High School Musical

Anna's school's drama club recently put on "High School Musical".  Anna played one of the "Brainiacs".


Orphaned Wildlife Rescue Center 5K

This morning the girls and I ran a 5K to benefit the Orphaned Wildlife Rescue Center.  The OWRC is a wonderful place and has rescued over 20,000 animals over the past 25 years.  It is also the only facility in Maryland that is equipped to rescue wildlife in the Chesapeake Bay.  They are a 100% volunteer organization and receive no funds from the county or state.  They're always on the lookout for extra help or donations, so take a moment to check out their website here.

This was the first 5K that I've run in years and Anna and Lauren's first 5K ever.  I told them the goal was just to finish and have fun while doing it.

They did really well on the first leg and even left me in the dust as they came around the bend as they were thinking the race was over.  I called to them that we weren't done and they responded with, "We know!"  They seemed surprised, however, when one of the race directors pointed them in the opposite direction of the finish line.  When they realized we were only halfway through, Lauren said she was pretty much done.  Anna was tired but is very competitive.  She would start to walk but then take off again if anyone got close to passing her.  Haha!  We finally finished the second loop and as we topped the hill, we saw Doug and Jacob and the finish line.  It was if someone lit a fire under the girls!  They both sprinted for the finish!  Eye of the Tiger, my friends.  Eye of the Tiger.

Jacob met us and ran along with me to help me those last few steps.

Yes, my face does get that red when I run...always has.  Yes, even when I'm in decent shape.  I've just learned to embrace it.

We thought that was the end of the day, but were surprised to learn that they were handing out medals for winners in the different age groups.  Anna took 2nd place and Lauren 3rd place for the under 14s.

They were beaten out by this adorable munchkin who also happened to be Little Miss Maryland.

In my age group, they had a few issues deciding who came in where.  They began to announce the winners but were told the lady they announced as the 3rd place winner hadn't even run the race.  They went back to reassess but still announced the missing runner as the 3rd place winner and me as having taken 2nd place.  We all laughed about that because I move like I'm running in molasses, but I was still excited to have a medal.  A few minutes went by and the lady handling the winners walked back up to the podium to say that 2nd place had, in fact, gone to someone else.  I walked up and asked what that meant for me and she responded, "What do you mean?"  I replied, "You guys announced me as the second place winner."  She said, "It means you didn't win."  Ha!  So, I gave my medal back.  When we left, the missing runner's name was still in 3rd place.  Too funny!

Anna and Lauren were put to work helping with the raffle tickets and prizes.  Anna won a $25 gift certificate to Applebee's and Doug won a flight (for the kids) and lunch with a local pilot.  It was a beautiful morning and a successful one as well!

As the raffle finished, we decided to take advantage of our Applebee's gift certificate and headed there for lunch.  On the way, we were serenaded by the Peanut Gallery as they sang "Chickens!"


On Saturday, we drove to Arlington to pay our respects to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

This was the first year that I think the girls really understood the gravity of Arlington.  Anna passed a grave that had a laminated note from a daughter to her dad that read, "I love you.  I know you love me too,  You're the best Daddy ever."  She and Lauren both walked up to me in tears.  We talked about the loss and sadness that the families with loved ones here must face.  We also talked about how lucky we are that Doug always came home to us.

We went to remember all of the fallen soldiers, sailors, and airmen, but in particular, we went to look for three U-2 pilots that Doug knew from his time at Beale.

I personally never met Major Dively, but we had just moved to California for Doug to begin his U-2 pilot training.  We were still living in TLF (temporary housing) when one night we were awakened by the call that "Muff" had passed while on a mission in Southwest Asia.  He was considered one of the best to ever fly the "Deuce".

Doug and Major McGovern (Ed) flew T-37s and U-2s together. We have a tailwheel from a U-2 that Ed managed to bring to a safe stop when his tail strut broke.  He had no way to keep the jet on the runway.  He survived this little mishap but lost his life over Afghanistan in 2009. 

Major Graziano (Graz) and Doug flew U-2s together as well.  Doug always said that Graz had the biggest, best smile, and made him laugh all the time. He tells the story about Graz choosing to drive the bread truck onto the flight line in his space suit, only to be caught by the Ops Group Commander, who was not impressed and cancelled the entire mission. Doug said they laughed for weeks.  When Graz passed away, he had left the U-2 program and was training to be a test pilot.

We remember them and their families today.  We are thankful for them, their lives, and their service. May they rest in peace.

It's A Jungle Out There!

Since I'm not taking classes this semester I was finally able to go on one of Jake's field trips with him!  I was so excited to be chosen as this is all new for him and his enthusiasm is catching.  The entire kindergarten from his school made a trip to the National Zoo in D.C.  It was even more amazing because another mom that I think the world of was also chaperoning and we were able to hang out together.  It just so happened that her oldest son's football coach is affiliated with the zoo and he managed to set up a special visit with one of the zookeepers.  We were blown away!

Meet Alex, Ruan (not sure of the correct spelling), and their keeper Lauren!   Alex and Ruan are  Aldabra Tortoises and are believed to be between 50 to 100 years old.  The general belief at the zoo is they are actually probably closer to 100.

The zoo has four Aldabra Giant Tortoises, two females and two males.  Alex has been at the zoo since 1956.

Lauren was so informative and so sweet.  She's very passionate about her work and it was great to get a behind the scene look at what goes on at the zoo. 

Big boys, aren't they!  Alex weighs 400 lbs. while Ruan weighs 540 lbs.

We felt so fortunate to have such an amazing experience.  I just wish the girls could have been there as well.

