Bethany Beach 2014 Recap – Day 4 – Kayaking, Crabs, and a Shopping Cart

Tuesday, July 29th was Ryan’s last day at the beach as he had to return to work. The ONLY thing on his request list for the beach was to kayak with Sagan. First thing in the morning, we went back out to Coastal Kayak. This time the conditions were much better. We also had company! My Aunt Denise and Sagan’s Best-Beach-Bud Mya joined us.

Bethany Beach - Coastal Kayak - Denise and Mya on Shore
Family Kayaking- Now with 50% More Family!

We saw an osprey’s nest and mussels growing in some of the tidal grass.

Bethany Beach - Coastal Kayak - Osprey Nest
Osprey’s Nest

Bethany Beach - Coastal Kayak - Sagan Touches Mussels
Sagan Touches Mussels in the Grass

Sagan was all smiles. He really enjoyed the kayaking.

Bethany Beach - Coastal Kayak - Sagan and Vicky
Sagan with Mommy

Bethany Beach - Coastal Kayak - Sagan and Ryan
Sagan with Daddy

Mya seemed to enjoy kayaking a little less than Sagan. She and Denise turned around shortly after arriving at the wetlands. I had the only keys to the car, so we followed them back. The outing was more abbreviated than originally planned, but as a side perk, Sagan never had a chance to tire of it. He left his first kayaking outing wanting more, which is a good thing! Oh and once on land, Sagan still found joy in the oar. He used it to dig sand. 🙂

Bethany Beach - Coastal Kayak - Sagan Uses Oar as a Shovel
Sagan Digs with Oar

And here’s something neat. Back in 2007, when Mya was just a little baby, I went kayaking with her mother at the exact same place. So now I have kayaked with both mother and daughter.

Kayaking: Kara
Mother in 2007
Bethany Beach - Coastal Kayak - Mya
Daughter in 2014

Mickey’s Family Crab House
For lunch, we took the kids to Mickey’s Family Crab House. Dude. That was fun and delicious. We ordered clam strips, steamed shrimp, steamed Maryland Blue Crabs and grilled asparagus. This was a GREAT destination for young children. It’s socially acceptable to make a lot of noise. It’s socially acceptable to make a gigantic mess. And the meal comes with its own entertainment– mallets! Both kids really, really enjoyed hammering.

Sagan and Dyson Having a Good Ole Time with Hammers

We had such a great time picking apart and devouring crabs, Ryan declared this is what he wants to do for his birthday. Done and done.

More Biking and Beach
After lunch, we did some more biking. Little Dyson would not keep the bike helmet on (It was ill-fitting anyway), so he just got a quick bike debut up and down the street. Just long enough for us to say he went bike riding.

Bethany Beach - Dyson Hates Helmet
Dyson Removes His Helmet While I’m Not Looking

Bethany Beach - Vicky Take Dyson on First Bike Ride (Close)
Dyson’s Bike Debut

After that, Ryan and Sagan took the bike out for a couple of hours.

Bethany Beach - Suave Sagan on Bike Ride
Sagan Ready to Ride Again

While Ryan and Sagan were out and about, I took Dyson back down to the beach. He was in a much better disposition today. He was so courageous, in fact, when he saw some cousins he wanted to play with, he just crawled across the sand to get to them.

Bethany Beach - July 29th - Dyson Spies Olivia Hayden and Tucker
Dyson (in green) – “Hey I wanna play with them!”

Bethany Beach - July 29th - Dyson Crawls to Olivia and Hayden
Dyson (in green) – “Oh hey guys, I’m here to play!”

Binky Down
We packed five binkies for the trip and only came home with three. One I have no idea where it went. And one…well, it fell down a storm drain.

Bethany Beach - Lost Binky
Lost Binky

Adventure in the Small Things – Harris Teeter Shopping Cart
Remember yesterday when I talked about adventures coming in smaller packages with kids? Well, on the flip side, you get to see things through your children’s eyes and small things, even mundane things, become exciting and fresh again. With kids, anything can be an adventure…even going to the grocery store.

Before Ryan got back on the road to head home (Sadness), we went for a family shopping trip to pick up some provisions. We put the two boys in a specialty shopping cart shaped like a truck where both boys could have their own steering wheel.

Sagan and Dyson LOVED it. They spent the entire trip wrestling and laughing and tickling.

It was probably the most concentrated amount of fun they had the entire trip and it was just a joy to watch.

Mommy Nap
When we arrived at the beach the previous Saturday, I mysteriously lost my voice. By the end of Tuesday, I had some congestion. I thought it was pretty safe to take some Benadryl, but boy, the drowsiness was really getting to me. So I left the children on the beach house deck with my mother to take a nap.

