Author Archives: hlcombs

Family fun in New York City: Part 1

Two weeks ago, Aunt Jenny, Uncle Sean, and Abby, Nathan, and Cory (Noah’s cousins) were vacationing in New York City. Since they were so close, we made a quick weekend trip to NYC to visit and see the sights with them.

That Saturday afternoon, we boarded the Amtrak train at Union Station in Washington, DC. If you’re a frequent reader of this blog, you know that Noah loves trains – he was so excited!

It took about 3 ½ hours to get to Penn Station in Manhattan. Noah enjoyed watching the speedometer on Ryan’s phone along the way. The train was going 65 miles per hour when I snapped the photo below, but we got up to 125 miles per hour at one point – yeah, really fast!

We didn’t get to New York City until suppertime, so we headed straight to the hotel to relax and hang out for the night.

Noah really wanted to ride the subway (who wouldn’t at age six?), so that was the first thing we did the next morning.

After our subway ride, we hopped in a taxi to meet the rest of our group. Taxicab selfie!

We met up at the Empire State Building. Here is the view from the street.

And here is a pic of Noah and his cousins in the lobby.

We rode the high-speed elevator to the 80th floor and got a sneak peek of the great views…

And then we took a short elevator ride to the 86th floor Observatory, which is the highest open-air observation deck in New York City. We saw some incredible panoramic views of Manhattan, the Hudson River, the Brooklyn Bridge, and beyond. Check it out!

This was Noah’s second time going to the top of the Empire State Building. His first visit was last year with Cory, Aunt Jenny, Grandma Debbie, and Grandpa Rod. Pretty cool!

Stay tuned to read more about our weekend trip to New York City. We have a lot more to share!


Categories: Cousins, New York, Summer, Trains, Vacations | Leave a comment

A fun field trip to the zoo!

A few weeks ago, the kindergarten classes went on a field trip to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. I tagged along too as a chaperone.

Noah was so excited to ride the school bus with his buddies!

As always, Noah’s favorite animals at the zoo were the giant pandas. We saw two of them. And yep, it was lunchtime at the Giant Panda House!

Noah also really liked the gorilla in the Great Ape House. The gorilla was huge!

The kids saw lots of other animals too, including bison, elephants, flamingos, an ostrich, and a tiger. Check it out!

Did you spot the tiger? He’s in the lower left-hand corner of the picture above. He was taking a nap…

Tracking down all those animals was tiring! Here’s a photo of Noah and his friend taking a quick break and having a snack.

Yep, Noah and his classmates definitely had a great time at the National Zoo. This was Noah’s fourth trip to the zoo. We still haven’t seen all the animals yet, so we’ll have to go back again soon!

Categories: Animals, DC, Fun outings, Kindergarten | Leave a comment

Celebrating Noah’s 6th birthday!

A few weeks ago, we celebrated Noah’s 6th birthday. Yeah, he’s growing up fast!

As part of the birthday fun, the weekend before the big day, we took Noah and his friend to the National Aquarium in Baltimore. If you missed our previous post about our trip to the aquarium, you can read it here. We all had a great time!

On his birthday, Noah got to wear this fun hat at school, and everyone sang “Happy Birthday” to him during lunch – pretty cool!

The kindergarten classes were supposed to visit the Smithsonian’s National Zoo that day. Unfortunately, the field trip had to be postponed because of the rain. Noah was really bummed (he was looking forward to seeing the pandas on his birthday), so we snuck in some indoor fun after school instead. We rode the metro to the Lego Store!

When we got home, our good friend Barbara came over to help us celebrate. We had Papa John’s pizza (Noah’s favorite!) and chocolate cake. The cake had a cars theme – perfect!

Noah opened some of his presents that night too. He got lots of cool stuff for his birthday: Legos, books, a fire truck, a New York City bus, pullback cars, and a Spiderman toy – all the necessities for a six-year-old!

Noah also got a model train set – that was his big birthday wish. Ryan found this cool 1976 Lionel train set online – a lucky find on eBay! Ryan had a lot of fun setting it up in the basement beforehand. He even made a “grassy” tabletop for the track. Noah loved it!

If you’re curious about the hearing protection…yeah, the train is a little loud…

Noah’s birthday was low key this year, but he definitely had a great time!

Stay tuned to read about the field trip to the National Zoo. Noah still got to see the pandas, just a few days later than originally planned.

