Sunday, January 22, 2017

Democracy

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We had hoped to leave town for the inauguration -- this particular peaceful transition of power is a bit harder for us to witness than previous ones, and some distance seemed advisable. Sadly, our plans fell through but fortunately Aunt Katherine and Uncle L, who are DC adjacent, offered us a safe space... and a lot of beer.

But as the inauguration grew closer, pretending it wasn't happening became challenging. As friends and family travelled from across the country to take part in the Women's March, sitting idly by seemed a bit wrong. Once Allen's cousin April asked if she and her family could stay with us, I decided to go ahead and participate as well. So I made a sign, met up with a group from the neighborhood and marched over to the rally with a few hundred thousand others.

To be honest, I'd never participated in a protest before, so I wasn't sure what to expect. But I have to say that the women, men and children that marched on Saturday we're the most polite and supportive crowd I've ever been in. It was amazing to see such a diverse array of people who were compelled by such a wide range of issues gather and have their voices heard. For the first time in months, I started to feel hopeful again.

And as we chanted yesterday, "This is what democracy looks like."

Woman3

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

Monday, January 16, 2017

7 Springs Cluster

7 Springs - 2017 Cluster Families

Since this winter is an off year for our western skiing adventures, we decided to double up at 7 Springs this season.  We have a trip with Joe & Cate coming up in February, but for the first trip of the season, we joined four other families we know through the Cluster -- the Telfair-Chas, the Violas, the Sodermans, and the Hogans -- for a raucous MLK ski weekend.

The weather was a bit iffy, but the company (and more particularly, the cocktails) was great. All the kids had a blast skiing, though the real fun was running around as a pack in the hotel. Nora in particular got a taste for gambling at the arcade, spinning the wheel to win big tickets, and eventually (or $20 later) winning enough to get a plush Minecraft pig.

Owen skipped out on ski lessons this trip and stuck with the adults and his more advanced friends the whole time. The "black diamonds" at 7 Springs didn't faze him, so I guess I can't claim he absolutely needs east coast lessons.  Nora did ski camp, and skied with us after the second day. She was a champ cruising down Lost Girl, and looked ready to hit the slopes again soon.

7 Springs - 2017 Cluster Families

(click here for all the pictures)

Sunday, January 01, 2017

The Importance of Balance

Nora and Owen (well, mostly Nora) wrote a new play entitled, The Importance of Balance, which they performed on New Year's Day. They hope you like it!


Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas 2016

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Christmas seemed more like something to get through than to celebrate this year. Our office parties were filled with nervous speculation as to what the coming transition would bring and baked goods. Our annual holiday party devolved into prognosticating whom among our friends and neighbors would suffer most in the coming year (Allen may have been the winner!!!) and sharing escape plans for the inauguration festivities themselves, all while consuming copious amounts of alcohol... and cured salmon. And if all that wasn't enough, the flu hit Capitol Hill culminating in Nora spending her first night of Winter Break alternating between throwing up on herself, her bed, and Allen.

But the beauty about the holidays, and for us in particular this year, is family. This year, Allen's kind of saved us. It's hard to get too worked up about repeal and replace when your kids' brand new Dave the Shark Dirigible is circling the tree. While the dismantling of climate treaties is troubling, helping your son build his own computer is both consuming and rewarding. And really, you can't be too glum about the encroachment of civil rights when there are toddlers and cake.

But really, it's just nice to know that you have a lot of wonderful people in your life that have your back, no matter what the new year brings.

(To see all the Christmas pictures, click here.)

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Elementary School Musical

SWS held its second annual Winter Music Concert this past Thursday. And while Owen demurred from participating in the chorus this year, both he and Nora shined with their respective classes. Nora belt out that holiday classic, "When the Saints Go Marching In," (which has way more choruses than I ever remember) and had a featured percussion part. Meanwhile, Owen led the cellos in the SWS orchestra's renditions of "Jingle Bells" and "All Aboard" all while looking incredibly dapper in his hat. It was quite a night.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Botanic Gardens 2016

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One of our favorite holiday traditions is the annual Botanic Gardens holiday party showing off all of their fabulous trains.  This year the theme was National Parks, and Mom Mom and Grandpa Don joined us for the day, Owen's DCYOP concert in the afternoon, dinner at Tortilla Coast, and then the train and garden extravaganza.  Happy Holidays everyone!

