Sunday, August 28, 2016

Party Madness

Nora's 7th B-Day Party
Nora's gotten really into science this year -- she and Allen regularly play with a chemistry kit she has, she loved the engineering class she took in aftercare and this summer she built a robot at Mad Science camp. So a birthday party devoted to experiments with 14 little girls seemed like a brilliant way to celebrate.

And in the end, it was -- a very loud, but brilliant, idea. There were fireballs and slime and explosions and color changes and dancing and screaming and even cotton candy. But mostly, there were 14 little girls that had an amazing time getting their STEM stuff on.

(To see all the birthday pictures, please click here.)

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

School Daze 2016

First day 2016

Today was Owen's first day of 5th grade (and last first day at SWS) and Nora's first day of 2nd grade. Unfortunately, Allen was too ill to join us for drop-off which meant that capturing this moment for posterity fell to me. Please rest assured that no children were harmed in the staging of this picture and Owen was far more excited for the day than it appears.

Saturday, August 20, 2016


10 years. Double digits. An entire decade of watching Owen evolve from a jaundiced, sleep-renouncing newborn with a disproportionately large head, to a... kid. A kid who will quiz you on the Revolutionary War, Greek Mythology, Zoology, parts of the brain and Pok√©mon characters in a single afternoon. A kid who will tell a joke or interject a snarky comment, but will then tear up if he doesn't like how you laughed at it. A kid who hates Donald Trump, loves Elvis Costello and plays a mean OK Go on the cello. And while there are still moments when Owen's youthfulness is on full display -- when he sulks after being corrected or rides the tricycle across the living room, or just experiences the kind of unadulterated joy that adults can never seem to achieve -- a more mature side is emerging. Owen's becoming someone who listens to the news, asks pointed questions and has surprising insights. Someone who tries to cheer people up by finding a bright side. Someone who takes moral stands for causes he believes in. And someone who can beat me at corn hole without any handicaps.

I love all sides, very much. Happy birthday, Owen, it's been an amazing 3,653 days.
  1. Ah, the suite life.
  2. Some days, your amygdala just can't take it.
  3. "I threw myself to the wolves, only to learn of the tenderness in their howl, and the loyalty in their blood." ~ Isra Al-Thibeh
  4. Orchestra and Chorus are two very distinct things. Something you might want to clarify before agreeing to join the wrong one.
  5. It's easier to be a good loser, when you steal home under the tag.
  6. "Seriously?"
  7. Rick Riordan was mistaken: Mount Olympus hasn't actually relocated to the top of the Empire State Building.
  8. Two words: bone scythe.
  9. It's not easy, being green.
  10. Sometimes life comes down to a single moment, when all eyes are on you watching to see if you will succeed or fail. A lot of times in your life, you'll come up empty: drop the ball resulting in the game winning run; miss the tie-breaking question; miss a note during your solo. It happens to us all, and it's a disappointment that we all learn to cope with. But sometimes, you come through in the clutch. And those moments are glorious.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Iowa Summer 2016

Iowa Summer 2016

After the tumultuous start to the trip things settled down a bit in Iowa.  The sweet corn was ready as soon as we arrived, so there was plenty of corn to harvest, cut and freeze well before cornfest. Katherine & Lee made their first trip out to Iowa since Nora's baptism, and of course Katherine made sure there were plenty of games and tournaments for everyone.

Cornfest was a blast.  Katherine organized the 2016 Dam Cornhole Tournament, and she and Lee gave it their best shot in the second annual sweet corn eating contest.  They were no match for me though, as apparently speed sweet corn eating is my calling. I finished my four ears in a record 1 minute 49 seconds, while Lee came in second, 44 seconds behind me.