Before I could fully drift off the sleep, I heard Sagan in the living room. I went out there to see what was going on and found him laying on the floor with a beach towel over him like a blankie trying to take his own nap.

He looked up at me and asked, “Can I nap with you, Mommy?”

Well, who could turn that down? We returned to the bedroom and we both fell in such an extended sleep, my mother had to wake us both up for supper.

Taco Night!!!
A still-sleepy Vicky and Sagan meandered their way over to Aunt Julie’s Beach House where we were having Family Taco Night (one of my favorites). The food and company energized both of us.

Most Pleasant Night Night
I was somewhat worried about the notion of putting both kids to sleep by myself in such an exciting environment, but “night night” could not have gone smoother. The kids and I got back to the beach house before everyone else. In the dimly-lit bedroom, I changed diapies, put on jammies, and other night-time tasks. Both Dyson and Sagan went to sleep right away and I wasn’t too far behind them.

August 7, 2014 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

Bethany Beach 2014 Recap – Day 3 – Working Through Failures

Sometimes if takes a little while to get your stride. The important thing is to keep trying. : )

Beach Fail
Our second full day, we paid homage to my late father and walked down to The Frog House and had breakfast. We made another quick stop at Comics and Games and then we went to the beach! We like to consider us an adventurous family. We hike and kayak and camp and canoe and bike. But our kids are significantly less adventurous when it comes to the ocean. Sagan is more vocal with his fear. Ryan did get him a little more comfortable with being in the ocean… that is until a wave splashed him in the face. Dyson, on the other hand, liked looking at the ocean, but would whimper when a big wave touched my feet (It wasn’t even touching him!). Dyson did enjoy playing in the sand.

Bethany Beach - July 28 - Dyson in Sand
Dyson in Sand

Bethany Beach - July 28th - Sandy Dyson
Sandy Dyson

Sagan, however, was so miserable from the whole “water in the face” incident that not even the binky, or the arrival of Uncle Jay could convince him to enjoy the beach.

Bethany Beach - July 28th - Miserable Sagan with Daddy
Miserable Sagan and Defeated Daddy

Mommying Fail
And I learned a very good lesson that day. Don’t wait until the baby is exhausted and tired to leave the beach. Why? Because you still have to walk back to the beach house. You still have to contend with all that sand. You still have to get him in a dry diaper and clothes. This produced a lot of crying from an already over-fatiqued baby. Lesson learned. I would not make the same mistake in the coming days.

Nap Fail
And then another obstacle to adventure. Dyson napped…. and then when he woke up, Sagan went down for a nap. Gah! This was somewhat disappointing to Ryan. He only had a limited time at the beach and he wanted to get out and do things, not wait for the children to sleep.

Corn Husking Fail
One of my fond memories of the beach as a child was husking corn with my cousins and squealing should we peel away the green and find a worm underneath. I mentioned yesterday I had hoped a new generation of cousins could have the same experience. It didn’t quite work out, but Sagan, Mom, Ryan and I had fun enough husking corn and snapping beans. Dyson didn’t exactly help, but he had a great time moving beans back and forth between the bag and the colander.

I didn’t take any pictures of the husking that day, but corn husking is something I enjoy, so I happen to have pictures of family husking from 2012 (when Sagan was 1), 2013, and 2014.

Husk Three Years Labeled Small
Husking – 2012, 2013 and 2014

Kayaking Fail
When Sagan woke up, we left Dyson with my mother and headed down to one of my favorite places– Coastal Kayak! In the past few months, Sagan has gone canoeing and rowboating and he loved both. We wanted to add kayaking to his resume and kayaking was the only thing on Ryan’s list when you asked him what he wanted to do at the beach. Unfortunately, as soon as we arrived, the flapping windsocks and the ample whitecaps in the usually calm Assawoman Bay made it clear it wasn’t going to happen. The Coastal Kayak staff was kind and upfront. They didn’t think it was going to be a great day for Sagan’s kayaking debut.

Bethany Beach - Coastal Kayak - Sagan in Kayak
Aww… the Closest Sagan Got to Kayaking That Day

Bike WIN
Defeated, defeated, defeated, Ryan and I started back to the beach house. The vibe in the car wasn’t a particularly happy one. This day was definitely not going as planned.

“We’re Ryan and Vicky!” I said, “We’re adventurous! We can turn this around! We can find something!”

“No, we used to be adventurous,” Ryan mumbled.

