As we say above, this is mainly for friends and family. Michael's blog on the Middle East can be found here. Most of our other links can be found below on the right, but be sure to keep up as well with our family website, here. We also have discussion groups for genealogy, links to genealogical information on us, and our (semi-private) Flickr and YouTube accounts for those who are invited. You can also get a quick-navigation guide here.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Coco's First Night

Coco's ours. Actually, I think we're his. He arrived about 6:45 this evening. A little initial confusion, nervousness, etc. when the adoption lady left. Sarah was worried about how long it might take him to bond with us. Days? Weeks?

Bond? More like a Vulcan mind-meld. After less than five hours. He's sleeping next to her in her bed. And revenge for all those nights when she'd come into our bed because of a thunderstorm or whatever: he's crowding her, chasing rabbits ("Dad, do their legs move in their sleep?") etc. He disdains his doggie bed: he wants direct human contact. She went to bed at 10 (late for most nine year olds but actually early for nightowl Sarah).

These two are already best friends. I don't know what happens when she goes to school and Tam and I go to work tomorrow.

His photos don't do him justice. He's a beautiful shade of reddish brown, velvety coat. A bit scrawny — wasn't apparently raised very comfortably, but he and his brother were dropped off at a shelter in Charlottesville. (The Northern Virginia foster group we got him from referred to this as "southwestern Virginia," which would make the folks in Blacksburg or Bristol laugh, but then lots of northern Virginians don't venture south of Charlottesville.)

Oops. He just got up. We thought he needed to go potty, but he rejected going outside, using a training pad, or using a newspaper. Maybe he wanted something else. We're still in the adjustment stage.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Meet Coco: Coming Soon to the Dunn Family

It's awfully late, but this needs to be posted.

Meet Coco. Actually, at the moment his name is Kokomo, but as soon as he joins our family, hopefully as early as Tuesday, it will be shortened and the spelling changed to Coco. The sounds should be close enough and he may not have had the name Kokomo long (they say he doesn't seem to respond particularly to it in his foster home), and dachshunds are notoriously sloppy about spelling anyway, so I don't think he'll mind.

He's a year-and-a-half old male dachshund, who with his brother Bosco was left at a shelter when his owner could no longer care for them. He and his brother snap at each other so separating them doesn't seem to be an issue.

We still need to have a home visit by the adoption folks, but if all goes well they'll leave him with us Tuesday in all likelihood.

We have been moving towards dog adoption all year, and are determined to take the plunge; we've met a lot of nice shelter and rescue dogs as we prepared, but today meaning Saturday as it's after midnight), actually going to consider a dog we'd seen online who didn't show up, we met Coco instead. Sarah was swept off her feet, and I, having had a dachshund from the third grade till grad school I think it was, was also delighted.

The wonderful news was muddied a little by a flat tire which, with a hernia, I can't change. We called road service and the guy we use couldn't break loose one of the lug nuts, so we had to tow the van from the outer suburbs to our neighborhood repair folks, but by 10 pm we had it up and running, at some expense, not counting the expense of a new family member.

More about Coco, and more pictures, when he joins us. With luck we'll have him Tuesday night. If it takes any longer, I believe Sarah will probably explode.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sarah's Tennis Trophy

Sarah played tennis for Corpus Christi school this fall and is very proud of the tennis trophy she received at the end of season party tonight. For video of the pizza party and trophy presentation, those with access to our YouTube account can find it there (later tonight: It's uploading now).

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

Sorry I haven't been posting more, but those with access to the family YouTube account can see a short video of our low-key Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sarah's School's Blue Ribbon School Award, Plus, First Honors!

Tonight we attended a special Mass to recognize Sarah's School — Corpus Christi School in Bailey's Crossroads, VA — only 321 schools nationwide got the award this year, only 50 of them private schools. So the Catholic diocese of Arlington was proud to have four of those (and a fifth was a private Christian school in northern Virginia). Full story here; picture of the award ceremony at left below (from the Catholic Herald here).

Sarah's in the school choir, so she sang at the Mass, but I didn't take pictures there. The picture above left is Sarah with her blue ribbon (all the kids wore them) and the back of the special program for the celebration.

(As always, I leave her face off the public blog. Family with access to our family Flickr photosteam can go here to see the full pic and others.

To gild the lily, Sarah got first honors for her first quarter report card for fourth grade this week!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I've been terrible on this blog lately, mostly because I've been blogging for work and have a limited capacity to generate words. But we've been busy. Sarah's fourth grade is a good one for her, some troubles in Spanish but enjoying her other courses; she also has taken up tennis, and while rain hascanceled a couple of matches and one of the practices, she's enjoying it.

Over Columbus Day weekend we went to West Virginia and western Maryland, basing out of Martinsburg, WV and spening time at Antietam, on South Mountain, and other points in MD and returning vis old favorite Winchester in VA.

I do hope to do more here soon.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Family History: Some Snapshots

Okay, I need a motivation to blog more here so I'm going to make this my family history blog as well. I'll talk about various interesting ancestors when I don't have anything else to say.
It's late right now so I'm going to just post a picture and some tantalizing info for the first one. More soon.

This is Anna Bandy Wikle, December 18, 1796 - June 29, 1878. She was born (probably in South Carolina) during the Presidency of George Washington. Though lots of people had their photos taken before 1878, the fact that she lived in the hills of northern Georgia make it particularly interesting that she did. I copied this in the 1960s from a tintype in the possession of a cousin in Georgia. Anna was my great-great-great-grandmother; add a great- for Sarah.

I'll discuss Anna more later. This is just an attempt to sow a little interest.

Sarah calls this picture "creepy." I suppose to a kid today, it is. But you're looking at the face of a lady born in Washington's administration, who never left the hill country, some 213 years after her birth.

More to come.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Good Weekend

I'm negligent once again about keeping up posting. Friday was Tam and my 16th wedding anniversary, and Sarah has taken up tennis, and had practice Friday night and a match this (Sunday) afternoon. Yesterday we hung out around Frederick, Maryland, checking out a new Visitor's Center at the Monocacy Civil War battlefield and attending a street fair, then came back via White's Ferry, the last working ferry on the upper Potomac.

I still haven't posted reflections on turning 62 (though don't miss the National Park Service Senior Pass, which gets you in free along with up to three adults at National Parks. Cost: $10 for the rest of your life. Only advantage I've found yet to being 62 since fathers of nine year olds cannot retire.) I'll get there someday.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"Nothing Much"

Conversation quoted by Tam:

"So how's the homework coming?"
"What about the religion test tomorrow?"
"No problem."
"What's it on?"
"Nothing much."
"What does that mean?"
"The Old Testament and the New Testament."

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Today was my 62nd birthday. Will blog about it over the weekend, though Tam and Sarah were under the weather and we didn't do anything except get older. And of course, Mary of Peter, Paul and Mary dying today added to the sense of aging. More soon.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Notes from Underground

Okay, the title is probably more clever than the rest of the post is going to be, since I'm describing one of the older tourist destinations on the East Coast, Luray Caverns. As I noted in yesterday's post, after her descent into an old gold mine in Cripple Creek, Colorado, Sarah could no longer plead claustrophobia on caves, and she herself decided she wanted to see one on this trip to the Valley. And being a well-brainwashed product of advertising campaigns, she decided it had to be Luray Caverns, the most famous of the Eastern Seaboard caves, and one promoted with the ferocity that used to be devoted to "See Rock City" in the American South, except instead of painting barns they just have incessant billboards and TV commercials on kids' channels.

As it happens, neither Tam nor I had been to Luray, so we were fine with that. I grew up in the Ozarks, which like the Shenandoah Valley is full of limestone karst formations and therefore really neat calcite caves with lots of stalactites, stalagmites, and such, but because I had seen plenty as a kid I never got into the ones around here, which tend to be a tad pricey. Then once I had a kid (the obvious reason to go), she long said she didn't want to because it would be too creepy. She no longer thinks so.

I think I've mentioned that Sarah is really fond of her new camera, and that I put an 8 gigabyte memory card in it. (Actually, I see I only mentioned the 4 gigs I put in originally. I bought her 8 gigs on sale at the Harrisonburg Wal-Mart, so she'd have all the memory she could hope to need. For now.)

