Thursday, December 31, 2015

Christmas in Iowa 2015

Christmas 2015 in Iowa
We left a balmy DC on a Wednesday to head to Iowa for Christmas, where the temperatures were moderately lower but the snow no more apparent. But the absence of a white Christmas was more than made up for by the presence of cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles (Uncle Bernie and Uncle Pete even made it by) and the release of Star Wars VII (Nora declined to go and Owen didn't like the ending and tried to warn others as if he had known that ***SPOILER*** he never would have gone).

We only had one full day of the whole crew as Dave and Kara had to head to Chicago to meet up with Kara's sister and parents, but we managed to get in dinner, presents, a couple of rock concerts, a whole lot of pictures (including one of Santa in the act!), pancakes a la Olivia and even got to hang out in the new sunroom Grandma and Grandpa Z finished hours before we all arrived.

Steve, Becky and the kids had to hurry back to Chicago iso that Olivia could perform for half time at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans with the school band. But not to worry, as we still had the Fawcett side of the family to hang out with. Despite a massive ice storm, we braved the backroads (and narrowly avoided a couple of ditches) in order to have a lovely lunch at Ken and Helen's with Grandpa Fawcett, Leanna, Grace and Grant (and Grandpa and Grandma Z).

Then we packed up and headed out the next day (to avoid a second storm on its way) in order to get back for our second Christmas celebration in Maryland.

(To see all the Iowa Christmas pics, click here).

Thursday, December 17, 2015

SWS Winter Concert 2015

Mom Mom and Grandpa Don missed Owen's Sinfonia concert due to a baby shower while Katherine, Lee and Grandpa Fawcett missed it in order for Katherine to run a marathon, Lee to run a half one and Grandpa Fawcett to watch. Not to worry, we told them, not only does Owen have a second concert with the newly formed SWS orchestra, and a duet in the new SWS chorus, but Nora would also be performing that holiday classic, "The Crawdad Song" with her classmates at the first annual SWS Winter concert.

The concert was scheduled for 6:00 pm which was a brilliant choice by the SWS administration in order to insure maximum attendance, but a disaster for the SWS administration in terms of adhering to fire codes as the parents, grandparents and other loved ones of 270 students descended into a gymnasium designed for an audience of 300 tops. It was a standing room only situation by the time I arrived at 5:40. By the time Katherine, Lee and John showed up (about 10 minutes after) it was an overflow situation.

But despite the mania, it was a really good, albeit a seasonally odd program. I'm genuinely not sure what the preschool and pre-K kids were singing but the kindergartners performed "Apples and Bananas" and "Little Bunny Foo Foo;" the second graders paid homage to the sixties with "Three Little Birds" and "Yellow Submarine;" the third graders sang "Albuquerque Turkey" and the "Hokey Pokey."

Nora got to show her flair for drama while demonstrating how to properly mourn dying crawdads (she had practice with jellyfish;-).



Owen and the chorus poised such existential meteorological questions as, "Who can see the wind?" and "Why are there so many songs about rainbows?"



And for the grand finale, the entire fourth grade, many of whom had only been playing their instruments for two months, covered "Eek!" and "Twelve Bar Blues."



It was a pretty impressive show, though I think everyone was ready for dinner at Liberty Tree afterwards, where Allen avoided crawdads but did take in a lobster roll.



Sunday, December 13, 2015

Sinfonia


Owen's cello playing has come a long ways since his first DCYOP concert.  A solid year of private lessons coupled with additional sectionals now that SWS has its own orchestra means that the pieces Owen now plays are more interesting and the manner in which he (and his fellow orchestra members) plays them is far more enjoyable. Added to that, the audience was encouraged to make noise this year (as opposed to last Spring's accidental contribution), making it a pretty great concert all around.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Toothless

Nora's 1st Lost Tooth
At Nora's dentist appointment in September, Dr. Jackson announced that Nora had some loose teeth with some permanent ones on the move. This was news to us, but as she was clearly of age, we started to make preparations for the big day (ie we found her tooth fairy box and Allen lectured Nora on the beauty of exponential growth to preempt any disappointment for only getting a penny for her first tooth) and waited. And waited. Months passed and still nothing.

Well, not nothing -- Nora's teeth could practically do 360s in her mouth and her permanent tooth appeared to be coming in between the loose ones in question. Finally, after a few failed attempts and Nora's blessing, Allen pulled Nora's first tooth and a delighted Nora got to show off to all her friends.

Now if we could just get the second one out she can proclaim "All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth!"

Nora's 1st Lost Tooth

Update: The second tooth held out for a long time -- so long that we became a bit worried that it was going to become a problem (it was kind of on its side and seemed to be re-treating into the gum), so after some aggressive loosening from Elaine, Nora pulled the second one on January 4th, by which time, her replacement teeth were pretty much already in.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Botanic Delight

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The tree is up, holiday cards are arriving, and it's time for the annual Botanic Gardens Holiday Reception.  Next to free parking with your zoo membership, there's no better deal in DC than a U.S. Botanic Gardens membership to skip the line for the annual train show, and instead attend the preview night with wine & cheese, trains, lights, and the kids having the run of the place for the night.  Katherine & Lee came down, and Jackie was in town, so she and Dad joined us as well.  Of course we also had to sneak in a side trip to the National Christmas Tree in front of the Capitol to boot.  If only the Hawkeyes would have won the Big 10 championship game, it would have been a perfect evening ;-)

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Saturday, December 05, 2015

Ice Capades

Nora was invited to her friend Milena's birthday-skating party. Initially all the kids were using the equivalent of skating walkers to glide across the ice. After a few passes though, Nora decided to try it on her own. She was a little rocky at first, but by the end, she was doing twirls and even making a new friend.




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

Friday, November 27, 2015

Roosevelt Island

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Mommy had to work the day after Thanksgiving, but the kids and I were off, so we decided to go to Roosevelt Island for our adventure.  The kids read all the plaques, and decided to, 'have fun on the way to save the day,' as they thought through how the duty of life relates to protecting the earth.

Then right as we were about to leave, we ran into Adam's brother Colin.  Figuring his family might be looking for him, and Adam might be with them, I called Karen, and sure enough a serendipitous play date on Roosevelt Island was in the cards.  Not a bad way to spend our post-turkey day.



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Turkey Day

It was a quiet Thanksgiving here in the DMV with a small gathering at Nancy & Danny's after some NE-SE kickball in the morning. Fortunately, we had Nora to get us in the spirit.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Art!

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Nora loves art, Nora loves marshmallows, a photo opportunity too perfect to pass up.  Great picture Mommy!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Happy 10th Birthday Blog!

Hard to believe it, but the blog is now 10 years old!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Hiking into the Sunset

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It was a bit too wet in the morning for our usual Veteran's Day Carderock climbing trip, but the afternoon was gorgeous, so we met up with Katherine and Lee for a hike on the Rachel Carson Greenway instead.  Instead of writing a thousand words, just look at the picture, that's all you need to know :-)

Sunday, November 08, 2015

If You Build It...

Birdhouse
The boys were off doing something on a rainy November day and none of Nora's friends were able to make it for a playdate, so the female line decided to finally make use of one of Nora's birthday presents... and power tools! Nora's construction skills would make Grandpa Fawcett proud, though I questioned some of her artistic decisions. Regardless, we finally have a place for birds to seek refuge in our backyard...once we actually hang it.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Boo!

The weekend before Halloween, we crashed a party at the Congressional Cemetery complete with a well-stocked bar, hayrides and had a preview of things that go bump in the night (or at least give you the heebie-jeebies).
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Hallows Eve was demonstrably less terrifying by comparison. Owen's Halloween costume was pretty much decided on his birthday when Aunt Jen and Uncle Ahzer gave him a Storm Trooper helmet which then just required a costume, blaster and some painter's tape to transform Owen into Commander Rex. Nora designed her costume herself, and while it took some effort to make her vision a reality, we made it work. And while we lacked both the vision and commitment of the Browns, we still managed to have a fun family Halloween.
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Me and You



She's working on a whole album now...
I want to be friends with you
I hope we'll make it the whole way through
Everything is going to be alright
We're going to have a great night 
I hope you respond to this request
Because that would be the best
So I talk to you, and you talk to me
What great friends we'll be! 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

What does find your heart mean?



The best part is her explanation of what the song means :-)
What does find your heart mean?
What does find your heart stand for?
Does find your heart mean you found me?
Does find your heart mean you found your heart?
Because you found your heart pumping
What does find your heart mean?
I'm not so sure about this
This poetry is getting weird
I'm not so sure what this is
Oh Oh
I'm not sure about this
Oh Oh
I'm not so sure what this is
Oh Oh
I'm not sure about this
You found your heart
What does it mean?
Found your heart means you found your love

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Sense & No Sense



The latest hit single from our songwriting sensation!
One way some things don't make sense
But another way they make so much sense
Check out these goggles when I have the lens down
It doesn't make much sense
But when I have the lens up it makes much more sense
Flaps down, doesn't make sense
Flaps up, makes sense 
One way some things don't make sense
But another way they do
Check out this block with these blocks down
It doesn't make much sense as nature
But when you put the blocks to the side
It makes much more sense as nature
Blocks down, doesn't make sense
Blocks to the side, makes sense

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Color Song



Nora has been busy writing songs this year.  One of her favorite compositions is her 'Color Song':
Blue and purple might go together
But pink and turquoise look quite better
Green and yellow look like weather
White and grey you might need a sweater
Here she is sharing it with her class :-)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Go West!

