Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas 2014

Allen really, really loves Christmas. Which is why it's a downright shame that due to an ineffective flu shot, a bike ride in the rain, an excessive mise-en-place and probably too late of a Christmas mass, he pretty much missed it. Sure, he made it down to see the kids unwrap their Santa gifts, but after that he disappeared for several hours before I told him he had to wake up and shower if he wanted to go to Mom Mom's. He barely rallied, was shivering while getting dressed, had to rest on the couch eating dry toast before he could make it to the car, and went straight to Mom Mom's guestroom once we arrived where he spent most of the day (we would occasionally bring him out to the couch to watch us open presents or force more toast and ginger-ale down him). He was home and down for the count by 10 pm.

The kids had a great time and Mom Mom made a lovely meal, but I have to say it probably wasn't our favorite celebration. Also, with Allen largely out of commission, it was pretty much our least documented one, but thanks to Grandpa Don, you (and Allen!) can get the gist of our celebration here.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Here We Come a Caroling

One of our Christmas traditions is to go caroling on F Street with our old neighbors.  Several of us have moved away from the old block, but we still gather to raise our voices in song, catch up with old friends, and share some cookies and hot chocolate.  Happy Holidays F Street!


Bust a Move

Nora had a very enthusiastic final dance class on Saturday, and was in no way harmed in the making of this video. At least permanently.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Happy Solstice

They do things a little differently at SWS: instead of a holiday concert, Owen (aka Sun #2) and his classmate proudly present a Winter Solstice play.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

But Wait, There's More!

A scant three days after the final performance of Annie, the kindergartners had a holiday concert. Kate was scheduled to introduce the first song, but the weekend proved too much for her, so Nora had to step in as understudy. She sort of stole the show (or at least the parts I managed to record), and even provided some choreography for the "Jingle Bell Rock" mash-up with the first graders.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Holiday Party 2014

For our second annual holiday party, we had a plan. In order to avoid a repeat of last years' tribute to William Golding, we posted signs stating food was not to be brought upstairs (and subsequently flung downstairs) and co-opted Grandpa Fawcett's space for a viewing of Harry Potter, to give the eight-year-old crowd a quieter alternative to boys' club. But then the weather gods were kind and no diversions were necessary as the boys could be sent outside to shoot arrows and fence and scream and whatnot without disrupting the adult flow and killing our holiday vibe. It was a glorious thing, and it would have worked, too, had it not been for those meddling kids and Ronan shooting his sister with a blow gun.

So after an ice pack for Maeve and a confiscation of all weaponry, we had a very nice and relatively
calm holiday party.


Sunday, December 14, 2014



This fall, Stuart-Hobson Middle School decided to christen their renovated auditorium with a performance of "Annie" and invited the other members of the "Cluster" to participate. This meant that Peabody kindergartners, that attended weekly early morning rehearsals, would perform "Tomorrow" with the orphan herself. Nora initially demurred, citing shyness, but we pressed on because seriously, who is she trying to kid?

So we bought the movie and made her watch it. We ferried her to 8 am practices on Thursdays. We forced her to wear her brother's weathered long underwear to achieve that truly uncared for look. And on Friday night, to a packed house which included Mom Mom & Grandpa Don, Grandpa Fawcett, and Allen, Owen and myself, Nora sung her little heart out.  She watched the performance in awe with her friends, and when the big kids reprised 'Tomorrow' for the finale, the little kids stormed the stage to join them in song, take their bows and share in the celebration of a successful opening night. Beaming as we left the auditorium she loudly proclaimed it the "BEST DAY EVER!!!" before returning home where she and Owen proceeded to reenact the entire play while I channeled my best Miss Hannigan.

Then came the two Saturday performances. Nora was pretty tired after Friday night, and she mustered just enough energy for the Saturday matinee to mouth the words before leaving early to get ready for her friend Kate's birthday party. She had a blast ice-skating, but the idea of performing one last time was almost too much for her. We insisted that the show had to go on, made her don Owen's cast-offs again, and she lip-syched for the five minutes she was on-stage before demanding to go home.

All in all, it was a pretty awesome experience (and the Stuart-Hobson kids did a tremendous job), but I don't think Nora's quite ready for a Broadway run.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Trains, Flora, and Wine


One of our favorite holiday traditions is going to Owen's favorite place in the world, the U.S. Botanic Garden, and seeing their amazing holiday train display.  This tradition used to involve standing out in the cold in some impressively long lines, but last year Elaine figured out how to make this tradition 1000% better.  With a donation to the National Fund for the U.S. Botanic Garden, we could skip the lines and see the trains at the Botanic Garden Holiday Reception.

This year the Holiday Reception was the same night as Owen's cello recital, so we invited the whole family to join us for the concert, and then thanked them for their support of our budding musician with dinner at Tortilla Coast and a relaxing evening of wine, plants, and a lighthouse themed holiday train display.


(click here for all the pictures)

The Music Man

Last year, Owen asked to start taking cello lessons. I was a little put off at the time, since after years of good intentions I had finally managed to arrange piano lessons for both kids and thought I should at least get a victory lap before we moved onto the string family.

But Owen persisted and in the Spring, we successfully bid at the Cluster's Auction on group lessons for the DC Youth Orchestra Program. Come Fall, outfitted with a 1/4 size cello, Owen started Beginning Cello Level A.

I should note that while Owen's paternal great-grandmother was an accomplished cellist (she played with the Cedar Rapids Symphony) and Grandma Z played violin back in the day, Owen's string pedigree does not include Allen and I, so Owen was kind of on his own at home (I have some piano, sax and a lot of oboe; Allen has a bit of piano, a little trumpet and some guitar. But cello? Not so much). After a month or so, Owen's instructor suggested we supplement the group lessons with some individual instruction, so Owen started also taking lessons from his music teacher at SWS, Mr. James.

All of this was building up to Saturday night's recital, in which about 200 beginning students played Jingle Bells, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and a host of other tunes. While our clear favorite was Hot Cross Buns by the Level A cellist, there were some other standouts -- some extremely talented harpist and a lone baritone that nailed the Star Spangled Banner -- with only a few painful moments, (I really wanted to give all the beginning oboes a hug after their rendition of Lightly Row -- it gets better!).

All in all, it was really exciting and endearing to see so many young people at the start of their musical education. And it was all worth it for the smile Owen donned after his performance when he found his cheering section (Grandpa Fawcett, Katherine & Lee, Mom Mom & Grandpa Don, and Allen, Nora and I).


(To see Owen's class performance, please click here)