Thursday, February 01, 2018

Still Dreaming...

We thought when Owen performed the "I Have a Dream" Speech with his classmates last year at the Lincoln Memorial it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. But then this year, Stuart Hobson partnered with the fifth graders at SWS (and a few other schools) to celebrate the first day of Black History Month back at the Lincoln Memorial, this time reciting President Lincoln's House Divided Speech (CW Harris Elementary), the Emancipation Proclamation (Harriet Tubman Elementary), Letter from Eleanor Roosevilt (Harris Elementary), Dr. King's "Give Us the Ballot" Speech  (Marth Luther King Elementary), "I Have a Dream" Speech (SWS) and President Obama's, "Let Freedom Ring Anniversary Speech (Stuart Hobson). We didn't get to hear Owen deliver the line, "With that courage, we can stand together for the right of every child," but Nora got to cheer him on, and the local news even live streamed it (Owen's around the 43 minute mark).

(To see the pictures, click here.)

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Women's March (Plus a Few Good Men)

Women’s March 2018
We were going to skip the Women's March this year -- it was hard to come up with one overriding issue to protest, there was a shut down and there wasn't a whole lot of information available beforehand. But then Friday afternoon I had to skip a conference session I really wanted to attend in order to do shutdown prep and then as I left work in a flurry to make Nora's play performance (it took place on another planet in a different galaxy that has all different animals -- I wasn't completely clear on the plot but Nora was a dog that becomes partially human), I had to navigate past all the "March for Life Protestors" who quite frankly, aren't particular considerate of the "born."

Anyway, I was frustrated and announced that I felt we should participate in the Women's March as a family. Nora announced she didn't want to and was then conveniently invited to her friend Violet's for a playdate. Which given she's less of a marcher and more of a complainer, we decided that might not be a bad thing.

The rest of us went ahead and made our signs, changed into comfortable shoes and prepared to join the throngs. Unfortunately, since I thought the march started at 11 am and it ended up happening closer to 1:30, we missed most of the throngs. But we still got to have our voices heard, see a lot of people that shared our frustration with the current state of our union and Owen even got to stand on ice.

Hopefully next year, it won't even be necessary.

Women’s March 2018

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

7 Winters

Seven Springs 2018
A Cluster contingency has used the MLK Weekend for the past few years to enjoy family skiing at Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Pennsylvania (though we didn't join until last year). Now the last time we went skiing at Seven Springs it was a balmy 60 degrees, and given it was 70 degrees in DC at two o-clock when we left, we thought this trip might be a repeat. However, the temperature dropped 40 degrees en route, which meant that while the driving was stressful, the skiing outlook was improving.

It was freezing cold MLK weekend (the highs were between 8 and 11 degrees) and the visibility was challenging given some low cloud coverage, precipitation, and the resort's decision to continually make snow to mitigate any melt (and cover up the ice), but given the kids had just gotten skis (and helmets) for Christmas, nothing was going to keep them off the slopes. Fortunately, Owen had just inherited a neon green skiing ensemble from my boss's son, so we pretty much just followed him down the hill.

Owen, -- who's become a pretty good skier -- was off with his friends for the most part (Allen occasionally joined them, especially for a night skiing adventure), but Nora, aside from a brief lesson on the first morning, stuck with us and her friend Mirabel. Both kids did great and managed two full days of skiing and probably could have done a third morning, but Allen and I balked and decided we should spend the morning sleeping, packing and de-icing the car before bidding the mountain adieu.

Fortunately, we'll be back on the slopes in February (and Utah has finally gotten some snow)!

Seven Springs 2018

(To see all the pictures, click here.)

Sunday, December 31, 2017


Christmas 2017
It started out so lovely -- we made the drive to Iowa in under 14 hours and found cousins and spaghetti (and wine!) waiting for us upon arrival. Uncle Bernie stopped by, Dave and Kara arrived from Colorado via Chicago and Indiana. It really looked like it was going to be an amazing Christmas.

And then Sam got sick.

Really, with that many cousins and that many Christmas cookies, it's sort of inevitable that at least one of the kids will have some sort of stomach ailment, and Sam quickly recovered -- he was able to go to The Last Jedi that afternoon. And so we might have been lulled into a belief that we could still have a Merry Christmas.

And then Nora announced on Christmas Eve that she didn't feel well.

The announcement was made following a large dinner, a concert performance with her cousins (including choreography and lots of jumping) and a nontrivial amount of ice cream for dessert. So while not terribly concerned, we did send her upstairs with a bucket as a preventative action. Then we went downstairs to find Owen wasn't feeling great, returned upstairs to find that the bucket wasn't so much preventative as essential, and then went downstairs to discover that Owen was similarly situated.