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(click here for all the pictures)

Holiday Strings

The DC Youth Orchestra held its holiday concerts this weekend, and for the first time both kids participated (with Mom Mom, Grandpa Don, Allen and I cheering them on).

Nora debuted her viola playing with "See Saw" and "Hot Cross Buns" on Saturday.

Owen and the Level D Sinfonia performed "Dragon Dance" and "Let it Snow" on Sunday (trust us, the first cellist was kind of blocking him, but he was totally there and played like a champ). Owen even earned an MVP award (and a free sweatshirt) for allowing a Level C Sinfonia cellist to borrow his cello after some last minute tragedy left hers unplayable.
They both did really well and were pretty excited that they each got to both perform and be in the audience cheering the other on this time.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Just Keep Running

Nora had her first confession this weekend and both kids had DC Youth Orchestra concerts, which meant that we weren't able to cheer on Aunt Katherine and Uncle L at their Kiawah Island Full and Half Marathons in person. But we were there in spirit...

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Thursday, December 08, 2016

China

China - 2016

After having several trips to China cancelled at the last minute, I finally managed to get to Beijing for the 2016 IAMC meetings.  The meetings went well of course, and I did manage a quick morning at the Forbidden City before flying home.  What was really striking though was the air pollution.  The day I arrived, the pollution was off the charts, and walking outside felt like standing down wind of a camp fire.  The air improved when the winds changed a couple of days later, but the experience really makes you appreciate the importance of clean air, and the benefits of environmental policies.

China - 2016

(click here for all the pictures)

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Tea Time

High tea
John's friend Jacqui has been staying with us one night a month for over a year when she visits DC for some consulting work. This visit, she suggested we ditch the boys and enjoy high tea at the Ritz (Allen was pretty easy to ditch having just left for China; John and Owen were perfectly content to be excluded).

So Nora and I donned, if not our finest than at least some reasonably cute attire, and drove with Jacqui out to Tysons II for tea (and hot chocolate for Nora). We had a lovely view of the Ritz Christmas tree while we enjoyed finger sandwiches, scones, strawberries with clotted cream, gingerbread cookies, other assorted pastries, and champagne (again, Nora stuck with hot chocolate). Nora pronounced it much more fun than she thought it would be and Jacqui and I had a wonderful time, though I wished I'd remember earlier, exactly how much caffeine is in black tea.
High Tea

(Click here for all the pictures.)

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Iowa 2016

To be perfectly honest, I wasn't thrilled with the idea of spending Thanksgiving in Iowa. The election was still a little to recent, and for us it's personal -- key components of the Republican agenda is to back out of the Paris Agreement (which Allen worked on extensively) and repeal the ACA (which I worked on somewhat) not to mention they keep suggesting we're swamp dwellers. Knowing that my home state of Iowa voted in such a way, felt a bit like a personal affront, but then knowing to get to Iowa we have to drive through Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana? Well that just seemed like the 2016 version of the Trail of Tears.

But given that the alternative was staying in DC and the fact that deep down, we are Iowans and as such, to quote Dar Williams, "we don't like to make our passions other people's concern," we made the drive.

We kept things fairly low-key, and my parents largely handled us with kid gloves. Allen ventured out a bit more, and had a couple of conversations that were frustrating to say the least, but for the most part, Thanksgiving was a welcome distraction from the reality we faced back home: there was a ditch digging project at the pond to distract Allen (and the kids); an awards ceremony for corn eating; baking; and lots of silliness.

But mostly there was family, which as Dar Williams also says, can fix a broken heart.

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

Friday, November 18, 2016

Publishing Pumba

Publishing Pumba

Nora had another Publishing Party, and this time her story was all about Pumba and the very complicated relationship she has with her favorite dog ;-)

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Days After

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We had a really hard time processing the election. To be honest, we didn't really see the result coming and as it will have significant, and in all likelihood negative, impacts on our professional, and possibly personal lives, we've been a little shell-shocked since.

