Saturday, July 14, 2012

Lexington, VA

While we were checking out SVU, we stayed in Lexington, VA. It is a beautiful little town with tons of history and plenty to see.

It was fun to walk down the historic streets of the town and pop in and out of the little stores that lined the paths that have been walked by so many.
We spent some time taking a tour of Stonewall Jackson's home and learning about him. I had heard his name before, but knew nothing about him. You can tell my kids are being raised in the south though because they knew a bit about him before the tour. We had an interesting tour guide (he is a civil war expert, does reenactments, and is an extra in all of the civil war movies like Blue & Gray, North & South, etc.), and at first wondered what we were in for, but he turned out to be wonderful.
We then spent some time walking around the Virginia Military Institute. It is an amazing old campus that serves all of the branches of the military. It was the first state supported military academy, established in 1839. Part of it was burned down during the civil war and had to be rebuilt. The are several pieces of art on the campus that are extremely old, and the chapel is amazing. It reminded me of an older version of the chapel at the Air Force Academy.


We also spent some time driving around the campus of Washington and Lee. It was established in 1782, and endowed by Washington himself. Robert E Lee was the president of the university aft the civil war, and his name was added after his death. It has a very reputable law school, and from what everyone says, the students come from VERY wealthy families. The average household income for the parents of the students is $750,000 a year!!!

On our way out of town we stopped at Natural Bridge. This used to be owned by Thomas Jefferson, and he and George Washington used to spend time here relaxing in the beauty and wonder of it. Washington was a bit of a graffitier and left his initials in the stone.

We walked under the bridge and followed the path about 3/4 of a mile. It was a beautiful walk with plenty of neat things to see along the way such as a cave that they used during the civil war for making weapons and a replication of an Indian village that used to be in the area. At the end of the trail was a beautiful little waterfall. It was a very peaceful, easy walk, and we all really enjoyed it.

Our last stop on the way out of Lexington was the Natural Brigde Caverns. We seem to always enjoy exploring caverns. The colors in this one were mainly oranges and greens, which were beautiful. The cool temperature felt so nice after walking around outside for so long. As Rodney and I walked through it we could not help but reminise about the caving adventure we had taken with the Webb family many years ago in Alabama. It brought back some great memories.

We all had a good laugh when they turned out the lights to show us how pitch black a cave is, and there were Cambria's prize shoes glowing in the dark.

Who would have thought that so much to do could be found in Lexington, VA?!?! The good news is that we only scratched the surface, so if Declan ends up picking SVU we will have plenty more to explore!

Southern Virginia University

We went to visit SVU and meet the soccer coach. It is a beautiful, old campus that has been and is in the process of being restored. And it is small. No I really mean it, it is so small. Less than 800 people small. When we first got there I think both Rodney and I were a little taken aback by how small it actually is. And how old it is. The main classroom building still does not have air conditioning and has the old radiators for heat. They told us that the professors have to go hit on them in the winter when they start making noise. The gym has been converted from an old horse stable. The hang out is a small deli area with a tv and some games about the size of my kitchen/ living room area. The whole big tour we were anticipating lasted about 20 mins and consisted of a few buildings all steps away from each other. Several time Rodney and I just looked at each other like "What is he thinking!" Remarkably though, during that 20 mins we started to like the little school. The people were so nice, the area is so beautiful, the environment so close knit and like a family. We started to agree that we could, in fact, see Declan there. We then met up with the coach and spent about an hour and a half with him. He was a great man and was very welcoming and inviting. Basically in the end he kind of left it like, if Declan chose SVU he could be on the team, the end. He took us to the fields where we met up with a soccer player named Brandon.

Declan, Cambria and Brandon played around on the field for quite awhile. The field is near the top of a mountain surrounded by other mountains. The turf is awesome! The view is spectacular! It was also HOT and HUMID!

After we were done at the fields Brandin took Declan out with a group of college kids to go bridge jumping, where they go to this old bridge and jump off 30 ft into the water below. He had a blast meeting boys and girls, and showing them up by climbing to the top and jumping off.

