Friday, April 29, 2016

Kennedy Center

SWS at the Kennedy Center

Mr. James has been doing amazing things with the SWS 4th grade Orchestra.  Most of them started as complete beginners this year, and they actually sounded pretty good at the Winter Concert.  Now their latest accomplishment is playing a song they wrote in class at the Kennedy Center!  Parents weren't allowed to go, as there were many school groups performing and watching each other, but I was able tag along as a roadie, hauling basses and cellos to the concert.  Owen was especially excited as he was picked to play the cello solo.  Their song was a variation on twelve bar blues, and Owen's solo was meant to be an improvisation, which of course he loved.  I could write all sorts of things about the concert, but really it's best to leave it in Owen's words.
"I felt like during the rest of the song I had to keep my skills contained, but during my solo my skills were unleashed like the Hecatonchires breaking out of Tartaros to wage war against the Titans."

(click here for all the pictures)

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Hell on Wheels

A year ago, Nora was on the precipice of having her training wheels taken off when disaster struck -- she took a turn too fast, crashed and broke her arm. Understandably, Nora's been a little reticent about riding again, and so the transition to two wheels has been a fairly long, tortuous affair, involving a non-trivial number of tears.

But after weeks of crying every time Allen attempted to let go (and refusal to allow me anywhere near her), something clicked and today Nora managed to ride several laps unaided and even stopped herself. She's pretty proud of herself (though not as much as Allen and I are). Now we just need to build up her stamina to ride up-hill so she can visit all her friends.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

A Day at the Museum

Nora at the NGA
One of our purchases from the SWS was a day at the National Gallery with the first grade teachers. So Nora brought her art supplies and joined Ms. Celestino and Ms. Quattrone and several of her friends to tour the West Gallery in order to, "See, think and wonder and produce the occasional forgery.

Nora at the NGA

(To see all the pics, click here.)

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Little League and Snow Storms

Hill's Kitchen Nats with Ryan Zimmerman

For Owen's little league opening day all the kids went down to the dedication of the new Ryan Zimmerman field.  Ryan Zimmerman, Dusty Baker and Screech were all there taking team photos with the kids, so we were of course thrilled to be there.  The weather wasn't thrilled to have us though, right after we finished taking pictures a wintery mix started to fall on us.  The big leaguers were all under a tent with the Mayor for the speeches and the dedication ceremony, but all the little guys had to stand out in the outfield, so we bailed right after the team picture.  Pretty sure that was the only part Owen was really excited for, so no harm done.  Now time to start the new season, go Hill's Kitchen Nats!

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Opening Day

Opening Day 2016

The weather forecast was a bit sketchy for Opening Day, and I had a conference conflicting with the 4pm start, but Mom Mom and Grandpa Don were able to pick up Owen and meet me at the ballpark, and the weather at the start of the game was beautiful.  Rain started falling though in the second inning, and we waited out a 90 minute rain delay, and the Nats ended up losing the game, but other than that game, they started the season on a hot streak, and we're all just happy that baseball is back!

Opening Day 2016

Sunday, April 03, 2016


NYC 2016

We've been talking about doing a Spring Break trip up to New York on the train with the kids for a few years now, and this year we finally made it happen.  The dinosaur exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History is closed for the next few years for major renovations (it hasn't been updated since I was a kid, and Owen had gotten very good at pointing out everything that was wrong with the 70's era depiction of dinosaurs, so it was probably time), and the American Museum of Natural History in New York just opened up two cool new dinosaur exhibits: The Titanosaur, a reconstruction of the largest sauropod ever discovered; and Dinosaurs Among Us, a new exhibit about how dinosaurs evolved into birds, so now seemed like the perfect time for a trip.  We put the kids in Camp Mom Mom for the first three days of Spring Break, and on Thursday morning we were off to New York.

NYC 2016

We woke up early and took the streetcar to Union Station and the Amtrak train up to Penn Station. The kids read the whole time on the train, and we arrived in New York City just in time for a quick lunch and a trip to the top of the Empire State Building.  Owen searched for Mount Olympus (he's been reading a lot of Percy Jackson), and Nora shouted into the air for all to hear, "Hello people of New York City, please stop what you're doing and listen to me, I'm going to tell you how to drive a car!"

