Saturday, April 30, 2016

Wildflower Planting

Dad and Pete planted their flowers today from Grandma. In the big flowerpot, they planted the Shasta Daisies in the middle and the Forget-me-nots on the outside. In the flower box, they planted the wildflower assortment. Pete went with more of the sprinkle method, while Dad used the bury method. We’ll see in a few weeks if anything comes up, and which method worked better.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Mystery Band Photo

Sometimes Dad finds random pictures on Facebook and decides that they would be good to use for a blog post. In this case, it is not clear what the story is behind this picture that was apparently taken back during band season. Whatever the situation is, Pete does not seem to be very happy about it.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Band Concert and Nagoya

Tonight was Sam’s 6th grade band concert. Sam and William were the only two saxophones. They did a great job, especially on the solo (“Ode To Joy”) which was the best of all the solos during the so-called “Instrument Palooza”. 

The band played “Frenzy”, “Union March”, “Rockology”, and “Creature Feature”. Sam did a great job! The four of them stayed to watch the second band performance (they split the band into two this year to have smaller performances). Garrett played saxophone in the second group (and Ethan was on percussion). After the concert, they went for a late Nagoya dinner to celebrate everyone’s good grades on the 3rd quarter report cards. They sat with a family from Stone Bridge. Sam ate all of his dinner this time, since Dad told him to order the kid’s portion or else he would have to pay the difference, unless he finished. They also went an impressive 7 for 8 on the mouth catching of the shrimp (2 tries each).

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Chamber Choir Spring Concert

Pete had his Spring Concert tonight. Sam sat in the back with Jack, Jennifer, and Lindsay. Pete's choir group (Chamber Choir) did these songs:

  • Wana Baraka* (which they also did previously at the assessment)
  • My Good Lord’s Done Been Here*
  • In Remembrance

* Included solo by Pete

Pete's group were also in the opening song (Kawouno Wan Gi Pi) and closing song (That Lonesome Road) in which they joined with the Women’s Choir, Gospel Choir, and Jazz Choir.

After the concert, Sam went with Jennifer and Lindsay to Chipotle. He was not interested in the grilled chicken that was for dinner. Pete also had apparently made his own plans to go out for dinner after the concert. The grilled chicken would have to go back into the fridge.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Steak and Song List

Dad grilled some steaks tonight. As usual, the apportionment was: Pete – largest steak, Mom/Sam – share 2nd largest steak, Dad – smallest steak. Pete also shared with everyone at dinner the list of songs that he would be singing in tomorrow’s concert. He is going to have two solos – pretty good for someone in chorus for the first year.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Thanks is Better Than Sorry

Dad helped Pete check his math homework. On two earlier occasions this year, Dad gave Pete's homework a quick scan, and then found out later that it was a homework “quiz” that counted a lot. Pete got a low score on those quizzes. So Dad was not going to make that mistake again. He is now treating homework assignment reviews like exams. 

The subject of this assignment was instantaneous rate of change word problems. Pete had to explain to Dad how to do it, so Dad could check the answers. It took Dad about an hour to check 8 problems. He was very impressed with Pete’s work. The problems were very difficult. A sample question would be something like: “you are removing water from a conical tank at 20 gallons per minute. How fast is the water level rising at the instant when the diameter of the tank is 12 feet.” Pete neatly wrote out all of the steps for each answer. Dad was pleased that he did find one mistake, so the time spent was worthwhile. Pete also taught Dad something else the following morning. He was going to say “sorry it took you so long to check my Math” but instead he said “thanks for checking my Math”. He had heard somewhere that it is better to say “thanks” than “sorry”. Which made sense to Dad too.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

URF Weekend

Today was the final performance of Pete’s musical, and Sam returned home from his trip with the Boy Scouts. Sam stayed up an extra hour so he and Dad could watch the championship match of Summit on Twitch between Armada and Hungrybox. Sam decided not to do any homework today since it was URF weekend on League of Legends.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

USS New Jersey Trip

Dad was out of town on his golf trip, so Mom dropped off Sam for his Boy Scout trip to the USS New Jersey.  He enjoyed staying overnight on a submarine.

