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.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Another Julia Video

Do your kids like to watch videos of themselves? Julia does, and this is her current favorite. This was a few weeks ago at the park. She giggles at all her antics and likes to tell me "She's going to ____ Mom! Watch! She's going to ___!" (I won't spoil it by telling you what she does at the end, although that makes it sound more exciting than it really is)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Potty Training

We've been potty training Julia this week. It's been full of surprises. Like the "surprise" I found on the stairs this afternoon. Well, that and the first day wasn't so bad, the second day was pretty good, the third day was awful, and today has been a mixed bag. I thought things were suppose to start out bad and get better. Now I'm not sure what to expect. I think we are all just trying to figure this out without driving each other crazy. Julia and I are not used to being home so much and get a little stir crazy by the end if the day. Also, Julia hasn't napped all week either which makes her crazy by dinner time. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Monday, November 07, 2011

Ford's Theater

Time for another history lesson! Actually, likely several in the next few days. This month Robert and I saw a lot of historical sites. After Kevin and Ellen left last month Julia stayed with Robert's mom for five days and Robert and I got to go off by ourselves and explore Virginia! But that's not what this post about since Robert has a lot of pictures on his phone that I need to transfer to the computer first. Our next visitors were Robert's cousin Daniel and his wife Amanda. Sadly, they managed to go their whole trip while avoiding getting into any of our pictures, so there are no pictures of them. But while they were here we went with them to Ford's Theater, one of the places still on our to-do list for the area.

So picture this: The day is April 14, 1865. The Civil War has just ended. After years of worrying about the war Lincoln finally has a relaxing day with his family and goes to the theater that evening to see a British comedy "Our American Cousin." He and his guests arrive late, but not wanting to interrupt the show he tries to sneak it. Of course it doesn't work since he is 6 ft 4 in. tall and immediately recognizable. They stop the show and sing "Hail To The Chief" and make a big deal out of it all.

Meanwhile, a very well known actor, John Wilkes Booth, had stopped by the theater earlier that day and found out that Lincoln would be attending that night's show. He arrives at the theater about an hour after Lincoln's party and goes next door to have a drink. He is familiar with the play (having even starred in it once before) and he knows exactly when he wants to pull off the assassination. Towards the end of the play there is a line that is very funny delivered by the sole actor on stage at the time. Booth thinks this is a perfect time since the noise of the gun will be muffled by the laughing and there will only be one person on stage for him to get through after he jumps from the Presidential Box onto the stage and out the back door.

He was right. At about 10:15 pm he walks right into the Presidential Box (the sole body guard had left his post) and waits for the line. He puts a small pistol right up to the back of Lincoln's head and fires. Booth briefly struggles with Major Henry Rathbone, who was also in the box, then stabs him in the arm with a hunting knife and jumps from the box onto the stage. He get's tangled up in the drapery from the box and breaks his leg as he lands. Then he reportedly yells, "Sic Semper Tyrannis" (Latin for "As Always to Tyrants"), flashes his bloody knife at the audience, and escapes out the backdoor in front of a confused audience of about 1,000 people. Booth is eventually found a few days later and is shot to death after refusing to surrender.

Lincoln never regains consciousnesses. He is taken to a boarding house across the street, The Peterson House, where he dies the next morning.

My attempt at a photo of Julia and Robert in the room where Lincoln died.

Also, I have one random picture of the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial that I took when we went with Daniel and Amanda so I'll throw it in here. The Memorial is a series of benches, one for each of the 184 people who died in the attack. The benches are organized by the year of birth of each passagenger and oriented so that when you read the name on the bench you are facing towards the Pentagon if the victim was a worker at the Pentagon, or away from the Pentagon if the victim was from the plane.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Hiking in Shenandoah

Time for a little blog catch up. We had a lot of visitors last month and it was a lot of fun, but left little time for blogging. In October, three days after my dad left, Robert's Mom came, and the next day his brother Kevin and wife Ellen came down from Philly to visit as well. While they were all here we went to Shenandoah National Park to see the fall leaves.

Before we left Julia had fun jumping in the leaves at our house:

While we were there we went for a little hike. Julia got to walk with everyone else until she got tired.

Then she rode in the hiking backpack.
And when we got to the bottom of the trail at the river she got to get out again and throw leaves in the river.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

I found a bunch of pictures like these on my phone after I let Julia play with my phone during stake conference. Notice the face of concentration. She cracks me up with her ability to use technology at age 2.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

It's a Boy!

We've actually known this for a week and a half but in case you missed it...we're having a boy!

I'm a little sad for Julia because she was insistent that it was a girl and I think she would have had fun with a little sister. But surprisingly she took the news really well so I guess I shouldn't feel bad for her. She'll have fun with a little brother too and she's already stopped talking about having a baby sister and is now talking about her baby brother Micah.

Julia and Robert's mom got to go with us to the ultrasound so they were both there when we found out. The ultrasound tech asked Julia what she thought the baby was, and for once Julia had nothing to say. We had told her that the doctor was going to tell us if it was a baby brother or a baby sister, so I imagine she was thinking "well, aren't you suppose to be the one telling me what it is?" She had a good time seeing the baby moving (which he did plenty of during the ultrasound. I don't think this kid ever sleeps.) and hearing his heartbeat for about five minutes, then she was more interested in her game on the tablet.

3D pictures look a little weird, but here is our baby Micah hiding behind his hand.