Wednesday, July 23, 2014



Last weekend, Allen tried to rally the troops to head to The Building Museum for The BIG Maze - a special exhibit that would only be around for eight weeks this summer. The kids balked. They refused. They said they'd rather live in the sewers (ok, I may be exaggerating there...but not by much). Finally, Owen admitted that he just wanted to wait until following weekend so that he would remember it better, because that's how memories work. Allen relented and the kids pinkie swore.

So this Saturday, Allen got up early to take the car to be serviced (long story), stopped by his office to get his refrigerator and other contraband that he couldn't let the movers take to his new office next week (his division is changing buildings), and made it back to our house by 10 am so we could get to the museum right as it opened.

But then Nora threw a fit. Pinkie swears be damned, she was not going to the Building Museum. She cried. She screamed. She had to be carried to the car.

Once we finally arrived, however, she ran around with a huge smile and when reminded that she didn't want to go, she responded, "I changed my mind."

Owen went through the maze about seven times (Nora probably went about 5) trying various methods to find his way -- using his innate sense, keeping a hand on each wall, and just random luck. There was some pretend baseball while the grownups helped make and arch, some structure building at the Imagination Playground and then a couple of more times through the maze, to get our last licks in.

It was a wonderful way to spend the morning, proving once again that Allen knows best.

(To see all the pics, click here).

Monday, July 07, 2014

OBX 2014


We didn't have a big group for our beach trip this year, so we decided to get a condo, and it turned out the best one we could find was in Duck in the same complex as Don's condo.  We rented a two bedroom place with a loft, and since we had the extra room, Grandpa Fawcett was able to join us (and stay in with the kids so Elaine and I could escape for a few moonlit walks on the beach :-)  The place had a nice beach house feel to it, and a deck with a great view of the Ocean and the Army Corps Research Pier.


We drove down to Duck on Sunday and as soon as we got on the beach and saw the wonderful breakers and dipped our toes in the 76 degree water, we knew things were looking good for a great week at the beach.  Sure enough, the first few days were near perfection, temperatures in the upper 70's and low 80's, and a nice shallow sandbar for ideal body boarding conditions (never mind the makings of a tropical depression down off the coast of Florida).  Owen had a blast in the water, and Nora declared that she's "more of a pool girl," though she did make it out into the Ocean once with Daddy.


When we got back from hang gliding the AC was out in the condo, and despite all of our trouble-shooting efforts, we spent a rather uncomfortable night trying to sleep without AC or fans, and spending a few too many of those waking hours worrying about the storm bearing down on us.  On Thursday morning, with the prospects of waiting out a possible direct hit of a category 2 Hurricane cooped up in the house without AC, we decided the prudent thing to do was to get out of town.  So we booked a room at Great Wolf Loge, drove to Williamsburg and spent the afternoon at an indoor water park.  The water park wasn't the type of thing we would normally do for a vacation, but given the circumstances, the kids had a lot of fun, even if we were forced to spend the night in a place that Elaine aptly described as, "imagine Chili's and Outback Steak House mated and gave birth to a water park."


By Friday morning, Arthur had moved on without leaving too much damage behind, and three new window AC units had been installed to cover for the broken AC, so we headed back to Duck and were back in time for lunch.  The post-Arthur surf was pretty rough, and the no swimming signs were up because of an abundance of rip-currents, so we didn't get much more Ocean swimming in (plus the water temperatures were considerably cooler than what we had become accustomed to), but we did manage to spend plenty of time on the beach building sand castles and flying kites before driving back home on Sunday morning.  All around, despite our first OBX Hurricane, it was a lovely beach trip.


(click here for all the pictures)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sailing & Camping

Last year for our 10th anniversary Elaine and I had a lovely night at the Inn at Little Washington. Having spoiled ourselves with such a romantic get away last year, we decided to balance the scales a bit and spent our 11th anniversary camping in a tent with the kids in Aunt Katherine & Uncle L's backyard.  It's not that we didn't want to celebrate, but we'd just been out for a nice dinner at Rose's Luxury recently, and we let the one-month-ahead reservation window slip by us for any of the really fancy places, and our anniversary weekend just happened to be the one weekend where we could actually pull off a day sailing and our long promised backyard camping adventure.  So the boys went out for a surprisingly great sail in the morning, then we all pitched our tents, roasted s'mores on the campfire, had a decent night's sleep (though Nora bailed out of the tent and made Mommy sleep inside with her), woke up bright and early to paint rainbows in the backyard.  Not your conventional anniversary celebration, but it's hard to complain when your having fun with loved ones :-)

(click here for the pictures)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Fathers' Day


We have a lot of fathers in our lives and so had a lot of celebrating to do on Father's Day. First off the kids distributed the cards they surreptitiously made for Allen and John (which involved one of them working on the card while the other distracted the recipient and then switching, hiding the cards in various places in house and then jumping out and shouting at Grandpa Fawcett & their father and flinging said cards at them). Then it was off to the newly re-opened Washington Monument with Aunt Katherine for a Father's Day tour and lots of photo ops.

After presents (Grandpa Fawcett got a cool map; Daddy got some boring clothes) and lunch, we headed up to Aunt Katherine's and Uncle L's to be joined by Mom Mom and Grandpa Don for games, some more presents, adult beverages and a whole lot of Allen's Hot Dogs specially ordered by Katherine (who also supplied all the fix'ins), before heading home where a very tired Daddy and Grandpa Fawcett soon crashed. Which was good, because Allen needed to rest up to prepare for Nora's class's Father's Day Extravaganza on Tuesday (particularly the shaving part...)

(To see all the Father's Day pics, click here)

Monday, June 09, 2014

Zip a dee doo dah

Katherine had been bugging us for a while about going to a ropes course near her house, and on Sunday we finally had the perfect day to try it out.  I was borrowing Katherine's car to drive out to Shepherdstown, WV Sunday night for a conference, and with beautiful weather, we thought it was the perfect time to visit Sandy Park.  Sure enough, it turned out to be an amazing time, Owen bounced through the trees like a monkey, Lee and I raced through the zip-lines, and if you make it through the video, just know that Elaine didn't really save the hat ;-)

(click here for all the pictures)

Jen & Azher's Wedding


We hadn't been to a wedding in a while, and the kids hadn't been to a wedding ever, so when Don's daughter Jen and her fiance Ahzer announced their incredibly family friendly wedding at the Baltimore American Visionary Art Museum (there's a playhouse and weird animal benches!) we were pretty psyched.

Don was a very proud papa, the couple themselves were glorious, and the food was delicious, but the highlight for our family was checking out all the strange exhibits next door (particularly the working pay phone!).  We had a great night celebrating, and then a lovely morning filled with swimming, the Science Museum, and the National Aquarium before heading home (meanwhile Jen and Ahzer headed off to Estonia to begin a long and happy life together). Congrats to the doctors and to see all the pictures, click here.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

One Fish, Two Fish, Dead Fish, Blue Fish

I'm not a huge fan of the animal world, and so have been reluctant to allow those filled with dander and requiring much upkeep into our abode. So we've had an ant farm (which turned into more of an ant cemetery). A jelly fish (which pre-deceased the pet stage). And recently we got an aquarium, two neon fish (chosen by Nora) and a couple of dalmatian fish (chosen by Owen).

It was all quite a production. We decided we were going to go to the pet store over Memorial Day only to discover that the tank needed to set a week before we actually got fish. So the kids picked out all the accoutrements, scoped out which fish they wanted, and made a plan to return the following Sunday. Right after church we hurried over to the pet store to get the fish (Owen was particularly anxious to save the dalmatians from the "semi-aggressive" fish they were sharing a tank with), and left with four fish and an algae ball. We quickly set up the aquarium and acclimated our new additions (Sarah, Elizabeth, and the two unnamed dalmatians-- Owen couldn't decide), and headed out to meet Aunt Katherine, Uncle L, Mom Mom, Grandpa Don and Grandpa Fawcett for some outdoor adventures before Allen left for a conference in West Virginia.

Two days later, Owen's fish weren't looking so good. By Tuesday afternoon, Grandpa Fawcett regretfully informed me that they'd passed aways.

Not to get all Sophie's Choice, but if one of the kids' pets had to die, we were rooting for Nora's. Owen doesn't handle saying goodbye well to inanimate objects, so the passing of a living being seemed like it would be hard for him to take; whereas Nora coexisted quite happily with Lana the dead jellyfish for six months. But as life isn't a movie, we dealt the hand we were given.

