December 3, 2014

Christmas and Trains - Emily R


My younger brother LOVED trains, and thus they became a source of great annoyance for me.  As fate would have it, my son also loves trains, and I have had to learn to love his joy.  Perhaps it is because for so long trains delivered the Christmas goods that there is a strong tie between Christmas and trains.  So, the season of giving is also a great season for train events.  Here's local options for you and your train enthusiast.

Located in Wheaton Regional Park, the Brookside Gardens conservatory is composed of two green houses.  During this time of year, one is full of poinsettias and other winter plants, and the other is home to model trains that feature many of the areas landmarks.  This is my favorite train spot for young kids because the trains are closer to the ground, it isn't often crowded, and they provide "eye-spy" cards to help kids look for the unique pieces (like Mickey Mouse or Tigger) throughout the exhibit.  It's open from 10am to 5pm each day, and while it is free, there are donation boxes if you want to chip in.  Parking is limited, so arriving early and being aware of other available parking (like by the giant playground or carousel) is important.  Don't worry if you have to park at a distance, walking through Brookside Gardens is beautiful too.
The Parent-Tot group plans to visit this train spot on December  10th at 10am.


The National Botanical Gardens, located on the National Mall, also host a model train exhibit.  All the landscape, scenery and buildings in the exhibit are made of plant materials, which gives it a very unique feel and a strong outdoor smell.  This year's theme is lighthouses and sea travel.  Make sure to enter at the entrance for the model train exhibit, where you will likely see a line that continues inside the building.  This past weekend, the line was 40 minutes when we were in it, but significantly shorter when we were leaving.  Going midweek is your best bet if visiting with impatient little ones.  Take your time in the train room, since you can't re-enter once you leave, and then explore the rest of the conservatory.  My daughter really enjoyed touching the prickly plants in the desert room (since I told her not to) and both kids loved the jungle room and its canopy walk.  The west gallery has another train, going around the bottom of a large Christmas tree and an exhibit on spices that my kids thoroughly enjoyed.  If you have older kids, grab a passport and collect stamps throughout the conservatory.

Last year, we visited the National Christmas Tree on Christmas Eve and were surprised to find dozens of train sets running around its base.  It was a huge hit with my then 3 year old son.  The lighting ceremony on December 4th is televised, and after that you can visit yourselves.  Santa's Workshop is open at the tree on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 12:30 to 9:30pm, so expect these times to be more crowded.  There are also nightly musical presentations, but the schedule has yet to be released.  Best train viewing is during the daylight hours, but maybe you can plan a day that gives you both views.


B&O Railroad Museum      
Obviously, this destination is a great spot for train lovers year round, but they offer a few special holiday events and activities.  Opportunities include a breakfast buffet withSanta, story-time with Mrs. Claus and a train-ride with Santa.  These events do cost additional money, and most are sold out for this year, but it might be an idea to file away for next year.  Personally, my favorite times to visit the railroad museum are during A Day Out With Thomas and over the summer when military members get in free through the Blue Star Museum Program.  The museum also runs the Ellicott City Station which has a Holiday Festival of Trains featuring model trains and Legos.  Admission is $8 for adults and $6 for kids over 2.  The station is open from 11am to 4pm Wednesday through Sunday.

November 24, 2014

Upcoming Events

Looking for some exciting things to do around the Holidays? Here are some great events!

DoD Military Spouse SymposiumDec 2
On December 2, 2014 from 10:00 - 3:00 PM, the DoD Military Spouse Symposium will be held at the Marvin Center located at George Washington University. Please help spread the word to all military spouses by sharing the attached flyer with your Navy families. Spouses must register for this event. The address is 2121 I Street, NW, Washington, DC.  Visit the event page for more information. 




WRNMMC-USU "Unity of Effort" Holiday Ball- Dec 5

Dr. Rice and BG Clark would like to invite you to the first WRNMMC-USU "Unity of Effort" Holiday Ball at the Washington Hilton Hotel on Friday, Dec. 5. Tickets for medical students and their guests are $70 each. The event is formal, either military uniform or civilian formal attire is authorized for the students. Tickets are on sale every day outside the cafeteria during lunchtime or anytime Building A Room 1025. Dinner entree choices are: Honey Cinnamon Chicken, Beef Short Tips, or Vegan Pasta. There is dinner, dancing, the Dermatones, a mentalist, a guest speaker, Montel Williams, and more. Checks made payable to: Junior Officer Council.