So Allen spent the night upstairs with Nora while I spent the evening downstairs with Owen. None of us were up for Christmas mass though Nora did rally for presents (Owen had a fever and slept the day away). But as quickly and dramatically as the illness came, by Boxing day they were fully recovered and even managed a skating expedition the following day with Grace and Grant.

By the time we left Iowa, we were three days symptom free and so decided that we should take an extra day to stop in Pittsburgh to see the Mettenburgs. Joe and Cate made an amazing meal (with a lot of wine) and we all had a thoroughly enjoyable night...until around midnight when Allen suddenly found himself violently ill. It went on until about six am when he was finally able to get some sleep. But while Allen was sleeping, Western Pennsylvania was getting a generous dusting which meant that by the time we had Allen showered and we got him encamped in our car (where he spent most of the trip in and out of consciousness), the roads had gotten bad (as had the Mettenburg's driveway --it's kind of our White Whale), so while Allen slept, Allen's dad and I spent the next four hours white knuckling it on the Turnpike to make it back to DC.

The next day we were due for Christmas at Sharon and Don's followed by New Years at Katherine's. We were a little anxious (especially me -- I figured I was next) and kind of useless (traveling while sick is exhausting), but the excellent food (and presents, including period costumes) had a nurturing effect. At least for me and the kids -- Allen started feeling bad that night and decided not to partake in the cornbread waffles with poached eggs and all the makings for huevos rancheros.

Still, we got to spend the holidays with our loved ones and eventually everyone was fine, so really it was a great Christmas... we're just glad it's Christmas past.

(To see all the holiday pictures, such as they were, click here).

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Flightless Birds

Flightless birds, those wings are not for flapping
Flightless birds, their nest are not for napping
Flightless birds, they swim across the sea
And when they catch their fish, they feed them to their babies

Flightless birds, they huddle up for warmth
Flightless birds, their instincts are from birth
Flightless birds, they live 'till their like eighty
And when they finally say goodbye, they make their way to Hades

Flightless Birds!!!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Owen's DCYOP Winter Concert

Owen moved up this year to the Young Artists Orchestra which meant he got to play more challenging music, for a longer period of time, with fewer baseball conflicts. It was a win-win for everyone (particularly since he now has a phone to play with during breaks). And while Owen almost missed his Winter Concert due to some confusion regarding call times and heavy holiday traffic in upper Northwest (coinciding with opening weekend at the Uptown for The Last Jedi didn't help either), we eventually all made his extremely successful debut.

Nora's First Viola Recital

While Owen has been an enthusiastic cello player from the get go, Nora was more borderline with her love of the viola. We decided this year was a bit of a make it/break it for her and thought maybe some private instruction might keep her inspired. Sadly, Owen's cello teacher from SWS, Mr. James, moved over the summer, which meant we had to look elsewhere. Enter "Music on the Hill" and Mr. Enrique.

At her first lesson, Nora feigned a stomach ache and tried to bail on the whole thing, but Mr. Enrique won her over and eventually had her not squishing the tomato (I don't know what that means, but he's very emphatic about it so I think it's important and Nora's gotten a lot better about it), lengthening her bowing, and practicing Edelweiss enthusiastically while preparing for a recital at Ebeneizer's Coffee House.

I thought she's be nervous to play by herself in front of a crowd, but in typical Nora fashion she marched on stage, played confidently and then took her bow as her adoring fans (mostly, Allen, Owen, Grandpa Fawcett, Grandpa Don and myself) applauded. Encore!

Monday, December 11, 2017

A Day at the Museums

Sometime in October, there was a notice in the Stuart-Hobson newsletter about special tickets to "Morning at the Museum" at the African American History Museum for some time in December. I was so excited about the prospect of getting tickets to the museum (which has been open for a year but is nearly impossible to get into) that I immediately signed up without looking at the fine print (or really not so fine print): turns out the program is designed for kids with sensory issues that can't handle museum crowds and so they allow them to attend before hours for a less overwhelming experience.

Still, free tickets to the Museum -- you can't really pass that up, even if it is under false pretenses. So we woke up semi-early on Sunday morning (after Owen's third performance of Willy Wonka and Nora's DCYO concert) headed downtown, searched for parking and eventually made it in.

The museum is pretty amazing. The suggested order is to start several stories below ground with exhibits on the slave trade and the Middle Passage and then progress upward through the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights era. Owen tried to leverage his studies last year to act as curator, but there was so much more there than what any of us had covered in school. We were there for more than three hours and barely made a dent.

We went home, had lunch, the kids did some homework and Owen went to climbing before we packed up for dinner and headed to our second Smithsonian of the day.

