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)

Monday, September 18, 2017

Back to the Woods


Camping is like sailing to me (without the accompanying nausea) -- it's one of those activities I want to like in theory -- I know it's good for the soul and that the kids love it -- but I don't, and so Allen is lucky to get me to agree to it once a year. Having met my quota for 2017 back in June, I was confident that the rest of my year would include electricity and running water. So when we received an invite for annual Friends Meeting of Washington's Family Camping Trip for the weekend of the 16th, I figured we'd take a pass.

But then we learned that the "Mother of All Rally's Patriot Unification Gathering" had been scheduled in DC that same weekend, along with a counter-protest, the "Juggalo March on Washington," a parade for Fiesta DC and the H Street Festival. Suddenly, hanging with Quakers in the woods seemed far more appealing.

So Allen packed up the car while I took the kids to orchestra, after which we drove to Catoctin. Allen set up the tent while Nora searched for salamanders and Owen tried to paddle a leaky canoe. We dined al fresco on homemade pizza from the camp's pizza oven, had s'mores by the campfire, enjoyed the stars, and helped Owen digest the ending of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (he's going to need a break before book six...).

In the morning, we ate pumpkin bread, had Meeting by the campfire, found more salamanders, broke camp and still managed to make it back to DC (which was miraculously still standing) in time for Owen's climbing class.

It was kind of perfect -- Allen might even get me to go three times next year...

(To see a few more pictures, click here.)

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Party Party

Planning birthdays day celebrations for the younger members of the Fawcett-Zimmerman household is always a stressful endeavor as Owen's birthday is always right before the start of the school year and Nora's is always Labor Day weekend. As the child of a teacher, I'm constantly surprised that Owen's best friends regularly choose to decamp DC just days before classes in order to extract the most of their summer vacation; the fact that Nora's friends also choose to leave town on the anniversary is less surprising, but no less frustrating.

While this year we were spared the drama of the venue cancelling on us the eve of the event, we found out early on that three of Owen's closest friends were not going to be around for his actual birthday. After a little debate, we decided to move the day to a more user friendly one and celebrate Owen's birthday after the first week of school. Fortunately, Zava Zone was able to accommodate the request (and 14 of Owen's closest friends).
Having delayed Owen's birthday a week, we couldn't really handle putting off Nora's as well (not to mention that doing so meant that we would be encroaching on the beginning of all the extracurricular activities of her friends which would probably lead to even less turnout). In the end, we settled for a few really good friends and some classmates whose presence we enjoy -- which honestly, is more than most kids get -- celebrating her a mere day after the actual event at Climb Zone (her zone of choice). Which for us is pretty impressive.
Anyway, both kids had a great times. Both parties were viewed as successes and so ends the Fawcett-Zimmerman summer/fall party planning responsibilities.

(To see Owen's birthday pictures, click here.)
(To see Nora's birthday pictures, click here.)

Friday, September 01, 2017

Great Eight!

Nora really came into her own at seven, or rather, it became increasingly clear to the rest of us who she is. She is one to always have a bon mot (and has just enough French to know what that means), tends towards the silly, does not like it when you go off-script, is working on becoming a better loser, still likes a good cuddle, and really likes to shake her booty. Nora developed a core group of friends at school this year but kept her old friends close. She learned how to play the viola and how to do double-dutch. She boogey boarded for the first time. Nora discovered Zelda and Youtube. She had her First Communion and saw a total solar eclipse. In between, she wrote some plays, a few books, some questionable poetry, and a lot of songs.

We don't always know what Nora is going to do or say -- which makes living with her both exciting and at times exasperating -- but we know that it's something that will usually make you stop and think, and often smile (sometimes despite yourself). Happy birthday, baby girl, now have fun stormin' the castle.

  1. "I'm not sure which is better: hunting a llama or having a llama."
  2. We go high.
  3. Sometimes you just need a disco dance party, even if it's in the bathroom.
  4. Science is fun! Baseball, is more a matter of taste.
  5. "I'll wrestle sharks tomorrow..."
  6. Yippee-Kai-Yay.
  7. "Thank you, thank you very much."
  8. "This is the most amazing experience of my entire life! I have never seen anything as amazing as the solar eclipse!"
  9. Buckethead: Two buckets; one head! 
  10. Always remember, the "Importance of Balance."

