ferry to NYC but too early to corral everyone in the hotel room (and expect them to be quiet after a long day in the car). It was chilly and rainy, but we found a little park about a fifteen minute walk away and that’s where we stayed until dark. Although we were cold and wet, the kids (especially Cory) said it was the best park they’d ever been to. Win! It was covered in bouncy foam and was slippery enough to slide.



The next day, NYC! We took the ferry in, and made the kids go outside to see the Statue of Liberty. I loved being out there on the balcony. They…didn’t.


Funny kids by the statue.

We walked to the 9/11 Memorial and it was lovely. So very sad, respectful, thoughtful, and well done. They put white roses on the names of the people who died there, on their birthdays.


Reading about the Survivor Tree, a pear (?) tree that miraculously survived the destruction. It was moved and rehabilitated, and then brought back to thrive here.
It rained a lot in the morning, but dried off and warmed up as the day went on. Picnic lunch on a bench.

We rode the subway a lot, of course. It was a bit confusing. But the kids enjoyed it thoroughly.


One of my favorite books I read this year was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. While this was not in Brooklyn, it was the right kind of tree. So that was fun (nerdy, yes, but fun).

One of the main things we wanted to do in New York City was visit the Fire Museum, for this boy here who adores all things fire truck. He was just a little excited. Almost everyone dressed up in fireman gear, we saw a bunch of old engines, saw a heartbreaking tribute to the firemen killed on 9/11, and went through a museum full of gear. I think Mason’s favorite part was the fire hydrant in the elevator that he sat on. He got his big souvenir here–a stuffed fireman dog.


Back on the road. We walked SO MUCH this day. It was exhausting. Fun, but exhausting. Two kids fell asleep on the subway, and another at the Met.


Because we are a family that likes food, especially trying different food from new places, we had to hit up some NYC hot dog carts. Half of us chose hot dogs, several had pretzels, Cory and I held out for bagels (and iced coffee–yum!), and Jeremy waited for pizza for dinner. We walked to Central Park with our goodies and breathed sighs of relief, both for the food (we were all so hungry!) and for the green space in the middle of the city.


Central Park: We were amazed by the rats. We loved Turtle Rock. It was very peaceful and lovely. We wished we had longer to explore. We walked across all of it on our way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


We saw a lot of this face on our trip. It’s hard being two!


By this point in the day, we were all wiped out. But we were so close to the Met, we just had to stop by. One of the boys’ favorite books is From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, so the Met was a must.


If you’ve read the book, you know the significance of the urn. I love that my kids are as nerdy as I am. 🙂


Although I wanted to see more, the kids were at their limit. Jeremy spent a while longer in the museum with Laina while I took the boys and Ivy outside to wait. As we sat on the steps, a street show started up. And then–they called Iain out of the crowd as a volunteer! (Cory said repeatedly how very glad he was that they hadn’t picked him! Me too…) It was a very long show–Iain did some dance moves and a somersault, and then stood in a long line of people and got jumped over. By this time, Jeremy had found us and we all sat and watched and laughed. Iain was a great sport.


While the street show was fun, it did set us quite a bit behind schedule for getting back to the ferry. The parking garage on Staten Island closed at seven, and if we didn’t make it, we’d have to find another way back to the hotel and return by shuttle to get the car in the morning. But, you know, we were in New York. We had to get pizza. We bought a pie and booked it to the ferry, getting on with moments to spare, and eating as we rode.


Jeremy stood at the front of the ferry, ready to run the half mile or so to the parking garage. I had the kids, the stroller, the backpacks, etc, so we’d follow behind slowly and meet him somewhere. He took off and we disembarked slowly, stopping at a gift ship to buy Laina her big souvenir that she’d been looking for all day: a snow globe of NYC. And Ivy found a little blue bear she decided would be her souvenir. She calls it Snuggly Bear.

So Jeremy was trying to beat the clock, and I was herding the kids through the station to where I thought he’d pick us up. But then my phone died (we’d used the maps all day and then I recorded a video of most of Iain’s street show). We waited a really long time (and saw a crab in the water), and walked up to the very front of the station, standing there until I thought maybe it wasn’t the safest place to be. I decided to herd us all back to the station, to try to find an outlet to charge my phone so I could call Jeremy. Keep in mind it was now after 8:00, my littles are usually in bed by 7:30, and we’d been walking all day long.

We went inside and, by the grace of God, there was Jeremy! He hadn’t made it to the parking garage on time, so he’d come back to find us and missed us somehow. We headed to an indoor DQ to find an outlet to charge the (now both dead) phones. We needed to call the hotel for a shuttle. We sat for a good half hour or more, eating ice cream and being tired, trying to get the phones to charge before an employee told us their outlets don’t work. !!!!

And now, Ivy had a fever. We asked around and finally found a public charging station, got in touch with the hotel, and found out that we had missed the last shuttle by minutes (they had told us some wrong information earlier in the day–arg!). So we had to call a taxi. A very expensive taxi that could hold seven people and take us half an hour back to the hotel. Finally, we crashed, around 11. Jeremy took the hotel shuttle back for the car the next morning, while I packed us up. It was nutty but makes for a good story! And poor Ivy’s fever continued through the next day and night.

And that was the end of our day in New York City!


Christmas Poem, 2017


The air was thin that night.

The atmosphere itself spread to nothing because Heaven pressed so close.

How could they even breathe, the two young parents,

Tired and trembling, whispering, worshipping,

Looking at Hope Himself, wrapped in glory like swaddling?

Angels burst into song, pulling breaths of Earth’s air into heavenly lungs

And in the manger, the baby took His first hour’s breaths:

Earth’s air into holy lungs.

Not since the Garden had holy bodies walked Earth.

Then, the Earth itself was pure, but this night

This promised night, the broken Earth reached toward Him with gladness,

Because the curse of sin was thinning.

Like the midnight air.




(see last year’s Christmas poem here.)

August and September

August was a busy month! We kept at school, adding Essentials (Classical Conversations’ afternoon program) for the boys. We skipped out of town for an overnight to my aunt and uncle’s beautiful new home to watch the eclipse (and the kids got to ride and groom their horses), and we got ready for and left on our big East Coast Trip.


Reading in sneakers and a tutu. What could be better?


Sweet sister time on the porch.

We had so much fun at the big eclipse party. Family and friends came and we all sat around eating delicious food complements of the Nelsons, and watching the sun disappear. It was AMAZING. I didn’t get any good pictures of the actual moment of totality, but we will all remember the eerie, 360-degree sunset and the very loud cicadas.











A field near our house was COVERED in these gorgeous wildflowers, so we had to take some pictures.


The end of August brought Mason’s Adoption Day, the day his adoption became final in court. We celebrated with–what else?–a giant robot.


He was a little excited.


BIG PAUSE here for our East Coast Trip. When we got home, we only had half of September left. One huge highlight was when the firemen came to the hydrant in our yard to check pressure and let the kids play. It was pretty amazing. That’s Mason running in the picture, but the four big kids were right behind him.



I found a copy of Herd Your Horses online and had to buy it for myself–I mean, for the kids. Did anyone else play this game? My sisters and cousins and I loved it so much, and I’m happy to report that my kids do too. 🙂


I think Laina wrote this on the white board. Hard to say–we all heart Ivy.


What’s not to heart?


IMG_5849And that’s a wrap on September!


Iain Turns Eleven

Iain had a double birthday this year–part one, the day before his birthday, on our East Coast Trip at the McLennans’ house in Pennsylvania, and part two in October, a double birthday with his good friend Will. So pretty much a dream birthday for this kid.

Two birthdays means two birthday banners. It was fun sharing this tradition with the McLennans.





Iain’s last day as a ten. Be still my heart.



Alison made him her trademark ice cream cookie cake.


His actual birthday was spent at a park with some friends, and then driving south on the way home.


First day as an eleven (note the toe). 🙂


Birthday Part Two. Iain decided he wanted to decorate his own cake this year. He made a spider web and added candy. I think this decision came because of some time spent watching The Great British Baking Show–he asked to “pipe” the cake instead of decorate or frost it.



