I like to split up presents and food so we can all enjoy everything, especially gifts. Here are the kids digging through their stockings in their adorable Christmas Morning PJs because I also, apparently, have made this a thing as well.

We always have to get some family pictures in, and testing the placement and settings has become a game in itself.

We ate early dinner so we could have dessert early enough for the kids to burn off some of the sugar…

And opened presents with enough time to help them burn off that sugar and to play with and forget about some of the gifts before going to bed. Though that green thing in the last picture is still in play. It’s supposed to encourage creative play, and boy does it. They can step on it, spin in it, wear it and look like a green-helmeted Dark Helmet, argue over it -so much fun.

Hatteras, North Carolina

We have discovered how much we enjoy being away from home over Thanksgiving. If we were able to get together with family and or friends, that would be one thing -because it’s no fun to cook a ton of food for so few people, and THE WHOLE POINT of Thanksgiving is to have a ton of food options and eat yourself into a coma! I will fight anyone who tries to tell me it’s about the Pilgrims and the Native Americans or a time to be thankful blah blah blah. Nope. Turkey and sides. I will allow for parades. … Where was I? Yeah -traveling. We take advantage of the Armed Forces Vacation Club (AFVC) to book cheaper places that are relatively empty of people. And this year, that made even more sense.

We went down to the Outer Banks last year, but stayed in Kitty Hawk. Hatteras is still on the Outer Banks, but farther south. There were very few people and we were able to avoid those who were there, and we did the vast majority of our grocery shopping at home so we didn’t have to venture out except for a couple things we found we needed once we got there (one of which was antacids for me to help, at least a little, with all-day sickness).

We didn’t do a whole lot while we were there -the point was really to get away from our house, but still socially isolate.

We had a full kitchen, which is generally what we try to get when we use the AFVC, so we cooked daily, to include Thanksgiving. I even made super quick apple turnovers-ish.

Random November Pics

Even though they were a week or so beyond the peek, James, Mom, and the kids were able to go leaf peeping, where they ended up back at Sky Meadows State Park for lunch, and further explored the Discovery Area. Clearly it was a nice day to be out and about.

These are just around the neighborhood. Evie is getting more adept and willing to ride her bike on various inclines, which has definitely broadened her enjoyment of the different trails around here.

I really enjoy Thanksgiving and I’m not a fan of extending the Christmas season beyond December, but I also do really enjoy Christmas ornaments and decorations (not enough to extend beyond what we have already, of course, but enough to be a little festive). Taking all of these notions into account, our decorations come out and go up the day after Thanksgiving, so instead of shopping, we stay in, make some wassail, decorate the tree, and hang the stockings. This was the first year Ben was generally aware that at least something was happening, and it was fun to see him involve himself in the decorating. Evie, leader of the kids, made sure Ben knew what to do and how.

Random October Pics

These are just of Ben enjoying his toddler bed, and him on a walk, throwing leaves into the stream below that bridge.

We went apple picking! This time to Hollin Farm, about an hour away from our house. It was a pretty nice day -clear and grew warmer as the day wore on -and there was an apple cider doughnut stand, so we all had a snack before we headed to the orchards. It took Ben a few tries to feel up to picking apples, and once he did, he had some trouble actually getting them off of the tree, but he had fun scurrying about directing us where to go. And by this point, Evie is a pro, so she knew exactly what to do. Also, by this point, Mom had come to live with us while the pandemic rages on, so she was able to go with us!

After apple picking, we went to the Sky Meadows State Park, which was pretty much next door to the farm, and found a lovely picnic area next to their Children’s Discovery Area, so we were able to have some lunch and the kids got to explore just a small bit of the Discovery Area before we headed back home.

Halloween! Evie wanted to be “Elsa from Frozen 2 when she finds the voice” and Ben had absolutely no opinion, so when I ordered Evie’s costume, I found one for Ben -Peter Pan! When we first got the costumes in and I had the kids try them on, Ben was not interested in wearing the hat. Once Halloween rolled around, and Evie made wearing the hat seem super fun for him, he was all about it. It was a pretty chilly evening, so the kids were wearing layers under their costumes, and they just rang our doorbell a few times to get some candy and pictures, then James took them to walk around and wave to neighbors at a distance as we all checked out each others costumes.