She took 417 pictures in the cave. Yes, that says 417. I have not edited them all yet, or even looked at them all yet, not to mention the videos and stills I took (a mere 147 for the day, but many of them video, of which probably a bit over 100 were in the cave). So, don't expect a Flickr or YouTube upload imminently: tomorrow's a work and school day. How things have changed since the days of film. Just take everything you see, and cull the duds later.

So the above shot is just a random one, I think one of reflected stalactites in water.

Anyhow, Luray is every bit the touristy place you expect, but it's a great and impressive cave, and worth the visit. Sarah loved it, and so did we.

Earlier in the day we met over breakfast with Moira Gallagher, daughter of Tam's old friends Tom and Cyndi Gallagher (who are also Sarah's godparents). Moira's a senior at James Madison University, in Harrisonburg where we made our base camp for this Valley trip. She hadn't seen Sarah in several years so was of course impressed.

The cave made the return trip a bit more than just a return trip, as coming down via Skyline Drive helped the first day. We try to make a three-day weekend not just two days of travel and one day of visit, but three days of stuff.

Fact I didn't know: there are no bats in Luray. It has no natural openngs to the outside, only the commercial entrance discovered in the 1870s, so there is no natural fauna, there being no food sources or uncontrolled access, though salamanders and other marine life are sometimes found, but not year-round. So it's a batless cave.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Trying to Blog More

I'm sorry I've been so bad about blogging lately; in particular I wish I'd done a better job on the Colorado Springs vacation. Now, a month after it began, the memories are fading, and I wish I'd done more than the bullet-point notes I made at the time. That's why I've tried to be more careful here.

Now, let me note that eventually much of the Colorado material will go up on YouTube. The trouble is that since my father-in-law doesn't have broadband, but a dialup connection, YouTube isn't really practical for him, and so I burned him a DVD on the last day of the trip of everything we'd taken. But that video is an hour and 15 minutes long, and since YouTube limits (non-commercial folks who don't have big followings online) to 10 minutes each, I'll have to split it into eight segments, reallocate the audio, etc. That will take time. And I haven't had time.

The YouTube videos plus stills interspersed as slide shows with commentary give you the closest thing to contemporary blogging, since it's what we were saying and thinking at the time rather than now. So it will probably have to be the historical artifact of the trip.

Anyway, I'm trying to blog the Labor Day weekend while it's fresh and get back to doing more frequent blogging here. Once I started the work blog I gave less time here.

Quiet Day, With Ducks

Photo at left by Sarah.
A quiet second day of the three days in the Valley. We all slept late. We went to the local visitor's center to gather brochures, and it's collocated with a little (one room basically) Valley Turnpike Museum, but I'm an old Shenandoah Valley addict and enjoyed that. Then a good country buffet lunch at Rowe's Country Buffet between here and Mount Crawford, VA, and an offshoot of the long-established Mrs. Rowe's restaurant in Staunton. After that we headed to the small town of Dayton, a nice old valley town where there are many buggy-driving Old Order Mennonites. Though both the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society in Dayton (where I've done a lot of genealogical reserch on two lines that came through Rockingham County, one German and one Scotch-Irish), and the Dayton Farmer's Market, a favorite of Tam's, we checked out an old mill (also closed Sunday) but did stop at a playground near the Historical Society where Sarah used to play when smaller and when I'd be in the library. She remembered it, and fed the dugs in the nearby stream, and took pictures, including the duck one above.

Because the video I took there isn't clear enough to show Sarah's face, I'm posting a video of it here:

We stopped at Wal-Mart to get swim goggles (yesterday we bought a swim suit because we'd left without them) but the outdoor pool would prove too cold for Sarah. But we'd done our best to remedy the situation. A brief stop at Jess' Lunch, the local dive/greasy spoon for our collection. Now I'm blogging and Sarah and Tam are watching a DVD of a Beethoven movie (the Saint Bernard, not the Composer). More later if there is more.

Tomorrow, en route home, we plan to do Luray Caverns. The Valley is full of caves, of which Luray is probably by far the most famous, but until fairly recently Sarah has said she'd find caves too spooky, and since they tend to be pricey we've held off. But during the Colorado trip she managed to convince us to take her on a tour of the Mollie Kathleen Mine in Cripple Creek, which is 1000 feet underground, has narrow tunnels and a cramped elevator: by comparison a cave should be roomy. So now that she's ready for claustrophobic underground adventures, we're going to do Luray.

Labor Day Weekend

More on this image of the deer and the video below tomorrow.

Okay, here's more: for Labor Day, we're in the Shenandoah Valley, staying in Harrisonburg, but we came down via Skyline Drive. Sarah's still enjoying her new camera, so she was thrilled to get the still (through the car window) closeup of a deer. The video is mine. Anyway, more later today.

It was a good day but exhausted everyone. It's now Sunday morning, or rather midmorning, as we've all slept in. I hope we don't lose too much of the day. More later.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Last Day Before School in a Two-Camera Family

Today was the last day of summer vacation for Sarah: fourth grade starts tomorrow. It was a great, mild, low-humidity day so we went to Great Falls, on the Virginia side of the river this time. But first, we became a two-camera family.

I haven't abandoned the idea of writing more about the Colorado trip, and will at some point, perhaps even later tonight, but let me cover today first.

During the Colorado trip Sarah really began to be avid about taking pictures, so much so that she took a huge number going up Pike's Peak. The nice thing about digital, of course, is that you can take all you want, since you don't have film and don't have to print them, and I always carry large stocks of memory and rechargeable batteries, so you really don't run out of media. The only problem is fighting over the camera.

Well, we had a lot of award points saved up at Best Buy from the last computer purchase, a washer and dryer, etc., and combined with a sale I was able to buy Sarah another camera similar to the one I bought last October at about half its price. Actually the new one is a little more advanced, being a successor model and having more megapixels and some added features, but she didn't like the idea of me taking the new one and giving her the old one as a hand-me-down, even though it's only 10 months old; anyway the outcome is she gets the new one, though agrees to let us use the slightly higher resolution for key family events. I saw no reason to get her a "kid's" camera: she had a Barbie camera a couple of years ago which would take about 10 or 12 pictures. I prefer to give her the real thing now that she's really interested. I put a 4-gigabyte memory card in it which should take about 1200 pictures or a whole bunch of video. It will hold up to 16 gigs.

Hers is red; mine is blue; otherwise they're externally the same. I got her a red camera case matching my blue camera case, too. So we're a two camera family.

Not surprisingly, Sarah, who was absolutely prodigal taking pictures with my camera, is downright cautious about hers. "I'm turning it off; I want to save the power." "But Sarah; I have six extra recharged batteries with us: enough power to run all day, and we'll recharge them tonight." Nothing doing.

Anyway, above, Sarah taking my picture, and me taking hers, and below, photographing the falls. Actually she spent more of her time petting dogs, of which there were many, than enjoying the falls. Two miniature longhaired dachshunds in particular, but many others besides.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Horseback Ride

I'd hoped to use this weekend to try to flesh out the memories of the Colorado vacation before they fade, but didn't succeed, so I'll post some pics instead. At left, our horseback ride on Friday a week ago. I don't normally show Sarah's face on this blog, but in the shot at left, the helmet and the shadows keep it hard to recognize her, and I've reduced the resolution so it can't be blown up.

More about all this eventually.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sunday in Colorado

I'm continuing to post very brief summaries for now as I'm working on the videos of the trip in the evenings. I'll flesh out the memories later.

Today we went to brunch with Tam's Dad and Marge at the Garden of the Gods Club, a very elegant place.

After that we went to Seven Falls. Another place I visited on my first trip 51 years ago. Sarah petted some dogs before getting distracted by the large number of chipmunks scampering about. After much photography of chipmunks, she finally agreed to actually look at Seven Falls.

We showed her the Broadmoor on the way back to the hotel.

I'll flesh these out either before leaving or after we get home. Sorry to be so terse at this point.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

A Quick Summary of Days Three and Four

I want to post a few notes before I forget, and hope to be able to fully blog on this tomorrow. It's been a very busy week, attempting as we are to balance family duties to Tam's dad with showing Sarah a good time. So far, generally, a success of sorts.

