Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Back to School

First day 2015
For the first time since Nora was a baby in daycare, the kids are at the same school (in first and fourth grade)! A block from our house! And it's free! We're officially living the dream.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Party On

Owen's birthday extravaganza almost didn't happen this year. To be honest, its a struggle every year to make the magic happen as invariably: we get back from Iowa mid-August, Owen has his birthday the following week, we have Owen's birthday party that weekend, school starts two to three days later. We then have a joint birthday party for the kids with family, Nora has her birthday, Labor Day is in there somewhere, we have Nora's birthday party, and then we're well into September when baseball, orchestra, dance, soccer, swimming and all other activities take over. As you can see, we have very little wiggle room in our calendar and have not let little things like tornados (Nora's 3rd birthday) or a thunderstorms (Owen's 8th) interfere with our meticulously planned fun agenda.

But the week of Owen's birthday, he came home from camp with a fever and migraine, and ended up going to the ER for another croup episode early the next morning. We kept him home Tuesday and Wednesday, flirted with the idea of sending him to camp on Thursday (his birthday), but by then a bad cough had emerged (making us fear another pneumonia victim though Children's swore on Tuesday that it wasn't that) and another headache and late day fever (as well as loss of appetite) sealed the deal.

But what to do about his birthday? We had 10 or so kids scheduled to spend 3+ hours at out house and no viable weekends to re-schedule until mid-September or later, and by then we'd be in full activities mode. Also, aside from the cough, Owen was healthy most of the day -- he just tended to get a fever and headache late in the afternoon. I didn't want to cancel because Owen had already missed all the fun of camp but I didn't want to get anyone else sick or have Owen pass-out mid-way through.

I conducted a Facebook poll asking how late one could cancel a party and the overwhelming consensus was to cancel it now. And while they were all very convincing, we ultimately decided to screw it, gave Owen some advil a half hour before his guests showed up and hoped for the best.

It went pretty well. The kids all had fun playing baseball and going to the arcade. I think Owen was feeling spent on the walk home and would have been happy to skip the pizza and ice cream in favor of a nap, but he really enjoyed hanging out with his friends before school started and he loved the presents they gave him.

Plus I got to cross one more thing off my to-do list.


To see all the party pics (including some from the drone) click here.

Thursday, August 20, 2015


OBX 2015

Eight was a big year for Owen, full of ups and downs.  He changed schools, made some great new friends, and learned that sometimes being a baseball fan means staying up past midnight, even if you're tired and cold, just to see your team lose a playoff game in 18 innings (also that some seasons, being a baseball fan can be rough). Eight meant independence and walking to school by himself (while we observed him the whole way from our landing). It meant learning to play on the cello both the theme from Mahler's first symphony and Ok Go's "The Writings on the Wall." Eight meant demonstrating proper climbing technique to the uninitiated, pitching an inning in AAA ball (little league AAA, mind you), skiing with poles and becoming a Bear (metaphorically via Cub Scouts). It also meant a few more hospital trips than we'd hoped. Eight meant a lot to Owen and a lot to us -- seeing him grow up, expanding his interests and demanding more independence, was pretty amazing. And given that nine is Owen's favorite number, next year should be huge... and hopefully a lot healthier. Happy birthday, little man. We love you so, so much.

1. Creepers gonna creep.
2. Make new friends, but keep the old.
3. Form. It all comes down to form.
4. "[McDonald's] food is bad and they know it. That's why they have to give you a toy."
5. It's good to be a level 7 Elf Wizard with a Pointy Hat of Power and a Chainsaw of Bloody Dismemberment when you're fighting a Large Angry Chicken.
6. "Asking questions gives you a reason to read more."
7. If they build it, we will come.
8. Zip-lining away
9. Third time isn't so charming when it involves ambulances.
10. FasterHigherStronger.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Be Happy, Be You

Be Happy, Be You

Nora decided to have a talent show with all her stuffed animals, but she was worried that they would be nervous.  So she prepared a speech to give them so that they would be nervous, "Be happy, be you." :-)

Saturday, August 15, 2015

SWS Meet-Up

The day after we returned from Iowa was the annual Scouts Night out at the Ballpark. Last year we enthusiastically participated and had a great night at the Potomac Nationals park, but after three weeks of travelling - much of which with a sick child -- we just weren't up for camping with 100+ other families.