Iain and Will decided on the menu (Will’s cake is the chocolate one below). It included nacho cheese doritos, cheetos, soda, apple juice, and some tasty Australian desserts: peppermint cremes and rocky road.


Another birthday banner!



We had a water balloon battle in the cul-de-sac, lots of Hide and Seek Infected, and sword fights.


The birthday boys.







Iain, you are becoming such a great young man. You are thoughtful and smart, funny and kind. You are a good friend and a delight. We are so glad you’re our son. Happy Birthday Iain! We love you.


The Great East Coast Adventure, Part 1

August 30, 2017–the first day of our long-awaited East Coast trip! We’d been planning this trip for a few years, so we packed in the car like sardines, hooked the car-top carrier on top, and hit the road. The first day, we made it as far as North Carolina and stopped for the night–the first of many nights spent with seven people in one hotel room. It actually wasn’t bad all being in one room once we got going. We were all so tired every night that we crashed and no one woke anyone up. Much.



Meet our little buddy Johnny. Our, ahem, mouse-cot. Yeah. We actually planned to take him around with us and take pictures of him in different places, but you know, five kids to worry about meant no mouse. I forgot. So he rode on the dashboard the whole way.


Our first stop was Washington DC. We stayed with some good friends, the Icardis. They were so kind to let us crash in their basement and come in and out as needed. We basically put our food in their fridge and drove into the city, heading for the Library of Congress.



After a few false starts, trying to find the right building, we made it. We did part of a tour (before a few small people in our family decided that tours and being quiet weren’t going to happen). Then we wandered on our own.



One of the coolest parts was Thomas Jefferson’s library. Swoon. It was gorgeous.





Then we walked around the Supreme Court building.



By then, we were all hungry, so we walked a long way back to the car and drove to the real reason we stopped in DC on the trip (you thought it was for the history? Ha!): Cafe Rio. Oh my goodness, so good. We ate at Cafe Rio in Utah when we were adopting Mason, and had dreamed of it ever since. No pictures of that because we were too busy eating.

DC, Day Two:

We took buses and the metro into and around DC. The kids never got tired of it.




Of course, we had to have the traditional “I’m holding up the Washington Monument” pictures.



We packed and carried lunches and snacks every day, to save money (for things like eating dinner at Cafe Rio). We also ate instant oatmeal or bagels in the mornings when the hotels didn’t offer continental breakfasts (which, weirdly, was most of them on this trip).


And then: The Air and Space Museum. This was Iain’s favorite museum and where he bought his big souvenir (we had told each kid they could choose one big one on the trip and they each thought long and hard about it). He bought a collection of metal airplanes. My favorite part of this museum was seeing the original Wright Brothers airplane.


Mason really liked this little plane you could pretend to fly.


Iain and Laina decided to try the flight simulator. Iain was pilot and Laina was the gunner. It was so fun watching their plane flip and rock, and hearing Laina screaming. They LOVED it.




Next up, the Mall and the Capitol Building. We didn’t tour it this time, trying to keep things pleasant for the littles. Another time. But it was great seeing it and watching the ducks.





Waiting for the bus. Mason did great on this exhausting day.


On to the Museum of Natural History, Cory’s favorite. He said, “This is the best museum I’ve ever been to in my life.” He bought a bunch of rocks for his big trip souvenir.






After a quick lunch on the steps (yes, it was only lunch time!), we headed to the Jefferson Memorial. It’s so lovely and peaceful there. It was a good place to sit for a few minutes and take in the view.



And chase the geese.


Then we took the bus (again) to the Lincoln Memorial. By now, the littles were getting very tired, so we had to give up some of our plans (sadly, we didn’t see Arlington and the changing of the guards, or the Vietnam War Memorial, and a few other things on our list. Again, next time.).






I love this picture here, with my favorite four guys in this place where Martin Luther King Jr gave his I Have a Dream speech.


As much as we had to skip, we didn’t want to skip seeing the White House. So we walked there on our way to dinner.




It was an absolutely exhausting day, but so much fun. We will definitely hit DC again–there was so much more to see.

We left the next day, but not before spending a little more time with the Icardis…


…and the Kincaids, for a mini-Wesley reunion. DC was a first great stop on our trip. On to New York City!