On the other hand, blogging opportunities are limited. I've been also continuing to post to my work blog despite being on vacation, not because I was told to, but because I feel an obligation of sorts to my readership. And I don't want them wandering off because I'm not close at hand.

So here's the basic outline summary:

  1. Started with a horeseback ride; Sarah on "Rosebud," Tam on "Undertaker" (!), and me on "Wrangler." Horseback riding was easier the last time I did it, when I had no hernia, no hemorrhoids, and no extra 60 pounds or so.
  2. Lunch at a great Mexican place in Manitou Springs.
  3. The ever-tacky and marvelously American Garden of the Gods Trading Post.
  4. Sarah exploring Balanced Rock, Steamship Rock, and the neighborhood.
  5. A piano concert at my father-in-law's retirement home.
  6. Dinner: Italian.
  1. Tam began the day by a father-daughter meeting, while Sarah and I stayed at the hotel, me doing a laundry to get clean undies and shirts, and Sarah watching Saturday morning cartoon shows.
  2. Then a trip to Cripple Creek. Lunch. Then a stroll around town during a salute to the military day, petting a couple of boxers (one of which gave Sarah a big slurpy greeting), visiting a candy shop for fudge, then:
  3. A visit to the Mollie Kathleen Mine, a gold mine that worked from the 1890s to the 1960s in Cripple Creek and now gives tours 1000 feet below ground. Sarah insisted on it; I was pushing for the Cripple Creek-Victor train ride. Sarah, as usual, got it right. Extremely interesting and informative tour. Have most of it on video. (Also we've now been at the top of Pike's Peak, 14,000 plus feet above sea level, and 1000 feet below ground, within a couple of days. Not bad.)
  4. Visited Tam's Dad and Marge in Colorado Springs.
  5. Dinner at an Outback Steakhouse across from out hotel.
There are multiple stories behind all of these. I hope to get them down, but wanted to at least do an outline before I forget.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Up Pike's Peak

The main goal of day 2 was the cog train up Pike's Peak. Sarah loved the ascent and went berserk taking photos: over 300 before reaching the top. She was a bit wobbly in the thin oxygen on top, as were we all, so she didn't like the summit as much as the ascent. By the descent she was tired.

Because we had 374 images by the end of the day a normal Flickr or YouTube upload is impractical until I have time to edit out any duds. Stand by on that. We joined grandpa and Marge for dinner at their retirement compound, and then spent some time in Old Colorado City before returning to the hotel. Tomorrow: horseback riding.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Colorado Day One

A storm in the mountains . . .

The actual colors were more dramatic, but low light and the fact that I was getting wet made better composition impossible.

However, a rather nicer view of the mountains from earlier in the day is below it.

Okay, the story so far. Yesterday was the travel day, and given the joys of travel these days, the fact that I was exhausted (worked Monday in fact) and had sore feet, plus the usual exactions of the TSA and others, meant that we were pretty tired by the time we made it to Colorado Springs, via, of course, Houston. (Not quite as bad as last time, when the connection was Phoenix, which is not only far south of any DC-Colorado direct line, but also well West of Colorado.)

Anyway, it took a while to get the rental car, etc., then we got lost trying to find our hotel, but Tam had promised her Dad we'd drop in before we went to bed, so we then had to go find their place, which had a locked gate, and so on until we finally dragged back to the hotel, very late and very tired. And as fate sometimes has it, though physically exhausted, I couldn't get to sleep.

The blog thinks in eastern time, and I'm not going to mess with its internal structure by messing with it. I may try to backpost to the proper Mountain time so these posts don't show up at 2 am or some such, but if it doesn't work, just ignore the time stamp.

Anyway, today we began by arranging to meet Tam's Dad and partner Marge for lunch, then decided on the way there to introduce Sarah — who was last here at age 4 and a half, just half her present nine — by hitting her over the head by main force with the scenery, so we drove her through the Garden of the Gods. She took lots of pictures.

We spent lunch and the early afternoon with Bud and Marge, then came back to the hotel and crashed; after a rest, Tam and Sarah spent time in the pool and jacuzzi, and I got the day's photos and videos organized (though nothing will go up on YouTube tonight; maybe tomorrow). Then we made quick runs to a Border's (I lost my one book I brought for reading at the airport), and a grocery to stock up on stuff for the room, which has a refrigerator, microwave, wi-fi and a King bed for us and sofabed for Sarah: the combination that keeps us coming to Hampton Inns.

We at at a Carrabas' Italian restaurant, a chain, but one we'd heard of but not tried, and then returned to the hotel. After considerable effort and using Daddy's magic bag of miracle computer cables, I managed to wire Sarah's portable DVD player into the nice flat-screen TV in the room, so Sarah could watch just-released-on-DVD Race to Witch Mountain on the widescreen. Earlier the magic bag-o'-cables had produced enough USB extension cables to put a GPS on the window without having to move the laptop. (The reason was actually to find out the altitude of our hotel. Never mind. It made sense at the time.)

Tomorrow: the cog railway to the top of Pike's Peak. Stay tuned.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Trip

I was going to call this "I guess we'd rather be in Colorado," playing on an old John Denver song, but Sarah wanted to call it "The Trip," and you can see who won. I'll use mine on my work blog. We'll be leaving tomorrow for Colorado Springs, to see Tam's Dad, and it will be the first time Sarah's been in Colorado since she was four and a half, half her present age, so much of it will be like showing her a new place. We already have a horseback ride in the Garden of the Gods scheduled, and hope to take the cog train up Pike's Peak.

While I've been to Colorado Springs a number of times since Tam and I got engaged, then married, then parents, I still fondly remember my first visit in 1958. I blogged about the whole 1958 trip adventure last year on the 50th anniversary of it; the post dealing with Colorado Springs is here.

I'll post more once we get there.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Weekend Catching Up

I've been terribly lax about posting to the family blog, mostly but not exclusively because I've been involved with my work blog, which has hit some high traffic days and seems to be getting noticed, at least by some of the other Middle East blogs.

Last weekend we went to Winchester, somewhat old hat admittedly. The day got off to a bad start as we couldn't find some membership cards for the Mueseum of the Shenandoah Valley and I got into a grumpy mood and we got bogtge3de down. Finally we visited the gardens at the Museum, then took Sarah to the Harry Potter movie (at least a little cheaper out there than in DC), had a decent dinner and the next day went back to the Museum and did some other fun things before coming home.

Now we're at another weekend. Today we saw G-Force, which okay as talking guinea pig spy movies goes, if you like that sort of thing.

On August 4 we'll be going to Colorado. Hopefully I'll blog more before then and regularly out there. I never even posted on the moon landing anniversary although Tam, who rarely posts here, did (see below).

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Memory of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing

Before the evening passes, I want to set down a strong family memory I have of the wonderful Moon landing, and the first two men to walk on it: Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Michael Collins was the command pilot, orbiting above the lunar surface.

It was July 20, 1969. My family and I were gathered in our TV room at the back of the house in Ralston, Nebraska, watching the drama with my grandmother. She later died in 1975, at 93 years of age. So she would have been 86 that night of 1969. It was most incredible for her to watch the two men land on the surface, then slowly walk down the ladder and jump off onto the lunar surface. We all watched the whole thing, it was truly amazing.

But the most amazing thing that struck me then, was the realization that my grandmother, like Julius Caesar, read by candlelight in an earlier time. And then my grandmother, in her lifetime, watched men walk on the surface of the moon. The memory is still strong with me today, forty years after the event.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Road Trip!

We're doing a weekend overnight. Just Winchester, where we've been way too many times. But maybe I can get some posts up. I've been lax lately, I know.

Remembering Walter Cronkite: A Cross-Posting

I don't normally cross-post from my work-blog, but this will be of interest to family and friends of my generation at least. The original post is here and the original title is "Walter Cronkite and the Middle East."

Oh my. Ask and it shall be answered. In my immediately previous post I noted that everybody I've posted under the "obituaries" label so far has been pretty ambiguous in their historical legacy but that perhaps I'll have a chance to offer some unreserved praise. Then I heard from my wife, who was watching TV while I blogged, that Walter Cronkite had died. And he had a major role in one particular event in Middle Eastern history. And if you've got something bad to say about him, please say it somewhere else.

My generation needs no introduction to Uncle Walter. Before I got here he was dropping with the paratroops in Market Garden, the disastrous Arnhem operation of World War II. He was the newsman of my youth, and his You Are There introduced me to the history of my parents' generation. And that moment in November 1963 when he took off those black horn-rims, looked up at the clock, and announced that John F. Kennedy was dead, with a catch in his voice, will live forever. He helped us through it. And he got us to the moon. And when Uncle Walter turned against the Vietnam war, it was the beginning of the endgame. Even Lyndon Johnson famously said, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America." (Google it. It's Friday night. I don't want to take the time. It'll be in all the morning papers, anyway.)

And he died in the midst of the 40th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, a day after the anniversary of the launch, three days before the anniversary of the landing. (Historical irony? Synchronicity? Interesting anyway.) We could not have gone to the moon without Walter Cronkite, could we have? When he retired, the space program got boring. He made things official, somehow. When he said "That's the way it is," we knew that that was the way it was.

There will be a lot of memories of Walter Cronkite over the next few days (though it won't match Michael Jackson), so I'll limit myself to remembering why Uncle Walter was important to the Middle East: in 1977 he cornered first Sadat, then Begin, in TV interviews to agree to a direct meeting. Oh, sure, the Egyptians had been working through Moroccan back-channels for a long time, but the fact that Cronkite asked Sadat directly, on US TV, if he would actually go to Israel, and he said yes, and then Cronkite asked Begin, who didn't have much of an out . . . the point is, the process was already afoot, but Cronkite pushed the leaders in public, and Sadat's native showmanship was such that he accepted the challenge. It would have happened anyway, but Cronkite made it happen sooner. (Be patient, when I can find a YouTube of it I'll link.)

I'm not immediately remembering other major Cronkite involvement in Middle Eastern history, but what more do you need? He pushed Sadat and Begin together. And my generation hasn't really watched network news that much since Uncle Walter retired. No one in the Internet era has that authority, that solid grandfatherly reassurance.

Any young folk who don't understand my signoff, ask your elders:

And that's the way it is, Friday, July 17, 2009.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Catching Up Again: July 4 and Since

Okay, time to catch up again. Things have been crazy — busy with work, allergies bad, a couple of sick days — and I still haven't briefed on the Fourth of July, let alone other stuff.

On the fourth, we went down to the Fredericksburg area; there's a video up on our YouTube site. We did Chancellorsville, Massaponax Church, Guinea Station (where Stonewall Jackson died — "Let us Cross Over the River and Rest Under the Shade of the Trees" —) then back to DC, set off some snakes in the driveway (pictured), and planned to set off some fountains, do sparklers etc. later. But Sarah's good friend across the street, Katherine, was moving (though not too far) and they invited Sarah to join them for a Chinese dinner, and she wanted to.

The next day we took a tour of the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, a somewhat weird place. There's a multiple part video up at YouTube.

I offered to set off the fountains and sparklers on Sunday, but Sarah was worried we'd get in trouble for setting them off after the fourth (though others were), so I acceeded to her concerns that we'd be hauled off to the hoosegow, and we'll save them till next year I guess.

The following weekend we did the Dr. Samuel Mudd House as part of her continuing education in the Lincoln bicentennial, and on Sunday attended a grownup party (which Sarah attended with her Nintendo DS and tolerated because of chocolate cake and the presence of a dog, though she was born) for old friends who've just returned from a tour with USAID in Kosovo, before the husband goes off to Baghdad. (All the prime vacation spots!)

Next weekend: Winchester. Maybe I can blog more then.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Fourth of July Weekend

A busy and somewhat chaotic fourth. I need to post more and will fill this in at a later date.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Second of July: "Gotcha Day" and the Return of Lamby

"The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not."
— John Adams to Abigail, July 3, 1776

John Adams — who is actually Sarah's second cousin, six times removed, by adoption — got the date of independence day celebrations slightly wrong; July 2 was the day they voted for independence: they only published the thing on the fourth (and I think only Hancock put his John Hancock on it that day: the others signed later).

But July 2 remains "the great anniversary festival" in our family, because it's the day that we were united with Sarah, in Changsha, China, at about 1 pm on July 2, 2001, in the Grand Sun City Hotel. It's what is known in adoptive circles as "Gotcha Day": the next day, the third, was the formal, legal adoption.

Our log — a sort of proto-blog — of our trip to China is still available online; and so are some pages of photos of our first meeting; again, this is pre-Flickr and was posted to tamandmichael.com.

We told Sarah she could decide where to have dinner for her anniversary: she chose home. Okay.

A bit of serendipity though: her earliest two toys were two we took to China and gave her on the first day, eight years ago today: a rattle and a little stuffed lamb. The stuffed lamb, now rather gray with dirt and age, is her oldest toy that we can locate, and is affectionately known as Lamby. (I had to ask Tam if it was to be spelled "Lamby" or "Lambie" and she opted for the y.) The first meeting with Lamby is shown in the photo to the left. Below, Lamby today.

Somewhere around about the time we went to Gettysburg in March, Lamby disappeared. Tam and Sarah both said he hadn't been with us on the trip, but after we'd searched high and low I actually called the Gettysburg hotel twice, but they didn't have it.

Serendipity and synchronicity however: tonight, Sarah and her friend Katherine were playing and dumped out a tall green toychest on the floor and voila, though we'd looked there before, there was Lamby.

So on this important family anniversary, the First Toy resurfaced. That has to mean something.

Eight of Sarah's nine years have been with us now, and this is a great day. It's an anniversary for the whole family, marking our becoming a family.

Monday, June 22, 2009

They Grow Up So Fast: The Big Bike

Sarah's been biking for years — she stopped using training wheels at a younger age than either her dad or her mom did — but she had small-wheel kid bikes till now. A neighbor passed on a big kid bike (I think maybe 26 inches but she's out on it now so I can't check), so she's excited. We got it late last week but were busy with weekend stuff and I didn't get the seat lowered and chains adjusted till tonight.

Photo, as usual on the blog, not showing her face. Family who can see our Flickr site can see more, and I have a little video I'll probably post to YouTube.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day

A quick note: Father's Day is drawing to an end. A nice family day. Lunch at Frost's Diner in Warrenton, leisurely driving in the Piedmont and foothills of Fauquier and Rappahannock counties, then home; dinner at Red Hot & Blue.

But it's still Father's Day for a few minutes, and blogging is too much like work, so that's it for now.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

End of Third Grade; the Weekend

A busy three days. Two new videos up on the private YouTube site: Third Grade Awards Ceremony, and a visit today to southern Maryland.

Friday was the last day of Third Grade. An awards ceremony was held, and Sarah's certificates are on the video. Then it was a Daddy day; Tam attended the ceremony, as did I, but since I have Fridays at home and everything was over by 11 am, I had the day with Sarah: lunch at La Madeleine, a visit to Best Buy and Target to spend some of her allowance and a little extra "graduation" money (bought a video game), other errands.

Yesterday (Saturday was kind of routine. A little shopping, a short trip to Alexandria, then everybody got tired and we went home. Today: southern Maryland. She wanted to go to Solomon's Island, I said if we go to a favorite place let's do one new thing on the way, so we went to Surratt's Tavern Museum, a key site on John Wilkes Booth's escape route and part of our ongoing Lincoln bicentennial adventure. Then on to Solomon's Island for a brief visit to the Calvert Marine Museum before it closed, then ice cream on the boardwalk. Then home, and dinner at a Mexican restaurant.

Tired; I'll try to catch this up another time.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Quick Weekend Report

It's late and I'm tired, but a quick summary of the weekend: yesterday we went to see Up, which Tam and I liked but Sarah complained about. Also shopping and errands. Today, a lovely day, we went out to Maryland — we asked Sarah if she preferred a drive in Maryland of Virignia and she said "I'll take the Old Line State" — she'd had to do a report on Maryland and knew the state nickname as a result.

