Wednesday, July 30, 2014


I learned tonight some valuable lessons. Namely . . . 

Lamb chops are tasty, but not very tender.


Kosher salt does amazing things on potatoes . . . so does butter. 

When one times the steaming of broccoli it comes out much better. 

There might be no better feeling than arriving at a huge pool on a beautiful night and find that no one else is there. 


I'm surprisingly close to checking off many, many items from my summer to-do list.

Minor League Baseball Game: Completed Aug. 24 in Reading. I took up an invitation to a game for the Fightin' Phils. We arrived late, the game was ridiculously well attended . . . I'll admit that I had thoughts of leaving early. But our friends found seats for the final three innings. Then we got to see an awesome fireworks show. Lessons: get reserved seating ahead of time for that show and bring Sherry in 2015.

Bad photo of scoreboard telling us we set the record for attendance to a game in Reading. Go figure. 

Taco dog. 

Selfie with my favorite kids. 
Get to some presidential homes: Monticello and Ash Lawn.

In front of Monticello.

Southwest corner of Monticello.

Sherry at Ash Lawn.
Exploring another State Park's camping possibilities: Check. At Promised Land.

Not bad for a picture taken in very low light. 

The finest bathrooms I've ever encountered at a state park.

View from near campsite.

View from near campsite.
Tomorrow: We venture to Dorney.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Dads Need Breaks

Sherry and I returned with Sam and Caroline from a brief trip to DC. Andrew and Amy, Sherry's brother and his wife, offered to take the kids for a few nights, permitting Sherry and I a trip to Monticello. I'll admit to some cold feet: Monticello is quite a drive, and complications due to road construction meant a two-hour trip became a two-and-a-half hour trip. We got started late, which I try to avoid when visiting historical sites. We were contemplating going with a trip to nearby Mt. Vernon instead. But we assured ourselves a trip to Monticello would be best without kids and would allow us to see two homes at one time. We therefore squeezed in a trip to Ashlawn, James Monroe's home, as well.

Sherry in front of Monticello before our tour. 

The rear of Monticello.

One of the underground passages at Monticello.

My best photo taken at Monticello. 


Sherry, my wife for fifteen years plus one day, at Ashlawn. 

Great meal in Allendale. 
Monticello was stunning. Ashlawn was quaint. I think Sherry's was more impressed by the latter. A lot of time in an architecture course in college was dedicated to Monticello, and visiting the home brought many of memories of what I learned from that course back. There's a large crowd the staff must manage at Monticello, so the tour doesn't feel very personal. But the site is so amazing, it commands an enormous number of visitors. Monroe's home was much more humble and though I'm glad I went, it simply didn't impress me much.

I have, by the way, now visited the homes of five presidents. Their homes (in order of impressiveness): Jefferson's Monticello, FDR's Hyde Park and Campobello, Lincoln, Washington's Mt. Vernon, Madison's Montpelier, Monroe's Ashlawn. The best tour, of these, was FDR's at Hyde Park. And of these homes, I'm eager to return to three: Hyde Park, Lincoln, and Monticello.

I don't want to overlook the significance of Sam and Caroline staying with Andrew and Amy for a couple of nights. This is the beginning of something big. I have three sets of uncles and aunts, but am much closer to one than the others: Uncle Larry and Aunt Linda. It's very natural for me to spend the night at their home. I look forward to the annual or semi-annual weekends with beer and poker at Uncle Larry's cabin. Sam and Caroline have the potential to have the relationship with their uncles and aunts that I have with Uncle Larry and Aunt Linda. Also, Sherry and I have the chance to build a relationship with our nephews and nieces the way Uncle Larry and Aunt Linda built one with us. This weekend marks the beginning of something that can be decades in the making.


It's true that I like to call attention to myself. It, in part, explains my calling to education: I'm on stage for three 90-minute periods a day. One cannot be a teacher unless one likes to be in the spotlight (and that's true even if one is a teacher who favors a teaching approach that is student-centered). I like to drive around with a perfectly homogeneous minivan but I make sure to put an obnoxiously yellow out-of-date Quebec license plate on the front. In public I frequently wear tee-shirts that call attention to myself, like this one I wore Friday to a trip to Fort McHenry.

If you're a kid at a historic site, how can you fail to find your dad if he's wearing such a goofy tee-shirt? Oh, and on a side note, why did a Facebook friend say she liked Sam's shirt but say nothing about mine or Caroline's? 
Well, now I have a stable of hats to stand out in public.

As the kids get taller, it's helpful for their dad to be wearing something on his head that makes him easily recognizable. 
So, here's the cast, in clockwise order from the left:

"Whiz Kids" Phillies cap. It's become my default cap for running on sunny days, so it's looking very, very weathered. I've come to recently like it after about two years of being not-quite satisfied with it. I still prefer the seventies-era fat P style of Phillies cap, but every time I get one of those, I seem to lose it.