Fortunately, SWS allowed to bow out by organizing a back-to-school picnic at Yards Park. We all had a great time: Owen was able to hang with several of his buddies; Nora made a new friend, Matilda, who's going to be in her class this year; and Allen and I had a lovely dinner while chatting with some of the other parents.

And we all got to sleep in our own beds.


Iowa 2015


Our trip to Iowa didn't begin so auspiciously -- we literally drove from the condo in Duck to a CVS Minute Clinic in the outer reaches of the Outer Banks to see if we could figure out what was wrong with Nora, only to discover that despite its website, the place didn't open for more than an hour. We decided that Nora would be fine hanging out in the car watching movies until we reached Richmond, VA where the clinic was both open and welcoming. Unfortunately, they weren't much help in diagnosing Nora, so after picking up a different flavored Children's Tylenol (that she still refused to take), we headed to Charleston, WV where we stayed for the night, while Nora' temp hovered around 104 range and her emerging cough drove Owen from the comfy bed that they were to share to the couch in the suite. We high tailed it out the next morning, drove to Iowa and upon arrival quickly dropped a 104.7 degree Nora on the Grandma and Grandpa Z's couch while we attempted to find a local pediatrician to see her. They wouldn't, so we muddled through the night and then Allen took her to an Iowa City Urgent Care clinic Tuesday where they proclaimed that she had croup (she didn't), gave her a steroid shot (it didn't help) and sent her home. By Thursday, her temp hadn't improved, her cough had worsened and she'd lost 4-5 pounds so I took her to a Mercy Urgent Care where they drew some blood (in the most painful manner possible), took an x-ray of her lungs, diagnosed her with pneumonia and prescribed some antibiotics. That coupled with an alternative method of taking acetaminophen, resulted in Nora finally being on the mend (and her completely sleeping through Uncle Bernie's and Aunt Ellen & John's visit.


But while Nora and I spent the first few days of our trip relegated to cuddling on the couch (plus some tea parties, crafts and baking with Grandma Z), the boys had things to do and places to go: namely the pond to supervise the last stages of dock and high-dive renovation project. Allen went for a search and recovery dive to reclaim a lost board while Owen tested out the new ladder and making instructional dive videos.


By Friday, Nora was able to spend a little time at the pond for the pre-Hooverfest fete with the Hoovers (and more importantly, Grace and Cousin Blaine). Saturday we actually all got to partake in some of the festival itself, though the boys had to represent alone at the pond (too exhausting) and the fireworks (too late).


By Sunday, Nora was really starting to get her groove back, which was convenient as that was when her cousins arrived. Owen and Nora had a blast at the pond with their cousins, Olivia, Maura, Sam and Erin. Grandpa Z set a new record for the new high dive, Maura, Olivia and Sam tried it out, and there was an impressive amount of kayaking, paddle-boarding, and general merriment. Monday we road-tripped to Dyersville to see the "Field of Dreams" followed by some more pond time and a few rounds of hide and seek (FYI: Uncle Allen is a very good seeker).


Tuesday, the cousins headed back to Chicago, Nora and Grace had an extended playdate as did Allen and Owen at the pond followed by us finally taking Grandma and Grandpa Z out for a belated anniversary dinner which we postponed due to Nora's self-imposed quarantine (and because Nora wanted to pay and she only got around to printing her own money and credit card that morning). Wednesday, we had a last day at the pond while Allen and Grandpa Fawcett went with Ken and Kent to see a man about a bridge...

And then we left for Chicago.

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


Sunday, August 02, 2015

OBX 2015

OBX 2015

This was a year for a beach trip with Mom & Don and Katherine & Lee to Duck.  There's something nice about the familiarity of Barrier Island Station, the kids love the giant pool, and the snack shack is always a hit.  After last year's Hurricane shortened trip, we couldn't have asked for better weather at the beach this year.  The temperatures were never above the low 80's, and for the first half of the week the Ocean water was warmer than I can ever remember.

OBX 2015

We had a few new adventures in store for this year's trip.  Last year Owen and I went hang gliding off the dunes at Jockey's Ridge (well Owen went hang gliding, and I went scooting along a foot off the ground while attached to a hang glider ;-), and Owen was set on another adventure this year, so we decided to go parasailing.  Wednesday morning Katherine & Lee, Owen & Elaine, and Nora & I all took turns being harnessed to a giant parachute and towed behind a boat on the sound.  Katherine & Lee had parasailed once before in Mexico, and were thoroughly impressed with the spectacular safety measures here in the States (e.g. not crossing the lines between two parasailing tow boats and dropping people out of the sky).  Owen was of course thrilled to give parasailing a try, though I suspect Elaine could have dealt with not hearing all of Katherine & Lee's stories beforehand.  Nora declared herself 'scared-cited', but once we were up she thought it was just like a peaceful swing with a view, and couldn't stop smiling.

