Sunday, December 24, 2006

Emma's make-believe world!

Emma is great at playing make-believe. A couple of weeks ago, Samantha brought up her princess tea set from the basement because she doesn't play with it anymore. Emma loves to play with it. She likes to drink pretend tea and "cookies" and she INSISTS on having a plate before she starts.

Today Michael gave her his bear to play with. She decided she wanted to color so the bear was going to color with her. She put the bear in the chair at the coloring table and put a crayon in his hand.

Right now, the bear is sitting in his own rocking chair watching TV with her - and she pats him once in a while to make sure he's ok.

It's very cute!

10am and done wrapping!!

That's right - I accomplished a feat never accomplished in this house, nor, I doubt, my mother's house either. I was done wrapping at 10am this morning. The only reason I wasn't done yesterday is that I spent the morning wrapping the presents that the kids picked out at 5Below, and I couldn't do that last night when they were in bed.

So, all the wrapping is done, and the baking done. We are now cleaning the house. The entire upstairs is vacuumed and the bathrooms are cleaned (Samantha actually LIKES to clean toilets and sinks so that is now her job). Main floors are vacuumed. This afternoon, we'll vacuum the stairs and the basement and dust all of the woodwork and we'll be in good shape. I like it much better when I have a CLEAN house for Christmas. Especially since the family room will no longer be clean as of tomorrow morning!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Congratulations Larry!!

My brother, after working very hard for MANY years, has been announced as a partner with the Law Firm of Moore & Van Allen in Charlotte, NC. We are all very proud of him!!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Nutcracker

Samantha and I went to see a production of the Nutcracker today. It was put on by the local ballet company - the Loudoun Ballet Company. They have been doing this production for years and it seems to get bigger and more elaborate each year. The costumes are bright and colorful and the performers are just outstanding. They never disappoint. It is such a nice tradition that we have established each year.

We'll be spending this week talking about Christmas around the world and doing some things to prepare for Christmas, such as making some snowflake ornaments and baking cookies. I think for once we are actually going to be ready for Christmas EARLY for a change!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

New Banner

Just for those who hadn't noticed, I have updated the banner at the top with the new photos of the kids. Enjoy!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Mind your Ps and Qs!

That is the name of the drama production Samantha was in today. This was coordinated through our local homeschool group and this is her second play. Samantha seems very natural in these plays and I see some talent that could really be fostered.

This play was about Grammar. There was "Captain Grammar" and "Doctors" that were to fix all the "Grammatical injuries" being suffered by people. Then, several of the characters represented the grammatical errors.

Samantha played "G", as in "people keep dropping the 'g' off of words, such as comin' and goin'". She also played "Awful" because it is used an "awful" lot of times when other words could be used!! She then played "I" because I is often used as an object when it should be "me" - and yes, mom, I am guilty of this all the time, including in my previous post.

It was a neat production and fun to see the kids developing their dramatic skills!!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Concluding our Weather Unit

We are wrapping up our Weather unit in science right now. The kids have been learning about all different aspects of weather. Along the way, we have built some "home made" weather equipment to see how they work, and we have been creating little booklets and other "craft" items about weather. Yesterday, each of the kids put all of their craft items together into a "lapbook", which is simply a file folder made into a fold out book that kids can build to learn about a subject and display their results. The lapbook we created for Weather is one that I designed myself based on what we were learning in our weather curriculum. It was fun to make and even more fun to see the kids eyes light up as they realized what they had created.

Then today, we took a special field trip. We went to the NBC station in Washington, DC and met the morning weather man, Tom Kierein. We watch him a lot in the morning as we determine what kind of weather we'll be having during the day. Mr. Kierein showed the kids all of his screens and equipment and how he did his weather broadcasts. We watched him do 3 separate broadcasts while we were there. It was a really neat tour. We also got to see other parts of the NBC studio, including the temporary news studio they were using while renovations were occuring in their main studio - we also got to see the main morning news anchors in action. We saw the control room where the producers and directors worked and controlled the cameras. We also got to see the studio where national programs, such as "Meet the Press" and "The Chris Matthews Show" are filmed. It was really neat to see. The kids had a great time and Mr. Kierien was really great with them the entire time!!

This was a great way to end our unit - but I'm just not sure I'll be able to live up to it when we finish our Astronomy and Oceans units.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Visiting Santa and Family Portraits!

We had a busy day today.

We went to the mall to visit Santa. Emma, just like her siblings at this age would have NOTHING to do with Santa. So, we have some Santa photos with Samantha and Michael, but none that include Emma. Maybe next year. Samantha took a nice photo of Emma and I during the time that she REFUSED to let me put her down!! Seems a little 3 year old girl was looking at her and she would have nothing to do with that!!

I took some nice photos of Samantha and Michael individually in front of the Christmas decorations. These will be their "school pictures" for this year. Emma wouldn't cooperate for photos at the mall, but I did take some nice ones of her in front of the fireplace after dinner.

We finally took our family photo in front of the fireplace tonight. Imagine how difficult it is to take a family picture with 3 children (yes mom, I know you are remembering) - then add into that the fact that I was doing this with a camera timer with the camera on a stepstool and a baby who won't sit still for 2 seconds. In the end, we got a couple of nice shots.

Another busy day coming up tomorrow - visiting the NBC TV station in DC to meet the weather man - Tom Kierein!

I color!

That's what Emma said this morning when I asked her what she was doing.

A little background. I have realized that I picked a tough year to start homeschooling - tough in the sense that this is the age where Emma is all over the place! Its tough sometimes to get some work done with the older kids while Emma is running around the family room because she is seriously into everything.

This is a busy week. My expectations are pretty low, work wise, because we have a visit to Santa, a field trip to the TV station, and Samantha's drama production all this week. I decided that the ONLY thing I wanted to make sure to accomplish today was complete the Weather lapbook that we have been building the components for. I'd like the kids to be able to take it with them to the TV station to meet the weatherman tomorrow.

Samantha was in the shower, Emma was gated in the family room, and I was at the kitchen table with Michael working on his lapbook. I didn't see Emma when I turned around so I said "Emma, where are you?".

Her response: "I color wall. I sorry"

She was over in the corner near the stairs coloring quite brightly on the wall going up the stairs.

I guess its a good thing that we have painted walls and a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser!

Monday, December 04, 2006

I needed to add one more Christmas tradition

This tradition has been passed from father to son for many generations and we have fully embraced it in this household, and it is...

... The expletives that go along with putting up Christmas lights on a Christmas tree.

My father did it, my father-in-law did it, and my husband does it.

Its a fond family tradition passed from father to son, generation after generation.

And it obviously doesn't restrict itself to real or artifical trees. This year, my husband contributed a few choice words to the fact that part of the lights on the PRE-LIT ARTIFICIAL tree aren't lit - because he can't find the plug.

Ah, the fond family memories we create!

Christmas Traditions: Old and New

We have many Christmas traditions in our family. Many are old; taken from our own childhood Christmases and many are new that we have started or developed over time.

We decorate the house to a "t" - with more and more decorations and lights every year (it seems).

We have Christmas Eve dinner with a dear family friend that we don't see enough due to busy kids schedules.

We wait until the coldest, snowiest, wetest, ickiest of days to go get our Christmas tree (Because after years of trying to plan and always getting bad weather, we've just decided to go ahead and plan for the bad weather because we know there won't be crowds!)

The Christmas countdown calendar was something that Mike bought a few years back. He pulled it out that year on December 1st, ready to "set it up" and start the countdown. I think it was about 6 hours later when it was actually "ready", after Mike cut out 25 different little shapes and glued them together and hooked on the strings. But, now its done and all we have to do each year now is hang it up on December 1st.

The Advent wreath is new this year. I don't know what made me think about it but I decided that as part of our homeschooling curriculum this year that I'd like to make sure the kids know the story of Jesus as well as the other Christmas stories that they can recite from memory. I'm interspersing Bible stories (from Luke, which has the best account of the life of Jesus) with Christmas around the world traditions, focusing on areas from our heritage (Germany and England) and our closeby neighbors (Canada and Mexico)

So, I scrambled this past week to find an advent wreath. After several calls to crafts stores, and numerous conversations with people who didn't even know what an advent wreath was (that's a bit sad), I found one at the Christian bookstore at the mall. BUT, they didn't have any candles.

