Open Source – Library of Congress 3D Printed Ornament

My latest 3D printing project is a Christmas Ornament inspired by the Library of Congress. It is currently one of the 20 Finalists in the White House 3D Printed Ornament Design challenge. Since the challenge was hosted by Instructables, all my step by step instructions of how to model the ornament in Blender (and the downloadable .STL file) can be found up at Instructables.

Jefferson Reading Room and Silver Ornament
Inspiration and Rendered Ornament
Image on the left is by Carol M. Highsmith and in the Public Domain.

The ornament can also be printed at Shapeways.

November 13, 2014 at 1:59 pm 1 comment

Open Source: Making a School Bus Wine Stopper with Blender, Shapeways, and Niles Bottle Stoppers

My mother drove a school bus for 24 years. During the school year she called Friday and Saturday nights “Wine Nights” because she could drink a glass a wine and not have to worry about getting up obscenely early the next morning. Well, after 24 years, she retired, meaning every night could be a wine night!

To help celebrate, I wanted to get her a school bus wine stopper. Oddly enough, there seem to be an absence of products that combine “school bus driving” and “alcohol.” : ) Luckily, that’s exactly the niche 3D printing and Shapeways is for! I designed and 3D printed her a customized School Bus Wine Stopper.

Day of Making - Bus
From Model to Reality

I’m still new at 3D Modeling and Blender and by no means an expert.  But for what it is worth, here’s how I made my School Bus Wine Stopper a reality with Blender, Shapeways, and SS Niles Bottle Stoppers. Maybe something out there will be helpful to your projects!

Recommended Best Practice – Don’t Recreate the Wheel If You Don’t Need To
With 3D printing, you often pay by the volume for the material. With that in mind, was it worth it to me to pay more to print the stopper portion? Bottle stoppers on the internet were just a couple of dollars. It would cost me more to custom-print that portion. Purchasing a pre-made stopper also took some risk out of my process as that was one less piece I had to worry about sizing right and fitting with O-rings and all that. An added bonus is the only material (as of this post writing) at Shapeways that is “food-safe” is the ceramics and I knew I wanted my stopper to be in steel.

I purchased Bottle Stoppers from SS Niles Bottle Stoppers. It was already a proven product and manufactured in FDA-grade food-safe stainless steel. They have many different types of stoppers to choose from for different applications.  I used the 302 product which included a 3/8” stud.

Wine Stopper from Niles Bottle Stoppers
#302 from Niles Bottle Stoppers

Recommended Best Practice – Plan Ahead
It really really really helps to know what material you plan on printing in and what it’s limitations are, so you know your measurements from the get go. Shapeways has detailed design recommendations for each of its materials. For my mother’s wine stopper, I knew I wanted steel. I knew from the breastfeeding pendants that it feels solid and sturdy. I also knew the gold plated steel (which happens to be school-bus appropriate yellow) is gorgeous. A rigorous review of the steel materials properties page had me mentally poised that all my walls, all my engravings, etc would have to be 1 mm deep and wide. Knowing that from the very beginning was immensely helpful for the design.

I took measurements of existing wine stoppers and the stopper I ordered from Niles Bottle Stoppers so I knew my dimension of my bus right away. Although it is easy to scale things in Blender, I still recommend knowing your base object size right away. Here’s why– if you do all your engravings and additions and then you size your object up or down– you’re also mucking with the sizes of all your details. So if you had a compliant 1mm engravings and you size it down to 75%, suddenly, you have engravings that are now too short and you’ll have to fix them all.

Recommended Best Practice – Naming Your Objects
My day job is programming and I definitely know the benefits of naming your form elements. I found the same thing to be beneficial in modeling in Blender. I ended up with dozens of objects for my windows and doors and headlights. Keeping the default names of “Cube.001”, “Cube.002”, “Cube.003” would have been tedious to keep up with, so I made sure to give them more meaningful names.

Naming Objects
Naming My Objects!

Process – The Bus Base
I started with two “cubes” that I scaled to make the body of my bus. I selected them both and went to Object->Join to fuse them into a single object.

Joining Objects
Joining Objects

I wanted to round the corners, but I didn’t want to bevel every single edge, so I got to learn about setting the Bevel Weight for specific edges in order to control how each edge was going to be beveled.

Setting Bevel Weight
Setting Bevel Weight

And then I went under Modifiers and added a Bevel Modifier.

Bevel Operator
Bevel Operator

Process – Engraving Versus Embossing
With my details for the bus, I had a couple of choices, I could engrave my windows and doors into my bus base so they were set into the bus body, or I could raise them out of the bus base. At the time I chose engraving. Why? I’m a cheapskate. With the steel pricing at the time, the amount of material was the biggest factor in cost. Everything you engrave out of your design, that is less material and saves you money!

