Shenandoah 2015

We have gone to the Shenandoah National Park area every year since 2009. Our friends Barb & George have gone even longer than that, and they invited us to start going with them, and now they are stuck with us forever.

Some of our trips have been fraught with disaster:

  • In 2010 there was a terrible ice storm and we couldn’t stay at our cabin because there was no power. We also could not safely drive home – unfortunately we were unaware of the second thing, so we drove home.
  • In 2013 we had a six week old baby so we did not go.
  • Last year I blew out a tire in the National Park, so Ben had to drive my car back to an auto care place for VERY EXPENSIVE new tires (since I have a Subaru and you have to replace all at once) (also this was the time when my license was suspended so I could not drive myself).

Relatively speaking, then, this year was fairly smooth sailing! This will be known as The Year That Zoe Decided Not To Sleep Very Much, and also The Year That We Decided to Stay an Extra Day and Were Happy with that Decision.

We left on Thursday, instead of Friday. Last year we found Orr’s Farm Market in Martinsburg, WV, which is en route. It meets all my fall pumpkin patch requirements:

  1. It is not very crowded.

There’s a tractor ride, things to play on, a TON of apples, and pumpkins. We had a great time, and it’s a good opportunity to stop and rest and do something other than run wild at the turnpike rest stop.

I’ve already shared some pictures from this trip on Facebook and Instagram.  Here are just a few more for you, my very special 15-18 blog readers.

The past few years (since the ice incident) we have stayed at the Massanutten Resort, which makes us sound very fancy, but it is not particularly fancy; there are houses of varying size for varying length of stay, and nearby activities. Locally, sort of like Seven Springs, I think. Anyway, it’s great there.

We went to Shenandoah National Park on Friday. We hiked a great, hilly trail with a creek/waterfall alongside us the whole time, and Elena did such a good job with walking the whole way, I was so proud of her.  She did get tired (and so did George).  Zoe alternated between running and being carried.

Please don't make us walk any more

Please don’t make us walk any more

On Saturday we ventured out into downtown Harrisonburg and had a great lunch and gelato.

After a glorious afternoon of rest, we tried our hand at mini golf. As always, Ben won, because he always is sort of effortlessly good at this sort of thing. Elena did really well considering she has never tried to golf before. And Zoe did not run off and/or destroy anything.

We had a lovely time!  Already looking forward to next year.


Toddler Tips

Immediately after I posted my “I had a normal weekend!” blog post, Zoe decided to start acting all crazy, thus confirming my friend Michele’s truism that YOU CANNOT POST GOOD THINGS ABOUT YOUR CHILDREN ON SOCIAL MEDIA, LEST THEY STOP BEING TRUE.

To that end, I’ve been compiling a list in my head of the various places where one should and should not go with a two-year-old. I do not mean “the beaches of Bali versus Lake Erie for a weekend.”  I mean, the places you may or may not want to frequent on a day-to-day basis.


  • Shopping.  This was initially going to be several subcategories, but in the interest of space, it’s best to combine it into one.  You do not want to take your two-year-old to the grocery store (not that I’m counting, but I have 48 weeks left until I can leave Zoe with her sister in the Eagle’s Nest at Giant Eagle) where she may pull over a FULL GALLON OF APPLE CIDER ON TO THE FLOOR.  You do not want to take your two-year-old to the liquor store, AS MUCH AS YOU NEED TO GO, where one of the clerks may say to her, “you were really making me scared” in a non-joking manner.  You do not want to take your toddler shopping for clothes for yourself, a potential task so daunting that I have never, not once, even considered doing it.
  • To any restaurants where either (a) you can hear yourself think or (b) your food will not be on your table within 7 minutes of you sitting down.  This is not to say that you can’t go out to eat.  You can.  You just can’t go anywhere you want.  Also a consideration: at one point in my life, I had high hopes that my children would have subtle, refined palates, but at this point in my life I’m not interested in spending $10 for them to make faces at kale quinoa, so if a restaurant does not have chicken, pizza, or mac and cheese options, we do not go there.
  • To the house of your family or friends who do not have children but who also have a lot of potentially breakable things, sensitive pets and/or really steep stairs.  No matter how chill these people are about their place and their stuff, you will spend your whole visit chasing your child around and yelling “DO NOT TOUCH THE GUITAR” or “WATCH YOURSELF ON THOSE STAIRS” or “LEAVE THE CAT ALONE” at them.
Peanut butter bagels: a solid maybe

Peanut butter bagels: a solid maybe


The absolute two best places to take your toddler are as follows:

  • To your friends’ house, where “friends” is defined as “people who have children, a lot of liquor and food, and don’t care what time you leave.”  You can assume any guitars that are below waist level are free to be destroyed, the cats will all be hiding in the basement, and they probably have a baby gate somewhere.
  • To a family gathering where the adult-to-child ratio is adult-favorable and there is at least one grandparent or grandparent-like person there who will basically steal your child, and you can sit on the couch and watch the sports and no one will ask you to do anything, including but not limited to “feed your children” or “change diapers.”

