Pictures of the Year, Part 5

On the home stretch!

This picture of the three kids together might be one of my very favorites for life. They got into my work wardrobe and outfitted themselves for a classical concert. I just loved seeing the three of them be silly together like this:


In 2009 we saw a lot of duality in the kids – so small sometimes, and yet so big and old and mature. I won’t soon forget this shot of Anna in goal at one of her soccer games, ready to be fierce, and also sporting a dolphin on her cheek:

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We’ve also learned more about Anna’s considerable sense of style. She takes herself seriously, but she also likes to adopt a certain pose:


Maria’s look is more traditionally glamorous than Anna’s:


Yet Maria also has this wonderful sense of stewardship for other people and for the world, and she often manages to blend both of those traits together:


Nick is perilously close to the teenage years, and can look so grown up sometimes, yet he’s still our playful little boy:


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It is a real pleasure to write this blog for all of you. Not just because it’s a fun way to keep you up to date, but also because it helps me to see our family as it is today – bursting at the seams with life.

If we get a chance to post some Christmas pictures, we will. If not, I’ll see you again in 2010. Merry Christmas and happy new year!

Pictures of the Year, Part 4

NOTE: This didn’t post yesterday for some reason. Deepest apologies!

Later in the year we got to visit a few beaches. Chelsea prefers the mountains, but I like waves, sand, and a good book. The opportunities also abound for some pretty pictures.

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We visited the mountains, too, and the photography ain’t bad there, either. I notice in posting these pictures that Maria may have some mountain tendencies, too:





Tomorrow: One more look at our favorite personalities.

Pictures of the Year, Part 3

We had a few getaway weekends in late spring and early summer. Over Mother’s Day weekend we went camping in far northern New Jersey at a place called Triplebrook Farm, near the Delaware Water Gap. Over Father’s Day weekend the Sperger dads and sons went to Gettysburg. Both places lent themselves easily to atmospheric pictures as well as some fine candid shots.






These are two of my very favorite pictures from the year:



Tomorrow: Beaches and sunshine.

Pictures of the Year, Part 2

The first few months of each year are an opportunity for us to spend a little more time with the kids than we do in our busier months. Everyone’s activity schedule is at a low point for the year. That means we get to see each other, and we also get to pay closer attention to the activities we do have in motion.

I loved having the opportunity to see Maria dance in her ballet class during one of their parent observation weeks:


I also love going out for hikes with Nick and Anna, my fellow early risers, on Saturday mornings:


This may be the best single picture Anna took all year:


In March we made our annual trip to Florida for spring break, stopping at our cousins’ place in North Carolina on the way. Nick is a natural on the trampoline, and this was my favorite shot of him in flight:


I’ve also come to appreciate from this blog that Maria makes some excellent faces for pictures. Here she is on Easter morning, expressing delight with one of her gifts:


Tomorrow: Sum-sum-summertime.

Pictures of the Year, Part 1

Believe it or not, gentle readers, this blog has burned through around 2,000 pictures since inception last December. Probably the single most often used pictures are variations on Anna doing something cute and disruptive in my office.

Sifting through the photo library, though, I came up with a small collection of favorites from the year. I’ll be going through them this week, and then the blog will be on Christmas holiday during the weeks of December 21st and December 28th, returning for the new year on January 4th, 2010.


You may remember that back in January we went to Washington for some kind of big event on the 20th of that month. Can’t remember the details. Anyway, among other things we visited the World War II Memorial for the first time.


We also saw Mount Vernon on our last day in town.


Nick’s friend Will came along for the trip with us. I just loved this picture of the two boys together; I had asked them to look tough:


I also loved this look from Anna.


Tomorrow: Late winter and spring.

Technical note for RSS readers: If you are reading this blog using RSS, and you are receiving multiple versions of recent posts, I apologize. I’m having some technical trouble with photo URLs copying over correctly from Flickr.

Saturday morning American Girls

In recent months, Anna has been very devoted to her American Girl dolls. During our traditional Saturday morning playtime, we’ve been going down to the basement to dress, feed, and give our attention to the dolls.



Last Saturday morning, Maria joined us. She turned out to be an ardent hairdresser for our dolls:


Maria took a picture of me and Anna with all of the dolls:


You might notice that the dolls are all wearing fancy clothes. This was our Christmas celebration with the dolls, and my girls decided that they needed to dress up fancy as well:



Good times!


First snow of the season

True fact: It has snowed in Philadelphia on 6 of the last 8 December 5ths of the year. This year saw about an inch (2.5cm) of snow fall on our fair city, and the next morning, we rolled out to take advantage:




This is just a tiny hill down the street from us. You wouldn’t even think of it as a hill if you were out taking a walk – more like a gentle rise coming up to the street from the baseball field. Still, it gets the job done.



Nick decided he wanted to “hang ten” on his snowboard. This didn’t end well.


Back at the house, the kids made a pint-sized snowman suitable for the day’s meager bounty… notice all the green yard behind Nick in this picture:


It was a nice start to what we’re told will be a very snowy season.

So do we believe in this guy or not?

Anna has been hedging her bets in recent years when it comes to Santa Claus. She tells us solemnly that he isn’t real… and then she writes him a letter. Here are the kids visiting with the Jolly One on the day we went out to get our Christmas trees:


We’ve always been pretty direct with the kids about Santa Claus being a fictional character. Our conversation took on a new urgency a year or two ago when Anna suddenly became afraid of being anywhere in the house by herself at Christmastime. It took us a while to figure out that she was worried she would find herself alone in a room with a big old fat guy who was breaking and entering.

Thanksgiving: Late night magic

On Turkey Day itself, we started out at the Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM). We had parked close enough to walk at both Epcot and SeaWorld, so this was our first day visiting with our old friends, the parking trams:




The weather in the morning was bright, crisp, and a little breezy. The rains of the prior day had cleared out overnight.


Here are the three mouseketeers on Hollywood Boulevard:


Since the last time I was at the Studios, they’ve installed a huge Sorcerer’s Apprentice hat at the end of the main entrance corridor. So we took some pictures there:




In fact the hat was our first stop of the day, because there was a High School Musical 3 show about to go on just a few minutes after we arrived. Anna, who by chance was wearing her High School Musical sweatshirt that day, got picked out of the crowd to help teach us a cheer:




(Yes, that’s my dad and Chels doing the cheer up front.)


A few minutes later during the show, Maria got picked out of the crowd to dance with the performers:



Later in the day, Nick got his turn – he was picked out of the crowd while we were waiting to go into an animation workshop. He was supposed to count the number of people waiting to go in, but he had trouble maintaining his composure:



My dad took that opportunity to get his nap for the day:


The animation workshop was really neat – it’s something we have never done before, and it was easily the most interactive thing we did in the parks. Groups of about 40 people come into a sort of classroom and learn how to draw a character, using techniques that the animators use. The kids loved it:





Maria in particular was very much in her element:



Before long it was time for Thanksgiving dinner. My mom had reserved us a table at the Wave restaurant in the Contemporary Resort hotel over by the Magic Kingdom. We had a lovely meal and really enjoyed each other’s company.

After dinner, it was time for more theme park fun. We hopped on a monorail to head over to the Magic Kingdom:


The park was fairly crowded when we got there, but emptied out with each hour. And since the park was open until midnight, there were plenty of hours in front of us.

We rode It’s a Small World, because – I tell no lies – it is Chelsea’s favorite ride:



Next we went on Peter Pan, and then the carousel. Note the glassy look in Anna’s eyes… a sure sign that she’s just about done with her day:



At length we made our way over to Tomorrowland. Chelsea, Maria, and Kate had gone ahead to ride Space Mountain, but there was a very long line. Instead, they found a dance party in progress in the middle of Tomorrowland. (Leave it to Maria and Kate to find a dance party wherever they go.)




Pluto and Stitch were there, too:



After the dance party, we caught the tail end of the SpectroMagic parade in front of the castle. My folks and Kate then headed back to the ranch with the girls, while Chelsea and I stayed on with Nick for a few last rides. Nick and I had to zap some bad guys on the Buzz Lightyear ride, and Nick also wanted to take me for a spin on the racecars. We got back to the house at 1:00 in the morning and crashed.

This actually wraps up my vacation pictures. On Friday, Chels and I packed up, made our way back down to Tampa, had lunch with Ginger once more, and then caught our flight home. The rest of the gang spent another day at the Magic Kingdom on Friday and then came home Saturday afternoon.

It was a great trip, one for the ages, and we really enjoyed the time we had with family and friends.

Now, back in Philadelphia, we’ve been busy bees since then, and tomorrow I’ll start catching you up on our Christmas preparations.

Wednesday: Soggy holiday

When last we left our intrepid travelers, they had gone from the quiet delights of the beach to the noisy company of five young children. As long as the weather held, all would be well.

Hmm. About that.

We woke up on Wednesday to occasional showers that wanted very much to become something more. First order of business in the morning was to send our Tampa visitors back home; Anna and Maria rode with me to the rendezvous point and we sent them on their way. Back at the ranch, the skies continued to fill with clouds and muck:


And by the time we arrived at SeaWorld, the rains were steady enough to drive our crew back into their panchos:



On the plus side, the place was completely empty:


We started out with two animal encounters – feeding stingrays, and then, the highlight of the day, feeding dolphins. The stingrays swim around in a shallow pool, making it easy to reach in and touch them:



We fed them small fish that nobody in our group would mistake for snack food:


Nick demonstrates the technique here – you put a fish between two fingers, as if you were holding a cigarette (though of course the SeaWorld people don’t say it this way), and then you put your hand down on the bottom of the pool. The rays then swim over your hand and eat the fish, hopefully without nipping a finger in the process.


Once the rays figure out it’s snacktime, they come to you:


Next we moved on to dolphin feeding. You may not know that Anna is a dolphin fanatic. Every week she brings home dolphin books from the school library. (Clearly she’s not the first kid at her school to have this obsession – the library has a remarkably large collection of dolphin books.) Last year one of her Christmas presents was a crystal dolphin, which sits proudly on her bedroom dresser next to her soccer trophies.

The dolphins did not disappoint. As long as we had food to offer, they were happy to hang out with us:








After feeding the dolphins, there was only one thing to do that made sense… that’s right, a dolphin show:



Kate and Anna paid homage with their very best fish faces:


Next up was a lunch break, followed by the Shamu show, which is like the dolphin show only with much larger orcas:



There was a kiddie ride area directly behind Shamu Stadium, so we tortured Nick by sending him on a smallish roller coaster:


And we also got our group picture for the day:


Anna got to ride a dolphin on the carousel:


I think this is a hammerhead shark that Nick is riding:


The rain had mostly let up at this point, though you can see we’re sporting sweatshirts and jackets because of the chill that the rain was leaving behind:


Kate graciously took Anna on the miniature teacups…


…while Nick and Maria went in for the mini drop ride:


Another fake Shamu, another photo op:




By this point in the day, both adults and kids were looking for a break from the rain and the relentless fun. So we split the group in two: Most of the crowd headed back to the house for swimming and naptime, while Chelsea, Maria, and I stayed at SeaWorld to see a few more things. Chels and Maria were mainly interested in roller coasters, and I was mainly interested in holding their stuff for them, safely on terra firma.

En route to the coasters we went through a wicked cool undersea exhibit. You stand on a moving walkway and go through the bottom of a huge aquarium tank, with an arched piece of glass covering the walkway. I remember this walkway from the last time I was at SeaWorld, when I was 10 years old. I remember thinking it would break while I was inside, leaving me at the bottom of the tank with this:


Maria has no such concerns, or anyway would have been excited at the chance to touch a shark:


The girls went on two coasters. The first one, which I think was called Kraken, seemed to be an enjoyable ride for both of them:


The second one, Manta, was another story.


The concept of the ride is that you are flying along the bottom of the sea, like a manta ray. You ride in a laying-down position, with only your harness between you and a quick, unhappy flight to the ground. There are nets underneath the first hill, but only partway up:


About 40 feet off the ground, those nets go away, and they’re gone for the duration. And man, this thing looked scary:


Maria had a fabulous time. Chelsea, on the other hand, said she was scared witless. Happy to have conquered the ride, to be sure, but scared witless.

Manta seemed like a fitting end to the day, so from SeaWorld we headed to the new Sweet Tomatoes (yes!) next to Disney World, where we met up with the rest of the crew for dinner. Most of the gang then headed to Downtown Disney for movies and shopping. Your narrator, gentle readers, headed back to the house for a very early bedtime.

Tomorrow: Thanksgiving and theme parks.