Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Grands Exit

We packed a lot into Grandpa and Grandma Z's visit. There was the theater. And a celebration of democracy. And a religious rite of passage. And ramen!

And on the fourth day, there was a relaxing jaunt to the National Arboretum. For a couple of hours we took in nature's beauty (while giving the bald egrets their mandated berth) and allowed Grandpa Z to pick up some tips for the Hoover Library grounds back in West Branch. It was a lovely end to a lovely trip. Hopefully Grandpa and Grandma Z will return soon (after all, there's another march in two weeks...).

Monday, May 01, 2017

The Body of Christ

We weren't sure if Nora was going to make it to her first Holy Communion. We'd become disillusioned with the Church of late, particularly the Washington Diocese, and had been spending more time exploring the family's Quaker side. And while Nora isn't necessarily great with the whole "silent worship" aspect of Quakerism, she loves that First Day school coincides with Meeting, which cuts her devotional time in half.

But we had promised Grandma Z that we would at least get Nora to her first Communion. So Nora attended classes, and celebrated her first reconciliation. She and I went to her retreat (where we had a dress rehearsal and made her banner). We picked out a dress (with Mom Mom and Aunt Katherine) and shoes (probably should have shopped around a little more on those...) and decided where and how to celebrate. And then we waited for the big day (and for Grandma and Grandpa Z to arrive).

Nora was both scared and excited for the big event, but in the end excited won out (plus irritation -- we hadn't broken in her new shoes and she was pretty grumpy about having to wear them for the ceremony). She did great, even if she didn't fully embrace the blood of Christ.

(To see all the pictures, click here.)

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Grandpa Z Got "Woke"

We weren't going to do the Climate March. We'd done the Science March just the weekend before, the kids had orchestra that day and quite frankly, Allen felt that it was a little too on point with work. But Grandpa Z showed up, having planned his sign and googled the elevation of Mar-a-Lago. And then Grandpa Z proceeded to make his first ever protest sign using a discarded box, drawing paper, some packing tape and the kids' markers -- all while waiting for Grandma Z's luggage to be delivered by American Airlines (don't ask). Given his level of enthusiasm and commitment, we just couldn't crush Grandpa's dream of joining the resistance.

Besides, Allen already had the perfect sign.

So Allen and Grandpa Z join thousands of others in protesting the current administration's stance on climate change. And we didn't even have to bail them out of jail.
(To see all the pictures, please click here.)

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Science is Real!

Science March

Sometimes even Scientists march...

(click here for all the pictures)


Shenandoha - Skyland 2017

After our day in Gettysburg, we took a night to recover and then headed West for our Shenandoah adventure. The weather was a bit spotty, with rain constantly threatening, so we got a little bit of a late start on Thursday morning.  We arrived at Skyland Lodge in time for check-in though, and managed to get a hike on the Passamaquoddy trail in and made it back to Skyland for dinner before the rain really started falling.  On Friday, we did a hike up to the summit of Stony Man, and then despite the complaining of a really tired little girl, Owen and I hiked over to Little Stony Man to scope out some of the prime rock climbing locations in Virginia.  Clearly we'll have to come back :-)

Shenandoha - Skyland 2017

(click here for all the pictures)

Thursday, April 20, 2017


Two months and several weeks ago, Owen's class was studying the Civil War. Each student had to choose someone from the time and write a couple of letters from their viewpoint (among other assignments). Owen decided to be himself, but as the son of a Maryland farmer who chose to join the Maryland Third Regiment and fight for the North (there was a previous backstory of his being a Quaker from Iowa, but they didn't fight at Gettysburg, and Owen really wanted to fight at Gettysburg).

Anyway, since Owen had studied Gettysburg so closely and neither I nor the kids had ever visited the site, and since Grandpa Don is great Civil War aficionado (plus it's only a hour and a half from our house), we thought it would be great idea to take a day over Spring Break to visit the historic battlefield.

Everyone was pretty much on board except Nora (and Mother Nature -- it rained the entire day) who threw a fit during the showing of "A New Birth of Freedom," as well as the Cyclorama. Nora eventually calmed down and was even willing to get out of the car to enjoy the scenery at Longstreet's Corp Artillery Reserve and the Devil's Den (which really should be expected). For Owen, the highlight was probably visiting Culp's Hill where the 3rd Maryland Volunteer Infantry Regiment defended the hill from the Confederate army (including a Confederate Maryland Brigade) keeping Cemetery Hill safe from the rebel force and insuring a Union victory -- for the record, his alter ego Owen Fawcett survived both the battle and the war.

We're hoping to return again one day, when the weather (and Nora's mood) are improved.

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

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

And Justice for All


The irony of living in DC is that while the residents of the hotbed of democracy pay taxes, we don't have voting representation in Congress. And even worse, if Congress decides that they don't like some of the laws we've passed, they can override them. And the current Congress isn't a particular fan of our gun laws. Or legalization of marijuana. Or using DC revenues to subsidize abortions. Or physician-assisted suicide. Or... well, you get the point.

