Yorktown Victory Center

Whereas yesterday was little girl heaven with the carriage ride, today was little big boy heaven, with lots of pretending to be soldiers and firing of weapons.

The boys even got to participate in the “firing of a cannon.”
1.  The Sergeant (the man with the clipboard) gives the order to prepare to fire.

2.  Add in your carefully measured scoop of powder and then add in the cannon ball or in this case bomb.

3.  Set the range using what looked rather similar to an astrolabe (no picture because of poor angle).

4.  Clear the cannon and set the fuse.

5.  Light the fuse.

6.  BOOM!  (this shot is of course from the actual trained people firing it)

I’ll write a more concise and what we learned type post on another day.  For now I’m going to read a little bit and then go to sleep……..  Maybe even before midnight, what a novel concept.

Taking a carriage ride

On Princess’ list of things to do since we got here: TAKE A CARRAIGE RIDE, well she’s only young enough to really want to do this once, so we decided to let her do it.


First we had to pet the horses and take some time to enjoy them.


Then we rode around town in it with a grinning 5 year old.


She did have to be reminded on a fairly regular basis to sit  back down.  Then we went on the “Bits and Bridles” tour, which will be the subject of a Science Sunday post later on, but that was not as fun because she didn’t get to pet any of the animals.  However her day was made when one of the carriage drivers offered to give us a ride back to the historic district.


018And SCORE it was a “pretty carriage that the princess rides in when she marries the prince.”


Batman was just happy to be allowed to bring his gun and be a soldier.

Jamestown Settlement

Can you tell the kids are excited holding their animals skins and “17th century computer” (also known as a navigation tool)?

We wandered through the museum for a while, where I was not allowed to take any pictures.  Poor me, that and I was frustrated by poorly labeled displays.

After spending a good hour or so at the museum we headed out to the displays, braving the COLD and RAIN, did I mention the COLD!  and wet toes!  I’m sure you can guess the first thing the boys headed to.
The armor, they happily tried on armor every opportunity they got, and arrested poor Jeff.
They were even more impressed with watching a musket being fired, I wish I’d gotten better step by step pictures, but it was hard to catch it as quickly as he did it (the steps are more or less in order clockwise, top left).

Superman was supremely amused by the church and had to preach a sermon.  All three of them would have done so as well, but we had to hurry off to watch the muskets be fired.

It was a loud and happy sermon, with many quotations of “love God.”

We toured the three ships in dock, but the kids were getting cold and it started raining fairly hard while we were the first one, so not much time spent there.  We were mainly amazed at the cramped quarters and how small the beds were.  The boys were able to stretch out on it, but I certainly couldn’t.  It was a very crowded place, but what really amazed me was they left before Christmas to come here, and they didn’t make it until a few days from now (Thursday, April 25).  How is that for crazy?

We ended up spending the longest amount of time in the Powhatan village, mainly because there was a nice warm fire, which let me dry my feet a little and restore feeling to cold toes.
All in all a fun, if somewhat cold day.  Which ended with our eating at the worst Chinese buffet I’ve ever eaten at, how can you mess up Jello?  And my buying a POUND OF FUDGE!  YUM YUM YUM!

More hands on stuff at Williamsburg

001I can tell I’m going to run out of creative ways to title these posts.  Though, I’ve been told creative titles are not all that useful for when people are searching for your blog.  Oh well…..

Today was cold, wet, and rainy.  ALL day long.  That did mean that the city was mostly empty.  It also meant we didn’t stay until crazy late today, we were only there until 4 something.

We started off our day at the Powell House, a new addition that is a kid friendly exhibit area with all reproductions so kids can touch and muss about as much as they want.  They had period appropriate games, toys, and chores for the kids to do.  My kids favorite part, feeding the chickens lettuce.
I hadn’t known that chickens could eat lettuce, but the interpreter explained to us that they would eat whatever kitchen scraps they were given.  So, I learned a few new things today.

From there we went to the Capitol building where Jeff and I enjoyed discussing with the docent about the writing of the Virginia Declaration of Rights.  It’s an interesting document that inspired our Declaration of Independence.  The kids did a remarkably good job of being relatively calm through the discussion, and the docent was quite impressed with how well they did.  He had actually tried to warn us off of the tour beforehand.

From there we went to the jail and had quite a bit of fun listening to tales of Blackbeard’s men who had been tried there, and relating this all back to the Felicity story we listened to on the way to Williamsburg.  One of the minor characters is in jail there for failing to pay his debts.

From there we went to the Charlton Coffee House, where we weren’t allowed to use flash photography, so some of my pictures didn’t turn out.  The interpreters there did an excellent job of treating us like we were in 1766, and thoroughly entertained us as they warned us about the “dangers of allowing our young children to taste chocolate, or coffee and allow them to be too stimulated.”  My kids took one sip of the “chocolate” (what we would now call hot chocolate) and were quick unhappy with it.  It’s not as sweet as our chocolate, more close to a baker’s chocolate.  It somewhat reminded me of the hot chocolate drink that is sold on the Mexican food aisle at the grocery stores in Texas.

From there Princess and I went on to the weaver’s and got to see yarn being spun from wool and cotton and I happily got to discuss with him for almost an hour as Princess happily collected samples of yarn, thread, and other things.

She quite amused everyone we encountered there and she asked quite a lot of questions, some of which were very insightful for a 5 year old.

Amusingly enough, we ran into one of the couples that Princess was amusing back at our hotel, and when they met her tonight they said, “We met a ‘Princess’ at the spinner’s this afternoon.”  Then he suddenly realized she was the same girl and was quite amused by it.  I was very amused because he recognized Princess first, and didn’t recognize me for a while, partially because I was now in a swimsuit in the pool, and not huddled up in a hoodie with glasses on.

Before we left, we allowed the kids to get their souveneirs for the trip.  Batman stuck with his original plan of getting a musket, Princess and Superman both were able to get several small things.
And yes that is a fire on in the hotel room. We I was that cold when we got back.  It was turned off a few minutes later when my toes were finally dry.

happy sigh, Colonial Williamsburg

011So, about 6 years ago Jeff and I came here while his parents watched the kids.  I was pregnant with Princess at the time, and at that perfect stage where you’re not feeling too sick, but you’re not too big yet.  It was a fabulous week of spending an insanely large amount of time wandering around the city.


I recognize that I won’t be able to go that overboad this time.  I can certainly try.



One of the super cool things they have for kids is “RevQuest: The Sign of the Rhinoceros,” where you get to be a spy helping the Revolution and averting (what I found out) was a true plot.  It’s ending this weekend, but they’re already planning a new one for the summer.  The kids loved traveling all over and breaking codes and finding secrets to ultimately help foil a plot to poison General Washington.  The traitor was caught and hanged.


Another favorite of the day for the kids was the Adventure Map.  You had to complete five of the activities on their special kids map, thinks like play children’s games, help in the garden, learn about a trade skill.  Things you’re likely to be doing anyways.  At the end they got a pin with a picture of their choosing on it (I think different locations have different pins).



Of course the historical reenactments and the parades were fun to watch.  I can just imagine how hard it was to see with all the gun powder smokes flying in the air during battles after watching a 21 gun salute at the end of one of the dramas.  And I have to say there is something very inspiring about a fife and drum band, and I can see why so many young boys wanted to run off and join the colonial army.



We ended the day with a short stay at the stocks and pillory which apparently was so traumatizing to Batman and Princess they FELL OVER AND DIED!  But, they got better, so all was well.