Breakfast With Santa- Dec 6

Come enjoy our breakfast buffet, Santa is coming to the Warrior Cafe!  The Warrior Cafe will provide a buffet-style breakfast with pancakes, sausage, orange juice, candy canes and so much more!  What better way to get into the holiday spirit?  Bring your camera for a picture perfect moment. Pre-registration required:To register and for more information, visit the Breakfast With Santa Eventbrite page.

Meet The Members Monday - Carrie G.

My name is Carrie Gerhardt. My wonderful husband, Thomas Gerhardt, is a 1st year medical student in the Air Force. We are from Seattle, WA, which is where I grew up and where Thomas spent the later part of his growing up years. We were first introduced on the first day of class during our freshman year at the University of Washington in Seattle. I had accidently enrolled in a pre-med course that Thomas happened to be taking. I thought the class was going to be a huge mistake, but meeting Thomas made it worthwhile! After that, I got on track to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Bachelor of Arts in English, while Thomas graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Bioengineering. We were married in 2012 before I graduated college, and we recently celebrated our second wedding anniversary! After I graduated, I got the opportunity to work as a medical-surgical nurse on a busy hospital floor at the University of Washington Medical Center and loved both growing in my skills and learning how to impact lives for the better. We are new to the military and are both adjusting to the big picture of military life. There is a lot to learn! We are finding the military to be a huge blessing as it allows me to take better care of Thomas without the stress of being the only bread winner in our family. We are so thankful this option allows us to have support from classmates and spouses who are going through this journey with us! It has been hard to move away from family, life-long friends and my dream job in nursing, but it has been wonderful to be on this adventure together as a couple. We love seeking out new places to explore, lavishing in the rich history of the area, and re-establishing our lives as a married couple. Some of my other favorite past-times include reading classic literature, writing, cooking, learning new crafts, and refining my homemaking skills. I am looking forward to continuing to get to know all of you! 

November 17, 2014

Meet The Members Monday - Rebekah W.


Hi, I’m Rebekah Wright. I’m a first-year spouse, married to Robert Wright, who is an Airman. I hail from Leesburg, VA, and currently, we’re living in the Glen Haven military community in Silver Spring, MD. (Or is it Wheaton; the Post office seems confused.) We’re new to the military life, and love the community and perks thus far. Our son, Alec, is eight months old, and we also have two cats: Bat and Sassy. I’m working for USUHS in the Admissions and Recruitment department. I love learning more about my husband’s military and medical experience firsthand. For instance, besides the obvious debt-free education, proximity to Walter Reed and the NIH, commissioned officer rank and respective benefits, etc., the cadaver donation, leadership courses and ultrasound training are cool differentiators from other med schools. There are other spouses at work, and we go to lunch sometimes. (Maj is the best matchmaker!!) I have a MBA from UGA and BS in Commerce from UVA. I love yoga (Mommy and Baby yoga classes are super fun), marketing, tennis (how my hubby and I met in ATL), and reading fiction/fantasy, social science and philosophy (right now, I’m reading Tibetan Peach Pie by Tom Robbins). Trying new ethnic restaurants in DC is one of my favorite past times. It’s so great being a mother, too! Sorry that I have not attended more Spouse Club meetings, yet. I look forward to hanging out in the future! Photo credit to Nicole Babcock, fellow Spouse Club member, nicolebabcock.com.

November 11, 2014

Guest Post - Hiking at Harpers Ferry

Looking for something fun outdoors to do on one of these beautiful Fall days before the weather gets too cold? Here's an idea! This was posted last year by one of our members on her blog, Adventures of a Recent Grad. And guess what... Military families can enter National parks free of charge with the Annual Pass! Thank you, Sarah, for sharing this wonderful information. 


Harpers Ferry Hiking

Last weekend my husband and I loaded up the car with our hiking gear and drove to West Virginia! It felt so nice to get out of the hustle and bustle of D.C. especially since we only had to spend an hour in the car getting there. Upon arriving at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, we learned that there was free entry for all to celebrate Veteran's Day. Normally it is $10 per car or $5 for individuals who enter on bike or foot.


The visitor center is small but has some very helpful rangers who are willing to guide you in the right direction. They also have stamps for your parks passport. If you plan on hiking, make sure you ask for a more detailed trail map. You might notice that this park is very spread out, but there are free shuttle buses that will take you from the visitor center to town. The buses were pristine and ran frequently.We were told 10-15 minutes, but when we were heading out around noon, the buses kept coming every 5 minutes.You can walk back to the visitor center from town. It is about 2 miles, and keep in mind the sun sets much earlier now! Also, know that there is more than one visitor center within walking distance. If you see the sign while at Jefferson Rock, that is the Appalachian Trail visitor center that is .7 miles away and not the National Park visitor center. We had no idea until we got right below it; fortunately, a nice lady walking her dog came by and was able to point us in the right direction. (Keep going on the trail and take the left at the fork in the trail and head down the hill. Then you will be back on the road with signs to guide your way.)

