Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Halloween was SO much fun with the kids this year.  They were just really into it, not like in years past.  Both of them would race from house to house but would politely take turns ringing doorbells.  It was funny!  Avery was a black cat.  I made her costume possible.  I just sewed on the fur to pieces we purchased at the store.  Adin's knight costume on the other hand took me about a month to make.  I knitted his sweater and helmet.  Here's some pictures...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

First Day of Kindergarten

Today was Avery's first day of Kindergarten.  I cannot even believe it!  She was super excited!  When we got to school she and her classmates had to line up outside.  The longer we stood there the more her excitement seemed to fade.  Then just like that the teacher says "ok say goodbye to mom and dad" and then she was off.  I was able to fight back the tears in front of A but I cried in the car.  After we dropped Avery off at school we headed to Target.  We were in the children's book isle and the first book I see is If I Could Keep You Little.  I of course had to pick it up and start reading it.  Not a good idea.  "If I could keep you little, I would kiss your scrapes and bruises... but then you wouldn't be able to learn from your mistakes" was just one of the pages in the book.  It was a really cute book.  Just not suitable for reading after you just took your child to Kindergarten.  They should have a warning sticker on the front or something :)  So Avery will be brought home on the bus from school.  She and the neighbor girl ride together and have the same bus stop.  Avery was SO excited about riding the bus!  She got to ride the bus in preschool a couple times to go on field trips.  It makes her feel like one of the big kids.

Here are some pictures from this morning.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Vacation 2011 - Niagara Falls, Washington DC, and Nags Head

This past week we returned from our road trip out East.  We drove to: Niagara Falls, New York; Washington, D.C.; and Nags Head, North Carolina.  It was such a great time!  We saw so many amazing things.  Here are some pictures and short stories from our trip.

First up was Niagara Falls.  We set off on the 10 hour drive from Elgin to Niagara at 6:15 AM.  We are always getting asked if the kids sleep in the car.  They do not.  It is a VERY rare occasion if they do.  The kids did really well on the long drive, as long as they had something to do.  There were plenty of movies, coloring books, and games to keep them entertained.  Any down time though was spent pestering each other (and sometimes us, lol).

Coming up to the bridge
almost there...
So the bridges were a big deal for the kids.  There aren't a lot of bridges here.  Well none like this anyway.  They got pretty excited.

Another bridge
the bridge
So I guess I was trying to take a picture of the bridge which didn't turn out.  But it ended up being kind of a cool picture anyway.

The following pictures are of our hotel.  We said at a Holiday Inn.  We picked it for its location.  It was right within walking distance of the Falls.

After we checked in and brought all of our things to our room we went for a walk to see the sights.  Neither Chris or myself had ever been to Niagara Falls.  I have to say it was quite amazing, something everyone should see at least once in their life time.  Here are some pictures from our first evening there.

A look down the river

The current on the river was super fast
These are some steps that lead down to the river's edge

The kids were calling this a castle.  They were telling us what they think they would find in the castle.  It was the usual knights, horses, princesses, etc.  It was actually an elevator for a tour that brought you down and behind the waterfall.

In case of jumpers 
Top of the Falls Restaurant.  We did not eat there. 
So Chris was trying to get a picture of the kids in front of the falls.  Adin's not much of a camera guy (unlike his sister).  Believe it or not he is actually saying "cheese" in this picture.
While we are trying to get this picture there is a group of 4 or 5 Asian women who have stopped to watch
They are taking pictures the whole time and saying how cute the kids are

The hill we had to go on to get down to where we were in the pictures above.  It was actually quite steep compared to how the picture looks.  Also another view of the Top of the Falls Restaurant
Mist from the falls 

View of the power plant on the Canadian side

"The Tiki Man" building.  This building was just down the block from our hotel and on the path we took to the falls.  On our way to dinner we were walking through the park across the street.   Chris was walking with Avery and I was walking with Adin.  Adin goes to me "MOM, MOM!  Look!  A puppy!"  "Oh sweetie, that's not a puppy."  I said to him.  "That's a squirrel!"  Seriously the squirrel was really that big!  We have never seen a squirrel that big, EVER.  It could be in a record book it was so big.

A beautiful sunset on our first night of vacation

Day two at Niagara Falls we were up early and headed out to breakfast.  On our drive to breakfast (and even the night before) we noticed that the locals are really shady looking.  A lot of ruffians and thugs.   Not some place I want to go walking alone.

Our time in Niagara Falls was short.  We were only there for last evening and then this morning.  We needed to drive to Washington, D.C.   Our plans for the morning were to walk around the park and to take a ride on the Maid of the Mist.

Having never been to Niagara I wondered why people would always say that the Canadian side is better.  I thought the falls was just in between the US and Canada.  Nope, it's mostly on the US side, hence why the Canadian side is better.

Here we are headed down to the boat ride
Adin in his garbage bag, uh, I mean poncho.  Which, by the way, he had the biggest melt down when we tried to put it on him.  It must be an age thing because a little boy about his age a few people ahead of us had a melt down too.
Avery in her poncho
Getting ready to board the boat
View of the Canadian Maid of the Mist
The kids and me
All of us.  Not a great picture but at least it shows we were all there.
At the beginning of the boat ride the spray started out as a very fine mist

Close up of the falls


Here's the tower with the elevators.  If you look at the net hanging from the bump out, just to the right of the net close to the railing you see a black dot.  That black dot is actually a man suspended from the ledge fixing something underneath.

Just some pictures of the fam...

This next set of pictures is from a town called Love Canal.  Love Canal is a neighborhood in Niagara Falls.  Chris was told about this place from a coworker.  We thought we would check it out and see what there is to see or rather not see.  If you have never heard of this town the story is quite sad.  A local chemical company, Hooker Chemical, buried 21,000 TONS of toxic waste here.  Hooker Chemical then sold the site where they buried the toxic waste to the Niagara Falls School Board in 1953 for $1.  The chemical company fully disclosed what was done and what was buried on this section of land.  Yet the school board still bought the land and built schools there.  Apparently with all of the construction of the local housing development and heavy rain the toxic waste started to leach up through the soil.  The waste was seeping up through peoples basements, their backyards, and sewer drains.  The drums of waste were actually working their way to the surface and could be seen in some peoples backyards.  Kids would play outside at school and come home with burns on their hands and faces.  There were health issues of local residents, abnormally high miscarriage rates, and birth defects (such as enlarged feet, heads, hands, and legs).  The government eventually relocated the residents and reimbursed them for their homes.  Believe it or not some people refused to leave.  On the three or four streets we went down, of what is now known as Black Creek Village, there were about 5 or 6 homes scattered here and there.  The residents said as long as the government could say that their home was in a relatively safe area they were going to stay.  It was weird to see these homes that stood alone on streets that were once lined with houses.  The streets, as you can see in the pictures below, are in disrepair.  There is nothing but over grown trees, grass, and weeds where houses once stood.  As you drive down the street through this 'wilderness' that has taken over you suddenly come to a clearing where you find a house with a perfectly manicured lawn, flowers hanging in baskets, and in some cases a garden growing vegetables.  We drove down a few more streets looking for the sight of the school, which is apparently fenced off now.  We couldn't find it.  After looking at a map later that day turns out we just didn't go far enough.  The waste has since been cleaned up and the area deemed safe.  The area where it was buried was dug up, cleaned, and covered with a very heavy plastic and other materials.

It's a fascinating, sad, and eery feeling that comes over you seeing this in person.  Knowing that this street was once lined with houses, cars, and kids playing.
An over grown sidewalk 
A resident that refused to leave with a shiny Mercedes in their drive way.
A driveway to where a house once stood.

Side of the street.  The curb is still there, you just can't see it.

View down another street
Another sidewalk
An entrance to something.  This was larger than a driveway.
Here is a link to read more about Love Canal.  If you do other searches for the town and look at the pictures, some of the pictures are graphic.  Just wanted to warn you.

On a frantic search for a gas station we happened to pass the Ralph Wilson stadium where the Buffalo Bills play.

Passing through Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia.  Missed the sign for Virginia though.

We arrived in DC pretty late after the almost 8 hour drive.  We checked in and then went for a quick walk on the mall.  Our hotel was only about two blocks away from the National Mall.  Now mind you they were some pretty big blocks.

Our room.  The hotel was super nice.  Again it was a Holiday Inn.  We would definitely stay there again.

