The kids who stare at goats

Back during the holidays, we went out to a tree farm in our area to cut down our Christmas trees. This tree farm has some fenced animals scattered around the property, and in addition to the usual horses and chickens and whatnot, there are some animals you wouldn’t expect to see on a tree farm in Pennsylvania – an ostrich, an emu, a couple of alpacas, and some pygmy goats:


My kids love the goats, and suggested that we get some for our yard. I’m just lazy enough as a mower of grass that I thought about it half-seriously for a moment. But no, sorry, we can’t have goats roaming the property.

Renovation update: Those aren’t vines

I did some work over the weekend in the girls’ room, getting the walls and ceiling ready for painting. A big step in the process is dealing with plaster cracks. Our old house has plaster and lath walls and ceilings, which are great – they’re durable as all get out, and fairly soundproof too. However, as the house breathes from season to season, and as it inevitably settles down on its foundation, we get cracks in the wall.

My job this weekend was to make those cracks bigger, so that I can then make them disappear. This is how things looked by Sunday afternoon:



(That hole in the wall is the heating/cooling vent.)

Every member of my family walked into the room at some point and said, “Whoa! Why are you making the cracks bigger!” Nick thought they looked like vines on the wall – not such a stretch, since there’s already a rose vine border painted up one corner of the room.

This coming weekend I’ll be finishing up the crack work, and doing some repairs to the hardwood floor. No more squeaks!

Guitar hero

I think I mentioned the other day that Nick has been teaching himself how to play the guitar. To help him along, my folks bought him a beautiful acoustic Fender guitar for Christmas. This was apparently a popular gift, because when they ordered it well before Christmas, it was already on back order until late January.

The guitar arrived late last week, and our man was ready to rock:


He can sling it over his shoulder, too:


You can see my keyboard in the background; we sat in my office the night he got the guitar and played the chorus of the “Ode to Joy” together. I look forward to a day when we can play something a little more ambitious. Maria wants in on the action, too – she is learning “Simple Gifts” on her recorder and wants us to play as a trio. If Anna and Chelsea will sing with us, we’ll have a full family band going!

Public service announcement

We would like to remind all of you that pitchers and catchers report for the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday, February 17th. That’s only 26 days from now.




Take us out to the ball game! We’re ready for baseball again.

Rock climbing!

Because of the holiday on Monday, everybody but me had the day off from school. I took the afternoon off from work, and we went rock climbing. It’s one of our favorite winter activities – indoors, physical, and everyone in the family can participate. It’s also a lot of fun to watch Maria climb – she is utterly fearless and will scale any wall in the building.

First order of business is to get into harnesses:




We started out with some bouldering – climbing on low walls without the benefit of the belaying rope.




Nick made a beeline to his favorite spot, where he can hang upside down:


Before long it was time to get on the ropes and climb up high:





Your intrepid reporter didn’t do any belay climbing, but spent the afternoon scurrying around to hang out with the kids:


Most of what we see of Maria at the rock gym looks like this… a rapidly disappearing speck up high on the wall:



Nick did some impressive work this time, too, climbing all the way to the top of a rope ladder suspended in open space:



Grandma, I assure you this is all very safe – as one of the staff members kept saying to the kids, “This rope could hold a car, and the rope is bolted to the floor. You’re not going anywhere.”

New Year’s Eve

Somehow these pictures escaped me the other week… we spent New Year’s Eve with the Killenbecks, who were college friends of our friends Greg and Aly. They live just a few towns away from us, and graciously invited us along to their party. The highlights of the event included Rock Band 2 on the Wii, and my dear friend Greg sporting a fez:


Our host Eric rocked out on the gee-tar:


Aly got in on the action too:


And Chelsea notched her debut as a Rock Band 2 lead singer:


A good time was had by all.




Getting ready to renovate

We have a tradition of working on our house in the new year. With the kids’ numerous activities throughout the year, it works out that January and February are relatively quiet months, especially on the weekends. (I say “relatively” because we still have ballet, indoor soccer, school basketball, and so on.)

Two years ago, we renovated Nick’s room in the first two months of the year. This year, we’re taking on the girls’ room.

We got started weekend before last by unloading the room. That turned out to be a bit of an adventure, since the girls own a massive amount of clothing. Massive. We sent six bins of clothes into temporary storage in the attic, gave away several more bins’ worth, and kept a small amount accessible for each of them. Knick knacks and other items took up another five bins.

As we were cleaning out, the room looked like this:




The outgoing theme was roughly based on princesses. We had an appropriately frilly light fixture:


And Chelsea had done some beautiful painted designs on the walls:




All of this will go away in the new scheme, which will be Asian themed. We are installing new lighting, re-painting the walls and ceiling, doing some refinishing on the floor, and creating a hair and makeup area for the girls to get ready in the morning. One of the things we’re most excited about is that we’ll be doing a metallic gold ceiling – an idea we first saw many years ago in a room that Chelsea’s stepmother had designed. We’ve been waiting a while to steal it!

Now that we’ve got the room nice and empty, our next steps will be to make some repairs to plaster cracks on the walls and ceiling, touch up a few spots on the hardwood floor, and prime the walls and ceiling in preparation for paint. We haven’t chosen paint colors yet, but Maria is making a quilt for her bed, and the paint colors will match the fabric.

Magic machines

Either Maria or Anna snapped this picture the other night… Nick and I seem to be completely engrossed with something on the computer, which is a pretty common state for both of us:


Next week: A status update on the girls’ room as we start renovating. Happy weekend!

Wayback Machine: Anna gets a bath

Another treasure from the archive… these are some pictures of a very messy Anna getting a bath in the kitchen sink, when she was probably between six and twelve months old. Here’s the little monster with leftovers from lunch all over her face:

Messy Anna 2

Messy Anna 1

So it was into the sink with her:

Funny Face

Grabbing water 1

Fingers in mouth



And here she is with Mom after her bath:

All Clean

Though she’s a little big for the sink now, Anna still takes baths now and then, with toys and everything. Even so, she’s very near the bath/shower age divide that Nick and Maria have both already crossed. Nick now rolls out of bed every morning and takes a shower before doing anything else. Voluntarily. How are they getting so big so fast?

Drivin’ past the pool

We’re getting ready to do some renovations around the house, starting with a refresh of the girls’ room. Every time I drive over to our friendly neighborhood home improvement store, I drive past our summer swim club. Aside from the Christmas tree sale in the parking lot every year, there’s not much going on at the pool from Labor Day until late spring. Still, I sometimes pull into the parking lot, even in the dead of winter, to have a look at the grounds and imagine warmer days:




From last year’s blogging I know to look for green grass starting in the middle of February. That’s also when the honeybees start coming back to their hives. In fact we learned last winter that the bees always come back around February 15th, regardless of how warm, cold, rainy, or snowy it might be.

One more sign of spring that’s soon to come: pitchers and catchers report back for the Phillies on February 18th. That’s just five weeks away.

In the meantime, we’ve had some lovely evenings around the fire at home, and we’ll soon get out for some indoor swimming – Nick asked me the other night if we could go swim. Absolutely! In the blink of an eye we’ll be out at time trials at the swim club. Best get ready.