"International Harvester" cap. This is my oldest one. When Sam was much younger, I felt besieged by so much John Deere apparel marketed toward my son. But my Pap drove a Farmall, and wearing a John Deere cap won't do. So I got this cap. Biggest criticism: it's adjustable and has never felt fully comfortable on my large head.

"G" for Gettysburg. I think this will be great to wear in rainy fall or spring weather. Right now, I'm not entirely happy with it. It's too polyestery. But I couldn't find a softer, sloppier fitted cap when I last visited campus.

"Hawks" for the Hawkthorne Football Club, Melbourne Australia. Awesome souvenir from Sherry's trip to Australia. I asked her to get me a cap for the cross-town rival Demons. However, the Demons apparently stink this year. So she got me a Hawks hat instead. It fits surprisingly well for an adjustable cap.

"Fightin' Phils" cap (most recent addition). I was at first puzzled by the Reading AA affiliate of the Phillies to change its logo and mascot over to the Fightin' Phils. But I've warmed up to the irony of a pugilistic ostrich. It's a very comfortable cap. I like it a lot.

"9" might be my favorite cap. It harkens to the road trip I took to Fenway with Ben, Gary, and Chris last summer. However, it makes many mistake me for a Red Sox fan, which isn't good. But how can one not be a fan of Ted Williams. Oh, and the Phillies might want to think about putting a maroon "20" on a toothpaste blue cap for sale at their own store. I'd buy it in a heartbeat.

There is a Holy Grail in my quest for the perfect cap: a replacement to this gem Sherry got me for Christmas years ago. Eventually the wool shrank and it no longer fits my head. I'm still looking for someone who sells a New York Knights cap that has the authentic fit of a 1930s cap.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Brief Return to Work

My summer at home was interrupted for one day by work. I attended a one-day workshop on revisions to the AP U.S. History course that is my favorite to teach. I'm back to teaching it this year, after a one-year hiatus. It's hard to imagine teaching the course with these changes if I had not attended the workshop. The changes to the program really are that substantial. It was even exciting, somewhat, to imagine teaching this . . .

Wait. What's that? Oh, really. Hmmm. And I'm finding this out at 1:45 of the day I'm having a conference about teaching AP U.S. in 2014-15?

Okay, well it seems I'm not teaching that course next year anyway. Looks like I'm needed in AP Macro land.

I think I ought to enjoy this rye and the next five weeks rather than express my angst at this switcheroo. One only has so many beautiful July evenings. Why waste one complaining about work?

Oh, Sherry and I think we might try to hit all five lakes on this year's summer adventure.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

She's Home

This home functions best when all four of us are here. Today our fourth member, Sherry, came home.

Her homecoming was somewhat strange in how normal it felt. She was away for more than two weeks, and I thought that her arrival home would feel weird (but in a great way) as we reunited. Her arrival was good, but it seemed much more natural than it did weird. The evening had the feel of an evening in which a puzzle was just completed after several weeks of work toward its completion. Perhaps that's not the most eloquent simile, but it'll do for now.

Caroline has adorned two of the animals Sherry brought home for her with fabric her grandmother gave.
A random picture of Ernie. He looks sad, but I think he's really just bored. 
Altogether, the two and a half weeks without Sherry moved by more quickly and with less trouble than I expected. I relied on the help of many good friends and a great babysitter. Family, of course, helped too. The kids and I only ate at home on two or three occasions for dinner, and for that I'm grateful for friends' and family's help. Breakfast without Mom and lunch without Mom are okay: in the summer we're used to that. But dinner with her seat empty is terribly lonely. It's funny, though, that now with her home the memories of what we did the first few days after her departure are rather distant and foggy.

We're very glad she's back.

Postscript: I took no photos of Sherry's reunion with us. After all, she was in transit for 28 hours when we picked her up. Oh, and the kids haven't bathed since Wednesday. None of us were fit for photography.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Hickory Run

And now for the long-awaited detailed post about Hickory Run. Okay, so maybe it won't be so detailed. 

This was my fifth trip in the last year and so to that park. I have yet to go there twice with the same company. To wit: 

April 2013: with Matt and Sam; Joe was with us too, at a distant dog-friendly site.

July 2013: with Sherry, Sam, and Caroline.

September 2013: with the Geremias as well as with Sherry, Sam, and Caroline.

June 2014: with the Reiners as well as with Sherry, Sam, and Caroline 
July 2014: the first multi-family excursion: Johnsons (minus Sherry), Geremias, and Rodoffs
Of course having been there five times, it's hard to find new impressive things (though the Rodoffs mammoth tent might qualify as an exception). Still, there's enough to do there that you can forget things. I forgot about the exhilarating rock-climbing alternative to the traditional return from Hawk Falls. I also found it meaningful to get to some destinations that proved elusive on earlier trips, such as the somewhat fragile footbridge down Hickory Run Trail. But the most awesome things in the park (the Boulder Field, Shades of Death Trail, Hawk Falls) I saw on my first visits. 