NYC 2016

Our plan for this trip was to keep things laid back and not try to cram too much in, so after the Empire State Building we just headed up to our hotel on the upper west side, and went for a hike through Central Park.  That turned out to be a great plan, as we caught some Mozart at Belvedere Castle, the kids loved climbing all the rocks in The Ramble, and we walked all the way to the zoo (which was closed by the time we got there), and had a lovely dinner at a spot Nabeel and Megan recommended.

NYC 2016

Friday was our big day for the American Museum of Natural History.  Owen loved the dinosaurs of course, but Nora preferred the butterflies and the Hayden Planetarium.  What both the kids agreed on was that the first thing they wanted to see was the Dodo in the Hall of Biodiversity.  "Really?" you might ask, well if you've watched enough Wild Kratts, you'd know the Hall of Biodiversity is featured prominently in the show by the Kratt Brothers.  So after our New York bagels for breakfast, we made a bee line for the Dodo, but lo and behold the Dodo had gone missing.  We couldn't find it anywhere, but then we found where it was supposed to be, and it was hidden behind a six foot screen.  Fortunately, Daddy was able to lift the kids on his shoulders to peer over the screen and see the Dodo skeleton.  The mystery of the missing Dodo was finally solved when we went though the Dinosaurs Among Us exhibit.  The model of the Dodo was moved up to the new exhibit, it really was a cool dinosaur all along.

NYC 2016

Our plan for Saturday was to explore the High Line park before catching the train home, but it was raining and the park didn't really seem like a good idea.  Nora saved the day though by noticing a sign for a Mo Willems exhibit at the New York Historical Society just around the corner from our hotel. The kids had a blast at the Mo Willems exhibit, and there was even a cool Children's History Museum in the basement.  A perfect way to spend a rainy morning on our last day in New York.  We'll have to do it again soon!

NYC 2016

(click here for all the pictures)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


Easter 2016

Easter is filled with tradition for us. The kids dye eggs (and the occasional hand) the night before (we aren't organized enough to do it any earlier), we do a mini egg hunt and picture session at our place in the morning (so I can insure they get candy I want in their baskets), hit the breakfast joint by St. Josephs for egg sandwiches and french toast followed by mass (borne from our inability to make the early mass at St. Peter's and needing to kill time prior to the later mass at St. Josephs), and then Mom Mom's for a far more elaborate Easter Egg hunt and dinner.

But the diner closed in early March, forcing us dine on bagels and croissants before mass. And the acoustics were particularly terrible this year at St. Josephs, so we ducked out early. And instead of our annual family bunny ears photo on the couch, Allen made us hang out in the cold to snap some Cherry Blossom pics by the Senate. And Nora didn't want to do anything but read her book. It was Easter anarchy!

But then Nora finished her book. And we headed up to Mom Mom's where the traditional hunt took place (though in the front yard). And then we had a delicious dinner and some after dinner marble game.

And a very happy Easter.
Easter 2016

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

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Great Apes!

We hadn't been to the zoo in a really long time (it preceded Parking Lot C re-opening and security checks being implemented) so when Jeremye said he was in town and wanted to schedule a kid meet-up with Lily, Maxim and Leo (and Jeff!), we jumped at the chance. So much so that we got there earlier than everyone else and took a lot of selfies at the "secret monkey statue garden" while we waited for everyone else. Totally worth it.

(Check out all the pics, here.)

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Alphabet City!

Nora has been busy in her Sugarfoots acting class after school this Spring, and it all came together with their performance of Alphabet City.  The kids were great, and the whole play was adorable.  Great job Nora!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

No Exit

It really was the perfect trip...up to the moment we arrived at the airport and noticed a disturbingly large number of people just sitting on the floor with their luggage. We should have been tipped off when the shuttle driver kept asking us if we checked on our flight, but we had and according to the American Airlines website, our flight was just fine.

Except it wasn't. See, some navigational equipment on one of the mountains was broken and no one had been able to service it for days, so when it was cloudy (like that day), the smaller planes had a hard time taking off. So even though the website was reporting that everything was A-ok, our flight was cancelled, and since a rockslide had closed I-70, we couldn't really leave Aspen except via air. And with the equipment out and it being windy, the probability of that started rapidly diminishing.

While Allen tried to get us on a non-cancelled flight, Nabeel and Megan showed up with their kids for their flight back to San Francisco. It too was cancelled (thought they didn't find out as quickly). This was a bit of an issue, as they were only heading back to SF for 24 hours in order to drop off their ski stuff, pick up their car, make their kids' conferences and then fly to LA for a Pokemon competition. So while the kids played various games on the airport floor, we continued to try and get on a flight that afternoon, and the Hyatts re-booked theirs for a direct flight to LA the next day, (cars, conferences and clothes be damned!), got a hotel for the night and wished us luck.

