Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: The Year in the Eyes of Babes

For Christmas 2012, we gave each kid their own camera and let them loose. Just over a year later, we finally got around to downloading the fruits of their labor. It's not terribly surprising that both kids have inherited Allen's love of documenting even the most trivial of life events, but it's pretty endearing to see how they did so.


(Please click here for highlights of Owen's pictures, and here for Nora's.)

Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas 2013


2013 is a year for Christmas in Iowa, but before we left, the season got off to a great start with our open house, Owen's Holiday concert, and Christmas caroling with our old neighbors.  After caroling on Friday night, we went home to pack the car, and got ready to hit the road ridiculously early.  For several reasons we decided to attempt the drive to Iowa in one day: Katherine & Lee are no longer in Cleveland, Grandpa Fawcett was going to ride out with us to Iowa (providing an extra driver), and perhaps most importantly a blizzard was bearing down on Iowa, so if we were going to make it for Christmas, we had to make it quick.  In fact Uncle Ken called on Friday night to inquire when we were planning on leaving, and when Dad said 6 am, Ken simply said, "you better get off earlier."  So in the morning we carried the sleeping kids out to the already packed car, and were on the road by 5:30 am.  It started raining a little after Breezewood, didn't stop until just before we reached the Mississippi, and the snow started falling as we dropped off Dad at Ken & Helen's.  The kids did great on the 14 hour drive, and when we woke up to 6 inches of snow in the morning, we knew we made the right call.

We were the first to arrive at Grandma & Grandpa Z's, so the first few days in Iowa were relatively quiet.  We stayed in on Sunday to recuperate from the drive just making it outside to build a snowman, but on Monday we braved the bitter cold (it got down to -15 below that night!) to go over to Ken & Helen's for dinner (at noon, so it wasn't supper).  Thomas & Jen were battling various illnesses in the family, so we didn't get to see the boys, but Nora had a great time playing with Grace, and Owen got to break out the flexible flyer for some fun but cold sledding down the drive with Daddy and Grandpa.


Dave & Kara got in on Christmas Eve with a much needed burst of extra energy to keep up with the kids.  We convinced Mommy to let Owen and Nora open one present each, wrote notes to Santa, ate lots of Christmas cookies and candy, and made it to midnight Mass (well, 9 pm Mass, but it felt late enough with the kids).

Christmas morning brought all sorts of treasures under the tree from Santa, but I think the big hit were Nora's roller skates and Owen's rollerblades.  You might think that these were Summer toys that would have to languish in a closet for months before being played with, but no, the kids insisted on bundling up and skating in the snow.  And truth be told, they were right.  The kids had a great time on their skates, even in the cold and snow.


On Thursday we squeezed in a quick serendipitous visit with the Mettenburgs (who were in Iowa for Joe's nephew's wedding) in the morning, and Steve, Becky and all the cousins arrived around lunch. Owen was over the moon to have his cousin Sam around to play with, and Nora got a chance to be the big kid showing cousin Erin the ropes.  We opened more presents, played lots of hide and seek, and had a grand time with the whole Zimmerman family in the house.  That night Owen had a sleepover down in the basement with Sam, and Nora had a sleepover with Erin upstairs.  The boys were out almost instantly, but the girls could not seem to settle down and fall asleep.  After a few too many times getting out of bed, we decided that it might not have been all Nora's fault as she told us that Erin was getting up, going to the bathroom, getting a handful of liquid soap, and smearing it on Nora's cheeks.  We think she was just trying to share the secret of her wonderful smelling skin ;-)

All trips must eventually come to an end, so we hit the road for home on Friday (after not nearly enough time with the cousins according to Owen).  We stopped just outside Toledo on the way back to break up the drive into two days, and were home by Saturday night.  Christmas wasn't quite over yet though.  Sunday morning we had a faux Christmas brunch at Mom Mom & Grandpa Don's with Katherine & Lee, and Nancy, Danny and Christopher.  Mom Mom made delicious waffles, we opened more presents, and long last Christmas was over.


(click here for all the pictures)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Elfis is in the building

Owen informed us back in November that he was cast as a body guard in Watkin's 2nd grade holiday play. The role required a dark suit, some sunglasses, and maintaining order at the North Pole. On the designated morning, Allen and I dutifully took off work and recruited Mom Mom and Grandpa Fawcett to join us for, "Elfis and the Sleigh Riders." It was quite an event and Owen (and his classmates) totally rocked it.

Monday, December 16, 2013

We Are at a Play!

We've been a bit obsessed with Mo Willems' Elephant and Piggie series (Nora in particular) so when we heard the Kennedy Center was staging, "We Are in a Play," we made a mad dash to get tickets (which was a good thing given every show sold out). Kids and adults had a great time and Nora even got to hang out with her friend Jack who just happened to have seats next to us. Banana!


Saturday, December 14, 2013

House Party

We'd been meaning to have a get together with our old neighbors for a while, but as the months passed and the holidays loomed, we decided to go for broke and invite all our local friends to our place for some Christmas cheer. It was a little slow goings at first (only the Browns and Mom Mom were there for the first hour), but things eventually picked up until the house was fairly hopping.  Later, we were able to reflect on the evening, which taught us how quickly a gaggle of seven year olds can morph into a Lord of the Flies gang which catapults brownies. And that no party is complete without a plank-off.  And that if you have a former NFL athlete in your midst, then someone's going to feel compelled to challenge them to some ridiculous test of meddle.  And that we are really lucky to have such great friends and family so close by.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Animal House

In the middle of the kids' piano lesson on Thursday night, our neighbor Danielle stopped by and in hushed tones (in case I said, "No, thank-you") informed us that they would be having a petting zoo over at their house from 7:00 -8:00 pm that night and we were welcome to stop over with the kids. It seems that Danielle was charged with the hosting and entertainment duties for her office holiday party and that after her first suggestion of a DJ was vetoed, she decided to go in a different direction...

It was pretty impressive to see our neighbors' back yard filled with a pony, llama, goat, sheep, pig and numerous bunnies, ducks and chickens (also a little disturbing given the animals proximity to the pit their brethren has been roasted in for previous parties). The kids loved it and it certainly made for an interesting night at home.


Monday, December 09, 2013

Membership has its privileges

We try to make it out every year to see the trains at the Botanical Gardens, but it can be a challenge. As the space is fairly small and the demand fairly large, you can end up waiting outside in the cold for an hour or so, or more accurately, Allen can wait outside in the cold while the rest of us check out the other exhibits until her texts us. Once inside, we usually only spend about 15 minutes watching the trains before the crowds chased us out.

But a month or so before its unveiling, I got an email from the "Moms on the Hill" list-serve informing me that by joining the Friends of the National Botanic Garden Fund we could both support Owen's favorite place on earth, and attend the holiday preview of their annual "Season's Greenings" display which meant avoiding the masses and getting to enjoy cookies, wine, and hot chocolate while leisurely touring the gardens after dark.

So I sent off a check and an RSVP for five, and on Saturday night we (including Grandpa Fawcett) spent an hour and a half marveling at all the wonders. The entire center was largely empty which meant we had the run of the place (literally -- Owen and Nora kept disappearing down pathways) and could spend as long as we wanted in each room enjoying DC in miniature as well as various scenes and trains (this year's theme was World Fairs). It was a pretty magical night which was topped off by swinging by the National Christmas tree on our way out.

It was by far the best and easiest way to indulge one of our favorite holiday traditions and as it doesn't require Allen to battle the elements, probably means we're about to become lifetime members.

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


Monday, December 02, 2013

Nora, the Crocodile Lover

Given how much the kids (and us adults, too) enjoyed "Lulu and the Brontosaurus" at the Imagination Stage, Mom Mom decided we should also check out "Lyle the Crocodile." Nora in particularly loved the show (there was singing, and tap-dancing and a deranged cat!), and while she was too shy to meet the cast, she at least allowed us to get a picture of her near them.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

TJ Class of '93


As hard as it may be to believe, it's been 20 years since I graduated from High School. And while the winds of fortune have scattered us about the globe, Thanksgiving weekend brought many of us that still have family in the area back home, and proved a great time for our class reunion.  Of course I had to dig through my yearbook, and resurrect some old photos before the big event, finding scraps of evidence for my Robert Smith-esque (or was it Flock of Seagulls like) hair, but alas no record was kept of my purple locks.

While there are a few people from TJ that I still see from time to time (or at least see on Facebook), I was very pleasantly surprised to see some old friends come out of the woodwork.  I had a great time catching up with everyone, giving Elaine a glimpse of my High School life, and even appropriately (for a Science & Tech H.S. reunion) dorked out with Google Glass, though much like High School, virtually no one danced.  We closed down the reunion, and went over to the after-party at an Irish bar with Paul and Joe, and stayed out celebrating until 2 a.m., which I discovered is not nearly as easy to do as it was 20 years ago.