Categories: Birthdays, Kindergarten, Legos, Trains | 1 Comment

A fun trip to the National Aquarium

Two weekends ago, we drove to Baltimore to take Noah and his friend to the National Aquarium. We visited this aquarium over Thanksgiving and Noah loved it…and so he wanted to visit again as part of his birthday fun.

Our first stop at the aquarium was the “Blacktip Reef” exhibit. We saw blacktip reef sharks, whiptail rays, angelfish, puffer fish and more.

We learned about shark teeth and what sharks eat too…

But our favorite part of this exhibit was the giant green sea turtle named Calypso. In 2000 this sea turtle was rescued when she was stranded in Long Island Sound. She weighed six pounds at the time and had a bad infection in one of her front flippers. They had to amputate her flipper because of the infection. She could not be returned to the wild, and so she was donated to the National Aquarium. It’s estimated that Calypso is about 20 years old and weighs 500 pounds. Yeah, that’s a big turtle!

We didn’t see Calypso on our last trip to the aquarium, so she must not have been out and about – she’d be hard to miss! Ha.

Next we headed to the “Living Seashore” hands-on exhibit. The boys got to see clearnose skates up close – so cool!

They learned about beaches through this fun interactive digital touch table…

And they got to see moon jellies up close too!

Then we walked through the maze of massive aquariums. We saw anemones, cardinalfish, clownfish (Nemo!), tangs (Dory!), sea stars, eels, sea cucumbers, groupers, creole fish, cowfish, seahorses, and porcupine fish, just to name a few. Whew, so many fish!

In the “Amazon River Forest” exhibit, we saw yellow dart frogs. Can you spot them? Yeah, ewwwww…

One of the coolest things we saw was scuba divers feeding some of the bigger fish in the “Atlantic Coral Reef” exhibit. Check it out!

But as cool as that was, their favorite exhibit was definitely still “Shark Alley.” Of course!

As we walked out, we passed through the underwater viewing area of the “Blacktip Reef” exhibit, and we got an even better view of Calypso and the blacktip reef sharks…

Here is a photo of the boys posing outside of the aquarium…

And here is a photo of them on the car ride home. Yep, they were tuckered out. It was a busy afternoon!

Noah had a great time at the aquarium – we all did! Stay tuned to read more about Noah’s birthday fun!

Categories: Animals, Aquariums, Birthdays, Fun outings, Maryland | Leave a comment

Trucks, Buses, a Helicopter & More!

Last Saturday we went to a Truck Touch event in Burke, VA. If you’re a frequent reader of this blog, you know that Noah LOVES these events! This Truck Touch is an annual fundraiser for the Spring-Mar Cooperative Preschool. We went last year too, so we knew it would be AWESOME!

There was a wide variety of vehicles (primarily BIG trucks) for kids to sit in, steer, honk the horn, and flash the lights – pretty cool!

Emergency vehicles from Burke and Fairfax County included fire trucks, an ambulance, a police car, a police van, and an animal control truck.

The Fairfax County Police Department seized this BMW from some really bad dudes, and they painted it to match their other vehicles just for fun for community events like this.

Noah also explored a garbage truck, box trucks, utility trucks, contractor vans, shuttle buses, and a cement mixer. Check it out!

And of course, no Truck Touch would be complete without a school bus!

Noah hopped in a small race car too…

But the coolest thing there was definitely the police helicopter from Fairfax County. We got to watch the helicopter land – so cool!

Here is a short video of the helicopter landing. Yeah, we were so close! As a quick reminder: If you’re reading this post in an email, you may need to open the blog webpage in order to view the video. To do so, just click on the title of the post (the link in blue) at the top of the email to open the blog in your web browser.

Yep, Noah had a great time at the Spring-Mar Truck Touch…and the big kids did too!


Categories: Fun outings, Trucks | Leave a comment

A fun spring break week with Grandma and Grandpa

As you probably read in our previous blog post, Grandma Cindy and Grandpa Don drove to DC from Ohio to spend Easter with us. If you missed our post about our Easter festivities, you can read it here.

They also hung out with Noah while his school was out for spring break. Noah always loves having Grandma and Grandpa to himself while Ryan and I are working!

The weather was really nice that week, so they spent a lot of time outside. One afternoon they went to the park at Noah’s school. Here are some photos that Grandma Cindy snapped…

They also spent a few afternoons at the cul-de-sac by our house so that Noah could show Grandma and Grandpa his bike riding skills.

Noah loves collecting and painting rocks, so they created a rock garden in the backyard. Pretty cool! (And yes, a rock garden is our kind of garden – no work required! Ha.)