And that's why, while I am always grateful for the service of our men and women of the armed forces, I was particularly grateful for Veteran's Day this year occurring three days after the election, and allowing us a break from work and the world. Allen and I took the kids and Owen's friend Adam to Great Falls where we met Brad, Mia and Ben. It was a beautiful fall day, and we spent it climbing with friends, communing with nature, and hoping that everything will turn out ok.
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(To see all the pictures, please click here)

Monday, October 31, 2016

Halloween 2016

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Owen wanted the whole family to dress up as characters from Tin Tin for Halloween this year, but while Owen would clearly make an ideal Tin Tin, just how we'd pull off the rest of the characters was a bit murky.  I guess I had the beard to be Captain Haddock (though my hair really isn't dark enough), but none of us had the mustaches required for Thomson, Thompson, or Professor Calculus (granted, given Nora's obsession with mustaches, she probably would have taken one for the team), and Mommy really wasn't particularly thrilled with any of the female character options (Bianca Castafiore is a bit too obscure, and rather matronly to boot).  In the end we talked Owen out of the group costume idea, Nora went as Bat Girl, and I made some neat low-poly demon and fox masks out of cereal boxes for Elaine and myself.  Happy Halloween!

(click here for all the pictures)

Monday, October 17, 2016

Views from the Top

Climbing 10/16
A beautiful fall day and a clear schedule? Of course we headed out to Great Falls for some climbing with our friend Andrew and his son Luke. Owen's been taking a climbing class with his friend Adam, so he was almost too fast to capture on film. Nora is still getting her climbing legs on, but she did great, and stopped to pose for lots of pictures. Hopefully we'll get to go again before Winter kicks in.

Climbing 10/16
(To see all the pictures, please click here.)

Friday, October 14, 2016

NLDS 2016

NLDS 2016

We went all in for the playoffs this year.  Got our Nats Plus half season plan for 2017 and tickets for every possible playoff game through the World Series this year.  Then Strasburg hurt his flexor mass, and Ramos tore his ACL, and things were looking a bit more dire for the Nats, but the Postseason is a roll of the dice, and we were excited to have our chance.

Game 1 was an exciting start to the series with Max Scherzer going up against Clayton Kershaw.  The Dodgers jumped out to an early lead with Max giving up a couple home runs.  The Nats battled back, hitting Kershaw pretty hard, but they could never quite get that key hit, and the Dodgers won 4-3. It was a gorgeous day for baseball though, and one of Owen's friends was sitting in our section, so despite the outcome, it was a great day at the ballpark.

Game 2 was supposed to be on Saturday, and we were going to have to miss it because of Rich & Jen's wedding, but the rains came and postponed the game until Sunday, so I scooped up some last minute seats in the nosebleeds for Owen and I to go to the game.  When we were walking around the upper concourse on our way to our seats, we ran into a younger couple who asked us where we were sitting.  Apparently they had two extra tickets for seats seven rows behind the Dodger's dugout, and were looking for a kid that might enjoy seeing the game up close!  Owen and I joined them in Section 115, and the Nats didn't disappoint.  The Dodgers jumped out to another early lead, but this time Jose Lobaton hit a 3 run homer to give the Nats the lead, and they never looked back winning 5-3.

The Nats rolled to an 8-3 win in LA in game 3, and things were looking good.  Just one win in the last two games is all we needed for the series win.  Game 3 was another nail biter though, the Nats scored 3 in the 7th to tie the game, but the Dodgers took back the lead in the 8th and won the game, sending the series back to DC for game 5 with everything on the line.

We were back in our normal seats for the final game with Max Scherzer back on the mound throwing heat.  The Nats scored one run early, but they didn't take advantage of chances to score more.  In the top of the 7th, Max took the mound with a one run lead and gave up a lead off home run that tied the game.  Then things really fell apart as the Nats used six pitchers in the inning, and the Dodgers scored three more runs to take a 4-1 lead.  Chris Heisey hit a pinch hit two run homer in the bottom of the inning to pull the Nats within one, and the Nats loaded the bases looking to take back the lead, but the Dodgers' closer Kenly Jansen shut the door ending the threat.  In the bottom of the 9th, the Dodgers actually sent their Ace, Clayton Kershaw, to the mound to close out the game.

It was a great series, with a ton of exciting baseball, and one of these days the Nats will have to come out on top.  As for this year...go Cubs!