And then, a brainstorm. Biking! We got down to the Bethany Bike Shop right at closing. We had just enough time to rent their last beach cruiser with an attached car seat for 24 hours. Ryan loaded up Sagan and went for a long ride back down to the Delaware Seashore Fresh Pond park we hiked the day before. He had a phenomenal time and found better trailhead parking for the park.

Bethany Beach - Happy Sagan in Bike Seat
Yay, Finally a Success!

MobyWrap WIN
While Ryan and Sagan biked, I wrapped up little Dyson in the MobyWrap and we went for a two mile walk in the wet sand of the shoreline. Oh my goodness. I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed that walk. The sea breeze on my face, the salt air in my nose, the purring of the ocean and laughter of children in my ears. Everything about that walk was just perfect. Unlike the morning, Dyson was unconcerned with the waves, he rested his head on me and just watched as they rolled in and out, in and out. Soon he was asleep. His left ear was against my chest, listening to my heartbeat. The right, the ocean. How peaceful that must of have been.

While he slept, I loved watching the teenagers surf their wakeboards from the shore *into* the incoming breakers. The forces propelled them up into flips in the air. And then my favorite part– I saw not one, but two, ospreys dive into the ocean and catch a fish…on the very first try. For some reason, I thought they would have to make a lot of attempts to catch a fish. They made catching fish look easy, though they did make flying around with a fish look a little awkward.

I didn’t have my camera, but this wonderful Creative Commons photo by Andy Morffew is a good illustration of what I saw.

Male Osprey and Barracuda
Osprey and Barracude (Photo by Andy Morffew)

Dinner and a Defection from Dickey’s
Dyson and I returned home right as Sagan and Ryan finished their bike ride. Together, we all walked over to my Aunt Julie’s for supper. My Aunt Denise made a delicious pork roast with fresh rosemary. We also had the freshly husked Farmer’s Market corn which solicited a lot of compliments. But what took the cake– my Uncle Timothy took those Farmer’s Market green beans, microwaved then for 4 measley minutes, and added the Farmer’s Market mushrooms, which he sautéed in white wine and butter (I believe this recipe was his inspiration). It was delicious. I normally try to do everything I can to encourage my children to eat vegetables. But that dish was so delicious, I actually stole some from Sagan’s plate when he wasn’t looking.

After supper, Ryan and I walked the kids down to the main drag to get some frozen custard. In past years, our family has had unwavering support for Dickey’s Frozen Custard. We defected that night and got Kohr Brother’s instead. 🙂

Final Assessment
Although the day had a series of fails and frustrations, we ended up with an ample supply of happy memories. As parents, adventures come in smaller packages and sometimes that is a mental adjustment for Ryan and I. Compared to our previous selves, it feels like we aren’t get anything done. But you compromise, you regroup, you do what you can, and little by little you end up with a full experience.

And as little as it felt like we got done that day, we still eked in tons more adventure than we would have if we stayed in the beach house all day looking at our phones. : )

Bethany Beach - July 28th - Mark, Sam and Frank on Couch
Cousins Looking at Phones

August 6, 2014 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

Family Hike – Delaware Seashore Fresh Pond

Our first afternoon at Bethany Beach, we were in the market for a Family Hike. I pulled up Google Maps on my phone and scanned for green patches near us. That’s how I found a section of Delaware Seashore State Park called “Fresh Pond”. I’ve been coming to Bethany Beach ever since I was a little girl, but I was never aware of this park 2.1 miles away from our beach house!

It turns out there were other relatives interested in hiking. We ended up with Ryan, Vicky, Sagan, Dyson, Mom, my Aunt Priscilla, my Aunt Denise and my first cousin once removed, Mya. It was a Family Hike…with 100% more family!!!

Bethany Beach - Fresh Pond - Family Hike - With More Family!
Family Hike– With TWICE as Much Family! 🙂 🙂 🙂

Bethany Beach - Fresh Pond - Dyson and Great Aunt Priscilla
My Aunt Priscilla (my muse for my grey hair) Holds Dyson

After serving us extraordinary well the past two days, Google Maps had a little bobble. It directed us to a residential neighborhood with less than optimal park access– it required bush-wacking. Instead, we parked at a trailhead on the northeast corner of the park off Coastal Highway 1, about a half mile north of Silver Sands Drive.

Fresh Pond Hike Route
Parking and Route (By Google Maps)

We took a 0.2 mile connector trail and turned right on the Prickley Pear Trail. In about a 0.5 miles, the trail took us to a gorgeous view of Beach Cove and arguably less than gorgeous views of horseshoe crab corpses in various stages of decomposition. : ) We continued along the Prickley Pear trail and formed a loop back to the connector trail. I believe we went roughly 1.4 to 1.6 miles total. The trails were flat and well-worn, perfect for the children.