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

First Day, Part Deux

First day
SWS starts the school year off with a conference day, which meant that Nora started third grade the day after Owen started sixth. She's at the same school with the same group of friends though for the first time will have Owen's former teachers (they've been duly warned).

First day

Monday, August 21, 2017

Total Solar Eclipse


"This is the most amazing experience of my entire life! I have never seen anything as amazing as the solar eclipse!" - Nora
The last total solar eclipse in the U.S. during my lifetime passed through the Pacific Northwest in 1979, and I remember when I was studying astronomy in High School learning that the next total solar eclipse in the U.S. wouldn't come around until the far off year of 2017.  In 1993 I saw a partial solar eclipse, with all the cool pinhole projections of the solar crescent from the dappled light coming through the trees. But then, I put it out of my mind for a long time. Then a couple years ago I came across the Great American Eclipse website, and decided to mark August 21, 2017 on my calendar.  I thought about moving our beach trip to Charleston, SC to see the eclipse, but we needed to wait for the school calendar to come out, and sure enough the eclipse fell on the first day of school. For such a great educational experience, I wouldn't mind taking the kids out of school, but for Owen it was going to be his first day of Middle School, and it would be really hard to miss out on the first day. For Nora though, the 21st was a conference day, so she wouldn't actually have to miss anything.  After a little hemming and hawing, and talking with Elaine, we decided that this was too great a chance to pass up, and Nora and I would drive down to South Carolina on Owen's birthday, and drive home the next day after the eclipse. We booked an AirB&B right by campus in Columbia, ordered some NASA approved eclipse glasses, and even convinced Aunt Katherine to join us on the adventure.

On Saturday morning we watched Owen open birthday presents, then hit the road for South Carolina. The drive down went smoothly, with only a little bit of traffic. In fact we got there before our condo was ready, but fortunately we were able to hang out at the pool while we waited (though we did need an extra stop at Target to pick up swim suits). We had a lovely dinner, put Nora to bed, and Katherine and I watched Game of Thrones before heading to bed ourselves.

After a nice lazy morning, we packed up and went to the University of South Carolina intramural fields across the street from our condo to pick out our viewing spot. The morning was a little cloudy, and the sun was actually behind the clouds at first contact (C1), but the clouds over us quickly cleared off for the initial partial stages of the eclipse.  We could see plenty of big clouds on the horizon, but we were cautiously optimistic that they would hold off. Things started to get really interesting about 15 minutes before totality, the quality of the light started to change, slightly dimmer with sharper shadows, almost like there was a strange filter applied to the whole world around us. The temperature began to drop too, and the wind picked up.  It was in the mid 90's before the eclipse, and by the time we reached totality it felt like the temperature was down to the 70's. The last few seconds before totality you could really feel the excitement, crickets chirping, street lights coming on, Bailey's beads and then the diamond ring came into view, people started screaming, and then all of the sudden the sky went dark, the stars came out, our eclipse glasses came off, and the corona appeared before us.

I don't think I can put the beauty of totality into words, and all the pictures I've seen fail to do it justice. It looks far bigger in the sky than I expected, and seeing the type of thing you come to expect from beautiful Hubble images with your naked eyes sends tingles of excitement down your spine. It's easy to be jaded, and expect a big event to be overhyped and underwhelming, but after being in the path of totality myself, I have to agree with Nora. I've never seen anything as amazing as the solar eclipse!

(click here for all the pictures)

Middle Schooler

Middle school!
On Owen's first day of kindergarten, there was an earthquake. Today he starts middle school and there's a solar eclipse. You might want to start planning now for high school in 2020...

