Frederick, MD

Megh, Joan, and Kelly
Megh, Joan, and Kelly

My sister-in-law, Kelly, earned her Masters in Environmental Education from Hood College in Frederick, MD.  Road trip!

Day 0:

We rolled into town on Friday morning, 1 AM.  (I would have stopped earlier and finished the drive in the morning but arrangements had been made.)  Delaware was the worst, as usual — expensive tolls and traffic problems, even at midnight.  I hate Delaware.

Day 1: Laying Low

After a late start, breakfast, and a quick dip in the motel pool, we visited Kelly at work – the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park.

View across Antietam valley
Antietam Battlefields, MD

An excellent lunch in town at the Desert Rose Café, then a visit to Antietam (a quick hop skip and jump down the road).
I, unfortunately, took a nap in our car while the rest of the group did the self-driven tour in Joan’s car, but I did capture a great photo from the visitor’s center.

Day 2: Graduation Ceremony

We laid low in the morning, except for an egg and sausage casserole that Kelly made which couldn’t be beat.

Hood college has a beautiful campus. The ceremony was appropriately timed and the weather was beautiful.
Dinner was at a local brew pub, Barley and Hops. Their porter was delicious.

Day 3: Hiking and Gettysburg

Cunningham Falls State Park, MD
Cunningham Falls State Park, MD

We went to Cunningham Falls with a huge crew: Tim, Kelly and Damien; Joan; Jerry and Karol (Kelly’s parents);  Max, Manmeet, Uma, and Simon (cousins and their children).  Plus ourselves.

We split two ways and took two different trails – the easy and hard ways.  They meet at the falls (pictured).

Afterwards, since we were so close, we headed over to Gettysburg and walked to the “bloody wall” from the museum.  The kids kept going like troopers.


Adults sitting on a rock and being boring
The adults, doing adult things, at Cunningham Falls

Jury Duty

I was called for jury duty today. I’ve never served on a jury before and, stroke of luck, I still haven’t – the required number of jury seats were filled before my number was called. I’m still exempt from serving for another three years, though!

It’s a shame, really – after I saw the case I was actually looking forward to being on the jury (just a little).  It would have been a same day trial.  I’ve never seen a trial before, and I briefly considered staying and watching as a member of the community, but I was hungry and it was almost lunch time and I wanted to eat with Megh if I could (which I did).

I was surprised by the friendliness of the court staff.  One would think that stepping newbies through the system two or three days per week would make them tired of the same stupid routine, but everyone we (the prospective jurors) interacted with was friendly and courteous.  They behaved professionally  — even with the one guy who was apparently stoned for jury duty.  He was interviewed but ultimately not placed in the jury.

STEM Night 2014

Our school system sponsored a ‘Family STEM Night’.  Being nerds, of course we went.  Two hours of playing with stuff!

20140501 owl pellet
Dissecting an owl pellet

The coolest table was all about dissecting owl pellets.  I helped Beta uncover a vole (we think it was a vole – it could have been a small rat, the jaws are pretty similar).

There were also tables with:

  • magnets and electricity, with little motors and big batteries you could play with
  • growing plants (with a seed and a cup of dirt)
  • making goo (not sure about the science aspect, and it was sponsored by Pfizer so it’s even more dubious, but it was fun)
  • making a levitating “train” with magnets and a fixed track
  • making structures using toothpicks and marshmallows
  • blowing up peeps and boiling cold water with a vacuum and a bell jar (my second favorite, I should have taken a pic)
  • robots, with a large mobile robot, a roomba, and a small r/c vehicle for the kids to try (with a video feed in the controller, woo!)
  • using strobe lights, with a stream of green-colored water dripping in time with the strobe (so the drips appeared to be stationary)
Strobe light on continuous liquid drips
Thanks to the strobe light, the picture documents what we saw – stationary drops of water

One dark spot: a table that was supposed to be about archaeology but it was muddled, including this dubious definition:

Archeological Dig

Next Generation Science Standard:

3-LS4-1. Use fossils to describe types of organisms and their environments that existed long ago and compare those to living organisms and their environments.  Recognize that most kinds of plants and animals that once lived on Earth are no longer found anywhere.

Archeological Dig Next Generation Science Standard: 3-LS4-1. Use fossils to describe types of organisms and their environments that existed long ago and compare those to living organisms and their environments.  Recognize that most kinds of plants and animals that once lived on Earth are no longer found anywhere.
Bad science at the STEM Fair. Can you see what’s wrong with this definition?