Bethany Beach - Fresh Pond - Prickley Pear Trail - Sagan Runs After Mya
Mya and Sagan Run Along the Trail

Bethany Beach - Fresh Pond - Prickley Pear Trail - Ryan and Dyson
Ryan and Dyson at the Beginning of the Prickley Pear Trail

On the connector trail, we found two women who were crabbing. They were vibrant and friendly and were kind enough to show the kids a Maryland Blue Crab. Then they interrupted the amorous activity of a pair of horseshoe crabs (poor things) so the kids could get a closer look. Sagan declined to touch the living horseshoe crab. Later, to my dismay, he would want to touch some dead ones at Beach Cove. We compromised and I let him “pretend” to touch the dead one. : )

Bethany Beach - Fresh Pond - Sagan, Mya, Ryan Look at Crab Catch
Crabbers Show Kids Maryland Blue Crab

Bethany Beach - Fresh Pond - Mating Horseshoe Crabs
Mating Horseshoe Crabs

Bethany Beach - Fresh Pond - Touching Male Horseshoe Crab
Sagan Declines to Touch Horseshoe Crab

Bethany Beach - Fresh Pond - Prickley Pear Trail - Sagan Pretends Touch Dead Horseshoe Crab
Sagan Pretends to Touch Dead Horseshoe Crab

The best part about this trail was I got to learn a new plant. I have been on other trails called “Prickley Pear” before, but it never occurred to me to find out what a Prickley Pear looks like. My Aunt Priscilla, a resident of Arizona, was quite familiar with Prickley Pears. She recognized the cactus immediately. They were plentiful along the trail and we even saw one blooming.

Bethany Beach - Fresh Pond - Prickley Pear Trail - Prickley Pear Bloom
Prickley Pear Bloom (Photo by Ryan Somma)

Another lovely find was Passiflora incarnata (Purple Passionflower). They are so intricate and lovely.

Bethany Beach - Fresh Pond - Prickley Pear Trail - Purple, Wavy Flower
Purple Passionflower

We also found some blueberries, but they weren’t ready for eating yet. At least, that’s what Ryan reported after tasting one. : )

Although short, it was a great family hike with plenty to see. We all had a great time visiting with each other, particularly little Sagan and Mya.

Bethany Beach - Fresh Pond - Prickley Pear Trail - Sagan Smiles at Mya

More pictures of Delaware Seashore – Fresh Pond can be found on my Flickr site.

Delaware Seashore – Fresh Pond

Park Map

Length: Varies – 4.2 Miles of Trail to Choose From

Elevation Gain: Flat!

Entrance Fee: FREE!

August 5, 2014 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

Bethany Beach 2014 Recap – Day 2 – Shopping and Family Hike

Sunday July 27th was our first full day at Bethany Beach and we made the most of it!

Morning Run
When I woke up, I wasn’t particularly in the mood for a morning run. I actually prefer to run in the evenings and only do morning runs when I’m preparing for a race that’s in the morning. But I knew from experience, we have late dinners at the beach as some of my relatives are from the west coast. I also knew Ryan was only going to be around two more days, so if I wanted to run, I needed to get it done while he was in town. So I forced myself to run. I’m glad I did. It was delightfully drizzly out and I was invigorated by the salt air.

She has absolutely no idea, but one of my Facebook friends has become my running rival. She posts the results of all her runs on Facebook and well… she’s a lot faster than me. Now every time I run (which confession– is only once a week), I benchmark myself against her. I’m *always* slower but in trying to catch up with her, my pace (with the jogging stroller!) is substantially better than it was *before* I got pregnant with my first son! It’s amazing what a little [unrequited] competition can do! Anyway, that day at the beach I finally beat her pace…. but only for 1 mile. Hey, it’s a start! : )

Happy The Crab and The Artful Bean
The coffee pot in our beach house had an untimely altercation with gravity, so it was the perfect excuse for a coffee snob like me to go to The Artful Bean.

Ryan, Mom, Sagan, Dyson, and I walked over and ordered some fancy coffees and some breakfast sandwiches. While we waited, my Aunt Priscilla and my cousin’s daughter, Mya, showed up.

