Sunday, May 13, 2018

Horse riding class at Stonelea Farms

I had seen some horsemanship classes offered through the Fairfax County Parks and Rec department, but they're all for kids. Before I signed up one of the kids for a daycamp type thing, we thought it would be better to try Stonelea Farms homeschool class, to gauge interest. This is us getting boots and helmets on. 

Tacking up. We got to brush the horse and learn a little about how to walk around a horse and make sure the horse knows where you are at all times. 

This is Ms. Lucia, she owns the farm, and leads a lot of the instruction. 

This is English-style riding, so the saddles have no saddle horns, and are a lot smaller than western saddles. Each of us had a helper to guide us through the process of mounting and positioning ourselves. My horse was named Adara. 

Carson's horse was named Cricket. 

Keith's horse was named Taz. 

Here I am trying to do 'jumping position'. Super hard. You have to always have your heels pointed down to the ground, knees bent, and hold the reins with thumbs up, like you're holding two ice cream cones. 

Tucker's horse was named Misty. 

While walking, you always keep the heels pointed down and knees bent, which is super hard to do - it just didn't feel natural to me. We each had a chance to try cantering, which is a quick trot in a circle. We were to move with the horse's motions, which was really difficult. Also, you put your boot in only part of the way into the stirrups, which makes it even harder to point your heels down! 

Savannah's horse was named Soda Pop. She would have named him Rusty. 

In english-style riding, you always do something called 'posting' while walking or trotting. You move your hips forward with the same rhythm that the horse is bouncing. Here's a short video that shows posting:

The horses were a little sweaty afterwards, and we got to help sponge off the sweat. It was like washing a car. They even gave us squeegees to get most of the water off.  

Overall, we were all able to ride our horses around the arena for about 45 minutes. We learned a lot about english-style riding and would like to try a western-style riding lesson someday. Seems like western-style has less rules about how to put your feet in the stirrups and how to position your body while riding. We all enjoyed being able to have lots of riding time. 


Echo 58v Electric Lawnmower

We haven't actually had to maintain a lawn since we left Georgia.  Now, with a 1/2 acre lot, we needed a good mower.  So we bought a new Echo 58v battery powered lawnmower.  It is light enough that the kids can easily operate it.  Instead of having to pull start a gas engine, you just press a button to start it.  It also folds up to be pretty compact and unlike a gas engine, it can be stored on it its side or vertically.   It is relatively quiet an has plenty of power to chop our tallest grass.

There were some quality issues in the assembly and packing.  We actually bought two of these within a week.  The height adjustment lever one one wheel was bent on the first one; preventing height adjustment.  So we returned it to a local home depot (that was very accommodating).  Then shipped us a replacement, which had a similar issue on a different wheel.  So, reluctantly, I disassembled the wheel subframe and reassembled it correctly.  Overall, it took about 10 minutes.  Apparently, the factory didn't take the time to assemble the mowers well?!?  Kind of annoying; but despite that, we've been pretty impressed.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Fairfax History Day - 2018

Each year, Fairfax hosts Fairfax History Day, focused on local 19th century life.  With all of the rain we've been having recently, we were fortunate to have a beautiful, sunny spring day. 

It is held at 'Historic Blenheim', a former plantation near the site of the first battle of the Civil War.  The union soldiers quickly evicted the family from their home and turned it into a camp for the soldiers as they prepared for the Battle of Bull Run. 

The home at the center of the plantation, now known as 'Graffiti House', had been recently built and had clean, bare walls.  The union soldiers covered the clean, white walls with their signatures and with graffiti.  Recently, the city acquired the property and began the process of renovation and exposing the original graffiti on the walls.

In addition to tours of the house, exhibits were setup to help us learn more about local people and life. 

The kids loved the blacksmith display and learned so much from the passionate volunteers.

National Bring Your Child to Work Day - Rock Creek Group

Thursday, April 26 was National Bring Your Child to Work Day.  Carson and Tucker commuted with me, walking to the subway station, then taking the subway downtown, then walking to the office.  Savannah was so disappointed that she was sick and couldn't go with us.

We were greeted by a table of candies and chips.  Without me asking, the boys sat down at a table near my desk and started their studies for the day.  The company provided pizza for lunch; cupcakes for an afternoon snack, and they even hosted a lesson on 'Impact Investing' for the kids.

The kids had a good time and it was good for them to get a view into my work.

The kids' artwork on my desk:

Emergency Barbie Head Replacement Surgery

Unfortunately, Barbie was in a catastrophic accident.  So Savannah and I performed an emergency cranial transplant.

We tied some paracord to the loop inside the head, then used JB Weld to secure it to the inner neck.  

We'll have to see how well it holds up.  

Savannah says, "it broke because Tucker and I were pulling her head too hard and her head popped off!  I really missed her.  It took us one week to fix Stacey's head."