PA Week Two

Back in PA for another five days. We swam. A lot. In pouring rain several times. My kids may well have turned into fish.

Both weeks we spent in PA, Alison and I got to go out several times to nearby coffee shops to write and talk. And twice, I went out alone while she kept my kids. So much reading/writing/talking/journaling/coffee-drinking–such a huge blessing and restful time.

For my early birthday celebration, we took the kids to the Jigger Shop, a crazy cool ice cream shop in Mt Gretna. The whole place has a tree-house, vacationy feel to it. The ice cream concoctions are creative and clever. It was a blast and the kids LOVED it.

Before we knew it, it was time to go home. Although we were ready to go in one sense (we had been away a long time), we were also sad to see the fun, relaxing part of summer end. And saying goodbye to the McLennans is always hard.

We stopped for a White Mocha Lavender Latte for me on the way out from my new favorite place: Copper Cup. I am seriously mournful that I can’t get another one of these anytime soon. So good. My mouth is watering even as I type… And slurpees for everyone else.

One more hotel stay. This one had a very warm, small pool (that sounds gross, but there was so much chlorine in it I’m sure it was fine). When the six of us (everyone but Jeremy who came down later) walked in, there were three adults in the pool. I saw their eyes widen and they all started talking to us at once, “You guys don’t want to swim in here. It’s really cold. It’s so cold. No fun at all…” Haha. We got in anyway. They left shortly after. 🙂

Home again. It was a rough ride that last day. And it was my birthday. No fun–until we got home, where dear friends had decorated the place with balloons and flowers, and had left gifts, chocolate cake, and ice cream. It really made my day.

Add to that, the Whatleys, who had stayed at our house while we were gone, left sticky notes everywhere with little notes to the kids. So sweet and so much fun. Most of the notes are still up!

What a good trip. It was relaxing, exciting, exhausting and restful by turns. It was full of good friends, good food, good coffee, good sights to see, good swimming, and good time together. I am so thankful for our three-week summer trip!


The DC Week

We left on Saturday and drove to Charlottesville, VA. If you wondered what seven people in one hotel room looks like, here you go. (The rest of the nights, the room was a little bigger–a lot easier to manage! Plus we had a roll-away, so we only had two kids on the floor.)



We spent the whole day at Monticello. It was really cool–way more fun than I expected. Mason LOVED it and called himself Thomas Jefferson for the next few days. “I’m Thomas Jefferson and I wrote the Declaration of Independence!” He even said it to the woman working at the museum. I think she liked it.

We toured inside the house, which was great. We tried writing with a quill pen. In the afternoon, we split up and gave the kids the choice to go on the Mulberry Street tour (about slavery in Monticello) with Jeremy or the Gardens tour with me. Laina and Mason went with Jeremy, and the other three came with me–and I lucked out, because Ivy and Mason both fell asleep, and Jeremy had to carry Mason. He’s much heavier. 🙂

So Ivy, Iain, Cory and I got to see the beautiful gardens and learn tidbits that make my nerdy, plant-loving self happy. Like did you know Chinaberry trees used to be a sign of status? There are a ton of them on the grounds of Monticello. And all the Floridians have TJ to thank for them. (Cory took the frog photo below, by the way.)

Then we went to the kids’ museum where they got to try out TJ’s bed, make play food, etc. That was Laina’s favorite part.



Museum of the Bible in DC! Wow–we could have spent longer there, but the littles wouldn’t have it. We all LOVED the walk through the OT. SO creative and powerful. Ivy loved the kid play place downstairs.

Also, this is how you do life in a hotel with seven people. When the little three go to bed, the boys read by bathroom or flashlight, or listen to stories with earbuds. And the bottom photo is our lovely view out the window…




Tuesday was a little different, because Ivy needed to get her cast off. We went to the zoo for the morning, grabbed lunch out, and then Jeremy dropped Ivy and I at the hospital for her appointment. He and the other four headed back to the zoo for the day.

Ivy was a champ getting her cast off. And then after–melt my heart–she told me her fingers were kissing because they had missed each other.



We split up for the majority of this day, too. Jeremy took the boys to the Spy Museum (which they LOVED but which I have no pictures of), and I took the littles to wander the Mall. We went to the White House Visitor Center (underwhelming), saw the Monument, rode the carousel (their favorite part!), and looked around the Sculpture Garden. Then we met up again for a tour of the Bureau of Printing and Engraving.



My pick! We started the day at the Botanical Gardens. I could have spent the whole day there. They have a great kids’ area too, where the kids could plant, water, and dig (Mason ADORED the digging part). My kids practiced their photography skills–I don’t remember who took what, but they did pretty well.

After the gardens, we got lunch at the Shake Shack. It was packed and the people waiting for our table when we were done were so very rude–shoving us, not waiting for us to get our stuff picked up, etc. It became a family joke and has brought a lot of laughs. We also spent an inordinate amount of time looking at an albino squirrel. After lunch, we went to Mason’s pick: the Capitol. I don’t know why he was so keen to see it, but he was incredibly excited. We went into the rotunda and he identified a painting (“Hey, that’s the Declaration of Independence!”) and floored the docent who was leading our group. Haha. Smarty-pants.



Museum time! We hit the Air and Space Museum and the Museum of Natural History. We were really tired by Friday and moving much more slowly than at the beginning of the week. Well, most of us were.

Mason in that bottom photo: “We are scientists. Scientists don’t smile.”

At Air and Space, the kids made contraptions that were supposed to fly over a stream of air, staying airborne for five seconds or hitting the ceiling. I think Cory and Iain and Mason did it successfully, I can’t remember. But Ivy played at it the longest and charmed the staffer with her squeals and giggles. Also at this museum we saw a lot of WWII planes, which was cool for Jeremy and the boys as they have been playing a lot of Memoir 44, a WWII board game. At Natural History, we spent a long time in the kids’ area, looking at bones, doing puzzles (um, me), and being generally scientific.




