Saturday, August 25, 2012

Eleven Months

At last, a Stella update. I'm sure you've been waiting on pins and needles. The little tyke is nearly a year old and I've been thinking this week about how fast she's grown up. When we brought her home from the hospital, we had a baby. And, to me, the time we would have the baby was sort of indefinite. I mean, I didn't think about the fact that she would grow up and after a year, we wouldn't really have a baby anymore. And, you don't really notice that they're growing and developing until they've already done it, so it just seems to happen all of a sudden.

Anyway, Stella continues to grow and develop and keep us running. She is a very busy little girl and therefore, I am a very busy little mommy. Her favorite activity these days is exploring. She likes to be down on the ground where she can crawl around and check things out. She's not at all close to walking as far as I can tell. She's really good at crawling and pulling herself up to things and squatting back down. For most of this month, she's had no idea what to do if we stand her up and hold her hands and try to get her to walk along. Over the last few days, though, she's started to pick up on it and now she'll walk for a little ways if we're holding her hands. She also doesn't stand by herself at all. She always has to be holding onto something. I've noticed, though, that the amount she relies on whatever is supporting her has been diminishing, so maybe soon she'll be brave enough to let go and stand on her own.

Tooth number 5 has just popped through her gums and tooth number 6 is close behind since we can see it just under her gums. And, she seems to be teething, so she may even be working on some more. Speaking of teeth, we just started brushing her teeth. The first couple of times we brushed them, she didn't quite know what was going on. But, she caught on pretty quick and now she likes it. In fact, she's quite adorable when getting her teeth brushed.

She's also catching on to books which is pretty exciting. We've read to her since she was 2 or 3 months old because all the experts say you should. But, to be honest, I just always wondered what good it did. But, now she listens when we read instead of looking every which way and trying to crawl off our laps and she looks at the pictures and she watches us turn pages. And, sometimes she even turns the pages. Finally, she gets it!

She still loves to eat and we're always branching out with her food. The other day we were at a going away party for some friends and I was eating a chocolate chip cookie. She started making her typical commotion when she wants some, so I gave her a small piece. Well, we were chatting with other people, so I wasn't paying enough attention to her commotion for more, so she finally just reached over, grabbed a piece off my cookie, and shoved it in her mouth.

You'll also notice she has a barrette in her hair in those photos. I've figured out that if I'm sneaky enough and she doesn't ever see the barrette, then it will usually stay in her hair for a couple of hours before she finally notices it and pulls it out. This is great because she is in dire need of another haircut and we just can't do ponies everyday.

Stella is also becoming a little more independent in that she has finally started to hold her own bottle, though she's still learning to tip it back and she can now hold her own cup for a drink. Hooray!

We've made lots of changes around our house to make it Stella-proof, but the process is on-going as she gets taller and can reach more. We've tried to put things that she's okay playing with down low so she can reach them. Like the tupperware cupboard. And the remote.

Because this little girl has eagle eyes and she WILL get into anything within her reach.

It's fun to watch her figure things out. Like, when Scout crawls under the crib, she's not actually gone, she's just under the crib and maybe if you reach under there, you'll find her.

She's also starting to understand more and more words. I love it. And I'll love it even more when she can say words back. We started teaching her some simple baby signs so she could communicate her needs to us better. She seems to understand the signs when we do them and even finds them entertaining. But, she has yet to actually do one herself. But, she did just start clapping a little bit and has even just started to wave here and there. And the other day she even pointed at something that I was pointing out to her. We're so excited to see what she learns and picks up on this last month before she turns one. And we're so excited to celebrate this adorable girl's first birthday!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

PA - The Finale

Stella is 11 months old today. I bet you came to the blog hoping for her update. Well, I want to finish documenting our vacation first, so you'll have to wait. But don't worry - a Stella update is coming and it has been a busy month for her.

On Friday, we decided to go to Washington's Crossing. Washington's Crossing of the Delaware River is one of my favorite events in American History, so this is a place I've wanted to visit for awhile. Someday, maybe I'll even go there for Christmas so I can see the re-enactment. Anyway, we headed out on Friday morning and, unfortunately, it was raining. We didn't let that stop us, though. Since we had three small children with us and we were getting quite wet, we decided not to do the tour. Instead we just poked around the site for a few minutes.

