Sunday in the park with Jim

My old friend Jim Montgomery, who has been serving in the Army for many years now, was home on leave for the weekend, so several of us got together at a local park for some Sunday brunch and a social call.

Here is the General himself, with his paramour Angela:


My friend Greg and his family were there, playing mini golf like it was their job:


The kids got in on the golf action, naturally:



It’s always a pleasure to catch up with old friends.

Celtic Fling

This past Saturday we went to the Celtic Fling at the site of the PA Renaissance Faire, located about an hour and change west of our house via the PA Turnpike. Our friend Dana was performing with his pipe band, Loch Rannoch, at the festival, and he was kind enough to arrange for us to receive free passes – including two extra ones for our friends Catie and McKinley, who are in town visiting us from Florida.

First order of business: Play some games. Maria decided to have a go at climbing the Jacob’s Ladder, a rope ladder suspended from an overhead frame such that it is completely off the ground and mostly parallel to the ground. If you climb to the top of it and ring a bell hanging at the end, you win a little prize. Did Maria win? Of course she did. She is our resident monkey.






The kids also played a medieval version of skee-ball:





Nick and I then did archery, and unfortunately I don’t seem to have any pictures of it. I managed to hit one target I meant to hit, and another target I didn’t mean to hit. Nicholas hit everything at which he aimed.

I told Chelsea I would brush up on my archery over the next several months in case the need to defend our house ever arises.


Later, we came across some stocks, which were very handy when Nick and Anna started misbehaving:



Fair-skinned Maria and her friend McKinley both bought parasols to stay cool:


There are rides at the Renaissance Faire, but they are not the kind of rides you see at a town carnival. Medieval rides require the operator and the rider to do a lot more work. Here are some of our gang on a swinging ship that they kept going on their own, using ropes:


Maria went on a ride called the Wild Boar that involved a spinning, swinging journey inside a giant wooden boar:





It was a great day for a festival!

Puzzles and pictures

Anna and I sat down together after dinner the other night and put together a puzzle:


Anna decided she wanted to play around with the camera:


Then we took some silly pictures of her:


Sometimes the simplest evenings are the most fun.

Summer swim meets

We’ve been making our kids learn how to swim for the past couple years by signing them up for the swim team at our pool. Chelsea ran the numbers the first year and decided it was a no-brainer – $40 for lessons, or $25 for the swim team, which runs longer and teaches the kids multiple strokes. All three of our kids are on the team this year.

Our first meet of the season took place on Tuesday, just after Chels and the kids got back from the beach. (I need to steal some photos of that adventure from her computer.) I always enjoy the warmup part of the meets, when you have about four thousand kids in the pool all swimming laps and bunching up in swim lane traffic jams:


Young Nick, who you will notice is looking quite buff these days thanks to his constant athletic pursuits, is swimming a few different events. I believe what I’ve got here is his 50-meter breaststroke race, though he will soon correct me if I’m wrong.

Tightening up the goggles pre-race:



And they’re off:



Later he swam a 50-meter freestyle. Worth mentioning that this is our team’s first year in a new league, and this first opponent was the most formidable one we are likely to see. We lost, but we couldn’t help admiring the efficiency and the quality with which they run the show. We were among professionals.



Maria swam in a couple races too, but it was later in the evening and I didn’t get any good pictures of her. Anna and I had front-row seats to the meet, thanks to a rare early arrival on our part:


We have meets every Tuesday and Saturday from now until the end of July. If you’re in the area and want to see my kids swim, just give me a shout and I’ll provide you with the details.

Gettysburg, day 2

Four generations of Sperger men stood on the battlefield that day:


We closed out the battlefield tour and our boys’ weekend in high style. Sunday morning we went to Mass and then had a leisurely breakfast. Around mid-day, we headed back to the auto tour to pick up where we had left off the night before. There was another of those dadblamed observation towers to climb:



Gramps wisely stuck with guard duty at the van… this was the highest of the observation towers, making this picture look like it was taken by a satellite:


We wound our way around to all the old familiar places – Little Round Top, the Wheatfield, Devil’s Den. The joint was jumping on Sunday, with lots of tour buses coming through:


Lots of opportunities to look stoic along the way… this is my uncle Mick at Devil’s Den:


Nick clambered up to the top of the New York state monument on Little Round Top:



We also got to climb up to the top of the Pennsylvania monument, which was closed during our last visit. It’s an utterly dark stone spiral staircase, only a person’s width in size, and that was a hoot:





There was one more observation tower to climb, at Culp’s Hill on the northeast end of the Union line:



All of the towers have these great line-of-sight guides for identifying landmarks… you just line up the two triangles and you’re looking in the right direction:




Our battlefield tour, and our weekend at Gettysburg, concluded with a visit to the site of Pickett’s Charge and the high water mark of the Confederate campaign:



I want to close this entry with one more picture of my grandfather, who has given three generations of Spergers an example of integrity, creativity, and good humor to follow. Doesn’t he look fabulous? What a fine traveling companion to have on Father’s Day:


Next year, we think we might go to Manassas, and cross into Confederate territory.

