Friday, July 25, 2014

More Baltimore

While in Baltimore, we visited a friend of ours from freshman year of college at BYU. Ben Pacini lived on the same floor of the dorm as Mckay and they became really good friends. Ben lives in Baltimore now and it was really great to catch up and meet his wife and son. We decided to meet downtown one day for lunch at a Thai restaurant. This was supposed to be the best Thai food in town but, unfortunately we never got to taste the food. Shortly after being seated, we were told that there was a gas leak in the kitchen and they would have to close for the day. Still craving Thai food, we made a plan B. A nice couple the next table over told us about their second favorite Thai restaurant that was only a few blocks away. We walked over there only to find a sign on the door.
"Sorry, we are closed today." Mckay was not impressed.

We settled on a nearby Chipotle. Not Thai, but still tasty.

Ben teaches middle school math in inner city Baltimore, so he gave us a little driving tour of the neighborhoods surrounding his school. It was very humbling to see some of the living conditions that his students are in and hear stories of the challenges they face.

Later in the trip, we went to Ben's house and the 3 little boys had a blast playing together.
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They were all singing, screaming, yelling and dancing, each in their own world. It was great dinner entertainment.

***
We had to do a paddle boat tour of the Baltimore inner harbor. At the rental place, the boat choices were a regular paddle boat or a "Chessie" monster paddle boat. Can you guess which one we choose?
The Chessie boat was more enclosed and had safer seats for the kids, so our choice was strictly safety related. It had nothing to do with the boys wanting the cool looking boat...

This wasn't explained to us at all at the harbor, but since coming home and looking it up, I've discovered the meaning behind the boat name. "Scotland may have its "Nessie" but only at the Inner Harbor will you spot a Chasapeake Bay 'Chessie' Monster." (From the paddleboat website)


Connor loved it so much he could hardly keep his eyes open.

We got to paddle around the harbor for 30 minutes. 
It was a very small roped off area, so 30 minutes was plenty of time.

(Another group in a Chessie boat)

Our next stop was Fort McHenry, where Francis Scott Key wrote the Star-Spangled Banner during the War of 1812.
(Technically, Key was not at the fort when the events detailed in the song took place. He was being detained on a British ship at the time. Fun fact for you...)

It was a cloudy cool day and we used public transportation to get around that day. The bus drops off right at the gates to Fort McHenry, with a short 1/4 mile walk to the Visitors Center from there. Rain came pouring down as soon as we got off the bus so that by the time we made the short walk to the visitors center, we were soaked. We looked around the little museum and watched a short movie while we waited for our clothes to dry a bit. The rain let up eventually and we walked the rest of the way out to the fort.


We explored all the dark, musty storage rooms.


And we only had to lock up the boys once.
  


It was really interesting to learn/relearn about our nation's history. And thanks to the National Park Service creating the Access Pass, people with a permanent disability (e.g. Dallin) can get a lifetime pass to visit all the national parks for free. The National Parks are even cooler when they're free.
(Pass information found HERE)

Since Washington D.C. is only an hour from Baltimore, we planned a little extra time after Mckay's conference to visit DC. More on that to come...

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Baltimore or bust!

In June, Mckay presented at a conference in Baltimore. Like we did for the same conference one year ago in Minnesota, we decided that the whole family should come along and we'd make a little vacation/road trip out of it.

The morning we left Indiana, we pulled the boys straight out of bed and put them into the car. We threw them a pancake to eat and began driving.
(Cheetos must be our favorite road trip snack.)

Connor looks like he's still waking up.

The 10 hour drive was great. I didn't realize how green and tree-filled the east is. We drove on some highways with gorgeous views.

We stopped to eat dinner about an hour outside Baltimore. Can you guess where we ate?
Cafe Rio!!!

I haven't been to a Cafe Rio in 4 years and it tasted just as good as I remembered. Now that our children are getting old enough to require their own meal when we eat out, we were pleasantly surprised to see that they offered a free kids quesadilla (to kids 6 and under-maybe?). It's a simple corn tortilla with cheese on it, but that's all our kids would have eaten anyway. 

 On Sunday (Father's Day), we went to a nearby church. Mckay was very disappointing that it was stake conference for this ward and we didn't get to hear any talks about fathers. We relaxed at the hotel, drove around a bit and went to see the Washington DC temple grounds and visitor center.
I'm always amazed at how much effort goes into landscaping/maintaining the temple grounds. It is a wonderful, beautiful place.

The rest of the week, while Mckay was at the conference, we went to see fun things around Baltimore. I found this really cool library not far from downtown that has a really interesting children's area called Storyville. It's essentially a small, free children's museum contained within the library that has lots of fun activities for the kids with a big emphasis on literacy. They request no electronic usage (except for cameras) so that parents stay engaged with their children while they explore/learn.

Connor took care of diapering the babies and doing the laundry while Dallin "cooked" in the play kitchen.

Next we visited the construction site where there were lots of puzzles and building toys.
Near each station/section in the library is a shelf of books with topics related to that particular area. I was semi-proud that we were already familiar with most of the books in the construction section and that Connor could recite most of them along with me. I guess our local library is not to shabby either...

I did a puppet show with the two boys about the three little pigs and the wolf. Here is their retelling of the story:
video
script from the show:
Dallin (wolf): (prolonged knocking at the door) Hi, can I play at your house?
Connor (pig): Can I play at your house?
Dallin (wolf): I want to blow your house... (Blowing sounds)
(all the puppets fall down)

Roles switched:
video
New script:
Connor (wolf): Little pig, let me in!
(blowing sounds)
Dallin (pig): Can I play at your house? Please, I want to play at your house!
(fighting with puppets)

Somehow they think this story is about playing at a friend's house...

There was a fishing/wildlife area. 

And a grocery store.

I know it's video overload, but I loved watching them check out their own groceries.
video
I guess they are learning and picking up a lot from their surroundings, even at the grocery store.
video

After the library, I drove back to downtown, getting lost several times along the way. We finally found our way to the harbor.
We walked around for a while and waited for Mckay to be finished for the day, then joined him and his colleagues for dinner. Dinner was great until Connor threw up on me. We left quickly after and I got lost once again walking back to the parking garage. It was a fun day, but at the end of it, I was very glad to be back at our hotel.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Strawberries and hiking

Last month we went to a local farm to pick strawberries!
The field was a little damp/muddy from rain the day before so we wore boots and prepared to get dirty.

The beautiful strawberries were all bright red, sweet and juicy. 

Connor and Dallin helped pick for a few minutes and then they just watched me pick the rest. Thanks, guys. The farmers gives you an orange flag so you can mark where you left off picking on your row for the convenience of the next picker. Dallin took care of holding the flag for us.

Connor took pictures for me. I'll spare you from most of the finger covered shots he took of other people picking with butts in the air. Here are his two best pictures: 

Not bad. 

We picked 6 pounds of strawberries. That was more than enough for snacking and making a lot of strawberry freezer jam.

Later that week, we went on a little hike with some friends at the nearby State Park.
Connor and his 2-year-old girl buddy held hands on the walk.

 Then Dallin and his 5-year-old girl buddy decided to join in the hand holding.
They tried walking with hands held in a circle, "Ring-around-the-rosie" style, but that proved very difficult for them.

So they finally settled on holding hands in a line. 
 Our friends will be moving in a few weeks, so we've been soaking up all the fun time we can get with them. We've really enjoyed getting to know their family these 4 years that we've lived here.