Saturday, July 30, 2011

July 4th trip to southwestern VA

As long as I can remember, my dad has dreamed of someday owning some property in the mountains somewhere, where he could build a family vacation home close to the Appalachian Trail and retire to a life of hiking, fishing, and playing with his grandkids.  Well, that dream just got a little closer for him -- my parents recently purchased a property in a lovely and remote corner of southwestern Virginia!  It's still undeveloped (currently rented out to a farmer to pasture his cows), but my parents have all kinds of grand plans, and are really excited about slowly implementing them over the next several years.

So over the 4th of July weekend, we took a flying trip down to meet up with my parents and brothers and spend a couple days in Hillsville, VA.  We were only there for a couple days, but it was such a fun time!  The last time my family had seen Joshua was over Thanksgiving -- i.e., before he was even walking.  It's incredible what a difference seven months can make...  :)  My parents were continuously marveling at how fast Joshua can run, and what a funny little personality he has.  He invented a game to be played with my brother Eric and my dad, where he would reach across the table for a high five first from Eric, then from my dad.  And then he invented a game for my mom, where he would squat to pick up gravel or sticks or other little objects, then look for her and share his spoils with her.  SO cute!

Our trip started with dinner at the Old Mill at Mabry, which has an old water mill and some walking trails.  Joshua totally led the way in exploring the area.  :)

Then the next morning, we drove over to visit my parents' new mountain property.  And by "drive," I mean off-road over hills and fields, briefly getting stuck at the bottom of a particularly difficult hill, but finally conquering it with our rented all-wheel-drive Jeep and making it to the top.  (And by "we," I mean David -- thank you, honey, for taking on that stressful task!)  My parents are thinking of building at the top of that particular hill, which would give them some really beautiful mountain views -- we can't wait to see how it all turns out!

And then later that day, we went on safari.  Because that's what one does when one visits southwestern Virginia, of course.  ;)  My mom found a brochure for the Fort Chiswell Animal Park, a really cool zoo/conservation area, where you can take a guided bus tour through the 45-acre park and interact with camels, water buffalo, zebras, and so many more animals.  Joshua was entranced -- even though he was hot and tired, he was still super excited every time an animal approached the bus.  What a fun family excursion!

And one of the many videos we took of Joshua on safari!  (More can be found in the 2011 Videos gallery of our SmugMug.)

What fun memories!  We're looking forward to many more down in this little corner of the country!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Someday, I'll get perfect outdoor Father's Day pics...

Remember last year's Father's Day photos?  Perhaps I was a bit ambitious back then, hoping to get perfect, placid, D-A-D shots with a 5-month-old who had never really spent much time outdoors... But surely it wasn't too naive of me to try again this year, with a much more worldly and experienced 17-month-old, right?

I was determined to continue the tradition we'd started last year of getting D-A-D photos in honor of Father's Day.  And while Joshua has continued to be somewhat skeptical of grass, we have had some successful "photo shoots" outdoors this spring (like the wonderful evening walk we took out on the Battlefield), so I allowed myself to dream dreams of perfectly-lit, bucolic outdoor photos of a smiling toddler obediently holding the wooden letters...

Perhaps I should have been warned by the fact that on that lovely evening walk, Joshua flatly refused to walk on the grass, running for the comfort of the paved sidewalk whenever we let him go.  And by the fact that the wee emperor has been on a throwing kick, gleefully flinging his toys all over the house...

I took him outside the day before Father's Day (yep, I didn't even give myself any extra lead time to get these photos done), stuck him on the grass, handed him the D, and sprinted back to take the photo.  And this is the very, very best I got:

Furrowed brow, confusion, and extreme distaste at the feel of wet prickly grass at his feet.  And not two seconds later, the poor D was flung to the ground.

I tried again a few times, but wasn't fast enough to get a shot with him holding the letter.  This was the *only* A photo I got:

Not exactly the face I was hoping for...

Tired, sweaty, and on the verge of a meltdown (him more than me, though I was probably close!), we packed it up and brought it all inside.  Once we were back in the comfort of home, Joshua was actually curious about these white wooden letters -- he kept rooting around in the bag for them and trying to carry them off to his room.  So I figured I would run with it, and try again on the daybed in his nursery.

Turns out, all he needed was for the photo session to be put in terms of a new game.  One where he grabbed the letter, put it on his face or on top of his head, and then tried to throw it to me while I sat on the floor next to the bed.  :)  We had some close calls (thankfully, the letters never hit my camera, though I did get a direct hit to my knee), but I think we got some really fun photos this time around:

These really capture Joshua's playfulness and joy, and are so HIM at this stage of his life.  So even though it's not what I had originally planned, these are perfect.  Which is a good reminder for this type A over-planner of a mama...  :)

And here's the final, official Father's Day 2011 set:

Happy (very) belated Father's day to all you wonderful dads out there!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Rachel and Shay's wedding!

On June 12, we drove out to Long Island for the wedding of one of my college roommates (and one of the very first people I met at Princeton), Rachel!  The wedding was held at the DeSeverky mansion, a former DuPont mansion and one of the most beautiful wedding locations we've ever been to.  If it weren't a 2.5-hour drive away, I would seriously consider taking Joshua there just for a photo shoot!  It was an absolutely lovely backdrop for a beautifully romantic wedding.  (For some truly amazing photos, check out the sneak peek from their pro photogs here -- and check it out, Joshua made it into the sneak peek!)

Rachel and Shay really did have such a lovely wedding.  They met in Israel while Rachel was posted in Tel Aviv with the State Department, so they officially got married there back in April.  But I personally was very, very glad that they had a ceremony close enough for us to drive to in a day with a toddler.  ;)  Joshua had SO MUCH FUN celebrating -- he played with a fountain off to the side during the ceremony, was enchanted with the hora, clapped along after all of the toasts, and generally charmed the pants off of all and sundry.  And we had a lovely time being there for Rachel and Shay and catching up with dear old friends.  We all really should get together more often!!

(And this was the first big event I got to use our new 70-200mm telephoto lens -- I looooove this beast of a lens!)

Morgan's bridal shower!

[After another super long blog silence, I'm finally getting back into the swing of things...  I'm unconscionably late with this post, so I'm backdating it a few weeks.  Stay tuned for more catch-up posts to come!]

Another McMillan cousin got married this summer!  Seeing as how we've already been to her wedding, it's probably about time for me to post about her bridal shower earlier this summer...  :)

Morgan had a really lovely shower back in early June, hosted by her bridesmaids and friends of hers from church, out in Perkasie, PA.  Which, it turns out, requires you to take a number of back roads to get to from central Jersey...  I don't think I've ever been so thankful for GPS.  It was a really pretty drive, though, with a beautiful home and fun party at the end of it!

Morgan was as beautiful and happy as ever. :)

Tons of gorgeous and delicious food:

And so much fun was had by all!

So glad I could be there to celebrate this wonderful time in your life, Morgan!  [And hopefully I'll get your wedding blogged sometime this week while we're on vacation!  :)]