Observation week at ballet

Chels and I get to go in twice a year and watch the girls at their ballet classes. This week is the second observation week of the year, and it was amazing to see how much progress both girls had made since the first week, which took place in November.

Here is Anna in class:



Miss Maria went next… luckily for us their classes are scheduled back to back on the same day. Maria takes additional classes during the week, but Anna only goes once a week.





It’s a great joy to watch both of them in class, and maybe even more so with Maria, since she is now at an age where she’s really making fast progress. She looks incredibly elegant when she dances.

Weekend plumbing excitement

So Nick and I were cleaning up the basement playroom when I went to move something and found it wet to the touch. Not good. We did some sleuthing and figured out that it was the sewer pipe running from our upstairs bathroom down to the basement. I had to open up a wall in the dining room to find the leak. Turns out a prior owner had probably found and patched a hairline crack in the pipe, covering over the repair with a piece of drywall. The patch failed, now many years later, and as a result I have a big hole in my dining room wall:


Since this was a Saturday afternoon, I was hoping to avoid making an emergency call to a plumber. Luckily I was able to make a temporary patch to the pipe using some epoxy – the battleship gray goo in the picture below – and that has kept it from leaking for the moment:


I have some plumbers coming tomorrow to quote me prices on a repair – while I could possibly leave the pipe as is for a while, I am guessing the crack is a harbinger of further trouble in that section. Then it will be time for drywall repair. Fortunately, drywall is incredibly cheap right now. Fun!

Vegetables for the week: Oscar gets a makeover

Chels and I only saw part of the Oscars last night because we were out seeing a play, the marvelous Arden Theatre production of My Name Is Asher Lev. We did watch about half of the program after we got home. I thought it looked fabulous and went off beautifully.

I’m not a hard core Oscar watcher, but I’ve probably watched bits and pieces over many years, and so I feel like I have some sense for how a typical year looks and feels. And so having read in the NY Times last week about the thought process that went into this year’s production, it was very satisfying to see the results on screen and working so well:

“In thinking about this year’s show, the producers honed in on an exceptional year — 1969, when the program was produced, directed and choreographed by the legendary Broadway director Gower Champion, who complained that past shows ‘always used to look like Tara.’ His avant-garde set featured a runway extending far into the audience and chrome-and-mirror elements that subtly suggested an urban skyline.”

What I liked about this year’s production was the evident thoughtfulness that went into every step of the process – there were a dozen different ideas, some big and some small, that rippled through the production. One of my favorites was the idea to have prior winners for the major individual awards come out and address each of the nominees directly. It’s getting mixed reviews today from professional critics, but as a casual watcher at home I thought it added effectively to the emotional tenor of the night.

Read the whole article here.

The green world

I noticed over the weekend that the grass in our yard had suddenly started to turn green. This seemed to happen just about overnight, as if we had flipped a switch inside the house. (Given the eccentric wiring design we inherited from a prior owner, there might in fact be a switch for the lawn.) Then last night, my sister Kate dropped by, and as she was leaving I saw a mosquito hovering around the front door. No joke.

Soon it will be time for us to switch seasons in the garage, shoving the winter gear to the back – sleep well, snowblower – and hauling out the patio furniture. That’s one of my favorite weekend activities all year. Last year we had a warm April, and got in the habit of sitting outside for dinner, which was an excellent addition to our routine. Before long, we’ll be eating outside once more, and we’ll be seeing wildlife in the yard again:

Aardvark statue at the Philly Zoo

(Well, that’s actually at the Zoo. We don’t tend to see a lot of aardvarks in the backyard.)

Who’s ready for spring? Me, me!

Wayback machine: Now with video!

From the mixed-up files of the Sperger family, here are Nick and Maria having breakfast on a Sunday morning, circa 2003:

My dad once used the Maria portion of this video as a commercial inside another of his productions. I still laugh every time I see Maria crunching her way through that bowl of dry cereal – with two spoons!

Wayback machine: Heidelberg, Sep 2007

I’ve mentioned before that 2007 was a busy travel year for me. I made three trips to Germany, and this was the second of the three, in September for a weeklong set of meetings at work. My uncle Herb came along with me, and it was a great trip all around.