Well, the kids had fun and didn’t notice the mistakes.  Alpha and Beta both left talking about going into biology – which makes me happy.  And I guess the fair achieved it’s aims.

Oh, and there was a hovercraft.  It was not full of eels.

Aquarium ho!

Beta has been begging to go to the Aquarium. So, we gathered up the Sleep Over girls, crated the dog, and headed out.
First, LUNCH!

Alpha and Rho having lunch on the bench. There were no tables available.

Then, the Aquarium!


The girls had a great time. I had a great time. Dad had a great time. We messed with our camera settings. We swapped kids (once without either of us realizing), and just generally had a blast. Did the gift shop, and escaped without buying anything. Still happy about the lack of new stuffed animals.

We stopped off at Quincy Market, and Beta picked up a pair of bracelets. After that back to the car. Which is when we saw this lovely lady:


Yes, that’s a wild turkey. In Boston. On India Street. She’s a pretty ballsy bird.

All in all, a wonderful day.

Busy busy day

First, there was the BOING You’re Awake! thing at 4 AM. Not so fun. But I did get up early, cleaned the house, and then sent the kids and Dad off to Karate.

Only to have him run poor Beta home sick. She was fine an hour later (most of that hour was spent in the shower, but hey – what ever works), so she was on for:


Beta during the demo portion of the promotion
Beta during the demo portion of the promotion

Here she is during the demonstration of a shuto. Pretty cool stuff! She did great during the demos, broke her board, and was apparently well behaved during the rest of the ceremony.

At the end of the demo, they did a quick self-defense show. Beta giggled the whole time, but managed to knock Sensei Anthony off, and pretend to run. Not bad for an 80 pound kid!

They let me give her the new belt. She worked really hard for it, and we are very proud of her. She loved the weapons demonstrations, so I have a feeling she’ll be working her buns off so she can learn how to use those, too. I didn’t get to stay for the whole thing, because I had to go get ready for:


Alpha's Birthday Cake
Alpha’s Birthday Cake

All she wanted was to go play Laser Tag. So, being the awesome parents we are, we did just that. Got her two close friends together (along with a random brother, Beta, and two dads), and off they went into the Jungle at the MVP. Half an hour later, they all tumbled out, exhausted and smiling like loons. So, apparently laser tag is fun!

After that, there were games (two batches of tokens later), pizza and birthday cake. Alpha’s friend, Rho, is a real shark. I think she had over 400 tickets by the end of the party. The Mini-Scot didn’t have as many, but apparently he had a grand time watching other people play. His dad and I tried to get the Nook out of the key-hole game. Its still there if you want a go. 🙁

Rho’s present was a huge hit, as was the Mini-Scot’s.  Then came


Alpha is sleeping over at Rho’s house tonight. God love her mother, she invited Beta along, too. We decided she might want her house to still be standing in the morning, so we told her Beta would stay home and watch The Lorax. So, Alpha went with Rho, and Beta came home with us and the Mini-Scot.


The Mini-Scot and his family have a large pony of a dog of the Newfoundland type. He’s a moose, no other word for him. As we moms were standing at the window, watching the children get ready for a quick bike ride, Lady-Scot looks up and starts howling. I didn’t get the initial shot (which would have been the best one), but here is one that I did get (and yes, that is us giggling like loons in the background):

Birthday Party, Part Deux (this time, with lasers)

Alpha’s choice of birthday party was laser tag at MVP.  (Last year we celebrated her birthday with mini-golf at the same place.)  So with a small group of her friends and a couple of adults, we tromped in and had a great time!

I rocked the scores.  Admittedly, there were more kids than adults (myself, Sam, and another adult not attached to our party) and a bunch of kids (again, not all attached to our party) but I really did wipe the other team out twice – two for two. Sam was a not-too-close second.)

I think we need to assemble some more adults and have another laser tag party there some time.  It’s like paintball without the bruises.

Afterwards: pizza and cake and video games, of course. Gifts were exchanged, some of which Alpha was really excited to see.

Alpha is currently off for a sleepover at Rho’s house.  (Like other greek letter-named people in this blog, that is not her real name – though I could imagine someone naming their child Rho so I feel like I should note that occasionally).  After all the trouble Alpha had in adjusting to the move, I never thought that we would be exchanging kids with another family so regularly as we have with Alpha and Rho.

Just an aside: I was chatting with Rho’s mother during the party, and it turns out that Alpha and Rho were rating boys at the last sleepover.  <sigh>

Beta’s Karate Promotion

Beta with belt, excited by promotion
Beta forgets that belts go around the waist, not head

Beta child has hit her first big karate milestone: graduating from a white belt to orange.