Process – Hollowing the Object
And speaking of saving on material cost, my bus is hollow underneath. There are different techniques to hollowing objects out. With this project, I simply made some smaller cubes and used the Boolean Modifier (more on that below) to subtract them from the bigger bus.

Bus Hollow Underneath - Save Money
Hollow Bus

Process – Boolean Modifier Crazy!!!
After that, pretty much of the rest of this project was all done through the Boolean Modifier. I did a LOT of subtracting of objects from each other. A lot of it.

The Boolean Modifier is pretty easy. You click on your Base Object and then you click on the Modifiers icon. You select Boolean. Then for Operation, most of what I did was Difference (Subtracting one object from another). Then you select your second object.

Boolean Modifier in Blender
Boolean Modifier!

Remember above when I recommended naming your objects? Here’s a situation where is it’s helpful. You aren’t sifting through dozens of “Cube.001”, “Cube.002”, “Cube.003”. Naming your objects makes it easy to pick the right one to subtract.

All my windows, doors, stop signs, were just outer objects with smaller, inner objects subtracted from them. For example, let’s take the school bus door. That was a big cube with two smaller cubes subtracted from it:

Making the Bus Door with the Boolean Difference Modifier
The School Bus Door is Just Cubes, Scaled and Subtracted From Each Other

So in the above photo, I start with three objects—a large rectangle and then two smaller ones. I use the Boolean modifier to “Subtract” the two smaller rectangles from the larger one and I end up with my school bus door.

With my end result intended to be steel, I made all my engraving lines 1mm thick and 1mm deep.

Does it look hard? Well, as proud as I was of my handiwork, it’s not hard. In fact, after I finished my modeling, I discovered this technique of making your object out of a bunch of little objects is prominent in a 3D printing tutorial for CHILDREN. CHILDREN! So if I can do it and children can do it, you can do it. : )

Quick Tip on Object Sizes
And a quick tip. I initially made this mistake and I’ve seen others on the Shapeways forums make the same miscalculation. When you are making your object sizes, it’s easy to think, “Oh, my minimum wall requirement is 1mm, so I want my outer object to be 1mm larger than my inner object.” That’s not necessarily the case because you are likely making more than one wall. Take, for example, my cylinder to hold on to the Wine Stopper stud. My outer cylinder has to actually be 2mm wider than my inner cylinder– because I’m going to have TWO walls. I want them both to be 1mm thick for steel.

Gotcha!  You Have To Account For TWO Walls
Gotcha! You Have to Account for TWO Walls

Continuing the Boolean Modifier craziness, once I made all my windows and doors and headlights and grill lines, I used the good ole Boolean Modifier again to subtract (aka engrave) those items from my base bus body.

And the same went for the text at the top of the bus.

Engraving Text with the Boolean Modifier
Getting Ready to Engrave My Text

Quick Tip With Engraving Text—I’ve found it to work better if I convert my text to mesh and then extrude it. The normals of the faces work out better for the Boolean Modifier Difference operation.

Process – Fixing Thin Walls
When I was ready to try my model out on Shapeways, I went to File->Export and saved it as an STL file. When I uploaded my .STL to Shapeways, however, their checks indicated that I had some thin walls with the “A” in my engraved text. I fixed that by manually moving vertices around and uploaded a new model.

Fixing Thin Walls in the A
Fixing the A

Math – Making the Stud
I’ve only been 3D modeling six months or so and I’m finding math to be quite valuable. A good example of this is fitting my bus on the stud for the Niles Bottle Stopper I purchased. The stud itself is 3/8” in diameter. I work in millimeters, so I just used Google to figure out the conversion.

Math - Converting Inches to Millimeters (Thanks Google)
Converting Inches to Millimeters, Thanks Google!

So basically what I wanted was a nice little cylinder to fit over that stud. If I was going to error, I would want my hole to be TOO big. I could always fill it with adhesive or Gorilla Glue. I didn’t really want my hole to be too small and put myself in a situation where I would have to drill it (or rather ask my husband to drill it) to make it fit.

Now, looking at the material page on Shapeways, I noted steel does have a margin of error.

Margin of Error for the Shapeways Steel
Steel’s Margin of Error

3/8″ == 9.525 millimeters. To calculate the margin of error, I multiplied that by 0.01 (1%) and added 0.1 to it (per their accuracy statement). Since there would be TWO walls (one of each side of the cylinder) that could affect my fit, I multiplied that by 2.

The meant I would probably want to increase my cylinder opening by 0.3905 mm to account for possible margin of error. I went ahead and rounded up to 0.5mm just to be safe (And again—I would rather my hole to be too big than two small)

MATH!  Calculating my Cylinder Diameter
Behind the Scenes Glimpse of my Notes

I decided my hole would be 10.025. So my inner cylinder had a diameter of 10.025. I wanted my walls to be 1mm thick, so I made my Outer Cylinder 12.025 in diameter (remember there are two walls). Then using, you’ve guessed it, the Boolean Modifier, I subtracted the inner cylinder from the outer one.

