Friday, 22 April 2016

Love flies west

The Lyons had to leave us and return to the paradise of Walnut Creek - oh, the disappointment of having to return to California with Lottie's Creamery, Contra Costa Farmers' Market, and (my favourite) Discovery Thrift Store.

We all in Washington DC are left bereft in different ways.  Hannah because she can no longer talk Chevron 24/7 with Lauren.  Me because without Nate I have no excuse to drink twelve cappuccinos a day and have to cut back to my usual five.  Pete because...well, I think that's obvious.

Pete is quite a sociable chap - in spite of his parentage, because of intense socialisation sessions at daycare - but I have never seen two children so smitten with each other as him and Evie.  It was party time whenever they were together, and Pete even developed a very matrimonial "Eeeviee!" whenever she failed to do what he expected.  We'll see what happens next time they meet up.  Maybe picking out a dress and tasting some cake.  Hey - you can't have too much time when it comes to planning a wedding.

Making sweet (or not) music together.

Down at Clemyjontri Park.

Hannah braves the carousel.

Grandma had taught Pete how to work the TV in the downstairs bedroom, which impressed Evie no end.

We took a trip to the zoo where the cheetah decided to treat us to a suitably epic, Lion King-inspired pose.

And we saw the panda outside for the first time!  Nate enjoys hunting, but we managed to restrain him.

Then it was on to the postal museum - the best in DC.  Lauren was skeptical but came around to my way of thinking...

...when both kids entertained themselves with no parental involvement for around an hour on the mail truck.

Not sure how many of these parcels made it to their destination.  Which is pretty standard for the US Postal Service.

Creating a stamp, to allow them to correspond when apart.

Sweet music reprise!  Hopefully the duet will continue soon.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Science and Engineering

As you know, I'm a bit ambivalent towards science.  If it was that important there'd be more of it in the Bible.  But I'm willing to concede that some science - or "magic", as I prefer to call it - does exist, so I was happy to accompany Hannah to the USA Science and Engineering Festival where Chevron was sponsoring and she was volunteering.  There's some engineering involved in getting oil out of the ground apparently; dowsing sticks and the like.

Well, there is much more science out there than I thought.  The Festival takes over an entire convention centre, filling several football-field-sized rooms over three floors.  Everyone was there, from the diplomatic service demonstrating the vehicles they use to ferry dignitaries around (three batteries, two alternators, inch-thick bullet-proof windows) to farmers talking about DNA.  There were also hundreds of demonstrations like "Big Top Physics" who brought along a smoke ring canon and Sea World who had an armadillo.

I discovered that I was volunteering too when I was handed 4-yr-old Virginia so that her mum Tracey could do her Chevron work.  Chasing Virginia and Pete from booth to booth was extremely tiring, especially as I had to maintain my healthy skepticism of all the "facts" presented.  Luckily Lauren, Nate and Evie arrived later and so the adult-child ratio got a little better.

Hannah's shift finished around midday and I gratefully handed the children back, then found a comfy seat in an auditorium downstairs.  On stage was a group of young teenagers taking part in a Maths Olympiad.  As the indecipherable questions and formulas flashed across the big screen I did realise one indisputable proof: I'm not as clever as I think I am.

Off to the booth.

Hannah helps her first customers build a light-up badge, and shows them how good and generous oil companies are.

In Evie's absence, Pete had to find someone else's hand to hold.

Sea World had penguins too!  But no killer whales.

Electricity.  Or wizardry.

I have to give this lady an A+ for effort as she spent a lot of time explaining how DNA works to a 2, 3 and 4-yr-old.  In the end they got to make some with liquorice and fruit loops, so everyone left happy.  (Note: Evie and hand holding are back).

See what science leads to?  Human-animal hybrids.  That's just wrong.

More demonstrations.

Artificial snow!  This was great, and we got some packets to make at home, which won't be messy at all.

A quick refreshment break, where they got to eat the DNA they made earlier.

Virginia has a go with the smoke ring canon.


Real robots.

I once had an A-level in maths.  I don't know where that went, or if I ever had a clue how to solve a question like this.  But those whippersnappers on stage certainly did.

All this science!  Thank goodness it's church tomorrow.

A lovestruck Romeo

Davies Tours Ltd. usually caters to the international market, but we're also happy to accommodate domestic visitors who want to see their nation's capital.  Which is why we were overjoyed when Lauren, Nate and Evie decided to book in with us!  And they're from California, which is virtually a different country.

The highlight of their visit is that Pete and Evie get to meet again.  They're betrothed, which they'll come to thank us for when later they don't have to deal with time-consuming, useless things like dating and love.  This is the way we do things in the UK - and the bride's family provides us with something we hold valuable in our culture, like a sack of potatoes or a picture of Prince Charles.

Thankfully, Pete and Evie are rather taken with each other.  Except when they're not, like when they both want to play with the same toy and it all descends into shouting and tears.  All good preparation for marriage.

They even brought the weather of Walnut Creek with them!

Evie: fearless, which is good for someone who will one day become a Davies.

Balance and posture.

All daughters become their mothers.


Nate is a medic, which means for some reason I suggested going to the museum that makes me faint.  Pete was overjoyed.

They breed 'em tall in NorCal.

I decided to read some of the labels this time.  And, as darkness crept around the edges of my vision, I quickly realised it was a bad idea.


This is how I would parent, if we didn't constantly have visitors around to do it for me.

A trip to the park.  And now the real cuteness begins.

Awwwww!  This is how old Hannah and I were when we met.

Not so cute - early voting is in progress at our local fire station.  Vote early, vote often!

The inevitable, awkward talk with the father.

More cuteness!

A game of hide and seek.  I'm not sure if Pete was hiding or counting at this point.

So much cuteness Washington DC can hardly contain it!

Monday, 11 April 2016

Are friends electric?

It was that sad moment again when we had to say goodbye to Grandma and Grandpa...and then realise that it's only a few weeks until we fly to the UK and see them again.  But to keep our minds off their short absence I found a new museum to go to, which was very near Baltimore airport (good) but was not free (bad).  The National Electronics Museum!

Like a lot of museums around here it purports to be generally about something - in this case electricity - but is in fact about the military.  I suppose when you spend as much on defense as the USA you're going to have a lot of obsolete kit around, and it's probably cheaper to put it in a museum than attempt to recycle it.  So there were code machines, arrays from the nose-cones of jets, jammers of every description, radar dishes, mobile military radio stations...all with pressable buttons, so all wonderful to a 3-yr-old.

After that we still had some time to waste so found the Thomas A. Dixon Jr. Aircraft Observation Area!  It's a area at the end of one of the runways where you can sit and...well, observe aircraft.  That's about it, but Pete and Grandpa needed nothing more to keep them occupied.  I was personally a little disappointed that almost every plane was a Southwest 737-700, with only one American Airlines Airbus A319-100 to break the monotony.

After that excitement we went to The Cheesecake Factory to calm down and send Mum and Dad home with a final large and calorie-filled slice of America, then drop them at the airport.  It's been wonderful to see them, as ever, and if I hadn't already tried it I might eat Baileys and Angel Delight mixed together to cheer myself up.  Still, I do have one pack of chocolate Hob Nobs left.

Danger, danger!

This is what Skype looked like before you were born.

Mind you, I'm still upset that my mobile phone looks nothing like this.  New technology is so boring.

No idea what's going on here, but look!  I'm on TV!

Pete plays with a simulation of anti-submarine warfare, something Grandpa does not like.

When in doubt, press the large red button.

A cheeky player of the Theremin.

At the aircraft observation area.  Look out for hedgehogs!

Last dessert.

Goodbye from the Davieses of Maryland.