Sunday, August 24, 2014

Come Rain or Come Shine

Owen's 8th B-Day Party

For four months -- sixteen weeks -- the DC metro area hadn't had any rain on a weekend day. That all came to an end on Saturday -- when we invited ten kids (including Nora and Brad) into the woods to celebrate Owen's eighth birthday by scaling the Labyrinth in inclement conditions. I was a bit horrified that we were latching children to a structure and forcing them to climb for two hours in the rain (Owen quit after one), but the kids all seemed to have fun and no one has developed pneumonia...yet. Owen got to show off his climbing skills, Nora kept up with the big kids and Hayden and Ronan had to be dragged away. All in all, it was a surprising successful birthday party (it probably helped that we watched Star Wars movies on the way there and back, we brought towels and a change of clothes for the kids and there was pizza), and one that none of us will forget.

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(Thanks to Charlie, Hayden, Ronan, Adam, Gabriel, Elijah, Ben, Mia and Nora for being good sports and celebrating with Owen. Special thanks to Brad, Marlo and Aunt Katherine for helping out at the party, Grandpa Fawcett for driving four eight year olds and Mom Mom and Grandpa Don for showing their support -- until it started pouring. To see all the party pics, please click here.)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Crazy Eight

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Seven is an interesting age - it's kind of the end of the little kid years and the beginning of something...else. There's more independence and closed doors and requests for privacy (and a sudden ban on adorable Facebook postings). Sarcasm rears its ugly head and at times I wonder where my sweet little boy has gone. But then he'll ask me to play a game. Or tell me a joke. Or stage an impromptu dance party. And sometimes, if I'm very, very lucky, Owen will ask me to cuddle with him. Happy eighth birthday, little man, I love you so, so much.
  1. When Minecraft gives you lemons... combine them with warm milk to make cheese.
  2. Goodbyes are hard.
  3. "I'm going to go live in the sewers!"
  4. As long as there's a tether, it's perfectly safe.
  5. It's ok to be the world's punching bag as long as you have on your cup.
  6. Sky above me. Earth below me. Fire within me.
  7. Don't worry, you can just pretend to drink the wine.
  8. Winx is not a cartoon about fairies. It's a cartoon about fairies AND specialist.
  9. Teddy Roosevelt once said, "Speak softly, and carry a big stick." Even better if you have an entire arsenal at your disposal.
  10. And in the immortal words of Coco Chanel, "If you were born without wings, do nothing to prevent them from growing."




Sunday, August 17, 2014

Scouts in the Outfield

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It's always fun when two things you love come together in unexpected ways, like chocolate and peanut butter, or, since Owen doesn't actually like his chocolate and peanut butter together, like peas on a taco. This weekend baseball and camping collided with a Cub Scouts trip to see the Potomac Nationals and then everyone getting to camp in the outfield after the game!  Add in a whole bunch of Star Wars characters wandering around the stadium, kids-run-the-bases after the game, fireworks and a movie on the scoreboard to watch from our tents, and it was quite the sensory overload.  The one drawback of this whole plan was that with so much to cram into one evening, the kids were all up until almost midnight, and when "Call Me Maybe" started blaring over the stadium speakers to wake us up at 6 am, there might have been a few questions from Elaine and Nora about the wisdom of this whole plan ;-)

(click here for the pictures)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Iowa

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Two weeks may seem like a long time to spend in Iowa, but it sure does fly by.  We left DC bright and early on Friday morning and made the 14 hour trek to Iowa in one day.  That meant we could jump right into the fun of Sweet Corn Fest on Saturday.  While there wasn't enough corn to freeze yet, there was plenty to eat, the weather was perfect for swimming, and there were oh so many cousins to play with.  Thomas & Jen were there with Ethan, Simon, Samuel and Maria, and Leanna & Troy were there with Grace & Grant to round out the second cousins, plus Ashley brought Daniel and Soren to add a couple second cousins once removed.  April came later in the week with Henry and Gus to add some third cousins, and even the Kennedy Fawcett clan attended Corn Fest with all sorts of tenth (?) cousins (who knows how many times removed ;-).  (And that's just the Fawcett side, there were even more cousins and second cousins at the Grady family reunion, and more third cousins on the Grady side visited the pond too!).

The weather was unbelievably gorgeous for almost the whole trip.   That meant plenty of swimming, fishing, swinging, canoeingcovered wagon rides, tractors, flying drones, fireworks, and fun of all sorts.  It wasn't all fun and games though.  It wouldn't be an Iowa trip without some projects, so we stocked the pond with some new striped bass, and began work on a new dock.  All told it was a great couple of weeks in Iowa with all the Zimmermans, Gradys, Fawcetts and all sorts of family we know and love.

(click here for all the pics)

Thursday, August 07, 2014

The Grady Bunch

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We missed the last Grady family reunion -- I was eight months pregnant back in the summer of 2009 and wasn't up for an extended family extravaganza in an old, country cemetery (long story, but FYI, we Gradys love cemeteries). Afterwards, I had some regret about missing it, but then Nora was born and I was too distracted to care.

But this time was different. This time the I wasn't with child. This time there were going to be t-shirts. This time we were already in Iowa for the Fawcett Sweet Corn Fest.

So we went. I was a bit anxious as some of our childhood family gatherings didn't end well and recent ones had been a mixed bag (some were beautiful, but one involved a hospital visit after a quarters game went awry and another ended even worse), but I have to say, not only was there no bloodshed, it was the most fun I'd had in a while.

I got to hang out with my "little cousins" who are no longer little and, quite frankly, way cooler than me. Owen and Allen were able to field an entire baseball game -- they even got Grandpa Z and Uncle Dave to play -- and later drafted me for kickball. There was an all-hands volleyball game where Nora's godmother, Caitlin, was able to show off her middle-school team skills. Meanwhile, Nora spent the entire time with her little cousin Erin, you know, the other little curly headed blond girl.

There was a flat-uncle Loumen in shamrock boxers, and replications of childhood pics. There was homebrew, and talking dogs and family lore. There was an entire debate about which was the more seminal purchase of 1964: thrasher vs television. Heck, the earth even moved -- though it was later found to have been the foundation cracking from too many Grady's assembling for mass in Bernie's living room (though I prefer to attribute it to God's shock at Al being at church).

There was a lot of love, very little quiet, and a great deal of peace and contentment.

And most importantly, I finally got my Uncle Bernie t-shirt.
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(Thanks to all of the Gradys -- particularly Pete and Bernie for organizing, Glen & Al for the t-shirts, Joyce for the pint glasses, Brandon for the beer, Kevin for "Cards Against Humanities," Cheryl and Blaine for providing party rooms, and everyone else for everything else. To see our pics, click here).

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

a-Maze-ing

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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

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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.

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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.

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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."

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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.

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(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

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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)