And, my internet research shows that the meaning of candles has changed over the years and through the different religious implementations of the advent wreath.

We have 4 Royal Blue candles to signify the celebration of the birth of Christ. We will light another one each Sunday until Christmas Eve, when we will add a white candle in the middle to signify the birth.

This is our newest Christmas tradition

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Christmas Parade!

Today Samantha marched in the Manassas Christmas parade with her dance school. They wore adorably cute Elf costumes and danced to "We are Santa's elves" from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

As a piece of background, Samantha also marched in this parade 2 years ago. Let me share the experience of two years ago for contrast. Two years ago it took us 25 minutes to find the location to drop Samantha off, and we dropped her off with no coat, no snacks and no water on a day where it was about 35 degrees with the wind blowing. We sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic and then drove down roads we didn't know trying to get to where we could watch the parade. We ended up at a good corner - right near the end of the parade - and across from a 7-11. That's a good thing. Samantha's location was number 104 in a parade of 112 entries. The parade was scheduled to start at 10am - and Samantha group launched AFTER 12:30. And did we know this from the other end of the parade? Of course not. All we knew was that we left her with no coat in the cold for hours. The parade was so poorly timed that at times there was 10 minutes or more between floats. The 7-11 was FULL of people because we needed to eat and use the bathroom after being there so long. Luckily we were able to bring the van up into the parking lot and mom and dad could sit in the van for a while until their performance got closer, because of course we didn't take any chairs with us. Samantha's group came through at about 2:30, if I remember correctly (because I have conveniently blocked it out)

Fast-forward two years.

We pulled into a parking lot right next to where Samantha's group was gathering (Mike was told he wasn't supposed to be there but oh well!). Samantha's teacher was STILL late in arriving (at 9:25, when she told us to arrive between 8:30 and 9am). But, she had warmer clothes and snacks and water. So, I left her with some other moms and we headed to our viewing location. I had pre-printed a map so I knew exactly how to get where we wanted to go. We went back to the SAME corner we used 2 years ago - but we were smarter this time. We parked backed into a spot so that we could see the parade route while sitting in the car. We brought the DVD player so the kids could watch videos until we got closer to Samantha's group. We brought our soccer chairs so we had somewhere to sit on the curb. We went into 7-11 early and got snacks, and while their bathrooms were CLEARLY marked with "Not for public use", I was able to get the nice lady behind the counter to let me in for Michael to go.

As the parade started, we watched the floats for a while. They were timed much better this time, although there were still some patches of "Dead space" while there was a group performing at the review stand just before us. But, they did a better job of spacing performance groups with floats so there weren't long periods of lapses.

As Samantha's group approached, I walked up the block so that I could see them perform at the reviewing stand. I got right up front so that I would have a good view of the dance and get some great photos.

And my camera broke!!

One of my children dropped it a few weeks back, just after we had gotten our other camera back because IT had been dropped.

I got the two shots of Samantha when we dropped her off and a couple of shots of favorite floats from the parade. But now I need to depend on the charity of the other moms, hoping they got some good shots of the performance and the marching with Samantha in them.

But, Mike saw a reporter talking to Samantha's teacher after the performance, so we are hoping they won an award.

If for nothing else, the wonderful costumes that were perfect for the occasion!
And it was just as cold as it was two years ago!

Friday, December 01, 2006

There's just something NOT RIGHT about this

Its December 1st and currently 72 degrees outside.

There is just something wrong with that. Very wrong.

It snowed in Dallas, TX yesterday, by the way.

But not here. Certainly not when its 72 degrees.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Another milestone - ARGH!

Emma was our last to turn over (6 months - on the dot) and our last to crawl (about 10 months). She was our last to walk and run (walking at 17 1/2 months and just recently running). One milestone she hadn't tackled yet is the stairs.

I have tried numerous times to show her how to climb up and come down on her bottom, but she had no interest. Not only did she have no interest, but she seemed terrified at the prospect.

Perhaps it was the fact that she tackled the feat of climbing on the couch at Oma's and Opa's this weekend. Perhaps its the fact that she has parlayed that into an ability to climb up on our couch. But NOW she has decided that she can climb up the stairs. Last night she just headed for the back stairs and instead of stopping and asking to be picked up, she just kept going...and going...and going - and alas, she was at the top.