Sagan was well behaved at the coffee shop, but some of that was luck. As soon as Sagan started to get restless, with rambunctiousness threatening to arrive at any moment, we had a surprise hero! Chris Rohrbach, the author of Happy the Crab, had a display at the coffee shop and he asked Sagan and Mya if they wanted to draw. That they did and it gave Mommy and Daddy just enough time to finish up their food. : )

Bethany Beach - July 27 - Mya and Sagan Draw Happy the Crab
Mya and Sagan Draw Happy the Crab with Chris Rohrback

Bethany Beach - July 27 - Sagan's Happy the Crab
Sagan’s Happy the Crab

Bethany Beach Farmer’s Market
After the coffee shop, we were just a couple of blocks away from the Bethany Beach Farmer’s Market, so we decided to head that way. Each week, Ryan and I do a Family Walk with the kids to our local farmer’s market. It was nice to keep up our tradition depsite being at the beach.

When I was planning my wedding, my boss and friend, Larry, told me, “You are such a cheapskate except when it comes to food.” He was referring to restaurants, but his observation is just as apt for produce. Ryan and I can tear through some cash when it comes to Farmer’s Markets. And so, I spent 33% of my on-hand cash the very first morning at the Bethany Beach Farmer’s Market.

Some produce, I got with the children in mind. My boys like husking corn and snapping green beans, so we got 26 ears of corn and a huge back of green and yellow beans. I had visions of a whole group of cousins sitting out together husking corns and snapping beans, like I did as a child. It didn’t quite turn out that way, but that’s okay.

Lately, we have been on a roasted okra kick, so I got some okra (which turned out to be a delight to my Great Aunt Maisie). Peaches, raspberries, etc. THEN– something I’m so envious of. The Bethany Beach Farmer’s Market has MUSHROOMS! I’m a huge mushroom fan, so we bought a variety of mushrooms for the beach house from Davidson Exotic Mushrooms. LOVE!

Comics and Gaming
Our final stop in our morning walk was the Comics and Gaming store. My husband is a comic book shop enthusiast with aspirations of running his own shop one day. It’s a great little shop with a wonderful assortment of inventory. And a nice little coincidence– it turns out it is owned by the son of one of my father’s friends!

Lesson Learned – Pack the Double Stroller
So when my mother and I were packing, the car was pretty tight and Mom observed, “Everything in Bethany is really close.” She was right and Ryan and I often carry the kids long distances on hikes, so I decided not to pack the double stroller.

That first outing on the first day illustrated conclusively to Ryan, Mom, and I that whoopsie, yeah, we really do want the double stroller. This was going to be more vital later in the week when Ryan was back at work and it was just Mom and I (Mom is not big on carrying children like Ryan is). Luckily, my brother and his fiance had not arrived yet. My mother called them and they agreed to swing by our house and bring the double stoller with them. That turned out of be key to the rest of the trip. Lesson learned– make room for the double stroller.

Family Hike – Fresh Pond! (Another Hooray for Google Maps)
With our shopping excursion done, we were in the market for something to do. A good time for a Family Hike at Fresh Pond!

Naps and Dinner
After that, our day’s progress took a screeching halt as the kids needed to nap. For supper, we walked over to my Aunt Julie’s beach house where her family made a giant feast of delicious spaghetti. We would find that dinners would become one of Sagan and Dyson’s favorite part of the day. They both very much enjoyed playing and chasing the amply supply of cousins there.

August 5, 2014 at 12:59 am Leave a comment

Bethany Beach 2014 Recap – Day 1 – Arrival

We spent the morning of July 26th packing and then the whole rest of the day driving and sitting in traffic. We took two cars– Ryan and Sagan in one and Mom, Dyson, and I in the other. The 154 mile drive took us over 6 hours 30 minutes. There was quite a bit of traffic on I-95, I-495, and of course, 50 near the Bay Bridge.

A Nod to Google Navigate
As a testament to Google Navigate, Ryan and Sagan were well behind Mom and I due to a stop for gasoline. However, they ended up beating us over the Bay Bridge by 20 minutes. Why? Google Navigate took them on a bunch of side roads to pass all of the traffic waiting to get on the Bay Bridge. Ryan had a moment of doubting Google Navigate, but it turned out, it knew what it was talking about all along.

View While Nursing
Think Bay Bridge Traffic Sucks? Try doing it with a screaming baby. Right as we passed the “Last Exit Before Toll”, Dyson lost it. Inconsolable lost it. So the poor little guy screamed and screamed while we inched our way to the toll plaza. Luckily, right after the toll, there was a convenient pull off. My entry for my Views While Nursing Tumblr blog that day– the Bay Bridge Toll Plaza. : )

View While Nursing for July 21, 2014 - The Bay Bridge Toll Plaza (Thank you Maryland for this pull off).
View While Nursing for July 26th – Toll Plaza

Stop #1 – Mowbray Park (Hooray for Google Maps)
After crossing the Bay Bridge, both our cars had a rendezvous at a Valero off exit 37. The kids were restless and eager to burn some energy, so we pulled up Google Maps and noticed a handful of parks in the area. There were a couple of large state parks, but we chose the small and humble Mowbray Park because it looked small enough to be free and large enough to have a playground. And yes and yes. It was free and it had a playground, two in fact. Both kids had a blast running around, swinging, and making friends with other kids. I would highly recommend any travelers with children stopping at Mowbray Park.