Have a great year, Panthers!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

He Goes to Eleven

Owen really came of age this year, which was a really strange year for that to happen. Just a few months after Owen's birthday, Donald Trump was elected, which drastically changed the trajectory of his father's career, and meant a demonstrable increase in the number of protests we participated in as a family. Being a fifth grader meant that Owen's curriculum this year covered, among other things, the Civil War, Reconstruction, World War II and the Civil Rights Movement, which added an interesting context to current events. We had talks about race and religion, discrimination, terrorism, hate, and all manner of uncomfortable subjects. And while at times it was really hard to have those talks, it was really interesting to hear Owen's perspective on things. It also made us really proud of the kind of man he's becoming.

Not that there weren't lighter moments this year. Owen went camping with his class in the fall, his family for Father's Day, and went to sleep-away camp with his friend Gabriel in the summer. He was the MC at a juggling show and gave the "I have a Dream" speech (well, part of it) with his class at the Lincoln Memorial. He climbed a 5.10b and learned the butterfly stroke.  He graduated from fifth grade and was promoted to DCYOP's intermediate orchestra. Owen built a computer and got a Switch. He body boarded by himself. He ate shrimp!

But despite all these changes, he's still the same Owen who's up for any adventure, always has your back, and still enjoys a good cuddle. Happy birthday, little man, we love you so much!

  1. Beware of Shadow Demons
  2. There are giants in the sky!
  3. Never approach the Yiga clan without your Mighty Bananas.
  4. Science Before Profit!
  5. Separation of church and state is fine an all, but Egyptian mythology and school mascots should get a pass.
  6. Just keep running.
  7. "Some of my best quotes I just say to myself."
  8. People don't know much about the Battle of Bladensburg and the War of 1812 -- particularly the impact of local pawn dealers on the outcome.
  9. "What I missed most was Nora."
  10. "The rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."

Sunday, August 13, 2017

OBX 2017

FullSizeRender 8

For our beach trip this year we returned to Pelican's Perch, the wonderful house we found in Duck last year. The weather this year was a bit unsettled, with lots of thunderstorms, but the temperatures never left the 70's, the water was consistently warm, and the scattered storms generally moved through quickly leaving us plenty of time to enjoy the beach.

We can't have a trip to the Pelican's Perch without having a tournament for the Pelican Cup, and of course Katherine brought plenty of games. The scattered storms meant there was lots of time for games in the house, but also meant that we were maximizing our ocean time when the weather was nice, so we didn't play as much corn hole this year. Nora jumped out to an early lead with a big Yahtzee win the first day, then Elaine came on strong with wins in Crappy Birthday and Tenzi's, and Owen charged ahead with an assortment of wins from Marbles to Memory, but my steady stream of wins capped off with a big Bocci game meant that I got to take home the Pelican Cup this year :-)

The big news for this trip was the completion of the Duck beach nourishment project. Beach nourishment pumps in sand from offshore to extend and protect the beach, and for the Pelican's Perch, it meant that the beach was considerably wider, and when we walked down to to the condos at Barrier Island, we could really see how much of a difference it made, as the beach there had eroded enough that all the umbrellas were packed into a very narrow strip of beach. Interestingly, beach nourishment is one of the climate change adaptation measures for sea level rise that we model in the costal properties model for the CIRA project, though the North Carolina Legislature banned the state from using sea level rise predictions for costal policies. I'm sure there's more to this story...maybe we'll find out when we come back to the Pelican's Perch next summer :-)


(click here for all the pictures)

Monday, July 31, 2017


Camp Shiloh
We tried to send Owen (with his friend Gabriel) to sleep-away camp last year, but a wealth of camping minded Quakers beat us to it, and there weren't any spaces available. This year, we were committed, so much so that Gabriel's mom and I registered the boys in January for a week in Shiloh right before we head to the beach.

This is not glamping. Shiloh is in the Shenandoah National Park and the campers spend a few nights in the camp before a two night hiking trip in the woods. They're not allowed phones, computers, junk food, or any other creature comforts. There are chores. There are bugs (though there was a mandatory lice check at drop off, so not all bugs). There might even be bears (I've been assured that they have a whole protocol for that).

We prepared Owen as much as we could, which for us meant getting a lot of gear and treating his clothes with bug spray, and for him meant rationalizing his and Nora's marathon viewing of Bunk'd. I'm not sure any of it was sufficient, as Owen looked a little dazed when we left him and Gabriel at the friendship circle, but we're still cautiously optimistic. Hopefully, on Sunday we'll pick up two boys who don't hate their parents and enjoyed the experience so much that they help us convince their sisters to go next year. We'll see...
Camp Shiloh

(To see all the pictures, click here.)

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Iowa Odds & Ends


Between Logan & Jessica's wedding, Mike & Ginny's 50th Anniversary Party, and the 4th of July, our Iowa trip was full of events this year, and already extensively blogged about ;-) There were other things that happened though: lazy days swimming in the Pond; playdates with Grace; re-plumbing the cabin AC drainboiling a coyote headloading graindesigning fountain heads; and of course, putting a new roof on the cabin. We wouldn't want anyone to think we weren't busy during our couple of weeks in Iowa this year...

Monday, July 10, 2017

A Golden Day

Long ago, right before the start of  a new school year, Mike Zimmerman dropped off his half of a less than successful double date early, only to rejoin his companions and meet the other half of the double date's new roommate, Ginny Grady. The rest of the evening went a lot better. The pair fell in love and on August 5, 1967, Mike and Ginny got married.

Forty-nine years, eleven months and three days later (summer schedules are tough!), friends and family gathered in West Branch, IA to celebrate their union. There was a mass, readings by grandchildren, a homily by Uncle Bernie (which included some mildly embarrassing anecdotes), hymns led by siblings and nieces, and a Papal Blessing. Afterward, the throngs headed out to the pond for lunch, some reminiscing, Texans, lawn games, swimming, swings, cowgirls, cousins, a video montage, a non-trivial amount of wine, some haircuts (we probably should have rethought that order), and a lot of laughs.

It was kind of amazing. We'd been planning the day for a couple of years, and in the run-up had mostly focused on logistics. But in the moment, watching so many people that have touched Mom & Dad's life gathered in one place and celebrating, laughing and crying over everything that's come to pass in fifty years, it really was an incredible experience.

Marriage is no joke. And sticking with it for fifty years -- through medical emergencies, and job changes, and moves, and deaths, and unruly teenagers -- is not for the faint of heart. But they did it, and I'm so glad that we got to be there to witness it.

I just hope that Owen & Nora took a lot of notes for ours...


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

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

We Love a Parade


Our celebration of Independence Day has been varied. We done fireworks at the Capitol. We've gone to the beach. We've watched neighbors set off explosives in the street (it's a DC thing -- and Mogadishu). But this year, we decided to take part in that most Americana of 4th Celebrations: a small town parade.

Leanna had mention that while Iowa City had already had it's Fourth of July parade (ironically not on July 4th), Coraville's was the morning of the 4th. So we, along with Aunt Marian, headed to the suburbs where we stood on a curb as local politicians, meat princesses, funeral homes, Shriners and churches, threw candy, water, and oddly enough, hot-cold therapy packs at us. The kids LOVED it.

Afterwards, we headed to the pond for dinner and some fire lanterns. It was a pretty great day.

Happy Birthday, America!

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

Monday, July 03, 2017

Dearly Beloved

We left for Iowa at 4:33 am on Friday and drove 13 hours and 50 minutes in order to make the rehearsal dinner of Allen's cousin Logan and his betrothed, Jessica, before their wedding the next day. Their's was to be the third wedding ever at the pond and the first we attended that we weren't starring in. And while I initially wasn't sure how it would feel to attend a wedding so similar to my own (except for some instances they vastly improved upon -- haystacks for seating and program fans proved to be brilliant additions, and if only we'd had the covered wagon back in 2003...), I found that merely being a witness to the formal joining of two people that love each other is itself an incredibly beautiful and moving experience. And far less stressful.

Congratulations to Logan and Jessica. Can't wait to see you back at the pond.

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

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Fourteen Years

The traditional gift for the fourteenth wedding anniversary is ivory; the modern gift is gold. We opted instead for dinner in the Inner Harbor at the Voltagio Brothers' Steakhouse. It tasted a lot better.