Later in the evening, Dad went to see Pete’s play at Broad Run.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Free Pass

Mom went with her friend Donna to see Pete’s show this evening. It started at 7:10 and was over around 9:45. Mom got in for free since she is a teacher.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

H2S Opening

Tonight was the opening for Pete’s Spring musical. 

Sam received a medal at his after-school Chess Club for finishing third in the last tournament. They started a new tournament today.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Sick Day

Sam and Dad were planning to go for a retainer check and then to Coney Island Diner for the $3.99 breakfast special. But Sam was still not recovered from the “Mom Cold”, so they went home after the appointment and he stayed home from school. He did get a chance during lunch to practice on the saxophone for his upcoming concert. Dad thought he sounded great.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


Dad took Pete this morning to get his allergy shot. They liked the new doctor’s note template that the allergist had, which actually says “Doctor’s Note” at the top. William came over today after school to play some Melee 20xx and Smash 4 with Sam.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Frayed Knot

Sam brought his frayed rope, lighter, and scissors to the Boy Scout meeting tonight and was able to fuse the rope. So he only has one requirement left to earn his Tenderfoot rank. Pete got home from school around midnight – rehearsal until 9pm and not sure about the 3 hours after that but he walked in with a cup from Chick Fil A, which seems to be a clue.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

20xx Repairs

Dad and Sam had to do some repairs today to the 20xx installation, since it was not the version that Sam wanted. They tried a few different things to get the iso file to work on the Wii. In the end, it turned out that they just needed to replace the iso file in the GAMES folder on the SD card with the updated iso file (and make sure the file name did not have any spaces in it). After all of this, Sam was happy (for the moment).

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Science Festival

Mom and Dad went downtown today to the DC Science Festival. Sam said he was going to go, but then changed his mind. He stayed home with Pete. In the evening, Dad and Sam got the Homebrew channel and 20xx installed on the Wii, which will enable Sam to practice better for his Melee tournaments.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Prom Night

Dad returned home today from his Pennsylvania trip to help Grandpa after his surgery. The boys were also home from school. Sam went to Zinga with his friends, so Dad and Pete had McDonald’s for lunch. It was also prom night. Pete had a good time with Jennifer and Phoebe.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Battery Carcass

If you send Sam down to the basement to get you a 9-volt battery, you should not be surprised to find this empty battery package carcass the next time you go to get one.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Late Plate

Mom’s plate was broken when Pete was emptying the dishwasher. It was fun while it lasted. Mom will have to start using an ordinary plate for dinner. She is planning to glue it back together and find a place to display it.

Presumably this also means that 6-year-old Sam is off the hook for writing "200g" as the year on the plate.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

School Pictures

Sam did not like his school picture this year, so none were ordered. Above are the fall and spring pictures.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Late Rehearsals

Pete has been having late rehearsals this week in preparation for the Spring musical.

One thing this extra time has helped him learn is that he does not want to take Theater class next year if Mrs. Halloran will be returning as the Theater Director. Odds seem even at this point of her returning.

One thing Pete and Sam have learned from Dad is that if something is working out, there is no shame in moving on to something else.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Piano Tiles 2

Sam and Dad have been playing an app called Piano Tiles 2. There was one song in particular called “The Fountain” by Carl Bohm that was very challenging, but Dad and Sam both got 3 diamonds on it. Sam uses the two-thumb technique, while Dad lays down the phone and uses the index fingers. The new challenge they are working on is called “Fantasie – Impromptu” by Chopin. Sam may have reached the point where the two-thumb technique will start to fall short.

This app is actually a great way to become aware of the legendary pieces of classical music.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Smash and Tuxedos

Dad and Sam went down to Fredericksburg, with their usual stop at Arby’s and then the Smash tournament at University of Mary Washington. Dad found an empty room 213 on the main level. Sam played Melee and Project M. He went 0-2 in Melee, but was pleased that he won two sets in the consolation bracket of the PM tournament. They stopped at the campus pizza spot for dinner, and braved the cold winds on the walk back to the car. Meanwhile, Pete and Mom went to the mall to get Pete’s black pants and tie for the musical, as well as his tuxedo rental for next week’s prom. They were careful to make sure Dad was sitting down before telling him how much it costs these days for a tuxedo rental.

Friday, April 08, 2016

Multiple Musicals

Mom was home today recovering from her kidney stone procedure. She went over to Broad Run after school to help Pete hand out posters for students to distribute for the musical. Sam went back to Farmwell at 6:30pm to meet up with his friends to see the Lion King school musical. Then he practiced a bit for tomorrow’s Smash tournament in Fredericksburg.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Dad's Choice

Pete and Dad fixed the cracked toilet arm with some super glue and duct tape. They figure it has about a 50% chance of working. Tomorrow they will test it. Dinner tonight was listed on the Cozi calendar as “Dad’s Choice”, since Mom had her laser kidney stone surgery. Dad chose Ledo. There was a pretty bad show on the TV there, in which Steve Harvey finds a kid who had a viral Youtube video 2 years ago and then interviews them for 15 long minutes.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Chain Rule

Dad returned home today from his Georgia trip, just in time to help Pete with his math homework (derivatives of trigonometric functions using the product rule and chain rule). Pete also got his new retainer, to serve as a backup since the other one is cracked.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

No Complaints

Dad was away again today at The Masters, so it was Papa John’s night. No complaints from Sam.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Court of Honor

Dad left today for his trip to The Masters in Georgia. Sam had his Boy Scout meeting. Above is a picture of Sam and William participating in a recent Court of Honor ceremony.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Melting Snow and Basketballs

March 1st was the date that the last of the snow melted from the great blizzard. Pete and Sam’s house was officially the last house on the street to have snow left. Also note the two basketballs in the picture. This was a slow day – sometimes there are up to five basketballs in the yard at any given point during springtime.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Choir Assessment

Pete was pouring his Cocoa Pebbles into the bowl and asked Dad if he smelled anything odd in his bedroom. Dad said no. Pete said he saw a little bit of smoke up there. Dad said “What?” Pete said “April Fools!” Here is where you can see that Sam has a darker sense of humor. Earlier in the morning, he had told Dad his idea of punching Mom in the kidney and saying “April stools!” Dad did fool Sam also, by asking him whether he wanted his sweatshirt if it is 26 degrees outside.

In the evening, Mom and Dad went to Riverside High School to see Pete’s choir get their assessment. They did two songs – Dawn and Wana Baraka. In the second song, Pete started it out with a very impressive solo (with some minor vocal accompaniment from Joel and Tiger). Apparently he didn’t find out until a few minutes before the performance that he would be doing that. The group scored a 2 (excellent) for their singing and 1 (superior) for sight reading.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Fine Arts Cluster Night

Tonight was the Fine Arts Cluster Night at Broad Run. So Mom and Dad bid Sam farewell and headed over to the high school. Pete performed with the Theatre group (“Coffee Break” from their upcoming musical) as well as the chorus (“Somewhere Out There”). Today Sam officially dropped out of Spectrum, and got to start going to Resource instead. He was very happy to get his Math homework done in Resource. And of course not having to deal anymore with Mrs. Guillen.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Return of the Pain

Dad woke up when Mom’s alarm went off at 6am and she was nowhere to be found. He found her on the floor in the bathroom. She was in a lot of pain and needed to go to the doctor. Dad woke Sam up and told him to get Pete up at 7:45 and for them to get themselves out the door. After seeing the doctor and the radiologist, Mom was diagnosed with a large kidney stone. She had a late lunch, so Dad went with Pete and Sam to Ledo for dinner.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Points for Proofs

Mom went to a birthday party at Donna’s. so Dad/Pete/Sam had some baked ziti and then Pete got cracking on his Biology project that was due at 11pm. Yes, the very same project that caused him to bring his laptop all the way across the world last week. Dad also helped him with his Math homework (derivatives). In addition, Dad helped write out some proofs that log(n)x = 2log(2n)x, for both the case of 2 and the more general n^2 case. Mrs. Littlefield was so impressed with this proof that she gave Pete back the points he had lost on the test plus an additional 5 bonus points, bringing his grade on the test from 86 up to 96!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Back in the USA

Today was back to the dreary American routine – school, Chin Chin, Boy Scouts, trumpet lesson, etc. 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Back to the Grindstone

Today was a day to bite the bullet and get the homework and laundry done that were neglected over the past week. Mom, Dad, and Pete also went to the Easter “brunch” at the Rooks’ house from 2pm-6pm. Sam was the only one hungry for dinner, so Dad took him over to Deli Italiano for a few slices. It was nice to be eating some good old “American” food again. Everyone slept pretty well, with no more jet lag to speak of. They even all woke up early on Monday morning.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Jet Lag

Mom, Dad, and Pete were ready for bed pretty early after the Jordan trip. Sam inexplicably stayed up. Mom checked on him at 3:30am and he said he was going to bed soon. Dad found him asleep in the kitchen on the table by the computer at 5:30am. He wrangled Sam into bed.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Jordan Trip – Day 7

The final day of the trip had arrived, and it would be a long one. Nicole wrangled everyone into the car at 9am sharp and drove up to Jerash. There was quite a bit of walking through the Roman ruins.

One intersection led in separate directions respectively to Damascus, Jerusalem, Baghdad, and Philadelphia (Amman). Dad gave Sam 1 JD to get a bottle of water, after which the vendor showed them lots of cool stuff, including the moving column, bath house, baptismal font, water spout, and lucky leaf growing on the ground in the shadow of the column with the same leaf depicted in the frieze.

Sam was stopped several times by locals wanting pictures with him. You would think they have never seen an American with green hair before!

Sam and Dad decided that in the afternoon they would charge 1 JD for a photo with Sam, or to touch his hair. At the souq, they bought a pair of camel pants for Ashleigh, stuffed camel for Sam, and musical whistle toy for Pete (which he claimed was broken). Lunch was at the Lebanese House, a restaurant on a small hillside just outside of Jerash. The restaurant was so large that it had a playground and elevator inside. The beef, lamb, and chicken kabobs, bread, fries, cheese sticks, and salad were all very tasty.

Nicole drove to the final site of the week - Ajloun Castle. They walked up a very steep hill and then climbed all around the castle.

The walk back down the hill was typical of a Jordanian street - cars whizzed by, inches from the bodies of the pedestrians. At one point near the open intersection at the bottom, with cars approaching from at least 4 directions and no road markings, Pete said to Dad: "I think this is the most dangerous place I have ever been. Not Jordan - just this exact spot." The Jordanians were a very friendly and welcoming people, except when they were behind the wheel. The driving all week had been treacherous and stressful beyond belief. Of course, nothing could equal the sheer terror of Mr. Brad's driving. In fact, Sam was the only volunteer to ride shotgun on the final ride to the airport at 12:30am on Saturday morning.

The final evening in Jordan had been an enjoyable one. Dinner at the house was grilled BBQ chicken and roasted potatoes, followed by homemade ice cream.

After dinner, they played a spirited game of Pictionary on the mirror in the family room with dry erase markers. Brad dropped them at the Queen Alia airport in plenty of time for the 2:50am flight to Frankfurt. They bought a Petra ornament and some candy to use up the last 5 JD note.

Upon arriving in Frankfurt at 6:30am, Pete and Dad decided that they wanted to go downtown during the 6-hour layover. Sam and Mom stayed back at the airport. Pete and Dad picked up some subway passes and took the 20-minute ride to Hauptwache (5 stops on the S8 line). It was a chilly 39 degrees, but they walked all around the downtown Innenstadt and Altstadt area of the city until 9:15am. It was very quiet, and they enjoyed seeing some of the sights, including a nice park (Bockenheimer), the Main river, and statues of Goethe, Gutenberg, and others.

Returning to the airport, they made it quickly through security (despite the Brussels bombings earlier in the week) and met up again with Sam and Mom at the McDonalds by gate Z54. The flight home was nice, and they had a block of 4 seats all together in the center plane section. The taxi ride back home from Dulles airport brought the memorable trip to an end.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Jordan Trip – Day 6

The light Thursday schedule allowed Sam to sleep in until about 9:30. Meanwhile, Dad and Pete walked over to the ATM, where they discovered that Ajab Bank charges 5 JD while InvestBank only charges 1 JD. Score one for the good guys. 

The first stop for the day's exploring was the Greek Orthodox Church in Madaba. 

Nobody felt like paying 1 JD (about $1.50 US) to see a mosaic in the church proving the travels of Jesus, so they went down to the archaeological park where the Jordan Pass got hem in for free to climb around a bunch of mosaics from early AD, while the call to prayer blasted from all of the local mosques in the background. 

They did finally purchase a plate from a vendor on King Talal Street. The shopkeeper said it was 20 JD (“50% off”). Dad offered 15. He said “you do not understand; these are from a factory, so the prices are absolutely fixed 100%... ok I give it to you for 18.” Mom bought a refrigerator magnet with the black iris national flower for 5 JD. The next stop was Mount Nebo for a quick view of the vista where Moses had his spring, and the other side where he saw the promised land. The following 30 minutes was a series of steep hairpin curves down to the Dead Sea. The day passes at the Dead Sea Spa Hotel were only 10 JD. They went straight to the snack bar for some pizza, burger, and chicken sandwiches. 

The food took forever to arrive, but the American explicit rap music playing on the speaker helped to pass the time. They changed and walked down to the Dead Sea. Sam had no problem floating – a miracle indeed! 

Mom applied the mud some to her arms and legs. Dad spotted a new species of water bug. Dad’s eye was burning, so he got out after just a few minutes. On the walk back up the hill, it was interesting to see how far the sea level had fallen since 2000. They showered and went up to sit by the pool for a while. Pete, Sam, and Dad tossed around the football and then the tennis ball, which miraculously hit the railing and deflected back a few times. Dad had told the boys a few days earlier the famous saying that almost applied here: “if you drop your keys in the lava, they’re gone”. 

They drove back to Amman in time for dinner at the embassy cafeteria – salmon, ribs, and burgers – with the whole gang, as well as Andy, and Nick’s friends Max, Max, and Oscar. The boys went back to the house for some dining-room-table ping pong, while Mom, Nicole, and Dad went to the 24-hour bakery, spice shop, and t-shirt shop (to look for a camel t-shirt for Sam).

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Jordan Trip – Day 5

Mom and Dad woke up early to take a walk with Nicole around West Amman. They descended the hill on Al Khabila Street toward the Bedouin village and walked up and down all around the neighborhood. The trash was ubiquitous as it had been all week. 

A Bedouin with his huge flock of sheep walked right past them. 

By 9:30, Pete was ready and they headed out for a day in Amman. Sam hung out this day back at the house. First, Nicole traversed the busy city traffic through Rainbow Street, stopped briefly at the Sydney Hotel for a quick geocache hunt, and negotiated the twists and turns up the hill and narrow streets to the Citadel. They walked around the Citadel and museum for an hour or so. 

Mom and Nicole were mobbed by a group of schoolgirls wanting to talk to them and take their picture. 

Then they went down the steep winding hill and steps to the main drag in Amman. Pete and Dad got some sha warmas and brought them over to the outdoor cafĂ© (Hashem) where Mom and Nicole were eating Falafel. 

After lunch, they walked through the shops and markets. Pete and Dad found a plate they liked, but Mom convinced them to wait and see what was in Madaba. The candy shop was a fun ordeal, where no less than three vendors came up with various prices for Pete's assorted bag of candy. Then some random guy showed up from thin air to collect the money from Pete and hand it to the cashier. Pete also bought a large lemon and pomegranate at the large produce market. The vendors sang out their wares at the various booths, including chants of “Half Dinar! Half Dinar!” at what Dad called the Jordanian dollar store. Dad saw a shop with nice Vans that upon closer inspection turned to actually be “Yans”. 

Mom and Nicole wound their way back up the hill to the car, while Dad and Pete scaled the Citadel wall, crossed a grassy field, and found a breach in the gate. They proved that the fortress was still a bit vulnerable to a creative and determined attack by international forces! After returning home, Mom and Nicole headed out to their Jordanian cooking class.

Meanwhile, Pete, Sam, and Dad went with Mr. Brad to pick up Nick at school and go over to the Royal Automobile Museum.

They finished up at the Taj Mall food court for dinner and dessert. Security at the mall was amusing – you walked through the metal detector, the alarm goes off, and then the guy waves his hand near you like he’s patting you down, and then you proceed into the mall. The Sbarro did not look too good, so Sam got Papa John’s while Pete got Popeye’s. Pete went with Nick to Pinkberry, and Sam to Haagen Dazs. Dad picked up his new Arabic Atari t-shirt, and it was time to head home.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Jordan Trip – Day 4

Pete woke early, tucked his pajama pants under his blanket, and got dressed. He headed out with Mom for some rock climbing. 

Sam joined Dad for breakfast, and actually ate an omelet (new food) and some preserves on a pita. 

Sultan tossed the bags into the Toyota for the brief ride over to meet the camels. The 45-minute camel ride to the village was plenty long enough for Mom. Sam’s camel was named “Alian”, and was tethered to Mom’s and Dad’s. Pete’s camel was un-tethered, and a bit ornery. It was a fun ride, accentuated by the camels stopping to stoop down and fight over every bit of brush along the way. 

Sultan drove the crew back to the parking lot, and it was time to head to Petra. They filled the gas tank with some 90 octane and enjoyed the scenic drive. There was a cool playground at the scenic overlook, where Pete slid down a rusty slide of questionable integrity. Lunch was at the pizza shop just outside of the main entrance to the Petra site. The Wi-fi there was “not working today”. It was a cute place - the shopkeeper would frequently call out to “Hamdan!” when anything needed attention. The pizza was not the best, but enough to tide everyone over until dinner back in Amman. They parked the car up on the hill, and walked down to the Visitors’ Center. Pete found a replacement pair of sunglasses at one of the shops. The vendor wanted 10 JD, but they haggled him down to 8. Next was the long walk down to the Treasury, and then around to the tombs and other sites in the old Petra village. 

They climbed around a bit, took some dangerous pictures, and were getting tired so they headed back. Dad did not find any geocaches, and Mom did not see everything she had hoped to see, but it was still a decent outing. On the walk back, the boys took a break, and Mom said “I’d prefer not to stop, so I’ll meet you back up by the Visitors’ Center.” This is when the boys hatched a plan to run and catch up with Mom. She was looking in her bag when they ran by, so they kept right on running past her and around the corner. When she spied them sitting and waiting about 15 minutes later, she was quite shocked that they had gotten in front of her. She asked if they had purchased a mule, horse, camel, or carriage ride, but indeed they had not. Dad and Pete hiked up the hill and brought down the car. They all drove back to the Fishers’ house for some baked ziti. Sam was quite glad that Wednesday would be the light day on the agenda.