OBX 2015

The other fun new toy for this trip was my GoPro.  After giving it a full workout on our ski trip last winter, it was time to try it out in the waves.  We took some fun bodyboarding videos, but the coolest shots really came from the way it could freeze the churn of the surf in mid-air and the smiles in full grin :-)  Not to mention the fun parasailing selfies!

OBX 2015

Katherine and Lee of course brought lots of games, and even signed us all up for a corn hole tournament.  Elaine & I won our first round match, but fell to the ringers brought in at the last minute to balance the bracket.  Katherine & Lee made it all the way to the finals, but fell to the same team that beat us in the second round.  We'll get em' next time.  The trip wasn't all fun and games though.  After our parasailing adventure Wednesday morning, Nora started feeling really tired, and by that night she was running a high fever that would last for the next 10 days, through the rest of the beach trip and all the way to Iowa, but that's a story for the next blog post...

(click here for all the pictures)

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Beach Balls


The building museum is always a fun place to visit, and lately they have upped the ante with some cool experience exhibits.  Last summer was The Big Maze, and this year they staged The Beach, a gigantic ball pit taking over almost the entire floor.  We wanted to squeeze in a visit to The Beach before our trip to the beach, so before finishing packing on Saturday morning, we headed over to the Building Museum.  Unfortunately we weren't the only people with the same idea.  While last year we had The Big Maze almost to ourselves on a Saturday morning, the crowds and lines for The Beach were huge.  The kids decided they would rather run around and do all the regular exhibits instead of waiting in line, so we took in the spectacle of it all and had some fun playing with blocks :-)

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Best Little Theater in Town

After rave reviews for her performances in various "Play-in-a-Day" productions, we decide that Nora needed more of challenge in her thespian pursuits. So we signed her up for two weeks of "Atlas Theater Camp" where she channeled her inner sound designer and performed with 22 other kids (including her good friend, Hazel), "The Best Little Theater in Town."

It was pretty impressive. Two weeks of dedication to one's craft really ups the production value and improves script retention by leaps and bounds for the 5 to 12 age group. There was exposition and stage direction! There was a villain and a hero! There was a love-story! And there was dancing and singing because, as Nora so dramatically informed us, "Gotta have a tear-jerker, a 'boo-hoo- ballad' in every show, you know!"

Mom Mom and Aunt Katherine joined us in the audience, and we gave Nora and the rest of the troupe a standing ovation. Afterwards in the cast party, Nora didn't seem so certain she wanted to have an encore performance next year, but we're hoping we can convince that the shows must go on.

Atlas Theater Camp 2015

(To see the rest of the pics click here. To see the full performance, you'll have to come by to view the limited edition DVD.)

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Catoctin Camping

Catoctin Camping

For our summer Cub Scout camping trip, Owen and his fellow rising first year Webelo's, along with the Bears, went to Catoctin Mountain Park in Maryland for a camping and rock climbing adventure. We were a little worried about the weather, as it was forecast to be blisteringly hot along with severe thunderstorms, but while we drove up to the park in a torrential downpour, the weather cleared by the time we got to the camp site, and the heat and humidity weren't nearly as bad as we had feared.  For my part, I was responsible for the climbing portion of the trip, so after we set up camp, we hiked a mile and a half up the mountain to Wolf Rock with all my climbing gear, where I found a nice spot to set up a challenging but doable climb for the kids.  Owen of course wanted to go first, and he did a great job utilizing all the holds he could find in the cracks and on the face to find his way to the top. The rest of the kids eagerly followed, but found the climb was harder than Owen made it look.  In all 13 kids tried the climb, but only 3, including Owen and one of the older Boy Scouts with us, were able to make it to the top.  Great job Owen!

We cooked out over the camp fire (hot dogs and hamburgers for the kids, and steaks for the grown-ups ;-), and made peach cobbler in the dutch ovens for desert.  After a decent night's sleep in the tents, Owen and his fellow Webelos woke up bright and early to make breakfast for everyone: eggs and all sorts of fixings in the dutch ovens, with bacon and sausages cooked over the camp fire.  All and all it was great camping trip for all the Scouts!

Catoctin Camping

(click here for all the photos)