Kudos to my colleagues Neil and Diane for organizing a faculty gathering at Afton State Park earlier this month. Families were welcome at a large group site. Some folks brought tents and stayed overnight. Many others stopped by to enjoy the fire for a portion of the evening.
Sarah was out of town, so I brought our three kids plus two extras. They basically ran off into the woods and only emerged occasionally for hot dogs and s’mores. Social gatherings like this have been few and far between since COVID struck, so the time felt quite special. We didn’t stay overnight, but had a lovely time spending the evening with a stellar group of people.
Finally, the first day of school for these two big kids: 5th grade for Maggie and KINDERGARTEN for Oliver It’s a testament to their teachers, who they both know very well, and the school, that they were excited (and not at all nervous) to return!
If that title makes you think we’ve gone entirely insane, you may be right. After two years of low-key COVID birthdays, we decided to pull out all the stops this year. Maggie and Griffin agreed to have a joint birthday party at the water park at Great Wolf Lodge. Yep. Sarah and I agreed to take our kids plus six of their friends to a hotel water park for an overnight birthday bash. (This is so out-of-character for us that I can’t even believe I’m typing it.)
Needless to say, it was tons of fun. Even for the grownups. And we were all worn out by the end of it. (Oliver and Griffin both fell asleep in the car on the way home.) Here’s a photographic sampling of their escapades.
A glimpse into the work that Maggie is doing at school and the evolution of her handwriting over her fourth grade year. “Marsh” is the name of Maggie’s classroom. Click on the image to see a higher-resolution version.
The 2022 luminary loppet took place on Saturday, February 5. It was a lovely evening of mild weather after a long, cold week. (Temps in the teens rather than hovering around zero plus wind.)
We’ve attended the event most winters, though it doesn’t always make it into the blog (see 2011 and 2017). It features a beautiful ski/walk/snowshoe trail that winds around the surface of the Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis. The trail is lit entirely by ice luminaries (frozen columns, blocks, or spheres that contain candles). It’s otherworldly, to say the least.
Oliver wrote a book about the experience at school. Each page features an illustration and a caption (in the blue bar). I’ve added typed captions additionally in case you aren’t adept at reading Oliver’s calligraphy.
We decided to take the risk of traveling this Christmas after two years of staying put. We flew to Bethesda to visit Andrew’s parents (known to the kids as “Grummy and Grandpa Stape”). Andrew’s brother, David, also visited with his family (Nancy, Raven, and Max). We were nervous about COVID the whole time, but multiple self-tests have come out negative, so we think we made it.
We avoided indoor activities beyond the family, but had a great time skating and exploring the National Mall. Pictures below capture a bit of the spirit (click on them for larger versions).
And, a video of Raven and Nancy doing a spin on the ice:
After a break due to COVID, Maggie resumed her work with Circus Juventas this fall. She will be performing this spring, but we decided to go see their holiday show as a family. The show is called Blizzard, and is framed as a bunch of careless elves letting stories loose from the Big Book of Holiday Stories. Lots of snow and Christmas goofiness, but mostly a spectacular circus performance.
If you’re looking for something to do this month, the show runs through December 19. Only an hour with no intermission, it was a great time. Here’s a short clip of the flying trapeze: