December

On Saturday the 1st we were up super early and on the road. We were trying to get to the Metropark transit center in New Jersey by 9AM. Miraculously, we got there at 8:40. We took a NJ Transit train to New York Penn Station, where we met Jill’s mom Sue and her niece Ava, then went upstairs so Nina could get her first look at New York City.

Nina Kerry

First stop was Macy’s, where we checked out the shop windows on the west and south, then went upstairs to look around and Nina wrote a letter to Santa. We went back outside and saw the windows on the east side, then walked over to the Empire State Building. Several hours later, we’d been to the top and the gift shop, and were running a bit behind. Luckily we got a free ride on the subway as the lines for the fare machines were very long and soon got to Radio City Music Hall where we joined the long lines waiting to get in. My mom joined us as her train had arrived and she’d taken a cab over.

Jill Nina Kerry

We got inside just in time and rushed the girls upstairs to see the Christmas Spectacular Starring The Radio City Rockettes while the rest of us dealt with lines for food, drinks, souvenirs and bathrooms. The show was pretty good (although more explicitly Christmas-sy than I realized). After the show we made the mistake of trying to get a picture of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, along with about 10,000 other people (the first Saturday after it’s lit is a very bad idea). Mom got lost looking for a bathroom and ended up in a church – in the meantime Jill and her mom took the girls to FAO Schwartz. We had wanted to get dinner together, but by the time we’d all found each other it was time for Mom to go. Nina and I helped her hail a taxi, then the rest of us made our way back to Penn Station. We had time for dinner there and I went upstairs to Pennsy to get sandwiches for Jill and I from Pat LaFrieda.

Rockettes

We all left for our respective trains, and then started driving. I’d decided that 9:30 was a little late to drive all the way home since we’d gotten up so early, so we stopped for the night at the Hampton Inn Bordentown. In the morning Nina was in the pool again (more energy burn off), then we drove home.

Nancy Nina Jill Ava Sue

Monday night I drove up to Strathmore to see concert #52: Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman with Marty Stuart. I missed out seeing The Byrds, but I couldn’t miss this tour to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Sweetheart of the Rodeo album. With Marty Stuart sitting in for Gram Parsons as they performed the entire album and other Byrds classics, they managed to surpass themselves with a tribute to collaborator Tom Petty during the encore. And totally worth it, the vocals, the jingle jangle of Roger’s Rickenbacker, it was all there (plus Marty Stuart owns Clarence White’s guitar). Have to remember to find a better parking place next time, as getting out of the garage was a real mess. Interesting side note that in the last month, I’ve seen 5 acts for the first time – an oddity when you’ve seen more than 3000 concerts.

Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman

Friday the 7th Nina had a ice skating birthday party she attended. Saturday we drove down to Richmond for a cheer competition and we stopped in Ashland at my alma mater on the way down so Nina could see it. I’m glad we did – looks like they’re about to knock down the Holiday Inn I spent my freshman year at. Nina got to swim at the pool with her team and they all did their hair while I had dinner at the Secret Sandwich Society. Early the next morning Jill woke me up with the news that the competition had been canceled as a dusting of snow had changed to a serious snowstorm, and we were on our way home as the flakes started coming down. That night I wondered what did parents do before superglue? On the 12th I wasn’t expecting to have to take Nina to a concert I didn’t want to go to so soon. Now we’re heading to JoJo Siwa 7/19 at Wolf Trap.

Nina

Saturday the 15th we went to National Harbor for the next cheer competition. With a couple hours to kill, I went over to the Brass Tap and had tater tots with beer cheese, chicken sliders and a beer sampler, then went over to the thunderously loud ballroom where we’d spend the next several hours, and came up with 3 rules to survive cheer competitions:

  1. Alcohol
  2. Caffeine
  3. Repeat

Happily Nina’s team won their category – her first time getting first place in cheer. Our friends Meg and Toby stayed with us because they had an overnight layover at Dulles, so of course we took them to the holiday party hosted by our neighbor John. The next day we had our holiday party in the afternoon (because there was literally no other time in December that would work) and had a nice turnout as we had cookie decorating for everyone. That night I didn’t know why some places are banning “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” when “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” is so problematic. She started asking questions about it that night. Luckily the worst one was “How does he stay warm?” I also saw they did a Doctor Who Christmas Special after all!

Nina

Saturday the 22nd was concert #53: Todd Wright’s Annual Santa Clauster-f@%! at Jammin’ Java. Unfortunately Nina was under the weather so I was solo – on the plus side I got to see the whole 3 hour plus extravaganza and got to see my first live performance of one of my favorite songs, Tom Petty’s “Christmas All Over Again” by Anthony Fiacco. The next afternoon was concert #54: Trans-Siberian Orchestra at Capital One Arena. With lunch at Nandos beforehand, Nina had a fun day, only complaining because we left early.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra

On Christmas Nina was delighted with her big gift of a Barbie Dreamhouse and lots of LOL dolls. Dad and Patricia joined us for lunch and we had ham with all the trimmings. The next day Nina and I built the Lego Hogwarts Express she’d received from my mom. Jill took Nina back to National Harbor for ICE! on Thursday.

Nina

Friday the 28th we endured all day rain on our drive up to Boston, stopping at Nina’s new favorite restaurant, White Castle. We arrived at my sister’s house in time for Nina to have dessert and go to bed. Saturday we had a belated Christmas with them and my mom and David who’d driven over as well. That night we had Chris and Jess over as Jill and I made fajitas, then Chris, Jess, Sharon, Tom, Jill and I went to concert #55: Enter the Haggis at Spire in Plymouth, MA. Because in the season of friends and family you go to your last concert of the year with friends and family. Great gift, sis! Too bad they shut down Plymouth for an event making it tricky to park.

Nina

Sunday we drove over to Jill’s sister in western Massachusetts and stopped for lunch at Stone’s Public House for a delicious brunch. Delighted to see the Ashland in Massachusetts also has train tracks running through town. Melissa made spaghetti for us for dinner. New Year’s Eve Jill’s younger sister Robin came over with her family and we opened gifts from Jill and Robin’s dad who was sick. We and the Bradys went out to see Mary Poppins Returns in the afternoon (practically perfect), then Jill and I sent Nina back with them and got drinks while we waited to get takeout from North Garden (totally slammed). After dinner, we opened crackers. Nina had campaigned hard to stay up for the New Year. Her youngest cousin was, so we let her (her first intentional one), then everyone went to bed.

Kerry
Jill

November

Friday the 2nd was concert #46: Regina Spektor with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center. Plus bonus Ben Folds during an encore of “Dear Theodosia”. I was late getting there and missed dinner, and ended up stopping for dim sum at Hong Kong Pearl in Seven Corners after the show. Saturday morning I took Jill and Nina to National Airport for their weekend in Massachusetts, then back to bed. Once I got up again, it was off to CD Cellar, then over to my dad. We had a light lunch, then drove over to the Eastern Shore. It was a lovely day with beers at Eastern Shore Brewing, then seafood on the water at Capsize. Finally it was time for concert #47: Don McLean at the Avalon Theatre (I’d offered Dad him or Brian Wilson), a great show by a classic act.

Don McLean

Monday I don’t watch Family Guy anymore, but this is pretty good. Tuesday I voted, then picked Jill and Nina up from East Falls Church (they had a lot of fun with Jill’s family), then went to work. That night I stayed up late watching the live shows until the blue wave was confirmed.

Ava Nina

Thursday the 8th was concert #48: Toto at Warner Theatre. The last two concerts were the first time seeing acts, and both of them stretched their biggest hit out for more than 10 minutes. Good career spanning show, though. Saturday Jill was out at a baby shower and after Nina’s tumbling I took her to Chick-fil-A for lunch and then Monster Mini Golf.

Nina

November was a good month for comics about Jill, with this, that, and of course this (also mustaches, as I decided to grow one for Movember). Saturday night we dropped Nina at the gym and saw Bohemian Rhapsody, which was outstanding. History may have been twisted in favor of drama in spots, but a fun look at how many classics were created. Bummed they didn’t cast our friend Dave at Live Aid though. Tuesday some nights were just about playing Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest.