This is the inn where legend says Washington and his aides had dinner the night of the crossing.

Replicas of the Durham boats that Washington and his army used to cross the river. These boats are used in the Christmas Day re-enactment.

Here we are at the bridge that crosses the Delaware at Washington's Crossing.

The Delaware River.

After checking out Washington's Crossing in PA, we headed across the river to check out the park they have on the New Jersey side. They had a little museum that we checked out and then we headed to Princeton for lunch. After lunch and some ice cream, we stopped for cupcakes at a cupcake place that won Cupcake Wars (it's vacation - don't judge). Then we walked over to the Princeton campus and poked around for a few minutes. We headed out of town, driving through the Princeton Battlefield and drove to Trenton to check out the Old Barracks and surrounding sites of the Trenton Battle. We decided not to tour the Old Barracks because parking was not at all convenient and, again, we had three little kids in tow.

After that, we headed back to the Olsons', got dinner, and then I got to experience Rita's. Mr. Frisby was so excited. Apparently, we weren't very picture happy that day.

On Saturday, we went to Philadelphia. Our first stop was the Independence Visitors' Center to get tickets to tour Independence Hall. After we got our tickets, we noticed the line to see the Liberty Bell was pretty short, so we decided to check it out really fast before getting breakfast. This was a wise move because later in the day, the line was huge and there were mobs of people everywhere inside the building.

After seeing the Liberty Bell, we headed to the Famous 4th Street Deli for breakfast. This place was recommended by my sister and it did not disappoint. After a delicious breakfast, we checked out Ben Franklin's grave in the Christ Church burial ground and then it was on to Independence Hall for our tour.

I really enjoyed the tour of Independence Hall, but it was way shorter than I thought it would be. You have to have tickets (they're free, but you still have to have them) and then they take you into this big room to give you an introduction to the Hall and it's quite a process. So, I expected the tour to be a bigger deal than it was. After the introduction, they took us into a courtroom on the main floor and then into the room where the Declaration of Independence was signed and where the Continental Congress met.

Like, I said, it was cool, but I could've breezed through those two rooms myself without the whole tour process and the accompanying inconveniences. After the tour, we talked with a tour guide for a few minutes and he mentioned that they tour the upper rooms of the Hall during the winter when it's not as busy. Another reason to go back for Christmas, perhaps...

After seeing Independence Hall, we poked around and saw a few more things in Philly. We checked out Christ Church which is where many of the Founding Fathers went to church. We saw Elfreth's Alley which is the oldest continually resided street in the US.

We also went to the Betsy Ross house, but did not do the tour (see above reasons for not touring re: three small children).

We then headed back to the Independence Visitors' Center to decide what to do next. It was very warm and, yet again, Stella fell asleep. Did I mention what a trooper she was?

We decided that, since it wasn't too late, we could head across the river into Camden, NJ so Mr. Frisby could show us some areas from his mission. We don't have any pictures because, well, who takes pictures of Camden? After that it was back to Philly for a Cheesesteak. We went to Pat's because it's supposed to be THE Philly Cheesesteak. Here's the line wrapped all the way around the building. Parking was bad (as bad as the worst neighborhoods in San Fran), so Mr. Frisby jumped out to order all our food while we just circled the blocks. The cheesesteak was good and I think Mr. Frisby was pretty close to heaven while eating it. But, I think the whole experience actually made the sandwich more worth it. Mr. Frisby reported that all around the building they have signs telling you how to order and if you don't do it right and have your money ready, they'll send you to the back of the line. You start by saying the kind of cheese you want. Whiz (cheese whiz - apparently, that's the most authentic way to have it) or Provolone. Then you say "with" if you want onions and "without" if you don't. So, I had one provolone without. Mr. Frisby had one whiz with. And that's how you order. Fortunately, Mr. Frisby was on top of his game and didn't get sent to the back of the line. But, the people behind him almost did.

