Thanksgiving in The Valley

We had the huge pleasure of hosting Z and A and Crew in The Valley for Thanksgiving this year, and it was fantastic. It was also a little bittersweet because one of the other partner couples used to always host a big group of family and friends for Thanksgiving, and the husband was not well enough for them to do that this year. He passed away right before Christmas this year, but at Thanksgiving, I was holding them close to my heart and attempting to bring the same love, if not the same elegance that the wife always brought their gatherings. She organized events professionally, and I believe getting a table cloth on a table is an event, so our skills lie in different areas, but we share a common bond of fierce love for family and friends, and that is what I tried to honor.

Anyway, it was so fun to be out in the valley with some of our favorite people.

Again, since I’m writing this 6 weeks after Thanksgiving, I’m going to let pictures present the story.

We went out on Wednesday night to get all settled in to welcome our visitors the next day.

Playing and laughing.

Everyone loves the tree house: Minidoah.

The weather was beautiful!

Games on the porch.

Getting ready for meal creation!

Creating whole worlds.

A shocking bounty.

Quiet time together.

Aunt A brought some fun crafty kits.

Uncle Z mixes some Pom Wonderful drinks for the adults.

Everybody loves a roasty, toasty fire.

Our doodlebug by the firelight.

Snuggle time by the fire.

Sweet girl

Brotherly love and laughter

Cowboy and pony

The first time in the hammock at Minidoah.

While Monkey and I hung out at the house and she sat in the hammock, Aunt A, Buds, and Uncle Z, took the rest of the gang for a hike up a hill at the back of the house. They ran into a patch of cacti, and it was a haul and a half, but they conquered it! Aunt A and Buds were true heroes.

We waited until Friday to have our Thanksgiving dinner to keep things low stress since the cousins didn’t come over until Thursday. It was so fun to have the whole day to relax and cook together.

The roasted turkey

Slice and dice

Chef A.

Kids dined first. Notice the table cloth.

A little game time at night.

More laughter.

Aunt A and I got to put together a whole puzzle!

How ’bout this!

Even if we don’t make this a tradition, I’m so glad we shared this celebration.

Atlanta Times

For a second time, Buds and I hauled the children to Atlanta, combining a business trip with family fun and adventures.

Atlanta has so many fantastic things to see and do…great restaurants, great museums, great people. It was another splendid trip.

The kids and I chose The Atlanta Children’s Museum as our first outing, and we enjoyed it so much we were there for five hours! The Magic School Bus was the traveling exhibit on display, and The Buster especially loved being able to “make” different kinds of weather.

Since I’m writing this post a month after we have returned from our trip, I will have to let pictures speak for themselves.

The children had vague memories of Centennial Olympic Park from our last trip, and it was just as wonderful as we remembered.

The fantastic playground put in for the Olympics.


The “store” area of the musuem.

The dress up area and tap dancing stage were a big draw.

We loved the “magic sand” area.

The sand pit drew us back time and again.

Yessa’s sand cookies

The Buster’s Sand Face sculpture.

Painting on the glass board was really cool!

So simple, yet so fun and creative.

The glass painting made me realize we could paint on our front storm door, and then just wash it off with the water washing to the ground. It really was cool to paint on the glass. The Atlanta office has white boards made of glass, which are so much more elegant than the old white boards we have in the Reston office.

Monkey volunteered for several different shows throughout the day. This one was about the weather.

We truly hit the sweet spot with the Museum because they don’t accept school groups on Mondays, so it was us and Moms and Dads with children 5 and under for the most part. It was not crowded and so relaxed. The Buster had not interest in the shows that the girls and I wanted to see, but I could peak through the displays to check on him at the Magic School Bus exhibit where he was busily creating tornadoes or blizzards.

The Christmas Tree at Centennial Park.

Pretty cute!

It was a great start to our Atlanta time.

Upstairs Complete!

Still need to change the sheets on the bed, but our clothes closet is complete, shoes are almost organized, and I can move from the upstairs to the middle floor.