Outer and Inner Diameters
Outer and Inner Diameters

So get this—either I had beginner’s luck or my math was solid. My steel school bus arrived and the stud attachment was PERFECT. I had to tap it gently with a hammer to place it on the bottle stopper stud and there it has stayed nice and snug. No adhesive necessary! Score!

Note: If you are modeling for Niles Bottle Stopper #302 and you plan to print in the Strong and Flexible plastic, you may want to choose different diameters. I’ve found the plastic to fit looser and require glue.

Prototyping and End Product
Before diving into the more expensive steel, I did print a version of the School Bus in cheap (and fast) White and Strong Plastic. It looked great (other than I shorted my Mom’s service years by 1), so I changed “23” to “24” and ordered a version in Gold Plated Steel. It arrived just in time for my Mom’s last day of school!!!

3D Printing - Prototype Wine Topper School Bus Wine Stopper - Back, Stop Sign Side and Engraving

Prototype and Final Product

And the end product was a hit! I think I got myself one notch closer to being my Mom’s favorite child. : )

School Bus Wine Stopper with Wine
School Bus Wine Stopper

And if you happen to covet a School Bus Wine Stopper of your own, you can order one to be printed from Shapeways (I have the Personalize option turned on too). Also, I’m a big believer in Creative Commons, so feel free to download the model for your own projects. Just don’t forget that Attribution clause! 🙂

Happy Modeling!

October 14, 2014 at 10:42 am 2 comments

An Application of Autotomy

Here’s an amusing stock photo captioned by the “It’s Like They Know Us” Tumblr Blog.

I’m getting so much work done. Toddlers are easy.

For those of you with computers and without small children, it’s funny because it’s not true. My children, in particular, have a keen sense of when I’m working on something really important on the computer. They will both drop everything and approach my machine, sticky fingers widespread.

Autotomy - Me Spass Me Want to Delete Production Data
Me Spaz. Me Want to Delete Production Data

When I see them tettering my way, know what the first thing I do is? I quickly unplug my USB mouse. While they are distracted moving that around and doing futile clicks, I have just enough time to sign out of the production database server, save important documents, or move the laptop to a higher elevation. By the time they realize the mouse isn’t doing anything, the laptop (and all my production data!) are safe.

Autotomy - Autotomy in Action
Distracted by USB Mouse

I was enacting that one day and I realized I’m wasn’t particularly inventive. I was employing the exact same defense mechanism salamanders and seemingly other “lower” creatures have used for millions of years.


I drop the USB mouse to distract the predator. The salamander drops its tail. : )

Salamander Dropping Tail (Photo by Gary Nafis of California Herps)
Distracted Modern Day Predator

September 19, 2014 at 10:19 am 1 comment

The Fussypants Song

Like all toddlers, my oldest son has his fair share of emotional moments. And like a lot of mothers, I often find myself perusing various “Mommy Blogs” on the Internet. Somewhere along the line, I read an article (whose author completely alludes me at the moment) that talked about how kids need to feel safe to express their emotions–positive AND negative. When Sagan is upset, we often “take a lap.” One of us carries him in the circle through the rooms on our second floor. Inspired by that now nameless article, I started to sing a simple little song to the tune of Frère Jacques:

You’re my Sagan
You’re my Sagan
I love you
I love you
Even when you’re fussypants
Even when you’re fussypants
I love you
I love you

Well Sagan isn’t especially communicative when he’s upset. He would just sort of zone out and sniff, occassionally wiping his nose against my shoulder. Really, I didn’t think he even noticed the song. Then one day, he bumped his knee and I had the nerve to switch it up a bit and sing Elvis instead.

“No! no!” His crying intensified. “The fussypants song! I want the fussypants song.”

Now that’s our thing. When he’s upset, I’ll ask him, “Do you need a lap?”

He’ll nod.

“Do you need a song?”

He’ll nod.

“Which song?”

“Fussypants song.” he’ll croak out.

I’ll carry him a few laps and sing our song.

I have failed miserably at getting it on video, but Sagan has a stuffed monkey he occassionally plays with. He does baby stuff with it– puts on diapers, feeds it, etc. On a few occassions, I have spied Sagan hugging it and singing the Fussypants Song. It’s super adoreable, but super elusive. Everytime I bring the camera out, the moment subsides.

BUT– two weeks ago, I heard Sagan singing the Fussypants Song to Dyson and I did have success convincing Sagan to sing a few bars for the camera. Sagan’s version of the Fussypants song. Enjoy!

September 17, 2014 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

Learning with Losing

Sometime ago, Ryan and I were walking with the kids and he told about an interesting Ted Talk on “Arguing”. It was by Philisopher Daniel H. Cohen and he talks about the winners and losers in arguments. Traditionally we think of someone winning an argument and someone losing an argument. But Cohen suggests that it is the “loser” of the argument that actually walks away with the biggest gain. The winner walks away with nothing but a stroked ego. The loser on the other hand, walks away with a new belief– a “well articulated, examined, battle-tested belief.”

Last week, I was working on a Washington Post crossword puzzle and a whole section stumped me. After revisting the clues again and again without any new insight, I surrendered and decided to Google on my phone. It was, in my mind, the act of defeat. The act of a loser.

The very first clue I decided to Google was “Vanzetti’s Co-Defendant”. And just that like that I was enthralled. The rest of the evening, I found myself immersed in and fascinated by The Sacco and Vanzetti Trials of the 1920s, almost a century ago now. I read account after account until it was well past my bedtime. I read about the questionable aspects of their trials and conviction. I read about the world-wide protests, how renowed personalities such as Albert Einstein and H.G. Wells signed petitions urging another trial. I was surprised (and somewhat amused) at how generations before Johnnie Cochran and O.J. Simpson, there was another famous trial that prominently featured an article of clothing being too small.

Sacco Tries on a Hat, Simpson Tries on Gloves
Source: Boston Post

I never returned to my crossword that night. Days later, those boxes remain glaringly empty. But with a wealth of new information in my mind, I’m having a tough time feeling like I lost.

September 16, 2014 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

Family Adventure – DC Skydiving Center

In mid-August, Ryan and I took the boys to Warrenton, Virginia for an afternoon at the DC Skydiving Center. Don’t worry– we didn’t take a 3 year old and 1 year old skydiving. We’re not that adventurous. : )

My friend Meg is fighting cancer for a second time. One of the long-standing items on her Bucket List was to go skydiving. I absolutely did not want to jump out of a plane. No way. But you know what I can do? I can *pay* for someone else to jump out of a plane! (This was made even easier by a serendipitous Groupon). Meg’s longtime friend, Karen, also jumped. Meanwhile, Ryan, the kids, and I watched from the ground. Meg was relaxed and at ease the whole time (She reports skydiving is no where near as scary as cancer). Karen, on the other hand, seemed to be a tad nervous.

DC Skydiving Center - Meg Getting Ready DC Skydiving Center - Karen's Tentative Face

They were both equally ecstatic after the jump and concur it was thrilling and peaceful at the same time. I even heard the phrase “life-changing” when they would re-describe their experiences in the coming days. See also Meg’s recap from her CaringBridge site.

As for the Sommas, even though we stayed put on the ground, the DC Skydiving Center was a fabulous adventure for the kids. In an intimate and disarming setting (so disarming I actually thought, “Huh, maybe I could do this too.”), we got to watch people learn their skydiving basics. We were right there when the plane took off and landed which was a huge thrill for Sagan. We got to watch the sky for the tiny black dots after the plane passed by and we got to watch those dots get bigger and bigger. Eventually the skydivers would land right smack in front of us. And 1 year old Dyson? It turns out skydiving instructors can also make great playmates.

DC Skydiving Center - Instruction 5
Group Learns Basics

DC Skydiving Center - Sagan Waves Bye to Meg and Karen
Sagan Waves Bye to Meg and Karen’s Plane

DC Skydiving Center - Meg Landing 3
Meg Coming to Land

DC Skydiving Center - Dyson with Parachute Instructors
Dyson with his New Friend

If you think about, our family adventure that day was watching someone else’s adventure. But it was just as fun as our usual Sunday adventures… and more fulfilling.

More photos of our visit to the DC Skydiving Center are on my Flickr site.

P.S. Ryan’s already talking about taking the boys skydiving…when Dyson turns 18.

September 15, 2014 at 10:01 am Leave a comment

Family Hike – Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge’s Woodmarsh Trail

In late April, we took the boys to visit the Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge Area. The Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Area encompasses 2000 acres of hardwood forests and six miles of Potomac River shoreline, which means hikes there get a nice mixture of marsh and forest. So “Woodmarsh” was an accurate name for the trail. The Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge is free. There is an entrance fee if you choose to drive to the nearby Mason Neck State Park afterwards.

Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge - Wood Marsh Trail - Vicky and Dyson Hiking (By Ryan Somma)

Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge - Wood Marsh Trail - Clouds and Marsh

Trail Overview
The Woodmarsh Trail is about three miles long. With a couple of cut-through trails at Hickory Pass and Fern Pass, you have the ability to “Choose Your Own Adventure” and loop back whenever you feel like it. We took the Spur Trail down to Eagle Point and since we were hoping to see Great Blue Heron nests (See Fauna below), we kept on the eastern most section of trail to skirt along the marsh. We returned via the western section of trail through the woods.

