Monday, May 30, 2011

Washington D.C. Pt. 5

My favorite spot in Washington D.C.: Arlington CemeteryOur good friends the Monroes told us we absolutely HAD to go see the changing of the guard. I figured we would stop in, zip over to see the ceremony, then be on our way.
A guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We loved the ceremony, even the kids sat riveted during the changing of the guard. The quiet reverence of the large crowd there surprised, pleased, and touched me. American's aren't reverent all that often these days. But I suppose some things still touch our hearts.
We ended up spending several hours there, wandering through the monuments, enjoying the lovely grounds, peaceful atmosphere, and feeling the stirrings of patriotism and love of country.

This photo is for mom. She's a nut for General Robert E. Lee and I knew she would be SO JEALOUS that I got to see his house! I had forgotten that Arlington Cemetery was once his home. Though I am sure it was meant as an insult for his treachery, I somehow feel he would be pleased that this is how his grounds have been honored, even hallowed.
One funny thing: Who knew that Arlington Cemetery was build on a hill. We brought along our humongous baby barge (So incredibly handy the whole trip. Definitely worth filling the whole trunk with it.) Michael pushed both the kids up, and up, and up, until we got to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Then I wanted to see the Civil War monument, so we went up, and up, and up. Michael started to turn rather red. Then I said "Just Robert E. Lee's house and then we can go." Much to Michael's pleasure, it turns out that the house is at the very tippy-top of the cemetery and boy was he panting by then! Pushing 90 pounds of kids and supplies up the hill gave him quite the impressive workout. What a man.

Zoe tried to look sour about things...
....but her natural sunshine kept peeking through.
Yes, that is Jed hiding under the blanket in the back. We were all ready to go by then, but what a lovely time we had.
After that we went to the Natural History museum, and ate polish dogs with sauerkraut from a sidewalk hot dog cart, which was one of my primary goals for the trip. Then we had the amusing incident where Michael had to go sprinting, shouting down constitution avenue and stopped the tow truck just as it was backing up to our car... but really, who wants to dwell on that? What's a few moments of horror when compared to to unadulterated joy of a polish dog? And what's with those goofy incomprehensible parking signs, anyway?

Early Home Education

Overheard during bedtime tonight:

Michael (Reading to Jed in bed): This is the Le Mans Race, one of the most famous races of all. It is twenty four whole hours of racing! (incomprehensible muttered discussion)

Michael: .... OK, this one is a Bugatti, can you say Bugatti?

Jed: (Muffled response)

Michael: That's pretty good. Now this one is a Ferrari. Try that one. Can you say it?

Jed: (Again, indistinct)

Michael: That's close. Try again. (pause) Much better! OK, do you know Jaguar? (pause, muttering) Yeah, you've got that one! Do you know, what's this one? (muffled response) Mini-Cooper, that's right!


I'm so glad that my husband is seeing to Jed's proper Stanfill-man education. Isn't homeschooling great?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Wesselman Woods

The kids and I have declared Friday Fun Day. We try to do something different and entertaining every week. This past Friday, on a last minute whim, we went to one of my favoritest places in Evansville, Wesselman Woods. The new nature center just barely opened. There still isn't much there. First we hit the Toddler Tales, which was not all that impressive. There were only four other families there, which was nice, though, and they all left right away which gave Zoe, Jed and me run of the whole 200 acres all to ourselves! Only one young lady stayed to run the nature center and otherwise we were literally alone, which is just the way we like it.
We went out on a nice little hike through the woods where we collected about 25 different kinds of leaves (I finally had to cut back on the leaf collecting because there are seriously ten million different trees here in Evv, and we were progressing at the rate of about .000009 miles per hour.) We spied all kinds of cool trees and and flowers and wildlife.
Over at the pond, we made friends with a little bird that followed us around for about thirty minutes. There's a lovely little field by the pond where the kids ran around and watched the birds and looked for turtles for quite a while. My favorite season in Evansville is Honeysuckle Summer, when the woods are loaded with flowering honeysuckle flowers that make the air thick with gorgeous perfume. This year seems even more delightful than ever, and Jed kept bringing me more flowers to smell.
Jed's favorite part of Wesselman's is the bird-watching area in the nature center. He got SO EXCITED we had to go back there about four times and look for all the different kinds of birds. They really do have quite the setup. Now I want a birdwatching area in my backyard!

He's particularly over the moon in this photo because we just saw a set of wild turkeys come strutting through! Zoe and Jed both love the little binoculars they have there to use. Zoe didn't quite catch the vision of looking "through" the lenses, but she did thoroughly enjoy holding them up to her eyes and squinting at the floor...

Jed totally got it, this time.