And that was Philly. We had a fabulous time and it was a great trip. I realized after we left that we stupidly and shamefully did not get any pictures with our good friends and awesome hosts. But, I did get this one picture with them walking in front of Independence Hall. Thanks, Olsons, for putting up with our touristy needs and for your wonderful hospitality. Can we come back someday?

Sunday morning we woke up painfully early to catch our 5:50 am flight out of Philadelphia. Fortunately there were no delays on our return flights and Stella only got really restless toward the end of our last flight. We were, of course, exhausted by the time we got home, but Stella was such a great little traveler and we had such a wonderful time. Goodbye East Coast - until we meet again.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


On Thursday, we picked up our rental car, checked out of our hotel and headed to Pennsylvania. Mr. Frisby was done with his conference, so vacation time was just beginning for him. It was exciting to have him join us on our adventures.

We were headed to the Philadelphia area to stay with a good friend of mine. We wanted to see Gettysburg and decided that it would be most efficient to drive directly there and then go from there to the Philly area. We were hoping we would have time to see Valley Forge along the way as well.

We arrived at Gettysburg just before lunch time and headed to the Visitors' Center to find out exactly what we were supposed to do there. It turns out there are a number of options for touring the Battlefield. We decided that, with Stella in tow, it would be best to do the standard auto tour so we could go at our own pace. We stopped in the actual town of Gettysburg for gas and lunch and then it was on to the Battlefield.

In the Visitors' Center, they gave us a brochure with a map of the auto tour route. We followed the route and stopped at most of the stops. Each of the stops had plaques with lots more info about what exactly happened at that point on the battlefield. When Stella fell asleep, we took turns getting out of the car to see each stop. There were also monuments erected everywhere for the regiments that were involved. Tons of monuments = tons of men involved. It was cool to be there and to read about what happened there and to realize what an important battle it was.

We also paused to take a picture of Mr. Frisby standing directly in front of a cannon, contrary to Brian Regan's very sage advice.

Little and Big Round Tops.

Another monument.

When we stopped at Little Round Top, there was a guy there all decked out in Civil War attire. I don't know if he was a National Park employee or just some Civil War fanatic, but it was pretty cool nonetheless.

At the top of Little Round Top. At this point, it was close to the hottest part of the day and we were feeling it. I stupidly chose to wear denim capris that day because I thought, "we'll be in the car a lot, so I'll be in air conditioning". I didn't realize there would be so much getting out of the car to see the battlefield. Since it was so hot and we were wilting, we started hurrying things along a little after this point.

The "Copse of Trees" where Pickett's Charge, and subsequently the battle, ended.

At the end of the tour, we stopped at the Soldier's National Cemetery where Lincoln gave the famous Gettysburg Address.

All in all, we enjoyed the day at Gettysburg. Though, truthfully, we would have enjoyed it more if it was 10 or 15 degrees cooler. But, so goes life in Pennsylvania. After we finished at Gettysburg, we decided we would have time to stop and see Valley Forge on the way to the Philly area, so we headed that direction. One closed freeway, one hour of sitting in parking lot traffic on the freeway, and a very annoying detour later, we decided we would have to skip Valley Forge. We stopped for dinner when Stella started getting restless (and us, too). Then it was back on the road. Interestingly, as we were cruising along on the alternate route that Google Maps suggested since the main freeway had been closed on us, we saw an exit sign for Valley Forge. With the daylight fading fast, we decided to go for it and got off the freeway. The Visitors' Center and all the buildings were closed, but we quickly cruised around the park and checked out Washington's Headquarters by the light of our car headlights. We then drove across this cool covered bridge and that was it for Valley Forge. Someday we'll make it back there to see it in the daytime.