Then we headed over for a “Ghosts Walk” tour, which wasn’t what we were thinking it was.  When we came 6 years ago Jeff and I had gone on a very fun “Ghosts Among Us” tour, which was really a collection of legends and fables and such, but wasn’t really the “so and so saw this ghost suddenly appear and then disappear,” it was more of stories.  Our guide was a great story-teller and did a fabulous job of entertaining us, but it wasn’t what we were thinking of.  It was more of the traditional, so and so swears they saw a man in 18th century garb walk up and down the hall and when she tried to talk to him, he disappeared.”  Not as much fun, and the guide wasn’t even in period costume, but then neither were most of the stories.  Oh well.



All in all, a good day.  Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go collapse in exhaustion.


PS: Expect to be seeing these outfits a lot more often.  These are their “costumes” for the trip.

Mount Vernon


I have to say having now seen both Mount Vernon and Monticello, I vastly prefer Mount Vernon.  There’s more to see, and I enjoyed all of the ancillary buildings and the chance to interact with people acting as people from the house.

Though, I will say that the tour of the actual house was a little better at Monticello because we were in a small group.  So, I guess it’s a mixed bag.

I had done my research ahead of time and knew there was a few things we wanted to do.

When you first enter at the visitor’s center head over to the information desk and ask for the “Adventure Pass” for kids.  It’s a series of puzzles that take you all over the farm to find the answers.  It rather amused me because my kids actually knew several of the answers without going to the place with the answer because of our history studies, but they still really enjoyed it, and when we were all done we turned it in for a small prize.  Make sure to emphasize SMALL to them so they’re not thinking it’s a toy or anything.  It’s a small medallion.

The other big deal thing for me (this may just be me), was to “meet” Martha Washington, and we also got to “meet” Nellie Custis (George Washington’s granddaughter).

At different times of the day they are in parts of the buildings and will answer questions you have and tell you about life at Mount Vernon or in that time period.

I enjoyed talking with both of them, and they were quite amazed at how far we had traveled from the “Tejas territory,” and were impressed with how well we spoke English.  Nellie Custis told us about a letter her Grandpapa had sent her warning her to be careful “when the fire is beginning to kindle.”  Sound advice today as well as then for young girls starting to date.

One thing that was very striking to me, seeing this so immediately after Monticello was the difference in the two men who lived in them.

Jefferson lived in very grand lifestyle and espoused many high ideals.  Washington lived in a modest way, and I was continually impressed with how he treated the people working for him. 

Mount Vernon with rooms labeledWe saw several houses for his workers that were quite impressive for their size and set up.  Then we found this plaque, and learned that George Washington grew to dislike slavery and so in his will he freed all 300 of his slaves and provided a bequest for several of them.  Jefferson at the end of his life, freed 5 slaves and was so in debt that the estate had to be sold to settle his debts.


The other thing that really impressed me about Washington was his hospitality.  They had 21 rooms in their house, of which 17 were bedrooms, mostly guest bedrooms.  In one year after their presidency they house over 600 guests, many of whom were strangers to them, but needed a place to stay.

I leave you with a collage, a quote I found amusing, and what my kids look like at the end of the day.
And for purposes of recording this, I believe that’s Batman on the left…….  But no guarantees.002
That’s some tired kiddos


As a kid, I’d heard about Monticello.  We drove out to Virginia one summer for a family vacation, but we didn’t make it there for whatever reason. 
It was a lot of fun to see it all, and I got a chance to use some of the tips from my post at ABC & 123 yesterday.  The Monticello website has some great materials, and I have all sorts of follow up plans for this trip.  I especially like the families and teachers section.

One of the things that has always been an oddity for me about Thomas Jefferson is the ideals he claimed to believe and how he actually lived.  He claimed to abhor slavery and its practices, yet he owned slaves.

I had a great discussion with one of the docents at the museum there, about that, and she pointed out that he didn’t actually buy more slaves, and when possible strived to unite slaves families.  He was a benign slave owner in that he didn’t approve of whipping the slaves.  But, he still did own them.

054The other thing I struggle with about him is the amount of debt he had.  He had so much debt in his lifetime that all he owned had to be sold and auctioned off to pay for his debts.  He left no legacy for his children.