Random September Pics

Evie spent her last day before First Grade just hanging out, enjoying the nice weather with some tea. Ben spent it hanging out with Daddy and getting him to read a variety of books.

Even though we were doing distance learning, we still had to commemorate Evie’s first day of First Grade.

James had a birthday! We didn’t do a lot, of course, but there was food and gifts and hanging out and maybe a bike ride for James.

The picture of Ben was just to commemorate his wearing a shirt James had/wore when he was Ben’s age.

Random August Pictures

These are truly random pictures. No stories -except the one where Evie is washing her bike and Ben is totally helping -just some cute pictures. Of Ben, apparently.

Random July Pictures

There’s a park near one of James’ work locations that has a slew of wild raspberry bushes and we decided to take advantage of them and go raspberry picking with the kids. It was super hot and James was really the only one who managed to get a lot, in part because he had the farthest reach. But also because he knows what poison ivy looks like and I can’t, for the life of me, correctly recognize it so I just err on the side of caution. But, also, someone had to wrangle the kids. And feed them freshly picked raspberries (though there is no photographic evidence of this so it’s all just hearsay).

Ben and Evie’s play has a lot of roughhousing, which is fine, generally, but neither quite knows their own strengths or the fact that what might be fun for one might not be fun for the other.

Also, these are a before and after of Ben’s new (at the time) ‘do. It took a lot of convincing to get him to sit for this haircut, and he hasn’t let us do it again since. As it was, he wanted to quite as soon as James did the first swipe, which was obviously a no-go, so Ben wound up on my lap the hole time, clinging to me like James was going to sheer off his ear or something.

I was rearing to get out of the house, so we went to the Skyline Drive in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Not the whole thing, because that would be crazy, but a bit of it. And then, as we do, we stopped for a picnic lunch.

James’ Projects

James has been getting more and more into building things with wood, which is super awesome because I have a plethora of project ideas, one of which was a table to use and store my sewing machine and on which I could cut fabric, etc. I found some designs online and we we through them together to create something that would be useful for me and the various accoutrements I have, and that James could build with the tools he has (he did buy a couple other accessories, though).

He’s also made himself a workbench, and new chairs for the kids’ craft table (since the ones we had originally are both cheaply made and our kids can turn into Hulks). I painted the chairs, attempting to use up our spray paint. Also, Evie helped with the chairs, too; in this picture she’s sanding one of the planks like a boss.

The Fourth of July

We were supposed to go to Aunt Jan and Uncle Bob’s farm, but the coronavirus put those plans up in the air. At about the last minute, permission to travel beyond 120 miles was rescinded, so we stayed home and had our standard BBQ fare, plus some poppers and sparklers. And scooter-riding.

Random June Pictures

Wow. So it’s been 6 months since I’ve added anything to the site. That’s mostly been a function of having some storage issues with the site server, but also just the general craziness of trying to find a rhythm during quarantine, readjusting that rhythm as school begins… readjusting again as all-day-sickness sets in and remains… readjusting again as the holidays come upon us… you get the gist. But. I’ll get to it.

Evie had a final project for KSTEM in which she had to design and then build something. While she and James worked together on it, she was the one who came up with the initial idea and did the bulk of the design and execution. It was pretty awesome. You can’t see the whole thing in the last image, but it has a funnel up top to catch rain, and has a hose she can use to water the plants.

This is just… Ben. Before he finally let us cut his hair. Normally, he’s awake when I get him from his nap (prior to changing from the crib to the toddler bed), but I think on this day I must have woken him and that’s why he’s so mellow.

We have a lot of “self-service” areas in the house so the kids can just play with what they want to play with, and Evie’s started getting all the paint stuff out for her and Ben to use, to include the water. She’s even gotten really great at cleaning up after them -washing out the glass and the paint brushes, putting away the paints and paint shirts, etc. The other is of Ben on his bike with his HUGE helmet.

Finally, a few pictures from Father’s Day. After a hearty breakfast, we went for a hike along the various trails in the wooded areas close by. I made a couple different hand pies, plus chocolate chip cookies (of course), that we had at some nearby picnic tables, and then headed home to shower, open his present, relax, and then eat some more (James favorite dish: Eggplant Parmesan; that features a lot on special occasions).