Field Trips

Our First, But Definitely Not Our Last, Trip to Greenbrier State Park in Maryland

One of the boys is “fishing” with a bug net.
One of our alleymates (neighbor who lives off the same alley as us) invited us and another alley family  to Greenbrier State Park in Boonsboro, Maryland today.  She had been a few times before and said it was a nice park with a beached lake, not too crowded during the week and within an hour of where we live.  I could not wait to check it out!  So 3 moms, 4 boys, a cooler and beach bags piled into a minivan and headed to Boonsboro.
The drive was lovely and the weather was absolutely perfect today!  Fluffy white clouds were constantly rolling by, so you weren’t too cool not too hot for long.  Since we do not live in Maryland, it was $5/person (exception – the children in carseats were free); Maryland state residents pay only $3.  You can choose to set up your chairs/umbrellas/towels on grass that has some trees for shade, but we went right down on the beach.  I was surprised that there were rocks mixed in with the sand, but it wasn’t a bother to me.  If your feet are sensitive, you can wear your flip flops down to the waters edge.
As you can see in the pictures, there are two roped off areas.  The 1st one probably goes out 30′-40′ from the shore and the 2nd one is another 20′ after that.  B, who is 4’10” went out to the farther rope and the water was just below his chin,  The shallow water, combined with no waves or current like you’d find at the ocean, makes this park friendly for kids of all ages and makes me feel safe letting B roam (swimmers must remain inside the roped areas).  In addition to swimming and sunbathing at the lake, they had paddle boats and fishing outside the ropes.  In fact, the lake is stocked with trout, largemouth bass and bluegill.  There are picnic tables available and even charcoal grills.  Besides the lake, the park offers camping, hiking trails and lots of flora and fauna to see.
The bathhouse with restrooms, showers and a first-aid station was right behind us and there are lifeguards on duty from 11am – 6pm.  One of the boys got sand in his eye and the lifeguard offered to call up to the first-aid station for an eye wash to be brought down.  The boy and his mom decided to walk up to the station, but I was impressed the lifeguard was paying attention and offered that assistance.  I also like that there are no trashcans.  Any trash you make, you must take with you.  Full trash cans can not only be smelly and unsightly, but they also attract bugs.
The lake is man-made and the bottom is soft sand and some rocks, like the shore.  The waters in the swimming area were clear and you could see down to the bottom.  There were also lots of little fish playing tag with the children.  Our boys were trying to catch a fish with bug nets most of the day and finally one of them caught a fish in a sand castle bucket – that’s talent, right there!
All 7 of us had a great time.  Greenbrier State Park is close, inexpensive and relaxing, in my opinion.  We will definitely be frequenting this park!
When we arrived, this is what the lake in front of us looked like…
…and to the left of us…
…and to the right of us.  I’d say over the next 5 hours another 40 – 50 people came and went.

Our Williamsburg, Virginia Top Ten List

B, the hubs and I spent 4 days in Williamsburg, Virginia.  It was a lovely and well-needed mini vacay!  Unfortunately, we were unable to experience Revolutionary City this time.  However, since we are starting American History in 5th grade this month (how is he a 5th grader already?!), we will definitely be making a trip back.  Instead of writing the usual post about our trip, I decided to create a Top 10 List, a la David Letterman.  Although, knowing me, I won’t be able to limit each item to just one sentence.  But, it will limit me to only ramble on about 10 things.  ;o)  Disclaimer: these are not all necessarily the best things about our trip, merely the ones that stand out the most.  Here we go…

