Thursday, July 20, 2017


I've noticed a trend in what I wear regarding headwear.

Left-most Phillies hat: this is for grungy jobs outside
Middle Fightin' Phils hat: default I'm going out with kids, might be a little dirty hat
Right-most IronPigs hat: an occasion that will likely be clean and neat . . . summer formal attire

As for the Ted Williams and Gettysburg caps, they're for the gray area between what's described above.

Caroline approves of this message.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Watching Kids Grow Up Before My Eyes

Some photos don't need a caption. 
We celebrated Sam's birthday almost six months late Thursday with a trip to the Ironpigs in Allentown. Or is it Bethlehem? The team's name is Lehigh Valley, the park hugs the border . . . I guess all that is somewhat irrelevant.

I'll confess that few things make me as anxious as hosting a birthday party for one of my kids. What do the kids want to do? Who does one invite? What budget does one set? What does one do when a participant (the birthday boy or another) gets upset? Let's not forget, also, that the kids are at an age younger than what I'm used to working with. What will the parents of the invitees think about my decisions? Argh. Hosting a birthday party for kids sits right there along presenting staff development to teachers and playing the trombone alone in front of a crowd as a white-knuckle event for me.

Did the night go perfectly? No. Did it go well? I think so. And my son went to bed pretty happy. It was a win. A minor league park is a great place to celebrate a birthday, and we got lucky with some minor league experiences. Six boys came along. Two got balls tossed to them from players. One got to do a half inning of batter announcements. Sam and one other friend got to take water out to umpires at the end of the sixth inning.

Sam awaits his chance to take the field. 

Sam talks with the umpire calling 3rd base. 

Sam's friend and the 1st-base ump. 
But here's where the growing up piece was big: we survived a 1:40 rain delay. One hour and forty minutes! With hardly a complaint from the kids. Just two years ago, or even one, this could have been the occasion for a catastrophic fail of an event. But this assemblage of 11- and 12-year-olds took it in stride, and enjoyed passing the time under rain ponchos (thankfully brought by a dad) as if they were 31- and 32-year-olds.

There's a chance this is the final "birthday party" for Sam. Sherry shares my anxiety over birthday celebrations and we allow a party with friends every other year. When he turns 13, his attitude might change, and something lower key might be in order. If this was our last one, we went out in style.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Camping and Math

Looking at the approximate location of our site from Conservation Island. 
Sam, Caroline, and I made our third visit to Promised Land State Park this weekend. For Sherry it was her second . . . maybe. She has memory of being there as a kid. For the whole group, it was the second trip.

I'm on the fence as to whether or not I prefer Promised Land to Hickory Run. The walks at Hickory Run are simply more stunning. That being said, we found a decent new trail at Promised Land and got out for a walk on it. We also had the chance to stroll through Conservation Island near sunset.

The group travels along Whittaker Trail. 

The forest along Whittaker Trail. 

Conservation Island
Mike knew of a spot worth checking out off the Park's property. Actually, it's land that belongs to Skytop Lodge but I got the sense that the lodge didn't care too much if free-riders availed themselves of the trail. There were some pretty stunning sites along it as the paths meandered along and down into a ravine cut by a waterfall.

Lower Falls.

That's a really bad selfie but a really close deer. 

A shelf near the lower fall. 

Using ropes to climb down the trail along Skytop's property. 
I've now been out and camping more than a dozen times and still love it. It seems, though, as if now two nights isn't enough. Two nights really gives you one day. I think three would be more appropriate. I know I could use a full two days at a site like Promised Land.

View along lake near our campsite. 

View along lake near our campsite. 

Some of the terrain near our campsite. 

Also, I'm learning that a four-person tent is really a three-person tent and I seized on a Prime Day offer to get a six-person tent, which should be adequate for a family of four. It seems as if the tents over promise by a 5-to-4 factor when they advertise their tents.

Our 3.2-person tent. 
The math still doesn't add up for a camper, at least not yet. The camper, though, might have to be the eventual mid-life crisis purchase for me. One of the other parents wondered if we should have a nameplate for our campsites and my response was that one didn't earn the right to a nameplate until one had a camper. Maybe I'm wrong.

Still, the thought of spending a whole week with a camper at a site like Promised Land is intriguing, and doable in another decade or so.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A long weekend in the life of a girl (and her dad)

I'm proud of how Caroline is such an excellent traveling and adventuring companion. Here's where she ventured over the recent weekend: 

Friday: Time with friends at Legoland in Plymouth Meeting

She was moving too fast for me to catch up with her. I took a selfie with Caroline's stand-in instead. 
Saturday: Lunch with family atop Mount Pocono followed by setting up our campsite at Promised Land. 

A bit too much haze for good photographs of the landscape. 

Site 120, established with Caroline's help. 
Sunday: Adventures in Promised Land 

Taken from atop a rock on Whittaker Trail

Caroline and her friend along the trail at Conservation Island. 
Friday: Take down the campsite and go to a neurologist appointment in Philadelphia

MacMart lunch after the appointment. 
She holds up well under travel.


Many, many years ago I regularly subscribed to the Philadelphia Inquirer. I would stare out the window hoping for it to show up in the morning, refusing to start my day until I had my fifteen minutes with it. The paper got thinner, though, and copies of it piled up unread, so I moved my subscription to an electronic one, then stopped it entirely.

When, however, a few summers back, I found myself having to explain the concept of a Sunday comic to my son, I realized that I needed the newspaper back. I've been subscribing again now for about two years. The quality of the paper has deteriorated over time: it offers less news and feels even thinner. But I liked being able to simply open up the paper today and show Sam where the MLB standings truly stood.

Reinforcing the sad truth of the Phillies' woeful season. Sam and I were shocked to see how well Atlanta is playing. 
Sports section on the day before the slowest sports day of the summer. 

When we eat breakfast together on weekend mornings, the newspapers are a nice substitute for screens.

There are two other subscriptions I invite into the home. One is The Week, which is a really good news review. Sam eagerly waits its arrival, and he was rather frustrated that it didn't show up this week (that publication takes off four weeks a year). So, he told me, he was left with The Economist, the cover of which he immediately quizzed me about.

Sam surprised me by recognizing the symbol as one Germany used in the World War I era. Then he asked me to summarize the relevant news story. My answer: the German economy is very strong, but there's a chance that the Germans save so much money it hurts the economies of countries they trade with. Sam immediately followed up: "Why?"

I decided, though, there wasn't time just then to get into the paradox of thrift and financial-account imbalances. However, if that publication piqued my son's interest, for just a little bit, about such abstract but important concepts, and if that publication's cover gives him a chance to reinforce learning about symbolism and history, then it's worth every penny of the overpriced subscription.

Sam and I do disagree about which covers tend to be better, those from The Week or those from The Economist. This sounds like a good debate to have over the years.

This cover, too, led to some schooling, but more about inside baseball than big macroeconomic things. 

Sunday, July 2, 2017

A Belated Father's Day Reflection

About the only thing I didn't like regarding my most recent trip overseas was its timing. I left for the Institute on Saturday, June 17. One day before Father's Day. One day before my Father's Birthday. I wish going to the Institute didn't mean I had to miss that pair of celebrations. However, there were three small tales that give me cause to take great pride as a father, teacher, and son. 

Photo of me taken day after Fathers Day by the grave of one of my childhood heroes. 

First, I did get a chance to celebrate my dad's birthday early. We ate dinner with him on Friday and I had the joy of seeing him surrounded by grandchildren. He spent much of the evening with two of his granddaughters, Caroline and Lilith, watching a movie in the basement. I also gave him a book, Olivier Wieviorka's Normandy, a fairly dense academic treatment of D-Day and the subsequent battles in that region of France. When I got home I found out that Dad had read the whole thing. In less than two weeks. I'm gratified that he was so interested in my trip that he did that, but I can't say I'm surprised by this from a man who lives for his kids. 

Second, I learned later that the students on the trip nicknamed me "Dad." I can't help but be very flattered. Grownups outnumbered students on this trip. Fifteen versus plus fifteen teachers, a lead teacher, four staff members, and a guest professor (and his spouse). So, they were challenged keeping track of who was who. So, probably around Father's Day, I got the moniker Dad because, well, I guess I struck them as most dad-like. I could say something witty about my fashion sense or penchant for bad selfies to credit for this, but I'll keep it serious. I'm honored that the students on the trip saw in me what they think a dad is, and I'm very glad that that's where I find myself at this age after 19 years of teaching. 

Third, I got emotional at two points on the way home when I thought of Sam and Caroline. There was very little homesickness for me on the trip. There wasn't really the time or place to get mopey about being away. But as I settled in to my flight home, I watched the beginning of La La Land, which makes me think of Caroline very directly. I teared up. Then, I teared up again when, as the train rolled into Lansdale, I heard Sam yell from outside the train "I see Dad!" His joy was obvious. 

Truth be told, I didn't really want Sherry to bring the kids down to the station to meet me. I knew I'd have a student with me who was reuniting with her own family. That would be emotional enough. But then to see my own kids at the same time . . . I knew it would be a little much for me. It was. 

There's no such thing as a free trip to Europe. My opportunity to go on that research trip was paid for, but had a cost in that I missed two weeks with my own two kids. And those two weeks started at Father's Day. But in some ways, I feel like I was a dad on loan to a group of students who afforded me the honor of seeing some of dad in me. It's hard not to be proud of that.