(click here for my pictures, and here for all the official pictures)


Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013


 This being an odd year, we had our traditional Thanksgiving dinner in Old Town with Nancy & Danny.  We may well have set a record this year for the most people their place for Thanksgiving. Christopher was there of course, Dad came with us to dinner, and Mom & Don were there, along with Katherine, Lee and Makayla.  Adrienne joined in for her 10th Thanksgiving in a row with Nancy & Danny, and she even brought her Mom this time!  The table was so big this year that Danny, sitting at the head of the table, was actually in a different room.  Nancy made her famous mole gravy, Danny cooked a superb turkey, Christopher meticulously placed all of the mini-marshmallows in perfect order on his sweet potatoes, Mom made her grandmother's dinner rolls, and Elaine indulged me with my favorite pumpkin pie.  It was a wonderful time to stuff ourselves silly, and be thankful for such wonderful family and friends.

 Allen & Katherine
(click here for all the pictures)

Monday, November 11, 2013

On Belay!


Back in High School, I spent many hours bouldering on the rocks at Great Falls, and after a few too many close calls, decided that I better get a rope and learn to properly rock climb.  So I took some rock climbing classes in college, and learned how to do things the right way.  In grad school, there was a group of us that did quite a bit of climbing in Austin and elsewhere around Texas, but I haven't managed to get out climbing much since moving back to DC.

For the last couple years, Owen has shown some affinity for scrambling around on the rocks whenever we go to Great Falls, so I knew that sooner or later we'd have to get him roped up.  When Andrew, one of my climbing buddies from Texas, checked in on the morning of Veteran's day and asked if Owen and I wanted to join him and his son Luke climbing at Carderock (on the MD side of Great Falls), of course we had to jump at the chance.  I dug out my old climbing gear, whipped together a webbing harness for Owen, and we headed out to the rocks.  The weather was perfect for climbing, and Owen did a great job climbing up three different routes.  It was probably the last decent climbing day of the season, but no doubt we'll be back out there for more in the Spring!

(click here for all the pictures)

Sleep Over

Aunt Katherine has been lamenting that now that she doesn't live in Cleveland (conveniently about 45% of the way to Iowa) we never spend the night at her place anymore. Meanwhile, former sk8ter boy, Brad Brown, has been coveting the relatively unobstructed hill Katherine lives by. So, with a three day weekend and perfect weather in the forecast, we decided to make them both very happy by inviting ourselves over for the night and the Browns over for the afternoon.

The grownups got the lay of the land before inviting the kids to try out the lane on their scooters. We then had a few rounds of ladder ball and corn hole (plus some frolicking in the leaves and some bamboo jousting) before the Browns had to head home.

Shortly thereafter, Mom Mom and Grandpa Don came over and after some more corn hole, ladder ball a state quarter sorting frenzy and some Sponge Bob Squarepants (with commercials!), we headed out for some food and a couple of pitchers of margaritas before Mom Mom and Don called it a night. Back at Katherine's, the kids cheered Grandpa Fawcett on to a darts victory before we finally tucked them in for the night, and then the rest of us settled in for a game of Phase 10 (or "Phase 11" in Katherine's version). We eventually made it to bed some time after midnight, which could have been terrible, since the kids woke up sometime around 7 am, but fortunately, since we were at Aunt Katherine's, we just sent them up to see her...


(To see all the pictures from our day/night at Aunt Katherine's, click here.)

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Field Trip


I had the pleasure of chaperoning Nora's class field trip to the National Gallery of Art West Wing this week.  The kids all played Art Detectives, and tried out different ways of thinking about the artworks, exploring the use of color, posing as different subjects, and even imagining the sounds that a painting evokes.  The kids were all great, and it really is wonderful that we have such amazing cultural resources right in our backyard.  Hopefully we'll be back soon!

(Click here for all the pictures)

Sunday, November 03, 2013



For quite a while it was clear that I was going to be traveling internationally at the end of October, but I wasn't quite sure where I'd end up going.  There was a meeting in Bariloche, Argentina at the base of the Andes in Patagonia that I was really hoping to go to, but in the end I was more needed at a meeting in Tsukuba, Japan.  I'd been to Japan before, back in 2006 shortly after Owen was born.  On that trip I had a day in Tokyo, and I didn't remember too much of interest in Tsukuba, so I wasn't anticipating anything too exciting from a travel perspective, and I was a bit bummed about missing out on Argentina.  It turned out though that I had Friday afternoon open, and a couple of us took a bus to Mt. Tsukuba for a really interesting hike.  We took a gondola up to the top of the mountain, hiked up to the summit temple, then hiked along the ridge line over to another summit temple, and hiked down to an amazing temple complex at the base of the second mountain.  The views from the summits were beautiful, the hike down through the different types of trees at various elevations was gorgeous, and the temple at the base was the perfect end to a Japanese mountain hike.  It all made me feel a little bit better about missing out on Patagonia.

(click here for all the pictures)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

All Hallows

Beggars' night was a little off this year. Allen was in Japan which meant he missed out not only on the trick-or-treating, but also the recording for posterity our kids in all their costume glory (I did the best I could, but ninjas are notoriously hard to capture on film and princess can be capricious, particularly when there's candy to collect). Fortunately, while Allen couldn't be there, his source material was as both Mom Mom and Grandpa Fawcett helped with the trick-or-treating and insuring we ended up with the right kids at the end of the night (though we apparently also pick up a queen somewhere...).


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Grandparents' Days

Grandma & Grandpa Z - 2013 Visit
So prior to the machinations and insanity that was the government shutdown, we suggested to Grandma and Grandpa Z that they should visit us in mid-October when the kids were off school for a couple of days, to enjoy all that DC has to offer. For a while it looked like DC didn't actually have anything to offer and we were doing searches for family friendly vineyards in Virginia and state parks in Maryland as their arrival loomed, but then miraculously the government re-opened just in time for me to ask for leave to pick my parents up from the airport.

We got a lot in over the course of a few days. On Friday we drove down to Skyline Drive where we had a picnic lunch and then Allen, Grandpa Z and the kids went for a hike on the Appalachian Trail to Compton's Peak while Grandma Z and I took more of a leisurely stroll through the woods. On Saturday, Allen and Grandpa Z went sailing with Grandpa Don (after dance class and t-ball, of course) while Grandma Z the kids and I headed over to our old neighborhood for their annual block party. On Sunday we met up with Mom Mom and Grandpa Don at Imagination Stage to see, Lulu and the Brontosaurus. Monday Grandma and Grandpa Z babysat while Allen went to work and I went to conferences after which we headed over to Great Falls for a little more nature. Tuesday the kids went to school and Allen and I went to work for at least part of the day while Grandma and Grandpa Z recovered from their many adventures and did laundry. Wednesday Grandma and Grandpa Z flew home but promised to return in January if the government shut down again...

(To see all the pictures from Grandma & Grandpa Z's visit, please click here.)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

And so it ends...

end shutdown
So after 16 days, Allen and I are finally at work -- though I had to leave early in order to pick my parents up from the airport and my first order of business upon reporting for duty was to ask for the next three days off for their visit...

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


atlas culture
Allen and I have been slowly completing our to-do lists (and adding to it after the ceiling started leaking Friday night...) as the shutdown drags on and the kids are in school, which leaves us with lots of time and energy to hang out with the kids on the weekend. So Saturday, Nora skipped dance class to attend her friend Miyako's "Frog Princess" birthday party, and while the rest of the attendants decided to skip out on the nature hike owing to the remnants of Tropical Storm Karen, a little fairy and I enjoyed a lovely walk in the woods.

When we got back, the Mettenburgs had arrived to attend Joe's 20th high school reunion while we watched Hugh and Gigi, the latter of whom enjoyed a sleepover with Owen and Nora (who especially enjoyed it). Since Joe & Cate had to leave just after lunch on Sunday, we decided to take advantage of the Capitol City Symphony furlough discount and expose the kids to a little added culture (though we probably shouldn't have exposed them quite so closely...).

It was a lot to do over just a couple of days. Good thing we had Monday off for Columbus Day in order to be fully rested for work... oh, never mind.

(To see more fairy pictures, click here.)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Field Trip

I volunteered to chaperone Nora's first field trip before the shutdown looked like it was going to happen, and was a little concerned I wasn't going to have enough leave to cover it. Turns out that wasn't a problem.

So on Wednesday, instead of my regular furlough tennis match with Allen, I went with Nora and her classmates (technically I met Nora and her classmates as there wasn't enough room for all the volunteers on the bus) back to the same Homestead Farms where we'd picked apples a few days before. Thankfully, the temperature had dropped about 30 degrees in the intervening days, making it much more enticing to pick pumpkins, meet farm animals and participate in hayrides. Even more luckily, the remnants of Tropical Storm Karen held off Wednesday morning and we didn't get rained on the entire trip (the same couldn't be said for the poor preschoolers that went on Thursday).

(To see all the field trip pics, click here.)

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Shutdown Week 2

Shutdown day 8
So this whole shutdown thing is going on far longer than we anticipated. There is at least some hope now that we will receive back pay after this is all resolved, and many local businesses have been very supportive throughout the whole ordeal. (Special shout out to Atlas Brew Works for the discounted growlers!) Still, it's not a good feeling to be a pawn in this whole standoff, and having chosen a career of public service, and truly believing in the work that we do, this whole ordeal has become incredibly painful and disheartening. Can we please go back to work?

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Apple Picking

Before all the shutdown madness started, Mom Mom and Aunt Katherine suggested an apple-picking excursion. We checked our schedules (ours, were incredibly open but the kids had some stuff going on...) and decided that Sunday afternoon would be perfect. And aside from it being 90 degrees in October, it was.

We got some fresh air, picked a lot of apples -- cameo, enterprise, fuji and suncrisp -- and even snuck in some surreptitious bites (when you're not getting a paycheck, sometimes you have to channel your inner Jean Valjean in order to feed the kids). It was a welcome distraction from the goings on in DC and our bounty meant that I had some additional chores to fill my time with in the upcoming week.

(To see all the apple picking pics, click here).

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Shut Down


It's been a weird week here in Washington. On Monday, we dutifully reported to our respective offices, working feverishly to complete everything that needed to be done over the next few days on the off chance that the government was unable to reach some sort of agreement regarding its budget. On Tuesday we reported to these same offices to record phone greetings and email auto-responses informing people that due to the current fiscal disagreement, we wouldn't be able to help them and if they left a message we'd get back to them when the government re-opened. Then we secured our offices, went home and drank (ok, technically we played tennis first).

It really shouldn't have come as a surprise that our government would eventually implode, after all, we've been doing "shut-down" prep every nine months or so and our last debt ceiling crisis was a little less than two years ago. But typically, these things involve a flurry of activity at the last minute allowing us to just skirt disaster, and this time there was no activity at all.


So we hunkered down. We organized things in the house. And I calculated just how much this was costing us in lost wages (enough to hurt, in addition to the thousands Allen lost being furloughed nine days earlier this year due to the Sequester). By day three of the shutdown, we started the process of applying for unemployment insurance shortly before we picked our kids up from school where our daughter had been in lock-down due to a shoot-out with the Capitol Police two blocks from her campus. It was a pretty bad day.

It's hard not to take much of this personally. Allen works for the EPA and I spent a fare amount of time over the past three years working on ACA related stuff -- which means we're both on Ted Cruz's hit list. And while we're spending a lot of time feeling sorry for ourselves (we do, after all, have a lot of time on our hands just now), we recognize that we're pretty lucky. We don't live paycheck to paycheck or have crushing debt or medical bills which means that even if we don't receive back pay (though it looks like we might), we'll be fine. A lot of federal workers won't be.

And so we continue to wait. And hang pictures. And work on our back hands. And drink increasingly lower quality alcoholic beverages. And do yard work at Katherine and Lee's place for food.  And hope that one day we'll get a tweet that we can actually go back to work.


Monday, September 30, 2013

September Round-Up

We blogged a lot this summer, and since we didn't have a working computer and/or were traveling for much of that time, we wrote a whole lot of blog posts in a small period of time. It was a bit draining. So after Nora's birthday party (which was after Nora's birthday, which was after school started which was after Owen's birthday party which was...), we decided we needed a break. A little time apart. To get some perspective on it all.

But now we're back, and complete with a highlights reel:

  • Nora started ballet/tap
  • Owen started another season of t-ball
  • We went to the last Nats home-game of the season (ok, technically the second to last -- they had to make up a rained out game afterwards, but ours was the last scheduled one).
  • The Nats were eliminated from the playoffs
  • Owen started cub scouts
  • and Allen and I took in a cultural event at the 9:30 club

And with that, we prepare ourselves for a fun filled October...