NLDS 2016
(click here for all the pictures)

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Rich's Wedding

Rich & Jen's Wedding
Rich was one of the first friends I made in graduate school. He and Allen were roommates for three years (if you don't pro-rate that for when Allen was staying with me...). Rich played guitar at our wedding, came to Owen's first birthday party and has been a wonderful constant in our life (and a very entertaining one, too). And while Rich has enjoyed being single, he finally found his match in Jen: a Ph.D, bicycle and beer enthusiast that loves the Mets, Clarence Buffalo, comfortable footwear, and Rich.

So we asked Aunt Katherine to watch the kids and headed to Vienna, Virginia for the Prisinzano-Antonacci nuptials, and a mini grad school reunion. It was a really great time -- as evidenced by the really rough morning after. Good thing it was three-day weekend...

Congrats to the happy couple.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

The Battle of Bladensburg

Bladensburg field trip
Owen's class has been studying the War of 1812 fairly intensely this term and since the DC area was the center of much of the action, it was natural that his class would plan a field trip and he would want one of us to join him. So Owen and I and a bunch of other parents and teachers along with 24 other fifth graders took the D8 bus to the Rhode Island Station and then transferred to the T18 bus in order to relive the Battle of Bladensburg.

It was a long trip, but was going fairly well until about four stops from our destination, another field trip, consisting of 80 kindergarten and first graders with only four chaperones in tow, hopped on the bus. The kids were horrified, as were the other passengers who had been less than thrilled to be sharing their daily commute with one grade school field trip, let alone two. But we muddled through until we were dropped on the grounds of the Battle of Bladensburg visitor center, where at least one fifth grader fell to ground and kissed it in relief (it wasn't Owen).

For those unfamiliar (like me, prior to the field trip), the Battle occurred two years into the war, when British forces sought to cross the much more narrow and traversable Eastern Branch of the Potomac River in order to invade Washington. The Americans were outflanked and unsuccessful in defending their land, ultimately resulting in the torching of the White House, Capitol and the Library of Congress. But while the defeat stung, it was not defining: a few weeks later the U.S. successfully defended Fort McHenry in Baltimore and destroyed much of the British fleet in Lake Champlain which ultimately led to the Treaty of Ghent and a lot of rebuilding in DC.

The kids watched a movie about the war, made some fairly insightful observations (Owen knows far more about blockades than I did at that age) and looked at several exhibits before we picnicked on the banks of the Anacostia River. Shortly thereafter, we headed back to Bladensburg road to catch the return bus, but unfortunately, this required crossing Bladensburg, which wasn't as easy for Ms. Wertheimer's fifth grade class as it had been for the British. Ultimately, Ms. Wertheimer blocked traffic to allow her students to pass safely, only to wait twenty minutes outside a pawn shop for the T18 to arrive.

Fortunately, the ride home was pretty uneventful, and it all made for a really good story, so really everyone won (except for poor Brigadier General Tobias Stansbury).

Friday, September 16, 2016

Why Did You Go Alone?

Nora wrote a new song. If only she would emote more;-)


Why did you go alone?
Nora Fawcett

Now that I open my eyes to see the light
I noticed that you were right
But I wonder while I roam
Why did you go alooooooooooone
Why did you go alooooooooooone

Now that I am here it is crystal clear
That you know where to go
But I wonder while I roam
Why did you go alooooooooooone
Why did you go alooooooooooone

But now I have fun in the sun
With everyone
I think we should spread all the fun that we could
But I wonder while I roam
Why did you go alooooooooooone
Why did you go alooooooooooone

Why did you go alooooooooooone
Why did you go alooooooooooone
Why did you go alooooooooooone


Why did you go alone?!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Bad Air Daze

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The Bad Air Daze team, and the EPA softball league has been part of our lives ever since we moved to DC some 13 years ago.  Elaine and I brought our wealth of Texas intramural softball experience to the team right out of grad school, I was captain of the team for a few years early on, Owen has been going to the games since he was in the womb, and more recently has even been playing for the team as a junior member.  In all those years we never won a playoff game...until now.  2016 is the year of Air Office Softball, we stormed through the playoffs and made the finals!  In the championship game we faced a team of young EPA upstarts, the Global Benchwarmers, where sadly youth beat experience, and we went down in glorious defeat, but a good time was had by all, so here's to a wonderful season!