Nina

Friday the 16th we picked up Nina from school and attempted to drive north. Traffic was so bad on the Beltway Google said 15 was a better option, but that was a crawl until Maryland. We stopped for dinner at Franco’s Italian Bistro in Catonsville and had a lovely dinner and by the time we were done traffic had died down and we were soon at the Renaissance Philadelphia Airport Hotel. It was late and soon we were in bed.

Nina

The next morning we were in the pool first thing (the reason for choosing the hotel so Nina could burn off some energy), then had breakfast at the restaurant (we’d been comped for some reason) before heading into Philadelphia. We stopped at a bakery near the University of Pennsylvania where Nina picked out a delicious and expensive chocolate cake, then we went over to Tony and Charissa’s house where they were hosting Friendsgiving again. This was the longest we’d stayed, but we vowed to stay 2 nights next year as we hadn’t visited with all the Shantytowners before it was getting dark and time to drive home.

Shantytowners

Sunday was concert #49: Alan Parsons Live Project at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts. My favorite moment was when he directed us on a chorus and said “Now you’ve all been produced by Alan Parsons”. I had a quick dinner first at Carpaccio. Thursday we had a nice Thanksgiving at home with my favorite new discovery: Popeye’s Cajun Turkey. The only problem was the juices were a bit too spicy to make gravy for Nina, so we had to use chicken broth, but otherwise perfect.

Nina

Friday the 23rd we went over to Reston Town Center for the holiday parade, with one big change: Nina was marching in the parade with her fellow Brownies. It was a crisp cold morning, but we were bundled up well and survived waiting until it was our turn. Nina had a lot of fun marching and seeing friends, plus we got to wait at the end and still see Santa. We stopped by Scrawl Books for a reading and buying some books, then lunch at Ted’s Bulletin. The next day was super rainy, but we still made it over for lunch and visit with my dad and Patricia, for the first time at her house.

Nina

Tuesday I was laughing so hard I can’t breathe at this. That week was a bit busier than normal as Jill picked up one of Nina’s cheer team from school before the Tuesday and Thursday practices, plus Nina had a private lesson from Coach Kyle after Girl Scouts on Wednesday. But we got everything done and on Friday they did open gym while I went to concert #50: Crash Test Dummies with Todd Wright at The Hamilton. Honestly, this concert was a maybe, trending to no because we had an early start the next day. But then Todd announced he was opening, and I took a listen to “God Shuffled His Feet” (25th anniversary tour) and knew every song, and suddenly it was a must. I got to DC late, but had a backup plan of tacos at the bar at MXDC next door, still in a seat by showtime.

Nina

I’ve seen Todd a lot, but this may have been his finest lineup yet, playing to the crowd with Ethan Mentzer, Emma Rowley, and Tommy Gann. I had some sushi and sake after I talked to them and picked up their new Christmas CD then the main event. Brad Roberts and Ellen Reid’s voices were unchanged by time, and the songs sounded great (especially Ellen’s cover of an XTC song). Worth the sleep deprivation.

September

We began the month as we always do, with Nina’s birthday party on Saturday the 1st. We had it at the nearby Ridge Heights Pool after it closed, and the first hour was fine. The second hour with thunder and lightning and eating cake huddled near the entrance wasn’t as fun. Jill said “It was a rainy, crazy, outdoor evening pool party. Most folks showed up which I am eternally grateful for; and also stepped up to make it N’s ‘best birthday party ever!!!’ We have built such a great community around us; we are lucky to call it home.” She also said later “It’s a 2 beer while in the bath kind of night”.

cake

Jill’s mom Sue came down the next day with her husband Dave – they’d spend the next week on vacation, mostly with us. We had more cake for Nina then. Jill said “Happy 7th to my favorite girl! You’re brave, kind, a great friend, and loving daughter. You have your own sense of style and loads of confidence and sass. Your favorite food is Daddy’s ramen, your favorite dessert is ice cream, your favorite colors are pink, blue, and rainbow. My wish is for you to keep your sparkle always. Love always, Mama.” On Monday, Jill, Nina and Sue went apple picking. Tuesday Sue and and Dave babysat and we celebrated our anniversary at Maple Ave – the lamb was excellent.

Kerry Jill

Bonus points if you can spot Nina in this video.

Thursday the 6th was concert #35: Alanis Morissette at Wolf Trap. Rainy, and we ate our dinner from The Sandwich Shop (which replaced Chase the Submarine) after the show because traffic was terrible, but a great show. Apparently I’m on a see her once each decade schedule.

Alanis

Saturday it was rainy but Nina insisted we had to go to the South Lakes Village Center Playtime on the Plaza we’d seen earlier in the week when going out for dinner with Dave (and Flippin’ Pizza had been closed, so Nina got her first Subway visit). So after tumbling class we stopped by and she made art and slime in the rain (thankfully they had popup tents). Later she finally got to go fishing with Pop Pop before he left. That night we were out again for concert #36: For U: A Symphonic Celebration of Prince at Wolf Trap. Hands down worst concert of the year for the decision to not use any vocalists. Prince’s music without the lyrics is only half the reason he was so great. I don’t need an oboe doing the melody during “1999”. Basically a too expensive karaoke experience. At least the evening was saved with drinks at Clarity.

Dave Nina

Sunday the 9th we visited the new Founding Farmers in Reston for the first time to have brunch with Sue and Dave before they headed home. Tuesday I thought of course Ben Folds wrote a song about Rod Rosenstein. I think he’s been hanging around DC too long now. Also his new Declassified show with Regina Spektor on November 2nd was now on sale. Thursday I agreed with this article that you don’t trust things in the cloud will stay there unless you put them there and are paying for the storage.

Nina

Thursday the 20th I agreed with an article on re-reading the first Harry Potter book. We’d gotten about a third through the second one by then. I also agreed with Krebs about credit freezes – the bad guys have my info at least 15 times and counting.

Nina

Friday the 21st I had an early flight out from Dulles, stopping in Denver and ending in Las Vegas. The flights were not ideal, but the record store crawl in the morning and afternoon with Norm was a lot of fun (the first location of Zia Records was my favorite). We stopped for some Vietnamese at the end, then I checked into my room at the Tropicana. I’d forgotten to pick up sunscreen or a comb on my travels, and the hotel was happy to oblige for $20. Later I caught a bus downtown to concert #37: The Weeknd, Death Cab For Cutie, Justice, CHVRCHES, Slyvan Esso, The Neighbourhood, What So Not & Elohim, plus comedians Brandon Wardell, Jimmy O. Yang, & Rory Scovel at Life is Beautiful. I wasn’t sure what to expect with a festival in the middle of the city, but it was well done (couldn’t hear any bleed over from different stages) and they never ran out of food and drink (especially the hot Cheeto dusted grilled cheese sandwich from Stripchezze and fries from Fukuburger). I was most looking forward to CHVRCHES and they did not disappoint. My only complaint about the festival was nowhere did I see that tickets were required for the comedy shows – but they let me in on standby, so I can’t complain too much.

Life is Beautiful

Saturday I read in the hotel room for a while, then went out to concert #38: Greta Van Fleet at the Daytime Stage at the 2018 iHeartRadio Music Festival. While I’m not a gambler, I did take a chance on a very cheap ticket and lost. But I’d seen the day before you could see the stage from the street, and my bus pass was good for 24 hours. I got there right as they were going on and found a covered bus stop that had a bench I could stand on and see over the fence. Great Led Zep sound (the word is correct – that singer can howl like Plant), but it was still 100 degrees out, and left as soon as they were done to get my Pho’rench Dip at Lardo (French dip with a Banh Mi and Pho, delectable).