Colorado Springs
Uncle Dave and Aunt Kara moved to Colorado Springs last August, so we gave them a full year to acclimate before we descended upon them. The kids were initially confused that we were going to Colorado but not going skiing, but Dave and Kara proved that there are lots of other fun things to do in the Centennial State besides plummet down the a snowy hill.

We arrived Thursday night, immediately crashed and then awoke Friday morning to a huge breakfast courtesy of Kara. We then headed out to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, where feeding of the animals is actively encouraged (provided you purchase said food from their convenient placed kiosks). Everyone got into feeding the giraffes -- a few of the giraffes almost got too into it -- but Nora was the only one that really embraced sharing a meal with the peacocks. Fortunately, none of the animals reciprocated.

In addition to all the exhibits (and I'm pretty sure we hit them all except for the elephants), the zoo also has a ski lift with a climbing wall and playground at the top. The kids got to ride with Uncle Dave and Aunt Kara while Allen and I got a few moments of alone time.

Saturday, we headed out to "The Castle" and Kara's favorite hot dog joint, Johnny B's Taste of Chicago, before meeting up with one of Allen's high school friend, Paul, and his kids at Garden of the Gods. Once we made it past the initial entrance, we were a little sad we hadn't brought any of our climbing gear (though as Allen pointed out, he wouldn't really trust any of us to belay him), as the formations and the views are pretty amazing. Still the kids had a great time bouldering and while we discovered how terrifying playing "hide and go seek" can be in a 1,364 acre canyon, everyone made it out alive and in time for dinner with Caitlin (Nora's Godmother) and Paxton.

Caitlin was offered a job at the Aurora History Museum about a year before Dave and Kara moved to the Springs (and about 20 months before our cousin Brandon and his wife moved to Aurora as well -- apparently, all the cool kids are doing it), so they were kind enough to drive up for the night. Kara had skipped our convening with the Gods in order to whip up a huge spread (homemade baguettes, soup, hamburgers, salad, hand pies, cookies...), so we were able to just relax, catch up and hear all about their life at 5000 feet above sea level.

Sunday morning, Uncle Dave got up early for a donut run (including a cotton candy one for Nora -- her Godfather hooked her up nicely), before we headed to the airport to drop Kara off (she was flying to Chicago for her dad's 75th birthday), drop off the rental car and the had lunch with Dave before he headed back to Colorado Springs and we retired to our hotel room in order to wake up for our 7 am flight the next day.

It was too short of a visit, but I have a feeling we'll be back before too long...

(To see all the pics, please click here.) Colorado Springs

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Help Us Save the Planet People!

Help Us Save the Planet People
The original plan when we had kids was for us to attend mass once a month as a family, meeting once a month as a family, and that the kids and I would pray for Allen in the off weeks. Contrary to the lessons you learned from "The A-Team," sometimes a plan doesn't come together, and so for the first nine years of our parenting, the meeting part never happened.

I've been struggling with the mass part of late, however. DC is a pretty conservative diocese and has been flexing its political muscles on a series of issues that don't really reflect the values Allen and I want to impart on our kids. I thought after Pope Francis was inaugurated, maybe things would improve, and while I think on some level they have, his message of acceptance hasn't really been embraced by the kids' Sunday School coordinator.

So after a particularly frustrating Sunday morning in which the coordinator stated that, "science comes and goes, but God is forever" and informed us that I was expected to take a seminar on "Parenting for Purity" (I attended, but declined the helpful brochures and free CDs), I contacted Owen's friend Gabriel's mom, Megan, who attends the Friends Meeting of Washington and arranged to meet up with them on Sunday.

I don't believe that God takes sides in religions, but if I did, I would have to say that God was clearly favoring the Quakers this past Sunday. While Allen grew up with "First Day School" taking place after a lengthy period of silent worship in the meeting house, The Washington Friends start with it. The kids were handed snacks, allowed to draw and Nora even got to blow out a candle before being informed that the day's topic would be global warming: how does it impact the earth, and what we wanted the United Nations' 21st Session of the Conference of Parties to do about it when they meet in Paris this December. And also that the kids would be making a video describing their concerns that would be then sent to Paris.