That night we took Brandon out to eat at a local Italian restaurant, and then went to a yogurt place where we met more students. The more we hung out, the more Rodney and I could see Declan being very happy there. It really had that small, hometown, family feel.

The next morning we met back up with Brandon and some other players at the field and spent the next few hours watching Declan play with them as they scrimmaged a Hispanic group. It was crazy because it was so foggy for the first hour or so that you could hardly see. It was fun to see them play, and they won. Honestly, I think his club team would have beat them, but the level of play has to be Declan's decision.

It was a great little trip. Declan was very happy with how it went. Rodney and I left content to let him make the decision.

I just have to pinch myself every so often to remind myself that all this college thing is really happening and it is not just a dream.....


Monday, June 25, 2012

Washington, DC

We dedicated 3 days to visiting DC, and nearly killed the kids, and ourselves for that matter, as we attempted to see as much as we could. Of course, DC was as incredible as ever!

Day 1

Day one of DC (Monday) was overcast and in the low 70's. It had drizzled in the early morning, so the temp was even a bit chilly at times.

We of course had to make a pit stop and grab new hoodies in order to make it through the day.

We knew that the weather was going to get warmer as the week progressed so we decided to hit the outside sites hard that day.

The girls marched though the streets of DC shouting out the cadence and singing patriotic songs. It was so funny to see the expressions on people's faces as they passed by. Several people gave them applause. They were giggling and having so much fun.
We saw the White House,
The Lincoln Memorial,

The Washington Memorial,

The MLK Memorial,

The Korean War Memorial,

Along with the Vietnam Wall and the World War Two Memorial.

We also spent some time indoors while we visited the Renwick Gallery.

(Decota's favorite piece which had really neat saying etched into the dress)

(An incredible piece which, at first we thought was stupid- just a grandfather clock with a sheet thrown over it- until we realized that the whole thing, sheet and all, we're really one piece of solid mahogany! It was amazing!)

We also made a quick trip through part of the Hirshhorn Gallery before it closed!

and a visit to the Air and Space Museum.

All in all it was a very productive day, but we were exhausted after walking 7+ miles that day, and the hot tub was a very welcome way to end our first day.

Day 2

We decided to start out day 2 (Tuesday) of DC with some time in Georgetown. It was neat to see the cute little row houses that lined the blocks. We spent some time shopping (which Decota and Haley loved and Declan despised), and indulged in some Georgetown Cupcakes as seen on the tv show DC Cupcakes.

I am not generally a cupcake lover, but OH MY GOSH, these cupcakes are seriously to die for. I got the caramel and was in heaven. I also tasted the coconut, yummy!!! Way to good to be legal!

We got there just in time because as soon as we got in and ordered a line formed and it went out the door. They had to have someone letting people in as others left. I guess it is like that all the time. CRAZY!!!

After we lunch we headed back to DC. First we stopped at the American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery. Declan was so excited to go to this museum as it had a special display called The Art of Video Games. It was a pretty neat exhibit and it reminded us of how quickly and how far video games have come since the beginning. Another neat thing we saw was the original Joseph Smith portrait that you see everywhere.

The interior of this building was amazing! It was seriously a piece of art in itself.

My favorite piece in the museum was the Preamble which was done using licence plates from all of the states.

The last place we went on day two was the American History Museum. I love this museum. I love all of the memorabilia, and finding out odd little facts about the things we take for granted these days (like how when shopping carts were invented by a man in Oklahoma, he had to hire models to go into the grocery stores and promote them and show people how they worked in an effort to convince them that they were practical since nobody wanted to use them.)

The overall favorite exhibits at this museum were the First Ladies dresses and china, and the original flag that inspired the Star Spangled Banner. It was soooo impressive, and especially relevant since it had flown in the War of 1812, and we had just been at the celebration of the War of 1812. The exhibit also answered all of our questions about the War of 1812, and was very moving.

Once again, we left DC with aching backs and tired legs, but it was another very successful day!