The National Botanic Gardens has always been Owen's favorite place on the Mall, but it becomes all of ours during the holiday season when its annual miniature trains exhibit is on full display (and when, as members, we get to visit it at night). After such a sober morning experience, it was nice to end the day with a lighter, more festive cultural experience (especially with our friends, the Romans).

And of course, a photo bomb of the Capitol Christmas Tree.

(To see all the African American Museum pictures, click here.)
(To see all the Botanic Gardens pictures, click here.)

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Nora's DCYOP Winter Concert


Nora's debut with DCYO debut orchestra almost didn't happen. There was inclement weather and a Willy Wonka performance to compete with and then we couldn't find her teacher. But in the end, it all came together, and she did so well that her teacher informed her she'd be moving on to the Level C orchestra in the spring!

Willie Wonka Jr.

Willie Wonka

One of the exciting things about middle school at Stuart-Hobson is the chance to be part of the musical. Back in Kindergarten, Nora's class got a chance to be part of the Stuart-Hobson production of Annie, and just last year Owen's 5th grades class at SWS was part of Into the Woods, so when Owen had a chance to be a part of this year's production of Willie Wonka Jr. he jumped at the chance.

We thought Owen might want to ease into things and be part of the stage crew for his first play as a 6th grader, but he decided to go ahead and audition for a role. He chose to try for the role of Grandpa Joe because he didn't have to sing for the audition, but it's actually one of the bigger roles in the play with several songs to sing. When he got the part, Owen jumped into the role enthusiastically. We were a bit nervous about him memorizing all the lines, and singing on stage in front of a huge crowd, but he did a great job preparing for it. (It might have helped that Nora devoured his script memorizing much of the play too, so she could lead her friends in a recess production of Willie Wonka Jr. Jr., so Owen had a willing partner to practice with at home ;-)

The premiere on Friday night was amazing, the theater was packed, the sets were beautiful, the kids running the lights and sound did a great job, the cast was wonderful, and we couldn't have been more proud of Owen. With two more shows on Saturday (a matinee as one of the kids while we were at Nora's orchestra concert, and another evening performance as Grandpa Joe), Owen had a whole great weekend to relish the attention. It really was a great experience for him being part of such a huge production, and pulling it off! We can't wait to see what they'll do next :-)

(click here for all the pictures)

Friday, December 08, 2017



After last year's IAMC meeting in Beijing, this year's meeting in Recife, Brazil was literally a breath of fresh air. Recife was lovely, the beach was gorgeous, the water was warm (though according to the locals, too shark infested to swim in), and the meetings were fascinating. It was a quick trip, without any real time for exploring, but there was one cool adventure on the first night of the meeting. Our host informed us that because of the Supermoon, they would have the lowest low tide of the year. So we all walked a few miles down the beach at about 10 pm, right at low tide, to a spot where the reef comes up to the shore. With the lowest of low tides, the ocean retreated about half a kilometer from the shore exposing the reef, and we all could walk out exploring all the fascinating life in the exposed tidal pools. I just have to thank the moon for another super cool experience in 2017 :-)

Monday, December 04, 2017

Tea for Three

Tea for three

Last year, our friend Jacqui asked if she could take Nora (and me if I'd like to tag along) for a holiday tea party. We enjoyed it so much that we've decided to make it an annual event (complete with Allen being out of the country for it and my forgetting how much caffeine is actually in a pot of tea). Nora even poured (and danced) and found other forms of entertainment when she got bored.

Tea for three

It's the perfect way to start the holiday season and we can't wait for next year!

(To see all the pictures, click here.)

Thursday, November 30, 2017



Every year the National Zoo is decked out with a huge holiday light display for ZooLights, and every year we manage to be too busy to actually make it up there to see it. So why was this year different you might wonder? There's a simple answer of As Friends of the National Zoo we got the invite to experience ZooLights in a new way, BrewLights!

(Well technically, Elaine got the BrewLights invite, thought this would be a perfect birthday present for Dad, and thought Katherine and I should go with him for a little Father, Daughter, Son bonding. So, if you somehow harbored any doubts about Elaine being the most wonderful and thoughtful daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, and wife, please put them to rest now.)

On the appointed night, we caught a Lyft up to the Zoo, got our wristbands and light up BrewLights cups, and proceeded to sample twenty or so local brews while enjoying the beautiful light displays, and even seeing a few animals ;-) (Really, there was so much beer, we even skipped a station!) After such a festive evening, we couldn't pass up the chance for 'sledding', so we took a ride on the tubes, and managed to catch a ride home right before the rain started. Happy Birthday Dad! (And thanks again Elaine!)