I told Owen when I picked him up from aftercare what had happened and gave him the option of a burial at sea or land. He opted for land, asked me to dig the hole, and by the time Nora and had gotten a lily for the grave from the dining room table, Owen had already plopped his pets into the grave and was asking to play Minecraft.

I guess people grieve in very different ways.

Anyway, we now have two fish; long may they reign.

(To see all our fish pics, click here)

"No-name 1 and 2" (May 31, 2014 - June 2, 2014).

Sunday, June 01, 2014

All She Wants to Do is...

We aren't allowed to watch Nora's dance classes. We've always been a little frustrated by this fact, but its logic became clear when Ms. Hailey attempted to instruct five four year olds as their family and friends looked on at the observational class on Saturday. There was crying. There was screaming. There was clinging. And there was very little dancing (although I must say that Nora -- while largely ignoring Ms. Hailey's instructions throughout -- did seem to be the lone student that embraced free dance). In the end, Ms. Hailey grudgingly gave out stickers, but was pretty free with the hugs.

(To see all the highlight pics, click here.)

Monday, May 19, 2014


Cubs Scouts got off to a bit of a slow start for Owen, with the Wolf Den never really forming up.  Owen did manage to race in the Pinewood Derby, but things didn't really take off until the Wolf Den merged with the younger, larger and more active Tiger Den.  With a few Den meetings under our belt, and some patches and belt loops earned, we finally went out on that quintessential Scout outing, the Cub Scout camping trip.

Saturday afternoon the whole family drove out to Watkins Regional Park.  Before heading over to the campsite, we rode the train and played a round of mini-golf while waiting for the rest of the Den.  Then we drove over to the camp-site and found our spot, nicely tucked away in the woods with  decent clearing for tents, and a fire ring.  We pitched our tents, and the Scouts started collecting wood for the fire.  Then we all gathered around the ring, built a nice tinder and kindling tipi inside of a fuel wood log cabin, and let the boys light it.  I'm fairly confident it could have been started with one match, but with a bunch of boys playing with matches for the first time, let's just say we were lucky we didn't run out ;-)

We played some games while the fire burned down, and when it was ready to cook on we started working on dinner.  Some of the kids, including Owen and Nora grilled hot dogs on a stick, and we improvised a way to cook hamburgers on the fire for everyone else.  Elaine, Nora and Grandpa Fawcett all headed home before it got too late, and Owen and I stayed up with the Scouts roasting marshmallows over the fire and telling stories.  We retired to our tent, which was next to a tent with a bunch of the boys, and tried to fall asleep in the less than peacefully quiet surroundings.

The dawn came all too soon, though Owen still managed to sleep in somehow.  Sausages, and breakfast burritos cooked on the camp fire were the order of the day.  After breaking camp, we went on a hike through the woods, and before we knew it our first Cub Scout camping trip was in the books.

(click here for all the pictures)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Mother's Day and Birthdays

So I seem to have neglected to take pictures this year, but that doesn't mean we didn't have a lovely time celebrating Mother's Day.  Instead of fighting the crowds to go out for brunch, we decided that the boys should make brunch here.  A few years ago I tried to make poached eggs for brunch, and it turned out to be a little bit of a disaster, but armed with my new sous vide machine, we managed to make a lovely meal of poached eggs on hearty toast with bacon from Union Market, home made bacon jam, and fresh greens from our CSA.  And since there was little chance of the kids of the kids eating all of that, we whipped up our old standby orange French toast.

Thankfully Elaine's birthday didn't fall on Mother's day this year, so on Tuesday we left the kids with Dad, and went out for a delicious dinner at Rose's Luxury.  The wait was surprisingly short, and the meal was wonderful, but we weren't quite ready to call it a night after polishing off our deserts, so we went out for a glass of wine at Sona, the new creamery and wine bar near Eastern Market.  It was bit late, but we shut the place down having a lovely chat with the owner about all the challenges of starting up the first cheese making operation in the District, and we can't wait to go back and try out their offerings from their own cheese cave ;-)  Nothing too fancy in our celebrations this year, but the sentiment is as strong as ever, Elaine you are an amazing Wife and Mother, and we all our so lucky to have you in our lives :-)