Back when I hiked alone, my decision criteria for “a good trail” would be something like:

  • Invigorating climb (to make you feel accomplished)
  • An overlook or a waterfall (to make you feel awed)

Now that I’m hiking with two small children, a previously overlooked trail feature has taken on new importance:

  • Bridges or wooden walkways.

Wooden structures just call to my older son. He loves running across them. Sometimes over and over and over and over again. : ) For younger children who are just learning to stand and pull up, bridges are a nice opportunity to practice. This trail sported a number of bridges so it was a win for the boys. And then more importantly, there was a nice wooden viewing platform at Eagle’s Point. That simple structure was probably the highlight of the trail for the boys. It was wooden with benches for the boys to climb and crawl on… AND it had a FREE telescope to take in the views. It was their own little private jungle gym with great water views. We only had to walk a flat mile for a “home run.”

Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge - Woodmarsh Trail - Vicky and Dyson Silhouettes at Eagle Point (By Ryan Somma)
Dyson Practicing Standing and Taking in View at Eagle Point

Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge - Wood Marsh Trail - Vicky Holds Sagan Up to Look Through Telescope
Sagan Looking Through the FREE Telescope

Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge - Woodmarsh Trail - Crawling at Eagle Point
Crawling at Eagle Point

Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge - Woodmarsh Trail - Sagan and Dyson Play with Telescope
Climbing and Playing with Telescope

The Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge is one of the largest Blue Heron Rookeries. Nesting peaks in April and May, so we came hoping to see one of those 1300 Great Blue Heron nests. Alas, nesting views can only be approached through water or during the annual Bald Eagle Festival at the nearby Mason Neck State Park. We couldn’t see any nests from our vantage point on the land. Nonetheless, we saw our fair share of wildlife. We saw herons and Bald Eagles flying by. We saw a large brown bird (perhaps an an owl) in the tree canopies. Small, but just as entertaining, we found an inch worm at the viewing platform at Eagle Point.

Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge - Wood Marsh Trail - Heron Flying
Not a Nest– but Still Got to See Some Blue Herons

Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge - Wood Marsh Trail - Bald Eagle Flying - Cropped
Bald Eagle Flying

Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge - Woodmarsh Trail - Inchworm with Big Shadow (By Ryan Somma)
Wittle, Baby Inchworm

Mayapples are a favorite wildflower of mine. I love how the big umbrella leaves conceal a tiny, single white flower underneath. We saw Mayapples on this hike and they were budding, but we were just a little bit too early to see the blooms.

Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge - Wood Marsh Trail - Mayapple

What we did seem blooming was Virginia’s State Flower, the dogwood.

Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge - Wood Marsh Trail - Dogwood (By Ryan Somma)
Dogwood Blooms

The trail passed through a section called “Fern Pass.” Our assessment was that was aptly named. It was one of the more beautiful sections, carpetted in green, with the fiddleheads uncurling away.

Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge - Wood Marsh Trail -Single Fiddlehead (By Ryan Somma)

More pictures of our Woodmarsh Trail Hike at Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge can be found on my Flickr site.

Brochure and Trail Map

Length: Varies – 3.0 Miles of Trail to Choose From

Elevation Gain: Flat!

Entrance Fee: FREE!

September 9, 2014 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

Bethany Beach 2014 Recap – Day 7 – Funland and Heading Home

Fun Land!!!
When I was a child, one of the highlights of the beach was heading down to the boardwalk at nearby Rehobeth Beach. My favorite thing was the “Horsey Game” at Funland (I believe the game is officially called “Derby”) Contenders roll balls (sort of like skeeball without the ball going airborne). The hole your ball goes down determines how many steps your plastic race horse takes. The first person’s horse to make it to the end wins a prize.

This year, Sagan was old enough. I wanted him to see the horsey game. August 1st was our last day at the beach, so it was now or never. It turns out a number of family member were interested in Funland. We ended up with quite the crowd of relatives up there! : )

My mother spent some quality time with Dyson, while I had some rare Mommy-Sagan time. I was determined Mommy-Sagan time was going to involve a prize, by golly. Not just any prize, a Horsey Game prize. En route to the Horsey Game, we stopped and played Wak-A-Mole. We won a cute white stuffed dog.

Onward to the Horsey Game. It was $1 a game. I was going to spend up to $20 dollars, maybe even more, playing that game to win a prize. Luckily, it only took four games. Sagan sat on my lap the entire time and at times opted to roll the ball. It was fun to share that with him. When we did win, he got to pick between two different bears.

Win prizes for my son? Check. I met my day’s goal. Everything else was going to be bonus.

Bethany Beach - Fun Land - Sagan's Prizes
Sagan with Prizes

We ate some lunch and then headed back to Funland. All of a sudden Sagan wanted to ride some rides. Another Funland memory came rushing back to me. My father used to get terribly motion sick. So back in the day, whenever we came to Funland, my younger (and more courageous) brother would point to some kind of crazy spinning, flipping, rotating contraption and announce, “Daddy, I want to ride that.”

Well, it would not have positive results for my father to ride with him, so each time my father’s voice would snap out my name, “Vicky! Take your brother on that ride!”

I wouldn’t want to ride those rides, but I also didn’t want to disobey my father, so I would reluctantly do my duty as the big sister.

Some of that same ancient dread snuck back in when Sagan asked for rides. It took me a moment, but then I realized, “Wait a second. He’s a little kid. I can handle little kid rides.” : ) And it turned out Sagan didn’t need *me*. He was perfectly happy going on rides with his beach buddy, Mya.

Rehobeth Beach - Funland - Mya and Sagan on Helicopter
Mya and Sagan Ride Helicopter

Funland is VERY young-child friendly. They have a whole section of rides dedicated to the smaller children where the young kids can even go by themselves without an adult or older child. In addition, they have games where the child gets to play until he/she finally wins. This came in handy with the balloon pop game for Sagan.

Rehobeth Beach - Funland - Sagan on War Plane
Sagan on a Ride

Rehobeth Beach - Funland - Sagan and Mya on Motorcycles
Sagan and Mya on Motorcycles

Rehobeth Beach - Funland - Balloon Game
Play Till You Win Balloon Game

Funland did an excellent job of tiring both boys out. When we got back to the beach house, they both napped at the same time… AGAIN. Ah, I love vacation. While they napped, I packed. My mother and I had decided it would be best to travel at night while the children slept.

We had one final supper with my extended family– a delicious array of pasta. After supper was over, we hit the road.

Smooth Trip Home
Traveling after the kids’ bedtime was definitely the way to go! We had a very smooth trip home and it was swift. It took us less than half the time to get home as it did to get to the beach. Oh and those Funland prizes? Sagan cuddled with them in his car seat the entire way home. : )

August 25, 2014 at 10:25 am 1 comment

Bethany Beach 2014 Recap – Day 6 – Body Pump and Family Dinner

Body Pump, Seltzer Water, and Gingerale
So the day before at Sea Colony, I was looking over some of their literature and I squealed with delight to see that they had a BodyPump class. Not only that, there was a BodyPump class the very next day!!! At home, BodyPump is one of my favorite parts of the week. How amazing that I can attend a class at the beach! My Uncle generously allowed me to borrow his passes so I could attend the class. I love BodyPump so much, I talked it up, as one is very apt to do when something super fun like BodyPump is concerned, and my cousin Jennifer decided to join me. Knowing how much I love BodyPump, my mother agreed to watch the boys and away we went to Sea Colony to pick up fitness passes and attend the class.

My great Aunt Maisie is a woman in her eighties, but she carries with a childlike curiosity and enthusiasm for the world. She sees everything with an innocence you would expect to find in someone decades younger. Earlier in the week the topic of Seltzer Water came up. Great Aunt Maisie told a simple story about a time she was in the airport and got a soda. She thought it was Gingerale, but it was actually Seltzer Water.

With wide eyes and that innocent, pure voice of hers, she talked about that first unexpected sip.

“And ooooooh my,” she shook her head, “It wasn’t Gingerale!”

When you are expecting something sweet like Gingerale, and you get Seltzer Water, it’s quite a shock. It doesn’t mean Seltzer Water is bad, mind you (I’m a fan). It just means you were expecting something different. And it tastes worst than it is just because of your expectations.

Back to our BodyPump adventure, I had noticed that BodyPump class at the beach was only 45 minutes long, but I didn’t think much of it. I also failed to notice that the schedule read “Body Pump” instead of “BodyPump” and that at no point was Les Mill’s branding touted.

Pseudo BodyPump Class - Small
Body Pump, not BodyPump

We showed up and paid our seven dollars and I promptly noticed there were no bars.

“Huh. I guess we just use free weights here,” I thought, still oblivious that the Gingerale I was about to drink was, in fact, Seltzer water.

They wanted us to get Exercise Balls, which I also shrugged off, “Oh I guess this is going to be our T-bows for tricep dips.”

Then the warm-up began. There were no squats. We weren’t doing it in time to the music. Wha– you want me to kick my feet out?

All the signs were there all along, but it took me until then to realize I wasn’t at Les Mills BodyPump.

I was miffed. There was some pride involved because I enticed my cousin to come. But really, what I was most upset about was wasting my “mom babysitting time.” During our first set of biceps (which Hello…. everyone knows that Biceps are supposed to come later at Track 6) I drafted my stern letter in my head to Sea Colony Recreation because it was entirely out of the realm of possibility that I read what I wanted to read. 😉

But then here’s the thing. Exercise (at least for me) makes everything better. As my body started moving and my muscles started working, my mood improved. It wasn’t Les Mills’ BodyPump, but it was fun and it was a solid workout. My abs were sore the next day. And my cousin had fun too.

Gingerale/Seltzer Water/BodyPump/Body Pump, it’s all good. : )

Lunch and Another Compliment
I solicited another compliment from a different Aunt about my kids’ eating habits. My Aunt Julie marveled at Sagan eating an avocado and concluded, “You’re so healthy!” Score!

I took the kids down for some more beach time. When Sagan tired of the beach, he just started walking home all by himself. I was curious to see how far he would go by himself, so I quietly tailed him. I couldn’t believe that kid didn’t even look back until our entire family was out of sight. Boy, he was unnervingly determined to escape the beach! : )

Once he saw me, he wanted his shoes, but he didn’t want to go back to the beach to get him, so he sat on a bench with my cousin Jennifer while I fetched his footwear. When I came back to the bench, I could hear them talking.

“Really?” Jennifer said, “Banana cake?”

“Yeah!” Sagan replied, “It was yellow and orange.”

And I had to laugh. In June, we went to a friends’ birthday party and they had a healthy banana cake for dessert. Sagan talked about that banana cake for an entire month and how he wanted it for his birthday. My friend gave me the recipe and he got his birthday wish. Apparently it went well because here he was at the beach STILL talking about banana cake. It was good, maybe like average good. I didn’t realize it was good enough to talk about for months. : )

Sagan's 3rd Birthday - Ryan Coaches Sagan on Candle Blowing
Flashback to Sagan’s Cake

Serial Bathing
Every year at the beach, our extended family gets together for a loud and boisterous fancy dinner at Magnolia’s Seafood. I remember in 2007, I had a little bit of vanity going on. The entire week I was meticulous with the sunscreen. Not because of skin cancer or the likes. Nope, I just wanted to make sure I didn’t get sunburnt before the family dinner. I wanted to look good for the pictures. This year I didn’t even shower for the family dinner! (TMI – I only showered once at the beach and that was with a baby throwing shampoo bottles in the bath tub). But I did give both boys baths. : )

Dyson stayed on the beach with my mother while I took Sagan back to the beach house. I bathed Sagan and he went down for a nap. By the time Sagan was sleeping, Dyson and my Mom came home, so then I bathed Dyson and he went down for a nap, while Sagan was still napping. Double Nap AGAIN. BOOYAH!

So really my afternoon was pretty much bathing kids. : )

Family Dinner
Fun fact– did you know you can’t do Lasik eye surgery when you are breastfeeding? The breastfeeding hormones can have an effect on your eyes, so they prefer to wait to map your eyes until at least six weeks after weaning. I found that out with my first child, so my game plan has been after Dyson is weaned perhaps getting that Lasik surgery.

Family dinner is making me reconsider that notion. I wore contacts to the family dinner and apparently I looked especially tired and frazzled. A few people mentioned it. I hypothesize when one has glasses on, it better camouflages fatigue. I was tired, but I’m always tired (I still night nurse). I didn’t feel any more or less tired than your usual day. Mitigating the two kids was hectic with the particular challenge of our entrees arriving well after our usual bedtime. I certainly didn’t have a lot of ample time to socialize or take pictures, but I didn’t feel overwhelmed (that would come the next day) and I had plenty of friendly faces and helping hands around. Even my child-free-by-choice sister pitched in!

Bethany Beach - Dinner at Magnolias - Dyson Carolyn 2
My Youngest Son and my Lovely Sister

At the end of the night, though, as I loaded two tired and cranky kids into the carseats, one of my aunts told me she felt sorry for me.

Well, poop. My outward appearance was terribly misleading. For years I attended Family Dinners without the children I wanted so very much, but with that special type of nagging loneliness that comes with being committed to someone who doesn’t care. Here I am in 2014 with all those missing pieces– An amazing husband who is a partner in every way and the children I was scared I would never have. I have everything right now… except maybe a full night’s sleep and a shower, but it is so worth it. : )

“There’s nothing to feel sorry for. I wanted to have children. I am blessed,” I told my aunt. Hopefully I sounded convincing. : )

Maybe next year I should wear glasses… and makeup. Perhaps makeup will help. : )

Most Pleasant Night Night
And dude— we got home again well before everyone else. AGAIN– a most pleasant night night. Both kids went to sleep right away!

August 20, 2014 at 9:39 am Leave a comment

Bethany Beach 2014 Recap – Day 5 – Sea Colony and a Vegetable Win

My Uncle Mark and Aunt Denise were staying at a Condo at Sea Colony. On Wednesday, July 30th they invited us to spend the morning with them at the pool and other Sea Colony facilities. My cousin’s daughter, Mya, joined us.

Sea Colony’s great and I am seriously considering staying there in future years. They have pools, walking trails, tennis courts, playgrounds, and a fitness center. I really enjoyed my time there.

Sagan was a little weary about the pool, but we did get some smiles out of him. He also obliged me while I carried him around the “big pool” for a while and showed him the filters that picked up all the trash and bugs in the water.

Bethany Beach - Sea Colony - Mya Wets Sagan's Hair
Mya and Sagan at the Pool

Ultimately though, Sagan preferred to be on land. Mya asked him to give her a massage and to my surprise, Sagan started kneading her shoulders. Where did he learn to do that?

Bethany Beach - Sea Colony - Mya Gets Backrub
What the—where did he learn that?

Dyson is fearless and enjoyed the kiddie pool. He liked feeling empowered and climbing in and out of the pool himself.

Bethany Beach - Sea Colony - Dyson in Kiddie Pool
Dyson in Kiddie Pool

Once everyone was tired of the pool, we decided to hit one of the nearby playgrounds which was a big hit.

Bethany Beach - Sea Colony - Mya on Swing
Mya Swinging

Bethany Beach - Sea Colony - Sagan on Playground
Sagan on Playground

Bethany Beach - Sea Colony - Sagan Swings into Mark
My Uncle Mark “Pushes” Sagan on Swing

And after the playground, it was lunch time. We headed back to Uncle Mark and Aunt Denise’s condo for PIZZA!!!! Everyone loved that.

Traction at the Beach
In the afternoon, I took the kids down to the beach. No trauma or tears this day. For the most part, we just stayed up in the sand. I did take Sagan down briefly to kick the waves and to pretend jump them. I didn’t push it though and we quickly returned back to play in the sand. I took a bunch of pictures with my phone so Ryan could see Sagan was actually playing and smiling at the beach. 🙂

Bethany Beach - July 30th - Sagan with Bulldozer on Beach
Sagan Playing with a Bulldozer in the Sand

Bethany Beach - July 30th - Sagan Happy on Beach Chair
Sagan Smiles in Beach Chair

Bethany Beach - July 30th - Smiling Sagan with Hayden and Dyson
Sagan Smiles with Hayden and Dyson

Joint Nap– AGAIN!
The pool and the beach wore the kids out. I was pleasantly surprised that Sagan and Dyson napped at the same time AGAIN! They never do that at home, but it kept happening at the beach. One of the best parts of the vacation. : )

Bethany Beach - July 30th - Beach is Tiring (View While Nursing)
View While Nursing – Sagan Sleeping on my Legs

Chinese Food and a Great Compliment!
We were so close to having pizza TWICE in one day, a notion I have to confess I was somewhat excited about (Hey, I’m on vacation!). It was pointed out that we had pizza for lunch so we got Chinese Food instead. It wasn’t pizza, but hey, it’s a good option as well.

Sagan, Dyson, and I ate outside on the deck. I like eating outside and without dogs to clean up the aftermath (think rice strewn EVERYWHERE), strategically it makes better sense. Sagan amused me by asking for tofu. When we get Chinese Food at home, I get a Tofu General Tso’s which Sagan typically eats half of. Luckily, he’s a big fan of chicken as well.

I alternated handing my two boys pieces of broccoli, peas, rice, and chicken. Everything was delicious, so the kids were devouring away.

And then I got the BEST compliment.

“He’s a miracle,” My Aunt Denise observed as Sagan swallowed some more peas, “Usually kids won’t eat vegetables.”

That totally made my day… as vegetables are near and dear to my heart. I did have to confess, however, that there are days where Sagan will only eat chicken nuggets and fries. We have good days and bad days. I LOVE that Denise happened to be sitting next to us on a good day. The compliment STILL makes me happy.

After dinner, Sagan had a fabulous time playing with all the cousins…and eating an unknown amount of fortune cookies. I don’t know how many, but I am pretty sure it was a lot. I don’t think Aunt Denise noticed, because she didn’t retract her “miracle” statement. : )

Bethany Beach - July 30th - Six Cousins, One Couch
Six Cousins, One Couch

I discovered walking for Frozen Custard after dinner was significantly easier when Ryan was around. It was tricky keeping Sagan situated with his napkin demands (he hates when things spill on him, even if it is delicious melted ice cream) and trying not to drop Dyson whose center of gravity was making dramatic shifts as he kept trying to dive-bomb my chest. Stress level, I think it was probably the second most flustering moment at the beach, but it all worked out.

We took early leave from Dickey’s which put us back at the beach house before everyone else. And SHEBAM! Another easy and pleasant night night time. The kids went right to sleep AGAIN! Our beach sleep schedule RULED!

August 11, 2014 at 12:56 pm Leave a comment

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