Intermission: Airport run

I’ll have more Gettysburg pictures tomorrow, with any luck. When we got back from Gettysburg, we went right to the airport to pick up some friends from Florida who are visiting for several days. Nick and I came into the airport Sunday evening for our pickup, and found that we literally had the place to ourselves:


Nick wished he had brought his Heely sneakers, the ones with roller skate wheels at the heel. I mused that we could have bowled in the hallway had we brought the right gear. No liquids in a bowling ball and ten pins, right?

Gettysburg, day 1

Over the weekend Nick and I took a boys’ trip to Gettysburg with my dad, his dad, my uncle Mick, and his son Brendan. This was almost a carbon copy of the same trip which we took together two years ago. The girls went to the beach and are due back tomorrow, so I’ll have their pictures later in the week.

We drove out Friday evening and arrived around 10:30. In the morning, young Nick was raring to go:


Since our last trip the new visitors’ center has opened, featuring the restored Cyclorama painting of the battle. We were disappointed to learn that the legendary Electric Map didn’t make the trip to the new facility, but the restored Cyclorama is gorgeous, and the new movie they produced for the visitors’ center does a fine job providing the historical context for the Civil War.



The museum at the visitors’ center is a huge improvement over what they had previously. One of the best exhibits explained the order of secession of the Confederate states using a Freakonomics-style way of explanation: The exhibit shows the slave proportion of the population of each state, and then shows a map of the states with the date on which each one seceded from the Union. Five of the top six states with the largest slave populations were the first to go, almost in direct order of their rank on the population list. South Carolina left the Union only seven weeks after Lincoln won the 1860 election, and well before he had even been inaugurated.


Before long it was time to head out to the battlefield for the auto tour. You buy a guidebook in the visitors’ center that comes with two CDs, and the CD narration explains the battle and guides you around the field. The battle of Gettysburg took place over a huge area – 25 square miles, if I’m remembering right – so the drive takes you all over town and occasionally into the countryside.

During the battlefield tour, Gramps supervised from the van and made sure that the vehicle was secure:


Nick did an incredible job during the weekend reading and listening to things, and generally seems to have absorbed a huge amount of information. I can’t say I was as diligent when I was his age and we visited historical sites:


Of course, there are also a couple of vertigo-inducing observation towers above the treetops, so a young man with an athletic bent will get the opportunity to climb a lot of stairs and look out over the fields:




Of course, even the most dedicated historian needs a break now and then, so in late afternoon we headed back to the hotel for some R&R:



We had dinner that evening at the Appalachian Brewing Company, a brewpub right along the auto tour route. Though we didn’t get out of dinner until about 9:00 in the evening, we decided we’d hit a few more stops on the auto tour anyway. Driving through the battlefield right at dusk was neat – we had the place to ourselves, for one thing, and the forested land was cool and quiet. I got out for a quick walk from one stop to the next, and the air had that wonderful early-summer smell of honeysuckle. We made the Virginia memorial on the Confederate line our last stop of the evening:


Touring the battlefield today, it’s hard to imagine the degree of suffering that took place during that weekend – of the soldiers themselves, of the townspeople, and of the families who lost sons and brothers to the war. I took note of something in the museum that conveys just a little bit of that depth of loss:

“Every name… is a lightning stroke to some heart, and breaks like thunder over some home, and falls a long black shadow upon some hearthstone.” (The Gettysburg Compiler, 7 Jul 1863)

Ballet recital!

At last! Here are some pictures of our amazing girls at their ballet recital this weekend. Maria was a Shooting Star:


Here’s Maria with my Mom after one show… Maria performed in four shows over the weekend:


Anna was a Peppermint, and only danced in one show:



They looked great and danced their hearts out. We had a great time, and we’re just thrilled with the quality of the dance education they’re receiving.

Unrelated to the recital, Anna is sitting on the floor in my office as I write this, and she is absentmindedly singing to herself. Listening closely, I realized that she has mixed up two of the songs our kids have been playing in music lessons: “Hot cross buns, I fell in love with you / hot cross buns, I fell in love with you….”

Oh, dear.

Wayback machine: Keen Lake, July 2007

[Some editorial notes to start: Chels and I have not yet managed to connect on downloading photos from the ballet recital this weekend, so it will be another day or two before we get to that. Also, I’m going to be offline tomorrow, so after this post I will probably next get a chance to post on Thursday.]

Two summers ago, we spent a weekend with friends at Keen Lake campground, up in northeastern PA. It was a lot of fun, and we’re eager to get up there again, perhaps this time with some of their lakefront sites. Here’s our whole group at the canoe dock, looking like we posed for a Land’s End ad: