Dec 07 2014


Toy Gun Etiquette

toy gunThis Christmas, I feel a strange connection with Ralphie’s mom in The Christmas Story  who doesn’t want to buy him a Red Ryder BB gun,  telling him “You’ll shoot your eye out”.

Problem is, with today’s gun violence and kids’ toy guns being mistaken for real ones, parents have more to worry about than they did in the 1940s.

I grew up with two sisters, and my husband grew up in the country of Sri Lanka, where he said police don’t even carry guns. He didn’t grow up with toy guns, and I didn’t either. My dad didn’t hunt or have a gun.

But, from an early age, Jacob and his male friends were making guns out of building blocks and playing “bad guys and good guys”. I knew the day would come when we’d have to buy them toy guns.

A few years ago, we bought Jacob his first Nerf gun, and I had to remind him several times to not shoot others, namely little brother, Lucas. Especially in the face. This Christmas, I bought him and his cousin, Joel, a Civil War toy rifle and Union cap. I don’t think they came with caps to shoot. They both wanted one when we went to Mount Vernon and Fort Washington earlier this summer. I told Jacob, though, it will only stay in the backyard. Lucas is getting a small, red plastic gun that makes noises and lights up.

With more toy guns being added to our arsenal, I thought it would be best to think through a list of rules. Here’s what I came up with–some that we already use and some that will need to be reinforced.

1. Don’t aim for anyone’s face (especially with Nerf guns).

2. Don’t aim/shoot at anyone who is not playing.

3. Don’t take the guns out of the backyard.

4. Don’t shoot at anyone who doesn’t want to play.

Reader, do you have more rules to suggest? If so, please leave them in the comments.




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Oct 21 2014


Fort Washington National Park discovered a little gem last week that’s only 15-20 minutes down the road–Fort Washington National Park.

My two sisters and niece and nephew were visiting from Indiana, and we had done the tourist thing in Washington DC the day before. This was a relaxing, and relatively close, alternative.

The kids loved seeing the old guns and military equipment, and we had a beautiful view of the Potomac River. We brought a picnic lunch and enjoyed walking around the grounds, which was actually quite a workout with all the hills.

Weekdays are free, and it’s only $5/car on the weekends, so you can’t beat that.

Fort Washington has been around for over 200 years. The first Fort Washington was completed in 1809 to protect Washington DC from enemies coming up the Potomac River. It was destroyed in 1814, but a new one was built.

The fort was abandoned in 1939 and is now a national park. I wished they had more signs explaining what different buildings were used for, but I guess that’s what you get with free stuff. With it being just down the road, the fort is a fun family outing for anyone living in Charles County.

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Sep 29 2014


Quick and Easy Wassail

cups of wassail

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at

The boys helped me decorate the house this weekend, and I think we’re all ready for fall.

This wassail recipe gets me in the mood and is the easiest I’ve ever found.  It’s a go-to recipe when we have company, and it makes the kitchen smell wonderful like spiced cider.

Leftover wassail can be stored in the refrigerator and makes a great decaf alternative to coffee.

Quick and Easy Wassail

1 (64 oz) bottle of apple juice or cider

1 (32 oz) bottle of cranberry juice cocktail

2 c. orange juice

½ c. lemon juice

1 c. sugar

2 t. ground cinnamon

1 t. allspice

1 t. ground cloves

1 orange, thinly sliced (optional)

Bring all ingredients except the orange to a boil. Reduce heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes. Add orange slices and serve immediately.

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Sep 17 2014


How I Emptied My Wallet at the County Fair

ferriswheelNelson and I took the boys to the Charles County Fair this past weekend. Yes, school has started, and unlike any other place in the U.S. that I know of, Charles County doesn’t have their fair until after school starts. They always have a Fair Day on Friday, where the kids have it off and teachers have to work. I believe all the 4-H shows are on that Friday.

So, the fair was Thursday-Sunday, and the kids could get a bracelet on Sunday that allowed for unlimited rides at the carnival. We had coupons for $5 off each bracelet. I was thinking they were $20/bracelet, so $15 with the $5 off.  They were actually $25 a piece, minus the $5, so $20. But, more on that later.

Let me start with my background in 4-H fairs. Back in the good ol’ days (1980-90s) in rural Indiana, I was an 11-year 4-H member, showing pigs and taking a variety of other projects. I learned how to bake goodies and sew outfits that I never wore in public. I was once the junior livestock judging champion (1984, I believe) and got my first trophy. I learned a lot about leadership, being a good citizen, and not getting too attached to farm animals.

4-Hers where I grew up were hard core. Our pigs were mostly raised in a finishing building, with climate control and automatic food and water, so it’s not like I spent countless hours slaving in the barn. But, fair week was a big deal. We bought a new shirt and cowboy boots for show day. Certain families were known to spend hundreds of dollars each year for a 40-lb pig from good breeding stock who had “Grand Champion” potential. An expensive trophy, some said. Many kids stayed all night at the fair, but my dad never let us do that, saying we never slept with pigs at home and didn’t need to at the fair. Others would park their campers at the fairgrounds and stay for the week–their annual summer vacation.

So, coming from that background, the Charles County Fair is very small-scale. But, that doesn’t mean it’s cheap.

Here’s how I emptied my wallet.

The entrance fee was $5 for adults, and kids 10 and under were free. So, we paid $10 to get in. We had just come from church and were hungry, so we started with lunch. I saw the Italian sausage stand and was going to get one of those until I saw it was $8. So, Nelson and I settled for a $3.50 hotdog each and got the boys corn dogs for $4, along with two $3 drinks that we all shared (so, $21 for a very small lunch).

We browsed the animals, very small 4-H displays, and vendors. The boys wanted to ride the rides, so we went to get tickets. Bracelets were $20 each. Lucas wasn’t tall enough to ride many of the rides without an adult, so we ended up buying Nelson a bracelet, too. ($60 down)

After the rides, we had planned to get ice cream (which I have to mention, in my former Indiana town, is sold for a $1 for a one-dip cone). However, by that time I only had $5 left. Lucas was thirsty, so we went in search of an ATM machine. Thankfully on the way, we came across a tent where some folks from a local church were handing out free water. We talked with them for a while and then headed home. I made us ice cream cones at home.


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Aug 06 2014


Assateague Island: Water and Wild Ponies

DSC04132We took the boys this past weekend to Assateague Island for Jacob’s 7th birthday. He wanted to see the ocean, and several friends told me it was more family-friendly than Ocean City. So, we made it a day trip.

Jacob loved seeing the ocean and playing in the water as the waves came in. Lucas wasn’t so fond of the water but eventually got his feet wet.

There were three walking trails, each only a half mile long, so we went on each of those and saw wild ponies while we were walking.

Wild Pony at Assateague IslandThe wild ponies on the island are thought to have come from a colonial-time ship wreck where the ship was carrying ponies. There are about 300 of them now on the island, and they auction off a few each year to keep the numbers down. They roam around the island, and we not only saw a few, but had to watch where we walked, even in the parking lot.

Anyway, we all had a great time. It was a little over a three-hour drive from Bryans Road, so it was long day. Hopefully, we can go back again for a long weekend.

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Jul 10 2014


Starting Piano Lessons

Music Tree BookI started teaching Jacob to play the piano a few months ago, using The Music Tree series by Frances Clark. So far, it’s going pretty well.

Up until a few months ago, he showed little interest in the piano. His father told him he WOULD take piano lessons, and I was a little concerned. However, his younger cousin visited at Easter and was practicing his pieces on our keyboard, and this sparked Jacob’s interest. He wanted to take lessons.

My mom has a music education degree and plays the piano very well. She taught my sisters and me how to play the piano, though I don’t claim to have been a very good student. I think children take lessons more seriously from a teacher other than their parents. But, I’m going to give the lessons a year and then find a “professional”.

Anyway, my mom had recommended The Music Tree, and we like it. It focuses on rhythm and musicality, with basic concepts such as high and low, loud and soft, quarter and half notes, and repeated notes. It starts with playing on the black keys only, but he is now playing on the white keys and learning to read “2nds” and “3rds”.

I don’t think I have the gift of teaching, which was confirmed by a recent “spiritual gifts” test I took. Teaching was listed toward the bottom. But so far, so good. As I listen to him practice while I’m cooking dinner and occasionally yell out “that’s a wrong note” or “play it all at the same beat”, I fondly remember my patient mother and sympathize. And, in my head, I can still hear her calling from the adjoining room as I hit a wrong note, “That’s an F SHARP!”

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Jun 04 2014


How to Build a Worm House

When we had  heavy rain this spring, and a lot of soil washed down our hill, it left a lot of mud on the brick patio area behind our house. And, what creature do you find when you have a lot of mud?

Worms, of course. And, the boys found a lot of them.

To make sure they had a “cozy” place to stay, they made a worm house out of an old plastic bowl and–you guessed it–mud.

Lucas threw in some more water for them to “drink”, but I think I managed to rescue all of them before they drowned.

Unfortunately, a few were lost down the outdoor sink when I caught Lucas giving them a bath under running water. My only hope is that the rest crawled out and made it to safety.

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May 21 2014


Local Indoor Swimming Pool

Lackey High School poolNelson and I and the boys went this past Saturday to the pool at Lackey High School in Indian Head. It’s only about 10 minutes away, and we had talked about going for a long time.

Nelson has enjoyed swimming since he was a boy and wanted to teach Jacob, so we decided to try this one out. We all enjoyed getting some exercise, and Jacob is learning how to swim. Lucas spent the first hour clinging to us but was jumping around in the two-feet section and laughing by the time we were ready to go home.

We hope to make weekly visits from now on. There were less than 10 other kids there when we went this past Saturday, but I’m sure that will change once school lets out. They had two swimming lanes and a shallow area for younger children.

Here’s the info in case you and your family want to check it out.

Henry E. Lackey High School
3000 Chicamuxen Road, Indian Head
301-743-2470 or 301-753-6003

Daily Admission Fees:
2 and under: free
Ages 3-12: $4
Ages 13-59: $5
Ages 60+: $4

Open Swim is often Noon to 6pm on Saturdays, but check the calendar before you go. They also offer swimming lessons in the summer.

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May 10 2014


Strawberry Picking at Shlagel Farms

strawberriescloseupI took the boys today to Shlagel Farms in Waldorf, MD, to pick strawberries, and we all had a great time! The weather was perfect, and Jacob and Lucas each filled their plastic Easter baskets a little more than half full.

Jacob also picked me out a hanging basket full of mini petunias for Mother’s Day, and we bought yummy, strawberry ice cream cones before we left.

This is the only pick-your-own strawberry farm in Charles County, and the fields are well maintained. The staff are also friendly, and we’ll hopefully be back next year.

They also have a pumpkin patch in the fall, which we visited a few years ago, but there is an entrance fee with it, so it ends up being a little pricier. The berries were just $3/pound, so very reasonable. And, of course you’re just paying for the experience. I always enjoy getting out this time of year and in the fall during harvest season. It reminds me of home.

We enjoyed strawberry shortcake tonight for dinner, and we still have a couple pounds of strawberries. What to make tomorrow? I still have a lot of whipping cream, so maybe we’ll just eat them with it.

Here is the shortcake recipe I used tonight. Delicious!

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May 09 2014


If You Give a Teacher a Muffin

If you give a teacher a muffin cardShe'll want coffee to go with it.


Jacob took this card to school for Teacher Appreciation Day.  We taped a Starbucks gift card inside and attached it to a muffin from the local bakery.

I got the idea from a friend who is the president of her PTO and arranged for muffins and coffee for the teachers one morning this week. Her theme was the book, If You Give a Moose a Muffin. I decided to do something on a much smaller scale for Jacob’s first-grade teacher. Hence, the card.

Anybody who has or knows a first grader will probably recognize the popular “If You Give” series: If You Give a Cat a Cupcake, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, If You Give a Moose a Muffin, etc. We have a couple that Chick-fil-A gave out with their kid meals a few years ago.

Anyway, we’ve been blessed with great teachers the past couple years at Jacob’s school. Public schools tend to get a bad rap, but the teachers and staff I’ve personally come to know really care about the kids and put in many long hours.

To all those teachers out there, THANK YOU!



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