Kourey & Her Violin


It’s that perennial favorite school project – make an instrument out of recycled household items/trash.

As she was brainstorming instruments (maracas? No. Drum? No. Kazoo? No. Rubber band guitar? NO!) SOMEONE (not naming names, but I’m married to him) joked she should make a violin.

So of course she had to.

Looks like a rubber band guitar? Look again. Her violin is distinct by the chin rest, and that you play it with a bow. She is very proud of the painting she did on the back, and did “detail work” with Sharpies on the bow and neck.

The bow “plucks” the strings with a hairpin stuck in it. (you can see it near the bear on the left picture). So… you do play it with a bow, and it’s about as much like a violin as it was like a guitar without it.


Over St. Patrick’s Day

Kourey’s  first grade class was asked last week if they knew what holiday was this week.

St Patrick’s Day!

“OK, what do you know about St. Patrick’s day?”

I don’t know what the teacher expected, but Kourey told me about how excited she was to get called on to share. She told them a story of PIRATES and SLAVERY and ESCAPE and a return to Ireland to tell the people there about God, Jesus and his love for each of us, and how shamrocks tied into it all.

Look, here’s the thing, I am OVER every day being a holiday. I even got mad at Pi Day – PI DAY!! – when Kaitlyn told me I needed to bake pies because her teacher told her so. But if the school wants to elevate St. Patrick’s Day – a Catholic feast day for a missionary to Ireland- to a multi-week educational theme, then I am as proud as a peacock that my little Kourey KNEW what it was about (although she still also thinks leprechauns are real, so….), and that she took the opportunity to share with her friends. Many thanks to her Sparks leaders at MPBCLife Children for telling the story to the kids. (I was going to say for making the story interesting, but.. do you actually know the story? It’s pretty high adventure.)

For more on the rich history of Patrick, check out this link: Remember St. Patrick

And a perennial favorite post from another mom at Rage Against the Minivan

Back to School Shopping Fun!

Going outlet shopping the weekend before school starts – at the first of the month and on a holiday weekend, to boot – was not my brightest idea in many, many ways. But there was a lot going on, and we had a great “girls’ day” with Auntie Kris.

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The girls were thrilled to get their faces painted at the Williamsburg Hartstrings. I’m giving them a plug, because their face paint artist was really good, and took her time on each kid. It looks better than the ones parents pay $$ for at the amusement parks!



“Is my name in there?”

Another draw of the day was getting to go see Santa and the snow at Yankee Candle Shop. Santa seemed a little apprehensive when Kourey wanted him to check her name in his book, but there it was – “Kourey”. Kaitlyn tried to skirt his questions about eating vegetables, and tried to see if her dad was on the naughty list, but Santa’s too smart for that!



They also got to decorate their own cupcakes with Mrs. Claus. Auntie encouraged Kourey to add more frosting, but Kourey reminded her it was “decorate your OWN cupcake” time, and she liked just a little frosting. Kaitlyn was all too happy to help with the rest of Kourey’s frosting, though.

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Vita est iter, non habitum

familycrestI was making trip passports for the girls to put stamps in, when I realized we didn’t have a family crest to go on the front. Forget laundry, this took precedence. Obviously.

Our family motto (at least our tripping motto) is “Vita est iter, non habitum”. In case you took German in high school (or some other non-romance language that doesn’t help with Latin), that’s (roughly) “Life’s a journey, not a destination.” Thanks, Aerosmith!

The colors of white on blue represents peace and sincerity built on a foundation of truth and loyalty.

The cross is a symbol of Christian faith.

The crowned eagle with wings extended symbolizes authority, bravery, ingenuity and protection.

The wreath of laurels is a sign of triumph and perseverance, and the green field was originally so I could see better see the design as I was making it, but we left as a symbol of hope, joy and loyalty in love.

Time for new pictures…


Completely coincidentally, the girls wore coordinating outfits for school pictures this spring, so we took the opportunity to update the 5x7s in our foyer.

The middle pictures were what WAS on display, the leftmost are the original pictures in the frames, and the rightmost are the new pictures added today.

Lest you worry all our pictures were three years old, fret not. We have a plethora of pictures scattered throughout the house. While some are by design of the kids younger, we have some that we update with a little more regularity than these (we usually match these to the family portrait in the foyer, but we haven’t had a new one of those since Anja was here).

Kourey Tells About Easter

Kourey came home from school with six bright plastic eggs in a gold spray-painted half of an egg carton. She was so excited to tell me what the eggs were for that she couldn’t wait to get home, even though I had been warned about Egg 2 and told her to please not open the eggs in the car.

As soon as she got home, she gathered the family around her to tell about the eggs and the meanings of their contents. She was so excited that she asked to video the third telling. And here it is.

She shares a few different details each time, as she is truly sharing a story versus reciting a lesson, but there is simplicity in the story from these six.

Egg 1 – a flower, to remind us that God created every part of earth, and all the beauty.