After visiting with the tortoises, Lauren took us to meet some of her other friends.  She asked if anyone would have an adverse reaction to snakes.  I kept silent but also stayed back when the snakes came out.  I put on a brave face for Jacob and he showed me what it really meant to be brave.  Red touches black, friend to Jack.

Uhhh, okay.  So, I'm the person that sees a snake and runs screaming in the other direction.  It was nice to see them in a different light.  Don't get me wrong.  I will continue to run the other direction screaming when I see one, but on this day I held my ground and I didn't embarrass my boy.

 Check out some of the cool shells and skulls in the room.

Mr. Snapping Turtle here was very interesting.  He stayed completely still the entire time we watched him.  The only movement was from his tongue lure, the small worm looking thing in his mouth.

This is one of the female white-cheeked gibbons. An interesting fact we learned is that all gibbons are born with a whitish buff coat that turns black over the first two years of life.  When they reach sexual maturity, males remain black and females change back to a buffy color.  

 Our crew...

I missed the name of this beauty, but we did learn that she likes to spend a lot of time here at this window.  I guess at one point she managed to scrape out a small space in between the window and the wall and spent her time passing pieces of straw through the small hole to children passing by.

It was a HOT day!  We took a break to run through one of the water misters.

By the end of the day, the kids were exhausted.  Jake and Joseph (my other little student) both passed out before the bus even pulled out of the parking lot.  They didn't wake up until we pulled back into the school parking lot!  It was a fun day!


Anna has had a big year in chorus.  She was in Tri-County Honors Chorus and All-County Honors Chorus.  She also had a solo at the All-County performance.  This, however, was the first time we had seen the whole sixth grade chorus in action.  Their choral director is really amazing and we were so impressed with each of the songs.

Anna was so excited that she got one of the three solos for the night.  She picked "Opportunity" from the new "Annie".


Auntie Jan's Visit

At the end of April, Doug's sister Jan came from Wisconsin to stay with us for a few days.  It had been way too long since we'd last seen each other and we were so excited to see her.  As this was her first time in Southern Maryland, we tried to give her a feel for the area.   We had dinner at Stoney's one night, went hunting for shark teeth at Flag Ponds, cheered Lauren on at a couple of lacrosse games, and toured the Naval Academy as well as a few "off the beaten path" sites.  

After having a whiz bang start, Lauren's lacrosse team encountered two hiccups in a row.  We had a game on Friday and one on Saturday and unfortunately lost both.  Lauren was still excited to have Auntie Jan on the sidelines taking it all in.

 I am pretty convinced that Jan is psychic.  She mailed a few boxes our way prior to her visit and when she arrived she opened them up.  They were full of some of the most thoughtful gifts, each so appropriate to its recipient.  We don't get to be together very often, in fact it had been 2.5 years since we last saw each other, but her gifts were just so perfect.  To Doug, she gave a portable blue-tooth speaker; to Lauren, two arrow heads she and her husband Mike had found, nestled in a handmade deerskin pouch; to Anna, one of the original Cinderella movies; to Jacob (who is currently obsessed with marbles) a gazillion marbles in a handmade marble bag with his initials; and to me, the book "Gift From The Sea", which I had just read a sample of and written down on my wish list.  Like I said...perfect, intuitive, thoughtful.  Wow.  She also gave me a copy of the most beautiful Advent book I've ever seen.  I can't wait to have it out at Christmas.

I think the absolute best gift she gave each of the kids, however, was her time.  She has a way of making them feel like they are the most important person in the room.  She also taught Jacob how to play marbles and he taught her how to play with Magna-Tiles.

Sunday was a beautiful day and so we headed to Annapolis for some gumbo at the Boatyard Bar and Grill and then a tour of the Naval Academy.  We had never driven onto the Academy but decided to try it out and managed to park right in front of the chapel.  Amazing.

We toured the crypt of John Paul Jones...

 And took a walk through Preble Hall.

All three kids took a ton of pictures during the day.  I'm so proud!  Maybe they take after me just a little bit. :)


For some reason, on our previous visits to the Academy, we had never gone inside Bancroft Hall, which is the largest single dormitory in the world.  We decided to stop in and were so glad we did.

It was gorgeous on the inside.

That Monday after we managed to get the Peanut Gallery off to school, we did a little sightseeing that was new for all of us.  Doug had mentioned all of the historical markers he drives by on a daily basis and so we thought we would take the time to actually stop by and read them all.  Our first stop was the Dr. Mudd House, but unfortunately, it isn't open on Mondays.  We had the same issue at the Thomas Stone Historic site, but still enjoyed getting the lay of the land and seeing what we could see from the road.  For brunch, we had an amazing meal at Marie's Diner in La Plata.  Marie's is a real Mom and Pop type of place and I had the best chicken fried steak, eggs, and grits for breakfast.  Yum.  We also drove by the St. Ignatius Church and St. Thomas Manor in Chapel Point.

I was so impressed with the tombstones at the cemetery there, overlooking the water.

We also took a quick walk around the Port Tobacco one-room schoolhouse, built around 1878.  They open it up a few times a year for local school children and we just happened to stop by on one of those days.  As class was in session, we really only got to take a peek in through the windows.

On the homefront during Auntie Jan's visit, Jacob accomplished his lifelong dream of building a Magna-Tile structure that was taller than his dad.

Anna has now lost so many teeth that she has these perfect openings on both sides of her mouth that makes this possible...

She is a little embarrassed but did give me permission to post the video.  I just think this current smile of hers is so stinking adorable.  She makes me smile every time she smiles.  Speaking of smiling, we're looking forward to our next visit with Auntie Jan. She is definitely one of the sweetest, most thoughtful, and loving people you could ever be honored to meet.  We can't wait to see her again.
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