Greta Van Fleet

Later it was time for the main reason for returning to Vegas: concert #39: Queen + Adam Lambert at Park Theater. It’s been 15 years since my only previous Vegas trip and 25 years since I first saw Brian May at Hammerjacks (and got to shake his hand thanks to Katie from Expulsion chatting up the merch guy). I’ve seen him in Queen with Roger Taylor 5 times since, but that night was truly epic. A 5000 seat venue would have been amazing no matter what, but I ponied up for a seat on stage. As much as their show is great in an arena, it was overpowering in there. The songs, the lights – all the spectacle was more intense. Yes, Freddie’s gone, but Adam’s voice and showmanship has skyrocketed since he’s been playing with them. And there’s no mistaking those drums and that guitar during songs like “Don’t Stop Me Now”, “Bohemian Rhapsody”, and “We Will Rock You”. Having long time Queen keyboardist Spike Edney turn around and urge us to clap was great, and Roger flashed me a peace sign after I flashed one to him. And while Brian only smiled at me, I did get to shake Adam’s hand. The only WTF moment was Carrot Top coming into our section about 30 minutes before the end and just watching the show (and the band saying hi to him as they passed). This was a very nice picture a lady in my section took.

Queen

Afterwards I had a late dinner at Bruxie, a delicious couple of fried chicken & waffle sliders, then quick to bed and yet another early morning flight, unfortunately this time on Frontier. Between the extra fees (fees for carry ons) and the delayed flight (where it was marked as departed on time officially), I won’t be using them again. But at least I still got back in the late afternoon. Nina won her first Apple award in second grade on Friday and got a nice afternoon and evening with old friends Saturday before a brief trip to urgent care while I was away.

Queen

Monday the 24th I saw cardsagainsthumanityhackstheelection.com and read “Q: Why don’t you stick to making games and keep out of politics? A: Why don’t you stick to sliding marbles up your urethra?” and nearly snorked iced tea all over my monitor. Friday Nina asked for ramen at a sitdown restaurant (we often go out or get takeout the nights Jill works). We ended up at Red Kimono in Herndon (pretty good ramen, but Nina was not a sushi fan). I wasn’t expecting to see a band that night, but we heard a music when we left, and ended up at concert #40: Nah. at Jambrew. Sounded nice, but Nina was more interested in playing “hiding from Professor Snape”.

Nina

Saturday the 29th we got on the road quickly and headed down to Staunton, which was celebrating Queen City Mischief & Magic, a festival of all things Harry Potter. We’d gotten about 3/4 through Chamber of Secrets when we arrived, and we got Nina into her new Hogwarts robes. Right off we met Dumbledore and Hagrid, posed as the other Weasleys, then waited as Nina got her wish to be sorted into Gryffindor. We got some lunch from nearby food trucks and stands (BBQ for Jill and I, PB&J for her), then went on to see a glass blowing demonstration and Platform 9 3/4. We waited to go in Pufferbellies (the toy store) where she picked out Lego minifigures, then went to a potions class by Redwood & Co (or make your own bath lotion, but nicely tailored for the occasion). We also got to meet the Four Founders and Nina got to visit 2 cupboards under the stairs. Finally it was getting late and we went to Shenandoah Pizza & Tap House where we demolished a large pizza. We also stopped for ice cream at Kline’s Dairy Bar before finally getting to our room at the Econo Lodge – not the nicest, but all we needed was a place to sleep.

Nina

The next morning we had a hearty breakfast at Kathy’s Restaurant (with giant pancakes the size of Nina’s head), then got on the road. We made a last minute decision to stop at Luray Caverns and that was fun – neither Jill or Nina had been before, and it was a nice walk. We didn’t have time for any other attractions, as Jill wanted to visit the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival. So we drove up there and Nina and I walked around, visited the sheep and goats and shared fries while Jill shopped.

Nina Jill

August

We were still in Massachusetts on Wednesday the 1st. Nina and Ava were with Jill’s mom and two other cousins, so we took the remaining kids to Cheesecake Factory for lunch, then Dave & Busters (I like the Star Wars Battle Pod a lot, played it 3 times). Jill and I did some camp shopping before heading back to East Longmeadow, where a family barbeque brought lots of folks over (and me on burger duty). Later I went grocery shopping at Big Y.

Nina

Thursday we packed the car super full and got on the road towards the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. They had closed the roads due to rain the day before, but happily everything was clear by the time we got there and soon we had our tent up. Nina has happiest when the Cannons arrived so soon there was lots of screaming and running around. Jill and I made fajitas, then that night was concert #25: Ryanhood, Abbie Gardner & Dan Navarro at Lounge Stage (really felt Stuart’s spirit at that one, don’t think I’ve ever seen Abbie and Dan together), followed later by concert #26: Seth Morgan at the Budgiedome.

Nina

Friday it rained a lot early and took most of the day to dry out. A number of us had to supplement security and shut down the muddy roads. Nina got to yell “Ice!” from the ice truck. The Cannons made dinner, and later we took the girls to concert #27: Gandalf Murphy & The Slambovian Circus Of Dreams at the Dance Tent (they all want to be jellyfish next year after seeing the umbrella parade). After bedtime was concert #28: a singalong at Shantytowne (with new favorite original composition by Seth: “Don’t Put Fireworks (Up Your Butt)”).

Jill Kerry Nina

Saturday was much nicer weather, but not much excitement on the music front. We made corn for the potluck dinner (this year Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy themed) and posed for the family picture (Nina had to have Patty’s dolphin mask). Later a bunch of folks went over for concert #29: Jason Spooner and Dar Williams at Main Stage, then a final concert #30: another singalong at Shantytowne.

Nina

Sunday the 5th was the usual fun of packing up and getting on the road. As we do so often these days, we detoured through Pennsylvania rather than face New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland gridlock. Monday Nina started skateboarding camp but wanted to go swimming afterwards so Jill took her to Lifetime. She ran into a friend there, so they had dinner and since power was out at home I was forced to go eat at the bar at Red’s Table (poor me – meat and cheese plate and onion rings). After a week of skateboarding camp, she’d learned to ride pretty good. I got fun questions at bedtime that night though: “Do you put all the presents under the tree? The other kids say Santa’s not real and parents put out presents. Can I go to Antarctica and see if Santa’s there?”

Nina

That Sunday I’d found one concert I wanted to use free lawn seats for thanks to a Ticketmaster settlement, and that was concert #31: Pentatonix and Echosmith at Jiffy Lube Live. I knew I liked Echosmith, and I was curious to see how Pentatonix would fare at a shed. They turned into a boy band (choreography, outfits, etc.) and did quite well. Most kids I’ve seen at a show all year.

Nina

Thursday the 16th I’d been listening to the Hamilton soundtrack in the car, which had sparked some interesting conversations and knowledge (I didn’t remember all these candidates). But that morning the soundtrack ended and I had Hamildrops next in the playlist. I was expecting some of the songs to be NSFW, but not The Decemberists’ one. I thought I hit the volume down fast, before I heard from the back seat “Do you know who the funk I am?”. Sigh. Later I found out Aretha Franklin had passed. This was my Twitter feed that day. Respect.

Aretha

Friday was the end of Nina’s week in art camp, so the parents were invited to watch performances by each of the five groups they’d sorted themselves into. Unfortunately they were all non-verbal with no explanations. Nina’s group was “Girls’ Club”, and she was a mermaid. Saturday Jill and I went out to eat at Honeysuckle (luckily it was Restaurant Week – a delicious lamb tartare and confit duck leg for me) before seeing concert #32: Hamilton at the Kennedy Center. Worth the wait.

Jill Kerry

Monday it was back to Lifetime camp, more of a problem as a boy she calls her bully was there (he looks at her at lunch and teases her). She was ok since he wasn’t in her group but she wasn’t looking forward to camp that week. Wednesday the 22nd Nina and I went to Wolf Trap for a buffet for members, then concert #33: Peter Cetera. 13 year old me would have been very happy. 47 year old me was escorting around an almost 7 year old, which probably would have surprised 13 year old me more than the music. Nina got to meet her teacher, Mrs. Gregston, at a back to school event the next day, then that night was concert #34: Joseph, Shovels & Rope and Dawes, also at Wolf Trap. Nice indie combo, and all bands I’d been wanting to see. I even glimpsed Mrs. Cannon riding up in a cart. I stayed late but it was too chilly for me in short sleeves as Dawes neared the end.

Nina

Saturday Jill took Nina to a birthday party, then her sister, niece, and mother arrived and we had dinner from Hunan East. Sunday they were all helping the niece move in and I took Nina to the inaugural Fairfax Comic Con (in Chantilly, of course). She had a blast, making masks and capes with other kids, seeing Star Wars cosplay, doing archery and participating in the costume contest. My sister texted me while I was there and asked about getting Nina a birthday present, and I responded that I was getting pressure to buy her things there, so that worked out. Plus I got to meet John Cassaday. The next day Jill’s mom took Nina to the National Zoo.

Nina

Tuesday the 28th was Nina’s first day of second grade, and she got to walk over with a friend from class. Scrolling through social media, the internet was won for the day with this:
https://twitter.com/markhoppus/status/1033407567651729410
We went to Glory Days Grill for the second time in 5 days as Nina was determined to take advantage of the face painting on Wednesday (the food isn’t bad and I enjoy the new Impossible burger there).

Nina

Friday the 31st we’d been remiss in introducing Nina to Harry Potter fandom, so we’d been listening to the first book in the car and tonight went to see the first movie in a theatre with Jill’s mom after dinner at Uncle Julio’s and splashing at Fairfax Corner (they were reshowing them all for the 20th anniversary of the first book). Afterwards I gave her a Hermione wand and Hogwarts letter I bought for her when she was 3 months old, and heard “Wingardium Leviosa” from the back seat all the way home (the next day the Barbies went to Hogwarts – Ken is Harry, 2 Barbies are Hermione and Professor McGonagall).

Nina

July

As July dawned, we were on our way back from Hawaii. We had about a 3 hour layover in LA in the morning – Jill and I got breakfast from a food truck in the terminal. We were awake for the second leg, but it was uneventful trip back to Dulles, then Nina and I went shopping and she chose an Oreo cake for Jill’s birthday that night. Monday the 2nd was concert #21: Barenaked Ladies with KT Tunstall & Better Than Ezra at Wolf Trap. Hot night for a show, but still good performances from all acts. Nina was a trooper (soft serve ice cream helped too).

Nina

The most important thing about July 4th was Nina let us sleep until 12:30. We finally had time to really unpack and settle back in (and handle the yardwork), before we went out with the O’Riordans on the lake for dinner and fireworks (our boat wasn’t clean and their motor was broken). As Jill said “we enjoyed ourselves, while remembering that we are aiming for a more perfect union, and it is a fight we are not willing to cede. We live in the heart of the nation, where we were drawn to the diversity which makes our country so beautiful. Let’s not forget what has always made America great.”

fireworks

While reading an article about 20 Years Since “One Week” Friday, I was delighted to learn Barenaked Ladies had premiered “One Week” at the 1998 HFStival, which I was at. Saturday the 7th we celebrated a belated Father’s Day with Dad by the Bay, then Nina and Jill went to the crowded water park while I installed a new printer for him. We stopped at Bojangles on the way back before racing out to Leesburg for concert #22: Todd Wright and Ryan Wright at his always fun annual homecoming show in Leesburg. Dropping his new CD there was just a bonus.

Kerry Nina

Thursday this was the perfect accompaniment to this fine libation Nina chose for me for Father’s Day. Friday I got Nina from camp and we met Jill at Tysons Corner Center for concert #23: Matt Nathanson with Keelan Donovan. I don’t know who decided to put the stage right next to the pirate playground on the plaza there, but you, sir or madam, are a frickin’ genius. And Matty put on a heck of a show, even though he was suffering from “swamp crotch” in the heat. Big thanks to Linda for letting Nina stand with her front and center for a while.

Matt and us
Jill and I are at the bottom – right in the center, and Nina is leaning over the barricade halfway up next to Linda.

Saturday the 14th was concert #24: National Symphony Orchestra at Wolf Trap. Just the afternoon rehearsal – Nina said it wasn’t her favorite, but some Tchaikovsky (Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23) and Beethoven (Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125) isn’t bad for her cultural education. Plus Inon Barnatan is a very talented pianist.

Nina

We were planning on visiting the Chambers family on the 21st and going to Hersheypark, but the coming storms looked ominous and we made a last minute decision to go directly to Pennsylvania after we picked Nina up from camp. We stopped in Frederick at Cafe Bueno for some fine Mexican food along the way. The next morning we got a couple hours in the park before the rains came (and a couple more attractions after that) before we were drenched and gave up. Nina was excited that she rode her first looping roller coaster. The girls played during the afternoon, and I headed over to the Brass Rail Deli for a panini as I’d skipped lunch at the park. We also decided not to go back home that night because of the many flooded roads.

Jill Nina

Saturday the 28th we got on the road early after a lot of last minute packing the night before. Traffic wasn’t too bad until New Jersey, but it still took us a while to get to Jill’s dad’s house even though twice Nina’s need for a bathroom made us realize upcoming traffic doom and avoid it. Nina got a late lunch with the fairies, then we finished our trip at Jill’s mom’s house.

Nina

Sunday Sue and Dave took us to Sylvester’s for breakfast where Nina and I managed to stumble across a Turn It Up sidewalk sale where I did very well. Later we drove near Boston to see my sister and her family. We followed them to Nantasket Beach so we could play near and in the Atlantic Ocean, then shared salads and pizzas at L Street Pizza.

Monday we drove up to the University of Massachusetts Boston so Jill could show Nina her alma mater and discover her favorite teacher was now a dean. We also had lunch in the dining hall there. We drove back to western Massachusetts after a quick stop at In Your Ear (not my favorite), this time staying at Jill’s sister’s house. After dinner the kids (cousins from Ireland were visiting as well) had a water balloon fight (Jill was collateral damage) and we all made s’mores.

Nina

Tuesday the 31st Jill and I took Nina and Ava to get ice cream and then run around at the Hampden Memorial Spray Park in the afternoon, then a big giant cookout for family in the evening (I got to grill the burgers, the only I cooking I did until we camped later). Sue took Nina and Ava for a sleepover that night.

Ava Nina

June

Friday June 1st it was concert #15: Almost Queen at the Herndon Festival with the family. I don’t watch many tribute acts if the originals are around, but Freddie ain’t coming back, and they did a pretty good job. Dinner from the Redbone food truck was good too. Saturday I returned to the Herndon Festival by myself for concert #16: River Whyless and Air Traffic Controller, with a depressingly large rain break between. Meanwhile Jill took Nina to the first Reston Pride festival. That night was concert #17: The Scottsboro Boys at Signature Theatre. A hard show to watch, even harder knowing that’s what some folks mean by returning to the “good ol’ days”.

Kerry Nina Jill

Monday morning we went to the vet and put Illa down. The doggy dementia and indoor destruction had been going on for close to two years, but blindness and deafness were setting in, and finally the hips started to go. Jill and I were with him to the end. Later I posted lots of pictures and videos to Facebook, including Snowmageddon (one of his favorite days), baby Nina snuggling up to him, and her stalking him at 2 1/2 (he was always patient with her).

Illa Nina

Thursday Nina said she wasn’t feeling well and her eyes hurt, so we were off to the doctor, only to find strep (Jill was already at work, so I took most of the day off). I managed to tune in during the final period that night to see the Capitals finally win it all (and then hearing yelling from nearby houses). Friday Nina’s school had a “Farmer’s Market”, or more realistically a cookout/yard sale, but she enjoyed it (and the face painting).

Nina

It is very important to remember that Old Ox Brewery is 3 minutes away from her gym, as I did on Saturday the 9th during her tumbling class. I even remembered to bring a growler, so double the win. Later we headed out to Manassas, had dinner at Noodles & Company (now with zoodles!) before heading over to concert #18: Dave Matthews Band at Jiffy Lube Live. Great show after a lengthy rain delay we endured in the parking lot, and then I went 2/2 at getting blocked in at the venue during a storm (the other was Buffet in 2000). Plus Nina got her wish: to stay up past midnight. Sunday was Nina’s final Daisy Scouts meeting, then concert #19: Roger Daltrey singing “Tommy” at Wolf Trap. Still in fine voice. Nina’s yearly minimum supply of classic rock.