(click here for all the pictures)

Friday, November 24, 2017

Thanksgiving 2017

Thanksgiving 2017

Another wonderful Thanksgiving hosted by Nancy & Danny. 

(click here for all the pictures)

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Running Girls

Girls on the run
We signed up Nora for "Girls on the Run" in the fall hoping that she'd finally embrace an organized sport. She loved it and dutifully ran her laps twice a week while discussing self esteem and weird facts about herself ("The toilet is my happy place"). I neglected to notice when I enrolled Nora, however, that the semester culminated in a 5k which required an adult buddy.

Now back in the day, I was quite the runner and even trained once for a marathon. Funny story: I never actually ran the marathon because I messed up my knee during my first 20 mile training run. I haven't really run since.

But I love my daughter and I want to support her and all girls (and Allen assured me that she probably wasn't as fast as she claimed -- plus she had a nasty fall a few days prior which had to slow her down somewhat). So we headed out as a family on Sunday morning to Anacostia Park where Nora and I ran (more or less) five kilometers. It wasn't always pretty (especially when Nora realized that she'd lost her sunglasses around the one mile mark and wanted to turn around and look for them despite the hoard of girls running towards us), but we did it and we're pretty proud of ourselves. Girls rock!

Girls on the run

(To see all the pictures, click here.)

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Climb On

For the past few years, we've celebrated Veterans Day by heading to Great Falls and enjoying a hike or climb in the great outdoors. This year proved to be a bit too chilly and wet to enthusiastically commune with nature, and so we decided to go the man-made approach and headed to Earth Treks.

Owen's been taking weekly climbing lessons at Earth Treks for the past two years, but Nora had only been once before (and had been begging to go back). We briefly thought that even Aunt Katherine would join us, but she opted for a more spectator role. After warming up (perhaps a bit too long) in the bouldering area, we headed to the climbing walls where Owen conquered a 5.10b which had eluded him in class, while the rest of us opted for some less demanding options (at least in theory).

Two and a half hours later, we were exhausted and our hands were all pink, so we headed back to take care of the chickens, have a viola lesson, and head up to Aunt Katherine's for a long overdue overnight...


(To see all the climbing pictures click here).

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Halloween 2017


For Halloween this year I convinced the kids that the paper craft cereal box masks I made for Elaine and I last year were cool enough that I should make masks for them too this year. Owen picked out a Spartan warrior helmet, Nora wanted Elaine's fox mask from last year (though she rebranded it as a wolf mask so she could be a werewolf), and Elaine picked out a rabbit mask (and the kids promptly rebranded it as a caracal). Several weeks of collecting cereal boxes, and many hours of cutting and folding later, we had a cool family themed costume, the Cereal Killers. We thought we'd even be in the running for a prize at Brad & Marlo's annual Hotter 'n Hades Halloween party, but with orchestra and baseball activities, we didn't make it to the party until after most of the votes were already cast.

The kids both carved their own pumpkins this year (though I was still stuck scooping pumpkin guts), and on Halloween night we all went out trick-or-treating together. We met up with Adam and his dad while we were out, and joined forces bringing in a huge candy haul. The kids also both trick-or-treated for UNICEF again this year and met the goal they set for themselves at FMW First Day school. All told, another great Halloween :-)

(click here for all the pictures)

Saturday, October 14, 2017

NLDS 2017

NLDS 2017

The Nats made it to the playoffs for the 4th time this year, and adding to the excitement we we're playing the Cubs. Strasburg pitched brilliantly in Game 1, striking out 10, but the Nats couldn't score, giving the Cubs a one game to none series lead. Game 2 was more to our liking: the Nats jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first on a Rendon homer. The Cubs tied it up in the second, then took a 3-1 lead in the 4th on a questionable home run call. We saved the real drama for the 8th when Harper tied the game with a 2-run homer, then Zimmerman gave us the lead with a 3-run blast, and Doolittle sealed the win with the save in the 9th.

The series then shifted to Chicago. In Game 3 Zimmerman put us on the board with a double in the 6th, and Max Scherzer took a no-hitter into the 7th before Zobrist tied the game with a double. Then in the 8th Anthony Rizzo demanded respect with a pop-up bloop hit that gave the Cubs the lead and the win. Game 4 was all Nats as Strasburg overcame flu-like symptoms to strike out 12 as the Nats shut out the cubs, with the big play from the Nats offense coming from Michael A. Taylor's 8th inning grand slam.