Coming in at third is any museum or play area specifically designed for young children.

If smocks are provided, we're there

If smocks are provided, we’re there

Fourth is every place else in the world.  Stay home for another year or so.  You can save up some money.  It’s not so bad.

Pittsburgh Pirates: what kind of fan am I, anyway?

PNC Park

PNC Park

I was probably 8 or 9 when I went to my first Pirates game, with my dad and my friend Jill and her dad.  Jill explained to me that Mike Schmidt was the devil (Jill was, and I believe remains, a fairly devoted baseball fan – she knew everybody who played).  I liked Mike LaValliere because he ran like a cute little chipmunk. My dad helped me score the game, which was fine until about the seventh inning when they start making all the substitutions and you have to keep crossing stuff out.  That was annoying.  Pinch what?  But that did help me learn about what all was happening.  Shockingly I was perhaps one of five children in all of the United States who did not play Little League in the 1980s, so I was somewhat unclear on the concept.

I went to some games growing up.  Not a crazy amount, but enough.  I liked Andy Van Slyke and Sid Bream because they were good, and good looking.  (Please keep in mind that it was like 1988.)  I liked Tony Pena.  I was excited about the Bonds/Bonilla era and disappointed, but not enormously so, when the Pirates did not win the World Series in the early 1990s.  I was probably more focused on getting my bangs as high as possible, most likely.  That took a lot of energy.

I did not really live in Pittsburgh from 1994 – 2002.  I was in college out of state (although technically I suppose I was here for most of the season, but NEVER MIND) and then lived in DC.  This was pre-Nationals, so I was living in a city with NO BASEBALL TEAM.  Through all this time I would still root, root, root for the Pirates, because if they don’t win it’s a shame.  But I don’t know if I went to any games.  Probably not. They blew up Three Rivers Stadium and I wasn’t here for it.

I moved back and PNC Park was already here.  Everyone hated the Pirates because they sucked or whatever, so it was cheap and easy to go to games.  So I went to games. Some friends got a group together and I got in with the group.  Mostly they would spend the games drinking at the bar, but I sat in the seats and watched.  Ben and I started dating, and he loves the Pirates, so we went to more games.

Elena's First Game

Elena’s First Game

Then the Pirates started to win more, and tickets were harder and more expensive to get, but now everyone is interested in the Pirates, and from living with Ben I know what’s going on.  I know who most of the players are.  I might even recognize them if I saw them on the street.  I’ve spoken to Clint Hurdle at Starbucks (he said Zoe was cute).  I sit next to Lou at work, who talks about the Pirates approximately 3 hours out of every day, and I’m able to keep up with the conversation (much to the chagrin of our immediate neighbor Ethan, who is excited that hockey season is coming so maybe we’ll shut up already).

So what kind of fan am I?

  1. Fair weather friend?  Clearly not.
  2. Rabid maniacal fan?  Also clearly not.
  3. Fan by proxy? Perhaps.  Maybe if I wasn’t with Ben, I wouldn’t be such a fan?
  4. Native Pittsburgher fan?  I think this is right.  I would never root for another team.  I like the Pirates.  I would go to games if they were awful.  (Maybe not if they pick up someone who starts sliding into other players and breaking their legs, but I don’t really see them doing that, do you?  I mean, certainly Cutch would not permit such shenanigans.)  I enjoy the view of the city from the stadium, and watching the pierogie race n’at, and pretending like I’m going to catch a hot dog.  I’ve been to other games in other stadiums and it is not the same.  (Why don’t some of the other stadiums have random events during the game like pierogie races and hot dog tosses and what not?  I need something else to capture my attention for when they start switching everyone out in the seventh inning or whatever.)

So I think that’s what kind of fan I am, and I’ll be watching the Wild Card game tomorrow (sort of off and on, you know, while we’re putting the girls to bed) and making fun of Jake Arrieta because he looks like Merry the Hobbit and LET’S GO BUCS!!



The resemblance is uncanny, no?

The resemblance is uncanny, no?