Nina

Nina’s final day of school was Friday the 15th, then Saturday I was wondering if I should go over to Old Ox Brewery during tumbling class, and then I saw they were having beer and ice cream flights… so good (the Black Ox Porter with BuzzBuzzBuzz! ice cream was especially delectable). That night was concert #20: Sing a long Sound of Music at Wolf Trap (is it a concert if just the audience is performing?) I do know Nina enjoyed the movie, although we endured a lot of questions on the drive home because we left 2/3rds through. Plus she got an enormous soft serve ice cream there for dessert. Father’s Day was Sunday and after Jill took Nina to a birthday party in the morning, we picked my mom and her husband from lunch with a friend (in town for the day). We took them to Old Town Alexandria, took the water taxi to National Harbor, and had dinner at Vola’s Dockside Grill and ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s before dropping them back at Lynn House.

Nina David

Wednesday the 20th was the start of our vacation. After a 5.5 hour flight to Los Angeles, our friend Teresa picked us up and took us to Manhattan Beach, making a 6 hour layover between 5 hour flights tolerable (and a surprise visit by the Goodyear Blimp was a bonus). Plus Wahoo’s Fish Tacos was tastier than any other airport food we got that day. Another 5.5 hour flight later, we were in Hawaii on Oahu, but at 3:30AM our time couldn’t do anything but sleep (which is why I’d booked us into the Airport Honolulu Hotel with a shuttle). Unfortunately Nina was first to acclimate, sleeping on the second leg and up for the day at 5AM local time (we toured the hotel lobby).

Jill Nina

We had a nice breakfast at Willoughby’s in the hotel, then I went back to the airport to get another shuttle over to Economy Rent a Car (and possibly the most pressure I’ve ever had to use their add on insurance). Meanwhile Jill took photos to “kill… time while Daddy gets the rental car. I forgot how amazing the plumeria smells, and how generous the plant is with her flowers; they fall off still fully formed and gorgeous!”. Once I had the family, we were off to Aulani – the only Disney resort not at Disneyland or Disney World. By no coincidence at all, it’s also the only place in the world you can hangout and play games with Moana (the official name of the activity is “Kakamora Chaos with Moana”).

Kerry Jill

We arrived with enough time to drop off our bags, look around and get Nina a snack before the big event, then Jill and I and had drinks and a snack at the Wailana pool bar (Maui onion rings were good). It was adults only, but that didn’t stop Goofy from coming by and splashing in the water. Soon it was time to pick up Nina and she’d loved it. Unfortunately our room was still not ready, so we used a lounge pass and they changed for the pool, and I lugged the luggage up to our room when they finally notified me right at 3 that it was ready. I crashed for a bit after that, then they came back and we changed for dinner at ‘Ama ‘Ama – pricey but excellent views. Jill took an early bedtime while Nina and I went to the beach and then the fire pit for stories and songs. The next morning I got up first and grabbed breakfast supplies from the store, and Nina and I had cereal on the balcony. Some more pool time, then we checked out and left our bags up front and waited to meet Moana (they’d only taken group pictures at the activity).

Jill Nina Kerry

We drove back towards Honolulu and chose the traffic backup off the highway (Honolulu Rail Transit was under construction). We stopped at El Mariachi for lunch (Yelp rated it best Mexican on Oahu, and I have to say it was the finest carnitas I’ve ever had), then drove to the Bishop Museum. We thought Nina would be excited to see the Holo Moana: Generations of Voyaging exhibit, but her favorite ones were Expedition Dinosaur and the Science Adventure Center.

Kerry Nina

Next we stopped at a yarn store for Jill, then our final destination of the day, Hilton Waikiki Beach (the cheapest of the 2 Hiltons because it’s 2 blocks from the beach). Nina was excited about the pool on the 10th floor and had to try it out right away. The view from the 27th floor was nice, but our balcony was too windy for anything. We changed and caught the Waikiki Trolley’s Pink Line for $2 each over to the other Hilton, where we made it to the beach with time to spare for the Friday night fireworks. We then sped over to Ramen Nakamura to wait in line for a seat at the table so we could all enjoy some delicious ramen (soon the line was much longer). Finally we stopped at International Market Place on the way back at Magnolia Ice Cream & Treats (I had Ube & Queso ice cream, different but good).

Kerry Nina

Saturday we had cereal in the room, then walked over to Moku Surf Shop, where there was some uncertainty over the Groupon I was using, but soon we were walking with Derek the block down to Waikiki Beach, and Nina was soon surfing. The initial plan was that we’d split an hour lesson, but Nina was really listening well and he kept her out as I tried (and I did better than 17 years prior, got up twice).

Jill Kerry Nina

Back at the surf shop, Derek showed us the GoPro footage and we were astonished to see Nina get a piggyback ride – a must buy. We walked over to Duke’s Waikiki for brunch, where the made to order pasta was a win for Nina – everyone got seconds. After another afternoon dip in the pool, we went back to the beach for a free hula show. It wasn’t as mesmerizing as promised, and Jill and Nina went swimming in the ocean while I went to the Hilton’s business center to backup data (I think about a third of vacation time is now just managing pictures and videos). That evening we had dinner in the hotel at M.A.C. 24-7, upscale diner food that was pretty good.

Kerry

Sunday the 24th was our last day on Oahu. After breakfast and one more swim, we checked out. We stopped for Jill to buy another bikini at The Buxom Beauty. Lastly we drove to SALT at Our Kaka’ako so I could check out 2 nearby record shops while the ladies went to Starbucks (Hungry Ear was the superior one), then over to return the rental car and get in the longest security line of the trip at the Honolulu airport (thankfully it moved quickly). We had a late lunch there – Chowmein Express for Jill, Lahaina Chicken Company (local chain) for Nina and me.

Nina

The flight to the Big Island was short, and soon we had our car at Hertz and driving north. I knew the resort didn’t have a market, so we stopped at the nearby Foodland Farms (like a mini Whole Foods) before arriving at Mauna Lani Resort. Nina wanted the pool, of course, and we didn’t summon much energy other than making sandwiches for supper.

Mauna Lani

Monday we had breakfast in the room, then drove over to the Hilton. It was only when we got there that we remembered staying there for a night on our last visit. We checked in to Dolphin Quest and Nina spent 45 minutes learning about dolphins with the other kids while Jill and I strolled over to the nearby Lagoon Grill for tropical drinks and a snack. When it was time, we got closer to watch Nina and her new friends meet the dolphin (and get a kiss). She didn’t want it to end, and played with 2 of the girls in her group for an hour after it ended.

Nina

After paying the outrageous parking fee to leave, we drove to Queens’ MarketPlace (nearby outdoor mall) and Nina’s favorite shopping destination on the island. We ended up going to the food court and getting takeout for dinner, Jill and I got burritos from Big Island Burritos (my Bugogi was delicious) and Nina got pizza from Paradise Pizza & Grill. From Jill: “Nina tried snorkeling for the first time but preferred snorkeling in the pool rather than in the ocean. I had great luck seeing some beautiful fish in the ocean. After dinner we enjoyed some traditional music and dance and then rambled along the shore. It was lovely.”