Here is one of the Master Gardener wildlife gardens. I finally had to drag them out of the woods, several hours later, insisting that we eat because Mom might starve to death soon. As we walked out, Jed commented "What a lovely time we've had today, Mom. I like this place." Me, too, Jed. And I love having a little boy who enjoys going there as much as I do. He really is my best little buddy.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Poly Picnic

Last week, I had a group of 9 or 10 friends, all of whom have a handful of little ones like mine, come over for a morning muffin picnic. We had out the sandbox, the play set, the little pool, the hose, everything necessary for a few hours of outside fun while the moms sat and chatted and babies crawled on the picnic blanket. The kids ran around in their usual wild packs of wet swimsuit madness and we all giggled and laughed and enjoyed the fun.

Partway through the picnic, I was startled to see a man standing there who apparently had come to look at our old 80s Volvo Station wagon we'd recently put up for sale. (Later, Michael told me he'd instructed the man to come at 5 PM, that no one would be home earlier, but I guess he thought he'd stop by during lunch anyway.) He clearly felt awkward and apologized once he saw the big group gathered in my backyard. I showed him the wagon, which he somewhat rushedly checked out with a herd of little kids hanging over the door and into the engine compartment (Hey, what's this? What are you doing? Is it working?) He said he would call Michael and left.

The next day, the same came back to see if he and Michael could get the car started. While he was here, the missionaries stopped by for a quick chat, as they often do, and the man and his wife immediately marked that we were Mormon. Michael said soon after the missionaries left, the man turned to him and asked "So how does that polygamy thing work? I can hardly handle one wife!" Michael immediately set him straight "Um, it doesn't, we don't, and anyone who does doesn't belong to our church!" and the man took it graciously and they kept on their work.

We came to really like this guy and he was always friendly and kind to us, it was just a misunderstanding. (Thanks for nothing, Big Love.) The funny part was when a few days later Michael's mom pointed out that there's only reason for him to think we were polygamists....

....the party of women and many children....

.... Michael's instructions to "please don't come by until 5"....

....that we are Mormon....

And all I can say is that given how lovely and charming all my friends are, and how gigantic that big crop of beautiful children was, that guy must have thought my husband was one heck of a man.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


9:30 AM. Zoe is dead asleep. Looks like she tried to get up but didn't quite make it!
Last night she was so tired she walked into the house, grabbed her bear, crawled into bed and called for me. I wrapped her up in her special blankie, gave her a kiss, and walked out. She complained a little bit but didn't come to the door and fell right to sleep. She has become our angel-child when it comes to bed-times! I'm so grateful, just in time for me to get a decent 3rd trimester sleep before the new baby comes.

Washington D.C. Pt. 4

Our primary objective in going to visit DC was to take engagement photos for Michael's beloved cousin, Amanda, and her fiance Dustin. We spent our three evenings there visiting with Amanda, and one night we had a picnic at Great Fall National Park. Whoever would have imagined such a natural wonder right there next to the city? I admit I was totally shocked by the majestic falls, they were so much more beautiful than I'd thought possible on the Potomac (which seems otherwise like a lovely but rather lazy river.)
Strangely, while we were there our children managed to have a major bodily-excretions breakdown. Zoe peed out of her diaper twice, Jed's diet of fries finally got to him and after two or three frantic runs to find a porta-potty he didn't make it and pooped his pants a little bit ("MOM, next time DAD has to take me because you do NOT run fast enough!" Um, sorry Jed, it's all my fault.), then Zoe fell flat on her face and got a most impressive nosebleed. By the end of the evening, the fiances were completely smeared in every possible bodily fluid our children could provide and we fear they may not ever choose to reproduce. But hey, at least the kids were well behaved in-between crises, right?

Saturday morning Michael shot the cutest engagements of Amanda and Dustin. Now she just needs to check her email and see them so then I can post them up here.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Washington D.C. Pt. 3

After spending five or six hours at the Air and Space museum, which though plenty of fun for big kids isn't so entertaining for the tinies, we spent the rest of the afternoon at a neat little park I found online. A community group designed this park for young children and disabled kids, and it shows. We couldn't have found a more perfect spot for Jed and Zoe to go nuts and get their wiggles out!

After seeing all the big planes at the museum, they loved having their own little planes.

Even big momma got in on the action.

Jed and Zoe's favorite: the little red car. Jed still talks about it.

Jed loves to help Zoe, he's her little caretaker. He must have helped her in and out of this car three dozen times. I love how solicitous and thoughtful he can be toward his sister. He definitely takes after his Daddy.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Washington D.C. Pt. 2

Our first full day in DC we spent primarily at the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum out by Dulles Airport. I think this it the holy shrine of Stanfill-Man-Nerd-dom as evidenced by the clearly thrilled look on these guys' faces as they hop into a little Cessna and learn to take off together:
I will say, I found myself blown away by this museum -- it was totally awesome, even for a girl who knows nothing about planes. We arrived just in time to take the "highlights" tour, which we thought would be nice to start us off. We were warned that it might be a little long, maybe even an hour and a half. Well, we thought, we've got all day why not. Our tour guide took us around and told us the best stories about the planes there -- like this shiny little bit of bling that used to shuttle Hollywood starlets back and forth across the USA. Jed picked out a plane for everyone, and I chose this one. Gosh, it's just so pretty!
Though an excellent storyteller, our tour guide we found to be a bit... long winded? After more than two hours of planes and stories, the kids were soooo burned out and we were all starving. We still weren't a third of the way through the hangar! But we decided to hop out of the tour and go catch some lunch. So we did miss the tour for the space shuttle, but we came back and walked around the space exploration exhibit a bit later that day:

After a relaxing lunch consisting mainly of fries, which was our primary food source for the week (Really? Only McDonalds?), we headed back downstairs because we still really wanted to hear about the crown jewel of the exhibit - the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane. Michael went by the tour desk and asked the man there if he would give us just that part of the tour, which he willingly agreed. He walked us over, and then just as he got into the details, who walked up before us but.... our original tour group. Um, awkward. "You stealing my folks?" asked our old tour guide as we squirmed. It was like meeting your boyfriend while out on a date with another man. Seriously? It was THREE HOURS since that tour started and the man was still going strong?! Unbelievable! Our new tour guide graciously handed us back over to our old tour guide and we finally got the scoop on this gorgeous machine:

This is hands down one of the most beautiful pieces of engineering I have ever beheld. The photo doesn't even begin to convey how a) HUGE it is, and b) elegant it is. Really, it is amazing. Every person who walks in that hangar falls in love at first sight. Made the whole trip worth it.

Then later we went up into the observation tower. The kids couldn't take their eyes off the view. We were there on a perfect day, the sky was crystal clear and you could see all the way to the horizon.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Washington D.C. Pt. 1

Last week we set out on a family vacation to Washington DC. Despite my very best attempts to have a bad attitude. Michael remained cheerful, confident, and determined. So we set off on an adventure. And it was AWESOME! He's such a smart guy.

Tuesday, while Michael got in a full day of work, I got busy cooking treats, packing bags, preparing an endless supply of child entertainment, cleaning the house, and doing about 7,456 loads of laundry. (By the time we left, there was ONE piece of dirty laundry in the whole house: the kitchen washcloth. This was a major accomplishment for me.) When M got home, the car was packed and ready to go, chickens ready for babysitters, the house was prepared, and we still managed to take two hours to get out the door but we did it!

We drove about 5 hours that night, through a rather astonishing set of lightning storms, and ended up crashing at a hotel in a little West Virginia town. We each slept with one of the kids, which we decided to never do again. The next morning we ate a leisurely breakfast and we were on our way! We checked into a lovely little townhouse suite that Michael found for us at an excellent price. We had a small kitchen, a full size bed, and a pull out couch for the kids. Perfect!

The kids loved sleeping together. We did end up stacking chairs and pillows around the outside edge of the bed because at least one child ended up off the bed at least once a night. Amazingly Jed doesn't even wake up when he falls off the bed onto a couch cushion (How is that possible!?) We found him on the floor in the morning more than once. Zoe rolled here there and hither and thither and often we'd see her roll over and cuddle up to Jed... he would shove her away in his sleep... she would snuggle over and hug him again... he would shove her away... and in the morning they almost always woke up in a tangled, cozy heap.

Zoe, our first morning in DC.

There she is! Morning, Sunshine!

Hands down, the very very best part about our trip was having Michael all to ourselves for a whole delicious week. Between his new job, his photography side business, his calling as Stake YM President, a substantial home teaching route, and a very challenging class in Cognitive Engineering, the end of this semester we felt like we hardly ever got to see him, and the poor man was stressed out of his mind.

Daddy was right, a vacation was exactly what our tired little family needed. Every day Jed would ask in wonder, "Is this Daddy's day off AGAIN?!!" Zoe and Jed clung to him, voraciously devouring any attention available, soaking it up like sponges. Zoe cried every time he left the room all week long. She never wants him to leave. She loves her Daddy.

The Dowdles will recognize this hair style as distinctly our own. She takes after her namesake all right!

Cabin Fever

As mentioned previously, we all got a bit stir crazy during the long rainy flood season this spring. Dressing up became a primary occupation. This particular day, Jed decided he needed to go swimming.

Thursday, May 12, 2011


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Chicken Dinner

These are the little chicks I made for the kids' Easter basket. I had so much fun sewing them up! They also got a few little toys (bouncy balls, balloons) and mango/blueberry dried fruit in their eggs. Michael's basket was the best, though, I got him a huge basket full of all kinds of fancy cheeses that I'd picked up a few weeks earlier. He's been eating baby-bells with an expression of pure bliss every day for weeks now. I think I hit the "best wife ever" jackpot with that one :) Michael got me a beautiful potted calla lily and some nice new spatulas (sorely needed and very much appreciated.) We had such a lovely Easter morning together!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


We had a lovely Easter morning. Michael made us breakfast and we had a little family devotional. After church we went over to Michael's parents' house for a indoor Easter candy hunt and dinner.

We don't get many family photos, and our efforts to try on Easter were somewhat less than successful, but here's our best shot. Mom helping make Easter dinner.
Jed's candy high was spectacular indeed. I think at this point he was simultaneously running, screaming, crying, and laughing.

Zoe playing on the stairs.