While I'm happy that eventually I won't have to carry her up and down the steps anymore, I'll now need go up and down with her each time until she does it consistently without falling - and when I'm not with her, I'll have to put up the gates at the top and bottom because with THIS child, anything is possible!!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

To those who have inquired...

... and to the one that I don't (surprisingly) seem to have an email for:

Moon Sand is a "cross" between Play Doh and Sand.

Here's one
Here's another

There is evidentally a problem with the manufacturer because everyone is having trouble.

Good News is that my sister found a set and is shipping them to me, and I got some off of eBay at a "not too bad" a price, so the Stopper Family will have some Moon Sand to play with this Christmas!

Friday, November 17, 2006

She's not asleep!

And how do I know that? I just coughed, sitting on the couch in the family room. All of a sudden I hear this voice from beyond - from the bedroom at the top of the stairs. It said, in the sweetest of not-yet-two-year-old voices, "Bless You".

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Getting a jump on things!

I remember last year that Christmas snuck up on us. I think maybe someone removed a week or so from the calendar and forgot to tell me. I found myself around the 12th of December and I hadn't even thought about what I wanted to do.

But not this year. I've already started thinking about it. The kids have perused the "ToysRUs" Toy book that came in the mail a couple of weeks ago. We usually also take a trip through the toy aisles at Target for ideas. After that, I will finally be able to provide the grandparents and aunts and uncles ideas for gifts for my kids.

Of course, one of the "hot toys" this year is Moon Sand. Can't find it anywhere. My sister says she found some in Texas, so she is going to try to go back and get some for me. In addition to looking cool, it will actually be very good for Michael's Sensory System.

I actually have a couple of ideas for my nephews as well (you notice I didn't say "nieces" - I don't HAVE any nieces) but will look forward to ideas from my siblings as well.

All in all, I look forward to possibly having some gifts wrapped and under the tree BEFORE December 23rd, which is when I started wrapping last year.

Here's to the best laid plans of mice and men!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Almost Heaven!

To give you a little background on this post, I wanted to tell you about something I did in college. On a typical Sunday afternoon, after spending the weekend visiting one of many places, I would settle in to do homework or study for the following week. I would often go to the library and check out the Star Wars trilogy (the original one, this was 1990 and 1991 after all). I would put these three movies in the VCR, in succession, as background noise when I studied. It worked well - I seemed to need the background noise and since it was something I was familiar with, I wasn't distracted actually trying to pay attention to the movie. I did this MANY, MANY Sundays!

Anyway, this past weekend, the Cinemax movie channel has been running a Star Wars Marathon - all 6 movies in order. Over and Over. All Weekend. It started Friday and its going until early tomorrow morning. And, since we actually get an east coast AND a west coast feed, I actually have the movies on two different channels - so I can switch back and forth based on which scenes in which movie I'm interested in seeing. So, its been like heaven here. You'd think after 3 or 4 times listening to the movies, I'd be tired of them, but no. I have washed and folded laundry, I have napped, I have planned the lessons for the next two weeks, played with Emma and done any number of things, all with one of the six Star Wars movies as background!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Well, its unanimous!

All of my kids have loved Teletubbies!

We were first exposed to Teletubbies when Samantha was about a year old - it was on during the time we were getting ready for work, and she would sit mezmerized while it was on.

Michael watched it too - although not a lot because it was no longer on in the morning when we were preparing for work.

Now, with the wonders of technology, we can have an episode of Teletubbies any time we would - with our cable's "On Demand" service. Typically, Emma gets a good dose of "Noggin" in the morning while we are trying to get some lessons done. But even that isn't keeping Emma occupied these days.

Recently, Mike pulled up an episode of Teletubbies for Emma when he wanted her to calm down before bedtime. She was catatonic. She didn't move for the entire episode (much like you see in the photo above!)

She doesn't call it Teletubbies - she calls is "Poe" (one of the characters on Teletubbies). Her favorite part is the baby face in the sun that laughs from time to time - she laughs right along with that baby.