Our big hike of the day was the Maryland Heights Trail. This is one of the more strenuous trails offered at Harpers Ferry, but the view is so worth it. The hiking itself wasn't too difficult (unlike theBilly Goat Trail) it just involved a whole lot of up. Those were some steep inclines that did not let up. My husband likes to "get in a workout" on the first half of a hike. I felt like I was going to die as we trekked past everyone. (I survived!) If you take your time though, you should have no problem. There is a stunning overlook at the top where you can see picturesque Harpers Ferry sitting on the river below. The train passed by right when we got up there and topped off the whole experience. I will avoid describing too much and just show some pictures. It is very windy at the top! If you hike this during the fall/winter, you will definitely want a jacket.

There is plenty to explore in town as well. If you are hungry after a day of hiking, Lower Town offers a lot of sandwich/salad type restaurants and tons of ice cream shops. The architect in your group will enjoy the well-preserved buildings, and shoppers will be delighted with the assortment of stores including handmade and local items. We wandered into a "historic candy shop" that dates back candy favorites and their histories to the 1700s. The woman who owns this store will gladly talk to you about the fascinating history of candy, and the best part is you can take some home. Museums are set up in several of the historic buildings around town so you can step inside and learn more about this town's Civil War past. Did you know Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis and Clark) stopped through town to get his gear for their famous expedition? There is a cemetery that dates back to the 1800s nearby Jefferson Rock. If you walk a little further down the trail after taking in the view, you will notice some stone steps off to your right. Those lead up to the cemetery; there is a plaque at the top to give you more information about its history. One thing I really enjoyed about this trip was the history lesson. Signs and exhibits all over Harpers Ferry illustrated the town's past in an interesting and engaging way. This is a well-rounded family outing!


October 20, 2014

Meet the Members Monday: Stephanie P

     Hello!  My name is Stephanie P and my husband, Michael, is a first year student in the Army with no prior service.  We are both from Colorado and are high school sweethearts.  We have been married for 3 years and together for 11 years.  We spent 6 years living in Boulder, CO then moved to Boston for 3 years where my husband completed a masters in Biomedical Engineering.  I have a degree in mathematics and spent the last five years working for a consulting firm as a financial analyst in both Boston and Denver.  I am now pursuing a graduate degree in teaching.  Upon finishing the degree I hope to teach high school math.  
     When we aren't studying we love to travel, mountain climb, rock climb and trail run. In Colorado we also did a lot of skiing, but we haven't tried East Coast skiing yet! We spent the past summer in Peru climbing mountains before embarking on this journey at USU.  We love to travel and next up on our list is Patagonia, New Zealand and Alaska.
     I look forward to getting involved in the SSC through the adult socials and volunteer opportunities.

October 13, 2014

Meet the Members Monday - Holly P.

     I am Holly Pike, the spouse of Dan Pike, 1st year student. I am a household engineer for my amazing husband & 4 crazy kiddos- Cameron (Cam) 7, Allison (Ally) 5, Andrew (Drew) 3, and Catherine (Katie) 1. I grew up in upstate New York near Rochester and met my husband, who is also from that area on a blind date. I actually had to be bribed to go on the date by my best friend’s boyfriend- after I met him I was super glad I went! We have been married 9 years, moved 7 times, had each of our kids in a different state (Texas (Laughlin, AFB), Ohio (Wright-Patterson, AFB), Wisconsin (UW Madison) & Colorado (USAFA) -in that order) & have loved every minute of our journey together! My husband has been in the Air Force for 8 years, had several different jobs while we have moved all over the country. He began his AF career in pilot training, but after 6 weeks of air sickness, he had to pursue a different path. His last assignment was at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs as an instructor teaching Anatomy, Biology & Physiology.  
     When I'm not chasing kids or tending to the house I love to cook, sew, crochet, scrapbook, run and read. I usually try a new recipe every week, my favorites being desserts! I like to be out and about with my kids exploring the area where we live & making new friends. One of my favorite things to do is scroll through Facebook and see what my friends around the world are up to & catch up on what's happening with our family in NY. We also own a home on Little Sodus Bay, NY near our families and that is where the kids and I spend our summers.
I have loved being a military spouse, I hate the actual “moving” part, but it's so fun getting a new house & scenery every few years! I am so grateful for the benefits, opportunities & experiences that the AF has given my husband & our family. The greatest being able to be home with my children everyday.
     I am excited for this new chapter in our journey & look forward to getting to know the other spouses in our group!