After our quick spin around Valley Forge, it was off to Doylestown, PA. On the way in, we passed a "Rita's". Mr. Frisby got all excited, said that he had forgotten about Rita's, and declared his need for a water ice. Confused? So was I. Don't worry - I have since had Rita's water ice and it's good. A tasty, frozen treat that hits the spot on a hot summer night. We arrived at our dear friends', the Olsons', just after 9 pm. Stella was all wound up from being in the car all day, so we let her crawl around and play while we chatted and caught up. Then, after a long day, we hit the sack to get ready for more adventures the next day.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

DC - Part 3

Day three in DC started at the Eastern Market. This is DC's indoor/outdoor market with all sorts of vendors that sell food/arts/crafts, etc. Sounds fun, doesn't it? It came highly recommended in my guidebook. One of the vendors was supposed to have excellent pancakes, so we figured we could get breakfast there and then poke around a bit. Notice there are no pictures. There's a good reason for that. The Eastern Market was a huge disappointment. Apparently, there are only a few food vendors there throughout the week. The rest are only there on the weekends. Day three in DC was a Wednesday. My guidebook and the Eastern Market website failed to mention that if you come on a weekday you may as well skip it. Fortunately, the vendor that did the pancakes was one of the few there everyday. At least we could have a good breakfast. Oh, wait. They stop serving breakfast at 11 and it's now 11:05. Okay. Let's have a mediocre pulled pork sandwich and call it a wash.

On to the Library of Congress. There are actually three buildings that make up the Library of Congress. We went to the Thomas Jefferson building because it's the cool one. And I use the term cool to denote the building's awesomeness, not its temperature. Though, it was cool temperature-wise as well. But, I'm sure the other buildings in the Library of Congress were equally cool temperature-wise. Not so, awesome-wise. Essentially, the Thomas Jefferson building was the one to see. There's not a lot to do there unless you have some hard-core research you're working on. Since we didn't have any research to do, it didn't take long. However, this turned out to be Stella's favorite stop of the entire trip. Here's why. The Library of Congress isn't really on the list of must-do tourist activities in DC. It was, therefore, much less crowded. It had a nice, big, cool (temperature-wise) entry hall that, because of the relative lack of tourists, was very open. That meant lots of open crawling space for Stella. And after three days of hanging out in her stroller in museums and other locations, she was ready for some open crawling space. As I said, the building didn't take all that long to see, but we spent a fair amount of time there so Stella could get the wiggles out.

The entry hall in the Library of Congress. Cool, huh?

After the Library of Congress, we headed to the Capital Building. Upon entering the Library of Congress, we saw that conveniently, there was a tunnel from there to the Capital Building. We made good use of it when it was time to head over. We didn't want to do a tour of the Capital Building since that requires contacting your congress person or senator to arrange it and I am against any sort of contact with elected politicians (just kidding! We just didn't want to go to that much trouble). So, we just checked out the newly opened Capital Visitors' Center and it was much more interesting than I thought it would be. They had lots of information and displays on the history of the building and Capital Hill.

When we finished at the Capital Building, we decided to check out the Supreme Court. This was another big disappointment. The front of the building was totally covered in scaffolding, so you could hardly see it. So, we went inside to see the courtroom. Apparently, when court is not in session, you can't go in the courtroom unless you're there for a scheduled informative talk that takes place inside. We weren't there for that, so we could only go up to the door of the courtroom and peek inside. Lame.

After the Supreme Court, it was time to make our way to the National Air & Space Museum to meet up with Mr. Frisby. It was hot outside as we walked along and, yet again, Stella fell asleep.

We had a nice view of the Capital Building as we made our way down the Mall.

We took no pictures in the Air & Space museum, but we had a great time and wished we had a little longer there. After finishing at the museum, we decided to walk over to see the Jefferson Memorial and the FDR Memorial. It's quite a walk, but there are really no metro stops over there, so there aren't many other options. We got over to the Jefferson Memorial as the sun was starting to go down.

(Ashlee, please excuse the on-camera flash. The lighting situation was difficult)

By the time we finished at the Jefferson Memorial, it was dark and getting late. We decided it was too late to try to see the FDR Memorial, so it would just have to wait until we make it back there someday. And, thus concluded our last day in DC. There is just so much to do in Washington DC and, in three days, we only had time to really scrape the surface. We definitely want to go back someday and see all the things we didn't get to this time around.