But, with all of that he was a great innovator.  Take the polygraph to the right here.  It was the original copy machine.  I’d say it’s all danged hard to operate.  It takes some practice.

He also designed an absolutely fascinating house with all sorts of conveniences.  The interesting thing I learned today: He wasn’t an inventor so much as a “first adaptor.”  He took other people’s ideas and implemented them in his own house or in other things.

He had doors that opened and closed together using a pulley system, a clock that told the time and the days of the week.

I asked the kids what their favorite parts were, and as always it was different and varied.

Princess like the Discovery Room, which had a salve quarters and reproductions of many of the trade skills to try.  Here she’s cooking in the slave quarters.

Superman loved the house itself, which you can’t take pictures inside of.

Batman loved the ancillary buildings, kitchen, storage rooms, and such where he was allowed to take pictures (believe me, if I showed you those pictures you’d see our trip from a whole new viewpoint, at some point I will share those pictures).

I can’t quite decide what was my favorite.  I really enjoyed looking through it all, and enjoyed the amusing anecdotes we got about him and his family.
And some random pictures to finish the post that amused me (some T.J. quotes) and a smorgasboard of pictures.

Childhood to do list: WATER FIGHT!

water fight
Step 1: Fill a large bucket (or cooler) full of water and sponges.  If you’re fancy make these from Inner Child Fun (what I originally bought the sponges for).

Step 2:  Grab as many water filled sponges as you can.
Step 3: Start throwing sponges as fast as you can.
You’re guaranteed to be told, “Did you know that you’re my best Mommy ever?”

Of course if you’re participating and trying to get pictures at the same time, that means you get lots of pictures like this:

And after all is said and done, take some time to build with the sponges and swing on your swing.

Science Sunday: Crabs and Lobsters

Science Sunday


I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably mention it several more times in our science studies: Do not underestimate the value of a good field trip to the pet or grocery store.




We just read up about the various body parts of crabs and lobsters, so while I was out with the kids on Friday we stopped by the pet store and looked at their little brown crabs.  I was hoping for some hermit crabs, but this store didn’t have any.  You can see the crab down by Princess’ hand


That’s him all blown up.  It gave us a chance to look in real life and find eye stalks, his carapace, his walking legs, and his claws.  I had intended to go and check out the lobsters at the grocery store as well to compare, but the kids were not quite ready for that.

All Things Beautiful posted what happens to air when it gets cold.


Changed by the Maker shared about hermit crabs and has a cool video about molting (and yes I’m showing this to my kids on Monday).


So, do you have a favorite place to go for field trips?

Virginia biographies

Have you read any of David Adler’s books?

I’ve been seeing them at the library for a while, and kept almost getting them, but I always had another book about the same person that I got instead.  This time I couldn’t find anything else on Robert E Lee, and I wanted to make sure to teach about him when we learned about Virginia.

Now, I might make a point to get these just for a general overview of the people.  It’s a nice introductory biography.

I used them for Robert E Lee, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and Patrick Henry in Virginia.  Yes, all 4 of them.

I did a couple of different things:

Robert E. Lee and George Washington- I simply gave them half a sheet of paper and found an image of the person.  Then they wrote a sentence about something they learned.  I learned Robert E. Lee was against slavery and freed all of his slaves before the Civil War.

167Thomas Jefferson-We learned about how he was an architect for a while and how he designed Monticello as his “dream house,” so they designed their own dream houses.  Here’s the outside of Superman’s house, don’t be fooled by the innocent flower, it’s a well protected house.
Actually all of the boys had quite the fortresses for their ideal houses and would have been able to withstand impressive battles.


Of course once you got inside, you’d see the pet room, and the Halloween room, that’s right he had a year round Halloween room.

And then in the attic there was the spiders.  I think those were pets also.

And more weapons.

Favorite Resource This Week