Our second week was full of farming and fun.  Ellen & John came for a visit, we saw Margret and Alex Hoover ahead of Hooverfest (Margret had plenty to say about the election of course;-), plus we took on our big Pond project for the year.  We used the pile of huge rocks that came from the foundation of an old barn to build a retaining wall along the South edge of the Pond between the dock and the damn, and built a fan ramp up to the dock.  The most exciting part of the project was putting in the giant fishing rock, which was almost too big to move with the tractor and excavator (Ken went up on three wheels briefly trying to move it with the tractor, and we had to carefully roll it into place with some special maneuvering to get the right side facing up).  Something was missing though when we finished, the gravel ramp just didn't quite look right next to the beautiful rock retaining wall, so Kent and I came up with a plan to pave it with limestone (which of course Kent just happened to have a pallet of), and with that the project was complete. Just another day of life on the farm.

Iowa Summer 2016

(click here for all the pictures)

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Iowa, Day One (a slight "bump" in the road)

Forgot to duck
We got to Iowa late Sunday night and after crashing at Grandma & Grandpa Z's house, we enjoyed a leisurely morning before heading out to the pond for some quality swimming and hanging out time with Kent, Leanna and a sundry of kids. Nora decided she was done swimming early, so she showered, changed and asked me to push her on the tree swing while Leanna hung with the rest of the kids at the pond, and Allen and Kent went on a keg run. It was lovely and Nora announced that she was having a lot of fun.

Which should have been the tip off that things were about to go horribly awry.

Shortly later, Grace and Owen joined us and I let the kids take turns swinging. Right about then, Kent's grandson, Daniel, announced that he wanted to go swimming in the deep end and since Leanna was hanging with Grant on the beach, needed a grownup. Thinking that a tree swing was a far safer spot to be unsupervised, I headed back to the pond with Daniel and was getting ready to take out the kayak with him when I heard a scream.

What actually happened is still somewhat murky. What we think transpired is that Grace was giving Owen an "under-dog" and Nora decided to follow behind, neglected to duck, and was hit with full force by Owen and the swing.

I ran over to see what happened and met Grace and Nora who was screaming in pain (Owen, oddly enough, continued to swing) and who's forehead had what appeared to be a tennis ball sticking out of it. We ran back to the cabin where, this being Iowa, I grabbed a bag of frozen corn for her head, texted Allen the situation, asked Leanna for her opinion of how bad this was, and called the Kaiser advice line.

While I was freaking out, Nora was calming down. As I spoke to the advice nurse Nora started interjecting and correcting me, and when asked about her pain level, she insisted it was a "5" or "6" even though I told her that it looked more like at least an "8" to me. Still, since it looked like she might have some bruising behind her ear (we couldn't tell with the light, and apparently it's a sign of a skull fracture), the advice nurse insisted we take Nora to the ER right around the time Allen and Kent arrived with the keg and Owen showed up (asking for a snack).

So Allen and I took Nora to Mercy Hospital's ER (which was coincidently a block from where Allen had picked up the beer) leaving Owen at the pond until Grandpa & Grandma Z could come get him. We were seen almost immediately (conveniently, Nora was already in the system from last year's bout of pneumonia), and while Kaiser had urged us to get a CAT scan, the administering physician said Nora didn't have a fracture or appear to have a concussion and that it wasn't worth the radiation to confirm. With that, they discharged us with nary a Tylenol for Nora to take, assuring us that she'd be fine though she'd probably look pretty rough for the next few weeks.

And that, my friends, is why there aren't a lot of pictures of Nora this trip. And why Owen might need to work on his empathy.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Summer in Snowmass

Snowmass Summer 2016
Every so often I manage to get invited to present at a work conference in Snowmass.  This year I went out to present my Science paper, the weather was beautiful, the morning hikes were amazing, and the conference was incredibly interesting.  The only trick was flying home on Saturday, and turning around to drive to Iowa 16 hours after I landed.
Snowmass Summer 2016
(click here for all the pictures)

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Joe & Cate & Chris & Elise

Table for 6

We had planned on having the Mettenburgs down for a night out back in May, but in the ensuing months we learned that the Pearsons of LA were relocating to Pittsburgh (for Elise to attend medical school) via McClean, VA and that they would around that same weekend.