As our scheduled flight was now less than two hours, we headed through security in order to eat at the lone restaurant in the Aspen airport. Time passes. A single plane landed. And after a few more fits and starts, we boarded the plane, took our seats in the last row, and began to hope that we might actually make it home that evening and could send the kids to school the next day, narrowly avoiding an additional unexcused absence (their fifth) which would in turn trigger a call from the school's social worker and a strongly worded letter informing us of our parenting lapse and threats of Child Protective Services.

But then things started to get weird. The lead flight attendant announced that we were 1400 lbs overweight and so they would begin unloading all checked baggage in order to have it trucked to Denver to be later reunited with their owners (the logistics of which were unclear, given I70's status) and bring all gate-checked bags back into the plane resulting in all open seats having a belted carry-on.

While this was going on, the flight attendant sitting in the jump seat next to us started telling us about the landing of the previous flight -- how it was the worst one of his career, that he couldn't believe they weren't redirected and how passengers were crying throughout -- and that he couldn't believe we were even trying this. Then he started discussing how he'd been sick for a really long time and that he would be retiring soon, thanks to his billionaire brother who, despite not having been much of a sibling throughout their childhood (in which the siblings were orphaned and then adopted together), announced after the attendant's illness that he could stop working and that he'd take care of him. So the brother had set up a trust for him which would allow him to buy a house (either in Aspen or Park City) and retire in two weeks.

Which made our current predicament seem all the more ominous. The captain said we were now just below the maximum weight, and as we were first for take-off, we were going to taxi-over to the runway, but since it was so windy (and it had now started sleeting), we were just going to hang out for a while, waiting for some updates from other airborne flights and look for a window of opportunity.

At this point, pretty much everyone on the plane wanted to abort, but we all sat there tensely and quietly (except for the flight attendant by us who kept talking about the danger of trying this and real-estate cost in ski areas) waiting to hear what the captain thought. After another 10 minutes or so, he announced that the previous plane to leave Aspen was reporting some passengers had been injured due to turbulence at take-off, so since "we've got kids on this flight," he was going to take us back to the gate where we would decide what to do.

So we deplaned and collected our carry-on (which had a better seat than we did) and after they announced we were officially cancelled and we had claimed our luggage at baggage claim, Allen and I worked on getting a hotel for the night and plane tickets for the next day while the kids made prank calls asking people to marry them and go on a honeymoon to Paris on those telephones at the airport that connect you to local vendors. (FYI, not our proudest moment, but I assumed they weren't actually talking to real people and quite frankly, we had lost our "A" game 6 hours earlier).

We couldn't get a room where Nabeel and Megan were staying, so we took a shuttle to the Holiday Inn (and had no cash to tip the driver) and then walked through hail to get dinner, only to retire early back at the hotel (whose radiator heat clanked loudly about every 20 minutes) in order to make a newly re-scheduled 7 am flight the next morning.

So we arrived for day two at the airport at 5:30 am, only to discover that because we'd switched from American to United and then we're trying to switch back to American, the transfer hadn't gone through and so we weren't really booked on the 7 am flight and they couldn't book us using the computer at the desk. So our representative went to a back office for 45 minutes while the rest of our plane checked in and left. It started to look like we were going to be stuck in Aspen for another day, when we finally got our tickets, made it through security and grabbed some pretzels for breakfast.

We were pretty nervous taking off, but the flight to Chicago was surprisingly easy and upon landing at 10:30 am we had plenty of time to grab a relaxing lunch and find our gate before our 3 o'clock flight.

In part, because it became a 4 o'clock flight and then a five o'clock one. It seems the wind we had encountered the previous day in Aspen had headed east and was now impeding most of the flights out of Chicago. Flights were being delayed and cancelled at an alarming rate while disembarking flight crews could be overheard discussing passenger freak-outs. Once we finally thought we'd be allowed to board, they discovered they needed a new lightbulb and we had to wait another half hour.

Finally, around 6 pm we finally left Chicago. After an extra bumpy ride, we arrived in DC, collected our things (eventually... apparently Allen's ski boots took an earlier flight and it took us a while to find them), caught a Uber home, put the kids to bed and had a drink before crashing.

It really was a great trip, but it's probably for the best that this isn't an annual thing.

Snowmass 2016