What's particularly maddening is that so many of the Tea Party members -- who's namesakes fought against disenfranchisement and who, in theory, are federalists and therefore support local autonomy -- feel so strongly that what they believe is good for the District of Columbia is more important than what its residents think. Chief among these is Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Chairman of the House Oversight Committee.

While District resident's have long complained about Chaffetz reign of terror, this year they got "woke." We started calling members of Congress to complain about city issues, like late garbage pick-up, since Congress seemed so interested in how DC was run. We started offering to personally deliver letters to Congress for constituents back home, allowing them to remind staff in person of our limited representation while insuring they heard from the people back home.

And we started donating to the PAC "American's for Self-Rule," because in politics, money talks.

ASR's first big event was conveniently scheduled for Tuesday while the kids were at Camp Mom Mom's. So Allen and I dutifully bought our tickets and protested Congressional overreach by sipping margaritas at the H Street Country Club.

And low and behold, it worked. The next day Jason Chaffetz announced that he would not run for re-election.

So we won our first battle but the war continues. Allen and I promise that we will not rest on our laurels but will continue to fight the good fight: one margarita at a time.

Monday, April 17, 2017


Easter 2017
We had a fairly uneventful Lent this year: Owen gave up Minecraft, but didn't tell anyone; Nora didn't give up anything, but instead focused on her First Communion preparation; I dutifully wrote one letter a week; I'm pretty sure we ate meat on at least two Fridays; and Allen, well Allen doesn't really count in terms of Lenten celebrations.

But for Easter, we turned it up. We had brunch at Whole Foods. We had church at St. Josephs (and we were thirty minutes early, because, again, we turned it up). We had two separate Easter egg hunts (one at our house which culminated in a Nintendo Switch behind some Oatmeal Squares and one at Mom Mom's which culminated in a play). We had an amazing dinner and most of a cake (the part Sharon saved from Pumba). And then we got to leave Owen and Nora at their grandparents to celebrate the first two days of Spring Break at Camp Mom Mom's.

So really, it was a perfect Easter celebration.

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

Monday, April 10, 2017

Mettenburgs' Spring Break


It was Spring Break for Pittsburgh schools this past weekend, so the Mettenburgs came down to DC for a visit and a little museum hopping.  On Saturday we took the Streetcar to Union Station and walked over for a fun filled visit to the Building Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. We contemplated a visit the Spy Museum after a delicious lunch at Graffiato, but the lines proved too long, so we just walked over to the sculpture garden instead.  On Sunday we all visited the Natural History Museum, and enjoyed walking around the Mall on a beautiful day.  In between it all we might have played a few games of Catan too ;-)  It's so nice to have Joe & Cate and family back within driving distance!


(click here for all the pictures)

Monday, April 03, 2017

Opening Day

Opening Day 2017

Keeping the tradition alive, Owen and I went to the Nats Opening Day game.  This time we used our new season tickets, and the Nats came through for us, beating the Marlins 4 to 2.  Bryce Harper hit his 5th Opening Day home run, and the new guy, Adam Lind, hit a pinch hit home run in his first at bat as a National to give the Nats the lead.  Gorgeous weather, great game, let's play some ball!

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Spy Kids


Sometimes you just need to put on your spy glasses and go on a secret mission. Best not to post the details here ;-)

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Truth About Space

The truth about space

Every few months, the second grade hosts a "publishing party" where the authors share their work with a diverse audience from the SWS community in order to get feedback as they find their voice. Also there's juice and cookies.

This time around the focus was on non-fiction and so Nora decided to share her vast knowledge of space (or "spae"), with a focus on our solar system. It's actually a pretty comprehensive overview, though her website intended to give your more information on global warming isn't currently operational -- we'll let you know once she gets that link up and running. 

We hope you like it!

(To view the chapters, please click here.)

Friday, March 10, 2017

I have a dream...

I Have a Dream - 2017
My biggest regret when we decided to move Owen from Watkins to SWS for the third grade was that it meant Owen wouldn't be able to participate in the longstanding Watkins' tradition of the fifth grade reciting Dr. Martin Luther Kings's, "I Have a Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. I'd watched videos of previous classes and always teared up, so knowing that Owen would miss out on the that experience made leaving the Cluster extra bittersweet. Little did I know then, but the teacher behind the tradition, Amy Wertheimer, would eventually join SWS's faculty and continue the tradition at SWS. Sometimes the universe throws us a bone.

So on a cold Friday March afternoon, the rain/sleet paused for a few hours during which the fifth grade classes of SWS, Logan Montessori and Ludlow-Taylor joined together to relive a piece of history. There is something incredibly powerful about seeing a diverse bunch of 10 and 11 year olds recite those words. And in times like these, where it feels like a new injustice is reported each day, being reminded of those words seemed all the more important.

Thank you to everyone involved that allowed us to share this moment. Let freedom ring.

(To see all of our, and some others' pictures we copied, please click here).

