Sunday, January 26, 2014

Allez Brussels!


Funny thing about climate economics: you tend to have a lot of meetings in exotic locales (South Africa, India, Japan, West Virginia...) which means that Allen periodically has to travel abroad for duty and country, and has on occasion asked me to join him. I have always demurred, for a variety of reasons: I was pregnant; the kids were too young; I had too much going on at work; I had a bad experience in Paris in high school and didn't want to go back.

But maybe because my passport had expired and I was filled with wanderlust, or maybe because after a hectic holiday season, a few days in a foreign country with my husband was too tempting, when Allen asked if I wanted to join him in Brussels over MLK weekend, for once I said, "yes."

We started checking on flights (and whether the government would broker a budget deal in time lest Allen be grounded by another shut-down while I enjoyed Belgium in January by myself) and checked with the grandparents to see if Grandpa Fawcett could handle picking the kids up on Friday the 17th and dropping them off on Tuesday the 21st while Mom Mom and Grandpa Don took the kids for the long weekend (and Mom Mom would help out Tuesday's drop-off). The stars seemed to align and after bidding the kids farewell, Allen and I headed off to Brussels.

It was a rough start for the kids and Mom Mom, as after they made it home from school to grab their stuff, our poor minivan failed to start, forcing them to move all their stuff (and safety seats) to Mom Mom's car, delaying their drive to Silver Spring where they encountered street closing which put the kibosh on their dinner plans. But pancakes the next morning, a trip to Great Falls and an afternoon at Aunt Katherine's (with bath toys!) more than made up for it.


Meanwhile, Allen and I had a lovely first day in Brussels, having been allowed to check into our hotel as soon as we arrived, which was before sunrise, and many hours before we thought we'd be allowed, which meant we could shower, change, get breakfast, sight-see, take a nap, and see some more sites before an early dinner and crashing. The next day we slept in until noon at which point we decided to delay a trip to Bruges (which would take an hour by train) in favor of visiting the Atomium (which was 15 minutes by metro). This was clearly a mistake as model of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times wasn't nearly as cool as the canal based Flanders city is rumored to be, and because of heavy rains the following day (my last day in Brussels), we never managed to make it there choosing instead to sleep in even later and shop for  souvenirs.

The trip home to DC proved interesting. Allen had a couple days of meetings, so we said goodbye on Tuesday morning as I headed out to the airport.  Meanwhile, both DCPS and the government closed in anticipation of 4-8 inches of snow that afternoon. By the time my flight landed in Dulles, about three inches had fallen, and while I suggested I could take a shuttle, Grandpa Fawcett gallantly braved the roads (which were mostly empty) to pick me up while Mom Mom stayed with the kids (and stayed over for a second night as the roads continued to deteriorate after I arrived back home). The kids were not particularly excited to see me, but they were pretty excited for a sleepover in Owen's room that night and a second snowday Wednesday (which meant, due to a scheduled half-day on Friday for staff-development, our kids got a whopping day and a half of school for the week bringing their 2014 tally up to 10.5 days).

Thursday the kids actually made it to school and I went to the office. Allen beat us home and was rewarded with a much more enthusiastic greeting then I'd received by our offspring, but it was hard to begrudge him since as much as I'd enjoyed our time overseas together, it was nice to have our family reunited and home.

(To see all our Belgium pictures, click here).


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Lone Wolf of the Pinewood Derby


Owen sort of started Cub Scouts this year.  He's been going to the pack meetings, but as the only member of the Wolves this year, there haven't been any den meetings yet, so we've been a bit iffy on the whole thing so far.  But at the last pack meeting in November though, they announced the Pinewood Derby would be in January and that we couldn't pass up.

I remember building my Pinewood Derby car with Dad as a kid.  It was a metallic blue beauty, perfectly balanced with lead weights, and we spent countless hours working graphite into the wheels and axles.  It all paid off with a win at the West Branch pack level, and a trip to the eastern Iowa Pinewood Derby race in Cedar Rapids.  I didn't go any further, but it was my favorite memory from my Cub Scout days.

We brought Owen's Pinewood Derby kit to Iowa to start working on his car in Uncle Ken's shop over Christmas, but it proved a little too cold to work out there, so we started in earnest in January.  Owen designed the car, Grandpa and Daddy did the sawing, and Owen worked on sanding (with a little extra help from Grandpa).  We took the car over to Katherine & Lee's to polish the axels and put on a coat of metallic red paint, and finished off the car with a curly W painted in white.

Saturday was race day, and Owen was all set with a cool looking car and a new Cub Scout uniform. All the cars looked pretty slick, and when Owen finished 5th in the first heat (I missed filming it), we were a little worried about the competition.  In the second heat (1st race in the video) he came in 3rd, and things were looking up.  The third heat (labeled second heat below, oops) he came in second, but the race wasn't recorded, so he had to do the third heat again (this time correctly labeled third heat in the video) and he rocked it with another 2nd place finish, so no harm done.  We waited for the scores to be tallied: out of about 60 cars the top 24 would advance, and sure enough Owen advanced to the next round.  In Owen's Quarterfinal race he finished a very strong 2nd place to advance to the Semifinals. Now his car was going up against some real tough competition.  The kids gathered around eagerly and the cars went off in the tightest pack we'd seen all day.  The top three would advance to the finals. The car in lane 6 eeked out the victory about one length ahead of the second place car in lane 5, who in turn was ahead of Owen and the rest of the pack by a little less than a length.  The last four cars, fighting for the final spot came across the line in a photo finish, separated by no more than a fraction of an inch, the electric eye gave the last spot in the finals to the car in lane 4 and Owen was across the line in 6th place. He may have missed the finals, but it was a great run for the lone Wolf on Capitol Hill, and I'm sure he'll be back for more next year.

(click here for all the pictures)

Sunday, January 05, 2014



The kids' skates were a big hit at Christmas, so much so that they wouldn't even let the snow and cold in Iowa stop them from trying them out.  So we knew we would have to get them over to the Rec Center for some skating as soon as we had some decent weekend weather at home, and sure enough they had a blast skating around the track.

The next stop was to hit the big time with a trip to an old school roller rink with the Brown's.  We made a night out of it with a trip to Denny's (don't ask), and an awesome time skating the night away.


(click here for all the pictures)