Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Eve 2015

On the last day of 2015, Sam and Mom went to breakfast at IHOP with Nana and Poppy. Mom dropped them off later in the day at the airport for their trip to Chicago. In the evening, Mom and Dad went to a party down the street

Pete went to a party at a friend’s house, and Sam enjoyed a quiet celebration at home with his Skype friends around the world. He did run over to the TV just before midnight to see the final countdown on ABC's "Rockin' New Year's Eve Featuring the Re-animated Corpse of Dick Clark and Also Ryan Seacrest".

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

More Vacation Days

Mom went hiking with Natalie, so Pete did some babysitting for Justin and Alex while Dad and Sam enjoyed a quiet day at home. After dinner, the boys caught up on 3 of the 6 back episodes of “Last Man on Earth” on the DVR.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


This evening the group had a nice dinner with Nana and Poppy at Clyde’s. Sam enjoyed his adult burger and brownie sundae. And Pete had the steak and brownie sundae. Dad saw an old friend Melanie that he used to work with. 

On the way home, they drove by 8 of the 10 prize winning houses in the Broadlands to see the holiday decorations. A few of the homeowners had apparently already disabled their decorations, since it was 4 days after Christmas. But there were still a few decent ones to see.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Gifts Round 2

Nana and Poppy came over today for the second round of opening presents. Pete got a funny shirt and pedal for his keyboard. Sam got League of Legends gift cards. Dad got a new camping pad. Mom got a white blouse. Shadow did not get to open her present, since she was still in Virginia Beach and did not make the trip.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Jump Start

Pete went out this evening with Alexandra while Dad played in his hockey scrimmage in Reston (2 goals!). Dad got a text message around 11:30pm that he needed some help at McDonald’s with re-starting a car. Dad went over and helped jump start Alexandra’s car (which is rather similar to Mom’s). 

Sam is also continuing to enjoy his new calligraphy kit.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

After Christmas

Dad and Sam spent about 90 minutes getting the Gamecube controller to with with his new Steam game on the PC. They did finally get it working (yay!). Then Dad played some Mario 3D World with Pete on the new Wii U. In the evening, everyone met Brian and Patti at The Greene Turtle to watch the big Eagles/Redskins game, which determined the winner of the NFC East. Sadly it was the Redskins. Stuart (Sam’s Scoutmaster) was at the restaurant also and stopped by to say hello.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas 2015

The boys had a great Christmas and seemed to really like their first batch of gifts (Nana and Poppy still to arrive in a few days). Here is what they got:


  • Wii U
  • Super Smash Bros. Wii
  • Wii U Gamecube adapter
  • Color printer for the playroom


  • Whip
  • Calligraphy kit
  • Devastator gaming keyboard/mouse
  • $20 Steam card
  • Striped long-sleeve shirt
  • Headphones for PC
  • Adobe Photoshop Elements 14
  • "Thing Explainer" by Randall Munroe
  • Ukulele song book
  • $40 Amex gift card (from Uncle Steve)


  • Sustain pedal for keyboard
  • Hoodie
  • Plaid shirt
  • 2 Wimpy Kid books
  • Tea strainer
  • Laptop sleeve
  • AP History study guide
  • Sweatpants (exchanged from Grandma)
  • Ukulele song book
  • $40 Amex gift card (from Uncle Steve)

They also enjoyed some pancakes after opening their presents:

Mom, Dad, and Sam went in the afternoon to see the movie “Joy” with Brian and Patti. Then they picked up Pete for dinner at Fuddruckers (2nd annual).

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Not Possible

Pictured is Sam’s recent math assignment. Note that in the case where he is asked to take a square root of a negative number, he is supposed to answer “not possible”. He would prefer to give the correct answer, using i, but that would not be accepted. In question #8, if you look carefully you may see that Sam managed to sneak the correct answer in there along with the required answer.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Bedtime Routine

Pictured is Sam’s bed, showing all of the elements of his bedtime routine, which is as follows:
  • Plug phone into charger
  • Flip red head pillow
  • Place retainer and mask on pillow
  • Place 2 foot pillows
  • Brush teeth
  • Throw clothes in hamper
  • [Optional] Put on pajamas
  • Climb into bed
  • Toss on white sheet
  • Toss on fuzzy blanket
  • Toss on blue blanket
  • Read 2 items from "1001 Things" Science book
  • Turn on radio
  • 2-pat (Sam and Climby)

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Philly Holiday Vacation - Day 3

The group checked out from Camelback at 9am and drove down to meet grandma and grandpa at CafĂ© Riviera. The special guest was Sue Hicks. 