We headed back to PA, visiting Gettysburg on the way there. Right after I took this picture, it started pouring. We ended up doing the driving tour in the rain, which was a kind of fun way to see the area. Everybody was exhausted from a very busy week sightseeing with a ton of walking, but I think everyone enjoyed the week pretty well.

July Fourth and PA Week One

July was a funny month for us. After the absolute craziness of June, July was a breath of fresh air. The first few days were busy with packing and fireworks with our Aussie friends (gotta treat them to a 4th of July celebration!) and then off we went!

It took two days to drive to Pennsylvania, our home away from home for the next few weeks. Alison’s sister Amy was out of town and generously offered to let us stay in her house. We were there for a week, and then spent a week in DC, and then back to her house for another five days. We ended up being gone from July 5-28.

Living five minutes away from some of our favorite people for two weeks was wonderful! Having a pool in our back yard…icing on the cake.

M&Ms and a happy raincloud were waiting for us. How fun!

This is the first summer that I haven’t had to be in the pool with the kids (because Ivy is usually happy on the steps and everyone else does ok). We got into a great rhythm of the McLennans coming over in the morning and everyone swimming while Alison and I sat under the umbrellas and talked. It was heavenly.

We did some other fun stuff too:

There’s a great little coffee shop in downtown Lancaster called The Rabbit and the Dragonfly. It’s CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien-themed. A corner is set up like the pub where the Inklings met, all kinds of memorabilia cover the walls, and all the food/drinks have themed names (you order hobbit or ent-sized coffee, for example). On Saturday, they host a Cereal and Cinema morning where there’s a cereal bar and cartoons. And then on the walk to the car, Iain found an outdoor piano to play.

We hit the duck park a few times, as well as Duck Donuts (a duck-themed day, apparently). We went to Lancaster History Center to learn about protesting (Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges) and the Bill of Rights (we are a homeschool family, after all–gotta throw some learning in there) and the kids made protest signs. And there was Cow Appreciation Day at CFA–which I say I will not participate in every year, but every year I do.

One whole day Alison kept the kids and Jeremy and I went out for the day. It was so fun and she’s a saint! We went on a long walk, ate ice cream, talked a lot, and ended up at the grocery store, like any good date. 🙂


Other highlights: Oregon Dairy for ice cream and animals (Mason and the pig! He said worriedly, “this is close enough!”). Movie night with the McLennans (the girls made cupcakes, cookies, brownies, signs, etc). Laina and Avivah got their hair done together and got matching outfits, to celebrate Laina’s birthday.

I love their friendship. Aren’t they adorable?

Laina’s last day as a seven, and first day as an eight! (With Duck Donuts again, of course.)

This one is the sweetest.

And then on Saturday, a week later, we packed up and headed to DC!

Kid Funnies, the Mostly Ivy Edition

Ivy, to me: You make decisions because you’re the mom.


Mace: Look at the slimes! (slugs! What a perfect name!)


Ivy: Will power means don’t eat all those cookies.


Ivy: Last day, in the baby pool, I had so much fun. (She says “last day” for “yesterday,” “this day” for “today,” and “next day” for “tomorrow.” Makes sense to me!)


Mason: You’re making up sense that is no sense at all!


Ivy, looking though her cup to the words printed on the bottom: This says, “Feed the little girl who is drinking from this cup!”


Ivy, hugging her stuffed lynx: Haha! I thought this was my stufft’ed dog.


Ivy, on dumping sugar in the cookie dough: This is a good work for Ivys.


Ivy, 12/22/17: I don’t want to be a grown-up when I grow up. Or a fire hydrant. Or nothing.


Ivy’s work for blanket: blanklet.


Ivy, when asking to be held: Can you up me?


Cory, on leaving the library: I love the feeling of coming home with a bunch of new books, and I get to decide which one.


Ivy: When I was two, I used to say “ordinary.”

Me: What do you say now?

Ivy: “Usual.”


Ivy: What means marshmallow? (She says “What means _________?” instead of “What does ___________ mean?”

Me: You don’t know what a marshmallow is?

Ivy: No, I don’t know what a marshmallow means.

June, 2018

June. Summer in full swing. Super-busy month for Jeremy. Firsts and lasts and lots of outdoor time and swimming!

We love Home Depot’s kid workshops on the first Saturday of every month. This was Ivy’s first time participating.


We moved bedrooms around (again–it’s what you’ve gotta do when you have a big family!), and Ivy moved out of her crib and onto the bottom bunk bed. It was the definition of bittersweet.


Also bittersweet: Iain’s first trip to youth camp! Jeremy went too, to help. They had a great, if exhausting, time. I’m really excited for Iain to participate in youth this year–it’s so good at our church.


The rest of us hung out at the pool while they were gone.


Laina and Mason did gymnastics camp in June. They LOVED it. But the teacher said about Mason, “Well, gymnastics is a precision sport. He might be better suited to parkour.” Haha!


We, like everyone else, have been bitten by The Greatest Showman bug. This is Ivy, who is supposed to be going to sleep. She said, “But Mom! I’m obeying the Greatest Showman!” (because, you see, she is dreaming with her eyes wide open) Seriously, she’s hilarious.


We were excited to find Uncle Chris’s book on display at our library!


The boys did skate camp, and while they learned (so many!) cool tricks, we walked around, looked at bugs, and played.


Happy Father’s Day 2018 to the best dad on the planet.


Sweet little one fractured a bone in her hand while playing cats with her siblings. She handled it like a champ.


And this is how we spent a lot of our summer. Reading on the porch. There’s nothing better.