Monday, August 10, 2015

Virginia Is For Lovers... of Snow!

Having started ski lessons in Utah, James was very concerned that we had moved to a place with no real winter to speak of. He wanted to be able to see snow and go skiing with his dad again, even if we did live in the Sunshine State. Since our family appreciates experiences more than possessions, we love to celebrate birthdays and special occasions in that way. When we asked James what kind of experience he would like to celebrate his 6th birthday, he asked if we could go somewhere where it would snow and he could go skiing. Obviously, there are a lot of places that fit that bill, but we chose Virginia and the Massanutten Resort for our trip. We were able to use our timeshare to get a condo for a week there and the proximity to Harrisonburg meant that we could visit with some of our favorite Shenks, Uncle Dan and Aunt Naomi. Plus, we could road trip there and enjoy the drive up. Win, win, win. 
Our timing for this trip left a little to be desired where the weather was concerned. Our drive up coincided with a formidable blizzard that left lesser mortals on the side of the road (they didn't have the amazing Chris behind the wheel) and knocked the power out at the resort. Luckily, Aunt Naomi came to the rescue and we were able to find refuge at her house. She even had the driveway shoveled for us-she's amazing!
Once we were able to get checked into the resort, James couldn't wait to head out into the snow. Luckily, our condo had an open area behind it. Chris and I sat inside with the fire on while our crazy kid played just outside. He had a blast and we were nice and warm inside. Again, everybody wins!
Ready to have some fun with a snowball thrower!
Snow angels are a must. 
As is eating some snow.
He liked to build it up and then jump into it.
After running around in what was an unblemished swath of snow, he rests.
Relaxing with Dad. I love these guys so much!
James spent a day at a group ski lesson, refreshing his skills, and then enjoyed some skiing with Chris. It's great that they have these activities to do together. I may have taken advantage of their time on the slopes to go fabric shopping...

Ready for class!
Look at my little man go! He's so relaxed at it. It's great!

The scenery was so beautiful there with the rolling snow-covered hills, and bare trees that sparkled when the sun hit their frosty branches. We loved to take the scenic routes to whatever outings we went on. 


We enjoyed stopping at Route 11 Potato Chips and getting a viewing and explanation of the frying process and the factory. They make quite a few flavors there but the barbecue was the favorite and one of the best we have ever had! 
James insisted on posing with the "mascot" by the front door.
He loves to learn how things are made and enjoyed the added bonus of
getting to eat at the end of this tour.
Everyone got to enjoy an activity on this vacation, and for Chris, we went to a local whiskey distillery, Copper Fox Distillery. The tour was more interesting that I was expecting and even James seemed to enjoy it. The facility is in a really neat old building and the employees were all friendly and clearly loved their job. This place had such a great low-key vibe, and it was clearly our duty to support such an establishment by buying bottles to take home. We are nothing if not supportive.
Shenk Family Selfie at the gorgeous front door. Seriously, it was beautiful.
Listening about the process of distilling.
There is always an opportunity for learning to be found.
My choice for activity combined two of my favorite things, museums and quilting--the Virginia Quilt Museum. It is housed in a gorgeous historic home in downtown Harrisonburg and I enjoyed the location as much as the quilts themselves. There were quilts on display dating back to the Civil War. History is just my favorite! In an effort to find a way to make something like this fun for James, we encouraged him to take his little dry-erase paddle board and draw patterns or things that he liked from the quilts. It worked like a charm and he spent a great deal of time studying the quilts and picking out shapes he liked to draw. Watching him find something in old quilts to interest him made the experience even better for me. 
You know he's concentrating--the tongue is out!
Enjoying a root beer at the fantastically delicious
Jack Brown's Beer & Burger Joint
Aunt Naomi and Uncle Dan invited us over to their office house/awesome place, 1820, to do a little sledding on the hill. We all love visiting 1820 whenever we can and it was fantastic in a completely different way in the winter. James had a blast sledding down the hill over and over (that kid's energy is endless) and he loved that Aunt Naomi joined him in the fun. 

Aunt Naomi tried it out first, to make sure it was safe, of course.
Not because it was fun. ;)
James attempted to pull her back up the hill. Such a good sport!
I'm never one to miss out on the fun! 
I think it's safe to say he loved it.
We tried out a couple different sleds to see which was the fastest.
Getting a little help with his start. 
This one didn't really "go". James quickly caught up with him.
James set these up as a starting gate, like a proper race.
Aunt Naomi helps him start out through the gates. He had a blast!
Warming up with some yummy hot chocolate.
James and Aunt Naomi relaxing together with their hot chocolate
James was thrilled to see Uncle Dan when he'd finished up working.
Since James never seems to tire of playing in the snow, Aunt Naomi invited us back to their house where James could play in the backyard with some of the toys she's collected over the years from kids and grandkids. He LOVED that she had old trucks and commenced to building a snow fort with dump trucks. They had a great time together and he still talks about that fort they built together. We are so grateful for their presence in our lives and always enjoy the time we get to spend with them. Thanks for everything, Uncle Dan and Aunt Naomi! We love you!!
I love how much joy he finds in almost everything.
Proudly posing with their fort.
Too bad my camera settings weren't quite right for the snow...
All in all we had a wonderful week in Virginia and look forward to going back for many more visits in the future.
Chris can always make James laugh. I mean, really crack him up. It's awesome.

Capturing this laugh is fantastic. Love his sweet face!

Monday, August 3, 2015

James Turns 6!

On his official 6th birthday, February 27, 2015, James got to pick almost everything about his special day. He started out his day getting his present from Mom and Dad-- a new, fuzzy robe! He insists on wearing it with nothing underneath except underpants, so he's like our own little Hefner. 
Trying on his new robe, complete with room to grow...
He loves to read his birthday cards himself now.
James requested beignets for his birthday breakfast so he and Chris made them together. I just love watching them together.
Getting everything ready. 
Learning to measure out the ingredients
After donning a hat for the occasion (I warned you
you would see it again), James wanted to use cookie
cutters to shape the beignets.
I don't remember what happened, but I was thrilled
to have caught the surprise on his face at just the right
moment. 
As it turns out, cookie cutters don't work well for
beignets, so we went with rectangles. 
James' favorite job is adding the powdered sugar.
We usually have to remind him that less is more.
Enjoying the amazingly delicious fruits of his labor!
Leo would like to know where his beignets are.
After a scrumptious breakfast, we headed off to Disney World to spend the day doing whatever he wanted. He had a blast being in charge of all the decisions. 
Shenk Family Birthday Selfie! 
Waiting to ride the steamboat. It was a cool, damp day and the park was pretty empty.
Our beautiful, sweet boy is 6!
He has been dying to get his face painted and today he
got his wish!  
James "Buzz Lightyear" Shenk
James got to choose his birthday dinner as well and wanted to have Chinese at Epcot where he could eat with chopsticks. We had a fantastic meal at Nine Dragons restaurant and the waiter was kind enough to teach James the basics of chopsticks. He loved it and we brought them home so he can continue practicing.
A few grains of rice at a time makes for a slow meal, but
it was awesome to watch him try something new.
The waiter brought out a birthday dessert and a card in which he wrote a
message to James in Chinese. It was a really great experience!