Allen, who is rarely moved by the spirit, volunteered to lead the discussion and film one of the videos. Owen and Nora embraced Gabriel's suggestion that they focus on the impact on animals. Owen started drawing animals that are endangered (such as the Tasmanian tiger) while Nora focused on those long since departed (a t-rex complete with volcano). Owen and Gabriel then took turns narrating the video, culminating with an exasperated Nora shouting, "Help us save the planet, please! I'm begging you!" Then after 45 minutes of this, we joined silent worship for 5-10 minutes after which the kids stood up and explained to the meeting what they had done and what they were trying to convey in their videos.

Then they ate cookies and played outside.

Nora is ready to convert. Owen thinks we should split our time. Allen is being characteristically silent on the subject. We're clearly going back to meeting, but we'll still split our time going to mass and Sunday school as well. At least for now.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Marsden Tract

Marsden Tract

This weekend was the first Cub Scouts camping trip of the Fall.  The whole pack camped out at Marsden Tract, along the Billy Goat Trail between the C&O Canal and the Potomac River.  Owen and the other new Webelos got to go with the older Webelos down to the river in the morning to see the secret Webelos spot, a secret den along the Potomac, that looked like it would be the perfect place to hide from the passing Ring Wraith.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Rock On

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Nora got her own personal rock-climbing harness for Christmas this year, but we hadn't had a chance to use it. We'd planned to inaugurate it over Memorial Day weekend, but then she broke her arm. Nora bailed on a second trip due to the heat and requisite hiking. We were finally set to go over Labor Day, but things started looking grim when she slammed her thumb in the door at the doctors office. However, after some cauterizing and an x-ray, she eventually got the all clear.

We'd asked Andrew & Luke, Owen & Allen's regular climbing buddies to join us, as well as Owen's friend Leo, who'd been out of town for Owen's party, and his family, to join us at Carderock. Leo, was pretty nervous, but finally tried it after Owen lured him with a promise a Captain Rex helmet. Jonah did a little better and Micah managed to out-climb both his sons, though they were a bit too distracted to bear witness to his accomplishment.

Owen kissed the 'biener on his first climb and made it almost to the top of the second, but the real story of the day was Nora, who stopped a bit early in her climbing (she totally could have made it farther up), but bouldered like a champion and proclaimed that she would totally be up for another outing. Assuming she's in one piece.
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(To see all the pics, click here.)

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Party a Go-Go

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Nora's sixth birthday was not without incident. After having cupcakes with her new classmates, we headed off to the traditional birthday physical where after waiting a half hour to see her doctor, Nora opened the exam room door to peak out and then promptly slammed the door on her thumb. There were a lot of tears. There was a surprising absence of immediate medical care (there is also likely a physician change in our future). And there was one very ugly looking thumb nail.

The next morning Allen took Nora back to Kaiser for a trephination to relieve the pressure (or as Nora explained to her classmates, "They set my fingernail on fire and then blood squirted everywhere!") and took an x-ray to determine if her thumb was broken. The film was inconclusive, so they put her in a splint and scheduled an appointment with an orthopedist, warning us that she may need to be in a cast to immobilize said thumb.

To be honest, this is how our luck has been going lately, so I fully expected Nora to celebrate her sixth without opposable thumbs and possibly requiring me to spoon feed her cake. Imagine my delight when the call came at 5 pm Friday night that she was in the clear.

And so, on Saturday afternoon, eight little girls (and most of their parents) came to our house to play games with Mr. Justin from Labrynith (though the majority mostly played dress-up in Nora's room and tried to terrorize Owen), eat cupcakes that were way too rich, and then run around on the playground. It was kind of a perfect way to end our birthday season and most importantly, no one got hurt.
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(To see all the birthday pictures, click here.)

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Six!


OBX 2015
To be honest, I've been known to underestimate Nora. Sometimes, when I see her collapse into a heap of giggles while wearing a superhero mask, princess crown and the arm covers of her booster seat as slippers, I forget what a strong and fierce little girl she is. But this year Nora broke her arm and still managed to camp in a cast and dance in a sling. She went parasailing despite having pneumonia. Nora faced down bullies who questioned her right to wear disney princess attire. She skied a blue (well, part of one). She swam with her head in the water. She even ate calamari.

All of which is to say that Nora is sweet and silly and smart and funny and artistic and inquisitive and creative, as well as tough and very, very brave and we love her so, so much. Happy birthday, baby girl, now go and conquer the world!

