Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Dear Friends and Family,

Seasons Greetings! We hope this letter finds you well and that you are enjoying your Christmas!

We are still living in Arlington, VA for a few months longer. Our two years here have flown by and we will be moving back to Claremont, CA at the end of May 2012. Our remaining time in D.C. should go very fast as well as we attempt to finish our D.C. area bucket list with the help of lots of guests. Most importantly, we are expecting a new addition to our family in March! We are very excited to be welcoming a little boy to our family around March 19.

Melarie is enjoying her last few months as a stay-at-home mom to only one child. It’s been wonderful to spend so much time with just Julia, but we all feel it’s about time that Julia had a little company at home. Julia (2 ½ yrs) never ceases to amaze us with her abilities to learn new things and seems so grown up to us now.

Robert has spent this year working in the International Tax group at the PwC Washington D.C. office. It has kept him really busy, but he has enjoyed the challenging work and the technical learning. He enjoys that Julia stays up late so he can spend some time with her on most nights. Play time often involves getting Julia riled up by running around the house together, playing red light green light, or tossing her in the air. Julia has come to think of him as a human playground and continually asks "do it again, do it again" until Robert is too tired or dizzy to swing her around anymore.

We’ve loved having visitors and getting to know our nation’s capital. If you’d still like to visit us, our guest room is still not “booked” for January, so let us know soon if you’d like to come see us!

Merry Christmas!


Robert, Melarie, and Julia Wheat

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Festivities

This year Julia has really been into all the holiday traditions we've been introducing her to, so it was a lot of fun to try to pack as much as we could into the two December weekends we will be in DC. One tradition that we started at home everyday was reading a scripture about Christ when we take out the candy on our advent calendar. It's amazing how much she understands and remembers and has been a good reminder for us that we should be doing family scripture study.

Starting the first December weekend in DC we took Julia to see Santa Clause at our local community center. We've been trying to teach her how to smile "nicely." Mostly we just get this when we say "smile!"

She does look halfway happy in this picture.

She didn't cry when she saw Santa, but she did have to be coaxed to sit on his lap. I had told her she needed to tell Santa what she wanted for Christmas, but when the big moment came she couldn't think of anything so I had to remind her a little of what she had been asking for. Not to worry though, Julia and I wrote Santa a letter detailing what she wants, so he should know.

The next day we to the Washington DC temple to see the lights. It's impossible to get a toddler to hold still long enough to get a good picture with lights outside, so the best one we have of Julia is of her hanging out on the camel from the Nativity. They also had a really cool international creche display inside the visitor's center with nativities from all over the world and a dozen or so decorated Christmas trees.

The following weekend we went to the National Botanical Gardens to see their Christmas display. They have miniature models of many of the famous buildings in DC (Capitol, White House, Lincoln Memorial, etc) made out of plant materials.

They also had a train exhibit that Julia loved with trains circling little fairy and critter houses made from plant materials as well. The last area in the exhibit is an area with miniatures of the presidents' houses. Do you recognize the largest one in the collage? It's Monticello, the subject of my last post!

Once again we see can see how Julia's smile training is going. This one isn't too bad.

This one is a fail.

This one is great! I don't remember when Robert took it, so that means I was probably in the restroom. Maybe I distract Julia when I'm around?

There's nothing quite like an actual smile of delight. This is Julia squealing with delight at the train going around the Christmas tree at the Botanical Gardens.

After the Botanical Gardens we went over to the National Christmas tree. They also had a nice train display that Julia loved.

Robert was fascinated by the train that derailed. He wanted to see who was going to come fix it, but no one ever did.

White House and Washington Monument at dusk.

They have 50 small decorated trees as well to represent each 50 state. After seeing the trees we peeked into Santa's workshop, but he was on break so we didn't visit him. That was okay with us though, no waiting in line. We still had time on our parking meter though so we walked up to the front of the White House and I got to see my first DC protest. There was a group of 50 or so people in front of the White House protesting Obama's lack of response to the Congolese election (which I know nothing about, but apparently from the gist of the protesters the dictator was "re-elected")

Other things we've done but that I have no pictures of (and let's face it, this post has enough pictures as it is) is made a gingerbread house (which I mostly ended up putting together), gone for a drive for FHE around a nearby neighborhood to see all the Christmas lights, and gone Christmas caroling at a rehabilitation center for our ward party. I think now we're all set to get out of here and celebrate Christmas with our families!

Saturday, December 03, 2011


Before I get to Monticello, this giant oak tree is from Ash-Lawn Highland, which was the home of James Monroe. Unlike Jefferson and Madison, Monroe did not die in debt, and you can tell by his house. It was a nice old house by today's standards, so it would pretty nice back then, but nothing compared with Monticello or Montpelier. So we don't even have a picture of the house because that's not what impressed us, just this big tree that would have been there when Monroe lived there.

Final post from our trip clear back in October, but I just had make sure to include Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. I love how you get a sense of the personalities of the presidents when you visit their homes. Thomas Jefferson was always on the lookout for the latest and greatest so there are a lot of quirky little things about his home, like having a lot of the auxiliary buildings like the ice house and kitchen tucked halfway beneath the home so you can't see it from the front and having a dumbwaiter just for wine. His front entry room was a huge entry room full of artifacts that Lewis and Clark brought back and his house is full of French inspired items because he loved the French.
Unfortunately the day we were there it was pouring, but it did clear up a little and we were able to walk around the gardens after the tour of the inside of the house. You might recognize this view of the back of Monticello from the U.S. nickel.
Beautiful purple flowers.
And a beautiful view.Jefferson's grave.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Haircut/Belly Pic In One

Got a new haircut today! And everyone says I'm finally starting to show. Me at 24 weeks.

P.S. I didn't tell Robert I was getting a haircut. Do you think he'll notice?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Montpelier and Lee Chapel

Robert and I got to visit three president's homes while on our Virginia trip. Montpelier is the home of James Madison, the fourth president of the United States and father of the Constitution. Montpelier looks great on the outside but they are just starting to collect furniture and decorations for the inside, so inside it is a little sparse. (Both Jefferson and Madison died in debt, so not a lot of Madison's furniture stayed in the family. Instead it was sold to pay off the debt.) They do however do a good job of telling you the significant events that happened in each room. ("This is the room where the fourth president of the United States took his last breathe." "This is the room where the ideas for the constitution were born.")

The grounds here are beautiful. Madison spent months at Montpelier researching every form of government he could to prepare for the Constitutional Convention. At least he had a beautiful view to reflect on as he worked.
An iconic building of Montpelier is this little pagoda. It's actually an ice box, so underneath it is a giant hole they would fill with ice during the winter and then store things that needed to be kept cold during the summer.
James Madison's grave. It was cool to walk around the family graveyard and try figure out how they were related to Madison.

The next day we were down in Lexington and visited the Lee Chapel, where Robert E. Lee is buried. It is on the campus of Washington and Lee University where Lee was president after the Civil War. He had the chapel built because he felt like the students needed a place where they could come together. He attended church and college events there for a few years after it was finished and then he died. Now on the stage inside the chapel area there is a giant statue of Lee in his uniform asleep on the battlefield and in the basement of the chapel is the Lee family crypt where Lee is actually buried.

Robert E. Lee's trusty horse, Traveller, is also buried just outside the chapel.
To throw in a bit of history here, a lot of people might think it was odd to have a university named after the first president of the United States and the commander of the Confederate Army. Aren't they on opposite sides? Actually, they were both first and foremost Virginians. Washington was a major slave holder and lived in Virginia, a southern state. I'm not saying he definitively would have fought for the south if he were alive during the Civil War, but it's possible. And Lee wasn't exactly thrilled with the idea of secession, but he was loyal to his state and when Virginia seceded it was a hard decision for him to make to join with the Confederates. Also, Lee was married to Washington's step great-granddaughter (Martha's great-granddaughter) so the families are very interconnected.

Julia Films

I found this video on my phone today. Can you guess where we are?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown

This may be a little ambitious to put these three historic places into one post, but I've got so much stuff to post right now it'll have to do. So back when I still had morning sickness and never went anywhere I asked Robert if we could have a "babymoon" and go off together without Julia for a while. We tossed around a few ideas and finally settled on checking off some of our to-do list in Virginia. So last month we left Julia with Robert's Mom for five days and took off to explore Virginia.

The first place we visited was Williamsburg. Williamsburg was the capital of Virginia pre-American Revolution. It's now like a history Disneyland with lots of restored houses, working 18th century artisan shops, and actors in period clothing walking around.

My favorite house was the governor's mansion.
The front entry way and hallway is crazy with all the arms they had as decoration.
Another important building was the Capitol Building. It was where the Virginia House of Burgesses met, whose members around the time of the Revolution included people like Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry. Eventually the same body of men led Virginia to be the first state to propose declaring independence at the Second Continental Congress.
Williamsburg is super close to Jamestown and Yorktown, so the area is called the Historic Triangle. The next day we did Jamestown in the morning and Yorktown in the afternoon (BTW, of you go, besides the sites run by the National Park Service there is also a Jamestown Settlement and Yorktown Victory Center that are tourist spots for live history reenactment type stuff. We just went to the NPS sites and didn't feel like we were missing out on anything since the actual history happened at the NPS sites.)