The Washington Monument
The Capital Building
Closer view of the Capital

Smithsonian Air and Space Museum
Sculpture outside the Air and Space Museum
A view of the Capital on our walk back to our hotel room

Joseph Henry statue outside the Smithsonian Castle
The Castle was the beginning for the Smithsonian.  Operations, laboratories, lecture halls,  galleries, and Joseph Henry's apartment were located here.
With the rapid expansion of the Smithsonian's collections and areas of research the campus grew to what it is today.
Washington Monument

These next pictures are from the World War II Memorial

These carved pictures were on both sides of the entrance to the memorial.  They told the story of the war.  From first hearing about it on the radio to the men getting ready to go to war and fighting.
The detail was absolutely incredible 
Each state has a pillar.  The large arches at either end represented the Atlantic and the Pacific.

These were inside the arches

The wall of stars

A short run later we arrived at
The Lincoln Memorial
The Reflecting Pool wasn't so reflecting 
Being that we had strollers with us we couldn't very well go up the stairs to the monument.  On the side there is a small room that not only has the elevator but a small museum as well.

Here we go again with Adin.
Being a Swan you think he would be used to the camera by now!

Inside the Lincoln Monument there is a small, very small, little bookstore.  This is the ceiling inside the bookstore.
Looking up one of the massive columns to the beautiful ceiling.

View of part of the museum and the elevators.

From the Lincoln Monument we walked over to the Vietnam Memorial.  On the way to the memorial there was a small stand where you could buy military patches and pins.  There were a lot of hand written letters placed at the bottom of the wall.  There were letters and wreaths from different schools.

Just down a little bit from this was a letter and a flower that leaned up against the wall.  On the ledge right in front of the letter was a patch with a pin placed on top and a cigarette. 

Statue near the Vietnam War Memorial

Later in the day we went to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

Space Station
Jupiter-C Nose Cone.  It's made of ceramic and was actually in space.
Solar panels used to power the Space Station.

Spirit of St. Louis

The original plane flown by the Wright Brothers.
Wilbur Wrights high school report card

Plane engine
Who would have thought that the grooved road that warns you to slow down was developed by NASA .

One of displays was about being a Stewardess in the early 1950's.  The requirements were: weight was a maximum of 135, Height was between 5'4 and 5'6, age was early 20's, marital status was single, you had to be pretty "Just below Hollywood standards", and your personality had to be up beat and outgoing.

Outside of the Air and Space Museum

These next few pictures are from the Museum of the American Indian.  This building is amazing!  The pictures do not do it justice at all.  You will not find a corner in the building.  American Indians believed that corners harbored bad spirits.  My grandma used to tell me something similar about corners when I was little.
This was on a wall extending up towards the ceiling.
This is looking up at the ceiling
Another view of the ceiling

Outside of the building

Later in the evening we couldn't decide on what to do.  We ended up going to Arlington National Cemetery.

View of the Washington Monument from the cemetery

Eternal flame
The view that John and Jackie Kennedy have from where they lay
To the right of Jackie was a smaller stone that read "A Daughter" (who's name is Arabella) she was stillborn.
To the left of JFK's stone was a smaller one for their son, Patrick, who was only two days old when he passed.

The rows no matter in which direction you look are perfect.
Guarding the tomb of the unknown soldier
Each step, each movement, and probably each breath was perfectly timed.
Guard walking out to announce the changing of the guard.

It was so hot and humid outside I don't know how they handle being in full uniform like that.  We were wondering how much water they must drink before and after to properly hydrate.

It was so peaceful here.  The sun was shining through the trees, the birds were chirping, and you could hear the wind rustling the leaves on the trees.
The perfectly lined rows of headstones seemed to go on forever

About 5 or 6 months ago we requested tickets to tour the White House from two different state representatives.  Both replied asking for our full names, social security numbers, dates of birth, gender, and city and state of our current residence.  We had to provide the information for the kids as well.  Shortly after providing the necessary information one of the representatives offices replied saying the likelihood of us receiving tickets was pretty low and offered other sites in DC they would be able to get us tickets for.  The other representatives office replied thanking us for our request and to say our information was sent to the White House.  Also they let us know that they do not find out if ticket requests have been granted until 1 - 2 weeks prior to the dates we requested.  Two weeks on the dot we received an email from the second representative saying our request for four tickets to tour the White House has been granted.  They sent an email with our confirmation number and VERY specific instructions regarding the tour.  The instructions stated we were not allowed to bring anything with us other than an ID, keys, wallet, an umbrella, and a cell phone.  No strollers, no bags, no purses, no lipstick, no cameras, no video recorders, no guns, no ammunition, no fireworks, etc.  If you came with anything other than the 5 allowable items you were simply turned away and not allowed in.  The instructions also stated we were to arrive 15 minutes prior to our assigned tour start time.

Our second evening (Friday) in DC we stopped at the tour desk at our hotel.  There was an older lady working the desk.  Chris explained to her that we had tickets for a White House tour in the morning.  The look she gave us was one we still have a hard time finding a word to describe.  We didn't know if her look was saying "Oh my gosh, you have White House tickets!  Who are you and who do you know?" or "Are you kidding it's Saturday tomorrow, are you sure you have tickets for tomorrow and are they really for the White House?"  Who knows maybe it was both either that or we had something growing out of our heads.  Either way she clearly did not hear that very often.  Anyway our whole point of stopping at the desk was to find out the best way for us to get there with the kids.  Should we drive and pay a small fortune for parking, take a cab, a bus, the metro?  Her suggestion was a cab.  Oh and the lady was a quiet talker.  In the lobby of a busy hotel in Washington, DC - it just wasn't a good combination.  We walked away and I asked Chris if he caught half of what that woman just said.  When he said no I felt better because I hadn't either.

Saturday morning.  The big day.  Our tour was at 7:30 AM.  We had to be at the White House 15 minutes early.  So that's 7:15 AM.  We wanted to be downstairs at 7:00 to catch a cab.  Mind you this is an hour ahead of our time that we are used to functioning on.  (Fortunately there was a taxi stand right out side the door to the hotel.)  It is a 5 minute drive to the White House, tops (or so we thought).  We are downstairs and 7:00.  We get in the cab - us, the kids, Chris's wallet with our ID's and a copy of our confirmation, instructions, and the map of where to arrive that was provided by the state representative.  Chris gets in the back seat with the kids and I am in the front seat with the driver (my knees touching the dash because the seat is pulled so far forward).  I explained to the driver that we have tickets for a tour of the White House at 7:30 and that we needed to be there by 7:15.  I then showed him the map as to where we needed to be dropped off.  The cabby starts driving.  I'm still holding the map.  He keeps looking over at it.  We seem to be getting closer to the White House.  Then at a stop light he asks to see the map again.  He was studying the map like this was his first time in DC!  Time is ticking away.  It is now 10 minutes after 7:00.  He pulls down a street and sees a man walking by.  The man walking by was some sort of security guard, he was dressed in uniform.  The cabby rolls down my window and says to me maybe he knows and proceeds to pull closer to the curb.  I'm waiting for the driver to shout through my window to talk to the man passing by but he says nothing.  So here I am, window rolled down, yelling excuse me sir!  I am thinking to myself this can't be happening.  Only we would get the one taxi driver in all of DC that doesn't know how to get to the WHITE HOUSE.  Ok the time is now 7:13 and I am freaking out on the inside.  If you are late for your tour, you are not allowed in late, you are simply out of luck.  The man walking by slowly, I mean very slowly, walks over to the cab.  I asked if he could help us and explained that we were trying to get to the White House for a tour and asked if he could direct us where to go.  He then proceeds to ask me what time our tour was.  I told him 7:30.  He responds after sucking his teeth "you know you need to be there 15 minutes ahead of time"  I, in a not so nice tone I'm sure, said to him "yeah, we know, that's what we are trying to do".  He then tells us we just need to line up over there by that long line of people as he is pointing behind us across the street.  Needless to say it was a very stressful drive to get there but we made it by 7:15!  Oh and yes, the driver did speak English.

We waited in line for quite some time.  I had packed us nicer clothes to wear for our tour.  I'm glad I did. A majority of the people in line were dressed nicer than if you were just heading out to see the sights.  Around 7:40 the line started moving towards the first of 4 security check points.  Two of which they checked your ID.  The last check point was walking through a metal detector.  The kids were handed a Junior Ranger guide book to the White House.  It had a kid friendly map of the rooms we would be seeing.  We entered the White House on the ground floor.  We were in the East Wing.  The tour is a self guided tour.  The paperwork said to allow 30 to 45 minutes.  There were secret service guards dress in police/security type uniforms everywhere.  The crowd headed down a hall of framed old photographs.  The pictures were of different Presidents giving speeches or meeting with other important people.  There was a picture of one of the Presidents sitting down with an American Indian Chief.  It was a very old picture and I forget who the President was but it was a neat picture.  Farther down the hall were four rooms, two on each side.  The entrances were roped off so all you could do was peak your head in.  From there we headed upstairs.  The carpets were rolled half way up and roped off allowing us to walk by.  A guard was stationed in every room, hallway, and stairway.  One of the first rooms we entered on this floor was the State Dining Room.  There was an enormous portrait of George Washington on one side of a door that I believe lead to a kitchen.  On the other side of the door was Martha Washington.  These large portraits of different Presidents and First Ladies were everywhere.  We saw portraits of: Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Jackie Kennedy, John F. Kennedy, and many many others.  The portrait of Jackie Kennedy was just beautiful!  The portrait of JFK was the famous one of him standing with his arms crossed and his head looking down.   So amazing to see these portraits, the real things.  From here we went to several more rooms.  People would ask questions of the guards regarding different things in the room they were in.  The guards knew every single answer and would answer the questions with such detail.  You could probably ask them about a specific tiny object in the room and I'm sure they would be able to tell you who made it, where it came from, how old it was, and a million other things about it.  One woman was asking a guard about how to become a secret service agent because it was a career path her son wanted to pursue.  Another woman asked a guard about this medallion laid in the floor in the center of the hallway.  It was bronze in color and about the size of a large pizza.  It had three dates on it and stars on the perimeter.  The guard explained to her that the dates are from when there was major work done on the White House.  1792 when it was built, 1817 when it was rebuilt after it was set ablaze by the British Army during the war of 1812, and in 1948 when President Truman gutted the White House to its exterior walls due to wooden load bearing walls being close to failure.  It was quite interesting.  If you do a search for 1948 White House Renovations you can see pictures of the renovation and what it looks like completely empty on the inside.  There were other questions and stories we over heard about where certain dishes came from that were on display and what the rooms were used for.  We did not ask any questions.  Mainly because we didn't know what to ask.  Here we are in one of the most amazing houses ever.  Faced with so many fascinating things.  How can you ask about just one thing when EVERY thing there had a story and a history behind it.  There was a red carpet in the hallway that had been partially rolled up.  The part that was still showing, the part no one was obviously allowed on, was so pristine.  There was not one speck of dust or fuzz or anything on there.  Brand new rugs do not even look as nice as this one did.  The residence of the President and his family was on the floor above us.  There was a guard standing on the staircase.  At one point I saw a secret service agent dressed in a suit with an ear piece talking to the guard on the stairs, he looked very official.  It seems silly to be so interested in a man in a suit with an ear piece that I feel compelled to include him in this blog.  But you only ever see these people on TV or in movies.  So to see them in person was kind of cool.  This hallway pretty much concluded our tour.  From here we exited the building and headed down a path to the street.  While exiting there were a couple of women who stopped to ask the guard just outside the door if the motorcade had left for the day.  The guard gave them a look as if to say you can't be serious.  (I can only imagine some of the stupid questions they must get asked).  The guard then proceeded to say that she couldn't answer that.  The women then asked "do you think it would be ok if we went around front to see the front of the building?"  The guard with a smirk on her face sarcastically replies "Sure.  I don't think you'll get very far though."  Clearly meaning they wouldn't get there at all.  It was funny.  Overall I'm glad we went on the tour.  We can now say we have been inside the White House.  But I'm a little disappointed in the tour.  I guess I just thought we would have seen more of the house.  I honestly had no idea of what to expect, nor did I know what we were going to see going in.

So we are finished with our tour.  Now, the night before when the old lady quiet talker at the tour desk back at the hotel who suggested we take a cab over I guess we just assumed we would be able to take a cab back to the hotel.  What happens when you assume things?  There was not a taxi to be seen for miles.  The few that did drive by us all had fairs already.  So we had to walk back to the hotel.  It's hot and humid, we were not in clothes or shoes conducive to walking long distances.  We have no water, no snacks for the hungry kids who only had time to eat a quick small breakfast.  Needless to say, it was not a pleasant 2 mile walk back to the hotel.

After freshening up and eating lunch we headed out to the other, lesser known, second Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.  It was about a 30 minute drive.  So worth the trip in our opinion.  I liked this one much better than the Air and Space Museum on the Mall.  This museum was at least 3, very large, airplane hangers filled to the brim with airplanes, missiles, and a space shuttle.

These are flaps from the wings of airplanes.  They all had hundreds of names engraved 
You were able to go up into this tower.  We did not though.

Space Shuttle Enterprise.  This shuttle was not flown in space.  It was used for atmospheric tests.
Kids in front of the space shuttle.

AGM-86B Cruise Missile
Little John Missile and Launcher

We were lucky and happened to visit on "Family Day".  There was a runway set up where kids could fly these planes and a parking lot to park them in after their flight.  It was super cute!  Adin had a blast!  Avery wanted nothing to do with it.

Redstone Missile
After the astronauts returned from the very first flight into space it was unclear if they would come back with new contaminants that would be harmful to us here on Earth.  So they had to stay in this mobile quarantine facility for 65 days.
Mobile Quarantine Facility
The next few pictures are of the infamous Enola Gay.  This is the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan back on August 6, 1945.  It also became the first aircraft to drop an atomic bomb as a weapon of war.

Boeing B-29 Superfortress

These next pictures are of the Concorde.  A turbojet-powered supersonic passenger airliner.  Only 20 of these aircraft were ever built.  As a result of the only crash for this type of aircraft on July 25, 2000 along with other factors it was retired on November 26, 2003 after first entering service in 1976.

View inside the cockpit

Turbo jets
Landing gear of the Concorde
Air France and British Airways were the only ones who owned these aircrafts.  This particular one was a "gift" from France.

Anheuser Busch trick plane.  It was hanging vertically from the ceiling. 

There was an entire hanger devoted to restoration of different aircraft.
Pieces of planes that are to be restored

A view of the Enterprise Space Shuttle from the restoration hanger

Bright and early Sunday morning we were on our way to the beach!  It was about a 5 hour drive to Nags Head from DC.  (The shortest of all of our drives this trip).  The pictures below are of a bridge that disappears into the ocean and turns into a tunnel that goes under the water.  I'm sure you have seen those emails go around that ask if the pictures are real.  There's always a picture of the bridge disappearing into the middle of the water.  Well this one was quiet real.  You never realize you are going under water.  Well except for the steady stream of water that runs down the walls.  NO, I'm just kidding!  It just seems like a bridge that turns into a tunnel.  I had to drive through one on the way home and it seemed a lot narrower than the others we went through.  It didn't help that I was driving next to a huge semi truck.   

View of some ships from the bridge after coming out of the tunnel

We stayed at the Surf Side Hotel.  There aren't many hotels here that are right on the beach.  It's mostly beach houses that you can rent.  It was nice.  I don't know that I would ever stay there again though.  And there wasn't anything that stood out about the Outer Banks that would make us want to go back again.  It was very nice and beautiful.  Just nothing that made us say oh my gosh we have to come back here. 

This is the "sitting room" the kids slept in here on their inflatable beds.

This is the view from one of our balconies.
View from another one.  Wondering what that is on the beach?  It is a huge pipe that carries sand from the ocean back to the beach under high pressure.  It's part of the beach restoration.  Apparently so much sand is lost from the tide that every so often they have to pump sand back to the beach.  They call it "Beach Nourishment".

So Avery is our beach girl.  Two years ago we were at Myrtle Beach, SC. (her and Adin's first beach experience) ever since then she has been in love with the beach.  The first time she hated, absolutely hated being by the water.  She didn't like the "hard sand" and always wanted to play in the "soft sand", as she would call them.  This time she was all about the water.  C'mon lets go closer she would say.  Or c'mon daddy let's go deeper in the water.  Adin on the other hand hated the beach two years ago and hates it today.  If it wasn't for the sand he would probably love it.

I absolutely love this picture of Chris and Avery.  It just captures a great moment in time and in our lives.  It's just cute to see this little girl with her daddy.

The clouds in the sky were absolutely amazing!  All I wanted was  a picture without this guy standing there.  For minutes he looked like he was about to sit down but never did.  So now I will always remember the beautiful clouds on the beach and the guy who would never sit down.

Our first night at the beach and we were returning from dinner.  We were walking from the car to the entrance of the hotel.  Avery was yelling at Adin (she likes to think she's in charge these days), about what I don't even remember, he turned around and didn't see the cement step soon enough and bit it.  Scraped his elbow up bad!  Poor thing was in so much pain.  He was only comfortable with his arm bent.  So I propped his arm up on his pillow, he watched a little of his favorite movie (Cars) and then all was better.

Avery the camera diva
Later that evening the people one flight above us decided it would be fun to feed the birds.  They would throw pieces of food off of their balcony and these birds would dive to catch the food.  The birds were so fast!  They would just circle above waiting for more food to be thrown.

View to the right from our balcony
View to the left
Looking straight out from our balcony
looking straight down

Day two at the beach we thought we would take a drive to see the Cape Hatteras light house.  For whatever reason we didn't think the drive was going to be very far.  It ended up being very far.

Bridge to the next island
This was the view along our drive to the light house.  Then every so often we would go through a small little beach town.

This was a restaurant on the Outer Banks.  We were going to go eat there until we read the reviews online.  Nothing but a tourist trap with over-priced, not so good tasting, food.
Us at the light house

You were able to climb the light house.  The kids were not tall enough to climb.  I believe you had to be 42" tall, maybe more, I don't remember.  Climbing the light house (that does not have any windows or air conditioning) is like climbing a 12 story building.

This light house was actually moved.  It used to be closer to the shore.  Over time the beach eroded putting the light house in danger.  So they moved it further inland.

On the grounds they had two houses that had been turned into small museums.  In one of them they showed the shore line over time since about the early 1800's.  The shore line, aside from getting smaller, is constantly moving.

A beautiful sunset over Nags Head

For dinner this particular night we went to Captain George's.  It's a seafood buffet.  Chris and I ate off the buffet, Adin was free, and we ordered for Avery off the menu because she would never eat anything on the buffet, plus it was cheaper.  Avery ordered two mini cheeseburgers (of which she ate one) that came on top of a huge bowl of fries (she managed to eat plenty of fries though).  Towards the end of dinner I brought the kids brownies from the dessert buffet.  Kidding around I told Avery that since she didn't order the buffet she couldn't let any of the servers see her eating something from the buffet.  Shortly there after Avery notices our server heading our way.  She picked up a huge handful of fries and practically threw the brownie to the bottom of her bowl and buried it with the fries.  Then tried to sit there looking innocent as our server walked passed our table.  It was HILARIOUS!  Our server left and Avery dug out the brownie and started eating it again.  With a couple bites left of the brownie our server returned.  Avery sprung into action and shoved the remaining bites into her mouth as to not get caught with the brownie.  It was so funny!  It may be one of those things you had to be there for though.

The assortment of fish on the buffet was amazing.  They had everything except lobster (frown).  The crab legs were huge and the must have had every kind of crab imaginable there.  One of which was a blue crab.  (If you watch Deadliest Catch then you have heard about blue crab).  The other varieties of crab on the buffet were just the legs of the crab.  The blue crab however was the whole crab.  I told Chris that I wanted to try it but that I had no idea of how to eat it.  I am probably not going to have an opportunity to eat blue crab again, well at least not anytime soon, so I decided to ask one of our servers how to eat it.  The girl was very nice and said she would go grab one and bring it back and show me how to eat it.  She did - I will spare you the details.  There was not a lot of meat for the amount of work you had to do to get to it.  It was delicious though!  If you're wondering if it was blue or not, it was!

All day it had been super windy.  We attempted to go hang out on the beach but with the wind being so strong it was blowing the sand too much.  Those who have never been hit by blowing sand let me just say it hurts!

Avery wanted to go collect sea shells.  So her and I were walking down to the beach in the evening.  It was still windy outside but not nearly as bad as earlier in the day.  As we were waiting to walk down the stairs a lady was walking up.  She says to me "Oh sweetie, you don't want to go down there it's just awful."  Then the lady says looking at Avery, "She's just going to hate it."  The lady continued on her way.  Avery then stops dead in her tracks and doesn't want to go anymore.  After no luck in changing Avery's mind back to the fun we had planned we headed back up stairs to our room.

The lady and her friend were sitting on the bench as we turned around to head back inside.  She says as we walk by in kind of chuckling manner "oh look she doesn't want to go now"  Gee ya think?  I wonder why she doesn't want to go.

The beach just after sunset

The next morning bright and early Avery and I headed down to the beach to collect the seashells we missed out on the night before thanks to that crazy lady.  It was just her and I, the boys stayed behind.  The beach was empty.  There was just the occasional runner that would pass by.  We found some really great shells.  It was fun to have that time with just her and I.

After breakfast we headed over to the Wright Brothers Memorial.  This is where the very first successful sustained powered flight in a heavier-than-air machine was made. 

This is a reproduction of the 1902 Wright Glider.  We saw the original at the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum just days earlier.

There were two reproduction buildings on the property.  This one in the picture is of the hanger that the Wright Brothers built to house their plane while in Kill Devil Hills.

The visitor center and museum 

These giant stones marked the time, distance, date, and pilot of each flight.

The kids flying with their airplane arms down to the 4th marker.

Standing at this 4th you could just feel the excitement that these men must have felt to have flown this far.  With their previous flights never going more than 15 seconds and for this one to almost make a minute, you can just imagine how excited Wilbur must have been while flying.  And you could just picture Orville and the other men at the other end jumping with excitement.
The kids in front of the Wright Brothers Memorial on top of Kill Devil Hill.
As you can see in the previous picture there were two paths that lead up to the top.  At Adin's request the boys went up one side and the girls the other.  It was one heck of a climb too.  It doesn't look that bad in the picture or in person for that matter but it was steep.

Can you find the humor in this picture?
View from the top of Kill Devil Hill

There is still and active landing strip on the grounds behind some trees.  There was a plane going over head when this was taken.
This reproduction building was right next to the reproduction hanger.  This building is where the Wright Brothers lived while in Kill Devil Hills.  There was a sign on the building that said the brothers wanted to be comfortable while staying here so they built this to live in.  There was a room in front of what you see in the picture with a table and chairs and something else, I forget what though.

After we got home from the Wright Brothers Memorial we headed to the beach for some kite flying.
The kite is an old kite that Chris's dad had.
Flying a kite on the beach is nothing like flying a kite at home.  On the beach it's effortless.  Once the kite is up, it's up.  Not like at home where you need to keep it moving and running with it.

Our hotel.  We were in the building on the right.

Our room was the second from the bottom on the right.

Kids on the balcony
Below are some much nicer pictures of the beach after they removed those ugly old pipes.  They had big bulldozers and other heavy machines take the pipes away at night and smooth the sand.

Our last night in Nags Head we ate dinner at a local place just a few blocks away from our hotel.  We walked there.  It was called the South Beach Grill.  We ate outside on a second floor deck.  You could see both the ocean and the sound from where we sat.  After dinner we walked back and went for one last walk on the beach.

What?  A camera?  Let me pose for you!

Modeling her seashell collecting bag.  I made one for each of the kids.


Adin HATED walking in the sand 

The sand covered stairs from the beach to the hotel.
This is the outdoor pool at the hotel.  It was always so cold here (by here I mean the area, not the water).  It must be because of where it's located.  It was always windy and cold even when it was crazy hot out.

The next morning after an early breakfast we hit the road for home.  Our original plan was to stop just over half way and stay some where for the night.  (That's always the plan on our vacations).  We ended up driving straight through to home.  (We always end up driving straight through).  I think it was somewhere around 16 hours or something like that.  The kids were really good on the way home.  I think they were just done and ready to be home like we were.  Close to their regular bedtime we stopped at a service area to fill up one more time and to get their pajamas on.  They watch a little bit of a movie.  Then Avery says "Mom, I'm tired.  Can you turn this off?"  I'd say with in just a few short minutes of turning off the movie both kids were sound asleep.  We got home around 11:30pm.   We took the kids to the bathroom and they went right to sleep in their beds.

Here are some pictures of us from the ride home.

That's my semi truck tunnel friend I told you about earlier.
Entering the under water tunnel

An amazing show by Mother Nature to end an amazing vacation!