Day 3

After taking a day off to recoup, we headed back to DC for day 3 (Thursday) to finish off the things we had wanted to do but didn't get a chance to yet. This day we broke up into smaller groups in order to make sure everyone got in the things they wanted to see. I took a taxi to pick up tickets to the Holocaust Museum while the group spent some time in the National Gallery of Art. When I returned Rodney stayed and spent some more time there while the rest of us went back to the Hirshhorn to finish up the parts of the gallery we did not get to see the first day.

They had a neat exhibit on light, and we had some fun exploring it.

Then I took all 5 of the older kids to the Holocaust Museum while Lori took Ava to the Natural History Museum and Rodney went to the Native American Museum. The Holocaust Museum was so crowded. I think the crowds took away a little bit of the atmosphere of the museum. It was interesting, but not nearly as emotional as I think we were all expecting. At the beginning we went through a part called Daniel's story which was done based on the book. It was done in a way that younger kids could learn about the Holocaust without all of the trama. We all really enjoyed this section. I think the kids were prepared to be shocked in the museum, and were surprised when they were not. I think this is because of all of the books they have read on the Holocaust . When they read the books they become emotionally involved with the characters, when you walk through a museum you are just observing without the connection a book brings you. It was not until the very end that we felt any of that emotion. At the end of the tour we entered a room with seats and a huge TV screen. On that screen a video was playing interviews of survivors and rescuers of the concentration camps. The interviews were done not to long ago, and the people are now all in thier older years. They have married, raised families, and have grandchildren. They have lived long, full lives. However, as each of them started recollecting their stories of survival, of the ones they lost, of the nightmares that they witnessed, their countenances changed, thier eyes become haunted, and thier emotions betrayed them. Decades have passed, generations have been born, and yet the horror lives on deep within thier souls. As you listen to these people tell thier stories, you become emotionally involved, and what you have just seen in the museum becomes so much more real. This is when it hit me. This is when I cried.

After we left the museum we hurried to meet up with everyone so that we could get out of DC before the traffic hit and make it home in time to grill, make s'mores, and do a little kayaking before it got dark.

Our 3 busy days in DC finally took thier toll, and we had a car full of sleeping kids all the way back to Anapollis.

In the end everyone was able to see what they had hoped they would get to see in DC, and more. We had a great time, accomplished a ton, and made many, many lasting memories.

I'd say DC was one giant SUCCESS!


Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Today we had a bit of a down day to recover from our DC visits. We are headed back there tomorrow, so I will post all of DC at once.

We lounged around, did laundry, and pretty much just took our time all morning and into the afternoon. When we were finally up and dressed we decided to go into Annapolis and look around. We drove by one of the original 14 national cemeteries that Abraham Lincoln established, we drove by the oldest existing State House, which happens to be where Washington resigned as commander of the military, and also where he signed the Treaty of Paris, and then we parked right next to these old buildings and began our stroll through the old town shops. It is amazing that these old building still exist. The brick is beautiful, and with it's narrow streets it is easy to imagine the people of old walking down the same roads we were. It was fun to stroll through all of the little boutiques and shops and find little treasures.

We stopped in a Delly (yes, that is how they spelt it) called Chick and Ruth's Delly that was shown on the show Man vs Food, and ordered a couple 6 pound milkshakes. I am sad and glad to say we only made it through 6 pounds of milk shake total instead of 12.

When we got back to the house we decided we needed to work a little of that milkshake off so we headed to the backyard to kayak. Cambria was so excited to get in, and then thought about sharks and made a quick loop back to the dock and hopped right out. Decota and Syd loved exploring together. Declan kayaked all over the place, and then watched Ava closely as she learned. And then Lori and I took a turn at dusk and enjoyed the calm of the water and night

Rodney stayed on the dock and did a little fishing. Almost every cast brought in another fish! He helped Ava catch one and she was thrilled, but not enough to kiss it.

We have been having such a great time that when Lori and the girls were talking about how much they were going to miss us, Rodney decided we would stay an extra night and just head out to Declan's college tour real early Friday morning. Everyone just wants a little more time, so our wish was granted :)