Kerry Nina

Tuesday the 26th we were up quickly as we headed to the other side of the island, marveling at the difference in climate between them. We had a quick stop at Hilo Bay Books before arriving at our appointment at Blue Hawaiian Helicopters (a return visit for Jill and I). Due to the danger of getting close to the volcano, they’ve doubled their fleet on that side of the island, and it was quite a wait as we were in the sixth (and last) helicopter at that time. But it was worth it. From Jill: “Fissure 8: destruction and creation. Heartbreak and wonder. Incredible. There is a river of lava traveling down from this fissure toward the ocean. Huge clouds of sulfur are coming up, and we could smell a little of it as we we hovering around it. It was an incredible sight. We saw Fissure 8 spewing orange red magma and saw a river of lava heading toward the ocean at a rate of about 20 miles an hour! We saw acres and acres of devastation; homes and businesses destroyed, acres of vegetation destroyed by sulfur gas blowing over it (which is why in one of the pictures [we took] one side of the lava river is still lush and green while the other is brown). As the lava hits the ocean, huge clouds of hydrochloric acid gas wafts into the air and destroys marine life all around it. The currents clearly delineate where the brown/yellow HCl affected water is from the rest of the water area. It is the painful, beautiful way these islands are created, and it’s breathtaking.”

volcano

On the way back, we detoured west of Hilo to see some nearby waterfalls, then unfortunately had to wait nearly an hour to get our videos (but worth the money). We went to McDonald’s (in the Wal-Mart for Nina’s lunch, then went over to Big Island Top Dogs for Jill and I. We drove down to the Mauna Loa plant and checked out the gift shop and garden before heading back west, stopping for a salad for Jill as I had one left over from the night before.

Kerry Nina Jill

From Jill: “[We] took advantage of Nina’s desire to play with other kids at the hotel’s day camp so we headed into Kailua Kona for some shopping and lunch at Kona Brewing Co” Wednesday. I also got to enjoy time at another business center to back up data (the Wi-Fi in the various hotels performed great, but I needed a PC to handle the SD cards and USB drives I bought with videos on). For dinner it was back to Queens’ MarketPlace to eat at Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar. Nina got ramen and I got to try poke (verdict: I prefer sushi), then the Marble Slab Creamery next door for ice cream.

Kerry Jill

Thursday the 28th was a spa day, Nina volunteering for a half day at the resort camp. Jill and I went to the spa and I got a massage, while she had “a morning of amazing treatments then we spent the afternoon by the pool”. Nina’s new friend Amber was never far while we were near the pool, but then it was time to go stargazing at a nearby hotel – or so we thought. From Jill: “[it] was canceled due to a cloudy, hazy sky from the “vog” (volcano gas/ash disrupting the atmosphere)”. We were still planning on going north to try a burger place, but we could smell the smoke (either from the vog or a wildfire) and turned around. We ended up at Tropics Ale House for pizzas, nachos, and beers.

Nina

Friday we went to Hāpuna Beach for a couple hours [Jill] “and all got pretty roasted despite reapplying sunscreen”. Afterwards we drove up to Anuenue Ice Cream & Shave Ice to get a pile of shaved ice almost as big as our heads. Nina being the most tanned and least burned wanted more pool time before we left again, this time over to the Mauna Kea Beach Resort Luau. We all enjoyed the buffet (made sure they had roast turkey for Nina), then watched the sunset as the luau started. From Jill: “Nina got up on stage to learn some hula, then we left early to see stargazing at a local hotel. Nina was especially keen and was excited to see Saturn, Jupiter, and a ‘rainbow star'”.

Jill Nina

Saturday the 30th was our final day in Hawaii. Since we were taking a redeye flight back, we left with “a day left” on the week stay at the resort. It made for a relaxing day as we only left to get lunch at Kohala Burger, and Nina got some more pool time with Amber. After we checked out, we stopped at Queens’ MarketPlace one more time for dinner (I wanted to try Ippy’s Hawaiian BBQ, very good), then on to the airport where our flight was on time and soon we were all asleep.

Nina Kerry

April

April 1st, in addition to being a day for fools, was Easter this year and we woke up in Massachusetts (on purpose). Still there for Spring Break, Sue made us Eggs Benedict for breakfast, then we went over to the Bradys’ for the egg hunt and Easter dinner. Monday we’d planned on leaving early, but a late spring snow arriving during morning rush hour delayed our start and we didn’t get back to the area until rush hour, so we stopped for dinner in Silver Spring at Jewel of India (Nina likes her naan).

Nina

On Wednesday, Nina was delighted that Olympian Maame Biney came to school (she got a high five). Nina had lots of new foods on vacation due to her new egg tolerance, but my favorite moment was finally introducing her to Popeye’s Chicken Thursday (she’s a fan of the tenders). Friday I knew the weather the rest of the weekend won’t be as nice, but it was delightful having dinner outside.

outside

Saturday the 7th Jill was working, so Nina got to take a friend to Rebounderz to use a coupon after practice, then we had dinner at Glory Days. Sunday I noted that if the news about Fleetwood Mac replacing Lindsey Buckingham with Mike Campbell and Neil Finn of Crowded House had been posted on the previous Sunday, I would have laughed. But instead I was shocked – and intrigued. I also seconded the notion that it’s okay to sit down at shows. Thursday at an extra cheer practice I discovered that Old Ox Brewery was within walking distance.

Nina

Saturday the 14th Nina had her 3rd cheer competition out at Mount St. Mary’s University, where her team did the best all year, coming in 2nd place in their division and getting a Sportsmanship Award (after their first performance had lousy sound). Sunday we went out in the rain to have lunch with Dad and Patricia for his birthday, then stopped at Mrs. Cannon’s house on the way back as Chris and the family were down for the week. We left at dark, so we stopped at District Taco for some tasty Mexican.

Dad Nina

Friday the 20th the Cannons came over for dinner (more Mexican) and the kids ran around until they dropped. Sunday I worked to get a day off, but that ended badly as I was rear ended hard while waiting at a light on Fairfax County Parkway. It was better later at concert #9: Alan Doyle at The Hamilton with Fortunate Ones. Good set of solo and Great Big Sea songs, plus good food upstairs for Jill and I. Tuesday I was solo for concert #10: Steven Wilson at the 9:30 Club, busting out some fine Porcupine Tree tunes (and a long show, 2.5 hours plus an intermission).

Alan Doyle

Wednesday was a busy day off, as I took my car in for an estimate, then ran lots of errands before tackling jobs at home like clearing the clog in our bathroom sink. Friday Jill went to lunch with Nina at school, then Jill’s sister, mom and youngest niece came down as her oldest niece had a birthday. The ladies of age went to Filomena and Georgetown Cupcake, while I took the younger two out to Glory Days and Baskin-Robbins.

Nina

Saturday morning we all drove up to Coppin State University in Baltimore for Nina’s final cheer competition. On the way back we stopped a couple times and it was getting late, so we met the Bradys in Alexandria for an early dinner at Eamonn’s, then took the water taxi over to National Harbor. Everyone but me wanted to do the ferris wheel, so I spent time at The Brass Tap. They were still waiting in line when it was time to meet at the water taxi, so I went to get my car, and then was convinced to squish everyone in to take them to get the other one. Luckily I didn’t miss out on Ben & Jerry’s since there was another in Alexandria on the walk back to the car.

Nina

Sunday I worked again and Jill took the younger ones to Cirque du Soleil in Tysons. Jill said “We had so much fun at Cirque de Soleil’s Luzia this afternoon! It was beautiful; kudos for including a water element to their traveling show this year!”. Everyone else joined them to shop later and I went there after work and we all had dinner at Cheesecake Factory (Nina had spaghetti for the second time in 3 days).

Kerry Jill

March

On Saturday the 4th, Dad and Patricia came over for lunch and brought pizza so I could fix her laptop. Thanks to Jill’s gym’s parents night out, we got dinner and a movie later: tasty Turkish food (at Anatolian Bistro) and Black Panther. 10/10, would do again. Monday I found this and a selfie of my daughter on my phone. That’s why I don’t let her hold it.

toilet

Friday the 9th Nina’s school was on lockdown after police received a report that a student with a gun was at the nearby high school. It turned out to be untrue and she thought it was just a drill, but it made me more certain than ever that guns need to be restricted, and in fact I’m perfectly ok with melting down all the guns. Saturday I finished Nina’s first mashup request: “Look What You Made Me Do” and “Skip to My Lou”. Sunday Nina did not want to wait for Last Jedi to arrive on Blu-ray, so she saw her first Star Wars movie in a theater. Now she loves Rey even more.

