Westward ho!

Dear readers, today is the day we embark on our trip out West. We’ve been in a western frame of mind ever since our brief visit to the Grand Canyon earlier this year:


Everyone who has been to Yellowstone tells us it will be the trip of a lifetime. We’ll have truckloads of photos to share when we get back, no doubt!

Posting will resume here when we get back. See you again soon.

Ballet recital continued

While Anna was sporting the most striking look, miss Maria was dancing in all four recital shows over the weekend, and doing a beautiful job with it. I lack the proper camera to take pictures of the show, so apologies for the blurriness here:


She’s in this shot, if you look closely… Maria is fourth in line among the purple dancers. I think.


Let’s go to the post-game roundup:



Maria really wanted to look taller than me, so I made myself shorter for this picture:


My sister gave Maria a beautiful necklace with great sentimental value – this is the necklace Kate received as a gift when she finished her own dancing career at the end of high school:


As you can imagine, Maria and the other little bunheads all spend a ton of time socializing between shows. Her she is with one of her best ballet girlfriends:


It’s always a delight to see Maria dancing on stage. We can’t wait to see where her budding ballet career takes her.

Anna on stage

You know how those kids just keep growing, and getting bigger and older? Well, here’s our little Anna on stage at the ballet recital this weekend:



And here she is after her performance. I can’t get over these pictures. She looks so old. I told her I look at these pictures and I can see what she’s going to look like as an adult.





I am told the stage makeup is contributing to the effect, but I don’t care. My little baby girl looks all grown up… and I’m just stunned.

More ballet tomorrow.

Time to travel again?!?

After all that business travel, I’m now turning my attention to our family trip out West. We live this Friday for a two-week swing through Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. It’s our first big trip with our pop-up camper, and we’re incredibly excited.

During our shakedown cruise in May, we discovered that the weight of the trailer pushes down on the back of the van, causing a lot of bouncing in the ride. Chelsea struggled with motion sickness, which is a real rarity for her. I had already decided to put some air lifters on the van to support the rear shocks, but the work took on a new urgency after that unpleasant experience for my darling bride.

So this past weekend, it was time for me to crawl around under the back end of the van:


The lifters are basically bags of air that sit inside the springs on the rear axle. They prevent the springs from compressing, which stiffens up the ride and keeps the back end of the van level.


My neighbor Franny was kind enough to lend me both a hydraulic floor jack and a creeper so that I could get around underneath the van without hurting by back.


The air bags in the springs are pressurized, and they attach to a filler line that I ran up into the jack compartment in the trunk of the passenger cabin. This basically meant snaking a lot of supply lines around underneath the van, making sure they were positioned so they would not get pinched by the movement of the axle, or melted by the exhaust line.



Notice how clean my hand is in this picture… oh my goodness.


The last step was to hook up an air compressor and pressurize the system to see if it would hold… and it did. Success!


We’ve got a bunch more packing and organizing to do, but this was the last major mechanical project before we leave. (This, and replacing one of the tail lights on the camper because of that lens cover we lost on last month’s trip. That job went so quickly that I didn’t even take pictures of it.)

A world of travel

I had an unusual pair of back-to-back business trips for work the last two weeks. During the week of June 6th I was in Germany for a few days, and last week I was in Montreal for all of about 48 hours. It wasn’t enough time in either place for me to do much visiting, so in the end I felt like I had spent the whole time in transit.

Flights from the US to Frankfurt, Germany often end up at a ‘remote parking stand’, which means they wheel stairs up to the plane, and you take a bus to the terminal. I’ve done this several times, but it’s always amazing to stand on the ground and look up at the majestic airplane that just carried me across the ocean.


The engines in particular are huge, and awe-inspiring:


The bus ride to the terminal is a little more mundane:


For this trip I stayed at a hotel that is run by my employers, and is across the street from headquarters:


I must have taken that picture on Sunday when I arrived, because during the work days I was there, I never got back to the room before 10:00 at night.

Speaking of late nights, my flight to Montreal was delayed by weather, and I realized with surprise that I had not been delayed on a flight in a long time.

Dude, where's my plane?