Stop #2 – Redden State Forest
After another hour or so of driving, little Dyson started to lose it again. I made him a deal, “If you are still crying when we reach 13, we’ll stop.” He was still crying, but we were only on 13 for 0.7 miles. So we found ourselves on Redden Road with a very upset baby. There really wasn’t a great spot to pull over. It was a rural section, so the only pull offs were people’s driveways.

After a while I got frustrated and grumbled, “Don’t these people have a church they go to?!?!” We went around a bend and there was something even better than a church — a state forest with picnic shelters and trails. So our little caravan stopped at part of Redden State Forest and the kids got to explore and play some more. Even with that stop, Dyson was over the whole driving thing at that point, so my mother drove and I sat in the back with Dyson. I had to lean over the carseat and let him nurse to get him to settle down enough to fall asleep.

Right at dusk, we pulled into the driveway of the beach house, our home for the next seven days. It was nice, less than a block away from the beach. Sagan immediately took to my cousin’s 8 year old daughter, Mya. The two would be pals for the rest of the trip.

Bethany Beach - July 27 - Mya and Sagan Practice Horse Stance
Mya and Sagan Practicing Horse Stance (on July 28th)

Oh…. and the room assigned to our little family– a king-sized bed! A big step up from our little futon mattress on the floor! Unfortunately, it only took a day or so before Sagan found a way to make sure Ryan and I did not get homesick. He was very capable of making even a king-sized bed feel cramped. : )

Bethany Beach - July 28th - King Size Bed
It’s Not Night Night Time Unless Mommy and Daddy Are Squished

August 4, 2014 at 10:28 am 2 comments

Recommended Viewing: Sankax’s Photostream on Flickr

I may not be blogging about them, but we are continue to accrue Family Hikes (about one a week). This past Sunday, we ran across a lovely insect called the Ebony Jewelwing (Calopteryx maculate). In searching for photos, I stumbled across Sankax’s Photostream on Flickr and I found myself captivated. If you would like to see some stunning insect photos (that are Creative Commons to boot), check it out.

A sampling:

Japanese Beetle (Popillia japonica)
Popillia japonica (Photo by Sankax)

Chinese Mantis (Tenodera sinensis)
Tenodera sinensis (Photo by Sankax)

Grasshopper (Photo by Sankax)

June 25, 2014 at 9:49 am 2 comments


We recently finished watching the documentary series “North America.” Holy crap. I LOVED it. I found myself laughing, laughing, laughing at the antics of prairie dogs and spider suitors. I also found myself emotionally vested in (and almost choked up by) the plights of mothers of all sorts trying to protect their babies– humpbacks and bisons and mountain goats.

But, there was one oddity about the series that stuck out to us.  The narrator was Tom Selleck and a common theme of the early episodes (It did get toned down in subsequent episodes) is how strong or how tough you had to be to make it in “‘Murica.” Ryan and I weren’t the only ones who noticed. Some IMDB reviewers mentioned it as well.


And then there was little Sagan. After five episodes, he could mimic Tom Selleck (or more likely he was mimicking us mimicking Tom Selleck). It still makes me smile.

Sommas Having Fun at Tom Selleck’s Expense

We were having our fun, but I really don’t think the narration ruined the series.  The cinematography is amazing and awe-inspiring.  The stories are amazingly compelling. I very much enjoyed the series.

Oh and don’t judge Tom Selleck (or the writers) too harshly.  One well-renowned founding father was also quite driven with proving how big and strong North American species were. : )

May 9, 2014 at 4:00 am Leave a comment

Co-Sleeping Hack – Preventing Deformational Plagiocephaly

Earlier this week, NPR shared a link to an article called “My Baby’s Head Is Flat! Study: Expensive Helmet Likely Won’t Help.”

NPR Link

Ryan and I first heard about “Deformational Plagiocephaly” from our pediatrician when our oldest son was a newborn. Because babies are often put on their back to sleep to prevent SIDS and their little heads are still malleable, their heads can get flat if they always lay on the same side. Like the article, our pediatrician recommended positioning the baby’s head in different directions during sleep. The pediatrician talked about using rolled up towels and blankets to help hold the baby’s head in place…which if you tend to be an over-active worrier like me, you might suddenly have concerns about baby suffocating on said blankets. : )

It can be a little controversial, but we do co-sleep and bedshare. Everyone has to make the right choices for their family. If co-sleeping happens to be the choice for your family as well, then I have a little hack for you!