Nina

Tuesday the 13th was concert #6: I’m With Her with Andrew Combs at the 9:30 Club. On at 9:30, 19 songs later off at 10:45 with a much more enthusiastic crowd for a Tuesday than I would have thought (and sold out, to boot). I’m guessing I was the only one there buying a ticket for Steven Wilson the next month. Illa had a vet visit on Thursday and lost 10 lbs – his kidneys aren’t doing so well. Dad came over again on the 17th for more laptop help, so we celebrated St. Patricks Day with corned beef and cabbage for lunch. Sunday we had Red Snapper for dinner – Mmmmm, very tasty.

Jill Kerry Patricia Bryce Nina

The night of the 19th I was at Nina’s school because Fairfax County proposed turning South Lakes Dr. into 1 lane each way to allow for bike lanes. Traffic isn’t horrible now at rush hour, but that would be a disaster. Thankfully the majority of folks were opposed to the idea. Tuesday night we trusted the Capital Weather Gang and were rewarded, as they said there would be a long window between winter storms early in the afternoon and after midnight. Jill and I had dinner at Green Bamboo in Rockville where I couldn’t resist getting moar red snapper (still very tasty) before concert #7: Weird Al. I finally got to hear “Nature Trail to Hell”, plus “Albuquerque” a second time.

Weird Al

Nina wanted to do something “special” Friday the 23rd, which turned out to be her first dinner in a Chinese restaurant at Lakeside Asia Cafe (she can now eat a little bit of egg in anything, so cross contamination isn’t an issue for us anymore). Saturday the 24th I noted that Amanda Palmer had summed up how 2 years of Patreon has gone. Well, I think. We also got an amazing care package from Shelly. There was another parents night out at the gym, so Jill and I finally used the gift certificate to Clyde’s Willow Creek Farm – a really nice dinner (I had the duck and Jill had the trout). Sunday Jill made some delicious Asian lettuce wraps, then Monday night we’d promised Nina we could go to the new Tacos and More in Reston (owned by the dad of a friend of hers) for her first taco (she’s a fan).

Nina

The finale of The X-Files Season 11 was not as bad as the premiere, but it wasn’t great. It’s a shame because the rest of the season was pretty good. I’d be ok with it ending. Treat it like Star Trek Enterprise. Some episodes must be skipped.

Nina

Tuesday the 27th, Jill, Nina and Maddie drove up to Massachusetts for spring break. They celebrated Jill’s mom’s 60th birthday, went to the Dr. Seuss museum, and Nina got her first tick. Meanwhile my week was fairly dull until Friday night when I went out for concert #8: San Fermin with Gracie and Rachel. Great baroque pop, improved by the fried chicken sandwich on an Old Bay donut from Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken earlier.

Nina

Saturday the 31st I took Illa to the kennel (after I cleaned out my backseat and found a cup used to have milk in it), then drove to Dulles and had a breakfast pizza and beer at &pizza.com. Jill picked me up in Hartford, then we got Nina and went to visit Memere and Pepere. After we got back the kids all came over and decorated Easter eggs; later Sue watched Nina while we went to concert #8: Cry Cry Cry at the Calvin. Only had to wait 15 years for it, but totally worth it. Pre show dinner at Coco and post show ice cream at Herrell’s were excellent.

Cry Cry Cry

December

Our last day at Disney World was the 1st, and also the only day Jill joined us in the morning. It was straight to Magic Kingdom as we had breakfast with friends from The Hundred Acre Wood. Next, Nina wanted to meet Merida again (but they didn’t let her shoot the bow and arrow this time) and we went over and waited to ride Splash Mountain – Nina loved the end. Nina and I explored Tom Sawyer Island, then we rode the train back to the entrance and our lunch at Tony’s Town Square Restaurant. We were going to use a VIP lunch there to secure a VIP spot for the parade, but gave that a pass because we would have lost our Fastpass for the Buzz Lightyear ride (Nina preferred the Toy Story ride though).

Nina Jill

We saw the line wasn’t bad for Rapunzel and Tiana and met them again, and finally caught the Wicked Stepsisters after missing them last trip. Nina and Jill rode the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad then Jill went shopping and I took Nina to see The Muppets in Liberty Square. Nina and Jill rode the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and Nina got to do some shopping, then it was time for dinner at Be Our Guest where we got to meet The Beast after dinner. We had time to stop at Beaches & Cream for ice cream all around before an early bedtime.

Jill Nina Kerry

We got on the Disney bus for a 5AM trip to the airport and an uneventful flight, getting back just in time for Nina to go to a birthday party and Nutcracker rehearsal. I’d nearly forgotten that I’d bought tickets to the NPR Music Turns 10: Concert and Party at the 9:30 Club that night, and Jill was toast. I sold my extra ticket and went anyway. I wasn’t really into heading into DC on 3 hours sleep, but then I walked in and Jeff Tweedy was on stage and somehow I was wide awake. They had kept the guest list a complete surprise – other big names were Bon Iver and Margo Price.

Nina

Saturday the 9th it was snowing, but not bad enough to stop Nina and I from going to Scrawl Books to see Dar Williams sing and talk about her new book (plus Nina got a couple new books) while Jill went to her monthly sewing class. Nina had a dress rehearsal for the Nutcracker that night.

Dar

Tuesday I took off in the middle of the day so Jill and I could have a lunch date at Fiola. Some fine Italian food, and thanks to the egg in her pasta only the second time ever we’ve switched entrees (I thought it was delicious and she enjoyed my lobster ravioli). Wednesday the 13th Nina had her dance recital (to the tune of Jingle Bell Rock), and I was incensed over the new Patreon fees – this is how it worked out for me:
14 $1.00 per month pledges, so $14 -> $19.32
4 $2.00 per month pledges, so $8 -> $9.64
3 $3.00 per month pledges, so $9 -> $10.32
1 $5.00 per month pledges, so $5 -> $5.50
For a total: $36 -> $44.78. Unacceptable, so I deleted all pledges and vowed to supporting creators on new platforms. Then of course they reversed course the next day, and I reinstated all pledges.

Nina

Friday Nina had the real dress rehearsal for the Nutcracker at Centreville High School, then we each got takeout and headed home (the banh mi’s from Park N Shop were delicious). The next day we were all back at Centreville High School for the official performance at 2PM (Dad and Patricia came as well), and it went off without a hitch.

Nina

Things that they don’t warn parents about #43: It will take an hour to convince your child to go into winter break camp. That’s what I learned on Monday the 18th as Nina was very anxious about going to a new school where she might not know anyone (turned out she did, and made a new friend). She didn’t make it back that week, as she got 2 colds in little over a week, and that triggered a severe asthma attack. I was home Tuesday and she got to watch Star Wars for the first time, then that night I went to see The Last Jedi, and it was even sweeter for having just watched the original. Thursday I was home again, so I made her watch Phantom Menace and gave her an ice cream cone in the bathtub. History will decide if I’m the best or worst parent ever.

Nina

Friday Nina was better and we went to Jammin’ Java as planned for Todd Wright’s Annual Santa Clauster-f@%! Christmas Spectacular – some great Christmas songs, as usual. We usually have host a holiday party in early December, and because the Nutcracker rehearsals had taken all our Saturdays, tried having a party 2 days before Christmas. Surprisingly we had about average attendance and most importantly 7 kids so Nina had a blast. I had not hit Whamageddon yet, so I introduced Whamageddon Roulette – it was added to the playlist for the party (I hit it about an hour after the party during clean up).

Nina

Christmas Eve we headed to church, Nina opened her new pajamas and then we got to work. After all the gifts were wrapped and stockings were stuffed, it was time to break out the nog. Happiness abounded on Christmas – Nina’s favorite gift was a pink Polaroid camera from Nana (until the film runs out), lovely ham dinner with my dad and Patricia, and the Doctor Who Christmas Special was brilliant. Only bad part is that it was too cold for Meadowlark’s Winter Walk of Lights with Nina still vulnerable and Jill coming down with bronchitis.

Nina

Nina was back at winter break camp on Boxing Day. Jill’s dad and his wife came to visit on Saturday the 30th, then Nina got to play games with the neighbors on New Year’s Eve before I made roast beef and Yorkshire Pudding for dinner. Nina asked to stay up until midnight, but we showed her the video of Times Square and she got to see the London fireworks before bedtime, then Jill and I had a games night with my new Christmas gifts until it was almost midnight, then we were in bed not much later.