So, after enlisting Makayla (with Aunt Katherine, Uncle L and Grandpa as backup) to babysit, and hiring someone else to wait several hours in line, the six of us were able to enjoy a leisurely dinner (sharing literally their entire menu) at Rose's Luxury. We're hoping that this becomes a tradition.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Ms. Roboto

Nora went to Robot Camp this week and built a working robot. I went to work and made a spreadsheet. Nora wins.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

OBX 2016


It was winter and cold and we were all sitting around Mom Mom's when someone mentioned the beach. Immediately, Allen, Katherine and Mom Mom started looking at rental houses that would accommodate all nine of us (Katherine & Lee, Sharon & Don, and John, Allen, Owen, Nora and myself) in comfort. They promptly found one, booked it and everyone forgot about it. 

Except, Katherine -- she started plotting. See, Katherine believes fun is at it's best when it's organized and that competitions involving points and trophies, are the best kind of fun to be had. So while the rest of us hunkered down for the winter, Katherine started making color coordinated tally boards and contemplating scoring mechanisms to optimize our fun at the outer banks.

We arrived (we arrived last, despite leaving first) to the beautiful Pelican's Perch on Sunday and after unpacking and enjoying a delicious meal of Pasta Bolognese, headed to the beach for an inaugural game of Bocce (5 points, Grandpa Don). We awoke on July 4th to a beautiful sunrise and headed to the beach for swimming/boogie boarding/reading/and a little imbibing before a night of burgers, board games (Taboo - 1 point per team member), Bocce (5 points Uncle L) and some fireworks.

For the rest of the week we alternated between beach time, pool time and game time. There was a side trip to play miniature golf (5 points Grandpa Don), Duck Donuts (no points, but come on, donuts!), a magic show, ladderball (1 point Nora), Pool Pong (1 point Uncle L), kite flying, Pass the Pig (1 point Mom Mom), boogie boarding, Head Bands (3 points Elaine), swimming, and a sundry of chores (1 point Grandpa Fawcett). At some point there was a coup and Owen & Nora declared themselves game masters, but this was strongly contested by Katherine so it was never clear at the end who was in charge.

But most importantly, there was Corn Hole (1 point per participant with a tournament at the end). Mom Mom and Grandpa Fawcett started off strong early on, but after a bad draw for Uncle L (he got partnered with Elaine) and perhaps heat exhaustion from the matriarch and patriarch, Owen, the young upstart, was able to come in under the radar, rise above a technical loss in an early round (no one bothered to tell him he needed to miss the surface in order to beat Mom Mom and Grandpa Don), Owen managed to make the game winning throw to win the tournament and secure for himself the Pelican's Cup.

It was the best beach vacation ever (nary a sick child anywhere) and we can't wait to get back. Though with more clarification about scoring early on...


 (Click here for all the pictures)

Saturday, July 02, 2016



We finally made it out climbing this summer!  We've been talking about going climbing with Gabriel and Mirabelle for a while now, so when Steve & Megan suggested climbing on Saturday afternoon, we couldn't pass up the chance, even if we did have to pack to leave for the beach the next day.  I tried to set up a relatively easy climb that Owen and I had done before, but somehow got a bit mixed up setting up the anchor, and we ended up with a much harder climb a few feet over.  I tried it out first (with Elaine belaying since Andrew and Luke couldn't make it), and barely made it past the crux of the climb 3/4's of the way up after telling Elaine I was going to fall.  Owen though powered through the hardest part of the climb like a champ, gliding over the nose of the outcrop like it was nothing! Everyone got a chance to try it out, and all had fun, but only Elaine could join us in kissing the 'biners at the top (and she looked much better than I did on the climb!)  Hopefully we'll make it out second time this summer!


(click here for all the pictures)