That didn't stop us from getting the kids out. A lot. We took them on four different hikes! They got the grand tour of Hickory Run's best stuff. However it would seem as if the kids' favorite thing to do was play among the boulders near our tent. Heck, I guess we adults could've spent the whole time by the camp relaxing and just allow the kids to climb over boulders 75 yards away. 

Oh, also it would seem as if taking my kids camping without friends along in the future is going to be tough. 

In fairness, I have a hard time imagining what camping would be like without friends at adjacent sites like we had. The Johnsons pitched their tent at #391, a generally undesirable site due to the uneven shade. But it's huge, and serves as a great multi-family base of operations. Sites #393 and #394 go inside the woods from our site. Perfect distances from one another.  

I think on our next trip a fourth family is joining us. 

Three challenges await: 

1) How do we pull off a second trip while the enthusiasm of this is still fresh before the inevitability of four busy families' schedules make it hard to pull off? 

2) How do we find another alternative park for a trip? 

3) Is it time for my to bury a tradition that's been near to me for 38 years, camping at Grange Fair, and replace it with this? 


I'm a dad

It's been a good past couple of days at the household. Lots of fun little things going on. The days are flying by, and now (in addition to the chores left unfinished) it seems as if there's something fun we could've done but just couldn't squeeze in.

This certainly isn't the best photo I could've found. But it does show a triumphant Caroline (and pretending-to-be-happy Sam) after rescuing Woofie from my classroom at our church. Sam and Caroline have been enrolled in Vacation Bible School. I've been teaching it. I'm glad there's only a day of it left from my standpoint . . . the jury is out as to whether or not I'd teach again at VBS. Sam and Caroline were very happy at it, however. I hope the photo in some small part captures what a fantastic day it was in Lansdale today. Brilliant blue skies. Puffy, white clouds. High near 80 degrees. Fantastic.

We spent much of the afternoon at the pool. Met with several good friends there. Wore ourselves out.

Caroline was nice enough to clean the mess of a bed. In fact, it seems she arranged her animals in some sort of careful display. Each of the animals has a name, and Caroline expresses some degree of shock or disappointment when I blank on the name of any animal. I'm only one man. I can remember only so many names.

The animals on Caroline's bed wasn't the only elaborate display in the house today. At Sam's request I made a courtroom out of Legos. It set it up with a very high judge's bench, a two-tiered jury box, tables for prosecution and defense. Also, a gallery. Obviously my many hours of watching Law and Order came in handy. Shortly after completing construction, a very well-attended trial took place. Unfortunately, my jury box could only accommodate a jury of ten. Had I found Lego strips that were three or four pips longer, we could've done this the right way.

One last event to report: Good friends got a new minivan. I love it when someone gets a new car. It's as exciting as the arrival of a new pet. 

If you think the shadow of the photographer is tacky check out this awful selfie attempt in front of our friends' new ride. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Evidence that this Household is Missing a Crucial Member

My children are pleasant, and that has made it possible for the household to function in Sherry's two-week absence. One of my biggest learnings from this two-and-a-half-week stint as a solo parent is that one is humbled at how every day it's impossible to get around to a few things that would get done if there were two adults here instead. Therefore, there is some visible evidence that this household is one adult short of a full load.

Evidence of a new, annoying habit: Putting on socks when one gets dressed, then remembering that one wants to wear sandals instead when it's time to leave, therefore leaving socks near the front door. Guess which member of the household is most guilty of this.

How many days' worth of dishes is this? How long have these been in sink?
If a machine folded this laundry as well as it cleaned it, we would be in great shape. 
Petting for this cat has been woefully inadequate. 
I can explain why there are three open tissue boxes stacked atop one another in the kitchen. Really, I can. 

No reasonable expectations as to how many animals should share one's bed.
Disproportionate quantities of bottled, single-serve beverages in refrigerator.

We're eager for you to get home, Sherry.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Weekend (except Hickory Run)

A great two-night trip to our favorite park constituted the bulk of our weekend. But we were up to other things.

On Friday, Caroline got an invitation from one of our friends to go out and get pampered. She was very happy with the job that store did on her nails, and even more appreciative of the chance to spend time with someone she looks up to.

While Caroline was primping, Sam and I took a bike ride through the neighborhood. I'm getting a thrill from teaching him how one handles a bike on roads with cars. I'm also ecstatic that he finds a little trip like that so interesting.

When we returned from Hickory Run we attended a colleague's open house in Doylestown and then dined with Sherry's folks and Aunt. It was there that fatigue from the weekend of camping caught up with the kids. It was also where Caroline ended up scoring a lot of fabric she could use to make Woofie look more beautiful.

Our adventure at Hickory Run remains the highlight of the weekend. I know I'll get around to elaborating on that at some point.