NLDS 2017

With the series tied at 2 games a piece, we were all set for another decisive game 5 at Nats Park. Elaine and Mom Mom joined Owen and I at the Park, and cousin Sam joined us in spirit with an epic string of texts back-and-forth with Owen throughout the game.  The first was a bit rocky for Gio, but he escaped only giving up one run on a ground out. Things were looking up for the Nats when Murphy and Taylor both hit 2-run homers in the bottom of the 2nd giving us a 4-1 lead. In the third, Gio was looking shaky again, giving up another run on a groundout, then letting the Cubs crawl back to within a run on a wild pitch. Max Scherzer was ready to pitch in relief though, so we were feeling good when he ran out to the mound in the top of the 5th with the Nats holding a one run lead. Scherzer got two quick outs from Bryant and Rizzo, but then Contreras managed an infield single that Turner couldn't quite turn into an out, and Zobrist singled on a soft fly ball that Jayson Werth couldn't quite get to either. Then Russell doubled in a run on a sharp grounder that just got past Rendon at third, two runs score, 5-4 Cubs. Max intentionally walked Heyward next, and then things really got wild.

Javier Baez struck out swinging (inning over right?), but the ball got by Wieters, who was shaken up when Baez hit him in the head with his bat on his back swing. Weiters raced to get the ball, but threw it away into right field trying to get Baez out at first, and another run scored, 6-4 Cubs. But wait, Baez hit Weiters in the the mask with his bat, shouldn't he be out?!? No, according to the umpires at the park that night, but after the series MLB confirmed that the umps got it wrong, Baez should have been out, the run shouldn't have scored, and the inning should have been over. Weiters was clearly shaken after a play where he was wrongly charged with a passed ball and an error, and then he was charged with catcher's interference on the very next batter loading the bases. Scherzer must have been in disbelief because he hit the next batter forcing in a run, 7-4 Cubs. ESPN calculated that of all the things that went wrong in the 5th inning the odds that all of them would have been outs was about 1-in-4, and the odds that none of them would be outs was 1-in-2,183,406,113.

The game wasn't over though! The Cubs scored again in the top of the 6th taking a commanding 8-4 lead, but the Nats scored two in the bottom half, 8-6 Cubs. Top of the 7th, Cubs score again on a questionable play where slide interference could have been called, 9-6 Cubs. Nats loaded the bases for Bryce Harper int the bottom of the 7th, but he only managed a long sacrifice fly, 9-7 Cubs, and then Zimmerman struck out to end the inning. In the bottom of the 8th, the Nats had two on no outs, but Lind grounded into a double play, then Taylor had an RBI single and the Nats only trailed by one, 9-8 Cubs. Lobaton hit a two out single to put runners on first and second, but then the Cubs catcher made a snap throw to first with Trea Turner batting to try to pick off Lobaton. He was called safe at first, but of course with the Nats luck he was called out on review. The bottom of the ninth the Nats brought up Turner, Werth and Harper to try to get something going, but they went quietly, with Harper striking out to end the game.

In the end, the Nats outscored the Cubs (like they outscored the Dodgers last year), but couldn't score 'em at the right times. Having grown up a Cubs fan, I thought I knew something about baseball heartbreak and misery, but Washington hasn't won a World Series since Walter Johnson brought home the title in 1924, and in these past six years the Nats have put on a master class in soul-crushing losses.

(click here for all the pictures)

Monday, October 09, 2017

Chickin' Sittin'

Nora has had a strange obsession with chickens for some time. No one really knows what prompted her ardor or what specifically it is about them, but she loves chickens. Not like Gonzo or Colonel Sanders, but in a sweet little girl kind of way, which she demonstrates by writing them songs, incorporating their moves into dance, and occasionally pretending to join the flock.

SWS also likes chickens and started seasonally renting them spring of Owen's third grade year. Each year the chickens would magically appear sometime in the fall, disappear over the winter, re-emerge for the spring and then disperse for the summer. Last year the kindergartners and fifth graders even conspired to design and build a new coop for them (the fifth graders nixed the swimming pools and flat screen tvs, but did keep the castle theme). The new coop made its debut this fall along with their new residents, Angel and Thyme.

The chickens are well loved and taken care during the week, but what about when the school is closed? That's where we come in. After happening upon Ms. Fineran, the Food Prints teacher, one Saturday afternoon shepherding the chicks back into their coop, we mentioned that we lived just down the street and would be happy to take-over chicken duty on the weekends.

Ms. Fineran was amenable, the kids were thrilled, and began reporting for chicken duty the following weekend. Now we get a few fresh eggs for our trouble a week, until winter...

(Click here for all our chicken pictures.)

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Tokyo 2017

Tokyo 2017

Quick work trip to Tokyo with a lovely morning exploring the Imperial Palace East Garden.

(click here for all the pictures)