Monday, September 09, 2013

Party Foul

Nora's birthday party was supposed to be easy -- it was our fourth party at The Little Gym and as it didn't involve me being 9+ months pregnant (the first one) or a tornado (the third one), we figured this one would be pretty simple. But while innocently confirming our pizza order late in the afternoon on Friday, I discovered that the powers that be were under the mistaken impression that the party (which I had booked six weeks before) began at 6:30 pm rather than the contracted 4:30 pm and that another party had been scheduled for the same time.

It was then that the panic set in. Even if I was ok with having 15 four year olds from all over the metro area (which means some of them had to drive an hour each way to get to the fete) celebrating Nora's birthday from 6:30 to 8:00 pm on a Saturday night (and to be clear, I wasn't), I wasn't sure how to contact them all to inform them of the change given several were daycare friends who's only contact info I had was their parents' work emails which aren't necessarily the best way to contact folks on a Friday night.

For an hour I kept leaving increasingly hysterical voicemails to The Little Gym (which hadn't responded to my email with the confirmation info and wasn't taking my calls). I called Grandpa Don to ask if I had any legal recourse. I discussed with Mom Mom alternative party venues that could accommodate 15 little kids that might have an opening in the next 24 hours. I drank a lot of wine.

And then I got the magical email apologizing and saying that the party was still on. (They called later and offered to give us the party for free if we took the later time slot, but we demurred).

We arrived the next afternoon with a feeling of trepidation, but despite the confusion and anxiety, it ended up being a pretty amazing party. All the kids had a really good time, Nora loved being the center of attention, and her friend Lizzie even proclaimed it "the best party ever."

Which made us feel pretty good about things...till Owen asked Nora on the way home where she wanted to have her next birthday party.

(Special thanks to Mia, Ben, Violet, Lizzie, Hazel, Jo Jo, Curtis, Miyako, Erin, Evan, Makayla, and Natalie for spending this afternoon with us. To see all the party pics, please click here).

Wednesday, September 04, 2013


Because Nora's birthday is invariably around Labor Day and because her birthday is only 11 days after Owen's, we always move her friends' celebration back a week to maximize party attendance as well as give ourselves a three day reprieve. And so, instead of corralling 15 four year olds around over the weekend, we:

And on the third day we rested in preparation for the second week of school (and subsequent corralling of said four year olds).


Sunday, September 01, 2013

The Fantastic Four

I once heard a report on NPR that cuteness peaks at age three. The argument was that babies needed to be attractive in order to convince parents to care for them, but once they hit age four, they were self-sufficient enough that the biological imperative to be beautiful began to fade.

I've never been able to find the study since, mind you, but I believe it. In part because it's hard to imagine Nora becoming any more adorable than she was this year (when she wasn't on the floor kicking and screaming, that is). But mostly it's because a year ago, we had a cute toddler still in diapers (barely), who napped (sometimes), and used a bee bee, and now we have a little girl who doesn't require any of that (well, maybe the nap at times), who goes to school, can "read," and pretty much runs the whole show. And while I'm so proud of how independent Nora has become, I hope she still "needs" us for many years to come. Happy Birthday, baby girl, I love you so, so much.

  1. Strike a pose.
  2. Breakfast dessert, lunch dessert and dinner dessert are all real things. Snack dessert is just crazy talk.
  3. When life gives you lemons, ask for Pink Lemonade.
  4. Princess tea parties are the best.
  5. It's all about the accessories.
  6. There is reading, and then there is "reading".
  7. Mmmm, s'mores.
  8. Sometimes, you just need a hug.
  9. "Excuse me..."
  10. And in the immortal words of Alan Watts, "The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance."

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

School Days

School started in the District this week, and while for Owen this was old hat, for Nora it was a whole new world. On Monday we took Owen to Watkins, met his new 2nd grade teacher, Ms. Coleman (sadly, none of his close friends are in her room), and then watched while she shook hands with each of his classmates and slowly called them to circle time. We then ran over to Peabody for Nora's teacher conference (she'd met Ms. Ogden on a home visit before our trip to Iowa) and to check out her new room and the extensive renovations that Peabody underwent this summer before dropping her off for a day of Mom Mom.

Nora's official first day was Tuesday, so we parked by Peabody and took a quick picture in front of its sign before the mob overtook us. Owen had jumped onto the Watkins bus without so much as a goodbye, so Allen and I simply followed Nora over to the playground where she enjoyed the various structures as Allen & I chatted with other parents and waited for the bell.

Now, when Owen had his first day at Peabody, the parents were allowed to escort their kids to the classroom for a final farewell. We had mistakenly assumed that Peabody hadn't changed their policy in the intervening three years and so weren't particularly focused on goodbyes or inspirational speeches as the kids lined up to go in. It was only when Allen nudged me to say that Nora was waving goodbye that I realized my little girl was going off to school... and that I wasn't going with her.  Not even for a few extra minutes.

Owen has been largely noncommittal about school -- he likes his teacher but doesn't think he classmates are too big on listening. So far Nora's favorite part of the day is nap time, because they leave the light on. I'm just hoping for a fun year where they stay safe and learn and grow.

(click here for all the first day of school pictures)


Sunday, August 25, 2013

House Party

Owen informed us a while ago that he wanted to have his birthday at our new house. I was a little wary, as even though we have a much larger house than our old abode, a house full of seven year old boys seemed overwhelming. We countered with spending at least part of the party at Atlas Arcade and actually took Owen there to see if he liked it. Owen said fine, provided his party was organized into three parts:

  1.  Baseball
  2.  Arcade
  3.  Pizza/Cake
In the end, there were actually six parts to the party: Basketball (due to Grandpa Fawcett installing Owen's new basketball hoop at a kid-friendly height); Baseball; Marbles; Arcade; Pizza/Cake; and Bedlam. Sure a couple of the kids decided they didn't want to go to the arcade (we let them stay at the house with Mom Mom and Grandpa Fawcett) and the end of the party degenerated into girls (Nora, Mia & Gigi) vs boys. But despite all the screaming and yelling, we think they all had a good time...especially Owen.

(Special thanks to Leo, Hayden, Connor, Gabriel, Martin, Marcus, Mia, Ben and especially Gigi -- who travelled all the way from Pittsburgh to come to the party (and so her parents could attend a surprise party later that night) -- as well as all the grownups who helped. To see all the party pics, please click here.)

Friday, August 23, 2013

The End of an Era

We've had kids enrolled at the Department of Labor's Child Development Center since December 2006, but with school starting on Monday for Nora and Owen long since graduated to elementary school, we finally had our last day on Friday (though Nora might "drop in" a few times this year). We've had our share of ups and downs at Nobel, but for the most part, our kids have thrived there and made some life-long friends (though to be fair, it's a bit early for that claim) all while I was a few floors above them. Due to my proximity, I've been able to commute with them, nurse them, and rock them to sleep. We've shared storytimes, lunches, field trips, parties, recitals and the occassional festival. Through it all, our kids have had some amazing teachers who taught them, loved them, celebrated with them, consoled them, and just made their lives (and ours) better. Thank you all so much -- we're really going to miss you.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Magnificent Seven

Untitled Six was a crazy year -- new school, new house, new teeth. But despite all the curveballs that we (and life) seemed to throw Owen's way, he's come through with a smile and a song (most likely either Katy Perry's "Fireworks" or the "Star Spangled Banner"). In the past year, Owen has become an essayist, a solo percusionist, a Lego enthusiast, a photographer, a budding scientist, a pretty good infielder and a lover of compound interest. And while I cringe a bit each time he asks if I want to hear a joke, I melt a little everytime he says, "I love you, Mom." Happy seventh birthday, Owen, I love you so, so much.

  1. Life is pain...especially if you don't stick the landing.
  2. A tooth in the hand is worth $.01*2(t-1) in the piggybank.
  3. Blues are a blast.
  4. Superfriends are super great.
  5. What one lacks in pitch can be made up for in decibels.
  6. First rule of running club...actually involves stretching and isn't that exciting.
  7. Honey bees are awesome. Royal jelly...not so much.
  8. "Actually..."
  9. If you have to move, try to make sure it involves a space 3 times its predecessor's complete with a balcony.
  10. In baseball as in life, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but there's always another season.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Long Journey Home


Without our usual stop at in Cleveland with Katherine & Lee, we decided to get a bit more creative with the drive home from Iowa. An endless stream of Summer activities kept all the Zimmerman cousins from visiting Iowa during our trip, so we decided to spend Thursday night in Schaumberg with Steve & Becky.  This of course was a huge hit with Owen and Nora, since their big cousins Olivia, Maura and Sam are all so cool, and Nora was of course thrilled to to have her little cousin Erin looking up to her. We played lots of hide-and-go-seek (which is particularly exhausting when you're trying to be the fun uncle ;-), tossed the baseball around (so Owen could show off to Sam his improved skills from a summer of baseball camp and many hours playing catch this trip), and even got in a heated flag football game (Dads vs. kids of course ;-). The visit was too short, but we can't wait to get all the cousins together again this Christmas.

Visiting Chicago was great, but it still left a bit too long of a drive back home. Fortunately, Joe & Cate are in Pittsburgh now, and have a new home to visit and a new baby to meet :-).  So we struck out for Pittsburgh on Friday, and of course the Mettenburgs had an amazing feast waiting for us at their beautiful new home. Saturday morning we finally met Hugh (who is adorable), and tried to relax a bit to rest up for the big night ahead of us.  It had not gone without notice that the Pirates had a perfectly timed 4pm game that night, and Joe had managed to procure tickets for us all. So we all drove downtown, hiked across the bridge, and climbed up to our seats and enjoyed the gorgeous weather and the most breathtaking view in all of baseball. Oh, and the Pirates played too, if you can call it that, they lost to Arizona 15-5.

Sunday morning we finally said our goodbyes, and drove the last leg of our long journey home. It was a great trip, but we're all glad to finally be back sleeping in our own beds.


Thursday, August 15, 2013


Every summer we make a pilgrimage to Iowa, but this was the first one in a long time that didn't involve a stop at Aunt Katherine's & Uncle L's (though we had just seen them at the beach...). We were not short on companions, however: Grandpa & Grandma Z let us take over the homestead; Uncle Dave & Aunt Kara stayed an extra day after Dave's high school reunion to get a little nephew & niece bonding time (and so Kara could work on her curve ball); Ellen & John came down for a quick visit before heading to South Carolina for Caitlin's grad school graduation; A short drive to Marshalltown meant a luncheon with Bernie as well as a quorum of Pete & Jeannine's brood; Blaine came down for a night; We stopped by Ames to see Thomas and his crew; And there were were always a bevy of Fawcetts nearby.

In between all the visiting -- and sometimes during -- we ate a freakish amount of corn (due to the late planting this year, the sweet corn wasn't ready until our second day which was great for us though a bit of a bummer for the "sweet Corn Fest" two weekends before). We broke in the new pond swing, ate smores, camped in the tipi, caught our first (and second, third and fourth) fish, jumped off the high dive (Grandpa Z set a new record as oldest jumper), and just generally enjoyed those last lazy days of summer. It was a really good trip. And a long drive home.

(To see all the Iowa pictures please click here)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

State Fair

For years we've been going to the Montgomery County Fair with Brad and Marlo, and while it's been fun and all (who wouldn't enjoy seeing a "zonkey"), I've always felt that the kids and Allen had missed out on seeing the full glory that a fair can be.

But no more.

Because we were in Iowa a little later and a little longer this year, our visit happened to coincide with the Iowa State Fair and because we wanted to go down to meet Ms. Maria Eloise Fawcett, we happened to be a half hour from the midway on Tuesday afternoon. With the stars aligning so perfectly, we had to go...

It started out a little rough. It took us a while to figure out where the parking entrance was which meant Nora had a lot of time to covet the ferris wheel. Since the entrance took us right by it, we told her we'd ride it first thing. Allen dutifully went off and got $20 in tickets, we waited in line and then were promptly put into a car with orange stripes, right next to one with purple. Nora began frantically gesturing at the offending stripes and pleaded to change cars, but the the operator said we couldn't. So she proceeded to scream for three and a half minutes of the four minute ride, and it was only when Allen promised to take her to a nearby dragon roller coaster (while I ran back to the car and got "Pink Lemonade") that she calmed down.

Once peace reigned again, we took the tram to get a better view of the spectacle, stopped by the agricultural house to see the butter cow (restored to its full glory after the sabotage a few days before), hung out at the Hi-Vee park where I ran into a high school friend, partook in some of the less healthy fare, watched some baby ostriches being born, and let the kids get their farm on before driving back to Iowa City.

And while it made for a pretty exhausting three hours, but it was totally worth it.

(For more fair pictures, please click here.)