After a few days in the car it was a welcome relief to arrive at my parents house in rural Virginia. No traffic, no stoplights and on McDonalds signs to be discussed ad naseum with the kiddos! The kids knew just what to do:
The next day it was time for more books as we joined Amma hard at work at the library. John did a great job picking out his books:
Meanwhile I somehow got stuck reading what might have been the worst book ever to Matthew. This is what happens when our generation becomes parents and thinks it’d be a good idea to write about their favorite cartoon characters growing into teens and handling their dad’s midlife crisis. Seriously worst book ever.
There was of course more time for cuddles and kisses when we got home:
And John learned that Papa makes an excellent indoor climbing gym:
Hmmmmm . . . wonder who taught him that!
The kids had tons of fun with Papa’s remote control robot:
We headed out one day to explore the area with a picnic in Hidden Valley:
We took a short hike to explore the forest. Our river wading plans were thwarted by a very fast and high river.
Our little naturalists found quite a lot of mushrooms!
Ready and armed!
And poor John asleep during his first trip in the big backpack:
About the time we left John had just begun pulling himself up to cruise and he spent our vacation perfecting the skill:
And while it wasn’t really that warm out, we pulled out the baby pool for some afternoon fun!
Matthew has a book about bobbing for apples and while we were playing with the toys and discussing buoyancy I made a reference to bobbing for apples. Instead of explaining it again I decided to just toss some snacks in the pool and let him learn by doing!
They both “cheated” and used the stems but had fun doing it!
More cuddles from this very kissable baby!
Catherine helped prep dinner for us!
And it was time for a campfire and hot dog roast!
Oh, and Uncle Matt joined us!
Unfortunately our evening around the fire got cut short by a Yellowjacket attack on Catherine. She was a real trooper about the whole thing (eventually) as she got stung a handful of times. Poor James picked her up and ended up trapping the bug between them and got caught in the crossfire as well :( Unfortunately the next day when the kids were playing we heard Catherine scream again and all assumed it was just a fly or something and she was freaking out but no, sure enough she got attacked again. I was truly surprised after that one she was willing to go outside ever again. Luckily a dozen or so placebo band-aids seemed to do the trick!
More fun with papa:
We celebrated the 4th of July by heading over the mountain for an adorably short 4th of July parade:
John gave the whole experience the side-eye:
Flag waving kiddos:
and one serious baby:
The parade ended with a reading of the Declaration of Independence on the courthouse steps, followed by a variety of patriotic speeches and more.
And then we were led by the bagpippers to the local park for a BBQ and small festival:
Since Uncle Matt couldn’t spoil him like he did the big kids, John rocked the straw-sippy in lieu of a soda:
They had a cardboard village for the kiddos to paint:
John meanwhile checked out the flowers with me:
And Catherine took a much needed break with Uncle Matt:
I tried to get a picture of everyone-ish but Matthew was incredibly distracted by the spiderweb off to his right:
Matthew was pretty jazzed when he realized both Daddy and Uncle Matt were wearing Darth Vader shirts!
The information about this little festival was sparse at best and seemed to indicate the train museum would be closed, but to our surprise it was open! It’s been on our list of places to go with the kiddos for a while so we stopped in. We kicked off the visit with a ride on the small train:
And then explored the real train cars:
Operated the switch:
Blowing the whistle:
Hanging out on the caboose:
Learning to jump trains:
And fully practicing the hobo life:
When we got home it was time for some BBQing and some firecrackers. The kids had a ton of fun with the poppers but Catherine needed some help with the bigger poppers, both in strength and ear protection. She really doesn’t like loud noises!
Meanwhile poor John got a bit too much sun at the parade so he took to cooling off in the pool:
And some of Uncle Matt’s delicious ribs and homemade sauce didn’t hurt either!
Then it was back outside for fireworks! Poor Uncle Matt picked up a big variety pack at Wal-Mart only to discover they were all confetti popper type things, even the cone shaped ones that looked like, well, cones. Luckily we had plenty of sparklers:
And glow necklaces and bracelets:
The next day it was a little more hanging out and enjoying the mountain air before we embarked on our next adventure:
It was time to teach John how to head bump finally!
After an enjoyable respite from driving it was back on the road to Northern Virginia. These monkeys were TIRED!
When we arrived at Mas and Pas we realized our brakes were giving out, so after the excitement of arranging for car repair we could settle in and enjoy. Mas and Pas had some early/late birthday presents for the kids so a cupcake celebration was in order! The kids helped:
Meanwhile John kept us safe from roaming dinos:
And checked out the rocking horse!
New rainjackets and UVA gear were much appreciated and the cupcakes were deemed delicious!
The next day we had dinner with old friends, did laundry, packed and repacked, ran errands and in general got ready for our big flight to London! One of the most common questions I get is how did we pack for all of this? I’m still not really sure :-) I will say it helps immensely that James and I divided the labor that I was the logistics person and he was the schlepper. I packed and repacked, he hauled to and from the car. For the road trip we packed the van so that each night we only had to bring one suitcase and the coolers in from the car. For London we packed one big bag with the high chair, sleeping bags, John’s tent and my clothes, the kids’ clothes went in another bag and James’ clothes in another. We carried on one lightly packed carry-on with rain jackets and my big camera, and then each of us carried a backpack. It was a great age to travel with the kids in some ways because the older two are old enough to sit for an entire show/movie and John still can drift off to sleep almost anywhere and was mostly entertained by making faces at us, nursing or sleeping. We were flying on a red-eye and leaving for the airport at 5ish, so our day of departure felt like a lot of waiting. To keep the kids out of our hair and get them well-hydrated for the flight we set up a tea party for them and let them watch Youtube videos about London : )
Finally the moment came and we headed out. Luckily when you’re 4 and 6 all forms of transportation are exciting, including the trains at the aiport . . . and especially the moving walkways. Both Matthew and Catherine had mastered the moving walkways and escalators by themselves which was a huge help throughout the trip.
The cheapest flights we could find took us through Iceland on Iceland Air. Our departure from Dulles was textbook perfect. We were checked in swiftly and efficiently and when I asked if they had an open seat for a baby (John was flying infant in arms) they told me they had already moved me next to it! Here’s a happy baby on his first flight!
This was the only flight where we could use the carseat but it was a blessing to have it on the red-eye. John slept so-so, but because he wasn’t on me the whole time I got a bit of sleep too. Unfortunately there was another baby similarly aged about 2 rows back and everytime that baby fussed I woke up for her too!
Next up: London, London, London!