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.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Day 4: Wash Out

"Wash Out" is how the weathermen were describing Tuesday in the Williamsburg area. This was the day we had planned to go to Colonial Williamsburg. The rain was due to start late morning and continue the rest of the day and night. We decided we didn't want to deal with that - even for a little while.

After breakfast at the hotel, Emma spent some time in the room with me and Mike took Samantha and Michael for a drive down the Colonial Parkway to Yorktown. Emma took a much-needed morning nap and the kids came back and went swimming. Everyone took an afternoon nap.

We took another drive down to Yorktown and got out to look at a couple of features of the battlefield. The entire area was being set up for the 225th celebration of the surrender at Yorktown, which was occuring on Thursday. Needless to say, we would NOT be going to Yorktown on Thursday. We did get to see some of the defenses and Michael continued to marvel at all the cannons.

We returned to Williamsburg and ate at a restaurant near the Visitor's Center called Huzzah!. Huzzah! was the battle call during the Revolutionary War. This restaurant served a menu that was "a little more colonial"

Monday, October 23, 2006

Day 3: Jamestown

Monday, October 16th

This is probably the highlight of the week for me. Michael definitely said that it was his favorite part of the trip.

We have been studying the founding of Jamestown in our American History lessons, so the kids had a lot to relate to when we went to Jamestown.

Now, it was confusing to figure out WHERE we actually wanted to go. There are 2 places to visit: Historic Jamestowne is the actual site where Jamestown was located; and Jamestown Settlement is a museum and fort recreation of Jamestown.

Historic Jamestown
We started with Historic Jamestowne because I figured if we went to the reproductions first we might not get them interested in the real thing. It was exciting to be there because in 1994, archeologists began finding artifacts of the real fort and have located all 3 sides of the fort. They are currently building a palisade over the original location of the Jamestown palisade (pictured above). There is also a church from the 1600s still on the site. They have built a wonderful museum full of original artifacts found on the site - there are thousands of them. And this museum is built on top of the remains of the original statehouse - and you can still see the original foundations in the floor of the museum. I purchased a great book written by the original archeologist who found proof of the original Jamestown Fort - I haven't had a chance to read it yet but I look forward to it.

The kids also got a chance to run and play along the river like I imagine kids did in the early days of Jamestown. I got Michael to slow down long enough to smile for this photo - at this point he was intrigued by every brick and stone he found that he thought might have been part of original Jamestown.

When we left the Historic Jamestown area, we went over to the Glasshouse. The kids were excited to see the glassblowing going on and it had been a long time since I had seen it myself. It was really interesting to see how they made items with such ease. I purchased a nice green vase for our house made there on the site!!

Jamestown Settlement
We then went over to the Jamestown Settlement. They had a nice cafe where we ate lunch. We then walked through a wonderful exhibit of Jamestown, the history of the peoples that lived there (Africans, Indians, English), their roots, and many other things that influenced the culture of Jamestown from the late 1500s until the early 1700s. What was wonderful about this exhibit, among everything else, is that this was the FIRST DAY it was open. It was a BRAND NEW exhibit. And to think we could have missed it if we had gone the day before.

We then walked through the reproduction of the Indian Village and the kids got to see the houses they lived in and how they lived. The path then led us down to the ship reproductions. There were only 2 ships there at the time because one had been sailed to Yorktown to be on hand for the celebration of the Victory at Yorktown later in the week. But, the kids were intrigued by the ships and how small they really were.

Finally, we spent some time in the reproduction of the Jamestown Fort. The kids got to walk through houses and see how they lived - and how the rich people had TWO rooms or a loft instead of just one room. We watched a demonstration of loading and firing a musket (Michael was intrigued but didn't like the sound) and got to model armor like the settlers wore at that time.

It was quite a full day and we ended it by riding the Jamestown Ferry over to Surry County and back, just for fun!

We tried to enjoy "local haunts" for meals during our trip - so dinner was at a local italian restaurant right down the road that was very nice!

Day 2, and Surprise Number 1

Sunday, October 15th

On our first full day in Williamsburg, we surprised the kids with a trip to Busch Gardens. We love Busch Gardens. We hadn't told the kids in advance because, obviously, we didn't want to be bugged every day and every hour about when we were going to Busch Gardens. We also wish that we could have put this on the END of the trip, but they are only open weekends, so this is when we went. It worked out for the best, actually, the way our other days fell together.

The kids really enjoyed the rides and rode a few more that they hadn't on our previous trip, such as the Battering Ram and the Big Bad Wolf rollercoaster. Emma also finally warmed up to the rides and enjoyed herself on several of the kids rides, like the kiddie swings and the gliders. We like the fact that Italy and "Dragon Land" have a bunch of kids rides together so that we can just spend some time there and have them ride all the rides they want.

We also got a good afternoon nap out of Emma. I think after NOT really napping in the car on the way down, and going to bed late, and NOT having a morning nap - it didn't take much to get her to sleep in the stroller in the afternoon. We didn't have our most comfortable stroller because we knew we would need the jogging stroller for Jamestown and Williamsburg, but she still slept well.

We left the park around dinner time because they had some "Halloween Themed" shows and activities and we thought many of those would be too much for the kids. We had also ridden most of the rides we wanted to ride, so we went ahead and headed back to the car and back to the hotel for dinner and bedtime!