With our second son, I noticed he was ALWAYS facing my direction. It was his natural inclination. To prevent deformational plagiocephaly, we didn’t have to bother with rolled up blankets and towels. I didn’t have to fret about additional suffocation hazards. I just alternated what side of him I was on.

Easy schmeasy.

July 20 - Vicky and Dyson Sleep (By Ryan Somma)
Preventing Deformational Plagiocephaly…Just By Sleeping

May 8, 2014 at 4:00 am 1 comment

A Fee Free Easter Celebration in Prince William Forest National Park!

A couple of years ago, Ryan and I made an accidental discovery– The U.S. National Park Service does about a half dozen “Fee Free Weekends” a year. Score! The Fee Free Weekends are usually to celebrate national holidays like Martin Luther King Day, President’s Day, etc. They do this every year and you can even check the schedule to see the Fee Free dates in the coming year.

This past November, I had forgotten a Fee Free Weekend was coming up for Veteran’s Day, so I was quite happy when Twitter reminded me.

Seems like an innocuous tweet, right? Who could complain about free access to National Parks? Free hiking! Free camping! Free picnicking! Free views! Free fresh air!

Well, a lot of people apparently! I was dumbfounded to read all the replies to the National Park Service’s tweet. It was full of vitriol and bitterness and snide remarks. People didn’t realize “Fee Free Weekends” was an established thing, planned well in advance. In the absence of that knowledge, they assumed it was a motivated event, a bribe. They thought the Fee Free Weekend was an attempt to make up for the government shutdown in October, the one that forced the National Parks (and the National Monuments, most famously the National World War II Memorial) to close.

Hate for Fee Free Weekends
A snippet of the replies to Fee Free Weekend

All the negative-vibes didn’t stop the Sommas from having an awesome Fee Free Day at Prince William Forest National Park!

We thought about going to a playground instead of a hike...but it turns out we got the best of both worlds.  Sagan found this leaf-covered slope to be very slide-like.  :) Fee Free Weekend at National Parks.  You don't have to tell the Sommas twice.  :)

Fee Free Weekends Aren’t Sinister… They’re Fun!

So forward ahead to April. I was excited to recall another Fee Free Weekend was approaching. April 19th and April 20th were Fee Free to celebrate the beginning of National Park Week! This Fee Free Weekend was a lot less controversial on Twitter… but I realized it may pose a conflict in my family. Easter was April 20th. How could we do Easter AND take advantage of the Fee Free Weekend at the same time?

Well here’s a lesson for you. It never hurts to ask. I thought my mother would be vested in having Easter at the house. I thought she would have no interest in a picnic. But I asked anyway.

“What if… what if we did an Easter Picnic at Prince William Forest National Park instead?”

I found myself as surprised as I was about all those bitter tweets to the National Park Service. My mother LOVED the idea! Not only did she love the idea, she TACKLED the idea. She invited people, got all the paper plates and supplies organized, bought TONS of food for the event and handmade 40 hamburger patties the way my Dad used to make them– with delicious Lipton Onion Soup mix. I was just the idea person. My mother made the event happen.

And it was a great event! Everyone who joined us brought a potluck dish. In addition to our grilled meats, we had homemade taco dip, Watergate salad, broccoli salad (my contribution), homemade hummus, potato salad, stuffed olives. To celebrate Easter we had dyed Easter eggs. To celebrate National Park Weeks, we had s’mores! We had two visiting German high schoolers with us. They instagrammed their very first s’mores.

Easter 2014 - Burgers
Gone But Not Forgotten– Hamburgers the Way My Dad Made Them

Easter 2014 - Vicky Looks at Sagan
Me and My First-Born Son

Easter 2014 - Carl and Sagan Play Soccer

Easter 2014 - Ryan

Easter 2014 - Grandma Holds Smiling Dyson
Grandma and Dyson

Easter 2014 - Hannah and Milla Prepare to Eat S'mores
Instagramming S’mores

Best of all, when I was a child, Easter was a time to play with your cousins. Our kids are still young, but Sagan and Dyson are already getting to to visit with their cousin Lincoln– outside. In the beautiful, beautiful outside.

Easter 2014 - Lincoln Smiles at Dyson
Cousins Dyson and Lincoln

This is probably my most memorable Easter since I was a child and got baby ducks. It’s hard to top baby ducks. But Fee Free National Parks… that can come pretty darn close. : )

1990 - ducks @ grandparents' house  (by Vicky) - Louise, Vicky, Jordan, Adam - laying, kneeling - 445767648_5c4384954a_o
Flashback to an Easter Past. I’m Second from the Left.

P.S. The next Fee-Free Day — August 25th for the National Park Service’s Birthday. : )

May 5, 2014 at 2:00 pm 4 comments

Family Hike – Meadowlark Botanic Gardens

The National Park Service deemed the peak blooms for the District of Columbia’s cherry blossoms was Thursday April 10, 2014. The following weekend seemed to be a good time to go out and see them. Alas, we were quite busy and suddenly our groggy children were waking up from naps on Sunday afternoon. We really didn’t have the time to metro it out to the National Mall, so we decided to go a quick hike instead. I did some googling and found a Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority park in Vienna, Virginia that boasted more than twenty varieties of cherry trees. It was called Meadowlark Botanic Gardens.

Remember a few years ago visiting Washington State, when I sounded like an idiot speculating which mountain was Mount Rainier? Well guess what, I’m perfectly capable of sounding like an idiot back here at home as well. I had never heard of Meadowlark Botanic Gardens. You know what I thought? I thought Ryan and I were going to check out an undiscovered gem. “Oh I never heard of this, so no one has.”

If you go by the crowds at the Botanic Gardens that day, we were apparently one of the few people who had NOT heard of that park. It was packed! When we paid our entrance fee (kids under six are free!), the cashier even mentioned he had not had a chance to sit down all afternoon.

Park Overview
The gardens are 95 acres strong and have a series of paved paths and more rustic hiking trails through the property. We were able to walk most of the available mileage that day. All the flowering trees were gorgeous as you would expect. Sagan had fun playing at the Children’s Tea Garden. Sagan and Dyson both really enjoyed the Korean Bell Garden, particularly the nearby fountain. My favorite parts were the Young Forest Nature Trail and the Fred Packard Grove. Both of those trails were more like hiking trails… and we didn’t see a single other person on either one.

Near the end of our journey, we did spy a “Historic Tree Trail.”

My husband knows me well. Knowing how immersed I could get photographing and reading about historic trees and that it was dreadfully close to the park closing time, he asked, “Sweetie, do you mind if we come back and see the Historic Trees a different day?” : )

Meadlowlark Botanic Gardens is a popular destination for portrait photographers. We saw maybe a half dozen professional photographers congregated by scenic bridges, fountains, and blooming trees dangling diffusers and taking photographs of families and engaged couples. It’s easy to see why they picked this destination. It’s beautiful.

Meadowlark Botanic Gardens - Sagan Cheers Tea with Stranger
Sagan Shares Tea with a Stranger

Meadowlark Botanic Gardens - Fountain and Cherry Blooms
Fountain and Trees – Don’t Be Fooled By the Lack of People in this Shot. I Got Lucky!

Meadowlark Botanic Gardens - New Carrier in Action on Nature Trail
The Young Forest Nature Trail – More Our Style

I’ll focus this section on the flowering trees. They were definitely lovely and worthy of the crowds.

Meadowlark Botanic Gardens - Cherry Blossoms and Shadows

Meadowlark Botanic Gardens - Magnolia Blooms By Visitor Center

Meadowlark Botanic Gardens - Cherry Blossoms From Shoreline

Like Huntley Meadows, there is a lot of fauna to see. Nesting geese (some more aggressive than others) were prominent. We saw turtles, including two turtles fighting which Ryan and I never saw in all our years living in the swamps of North Carolina. For some reason I chose to take a shot of Sagan and Ryan watching the turtles fight. Once I got that shot done, the turtles had already resolved their differences. Lake Caroline also featured some large koi.

Meadowlark Botanic Gardens - Canadian Goose Nest
Nesting Goose

Meadowlark Botanic Gardens - Ryan and Sagan Watch Turtles
Sagan and Ryan Watch Turtles Fight

Meadowlark Botanic Gardens - Turtle
The Victor Turtle, The Loser Retreated

Meadowlark Botanic Gardens - Koi

Although it wasn’t a hike-hike, we definitely enjoyed our visit to Meadowlark Botanic Gardens. I expect we’ll do return trips in the future, particularly to read up on some historic trees.

More pictures of our Meadowlark Botanic Gardens Outing can be found on my Flickr site.

Meadowlark Botanic Gardens
9750 Meadowlark Gardens Court
Vienna, VA 22182

Park Map

Length: Varies

Elevation Gain: Negligible

Entrance Fee: $5 for adults, $2.50 for children 7-17

April 29, 2014 at 3:00 pm Leave a comment

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