They lounged on the deck too…

They also spent a lot of time just hanging out inside. They played Legos – lots and lots of Legos – read books, played games (the dice game was Noah’s favorite!), worked on activity books, and did some arts and crafts. They painted these really cool ceramic cars – check it out!

They also played with this super awesome DC Metro bus that Grandma and Grandpa brought for Noah – thank you!

Yeah, they had lots of fun that week. But don’t worry, Ryan and I got in on the fun too. One evening after work, we all went over to the bike trail by Noah’s school. Noah wanted to show Grandma and Grandpa the big trails!

We made sure to find time to go out for supper at the Del Ray Café too. This is one of Grandma and Grandpa’s favorite restaurants in Alexandria – it has an awesome selection of seafood dishes. Noah of course said “No way!” to seafood and opted for crepes with Nutella – yummy.

Noah had a very fun Easter and spring break week with Grandma Cindy and Grandpa Don. Thanks for visiting! We’ll see you again soon!

Categories: Arts & Crafts, Bike riding, Fun outings, Grandparents, Holidays, Our neighborhood, Spring break | 1 Comment

Another Eggcellent Easter

Noah had another fun Easter season! The weekend before Easter, we visited our good friends Bekka and Joe for an Easter egg hunt with their family and friends. They organized the egg hunt along the walking trail near their house.


Yeah, the kids hit the Easter jackpot – their buckets were full! Their loot included candy (of course!), stickers, Play-Doh, whistles, bouncy balls, stampers, spinning tops and more – score!

This Easter was extra special because Grandma Cindy and Grandpa Don came to visit! They drove to DC from Ohio to hang out with Noah the week before Easter while his school was out for spring break.

One afternoon they made colorful Easter sugar cookies. Grandma let Noah pick out the cookie cutters, so there were Easter ice cream cones, gingerbread men, stars, hearts, trains, cars, airplanes, flowers, feet, crowns, etc. Ha! So many cookies!

Another afternoon we dyed Easter eggs. We used two methods: rubbing some eggs with crystal dyes and dunking some in dyed solution. Noah had a lot of fun!

Look at this colorful Easter basket!

On Easter Sunday, our good friends Yvonne and Adam and their kids and our good friend Barbara came over for dinner. The kids had fun playing while we finished cooking and got the table together.

We had an Easter feast: ham, homemade mac & cheese, mashed potatoes, French onion potatoes, veggies and nut roll. And for dessert, we had cupcakes, cookies and jellybeans. Mmmm…. We were stuffed!

Yeah, this photo pretty much sums up the post-lunch activities. Ha!

The Easter fun didn’t end there. Earlier that day, the Easter Bunny brought Noah a Lego airplane and a few Hot Wheels cars. So after all of our guests went home, Grandpa, Ryan and Noah put the airplane together – Noah couldn’t wait!

Yep, we had a very fun Easter! Stay tuned to read more about Grandma Cindy and Grandpa Don’s visit – there’s much more to share!

Categories: Fun outings, Grandparents, Holidays, Legos | 1 Comment

Snow day!

Last Monday Noah’s kindergarten teacher told the class that you need to follow these steps to guarantee a snow day: 1) flush three ice cubes down the toilet, 2) put a spoon under your pillow, and 3) wear your pajamas inside out. (She was having fun since the snow was inevitable.) Anyway, Noah followed all three steps and it worked! We didn’t get a lot of snow – just around two inches – but it was enough for a snow day on Tuesday. This was his first snow day this winter – he was so excited!

We started our snow day with French toast. Mmmmm……

Then the boys headed outside. After the shoveling was done, they had fun making snowballs.

And then they made an AWESOME snowman! They used a carrot for the nose and poker chips for the eyes.

They worked up quite an appetite from playing outside. Fortunately, we had a big pot of homemade beef stew ready for lunch – the perfect meal for a snow day!

Tuesday was probably (hopefully!) our only snow day this winter, so we made sure that it was fun. And yes, the snowman is still standing strong!

Categories: Our neighborhood, Snow | Leave a comment

Rock climbing!

This past weekend we took Noah indoor rock climbing at the nearby SportRock Climbing Center in Alexandria. This was his first time at SportRock, and he did great!

Noah went on four climbing courses (blue, green, and twice on red). Look at him go! We forgot to ask the instructor the exact height of the wall, but Ryan guessed it was around 30 feet.

Here are two short videos of Noah rock climbing – pretty cool!