Our Williamsburg, Virginia Top Ten List 
10.  Stopping at Bass Pro Shop on the way to Williamsburg was the best decision I made!  The hubs got to spend a few hours in his happy place which brought out “vacation hubs”.  Trust me, vacation hubs is much more relaxed and easy-going than workday hubs.
9.   This particular Bass Pro Shop has a restaurant and we had lunch there.  The hubs ordered an alligator appetizer and we all tried it.  It had the consistency of cooked shrimp and tasted good.  But one bite was enough for me, thank you very much.
8.   I saw the results of worry and fear over future gun laws in the US – half-empty gun display cases and the inability to restock certain kinds of ammo.  Some people are so afraid they will not be able to buy everything they want in the future, so they are buying it all up now and manufacturers cannot keep up with the demand.
7.   The Cheese Shop makes excellent sandwiches.
6.   B’s favorite ride at Busch Gardens turned out to be mine as well – Da Vinci’s Cradle.
5.   Seeing the pride and self-satisfaction on B’s face when he won the prize he’d set his sites on the very 1st time he tried.  It is a giant banana with dreadlocks and a Rastafarian hat.
4.   B was so happy he finally went on a roller coaster that went upside down.
3.   The hubs and I went to Busch Gardens years before B was born and had our portrait drawn.  On this trip, we had a new one drawn with all 3 of us.
2.   Even though we weren’t able to enter Revolutionary City, no child should visit Williamsburg without getting a 3-point hat (or a bonnet) and a toy flintlock pistol, IMO.  B got both.  I remember getting my 3-point hat at Williamsburg as a girl and I played with it for years.
1.   And my absolute favorite things about our trip to Williamsburg was….We spent four days there and not a single person asked B, “Why aren’t you in school?”  School systems still had 1 – 2 weeks left before Summer vacation, but there were plenty of other homeschoolers down there.  Due to the historical education to be gained in the area, Williamsburg must be used to us homeschoolers about all year long.  It is so nice not having to explain why you are out in public to complete strangers!

My New Favorite Breads Are From Wegmans

At the beginning of this month, we went on a field trip to Wegmans grocery store with some other homeschool families.  It was their Eat Well, Live Well 4th Grade Tour, but we included 3rd through 5th graders.  We had a great time, learned new things with hands-on activities and ate food – best kind of field trip in my book! We sampled foods from the bakery, produce department and cheese shop.  Unfortunately, there were no samples in the fresh meat & seafood department.  :o(

Two items we sampled in the bakery were so good, I’ve been buying them.  They are the Marathon Energy Loaf (pictured on the left) and the 5 Grain 4 Seed Multigrain Bread (pictured on the right).  All of us moms who bake our own bread were so jealous that the multigrain bread was moist and not as dense as the loaves we have baked.  They weren’t giving up the secret, though.  The marathon bread has both fruit and vegetable, in addition to all the seeds.  YUM-O!  I’ve had them toasted, buttered, cream cheesed and around a delicious BLT.  If you have a Wegmans in your area, give it a try!

Review of Big Apple Circus at Dulles Town Center, Loudoun County, Virginia

We went to The Big Apple Circus yesterday and had a blast!*  The tent is intimate – seats less than 1,800 – so every seat is close to the action.  One act performs at a time and there weren't any lasers or fireworks or props all lit up light like Christmas trees.  That is very important to me, the mom of a child who gets sensory overload pretty easily.  The crew is very efficient when changing the ring for acts.  In fact, you may not even notice them at all because you are looking up at a solo trapeze act or laughing at the clowns' high jinx in the stands.

The theme of this, their 35th, season is LEGENDARIUM: A JOUNEY INTO CIRCUS PAST.  We enjoyed classic acts from when circuses began – horses, trapeze, clowns, contortions and acrobats.  Things I hadn't seen before were a slack wire, tangoing jugglers or were they juggling tangoers and trick bikes to bring us back to the present.  Each act was wonderful.  There's no magic, no slight of hand, no trickery.  It's athletes and performers who awed, amazed and entertained us with their strength, skills and talents.

Our seats were front row, center!  We were so close to the action, it was hard to not reach out and touch the beautiful horses as they went by or feel the costume of the female acrobat in Quinterion as she strutted on the ledge in front of us.  So close, in fact, that when those horses got up to a nice trot, they kicked up some floor shavings onto us.  It was a 3-D show!  LOL  Don't worry, the staff was diligent about keeping the floor shaving clean of any animal droppings, so we stayed clean, too.

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