We visited the Monocacy Aqueduct, where an old aqueduct carried the C&O Canal across the mouth of the Monocacy River where it flows into the Potomac; a two part video is up at YouTube. We also drove past Sugarloaf Mountain but Sarah didn't want to go up, and paid a quick visit to the Monocacy Civil War Battlefield. Not a lot, but at least we got out.

I discovered that the two parts of our Day 3 of the New York Trip YouTube posting were rejected by YouTube due to being over 10 minutes long, caused by a glitch I inadvertantly introduced. That's being fixed now, but I suspect day three of the NYC trip will appear above (that is, after) the Monocacy Trip.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Yet Another Good Question

"How can eels lay eggs when they don't have butts?"

Sarah, tonight. Context? We don't need no stinkin' context. She was working on homework when she asked. Eels had come up in a story for a book report, so perhaps that was the connection. Or not. I tried to answer.


New York a Day After

The YouTube videos are up. It takes five to cover the three days (day four was the drive back and no pictures were taken). Day one is one video; days two and three are in two parts each.

In retrospect, now that the doctor has lanced my blister, it was a great trip, and I think Sarah got a lot out of it. Though when I asked her if she had told other kids about it she said 1) no one asked and 2) almost everybody in her class had already been to New York.

But I think she was much impressed. She'd been asking to go for a long time.

Monday, May 25, 2009

We're Home

We're back. Not much to post. The usual pit stops along the way for snacks, stretching legs, etc. Heavy rain from Baltimore on, necessitating a few shifts in route, but nothing major. Foot blister hurting; may see doctor tomorrow if it hasn't improved. Sarah's now got lots of homework so we're concentrating on that. I'll be uploading the videos to YouTube shortly. (No video of today: nothing of note to photograph.)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

From Tiffany to Katz's Deli in a Day

Our third day in New York City and the last in the city itself; we'll drive back to DC tomorrow.

A busy day. Everything from Tiffany and Cartier (we didn't go in but showed Sarah Fifth Avenue) to a meal at Katz's Deli on Houston Street. Sarah had a cheeseburger, unfortunately, so she didn't get to appreciate the food: I urged her to have a Kosher hot dog because she does like hot dogs. Tam and I reminded ourselves of what pastrami tastes like, as opposed to the stuff you get everywhere else except the Lower East Side.
As I said, it was a busy day.

Overall, it's been a great trip. After a couple of days of walking on sore feet I discovered a rather ugly foot blister that may need some attention when I get home, but otherwise things have gone pretty well.

We started with Hershey's store on Times Square, which Sarah has wanted to go to ever since we visited M&M world. Then we walked across 48th Street to Rockefeller Center, then stuck our heads in Saint Patrick's during Sunday Mass to give Sarah a look. Some quick hot dogs from a cart to hold us till later. Then up Fifth, past all the jewelry and fashion houses, to FAO Schwarz opposite the Plaza at the Park. Sarah loved FAO Schwarz and decided on a teddy bear — she had to have something from there, naturally, and it was just a question of what — and then we went to the Central Park Zoo. It cost us $25, once again making me appreciate Washington, where the Zoo and Smithsonian Museums are all free.

We visited the penguins and puffins — Washington's Zoo lacks penguins, so we were filling a gap — and polar bear, then went to the children's zoo, where the heat and humidity got the better of me and I sat drinking water and cooling down while Tam and Sarah did the exhibits. [As an aside if you haven't been to animated movies or watched cartoon TV lately, the penguins of Central Park Zoo are key characters in the movies Madagascar and Madagascar 2, and now have their own TV series on Nickolodeon. I think I was more attuned to the fact that Madagascar starts in the Central Park Zoo than Sarah was, since the real zoo doesn't look much like the cartoon one, and there are actually more penguins, though some of them looked like they might share personalities with their cartoon versions.]

By then we needed to cool down. After walking several blocks without finding a proper spot, we grabbed a cab to Grand Central, visited an Irish pub next door, and then showed Sarah Grand Central Station. She wasn't familiar with the term "as busy as Grand Central Station," but she immediately recognized the clock in the Grand Concourse from the movie Madagascar (See Above), where it gets destroyed. And of course, since it was Sunday, it was not like Grand Central Station at Grand Central Station. But I think the size impressed her.

Then we took the subway to the Lower East Side. Because it was drizzling a little cabs were hard to find, so we walked east on Houston to Katz's. Pastrami and hot dogs for the grownups, a cheeseburger for Sarah. A waitress there told her how lucky she was to visit the best toy store in the world and the restaurant in the same day (she had spotted the FAO Schwartz bag). I would say Katz has a good claim to be the best deli in the world, but then there are the best barbecue place, the best Chinese place, etc. etc. The world needs all of them. (I've said this before but the best chili parlor is Fred & Red's in Joplin, Missouri; the best catfish joint is Mildred's out in the middle of nowhere on a Blue Highway in northern Alabama; the best barbecue is in North Carolina but I will not alienate half the state by naming one variety over the other, but I'm pretty sure the best Western North Carolina is in Lexington and the best Eastern North Carolina in Goldsboro. For many categories, I am still searching for the best. What is recorded here, however, is not my opinion. It is demonstrable Truth.

Subway back to the Port Authority; bus back to Secaucus. Home tomorrow.

It was a long day. Tam and I tried to have a beer across from our hotel in New Jersey, but Sarah was fading fast.

I have posted some stills to the Flickr site, but the YouTube videos will need a while to process as we took a lot of video and I'm make the usual video interspersed with slideshow of stills to cover the trip.

More from home.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Day Two in New York

I was too exhausted to post much last night about our first few hours in NYC, and today was a long one: left the hotel about 10 am and got back just before 10 pm, with visits to the Empire State Building (didn't go up though, just looked at it), Fifth Avenue, Central Park, Columbus Circle, the Battery, the Staten Island Ferry, Wall Street, Trinity Church, Ground Zero, Chinatown, Little Italy, and Greenwich Village. So we're a bit tired once again. Not to mention going through the Port Authority both coming from and returning to Jersey. I'll add some tonight and more as I can. Just uploading to Flickr is taking a while so I won't try any YouTube uploads, possibly till we get home.

Anyway: For now let me summarize what I can. On Friday, May 22, we drove up from DC, arriving in Secaucus, NJ before 4 pm. There's a bus from in front of our hotel that runs in to the Port Authority and, most times of the day, only takes about 20 minutes to get there; the hotel costs a third of what one in Manhattan would. And as northern New Jersey goes, it's a pretty modern, mall area. (I know: as northern New Jersey goes, a toxic waste dump is pretty nice, but make your own jokes. This isn't bad at all.) So we decided to go into Manhattan for Sarah's first look.

Note above that I say the bus "at most times of the day, only takes about 20 minutes to get there." A little before five pm is not most times of the day, even though we were inbound rather than outbound. Every bus in the Western Hemisphere and some that must have been imported from Tokyo or other crowded cities for the occasion was lined up for the Lincoln Tunnel and again for the Port Authority terminal. We got there in less than an hour I think, but when the return trip was 20 minutes (as was the Saturday morning trip) we realized we were better located than we initially feared.

So landing at the Port Authority I simply walked Sarah east on 42nd Street, told her she was at Broadway and 42nd Street, two of the most famous streets in the world, then turned her to the left and voila, Times Square.

It's quite true that Times Square has been much cleaned up since Giuliani and Bloomberg arrived, but we also discovered, later, where the sleezy "gentlemen's clubs" had gone: mostly to Eighth Avenue. Fortunately the sheer sensory input is so great that I don't think Sarah registered what we were passing.

We got her a snow globe in a junky souvenir store, showed her the huge Times Square Toys R Us with a big ferris wheel inside (she declined to ride, thinking the cartoon characters on the gondolas were too juvenile for her, If I properly understood her objection), but then spotted "M&M World" with its "Now Open" sign. M&M World is a three story building devoted entirely to M&M products. I see from its Wikipedia page that there are actually now three of them: in Times Square, Las Vegas, and Orlando. Of course. The three most excessive places around. She loved it and bought a bunch of M&Ms: you can pick your colors, including some exclusive to M&M World colors apparently, and your plain or peanut.

Across Broadway from M&M World is a Hershey store, which we only stepped in the door of as her chocolate acquisitions were already quite adequate. She wants to go back. In fact as of this morning Sarah was content to spend her whole stay in Times Square, but after showing her a lot more of Manhattan I think she's gotten a bit more broad-minded.

Giuliani may have gotten the strip joints and peepshows out of Times Square, but it is still not what you'd call a genteel and restrained place: it's just the flashing lights and giant jumbotrons are for M&Ms and Hershey, new movies and, as always, Broadway shows, rather than sleezier stuff. The sheer sensory input is beyond what I'm accustomed to at age 61, and wore me out fast. Sarah, of course, was jumped up on adrenalin. She was already psyched for her first trip to New York, and we dropped her in the center of the maelstrom on the first afternoon.

I'll cut Friday short so as to get at least today's basics down before sleep overtakes me. Tam and Sarah are out cold already; only blogging duty drives me on.

We ate at a very elegant Italian restaurant in the theater district that was labeled in one of our "New York For Kids" books (either Frommer's or Fodor's, both of which we bought): it was kid friendly enough, but no restaurant in the theater district is cheap, but then we're in New York.

And so back to Jersey and to bed.

Today we started with what at first looked like a plan: the Empire State Building, walk up Fifth Avenue, stop at Rockefeller Center, perhaps spend some time in Central Park, and then go to the American Museum of Natural History for most of the afternoon.

This spun out of control early on. Moltke said no war plan survives contact with the enemy; I sometimes feel our travel plans don't survive contact with actually seeing what's available.

We started, as planned, with the Empire State Building. Sarah, who has decided for now that she doesn't like heights, declined to go to the top of it or any other skyscraper, so we just walked by the facade and looked up. Then we turned up Fifth Avenue intending to walk to the Park and stop at Rockefeller Center and perhaps Saint Patrick's.

But we had used the word "park," and by the time we came up to the New York Public Library, Sarah was agitating to do the park first. Tam was pushing for Rockefeller Center. I tried to compromise by jumping to the Park and then coming back, but then we had some problems with a Metrocard machine at the Bryant Park subway station, and the usual other frustrations. We finally got to the park and Sarah declared she wanted to go to the Central Park Zoo, but en route there sidetracked to rock climbing just inside the south entrance. By this time it was noon and our planned day was rapidly spinning out of control so I laid down the law: we've got to decide what we're going to do and do it. Today was a beautiful day; tomorrow is chancier on weather, so I said, instead of our prearranged plan, would you like to go on a boat ride?

We were getting hungry so we did the New York thing and walked west to Columbus circle, got hot dogs from a cart, and then took the subway from Columbus Circle to South Ferry. Tam says in her single days she always used cabs, but I learned long ago that despite its crowds and chaos, the subway gets you just about anywhere faster and cheaper.

So we next took the Staten Island Ferry. There's a new, very clean and modern terminal on the Battery end (and a mostly new one on the Staten Island end too), and the ferry, which for years cost all of a nickel, is now free. (I think it cost more to collect the nickels than to let people ride free.) It's still one of the best ways to get a great look at the harbor, that great natural seaport up there with Hong Kong and Kuwait and Singapore and San Francisco that has stunned people from Verrazano to Hendrik Hudson to the rather large number of sailors here for "Fleet Week" which is on right now. (Lots of US Navy and Marines, but also quite a few Canadian Navy as well.) And you still get a good closeup view of Lady Liberty without having to invest the time to actually go there.

After that, which ate up about an hour and a half including a snack while waiting for the return ferry, we walked from the Battery up to Wall Street. Sarah didn't know what Wall Street or the New York Stock Exchange were, so we did our best to explain (it was Saturday, but lots of tourists in Wall Street anyway). Photo above of Tam and Sarah in front of NYSE; Sarah has her head turned so it meets my blog requirement not to show her face on the open site. Then we visited Trinity Church. Sarah is a fan of the movie National Treasure (I'll come back and link to some of these references at some point: too late right now) in which the conclusion is set deep under Trinity Church where the enormous treasure of the Knights Templars has been buried (if you haven't seen it, don't think about it too much; if you have you'll know what I'm talking about). So it, unlike the NYSE, was a known quantity to her. Two observations in the Financial District: tourists in front of Federal Hall asking to have their pictures taken with the NYPD (and souvenir stores have lots of NYPD and FDNY souvenirs now), obviously a legacy of 9/11. And large numbers of tourists climbing on the famous Bull statue on lower Broadway and having their pictures taken: nostalgia for the days of Bull markets, I guess.

Tam and I were last in lower Manhattan in 1998. Before Sarah, and before 9/11. I had already had the nagging feeling from the Staten Island Ferry that it just looks wrong: although my first trip to New York in the 1960s was pre-World Trade Center, it has been a long time since I got used to seeing those twin towers in the skyline. And they're just not there anymore. I know New Yorkers have had almost eight years to get used to it, but this is my first visit to Manhattan since.

So of course we went to Ground Zero. Sarah knew all about that: it's something they learn in school. I won't try to reflect right now: too much good stuff to tell to mar it with the maudlin. Nor will I rant about the people selling souvenir picture books or hawking fake Rolexes. You'll get that wherever tourists congregate, for whatever reason. One guy selling souvenir photos approached us and Tam and I both said that we had lived through it and didn't need pictures. My mental picture is still the plume of smoke over the Pentagon. It is, however, sad that the reconstruction/memorial is still little more than a foundation, whereas the Pentagon was fully repaired before the one year anniversary. A picture of the site today at left.

We then took the subway to Chinatown to give Sarah a glimpse while we walked to where she really wanted to go, Little Italy. In so doing we passed a shelter dog rescue center where Sarah petted the dogs: we're in high dog alert as I think I've explained. Then we crossed over to Mulberry Street where a street fair and parade were under way, with a bunch of groups dedicated to Saint Anthony marching carrying statues (including one with dollar bills attached) and with a bunch of beefy guys in black suits (on a hot day) and sunglasses. A tip, fellas: if you want to avoid stereotypes about "the mob," don't dress like a cheap mafia flick. Tam and I were both reminded, though, of the Saint's Day parade in Godfather 2 when De Niro is starting out.

We then ate at a place called Da Nico on Mulberry Street. Good food, too much to finish. Maybe pricey for Little Italy but not for New York as a whole.

Then a cab to Greenwich Village. Got out at Washington Square. Break dancers, bands, many dogs to pet. Walked around the Village a bit, stopped for a beer in a combination Irish pub/Mexican restaurant (it's the Village, remember?), walked to the West Fourth Street station, subwayed back to the Port Authority, then back to our basecamp in Secaucus. Day two complete. Started out rough, ended with Sarah getting a real sampling of not just Times Square and Midtown but New York as she is lived: Chinatown, Little Italy, Greenwich Village. And Wall Street,where the money used to be; Ground Zero, for obvious reasons, and samples of other places.

Tomorrow I am determined to get us to Katz's delicatessen (Send a Salami to Your Boy in the Army; I don't think I'm going to explain the When Harry Met Sally scene to Sarah just yet); Tam and Sarah can pick everything else. I think we've tentatively decided to put the Natural History Museum off till next time: it's wonderful, but overlaps the Smithsonian in enough areas that seeing more parts of New York might be more educational at this point.

We're Here

Well, we made it to New York. I'm very tired and my feet are killing me and we've had some problems with the hotel, but we're here; Sarah has seen Times Square and gotten to know a little bit of Midtown. We'll do much more tomorrow and Sunday. Right now we need to rest.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Before We Go to New York . . .

. . . Let me catch up a bit. As I noted in my last post, we're going to take Friday plus the three-day Memorial Day weekend and make a four-day flying visit to the Big Apple, Sarah's first view of the City that Never Sleeps. I should really catch up a bit on some of the things since our last posting, back during our Winchester weekend . We came home from that trip via the Panhandle of West Virginia, stopping in Berkeley Springs and at a farmer's market. You'll find a video of the trip at our YouTube site, for those with a password.