  1. Not everyone lives in fear that their face will freeze that way.
  2. Fungus is not an acceptable food group.
  3. The sun will come out, tomorrow.
  4. Roald Dahl books should be thoroughly vetted before being included in ones bedtime routine.
  5. Sure, sticks and stones may break your bones, but bicycles are the unsung menace.
  6. "Do you even know me at all???"
  7. 67P is a lot easier to say than Churyumov–Gerasimenko.
  8. Some days you just have to channel your inner leopard princess of bling.
  9. Never forget the cuckoo blah blahs of cuckooness.
  10. And in the words of Nora herself, "Be happy. Be you."

Monday, August 31, 2015

And Another...

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The birthday celebrations continue, this time with a duel family party for the kids at Aunt Katherine's with cake by Mom Mom.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Back to School

First day 2015
For the first time since Nora was a baby in daycare, the kids are at the same school (in first and fourth grade)! A block from our house! And it's free! We're officially living the dream.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Party On

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Owen's birthday extravaganza almost didn't happen this year. To be honest, its a struggle every year to make the magic happen as invariably: we get back from Iowa mid-August, Owen has his birthday the following week, we have Owen's birthday party that weekend, school starts two to three days later. We then have a joint birthday party for the kids with family, Nora has her birthday, Labor Day is in there somewhere, we have Nora's birthday party, and then we're well into September when baseball, orchestra, dance, soccer, swimming and all other activities take over. As you can see, we have very little wiggle room in our calendar and have not let little things like tornados (Nora's 3rd birthday) or a thunderstorms (Owen's 8th) interfere with our meticulously planned fun agenda.

But the week of Owen's birthday, he came home from camp with a fever and migraine, and ended up going to the ER for another croup episode early the next morning. We kept him home Tuesday and Wednesday, flirted with the idea of sending him to camp on Thursday (his birthday), but by then a bad cough had emerged (making us fear another pneumonia victim though Children's swore on Tuesday that it wasn't that) and another headache and late day fever (as well as loss of appetite) sealed the deal.

But what to do about his birthday? We had 10 or so kids scheduled to spend 3+ hours at out house and no viable weekends to re-schedule until mid-September or later, and by then we'd be in full activities mode. Also, aside from the cough, Owen was healthy most of the day -- he just tended to get a fever and headache late in the afternoon. I didn't want to cancel because Owen had already missed all the fun of camp but I didn't want to get anyone else sick or have Owen pass-out mid-way through.

I conducted a Facebook poll asking how late one could cancel a party and the overwhelming consensus was to cancel it now. And while they were all very convincing, we ultimately decided to screw it, gave Owen some advil a half hour before his guests showed up and hoped for the best.

It went pretty well. The kids all had fun playing baseball and going to the arcade. I think Owen was feeling spent on the walk home and would have been happy to skip the pizza and ice cream in favor of a nap, but he really enjoyed hanging out with his friends before school started and he loved the presents they gave him.

Plus I got to cross one more thing off my to-do list.

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To see all the party pics (including some from the drone) click here.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Niner

OBX 2015

Eight was a big year for Owen, full of ups and downs.  He changed schools, made some great new friends, and learned that sometimes being a baseball fan means staying up past midnight, even if you're tired and cold, just to see your team lose a playoff game in 18 innings (also that some seasons, being a baseball fan can be rough). Eight meant independence and walking to school by himself (while we observed him the whole way from our landing). It meant learning to play on the cello both the theme from Mahler's first symphony and Ok Go's "The Writings on the Wall." Eight meant demonstrating proper climbing technique to the uninitiated, pitching an inning in AAA ball (little league AAA, mind you), skiing with poles and becoming a Bear (metaphorically via Cub Scouts). It also meant a few more hospital trips than we'd hoped. Eight meant a lot to Owen and a lot to us -- seeing him grow up, expanding his interests and demanding more independence, was pretty amazing. And given that nine is Owen's favorite number, next year should be huge... and hopefully a lot healthier. Happy birthday, little man. We love you so, so much.

1. Creepers gonna creep.
2. Make new friends, but keep the old.
3. Form. It all comes down to form.
4. "[McDonald's] food is bad and they know it. That's why they have to give you a toy."
5. It's good to be a level 7 Elf Wizard with a Pointy Hat of Power and a Chainsaw of Bloody Dismemberment when you're fighting a Large Angry Chicken.
6. "Asking questions gives you a reason to read more."
7. If they build it, we will come.
8. Zip-lining away
9. Third time isn't so charming when it involves ambulances.
10. FasterHigherStronger.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Be Happy, Be You

Be Happy, Be You

Nora decided to have a talent show with all her stuffed animals, but she was worried that they would be nervous.  So she prepared a speech to give them so that they would be nervous, "Be happy, be you." :-)

Saturday, August 15, 2015

SWS Meet-Up

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The day after we returned from Iowa was the annual Scouts Night out at the Ballpark. Last year we enthusiastically participated and had a great night at the Potomac Nationals park, but after three weeks of travelling - much of which with a sick child -- we just weren't up for camping with 100+ other families.