Business travel is glamorous


In contrast with those mighty Lufthansa flying machines, my Air Canada regional jet was, well, a little more humble:


Montreal was every bit as lovely as I remembered from my two prior visits. They even have a bike sharing system like Paris, though I didn’t get a chance to ride:


My hotel in Montreal was far too cool for me – it was a swanky boutique around the corner from our office, not far from McGill University. There seems to be a rule in these places that the hallways have to look like there’s a power outage:


The room did have a deep, deep bathtub, and so I got the rare opportunity to take a soaking bath in the morning:


I also got the chance to watch Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals in a Canadian sports bar, which seemed fitting, though the Montreal Canadiens weren’t playing:


Truth be told, there were more Boston fans than Vancouver fans in the house, given our relative proximity to Beantown. In any event, the crowd was lively but not terribly invested in the outcome. There was no rioting in Montreal after the game was over.

So in two weeks’ time, I picked up four passport stamps and about 9,000 miles (14,400 km) of air travel. That’s a lot of time in the air!

Wayback Machine: June 2010

The girls have their big ballet recital this weekend. In their honor, here’s a look back at last year’s show:


I’m struck once again by how fast they’re getting older. I see so much change in them today compared with this picture from just last year:


Miss Maria is sailing along in her ballet career, and I can’t wait to see what she will be doing on stage this time.



Happy weekend to all!

Birthday party

The young son of our good friend Matt just turned two the other day, and we were invited to his birthday party. My kids were like giants compared with the other guests, but we had a grand time all the same.


Nick really is getting to be adult sized now… he looked comically out of place on the little kids’ playground equipment.


Anna, of course, still looks like she’s in her element:


As for our friend Matt, well, he pretty much always looks this goofy:


The party was at a nature center in South Jersey, and there was an area for the kids to “shop” in a pretend grocery store. Anna had great fun filling up her cart and having me ring her up as the cashier:


In fact all three of my kids enjoyed being little again – feeding the animals, pretending to shop, and sitting at the kids’ table with their knees bunched up at their sides. They spend so much of their time trying to be big and old that they (and we) lose sight of the sheer pleasure of being little.

Summer in the city: Concert in NYC

The day after Memorial Day, Kate, Chelsea, and I took a kid-free day trip up to New York City. Our mission: See a concert in Central Park featuring the musicians Ray LaMontaigne and Brandi Carlile. The weather was hot and sunny, and it felt more like August than the last day of May.

We drove into town and parked down in the Village, not far from the Holland Tunnel. Our day started out with a leisurely lunch at a crepe restaurant on St. Mark’s Place, a street in the East Village that has a legendary counterculture history going back to the Beat poets. After lunch, we took a subway uptown and spent a couple of blissfully air-conditioned hours at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

It’s not exactly a hardship to spend the day in the company of these beautiful women:


After the museum, we headed down to Rumsey Playfield in Central Park for the concert. Along the way, we passed the Engineers’ Gate to the park, and the girls snapped my picture there, since I am technically an engineer by training:


It was lovely to take a walk through the park:


We also came across the boat pond made famous by the book Stuart Little. We were a little pressed for time, or else I would have rented a boat and imagined brave Stuart at the helm:



We got to the venue early enough to land some decent seats, though in truth there probably isn’t a bad seat in the house. It’s a smaller version of the Mann Music Center in Philadelphia – lawn seating all around, and some bleachers at the back.



There were three acts playing that night. The opening act was The Secret Sisters, a country duet from Alabama. They were great singers, but relatively new to performing on stage, and they didn’t have much of a presence yet.

Next was Brandi Carlile, who worked the crowd like an old pro:


The venue got progressively more crowded as the evening went on, and more of the attendees started coming in from work:



Finally we were under the night sky, listening to Ray LaMontaigne, and enjoying a lovely (but blazing hot) evening of music in the park.


Two hours of bleary-eyed driving later, and we were home again. I say this every time we go up to NYC: Man, we should do that more often. We had a great time.

The pool is open! Must be summer.

When the swimming pools open, it’s officially summertime again:


This is a young friend of ours from the swim club, acting very silly:


Anna was happily reacquainting herself with the water:


And with all three kids now swimming strongly, the parents can enjoy themselves, too:


There’s nothing quite like a flawless summer day at the pool!


Last looks at the beach

OK, we’re back! Summer is just getting started in our house, and before we get into adventures at the pool and elsewhere, here’s one more look at our beach weekend from Memorial Day.


Thanks again to our hostesses with the mostesses:


Wa-wa-watch the tram car, please:

Wa-wa-watch the tram car, please...

And finally, we forgot to bring a bike for Gramps:



Maybe next time.