On May 2 we went to the annual flower mart at National Cathedral, which had food, flowers, rides for kids, etc. A video is up of this, too.

On May 9 we went to the Udvar-Hazy branch of the Air and Space Museum, a big hangar where the Smithsonian keeps the big planes that won't fit in Air and Space on the Mall, including the Space Shuttle Enterprise (the first production model that never flew in space) and the Enola Gay. Sarah is clearly getting more interested in this stuff.

On May 10, Mother's Day, we did the usual Mother's Day stuff, including a brunch at a local Indian restaurant, then we examined caterpillars (the tent caterpillar season is here), and tried to go to Great Falls on the Virginia side. When that proved difficult due to a mile-long backup of other cars with the same idea, we headed out to Leesburg and showed Sarah the Civil War Battlefield at Ball's Bluff. The Mother's Day stuff took four YouTube clips to cover all of due to their 10 minute limit.

Tonight we visited Sarah's art fair and a farewell for the school's longtime principal, and Sarah sang as a member of the choir. A video of that will go up tonight. She was disappointed to not win a ribbon since her photo (the one I posted a couple of posts back) was indeed really good. But none of the photographs entered won anything. Judges must have a bias against photography. She did, however, get a check for $25 for selling the most stuff in their pre-Christmas sale last December. So she gets to take that money to New York with her (it's equivalent to her allowance for 2 weeks.)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Start Spreading the News . . .

Well, we're not leaving today, but a week from today. I know I dropped from sight almost three weeks ago, but the good news is I've been putting up videos at our YouTube site regularly to recorxd the interim. The bad news is I think only one of our relatives is signed on to see them, so I need to add some commentary here and note that if anybody among our kin are reading this, and can't see our YouTube site, ask and we'll invite again. We shifted from the Winchester Trip into a busy Mother's Day weekend, and a lot has been going on. I'll catch up, I hope, over the weekend now beginning.

Meanwhile, if the Sinatra fans couldn't figure it out from the headline, we're going to spend the Memorial Day weekend plus the previous Friday (thus a four-day weekend) to show Sarah New York, New York. I didn't see the Big Apple for the first time till I was 19 or 20, but then I wasn't growing up just 250 miles to the south. Tam loves New York more than I do — I like it, but I think it is not in my top two or three favorite places, as it clearly is for Tam. But it's unlike anyplace else in these parts, that's for sure. And neither Tam nor I have been there since some time in the mid-90s; once Sarah came along life got busy, and we haven't been traveling out of the country either so we haven't even been flying into JFK, which is at least technically New York and you can see the skyline. Speaking of which, neither of us has been there since 9/11, so it's a different skyline (though I remember the days before the World Trade Center went up, but then I'm old, as Sarah keeps pointing out).

We're still working on what to see in a limited amount of time, My nonnegotiable demand is Katz's Deli on Houston Street in the Lower East Side. The classic Kosher Deli, the "Send a Salami to Your Boy in the Army" place. (And site of a well-known scene in the film "When Harry Met Sally." It's the "I'll have what she's having" scene. Enough said.) It's been there since 1888. I'm not sure I've been there since maybe 1978, but from the looks of the website, the only thing changed is the prices.

We're going to be staying in Secaucus on the Jersey side (less than half the cost of any hotels we'd want to stay out in Manhattan, and close to trains and buses into the city). We should be able to get to Penn Station from there in a short ride, and then spread out over the city. We aren't exactly rolling in money (is anyone these days?), but we aren't going to be eating at the Waldorf, either. More like street food, Pizza, and deli. Maybe a splurge or two.

More as we get closer, and some catching up in the next day or two.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Almost Heaven, West Virginia

Sarah took the photo at left herself. She's rightly quite proud of it and we may suggest she enter it in her art contest at school.

It's nearly 1 am after our trip, and I have to work tomorrow, or rather later today. So forgive me if the rest of this account is saved for Monday night. I'll leave this on the site until I have time to explain what all we did.

Meanwhile, a key: the river is the Upper Potomac west of Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, seen from the slope of Cacapon Mountain, taken from this overlook. the river curves (blocked by the foreground) to the right across the picture. Foreground and land to the left of the river is West Virginia; to right of the river is Maryland. At the distant water gap you can just make out the more distant crests of some blue mountains that overtop by a little bit the green foreground mountain; the distant ones are Pennsylvania.The town visible left of the river is Great Cacapon, West Virginia.

Meanwhile Flickr and YouTube sites will have some stuff but it will make more sense once I'm able to post here.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Winchester and the Snow White Grill

We're in Winchester for an overnight. Again, since I started blogging on the Middle East at work I haven't been posting as often to the family blog. Mostly now it's when we're out of town doing something interesting, though last week — when I didn't post at all — we did do the great Lincoln bicentennial exhibit at the Library of Congress, which combined with the National Museum of American History Lincoln exhibit which I had already posted about (and there's a video on our family-and-friends YouTube page), plus our visit to the newly opened David Willis House in Gettysburg, plus a still-to-do reopened Ford's Theatre and a visit to Lincoln's summer white house at the Soldier's Home, we're immersing Sarah in a lot of Lincoln for the 200th.

But that was last weekend. This weekend we decided to get out of Dodge since the weather forecast sounded good — but there's a catch. It's sunny and warm all right: 93 degrees (our van temperature was showing 95). IN APRIL. A little too hot, so we've been snapping at each other, and we abandoned the idea of doing some of the many civil war sites in the area (Battles close to town: First and Second Winchester, First, Second and Third Winchester/Opequon. A few miles farther out: Cedar Creek, Fisher's Hill, Cool Spring, Stephenson's Depot, etc.etc. . . . Winchester claims to have changed hands 72 times in the Civil War. To get there they have to count every time a cavalry scout rode through town, but it was a busy place. Due to the heat we limited ourselves to the Old Court House Civil War Museum. It's air conditioned.

We did stumble on Old Town Winchester beginning a week-long celebration of Apple Blossom Festival, which concludes next weekend. We ate at the Snow White Grill, which I've posted about before, and which is still great, but also now has its own website, since it's celebrating its 60th anniersary. History and photos here; the all-important menu here; like Fred & Red's in Joplin, it's the sort of place they should make a National Historic Landmark. Or National Historic Greasy Spoon, a new designation for preservation I could really get behind. Photo above is not from today, but photo at left is, showing the Apple Blossom crowds.

Also, as we are in high dog-love mode right now, Sarah stopped to pet every dog we saw (even at a roadside rest stop, but certainly at the Apple Blossom Festival). A photo that doesn't show her face, left.

Near the Visitor's Center we saw a mother duck with eight very new ducklings, so there was that. We've always liked ducks, and who doesn't like ducklings? Mama Duck and little ones, in the final pic of the day.

More after dinner, if I have anything.

UPDATE: Dinner at Castiglia's down the street. Good, reasonably priced Italian. Tomorrow we hope to go to Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, where Sarah enjoys playing in the spring, eating ice cream, and other such diversions. We've done all this several times before, but it's got something for everybody and it's not that far from home.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Ninth Birthday and the Easter of the Chocolate Chicken

Sometimes life gets so busy you can't actually record it: living it takes up too much time and space. That's what it's been like lately. Since I've been blogging on the Middle East at the MEI Editor's Blog, I get tired of looking at the Blogger interface, and haven't been doing a good job of recording our family adventures.

Before I say anything about the weekend just ending (a fairly routine one), I'm just beginning to blog last weekend, which marked both Sarah's ninth birthday (Friday, April 10) and Easter (Sunday if you couldn't figure that out on your own). Her April 10 birthday means it always falls close to Easter, but this was the closest yet.

And the German chocolate chicken, shown in the photo, is part of the story.

First of all, Sarah was off school on Friday for Good Friday. I work from home Fridays anyway, while Tam had to work. Since her birthday fell on Good Friday and the following weekend was Easter, we figured it was not the time to have a party for friends. She wants a sleepover anyway, so we'll do that another weekend when Easter doesn't intrude.

So Friday was a Daddy-daughter day, which we used to have regularly before she started preschool, but which are less frequent these days.