Egg 2 – dirt, to represent how sin makes us dirty, and apart from God

Egg 3 – a cross, to show how Christ came to clean us from that sin by dying on the cross

Egg 4 – a rock, to symbolize the boulder rolled back from the tomb where Jesus was buried

Egg 5 – nothing, to illustrate how the tomb was not only open, but empty, because Christ is not dead; he arose

Egg 6 – a mirrored heart gem, to reflect the reason God would do all that – His precious love for me

Happy Easter from the Dohls.

Three Ridges Loop

IMG_3114I had planned to go to Reed’s Gap via the Blue Ridge Parkway for my hike to Three Ridges, however the recent snow storm had closed the parkway.  After maneuvering around the countryside, I finally arrived at Reed’s Gap about a half hour behind schedule.

The trail route follows the Appalachian Trail over several mountain peaks, along a ridge line and down into the valley near the base of The Priest.  The route turns off the AT, onto the Mau-Har Trail, to climb back up to an earlier point on the AT and the return trip to Reed’s Gap.

The climb up from Reed’s Gap began with a slight incline along the tree line, exposing some decent views toward the west.  The trail entered the forest and became much steeper.  The trail was covered in snow and ice, making climbing more difficult, especially during the steeper portions.


The trail reached the summit of the first mountain (Meadow Mountain) in a little less than a mile.   Meadow Mountain was surprisingly tree covered, but offered one clear vantage point toward the southwest.  The trail descended down for nearly another mile before reaching the top of the Mau-Har Trail.

I continued on the AT over Bee Mountain.  Luckily, Bee Mountain was void of Bees during this time of year.  After descending a couple hundred feet from the top of Bee Mountain, the trail hugged the side of the mountain as is steadily climbed up toward the highest of the Three Ridges.


IMG_3151After more than a mile of climbing, the trail opened up to a rocky outcropping that yielded the best views of the hike.  The Priest could be seen toward the south and the Three Ridges toward the southeast.  The top of the Three Ridges was still over a half mile away.

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The top of the Three Ridges did not yield any impressive views, but there were several viewpoints from the AT on the climb down along the ridges.  The first view was just below the summit.  The trail snaked back and forth through numerous switchbacks before arriving along the ridge line.


The middle ridge summit (named Chimney Rock) was very rocky with and extremely large and very square shaped rock protruding from the ridge.  The area yielded descent views.

There were two other decent views from rocky areas along the ridges before the trail began another steep decent through a series of switchbacks (the second view was actually during the series of switchbacks).  The trail continued downward toward Harper’s Creek.  A shelter rests alongside of Harper’s Creek.

The Mau-Har Trail branches off the AT shortly after Harper’s Creek.  The first half mile or so of the Mau-Har was fairly flat.  But the trail became very steep and climbed over a ridge before descending downward toward Campbell Creek.

The Mau-Har Trail passes by a waterfall (but there were many trees in the way and it would have been a tough climb to it) and over a very small waterfall (above it and below it).  But the sights of the Mau-Har Trail did not begin until it reached Campbell Creek.

The Mau-Har Trail reaches Campbell Creek just above the first waterfall.  This waterfall (the biggest of the three main waterfalls) was about 50 or 60 feet high.  The melting snow and overall wet winter made the creek and its numerous waterfalls flow quickly and powerfully over the rocks.

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Just above the lowest waterfall lies a second waterfall (probably 30 feet or so).  This fall, the least photogenic of the three, was still a very nice fall to see.

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The third waterfall was a 25 or 30 foot cascade. It was easy to stand in front of this fall to get great photos and the banks of the cascade were lined with mountain laurel bushes.  This cascade would make awesome photographs while the bushes are in bloom (usually early June).


The climb up was steep with several switch backs before arriving at the AT Trail again (with over a mile and a half to go till Reed’s Gap).  After struggling up Meadow Mountain again, I was able to coast down the other side, alongside the tree line to my waiting car.

All in all, a great hike.  The views were very good.  The waterfalls were excellent.  The trail was extremely tough though.  The continuous up and down of the terrain easily wore me out.

Three Ridges Trail / 13.1 miles / 3,960 feet elevation gain


2 Kids Video Game Review: Jessie Smart Couture

With the PBSKids.org site we usually haunt down (turned out to be user error -oops), we looked for a new kid friendly puzzle game to play. We found the game site on Disney.com and the girls were excited to try a game based on their favorite Disney show, “Jessie, and wanted me to share on the blog how much they liked it.

“We play by putting clothes where the hangers are and what happens is when you make an outfit, well, if you have a shirt, shoes, and pants, what happens is it goes on Jessie!” –  Kaitlyn Continue reading

Prodigal Son Background Set


Here’s a set of backgrounds I made for a sermon on The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). The pastor’s focus was on Reconciliation in this Lenten series.

If you use the backgrounds, I would love to hear from you! (Individual background files after the jump). Continue reading

Bear Church Rock

IMG_3033I had an early start to the trail since the weather was going to deteriorate as the day went along.  I arrived at the trailhead around 8:15 and prepared to make the four mile climb.  I was the only one there and I figured that the impending weather would keep the trail pretty desolate.  I left the parking area and headed along the Rapidan River Trail for a half a mile.  The trail was nearly flat and offered nice views of the rapids caused by the churning Rapidan.

IMG_2926I reached the Staunton River Trail and began a steeper ascent.  Continue reading