I loved Jamestown! It was so cool to see the actual site where John Smith and the rest of the Virginia Company first tried to settle in America. Part of the reason we had such a great experience at Jamestown was we took the archaeology tour given by one of the archaeologists excavating the site. The archaeologists take turns giving a one hour tour of the site once a day, and since we were there at the right time and without a toddler, it was perfect for us! The tour was great. The archaeologist had actually been there for most of the large discoveries and was really exited and knowledgeable about the work being done. It was cool to hear about how they discovered the artifacts, and then go into the visitor center and actually see the artifacts she had been describing.

It wasn't until recently that they even knew where the site of the original fort was. A lot of historians and archaeologists thought the site had probably been washed away into the sea since so much erosion had taken place along the banks from all the big boats going past on the river. For the 400th anniversary of Jamestown they decided to actually look into it and discovered
that most of the original site was still there!

This is our tour guide standing in their current dig site, the site of the original church building in the fort. This would have been the place where John Rolfe and Pocahantas were married, probably right about where the guide is standing.

Robert takes a work call as we pose in front of the John Smith statue.
This is pretty much a view of the entire fort, it wasn't all that big. You can see the graveyard right in front. They lost a lot of men in the first little while and they had to bury them all within the walls of the fort so the Indians wouldn't know how many men they were losing.

So after Jamestown we headed to the site of the Battle of Yorktown, the last major battle of the Revolutionary War. After the American's won this battle the British surrendered (although the commanding British general. General Cornwallis, had his second in command surrender for him, claiming he was sick.)

A major part of the battle was the storming of the redoubts. Redoubts were like elevated earthen forts where the British had cannons they were firing. The Americans needed to get control of the redoubts to continue moving towards the town of Yorktown and the British. Here is Robert in front of a redoubt (Redoubt #10?)
This may look like just an empty field, but this is where the Revolutionary War came to an end. This is where the British surrendered to George Washington. Well, actually, the second British General in Command tried to give the sword of surrender to the French General Rochambeau, still not acknowledging Washington and the Americans as a separate nation. Rochambeau refused and pointed towards Washington. Washington also refused the sword and pointed to his second in command, seeing it only fitting for the second in command to surrender to the second in command.
The day we were there these French "soldiers" were also there singing songs and marching around the field. I have no idea who they were or why they were there, but they were actual Frenchmen. I mean, the French did have a major role in the Battle of Yorktown (the Americans never would have won if the French Navy hadn't blocked the British Navy from sending in more troops by sea) but I don't know why these particular Frenchmen were there that day. Anyhow, they were cute and good at posing for pictures.
Whew, if you made it to the end congratulations, you must like history. It was a lot of history for us packed into two days, and we still had three more days of visiting more historical sites. To be continued...

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thanksgiving Banner Crafts

We don't have many Thanksgiving decorations, but we do have a lot of beautiful leaves here. So Julia and I made two Thanksgiving banners using things we found outside to bring a little autumn spirit into our house.

Julia helped me gather leaves, twigs, pinecones, etc for the banners.
The first banner is our "Thankful For" banner. We traced some of the leaves we collected onto construction paper and cut out the leaves. Then we wrote what we are thankful for on the leaves and strung those leaves together with the real leaves.

The next banner is made out of all the other outdoor stuff and says "Give Thanks".

Sunday, November 13, 2011


A little late, but I'm sure you were all thinking it was worth the wait to see this little gnome. The Halloween festivities began for us on Thursday when we went to Robert's work and went trick or treating through the offices and maze of cubicles at Robert's work, ending with pumpkin decorating and pizza at the end. Julia has seen a video of her doing this last year and was really excited to go. She was a pro at treat or treating by the end.
The next day we went to our ward Halloween party. I dressed up as a gardener, so here is the gardener and her garden gnome.
Then on Halloween we surprised ourselves by going trick or treating to quite a few houses. Like blocks of houses! I was just planning on going to a few houses, but Julia already had the hang of it and was excited to be out with the other kids, so we just kept going (it also helps that the houses are all townhouses and really close together). I counted Julia's candy afterwards and she had almost 60 pieces (but she was so cute people just kept giving her more as long as she stood in their doorway).
The post Halloween candy meltdowns were epic for Julia. I have never seen her react so strongly against me saying no as when I told her she couldn't eat anymore candy that day. Luckily we've eaten almost all of it by now so we no longer have those tantrums.

They had this little setup at our community center on Halloween night.