First we had lunch at our local La Madeleine. The days when the lunch request was aways MacDonalds are past. Of course it's more expensive, but the food's better.

Friday also coincided with the opening of the Hannah Montana movie. So we took in a matinee. Not surprisingly, there were virtually no males there except a few other Dads with daughters. It actually could have been worse, and Sarah enjoyed it.

We then headed for our local outlet of German Gourmet, which Sarah quite rightly thought would be the best place to pick out a chocolate cake for her birthday. We chose a Black Forest Cake — $25, but you're only nine once — and as we were waiting in line to pay for it, she spotted the Easter chicken shown above. Since everyplace else has chocolate Easter rabbits, she thought the chicken (which sits on chocolate Easter eggs) was hilarious. (I think it's just a cultural difference, and the German shop had rabbits too.) And yes, I bought the chicken.

That evening we had a small party for the three of us, then she played with a friend for a while. We gave Sarah a few gifts, though several of her birthday gifts had already been given ahead of time. Also, by prior arrangement Sarah began getting a regular allowance on her birthday.

On Saturday, we ran errands mostly, but also, since the real birthday present sometime in the upcoming months is going to be a dog, we stopped at the local Petco, which has dogs for adoption on Saturdays. While we're not ready yet — we need to get more fencing in, and get the house dogproofed — we're actively educating ourselves to give Sarah the sense this is really going to happen. The rescue group had a number of dogs there, giving Sarah plenty of interaction time (and she's very good with dogs, and always asks neighborhood dog walkers if she can pet them). She particularly liked Maggie (link will only work until Maggie is adopted), though she's also fond of corgis and some other breeds. Saturday night we went to Easter Vigil for the first time with Sarah, but it proved a bit too long for her: dozens of people were being baptized. Still, she made it through.

On Sunday we joined our old friends Cynthia Lancer-Barnes and her son Jake from Bermuda, with Cynthia's mother, aunt and another old friend, for a long brunch (that ran till about 5 pm) at Meiwah restaurant in Friendship Heights, MD (just over the DC line). So an Easter with friends, wrapping up a good weekend.

Though Sarah knows now that the Easter Bunny is us, she insisted we hide plastic eggs fullo of candy anyway, but we didn't get around to it until we got home at nearly dusk, so we did it inside.

I'll try to come back later and talk about this weekend, though there's less to report.

There are videos of the birthday cake and Easter at our YouTube site.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Gettysburg Day Two: Devil's Den

It's very late and I'll be brief. The second day of the Gettysburg adventure went well. A good part of the day was spent in the rock warrens of Devil's Den, which prior to parenthood I always thought of as interesting rock formations that provided excellent cover for sharpshooters; now I learn that, for kids, it's a terrific playground. Sarah climbed in and out of tunnels and up and over rocks both before and after lunch, and had a ball.

In the afternoon after a second round at Devil's Den (and some time admiring passing dogs since dog lovin' is very important right now), we did do the Eisenhower farm. Perhaps I'll post more another time, but this will have to do for now. Pic (not showing Sarah's face, as per my blog rules) above.

A new two-part video is up at YouTube, complete with slide shows etc.

Oh yes, and we went to the Eisenhower farm as well: more on that another time.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sarah Takes Gettysburg

I haven't blogged for a couple of weeks; busy with work and the work blog, etc.

We're in Gettysburg; it's part of our effort to teach Sarah about Lincoln during the Lincoln bicentennial year, and we're using our Hampton Inn points for a free night's stay. One new attraction is the renovated David Wills house, where Lincoln spent the night before his speech at Gettysburg, putting the finishing touches on his "few appropriate remarks." It just opened to the public on Lincoln's birthday. Has the bed he slept in, etc.

We had lunch at Ernie's Texas Lunch, originally founded in 1921, "Home of the Texas Hot Weiner," and (this printed on the checks) "the most famous address in Gettysburg since Lincoln's." That kind of place.

Then I showed Sarah the Angle, and Little Round Top, and explained Pickett's Charge and Chamberlain and the 20th Maine; I have a DVD of the movie Gettysburg with us and am trying to get her to watch it (the movie made from The Killer Angels). I didn't subject her to a reading of the famous lines about Pickett's Charge from Intruder in the Dust; Faulkner's a bit heavy for the third grade, but I still think of it whenever I'm at the clump of trees, and my blog readers aren't getting off so easy:
For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it's still not yet two o'clock on that July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the furled flags are already loosened to break out and Pickett himself with his long oiled ringlets and his hat in one hand probably and his sword in the other looking up the hill waiting for Longstreet to give the word and it's all in the balance, it hasn't happened yet, it hasn't even begun yet, it not only hasn't begun yet but there is still time for it not to begin against that position and those circumstances which made more men than Garnett and Kemper and Armistead and Wilcox look grave yet it's going to begin, we all know that, we have come too far with too much at stake and that moment doesn't need even a fourteen-year-old boy to think This time. Maybe this time with all this much to lose and all this much to gain: Pennsylvania, Maryland, the world, the golden dome of Washington itself to crown with desperate and unbelievable victory the desperate gamble, the cast made two years ago.
The editor in me says that someone should have given Faulkner some extra punctuation marks (a period here and there and a whole lot more commas would help), but it does evoke something anbout the mythology of Pickett's Charge for southerners (at least white southerners). And of course, unlike Faulkner, I never won the Nobel Prize for Literature. I use too much punctuation.

Later: Sarah actually watched the Little Round Top and Clump of Trees scenes in Gettysburg, as we explained the places we were today. Of course she stayed up till midnight and I'm now updating this post after midnight, but otherwise I got the point across.

We'll do more of the battlefield tomorrow, and perhaps the Eisenhower farm.

Yes, the statues Tam is standing by (on Gettysburg's town square) in the picture above are of Abe Lincoln apparently giving directions to a 21st century tourist. I don't completely get the modern tourist statue, but what the heck. Abe's looking good.

One reason I'm a civil war buff, I think, is the knowledge that my ancestors fought on both sides. A Missouri great-great-grandfather fought for the Confederacy; a Georgia great-grandfather fought for the Union. Yes, you read that right: he was a member of one of only two companies of formal Georgia Union infantry (there were also some irregular guerrilla units). Not only was he a Georgian who fought for the Union, he later commanded one of the only two Grand Army of the Republic (the Union veterans' organization) posts in Georgia. Punchline: it was the William T. Sherman post. Really. He was also a Northern Methodist preacher in the south, and sometimes preached, I'm told, in black churches. His mentor used to preach wearing a sidearm since the KKK was after him. You can read my profile of the Rev. John Henry Dunn here, if you want to know more about him for some reason.

If my southern ancestor fought for the Union, my border state Missourian ancestor fought for the Confederacy. That was a lot more common, but it had the downside of his dying a long way from home, and being buried in Mississippi, a long way from the Ozarks. That's another story, But when I stand at the Angle at Gettysburg, I see myself on both sides, and when I stand on Little Round Top, I fully appreciate the accomplishment of Chamberlain, but I also, looking down that hillside, appreciate the guts it took for those Texas and Alabama boys who were trying to go uphill against a fortified position. Sam Hood is not one of my favorite Confederates -- I've been to Franklin, Tennessee, and that made less sense than Grant at Cold Harbor, and killed a bigger percentage in about the same amount of time, but unlike Grant, Hood blamed his men, not himself -- but at Little Round Top they ought to get credit for the sheer daring of it, though Chamberlain naturally deserves the reputation he has gained in recent years.

As for Pickett's Charge, well, back in the 80s when I didn't have a car I sometimes got to visit Civil War sites by giving tours for friends who did. After one friend had been with me to Gettysburg, we later were doing the Seven Days around Richmond, and at Malvern Hill, looking out from McClellan's position towards Lee's, he said, "this reminds me of Gettysburg." Ah, I thought, well are you learning from me, young Jedi. Indeed Lee's tendency for frontal assaults tended to come out when he didn't have Stonewall Jackson around to come up with a better plan. At Gettysburg, he should have listened to Longstreet. I have now offended roughly half of America's Civil War buffs and cheered the other half. Good thing no one reads this blog but family.

More on Gettysburg tomorrow.