Fortunately, SWS allowed to bow out by organizing a back-to-school picnic at Yards Park. We all had a great time: Owen was able to hang with several of his buddies; Nora made a new friend, Matilda, who's going to be in her class this year; and Allen and I had a lovely dinner while chatting with some of the other parents.

And we all got to sleep in our own beds.

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Friendly Confines

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My love for baseball started when I was around Owen's age, listening to the Cubs on the radio, and each summer we would take a trip with the Centerdale Women's Club on a bus to Wrigley Field for a Cubs game.  Now it's finally Owen's turn to take in a game at the Friendly Confines.  We left Iowa a little early to visit Steven & Becky, and drive into town for a Cubs game.  Owen was thrilled of course to add another major league ballpark to his list, and the Cubs didn't disappoint, they hit 5 home runs, and beat the Brewers 9-2 for their 7th straight win.  The Nats may be having a disappointing season, but maybe the Cubbies will squeeze into the playoffs for a little October magic this year.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Iowa 2015

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Our trip to Iowa didn't begin so auspiciously -- we literally drove from the condo in Duck to a CVS Minute Clinic in the outer reaches of the Outer Banks to see if we could figure out what was wrong with Nora, only to discover that despite its website, the place didn't open for more than an hour. We decided that Nora would be fine hanging out in the car watching movies until we reached Richmond, VA where the clinic was both open and welcoming. Unfortunately, they weren't much help in diagnosing Nora, so after picking up a different flavored Children's Tylenol (that she still refused to take), we headed to Charleston, WV where we stayed for the night, while Nora' temp hovered around 104 range and her emerging cough drove Owen from the comfy bed that they were to share to the couch in the suite. We high tailed it out the next morning, drove to Iowa and upon arrival quickly dropped a 104.7 degree Nora on the Grandma and Grandpa Z's couch while we attempted to find a local pediatrician to see her. They wouldn't, so we muddled through the night and then Allen took her to an Iowa City Urgent Care clinic Tuesday where they proclaimed that she had croup (she didn't), gave her a steroid shot (it didn't help) and sent her home. By Thursday, her temp hadn't improved, her cough had worsened and she'd lost 4-5 pounds so I took her to a Mercy Urgent Care where they drew some blood (in the most painful manner possible), took an x-ray of her lungs, diagnosed her with pneumonia and prescribed some antibiotics. That coupled with an alternative method of taking acetaminophen, resulted in Nora finally being on the mend (and her completely sleeping through Uncle Bernie's and Aunt Ellen & John's visit.

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But while Nora and I spent the first few days of our trip relegated to cuddling on the couch (plus some tea parties, crafts and baking with Grandma Z), the boys had things to do and places to go: namely the pond to supervise the last stages of dock and high-dive renovation project. Allen went for a search and recovery dive to reclaim a lost board while Owen tested out the new ladder and making instructional dive videos.

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By Friday, Nora was able to spend a little time at the pond for the pre-Hooverfest fete with the Hoovers (and more importantly, Grace and Cousin Blaine). Saturday we actually all got to partake in some of the festival itself, though the boys had to represent alone at the pond (too exhausting) and the fireworks (too late).

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By Sunday, Nora was really starting to get her groove back, which was convenient as that was when her cousins arrived. Owen and Nora had a blast at the pond with their cousins, Olivia, Maura, Sam and Erin. Grandpa Z set a new record for the new high dive, Maura, Olivia and Sam tried it out, and there was an impressive amount of kayaking, paddle-boarding, and general merriment. Monday we road-tripped to Dyersville to see the "Field of Dreams" followed by some more pond time and a few rounds of hide and seek (FYI: Uncle Allen is a very good seeker).

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Tuesday, the cousins headed back to Chicago, Nora and Grace had an extended playdate as did Allen and Owen at the pond followed by us finally taking Grandma and Grandpa Z out for a belated anniversary dinner which we postponed due to Nora's self-imposed quarantine (and because Nora wanted to pay and she only got around to printing her own money and credit card that morning). Wednesday, we had a last day at the pond while Allen and Grandpa Fawcett went with Ken and Kent to see a man about a bridge...

And then we left for Chicago.

(To see all the Iowa pics, click here.)

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

No, it's Iowa

Field of Dreams

”Ray, people will come Ray. They'll come to Iowa for reasons they can't even fathom. They'll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they're doing it. They'll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won't mind if you look around, you'll say. It's only $20 per person. They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they'll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they'll watch the game and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh... people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.” - Terence Man, Field of Dreams.