Except for the basement, I’m down to just cleaning, rather than culling, sorting, and organizing.

The excited energy from waiting for my crew to get home will make the time go quickly!

Our closet before:

Wow, that’s bad!

The closet we get to use now:

Found lots of clothes I’d forgotten we had.

House Updates

Every year I engage in a flurry of house cleaning activity while Buds and the children enjoy the flurries in Vermont.


Wodding in a Winter Wonderland.

This year was no exception.

Now, a series of before and afters:

Pot pad and birthday candle drawer before.

Pot pad and birthday candle drawer after. Admittedly, most of the pot pads are in the wash.

Random Kitchen Utensil Drawer Before

Random Kitchen Utensil Drawer After (This one seems to need cleaned and organized every year.)

And then a whole series of the library bookshelves before:



#3-Especially note the papers spilling out of the bin on the lower right. That drove me crazy!

And, the afters!



#3- No more papers sagging out!

I’ve been surprised at the weight that has been lifted off my shoulders with getting the books sorted, spaced, and organized. I was really feeling like the disorganization was hindering the children from finding the books they needed and wanted, and I did not find the library soothing at all.

Now the books that some would consider our “schooling” books are in their own set of bookshelves in the living room, and non-fiction and fiction books are sorted out. There are shelves specific to library books, and there is even space to display some loved pictures. And with the craft supplies organized I’m excited for the kids to work on some projects. It won’t feel like the craft cupboards are throwing up whenever they get opened, which was a strong deterrent for me encouraging painting and creating.

Now I’m off to finish the coat closet and Buds and my clothes closet.

Here are the befores:

Coat Closet View #1

Coat Closet View #2

Our clothes closet. Wow, that’s bad!

Well, an hour later, the coat closet is complete.

Labeled bins for hats, gloves, and scarves.

The floor can be seen! Note the bike helmets hanging on the side, and the swim bag ready and waiting for another summer of fun.

That’s it for tonight. Buds and the kids driving home tomorrow. I still have about 10 hours to work on the house before they arrive home. More surprises to come.

Another Work Weekend

We spent last weekend out in The Valley,(Actually started this post in November, hence, it was not last weekend.) bonding with other partners, cleaning out the gazillion mouse poops now that the mouse infestation has been “handled,” and making progress on the tree house.

Due to the aforementioned mouse issue, Team Gemignani split up. I was out of the house at the crack of a.m. to pick up Chris F. to head out to Lowe’s. We rented a truck and loaded it with tree house supplies.

I love driving the big rigs.

Chris was the brains of the operation in figuring out how to stack the wood so we could travel safely.

Joe, our Lowe’s Buddy who helped us get answers to many questions.

We headed out for Massadoah with our load of tree house. After only a few stops on the Zen Road to push the slipping wood to the center of the truck, we arrived at the Happy Homestead, off-loaded the wood, grabbed a cup of coffee with the freshly awakened Partners who had stayed at the house overnight, then began cleaning out the attic of mouse-friendly items…which meant everything.

Everything must go!

My first trip to the big dump, which was exciting for all.

Marie Ann found this cool stack of smushed aluminum cans.

We really got our money’s worth from the rented truck. After the dump we headed to the garden center for mulch.

Then off for a load of mulch.

Mia and the kids were there when we returned to the house, and my crew showed up not long after. It was a gorgeous day to be working outside, and the kids wandered between helping with the mulch, playing inside and out, and just enjoying themselves.

So happy to see Mia. I hugged her next, but no one took a picture.

I’m a cat, I’m a kitty cat…

It was a big pile of mulch. We were all glad there wasn’t more.

The Buster liked to dance around with the pitch fork.

My sweet guy. I love being out in The Valley with him.

Only a real man could wear this hat.

The mulched beds look fantastic!

And, of course, there had to be a fire! A really, really big fire!

The master fire builder.

The kids love when Hayden rallies them for fire building bonding.

The Buster is imagining his wood as a weapon in this picture, I guarantee.

Notice the clothes Yessa is wearing. These are the only clothes she had for the weekend. This will go down in family lore.