After lunch, they stopped for an hour at the Bucks County Visitors Center to see the Christmas Tree display. Grandpa also introduced Dad to some of his friends in Senator Tomlinson’s office. After a few candy canes, they piled back in the car for the long ride home.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Philly Holiday Vacation - Day 2

Monday was day 2 of the Philly mini-vacation. The family drove up to Camelback, with a stop at Wendy’s/Arby’s for lunch. Once they found the hotel, they checked in to the very nice room and then went to the water park for a few hours. 

They did the “Venus SlydeTrap” as a group, as well as the “Storm Chaser”, “Himalayan” (head first), and “Constrictor”. Pete and Dad also did the “Mountain Mayhem” and a few others. Everyone did the “Lost River” for a while. Pete and Sam did the Flow Rider. Sam and Mom went off for an hour to do the indoor/outdoor “Croc-O-Nile Crossing”, “Ally-Oop Lagoon”, “Croc-O-Nile Crossing”, and lazy river again. 

Pete wasn’t feeling well so he went back to the room. They were showing a marathon of the Simpsons Christmas episodes on FX throughout the evening. Dinner was a combination of leftover Domino’s Pizza from the lock-in and some items from the Hungry Camel. Pete got the “Boy Cupcake” and Sam some sort of brownie thing from the gift shop.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Philly Holiday Vacation - Day 1

Everyone piled into the car by 10am for the drive up to Philadelphia. Lunch worked out nicely at the Friendly’s in Newark, as they finished their ice cream just before the table for 20 next to them was ordering. They greeted grandma and grandpa in the early afternoon. Since Grandma always calls Dad "Michael Michael Motorcycle", they tried greeting her with "Sandy Sandy Fine and Dandy", "Sandy Sandy Summer Shandy", 
and "Sandy Sandy Flask o' Brandy", although after all that work she didn't seem to really hear any of it.

Pete helped grandma get a bunch of junk out of the trunk of her car. Dad walked down to the pickleball courts with Sam, grandpa, and grandma, but they couldn’t play any pickleball since grandpa forgot the key and it was getting dark. Grandma also forgot to get the “brisket” she was going to cook for dinner, so they went to Longhorn over by Neshaminy Mall. After dinner, Dad and Pete helped grandpa set up his Xfinity wi-fi and get his scanner working. Pete and Sam slept downstairs, but due to the mold issue Pete was not feeling very well in the morning.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Chess Club

Congratulations to Sam on winning a medal for third place in the Chess Club tournament at Farmwell. He has enjoyed staying after school on Thursdays to play chess with Garrett, Shril, and some of his other friends. Dad seems a bit skeptical about how often Sam claims to beat his friends with "Scholar's Mate", however.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Video Game Lock-in

Sam had a lot of fun at the Troop 761 lock-in. Dad dropped him off at 7:30pm, along with the CRT, Wii, cables, controllers, sleeping bag, and pillow. Dad returned at 1:00am and stayed for the remainder of the event until 7:30am as a chaperone. Sam played a lot of Super Smash Bros. There were also Xbox consoles, a Minecraft server, and several other gaming stations. There were even extra TVs and games that did not get used. 

Some of the boys slept at the event, but Sam stayed up the entire night. When he got home, Sam actually stayed up all the way the next day until 5:00pm, at which time he crashed pretty hard until the following morning.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Dad Swoops In

Pete is at the age where Dad is an annoying drag most of the time. Or at least it may seem that way to the outside observer. However, even Pete would probably admit that sometimes Dad can be helpful. Like yesterday. Pete had spent quite a lot of time on the gift exchange for Choir. He went to the mall, carefully selected three items that were just right for his selected person, found the perfect box, and wrapped it carefully. The only problem is that he headed out the door for school without the gift. And by another stroke of bad luck, Dad was on the phone at that moment with the auto shop. Somehow, Dad managed to swoop downstairs and stop Pete on his way out the door to remind him to grab the gift. Pete probably did not appreciate the value of this at that moment, but let’s imagine the feeling he would have at school later that day, when he realized that he didn’t have the gift (and Dad didn’t have a car to bring it to him either). 

Perhaps occasionally Dad can be good to have around.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Upcoming Events

Sam has a pretty good block of events coming up, starting tomorrow:
  • Spelling Bee finals
  • Pizza party in math class
  • Chess Club
  • Go home with Garrett to play games
  • Pajama Day
  • Boy Scouts video lock-in
  • Trip to Philly / Camelback
  • 2-week Winter break from school
  • Christmas

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


Sam noticed that we finally have some Christmas presents under the tree. He found one for him that looked like a book. He thinks it is the paper airplanes book that he got a few years ago. Dad assured Sam that he would not give him the same book again, but Sam does not seem to believe him.

Monday, December 14, 2015

RotoClipper and Ringtone

Dad texted Pete that he needed to come upstairs right away. This was to watch the wonderful infomercial for RotoClipper. Pete returned the favor later by sharing with Dad a pretty amazing song, created by putting “All I Want for Christmas is You” through a MIDI converter, and then back through an mp3 converter. Dad had finally found his new holiday ringtone!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Local Light Displays

Sam joined Mom and Dad for a driving tour of the best-decorated holiday lights in Ashburn. They saw the top 3 single family, top 3 townhouses, 8 honorable mention houses, and about a dozen named streets. Surprisingly, this took an hour and a half to complete. They finished the tour by driving up the winning best-decorated street in Ashburn Village, their own Merrywood Court! Sam seems to like the consistency of the net lights, while Mom preferred more staggered arrangements and Dad like the LED lights. Unfortunately, one thing the prize committee seemed to reward is the inflatables (and lots of em). It was nice to see the Johnstons, Bidwells, and Walkers all on the list of featured houses. Then there were Jack and Jennifer’s houses, which had no holiday lights at all. In Jack’s defense – his family is Jewish (although they did have a Christmas tree in the living room).

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Late Dinner

Sam’s basketball team is 0-2 but they are having a fun season. The coach does not yell at the refs and Sam likes playing with Will and Garrett. Sam also gets to play point guard about half of the time. Today they played against John Delaney and Sam got to match up against him for most of the time. 

Tonight Dad realized at 11:30pm that Sam did not have any dinner. Sam said he wanted “chicken”, so they made a quick run to BK for some chicken fries and a Hershey’s Sundae Pie.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Friday Fun Skate

Sam went to the ice house tonight to hang out with his friends at the "Friday Fun Skate". This seems to be their new hangout this year. 

He also qualified for the FSMS spelling bee finals next Thursday. Hopefully this year he will spend time studying the words on the sheet, since last year they pulled 100% of the words from that sheet.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Winter Band Concert

Mom, Dad, and Pete went to the winter concert at Broad Run. Pete got to enjoy it from a different perspective, since he is not in the band this year (he and Dad had asked the new band director, Mr. Dempsey, to switch his classes so he could be in wind ensemble, but apparently Mr. Dempsey seems to be a busy guy because he never replied and eventually that ship had sailed). It was a fun concert, including the traditional playing of “The Grinch” complete with projected animation on the big screen. The final number was also an impressive version of Polar Express played by the combined band and orchestra ensembles (in other words, everyone on stage at the same time).

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Thunderbirds Kingpinz

Sam had a busy day today. He came home from school for 10 minutes and then Grace picked him up to go get Garrett at school and go to the Thunderbirds bowling event at Kingpinz. Then Mom brought them from Kingpinz to basketball practice.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Name Any Song

Sometimes Sam will sit with his ukulele and ask someone to “name any song”. The translation is “name any of the songs that I know how to play”. This helps to narrow it down from the 10 million songs that are out there to the dozen or so that he can play. Anyhow, here are some songs that he knows how to play in case this ever comes up:
  • We Don't Believe What's On TV
  • Screen
  • House of Gold
  • Can't Help Falling in Love
  • The Judge
  • Volcano Song
  • Bobs Burgers Theme
  • Stressed Out
  • Riptide
  • Car Radio
  • Living the Life of Dreams

Monday, December 07, 2015

Toenail Repair

Dad took Pete to see Dr. Yang for his ingrown toenail. Pete chose the Spanish option when checking in on the computer kiosk. Then he and Dad watched some "Miles From Tomorrowland" for a while until they were called back to see the Doctor.

The decision was to remove a good part of the nail, which was not a pleasant procedure but they numbed it up pretty good and Pete was glad to get it treated. The procedure was a bit amusing as Dr. Yang had several assistants observing the procedure.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Popcorn Delivery

Dad and Sam drove up to Lansdowne to deliver the popcorn to the four customers who purchased from Sam this year (he only went out for an hour this year, but was still the top seller in his pack, after counting his sales to family and donation from Uncle Victor). Then Dad went to play hockey in Reston. Pete was gone for the day at an undisclosed location with his friends.

Saturday, December 05, 2015


Dad, Pete, and Sam were walking back to the car at Ledo Pizza when they walked past a group just coming in. In the back of their truck was a full-size hot tub, in transit. This gave them a few good ideas for some practical jokes. The first was simply to remove the hot tub and then see the looks on the faces when they came back out to their car and found it missing. But then Dad was struck with an even better idea – they could fill up the hot tub and turn it on, so they would be lounging in the tub (with jets going) when the people came out to their car after lunch. The logistical challenges of this proposition were too much to contemplate, so they just piled back into their own car and headed home. 

Later in the evening, Mom had the idea of reinstating the “Advent Games” concept they had done last year. Every day, they would pick a game off the tree and play it together in family bliss. Today’s game was Peggle, which was only on the Xbox downstairs, so they decided to play Tribond instead. The teams were Pete and Dad against Mom and Sam. The game seemed to start out well enough, but it ultimately ended in someone getting so upset that he destroyed the board and then declared the game a draw. Sadly, no one can play Yellow in that game anymore, since one of the yellow tokens suffered an unknown fate and could not be found despite an ardent search after the incident.

[Update: the yellow token was located a few days later in Pete's jacket pocket. The jacket had been draped on the back of the chair prior to the "incident"]

Friday, December 04, 2015

Ice House Party

Sam’s birthday began with a breakfast surprise and note from Mom (see photo). 

Then at school he was pleased that Jack had decorated his locker. That evening, of course it was time for his birthday party at the Ashburn Ice House. The attendees were Garrett, Jack, Emily, Jennifer, Jackson, Jacob, and Colin. Note the balloons in this picture (photo). They did not last very long once the boys figured out that they had helium in them. 

Also, you will see the cup with 20 forks in it. They all disappeared when they were passed around the table and Garrett hid all  of them, exclaiming "these are my forks; you guys get your own".

Pizza and cookie cake (photo) was followed by about 90 minutes of skating. 

Sam and his friends had a great time at the party. 

Sam also stayed after the party to watch Jacob play in his hockey game on the other side of the Ice House. He was playing on a Broad Run team (along with his brother) in a scrimmage against his “normal” team (Ashburn Xtreme). Jacob played well, although they were losing 7-2 when Sam and Dad left at the end of the second period. The next job would be for Sam to spend his gift card money at Target and Amazon.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Holiday Choral Concert

Pete had his holiday choral concert this evening. Sam sat with Jack. Pete was in the “Chamber” Choir, and also in charge of the lighting for the show, since he is now known for managing the lighting for the recent “Lend Me a Tenor” production. The rankings of the choirs, in skill order, are (1) Jazz (2) Chamber (3) Women’s (4) Gospel (5) Concert. Dad actually knew one of the songs (Eliyahu) from his Hebrew School days many years ago. 

Also earlier today, Sam was eliminated from the Finals of the FSMS Geography Bee upon not being able to name the desert near Death Valley, California (Mojave). It is left to the reader to guess the ethnicity of the child who won. (Hint: it is a Geography Bee). (Hint 2: Located between Pakistan and Bangladesh).

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Hey Mr DJ

Mom and Sam had an early dinner and then Mom took Sam to basketball practice. Pete and Dad ate dinner on 2nd shift and took advantage of the alone time to play some “Heads Up” on Dad’s phone (“Hey Mr DJ” category). This is where one person hums the songs and tries to get the other person to guess them. This gave Pete some last-minute practice for his choir concert the following evening.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

A Bone for Shadow

Pete had his Jingle Ball concert at school, and Mom had class, so Dad and Sam went to Deli Italiano and then stopped in the dog shop next door to get a Christmas present for Shadow (bone). This took a while, as there were quite a few bones to choose from.