So now, when we need Emma to calm down and sit still (if only for a few minutes), we just have to turn on an episode of Teletubbies and we're set!!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Sometimes the best photos are the unplanned ones

Didn't have much to say today, but I finally went through the photos that I took during our annual trip to the Cox Farm pumpkin patch last weekend and I found this really sweet photo of Emma eating an apple that I wanted to share.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


The kids had a great time trick-or-treating. Every year, they go out a little bit longer and hit a few more houses.

After I got the obligatory photo on the front stairs - which wasn't easy with Emma looking away and BOTH of my other children blinking at odd times - they kids headed out. I did finally get a good group shot.

I am also sharing individual photos of Michael and Samantha, since I shared an individual one of Emma yesterday.

I wanted to get a photo of Emma walking away to trick-or-treat, but she was too quick for me. She ran DOWN the driveway and down the street after Samantha so fast that Mike had to run to catch up with her. I can't get her to even leave the driveway on a normal day - and we couldn't catch up with her last night.

So Emma went to just the few houses around us and then Mike brought her home. He headed back out with Samantha and Michael for a bit longer before they all returned tired. We have huge piles of candy in the house now - and we are rationing it to the kids so I don't have to peel them off the ceiling in order to get any schoolwork done.

Happy Birthday Granny!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

And here's Samantha!

This is a scan of the album page that I did of Samantha wearing the flower costume. These two photos are the best on the page - and you can CLEARLY see the family resemblance!

This is for Granny

Emma is wearing the Halloween costume that Samantha wore the first year she trick-or-treated - at 21 months old. Emma is 20 months old so conceivably it should still fit. Well, its a little tight but close enough!

Granny still remembers how Samantha was that night - walking to the houses in our neighborhood with determination. I had a great photo of Samantha in the costume climbing up the stairs with a big grin on her face. Hopefully I can scan it shortly and share it with you.

But for now, here is Emma in the costume she is wearing tonight - Granny, this is for you!

Happy Halloween!

Halloween is today!! Tonight the kids will go trick-or-treating. I will update this post later with photos after they get into costume.

Samantha is dressing up to match her "Samantha" American Girl doll. All of the girls on our street are dressing up with their dolls. Samantha and her doll will be wearing their nightgowns circa 1904. Her doll even has a little "pumpkin" attached to her hand for the occasion.

Michael is dressing up like a colonial boy. It would have CERTAINLY been easier had he decided this WHILE we were in Williamsburg - then I could have bought him some clothes. Instead I have been making them. A local colonial farm has instructions on their web site to make a colonial shirt and breeches using existing clothes. They said to take an old shirt from an adult to make the child's shirt. Well, even one of mine swallowed him, so I have cut parts off, glued others back on, changed my mind 3 times and even bunched it in the back much like a maternity shirt is. But, we have a colonial shirt, as it were. I was able to easily take an old pair of his jeans that fit in the waist but were too short. I cut them off and cut holes in the side to string a shoestring through either side to "bunch" them up. I have tried the pants with a pair of Mike's white socks, but I just don't think they are quite long enough, so I think it will be Samantha's white tights to finish off the legs. I then cut out "buckles" out of gold metallic paper and have strung them through the shoestrings of his black dress shoes. Add his 3-cornered colonial hat and musket and we are set to go. I may be pinning him in and ripping him out when we are finished, but he will BE a colonial boy for the duration of trick-or-treating.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

You don't get to enjoy turning the clocks back with a toddler

I heard Emma talking - well, screaming for us at the top of her lungs is a better description - this morning. I turned over and looked at the clock and then turned to Mike and said "Emma's fussing - at 6:30 in the morning". He said "That's because she thinks its 7:30 in the morning". Ugh!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Woo Hoo - a maid!

Many people had told me that the one thing that would "go South" when you start homeschooling is your house. I actually had a good maintenance routine to keep the house picked up and somewhat clean. That was BEFORE we started our lessons.

Between taking good portions of our day with school lessons, and having a mobile toddler around the house who is into EVERYTHING, the house has steadily gone south. And I just haven't been able to get back into a good routine to get it done. I'm actually doing laundry tonight and I had prided myself on the fact I hadn't done laundry on the weekend in quite a few years.

But here I am.

So, Mike said it was ok to call a cleaning service to come in a do a "one time" cleaning. We'll get everything PICKED UP for them (which will be a good accomplishment in and of itself) and then they will do a good vacuuming, dusting, mopping and cleaning. I feel like maybe if someone helps me get "caught up", then maybe I can keep it up myself. So we'll give it a try.

Boy, it will be nice to have a clean house for at least a day!

Friday, October 27, 2006


Samantha was in her first drama production with the homeschool group today. The group of kids have had 4 or 5 rehearsals on Fridays and then they performed the plays for parents and siblings today at a local library.

The story is an Irish twist on Cinderella. All of the kids were speaking with an Irish accent - it was cute.

Samantha was the wicked stepmother and did a great job. I missed getting a photo of her most dramatic moment - a dramatic fainting near the end of the play. But it was great!

Day 6: Great Wolf Lodge

We ended our trip with 2 nights at the Great Wolf Lodge. The Great Wolf Lodge is a great hotel with a full waterpark INSIDE the hotel. They also have a lot of other activities for kids, including an activity room, nightly "storytime" and they have recently added an electronic "scavenger hunt".

We didn't tell the kids we were going here ahead of time, and we didn't want to stay here earlier in the week because we wanted them to pay attention in Williamsburg and Jamestown and knew that wouldn't happen if they were constantly thinking about going back to the waterpark.

All of the sleeping rooms are "themed" rooms. We stayed in the "Kid Cabin" room. This room has 2 bunk beds in a "cabin" within the room. Samantha and Michael stayed in the "cabin". They had their own TV. The room then had 1 Queen size bed and a pull out couch. The one thing we missed from this hotel is having a good place to put Emma. We put her next to the door to the balcony and while she was trying to go to sleep, we actually pulled the drape from the sliding door over and around her pack-n-play so the lights and sounds from the room would be blocked out.

We arrived here on Wednesday night for dinner. After checking in, we went to dinner at the restaurant. Then Mike, Samantha and Michael went to the water park. Our room rate included access to the water park for both our check-in as well as check-out days, and any days in between. The water park was open until 10pm, so they had a couple of good hours at the waterpark. I went back to the room and put Emma to bed, as she was quite tired from the disruptions in her schedule in the past week.

We all spent the following day - Thursday - at the water park. After breakfast we headed down there. There were so many neat things at this park. When you walk in, you see a huge "jungle gym" of paths and nets and ropes that looks like a cabin. On top of this is a HUGE bucket. This bucket fills up every 5 minutes and for the last minute rings a bell. When the bell starts ringing, children and adults alike run for the front of the bucket. Then, when the bucket fills up, it tips over - dumping 1000 gallons of water down on the people below. It was a popular attraction throughout the day.

Emma was a little hesitant at the beginning, but they had some nice attractions for her as well. We finally got her to walk into water about 6" deep to play with a water sluice that had gates that she could open and close. This entertained her for a long time. She also got great pleasure out of playing with the spouts of water that were around the park. She kept trying to "hit" the water as it came out, and a couple of times, tried to take water in her hands to fill up a hole that wasn't spouting water.

We also took Emma down a couple of "kiddie" slides. The first one was "too slow" for her so she wanted to go down the faster one. This one was pretty fast for someone her age, so Mike would put her in at the top and I would catch her at the bottom. She would come down the slide laughing and screaming the whole way and then splash into the water at the bottom as I caught her. She would then immediately say "Daddy Go", which meant she wanted to go again. We finally told her "enough"!

Samantha and Michael played on all of the other attractions. There were 2 water slides that were just for people and 3 that included innertubes. The innertube ones went both inside and outside the building. There was also a lazy river that wound its way around part of the park. Emma loved this as well and at one point rode around the loop FIVE TIMES on Mike's lap.

It was nice also that this was a safe place for the kids to choose what they wanted to do and we didn't have to worry about them. They knew where our table was and the water park was well staffed with lifeguards that were actually very attentive.

We spent the entire day at the water park. Emma and I went up after lunch to take a short nap and then we returned. After dinner, I took Emma up to get ready for bed and Mike took the kids back down for the rest of the evening. We even went for a couple of hours on Friday morning after checking out and before leaving to head home.

Day 5: Colonial Williamsburg (part 1)

Wednesday, October 18

The other highlight of our trip was the day we spent in Colonial Williamsburg. There is so much to see that one day hardly does it justice, but with the ages of the kids, that's all we could hope for on this trip.

We started off our morning parking at the Visitor's Center. We rented costumes for Samantha and Michael to wear during out day in the Colonial Period. It's fun to see the kids dressed up and the people in Colonial Williamsburg respond a little bit more to people who are dressed up. And they certainly were by no means the only ones dressed in colonial garb. The woman in the rental office even showed Samantha how to curtsy and Michael how to bow. She showed Michael how to put one leg forward, turned slightly outward, so the ladies could see his "wonderful leg" - otherwise known as "putting your best foot forward".

We walked over from the Visitor's Center to the colonial area. My husband misled me by "understating" the distance from the Visitor's Center to the colonial area - it was about a half mile. When we reached the colonial area, we jumped onto an orientation tour that explained a bit about how things worked and what we could expect during our day. All of the sites that were "open for visitors" would have a "Union Jack" flag posted out front - it made it easy to see what was open and what wasn't. This is also important because some of the houses on the street are actually occupied by Colonial Williamsburg employees who rent them out.

We visited too many "craftsmen" and other "tradesmen" to enumerate each of them, but I will highlight some of our more favorites.

When we reached Duke of Gloucester Street, we headed to the ticket office and purchased tickets for a carriage ride later that morning. We got lucky because at 9:45am in the morning, most slots were already filled and the only one left fit our schedule well.

While waiting for our time to ride the carriage, we headed over to the Governor's Mansion. We intended to tour the mansion, but planned to do that later in the day. For now, we spent time on the grounds. We saw the Wheelwright and the carriage house, and then headed around the back to the immense gardens. The Governor had a very large estate, especially for that time period. We wandered through the gardens and finally found the boxwood maze. It is clear by the way the hedges have grown, and the fact that it is the end of the growing season that many kids had dug "through" the hedges instead of walking through the maze - it made it harder to find the actually maze. After getting through the maze we went up on top of the old ice house where you could get a good view of the maze.

Day 5: Colonial Williamsburg (part 2)

The carriage ride through town was nice - the driver told us to imagine that she was "an older black slave" since that's who would be driving around people rich enough to own the carriage we were riding in. She pointed out many sites throughout the town and interesting facts. There is so much institutional knowledge in the employees that dress up every day and come to work in Colonial Williamsburg.

After our carriage ride through town, we headed immediately over to the Powder Magazine where Michael had a chance to "drill with the militia". He learned how to line up and load and shoot a musket. The drill sergeant was great - he has been working there over 15 years. He demonstrated each step of loading and firing a musket and then showed how quickly he could load his weapon - shooting 4 shots in 1 minute (yes, that's one shot every 15 seconds with a reload in between). He was a typical drill sergeant too - he "barked" at them like a drill sergeant and didn't tolerate the "sloppy" drilling that the new militia performed. Michael even thought he was serious when he dismissed the troops until 6:30am the next morning when they were to return and drill again!

After lunch, we took tours of the Capitol building and the Governor's Mansion, as well as many of the trademen. I feel certain I had toured the Capitol before, but if I had toured the Governor's Mansion, I didn't remember.

The Capitol was designed to house the "two" houses of Burgesses. One represented England and one represented the colonists. The adornments in their chambers clearly represented how they felt about each group - the "Governor's" side (which represented England) was elegantly adorned with velvet chairs and many decorations. The colonists side was sparsly furnished, with a wooden table and chairs. The Capitol was designed with a "meeting room" in the middle where the two houses were supposed to "come together" to resolve issues.

The Governor's Mansion was adorned to depict decorations of Governor Dunmore, the Governor at the beginning of the American Revolution. The first room we visited had a large portrait of Governor Spotswood, the first Governor to occupy the building. Michael was excited to hear that because we had read a chapter in our Virginia History book about Governor Spotswood.

One of the neatest thing about walking the streets of Colonial Williamsburg is the number of people dressed in period clothes. There is a parade in the late afternoon and leading up to that parade, there were many times that almost everywhere I looked, I saw "colonial" people. We even saw a colonial baby!!

After a few more visits to local tradesmen, and a quick shopping trip for some "authentic colonial items", we headed back to the Visitor's Center. We went to our second hotel this night - the Great Wolf Lodge. I will write more about the hotel tomorrow.