Here’s a view of the Altstadt in Heidelberg from the castle overlooking the city:

Heidelberg Altstadt

The castle itself was pretty spectacular, and I’m not even sure this pictures can do it justice:

Schloss Heidelberg

Schloss Heidelberg courtyard

Schloss Heidelberg sundial

Surrounding the ruined castle were some very pretty gardens, perfect for touristy photos:

In the gardens at Schloss Heidelberg

Beyond the castle, Heidelberg is a city of small delights, like this statue we saw in the Altstadt:

Statue in Heidelberg

I’m looking forward to going back some time.

Lincoln Logs

When I was a kid, my grandparents had a set of Lincoln Logs at their house, and I used to love building houses on the family room floor. Now that I have kids of my own, you can bet I have some log cabin building materials in my own house. In fact, we have two big barrels of ’em, the better to build luxurious mansons like this:

Lincoln Log mansion

Anna and I often head down to the basement playroom on Saturday mornings because we’re usually the first ones awake in the house. Building houses with Lincoln Logs has become something of a weekend morning tradition for us. Last weekend, Maria joined us too:

Maria builds Lincoln Logs

We like to build unusual houses – tree forts suspended between the two barrels, funky cantilevered structures that would make Frank Lloyd Wright proud. And we always have a corral for the horses, because the two barrels’ worth of Lincoln Logs yielded something like twelve horses and six cowboys.

Will’s party

Saturday I went to will’s house for his party and Tyler was there too. We went out to Uno’s with Will’s other friend Tanner (his real name is James) and we all had make your own pizzas. then for dessert we had brownie cake and ice cream and Tyler and i split one with whipped cream and Will and Tanner had one without whipped cream. Then we went to Wintersport ice rink and skated with Maria. I fell once and hit my cheek, shoulder and my knee on the ice. Luckily though, Maria didn’t slam in Will’s house and played video games and we stayed up most of the night. Then Will made us go down stairs and have cereal at 6:00, where we watched Demitri Martin on On Demand. He is funny. Then, while we where watching him, Will and Tyler fell asleep, with Tyler on the left arm rest, a pillow, the me, then Will on my arm, which was pretty much on my whole body, both asleep. So I quietly went and got my cell phone, took a picture of them, not a great picture, but they looked really funny, so I took it. Then I curled up in an arm chair and watched a bit more until I apparently fell asleep. That was when Will’s mom Lisa, came down, tried to wake Will up to help her wake Tyler and I up, but will just went up stairs to his room without a word and fell asleep in his bed. Lisa then tried to wake me up, but I wouldn’t wake up, so she went over to Tyler to wake him up, and when she did, he went up stairs, and like Will, didn’t say a word. Then she woke me up and like the other two, I didn’t say a word. Later we woke up and played video games, and then Lisa started making breakfast, at like 1:00 pm. when we were eating, Lisa said that when he were asleep in the living room, Tyler was sleeping on a water bottle, Will had his head on Tyler’s back, and I was sleeping on my cell phone. Breakfast was good, and when we finished we played more video games, then Tyler’s mom came, so he had to go, an then Will and I went in the bamboo forest behind his house and then we went in, went back to his room and played video games, then had dinner then dessert, which was brownies Lisa made and ice cream(sounds familar right?). Then my dad came and we went home.

And now for something completely different

Since Nick and I started blogging here a couple months ago, we’ve been focusing exclusively on daily family life around here. We’re enjoying that, and we’re going to keep going in that direction. And in addition to family blogging, every now and then I’m going to post up a link to an article or essay that I think many of you may enjoy. Think of this as eating your vegetables in between dessert servings of kid pictures.

The first article to occasion this kind of posting comes from today’s New York Times Magazine. Michael Lewis, who wrote Moneyball and The Blind Side – two of my all-time favorite books – reports on the phenomenon of Shane Battier, a “marginal NBA athlete” who just might be one of the most useful players of all time:

“Here we have a basketball mystery: a player is widely regarded inside the NBA as, at best, a replaceable cog in a machine driven by superstars. And yet every team he has ever played on has acquired some magical ability to win.”

Read the whole thing here.

New on the blog: Video!

This morning Anna was doing something silly, and I remembered that my point and shoot can also take short video clips. I give you Anna doing, um, magic:

And we’d be remiss in presenting videos if we didn’t serve up our classic nature documentary, Wild Baby, featuring young Nicholas as a toddler:

Now, if only we could figure out how to shoot in 3-D….