Pepe Nina Meme

November

Friday, the 1st was Spirit Day at Nina’s school, and she dressed up as her favorite book character: Princess Leia (made this old Star Wars fan proud). Lucky her I had a figure already, so she got to take the accompanying R2-D2 to school. That night I got to conclude my survey of piano goddesses with Tori Amos. And she had a 90s throwback night, even finished my Little Earthquakes bingo (I’ve seen every song live now). We had dinner before the show at Ginger – not bad, but we’d try something different the next time we were stuck at MGM National Harbor.

Nina

Saturday I took Nina to Plaza America’s Fall Fest after her cheer practice and swim lesson for face painting and crafts, then over to Nutcracker practice. Monday I got an ad for a whisky advent calendar in my Facebook feed right after I got it as a gift. Good job listening in, Zucks.

Nina

Tuesday the 7th I was in early so I left early for a late lunch of tacos and a beer – the new Crooked Run Brewing in Sterling has a Señor Ramon Taqueria hidden inside (and Rebounderz is across the street). Thursday I got a spot on my face checked – luckily benign. That night I substituted kimchi for sauerkraut in a Reuben. 10/10, would do again.

Nina

Saturday Nina had cheer team tryouts (she made it), then that night we got a real night out thanks to Sue (who’d arrived the night before). We drove to the Hampton Inn in NoMa Union Station, then had an exquisite dinner at Komi (the reviews were right about the roasted goat and the dates stuffed with mascarpone). After a lovely full night’s rest, we went to the nearby Emporiyum, a pop-up food market next to Union Market. We enjoyed fried chicken with cinnamon-maple sauce in a waffle cone, shots of dumplings, and a doffle (a donut/waffle combo).

Jill Kerry

Friday, Jill, Sue and I joined Nina at school to watch a cute 2 song concert, then had Thanksgiving lunch with her in the cafeteria. Unfortunately the food was just as good as I remembered. That night I wanted to use up some roasted chicken and thought Pad Thai sounded good, but I only had peanut butter and spaghetti on hand, so I found a recipe for that. Once we were eating, Nina asked what it was, and when we told her “peanut butter noodles”, asked to try and liked it a lot.

Nina Jill

The next day Sue drove home with Maddy, then we headed up to Philly for Friendsgiving with the Shantyfolke. We didn’t have much time there besides dinner and some cookie decorating after a late start and traffic. Maybe next year we’ll spend the night, but this year we’d made plans to catch up with Jill’s grad school friend Kelly near Hershey who’s oldest daughter is Nina’s age. The girls had a great time playing that night, and we took them to a nearby playspace in the morning so they could run around before we hopped back in the car, taking a slight detour to get Sonic.

Nina Kerry

Our friends Meg & Toby beat us home from Friendsgiving Sunday and Nina got to play games with them. I found out my dad was in the hospital with kidney and prostate issues so I went to visit him – happily he’d be discharged 2 days later. Jill worked late Monday so I got Flippin’ Pizza for everyone, then played an epic Settlers of Catan game with Meg & Toby. Tuesday I made “peanut butter noodles” for everyone and after Nina’s bedtime played Cyanide and Happiness plus Cards Against Humanity.

Toby Nina Meg

Wednesday I thought this captured Nina in a nutshell. Thursday the 23rd Jill took Nina to The Star so I could cook, then we had the usual spread for Thanksgiving, and Nina tried all the trimmings – she finally likes stuffing and gravy. Very weird being just us 3, though. Friday we went to the Reston Holiday Parade, then to Kennedy Center to see the touching musical Me… Jane, and finally had a scrumptious dinner at District Commons (pumpkin beer cheese soup FTW).

Jill Nina

Saturday the 25th we started a week of Disney by going to see Coco (still with the Frozen short), then managed to finish packing with plenty of time before our flight to Orlando Sunday afternoon. We got to Disney’s Yacht Club Resort too late for anything but sleep – we were tired, plus Jill needed to be up early for her conference the next morning (we hadn’t planned to come back to Disney World so soon, but couldn’t pass up a deal where the room and her flight were paid for).

Kerry Nina

Monday was day 1: Animal Kingdom, and more importantly Stormalong Bay, the giant pool at our resort. But first we had to wait for our Amazon Now driver with our breakfasts and some medicine we forgot. After breakfast we explored the pool until Jill was done, got changed and had lunch next to the pool at Hurricane Hanna’s Grill (where the birds descended on Nina’s momentarily unguarded Pringles), then caught a bus over to Animal Kingdom. The only ride we didn’t have a FastPass for was of course the newest one with the longest line, Avatar Flight of Passage. We had a FastPass for the nearby Na’vi River Journey, so we did that and then started the line for Avatar Flight of Passage. Nina was a trouper and we made friends in line for the nearly 2 hour wait. But it was worth it, definitely the best ride I’ve ever been on.

Jill Nina Kerry

After that we crossed the park to ride Kali River Rapids as it was getting dark – not fun getting the most wet, but the smoke and fire on the ride is more pronounced then. We took our seats for Rivers of Light and enjoyed the show. I’d screwed up and made a reservation at Boma for dinner, which was in the Animal Kingdom Lodge and not the park. But when we found out it cost us $20 each to cancel, we toughed it out for what turned out to be one of my favorite meals, an African themed buffet. Our ride home took us to Disney Springs, and we took advantage of that to do our shopping there – good decision, we never made it back.

Jill Nina Kerry

Tuesday Nina and I spent another morning at the pool before changing and joining Jill and her Aunt Kelly for a meal at the Ale and Compass restaurant there in the resort. Then we walked over to Epcot to ride the Frozen Ever After ride and find a fun mariachi band in the nearby Mexican pavilion singing Coco songs – Nina was mesmerized. We rode the monorail over to Magic Kingdom where Nina got to meet up with Captain Jack Sparrow before we rode Pirates of the Caribbean. We were there for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and Nina’s #1 request to meet Moana, who was only coming to the party. But I did my research and knew she was near the Swiss Family Treehouse, so Nina and I rode The Magic Carpets of Aladdin and then she dodged the spitting camel while we waited.

Nina

Moana was happily greeted then we had dinner along with what seemed like half the park at Columbia Harbour House. Later we rode the Haunted Mansion, which broke down for a couple minutes while we were riding it (Nina wasn’t too scared). Nina had said she didn’t need to meet any more princesses, but that changed quickly once we passed by where Aurora and Elena were greeting fans. We caught a show and a parade at Cinderella’s castle, then headed back to the resort.

Nina

Wednesday morning we didn’t have much time at Typhoon Lagoon because it was hard to get a certain child moving, but we got to go in the big wave pool and several giant slides. We all had lunch at the Beaches & Cream Soda Shop before taking the boat over to Hollywood Studios. Toy Story Mania was a hit, as well as the live action Star Wars show in the center (Nina’s already a big fan of Rey). We were happily surprised that For the First Time in Forever now featured the songs from the new short. We rode Star Tours and caught the live Beauty and the Beast before Nina and Jill rode the Tower of Terror. Then we watched Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular before having dinner at Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano Dinner (second favorite meal there) and watched Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! before leaving (Jill was delighted by the nod to Nightmare Before Christmas).

Kerry Nina Jill

Thursday it was more pool time before it was back to Epcot on the boat for a full day. We found the line for Alice in Wonderland was very short as she was about to come out, giving us just enough time to make to the San Angel Inn for lunch. Delicious, but they didn’t seat us until 45 minutes after our reservation. Jill found Starbucks and Nina and I tried various soda flavors, then everyone enjoyed Soarin’ and Turtle Talk with Crush. Next Nina and I rode The Seas with Nemo & Friends, then Jill convinced Nina to get in line for Test Track and they enjoyed that. We headed to Germany to have dinner and a show at Biergarten, then watched some of the Candlelight Processional before walking back to the boat. It was nice to watch the Epcot fireworks from right outside our hotel before going inside to bed.

Kerry Nina Jill