Field of Dreams

Field of Dreams has been one of Owen's favorite movies since he watched it on a drive out to Iowa three years ago.  How could it not be, when it combines two of Owen's favorite things, baseball and Iowa?  Well, this year we finally made the pilgrimage to Dyersville with all the Zimmerman cousins to see the actual Field of Dreams. When we arrived there was even an actual actor from the movie dressed up as Shoeless Joe pitching to some kids (courtesy of the Make a Wish Foundation it turns out, not a regular feature of the site). The kids got to field balls and shag flies for a while, then Steve and I pitched for a while, so they could have their turn at the plate.  The clouds were starting to roll in, so we made a quick trip to check out what was really in that corn field, but then the skies opened up, and we rushed back to the cars and then home in the rain.  Heaven?  I could have sworn this was Iowa.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

OBX 2015

OBX 2015

This was a year for a beach trip with Mom & Don and Katherine & Lee to Duck.  There's something nice about the familiarity of Barrier Island Station, the kids love the giant pool, and the snack shack is always a hit.  After last year's Hurricane shortened trip, we couldn't have asked for better weather at the beach this year.  The temperatures were never above the low 80's, and for the first half of the week the Ocean water was warmer than I can ever remember.

OBX 2015

We had a few new adventures in store for this year's trip.  Last year Owen and I went hang gliding off the dunes at Jockey's Ridge (well Owen went hang gliding, and I went scooting along a foot off the ground while attached to a hang glider ;-), and Owen was set on another adventure this year, so we decided to go parasailing.  Wednesday morning Katherine & Lee, Owen & Elaine, and Nora & I all took turns being harnessed to a giant parachute and towed behind a boat on the sound.  Katherine & Lee had parasailed once before in Mexico, and were thoroughly impressed with the spectacular safety measures here in the States (e.g. not crossing the lines between two parasailing tow boats and dropping people out of the sky).  Owen was of course thrilled to give parasailing a try, though I suspect Elaine could have dealt with not hearing all of Katherine & Lee's stories beforehand.  Nora declared herself 'scared-cited', but once we were up she thought it was just like a peaceful swing with a view, and couldn't stop smiling.

OBX 2015

The other fun new toy for this trip was my GoPro.  After giving it a full workout on our ski trip last winter, it was time to try it out in the waves.  We took some fun bodyboarding videos, but the coolest shots really came from the way it could freeze the churn of the surf in mid-air and the smiles in full grin :-)  Not to mention the fun parasailing selfies!

OBX 2015

Katherine and Lee of course brought lots of games, and even signed us all up for a corn hole tournament.  Elaine & I won our first round match, but fell to the ringers brought in at the last minute to balance the bracket.  Katherine & Lee made it all the way to the finals, but fell to the same team that beat us in the second round.  We'll get em' next time.  The trip wasn't all fun and games though.  After our parasailing adventure Wednesday morning, Nora started feeling really tired, and by that night she was running a high fever that would last for the next 10 days, through the rest of the beach trip and all the way to Iowa, but that's a story for the next blog post...

(click here for all the pictures)

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Beach Balls

IMG_4433

The building museum is always a fun place to visit, and lately they have upped the ante with some cool experience exhibits.  Last summer was The Big Maze, and this year they staged The Beach, a gigantic ball pit taking over almost the entire floor.  We wanted to squeeze in a visit to The Beach before our trip to the beach, so before finishing packing on Saturday morning, we headed over to the Building Museum.  Unfortunately we weren't the only people with the same idea.  While last year we had The Big Maze almost to ourselves on a Saturday morning, the crowds and lines for The Beach were huge.  The kids decided they would rather run around and do all the regular exhibits instead of waiting in line, so we took in the spectacle of it all and had some fun playing with blocks :-)

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Best Little Theater in Town



After rave reviews for her performances in various "Play-in-a-Day" productions, we decide that Nora needed more of challenge in her thespian pursuits. So we signed her up for two weeks of "Atlas Theater Camp" where she channeled her inner sound designer and performed with 22 other kids (including her good friend, Hazel), "The Best Little Theater in Town."

It was pretty impressive. Two weeks of dedication to one's craft really ups the production value and improves script retention by leaps and bounds for the 5 to 12 age group. There was exposition and stage direction! There was a villain and a hero! There was a love-story! And there was dancing and singing because, as Nora so dramatically informed us, "Gotta have a tear-jerker, a 'boo-hoo- ballad' in every show, you know!"

Mom Mom and Aunt Katherine joined us in the audience, and we gave Nora and the rest of the troupe a standing ovation. Afterwards in the cast party, Nora didn't seem so certain she wanted to have an encore performance next year, but we're hoping we can convince that the shows must go on.

Atlas Theater Camp 2015

(To see the rest of the pics click here. To see the full performance, you'll have to come by to view the limited edition DVD.)

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Catoctin Camping

Catoctin Camping

For our summer Cub Scout camping trip, Owen and his fellow rising first year Webelo's, along with the Bears, went to Catoctin Mountain Park in Maryland for a camping and rock climbing adventure. We were a little worried about the weather, as it was forecast to be blisteringly hot along with severe thunderstorms, but while we drove up to the park in a torrential downpour, the weather cleared by the time we got to the camp site, and the heat and humidity weren't nearly as bad as we had feared.  For my part, I was responsible for the climbing portion of the trip, so after we set up camp, we hiked a mile and a half up the mountain to Wolf Rock with all my climbing gear, where I found a nice spot to set up a challenging but doable climb for the kids.  Owen of course wanted to go first, and he did a great job utilizing all the holds he could find in the cracks and on the face to find his way to the top. The rest of the kids eagerly followed, but found the climb was harder than Owen made it look.  In all 13 kids tried the climb, but only 3, including Owen and one of the older Boy Scouts with us, were able to make it to the top.  Great job Owen!

We cooked out over the camp fire (hot dogs and hamburgers for the kids, and steaks for the grown-ups ;-), and made peach cobbler in the dutch ovens for desert.  After a decent night's sleep in the tents, Owen and his fellow Webelos woke up bright and early to make breakfast for everyone: eggs and all sorts of fixings in the dutch ovens, with bacon and sausages cooked over the camp fire.  All and all it was great camping trip for all the Scouts!

Catoctin Camping

(click here for all the photos)

Saturday, July 04, 2015

July 4th, 2015

July4th, 2015

On Friday we went to the Nats game with Dad, Mom & Don, and Katherine, but we had an extra ticket, so Owen invited Hayden to join us.  This was quite fortunate, since we didn't have plans for the Fourth, and Hayden's parents were hosting a party for some friends and neighbors, so we were happy get together with them for our Independence Day celebration.  We had a great time at the party, and presumably the kids did too, but they were off in their own world for the most part, which might be why we had so much fun with the adults ;-)  When evening rolled around, no one really had plans for going to see the fireworks on the Mall, so we walked down to Lincoln Park instead to see all the 'neighborhood' fireworks.  We heard more than we saw, but I think everyone had a good time.

(click here for all the pictures)

Friday, July 03, 2015

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood...

Ben's
When we were buying our house, the realtor warned us that soon a DC landmark known for its chili and half smokes would be opening a few houses down and that we might be subject to the occasional breeze filled with the aroma of said half smokes and chili. We were undeterred, in part because we hadn't found any other houses that met our needs that we'd successfully bid on, and it wasn't really clear that Ben's Chili Bowl would ever open. After all, it collapsed just a few weeks into the renovation meant to maintain its historical fa├žade, resulting in a whole mess of issues. Construction finally started...and then stopped, due to a budget dispute with the contractor. Months past. Projected opening dates past. Other Ben's restaurants opened across the city.

Eventually, though, new contractors were brought in and we received a notice that Ben's would like to invite their neighbors in for a sneak peak. Grandpa Fawcett was pretty excited -- he'd been privy to all the building problems due to his regular site visits (during his morning constitutional of H street development) and wanted to inspect the final product. Uncle L was equally excited, having become a fan of Ben's shortly after he moved to the DC area, and feeling a little toyed with having to see the "Coming Soon" sign every time he visited. The kids were mainly psyched about free hot dogs.

We had to wait in a line that snaked around the corner to get in (though Ben's son brought out ice cream for the kids), and we were a little bummed that they decided by the time we placed our order, that milkshakes should be off the menu on a giveaway night, but all in all it was a fun and delicious (if you like that sort of thing) evening with n'ere a Cosby mention around (though weirdly there was a shout-out to Pauly Shore in the History of Ben's pamphlet). Welcome to the neighborhood, Ben's.

To see all the pics, click here.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sotano Over Exposed

Sotano at the Print Shop

Brad's band Sotano played an awesome kid-friendly show at the Pyramid Atlantic Art Center on Saturday.  The space was a funky art-gallery/print-shop that really leant itself to some cool washed out over-exposed photos of the band that made it look like they were straight out of an 80's video shoot.  The kids had a great time dancing, and even got to do some cool silk screening projects.  Keep Calm and Rock On!

Sotano at the Print Shop

Sotano at the Print Shop

(click here for all the pictures)