Wednesday, March 08, 2017



I'm not sure when I'll be able to travel internationally again for work on climate issues, but I did manage to attend this March the workshop in Trondheim that I helped to organize.  What was really exciting about this trip is that I was able to convince Nabeel to leave his Silicon Valley VC world for a few days to join me in Trondheim to talk about how the autonomous vehicle future he's involved in can impact the climate, and give us some good ideas about how to capture this possible future in our models.

The conference was great, and we had most of a day to explore Trondheim before it started on Sunday night (and that was probably more than enough time to see all the sights you really need to see in Trondheim during the winter ;-)  We saw the quintessential view along the river and the old bridge; the northernmost medieval cathedral in the world; the statue of King Olaf Tryggvason who 'slayed Thor' bringing Christianity to Norway (but we later learned was in turn killed by a bunch of Thor loving farmers); we climbed up the icy battlements of the Kristiansten Fortress; we wandered the streets of Trondheim; and we warmed up with hot chocolate and waffles.  All told it was a wonderful few days in Norway.


(click here for all the pictures)
(click here for Nabeel's pictures)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Spring at the Springs


Since this was a non-western ski year, we planned back in the Fall to meet up with Joe, Cate and their crew at Seven Spring for President's Day weekend. We did not, however, plan on it being 60 degrees mid-February in Pennsylvania.

There had actually been a fair amount of snow earlier in the week and the temperature had been low enough that the good folks at Seven Springs were able to pack quite a base. That meant that Allen could enthusiastically ski in and ski out on Friday night. By Saturday afternoon, it was more of a hike.

Still, we had a great time hanging with the Mettenburgs. Owen skied with Allen and I the whole weekend (and even got some night skiing in there). Nora was in ski school until 2:30 each day, but we managed to catch her in action on the slopes (including when she skied two black diamonds!) and got to ski with her ourselves after class. Gigi did ski school the first day and then went out with the crew for the second day. Hugh learned how to do pizza in ski school, though he still needs to work on how to stop (as do we all).

In between we watched, "Into the Woods," played Catan and Seven Wonders, ate some delicious food, had a lot of wine, and started planning for Deer Valley, UT 2018.

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

Sunday, February 12, 2017


As everyone knows, or at least those familiar with the work of Douglas Adams, the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything, is 42, And as Allen turned that magical age this year, it behoved me to celebrate it appropriately.

So I planned and I planned and I planned. I planned overnight childcare (thanks Mom Mom and Aunt Katherine). I planned shelter (which involved casting a fairly wide net to include the lovely Inn at Spring Manor, which while less convenient than a host of Bed & Breakfasts in Fredrick, MD, did not involve any blinding wallpaper or creepy Victorian dolls). I planned a 15 course meal (well, Volt planned that, and planned it even further ahead than I did as they booked our reservation for 2018 - which seems odd given that 43 isn't the answer to anything besides the closest prime number less than 45 - resulting in an uncomfortable wait in their lobby while they sorted that out).

What I did not plan was to have a terrible cold on Allen's special day. Or the severe blisters all over my mouth that resulted from my attempt to mitigate said cold by drinking boiling hot tea.

Still, we made it through all 15 courses (personal favorites: butternut squash macaron with foie gras; tuna poke; lamb tenderloin; and beef cheeks) and Allen pronounced his birthday a success (especially when I made it up to him the following weekend with a nap and a cherry pie)!

Happy birthday, Allen Fawcett! Now I just have to remember to cancel next year's reservation.

(To see all the pictures, click here.)

Friday, January 27, 2017

On the Floor


One of the perks of living on Capitol Hill is that the kids get to do lots of cool field trips around Washington, and sometimes one of your classmates has a parent who's a Member of Congress and you get to do a really cool field trip.  One of Nora's friends happens to be the daughter of the Congressman from Los Angeles, and he was kind enough to host Nora's class for a little walking field trip over to see the Capitol!  We walked over to the Hart Senate Office Building, and rode the Senate Subway over to to the Capitol building.  Congressman Sherman took us to see the West Front of the Capitol where they were demolishing the inauguration stage.  Then the real fun began when he took us all onto the floor of the House and Senate.  We spent half an hour on the House floor, and the kids got to try out the voting machines (Nora was most excited to vote 'Present' because then Molly's Dad's name lit up as 'P Sherman', and if you don't find that funny, just watch Finding Nemo again ;-)

Congressman Sherman answered tons of questions from the kids, and he really showed off his skills (both parenting and Congressional) when one of the kids (let's call him David to protect the innocent) asked if he could pass a law that let him eat all the candy.  Of course the kids all cheered, but Congressman Sherman sagely told them that we need to think about the consequences of the laws we pass, and if we read this proposed legislative text closely, you might notice that only David gets to eat all of the candy he wants, and who do we think that candy comes from?  The rest of the second grade class no doubt. At that point the cheers turned to boos, and an entire second grade class could see a future for themselves scoring legislation for CBO.

(click here for all the pictures)

Sunday, January 22, 2017


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."


(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!