A nest was found!

A little more mulch hauling.

Another weapon.

Looks awesome.

Ready for winter.

I’m so grateful that our two families all get along so well. The kids enjoy time together a great deal, and keep each other so entertained it allowed the adults to work on lots of projects inside and outside, which was a great feeling, too.

One of many games played.

Games and books…makes my heart swell.

She’s cute no matter what.

Planning, sharing.

Sweetest face ever!

Hayden brought a Guinness Book of World Records, and the kids ate it up.

It was another wonderful time in the Valley, and a reminder to all of us that sharing this house is both labor of love and bearing responsibility. All good lessons.

A Christmas Carol

We had the fantastic opportunity to go see “A Christmas Carol” at the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, VA. (Pronounced “Stanton.”) Staunton is only an hour from Massadoah, so we headed out there for the night, and met up with a group of homeschoolers the next morning for the 10:30 showing.

I was surprised and tickled to recognize one of the actors when he walked on stage. P. Midge is a CrossFitter who trained with us here in Reston for several months. Though exciting for me, the kids were entranced by the play for different reasons.

Staged in Elizabethan Theatre style, the lights are left on, and the actors interact with the audience. For this production, there was a trapdoor in the floor where some scary things crawled out. The Buster especially found the Ghost of Christmas Future frightening. He and Yessa were both snuggled in my lap for this part, and Buster kept asking of the mute, black-cloth-draped Ghost, “Is it going to make any sudden moves? Is it going to do anything?” The Ghost remained mute and immobile, but it was stressful for the kids.

The play had some funny, interesting sections, and Zoe caught onto those.

I’d love to go back again and take Buds. The theater is beautiful and the acting was excellent. It seems they frequently, or maybe even always, offer a “Pay What You Will” showing early in the run of each play, which would be a great way for us to see wonderful plays.

Merry Christmas to us all, and God bless us, every one.

How Not To Teach A Dog Not To Bark

I’ve been grateful to have Kora, our Australian neighbor’s dog, as company while everyone has been away, but she does have this little issue with barking. Being a small dog, she has to assert herself in some way, and barking seems to be her chosen option.

Here’s what I’ve learned about how to not teach her not to bark.

1) My first thought was just to ignore the barking. If I ignore it, it will go away, right?
Apparently me ignoring the barking makes her think, “Hey, she can’t hear me. I better bark louder…and longer…and again…and again…Hey, she still can’t hear me! I’ll try again.”

2) Going ape bat crazy when I have tried to ignore it and it doesn’t stop. When I react to her barking, she gets even more excited. In her mind: Hey, I told her there was some sound, and when I told her again and again she got really excited, too, so it must be something really bad, and I better keep letting her know there are bad things and sounds…so many sounds…hey, there’s a person outside! She might not know that…hey, look, she’s getting excited again, I must be right. BAD THING ALERT! Let’s yell together!” Bark, bark.

3) Final option is to praise her and thank her for the bark. This leads her to believe I like her behavior. Epic fail on this one.

The only thing I have found that works is if Nutmeg stays in the basement, Kora exhausts herself from barking, and then I only work in one room, where she can see me.

In other words, after only staying with us 2 weeks, she has me extremely well trained.

I’ll be glad when the kids get home to snuggle her. That helps.

Kora- Bat ears deployed for sound capture.

The Buster learns to bike!

It only took about 15 minutes with a strong, supportive Dad by his side.

At first it started with the Dad saying, “Come try and ride this bike.”

The Buster said, “I don’t want to. I’m scared.”

Mom said, “He doesn’t have to if he doesn’t want to.”

Dad said, “Just come on and give it a try. I’ll stay right with you.”

Mom came back 10 minutes later, and the Buster was gliding along, with a huge grin on his face while a tickled Dad trotted along beside him.

They could not have been more connected or happier.

When the Buster was ready, with a little support and a lot of love, it happened so readily.

Oh, and a Dad who was willing to jog along beside, tirelessly.

So thankful for this in so many ways.