Not much story for this one, just some photos that I snuck in when I wasn’t too busy watching.

The newly-promoted students demonstrated their kata – the forms that they learn in class.  The higher-level students (quite a few adults, older than me) looked choreographed in their moves – exact and synchronized.

I stayed for the entire ceremony, simply thinking that it would be polite, and found the higher-degree demonstrations to be fascinating.  The nunchacku was especially cool – Beta thought so too.

Beta child after promotion
Beta lined up with the other recently-promoted kids from her class, and very obviously excited

deCordova Museum

The kids are on April break, I took the week off to be with them, and Meghan is at work.  It’s a great time to do something out of the ordinary, especially since it’s a bright sunny day.

I know – something educational!  Something cultural!  Art!

I brought my little heathens to the deCordova Museum‘s sculpture park.  (The main museum is closed while they prepare for the summer exhibits.)  It’s a huge outdoor exhibit, so they can run around and get some fresh air while taking in some mind-broadening experiences.

When I take the girls to art museums I coax them to pose like the artistic subjects (when possible – modern art gets a little hard).  It makes them focus on the art at hand as well as learn to use their bodies, but best of all they think it’s fun.

Kids posing with sculpture
Alpha and Beta posing with some modern art

This was our first time there, but I think we’re going to get a membership now.  I had to drag the kids away and bribe them with lunch at a restaurant.

Old Sturbridge (April 2014)

It’s been a beautiful spring weekend after a stormy March.  A trip to Old Sturbridge Village is in order.  Its the last day we can bring Butter the dog until autumn.

The Quinebaug River is pretty full after all the storms:

Quinebaug River Dam
The water was a full foot higher than the top of the dam
Megh and the kids playing pooh sticks on the Quinebaug River
Megh and the kids playing pooh sticks on the Quinebaug River

Some of the fields are flooding too.  Fortunately the flooded parts aren’t regular exhibits.

Flooded OSV fields
Flooded fields (plus you can see the moon)

Of course, we’re expecting another inch of rain tomorrow night, so this might be even more flooding in a couple of days.  Sadly we won’t be around to enjoy the carnage.

We went with our friends Sam and Joanne, and their son.  The kids tire each other out quite effectively.  I didn’t get a photo of them playing in the dirt.

Beta works the pottery churn
Beta channels Conan the Barbarian while working the pottery churn

While there, we accidentally ran into our friends Pat and Kelly.  We haven’t seen them since before we moved, so we skipped lunch and caught up instead.  Afterwards, when we finally got food, the kids were clearly hungrier than we were but they hadn’t complained while the Pothiers were around – too much fun to notice little things like your stomach gnawing on your backbone.

Alpha and Alpha-Pothier played like it hadn’t been five minutes since the last time they saw each other – they’ve known each other pretty much since birth.

The Pothiers
The Pothiers and their Pothiettes (plus some random kids that happened to be there)

We did get the children to sit still for a couple of seconds to take a group photo.  This is the only ‘straight’ photo, the dozen or so others have various rabbit ears and everyone cutting up.

Joneslings, Pothiettes, and Gaileys
Joneslings, Pothiettes, and Gaileys


Visiting the USS Albacore

My earlier plan to hide under the bed not-withstanding, we decided to head out into the weather to do something fun today. What to do?

We could have gone to the Science Museum, or the Aquarium. We could have gone to see the Constitution and the Bunker Hill Memorial (on Breed’s Hill, but who’s keeping track). Nope. We have several submariners in the family, and there is a submarine open to the public in New Hampshire. Here we come, USS Albacore! wpid-DSC_0206.jpg

The guys running the museum are fantastic. They clearly like well-behaved kids. The girls were told they could touch everything, get into the bunks, and drive the boat (who, apparently will veer towards dives).

wpid-DSC_0195.jpg wpid-DSC_0197.jpg

And touch and drive and try out the bunks they did!wpid-DSC_0202.jpgwpid-DSC_0194.jpg

According to both Dad and the girls, this is a much better submarine to visit than the USS Nautilus. The guys working the museum agreed. “We don’t talk about that other boat down in Groton. We clearly have the better boat.” We happily spent well over half an hour poking around, trying out bunks, and getting into mischief in the galley. It was just a fantastic day over all.

And we accidentally visited Kittery, Maine. Not many places you can say you accidentally visited a state just by taking the wrong bridge…