As a quick reminder: If you’re reading this post in an email, you may need to open the blog webpage in order to view the videos. To do so, just click on the title of the post (the link in blue) at the top of the email to open the blog in your web browser.

Oddly enough, going up was easier for Noah than coming back down. He had a tougher time getting the hang of rappelling and “walking” down the rock wall. He took the easy way down and “rode” the rope. Ha. We’ll go back and practice – he’ll get it!

Ryan has gone rock climbing before, and he plans to climb with Noah next time. I’ll stay happy on the ground taking pictures. Ha. Stay tuned for more!

Categories: Fun outings, Our neighborhood, Sports | Leave a comment

A fun weekend getaway in Minnesota with Grandma and Grandpa

Two weekends ago Noah and I flew to Minneapolis to hang out with Grandma Debbie and Grandpa Rod for a few days. Here’s a photo of Noah waiting for our flight.


We flew in midday Friday, and Grandma and Grandpa picked us up from the airport.


We headed straight to the Mall of America. We had lunch at the Hard Rock Café, and then we went to the Lego Store – shocker, I know!




Next we headed to Nickelodeon Universe in the middle of the mall for rides, rides, rides! Noah and Grandpa Rod went on three of Noah’s favorite rides from our previous trips: the Big Rigs, the Barnyard Hayride roller coaster, and Diego’s Rescue Rider (or as Noah calls it, “the crazy bus”).







Then Noah and Grandma Debbie drove the large remote control trucks.



Our next stop was the Sea Life Aquarium that’s in the mall – Noah was so excited! We started with a special behind-the-scenes tour. We got to visit the laboratory and learn about how they treat and maintain the 1.3 million gallons of water in the aquarium. We also got to visit the kitchen and learn about how they prepare the food and feed the fish. The best part of the tour was going on the deck above the tanks and seeing the sharks and fish swimming below.

After the behind-the-scenes tour, we headed to the Pacific Northwest Rockpool where Noah and Grandma Debbie got to pet sea anemones. Their tentacles feel so slimy! We also saw sea stars and sea cucumbers in this exhibit.



Next we headed to Ray Lagoon to see the stingrays and skate.



After Ray Lagoon we saw exhibits on Jellyfish, seahorses, blue tangs (the Dory fish), clownfish (the Nemo fish) and pufferfish.




Next we headed to the main exhibit – the giant glass tunnel – to walk through the Rainforest Reef, Shark Cove and Sturgeon Lake exhibits. Noah’s favorite part of the tunnel was seeing the sharks! We saw brown-banded bamboo sharks and sandtiger sharks. He really liked the sea turtles too.










After the aquarium we met up with Aunt Jenny and cousin Abby for supper. They happened to be in Minneapolis that weekend too – great timing!


The next day we headed back to the Mall of America for more fun. We started at the small Minnesota Children’s Museum hands-on play area.




Then we headed back to Nickelodeon Universe for more rides. Noah’s first ride of the day was Swiper’s Sweeper with Grandpa Rod. This was another of Noah’s favorite rides from our previous trips.


Then we tried a few new rides – new to us anyway. Noah rode the Rugrats Reptarmobiles (the small bumper cars) on his own and then went on the Crazy Cars (the BIG bumper cars) with Grandpa.







Here’s a short compilation of videos of Noah going on rides with Grandpa Rod. As you can see, Noah had a blast! I think the big kid did too.

As a quick reminder: If you’re reading this post in an email, you may need to open the blog webpage in order to view the video. To do so, just click on the title of the post (the link in blue) at the top of the email to open the blog in your web browser.

And here’s a short video of Noah riding the small bumper cars. Crazy driver!

Don’t worry, I got in on the fun too. Noah and I went on the big Ferris wheel in the middle of the mall. Yeah, we had some great views of all the excitement!



We had a busy few days, so we picked up a pizza on our way out of the mall and we spent the rest of the day just hanging out at the hotel. We weren’t too tired to go swimming though!


We headed back to the airport Sunday morning. Here is a photo of us taking off over Minnesota.


Ryan was tracking our flight on his phone. Here is the screenshot of our flight path from Minneapolis back to Baltimore. It shows that we were going 565 miles per hour at 33,000 feet when we flew over Ohio. Noah thought that this was pretty cool!


It was a quick trip to Minnesota, but we had an AWESOME time with Grandma Debbie and Grandpa Rod. We’ll see you again soon!


Categories: Airplanes, Aquariums, Cars, Cousins, Fun outings, Grandparents, Legos, Minnesota, Theme Parks, Trucks | 1 Comment

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