Keith's Putting on the Miles

This is our nephew Keith. He is known for being...well, let's just put it out there, silly. This is a photo of him a few years ago in his beard-tastic phase. We've been told that he had something to do with the bringing Lilly into this world (sitting on Carrisa's lap). We aren't completely buying it as Lilly is quite possibly the cutest baby girl in the world and we can't figure out how Keith did that. 

Silliness aside, Keith has been on a mission since Mom-mom passed away. He's taken to walking great distances very summer to raise funds for breast cancer. Sixty miles to be exact. If you could support him in his endeavor he would certainly appreciate it. Lilly will be happy to pop down a few Cheerios as well. Click here to donate to his page. 

Good luck Keith! 

Kitchen Makeover

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The biggest advantage to being a stay at home dad (hopefully not for to much longer) is that I get to spend a lot of time with the kids. But, they go to school every day leaving me with the middle of the day to do other stuff. Since we have a big house to live it I have put a large amount of time into maintenance. My most recent project was to pain the kitchen cabinets.

The cabinets were the pride and joy of Mary mom. They were custom built for the kitchen back in the late 1970's. They are very nice, but they were beginning to show their age. They are stained cherry which is very dark. We thought we would go the other direction and paint them stark white to brighten the space up as much as we could. 

Starting in February I took apart the cabinets. Then sanded, primed and painted them. I last week I was able to call them done. A little paint can make a big difference! Check out the photos here

Amberlee

William and Amberlee, 30 January 2013. 

William and Amberlee, 30 January 2013. 

William lost a special friend today. For the past several months he has been walking Amberlee for our neighbor Dot. Amberlee had a disease of her endocrine system that finally caught up with her today. We don't know how old she was but it was between 12 and 15 years. Pretty good for a beagle. Here is the note that William wanted posted;  

Amberlee was a special dog. She was so cute and old. I loved her so much. But it was best to put her down as she was in pain.

Our heart goes out to Dot. 

Recent Shenanigans

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This is a quick post to bring folks up to date on our whereabouts. The good news is that we don't have any bad news. The kids would have something different to say about that as they haven't had any snow days off from school. As a result, our days and evenings are spent going and coming to school and doing home work. One thing that we did to make the winter easier for the kids was hook up our really nice LCD TV that we had in Sequim along with the PlayStation 3. This made them forget about snow days. 

William made yet another paper monument. This time he made the US Capitol Building. The last one, the Westminster Palace, was rated a 10 on a 1 to 10 scale of difficulty. This one was only an 8 because it didn't have as much detail on it. However, as William is happy to point out, the windows on the this model were much smaller that any other the others. We all think he did a great job. He decided to give this model to our friend and neighbor's Dot and Amberlee. William has been walking Amberlee in the afternoons for Dot. See photos of the new project here

The boys did make a trip to Mecca in January. William and Paddy saved up $80 each from birthday and Christmas money so they could by a load of Legos. So on January 15th we loaded up the car and headed to the King of Prussia mall and fought our way through the crowds to the Lego Store. They realized once they got there that all of the kits that they wanted were in the $120 range. So, they decided, all on their own, to pool there money together and buy one big kit that they both liked, and one small kit of their own choosing. Needless to say, they were pretty happy with the way the day went. 

Back in January, Russell found a Great Horned Owl's nest with a female Great Horned Owl incubating its eggs. Yes, you read that right. Many owls begin the nesting season much earlier that other birds. In our area, Great Horned Owls lay their eggs in mid to late January. The nice thing about this nest is that it is accessible. Last weekend I took Mary and the boys as well as the Fozards to go see the owl. It was cold and windy, but the owl was there as predicted by the resident professional wildlife biologist. 

After seeing the owl we piled in the car to go have dinner at out in Amish County at our Keith and Carissa's house in New Holland. Chrissy was there as well. However, we really didn't go there to see them. We wanted to see Evan and Lilly. On the way out it began to snow which made the trip interesting!

See recent photo of the family here.

Russell

Forensics Club, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and Fancy Plants

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[From Mary]

Good day all. Thought it might be time I shared in some blogging duties. 

Funny thing is once I sit behind the keyboard I got nothing to say...

Nothing...

Nada...

Didley squat...

Zip.

Well, actually, I do have a few events that may be worthy of your time. Last year, when my place of employment merged, I "inherited" the position of Forensics coach. That is really interesting mostly because I didn't have the slightest idea what it entailed, other than it actually means 'speech club, and not 'CSI Mother Teresa Regional Catholic'. I must admit I was a little less than enthusiastic. After all, this is my second year teaching all new subjects. Kids, I'm tired. 

UNTIL NOW!!!!! DRUM ROLL PLEASE!!!!!! The first competition for the Forensics Club was held at St. Joseph Preparatory School in West Philly (hold the terror-filled screams ya'll. The parking lot had a security gate and guard). With students and parents in tow, we made it safely to what some call "Little Lebanon" (Not because it houses lots of Lebanese but because it resembles a war zone!). And there, after months of work, two of my students made it to semi-finals in our very first competition! These beautiful and brilliant girls made it there through sheer exuberance, and I was just in awe of their energy and focus. See photos from our visit here

I wanted to share something else. I love this city. Here I stood in a Jesuit prep school where affluent, hard working young men are pushed to make a difference in this world. If the young men who ran the program are any indication, the prep is doing an excellent job. They were impressive, to say the least. Established in what once was a thriving bustling area in 1866, this Catholic church and school was one of many going up left and right despite the attacks from the Know-Nothing party throughout the 1850's. With Irish pouring into the city, St. John Neumann oversaw the explosion of Catholicism as well as safely steering it through violence and destruction aimed at the Catholics and Irish. 

Just next to the prep is Girard College. The history of Girard College and its founder, Stephen Girard, just simply makes me weepy. This industrious French immigrant came to our city in 1776 (oh yeah, the big year) and amassed a huge fortune. In fact, he became the wealthiest American of his time! He had his hands in everything, from organizing the infamous Bush Hill Hospital during the yellow-fever epidemic of 1793 to becoming the first private banker in the U.S. He even helped to fund the War of 1812. As he had no heirs, he invested his fortune in the future, starting the school for orphans who would have little opportunity without help. It is still running today from the foundation he laid. He chose that location as it was near the then innovative Eastern State Penitentiary (focusing on humane incarceration) and a hospital devoted to the mentally ill. Phillie was the "it" place back in the day!

Man, that's just why I love this city. I just feel its story. I can see those immigrants, the free blacks, Ben and Johnny Neumann and Mr. Girard. I can see them all making their way down Broad and Girard and Market. I can see Frank Rizzo and Nicki Scarfo and our countless "notorious" standing around and making trouble. The art and artists. The museums. The food. I just can't help myself..... I just love this town.

Before I sign off, I hope you enjoy these photos and little clip of Ladysmith Black Mambazo. My dear Emily and I joined our lovely friends, Miranda, Lucy, and Isaac, on Saturday evening for a wonderful concert at Longwood Gardens. You may remember them from Paul Simon's terrific album "Graceland". Just a note, the gorgeous, tall young man on the far left is the front man's youngest son. 

I hope we chat soon,

Mary

Emily's New Smile

Today was a big day for Emily. As you can see, she is sporting a new smile as her braces were removed! To say she is happy would be a vast understatement. Mary and I think she is just beautiful. Just the mere fact that she let us photograph her should speak volumes. Adding to her happiness is that fact that she had a lot of wooden nickels. Each visit to the orthodontist would earn a few nickels. If they brushed and maintained their braces well, she would get more nickels. Emily saved enough nickels to earn 2 $10 gift cards to Barns and Noble, where she intends to spend the entire thing on Hobbit stuff, and a $10 gift card to Starbucks. I told her the nice thing to do would be to give the Starbucks card to me as I have suffered through this as much as she has. She dismissed my suggestion in its entirety. 

 

Then and Now

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Mary and I found a stack of old photos as we were reorganizing the basement this past weekend and in it was this old photo of the four houses on North Franklin Street. Ours is the second one from the left. My best guess judging from the age of the trees is that this photo probably taken around 1910. The bottom photo was taken from about the same spot today. Our house is hidden by the big Norway spruce that Mary’s grandmother planted when they bought the house in the late 1940’s.

Much of the original features on all of the houses are still intact with only a few small changes here and there. One thing that I did notice is that the two middle houses (ours and Jason and Bethanie’s) don’t have fireplaces, which they currently do. So those were added at some later date.

In case you might have missed the blog about these houses on our old site, they were built for the managers of the Sharples Works, which was a factory that manufactured the first mechanized cream separators. When you look out of our front door you can see the old factory, which has now been converted into luxury apartments. The factory was built in the 1890’s and our home was built in 1900. 

Dinner with the Fozards

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Over the summer and much of the year we have enjoyed many dinners with our neighbors Miranda, Damian, Isaac, and Louie Fozard. In case you haven’t met the Fozard family, they live just a few houses down from us on Franklin Street. If you have met them you would remember them as they talk funny. Yes, that is right, they talk funny. But it isn’t their fault as they are from the Isle of Man.

If you are a birdwatcher you will know the Isle of Man as there is a bird named after it, the Manx Shearwater. If you are a cyclist, you will know the Isle of Man as it is the home of Mark Cavendish, a.k.a. the Manx Missile. If you are not a birder or a cycling fan, you really have no reason to know of the Isle of Man unless your boat went adrift in the Caribbean Sea. The Isle of Man is where you are likely to end up. It is a small island in the middle of the Irish Sea between England and Ireland.

Dinner conversations sometimes need a translator as I speak with a southern speech impairment, Mary employs the Philadelphia lexicon, Miranda and Damian speak Mannish, and the kids, as far as we can tell, speak some form of Pigeon English that no one else understands at all. For example, we call the evening meal dinner. The Fozards call it tea, whether or not tea is actually served. Tea it is. 

We did plan one thing right. We managed our turns at dinner so that the Thanksgiving Dinner fell on the Americans. If it went the other way, we could have ended up with a fish pie on turkey day! As it was, we had the Fozards, the elder Fozards, Brian and Kate who were visiting for the holidays, our friend Lucy, and Kevin and Rico for our big Thanksgiving feast! See photos of our soirée here

A Common Criminal

The primary reason that we have been telling everyone that we moved across the country is to be closer to our families. This is a lie. The real reason that we moved, nay, had to move, from Washington State is that Mary is a common criminal.

In 2010 when Mary was back in Philly with the kids and I was in Sequim, a couple of older women wearing drab calve-length skirts, white blouses buttoned to the top, black orthopedic shoes, and thick horn rimmed glasses, came knocking at the door. I opened the door. In low monotone voices they held up a photo and asked, "Excuse me sir, do you know this person?"

I looked down a saw a photo of Mary crouched down behind a bookshelf. I hesitated, then asked, "Well, maybe, it's hard to make out a face behind the big stack of fiction. Why do you want to know?"

"We have our reasons and we'll ask the questions." said the tall one. The short one smirked. The tall one said "Does this person that you may or may not know live here?"

"My wife lives here, as do our three kids, but they are not here now"

"That's convenient. Do you know when they will be back?

"Ummm...they are on an open ended visit to the east coast. They'll be back later this summer, I don't know exactly when."

"Fine. We'll come back later." they said. They turned, walked through our front gate, and rode off on their vintage 1965 Schwinn Breeze 3-Speed Women's bikes with big baskets on the front.

I went inside and called Mary right away. I got her on the phone and told her about the strange interlude that I just had with a couple of very strange women.

"Damn. They found me."

"Who found you?"

"The library."

"The library?"

"Yeah, I owe them some money."

"Well that's no big deal, I'll walk down to the library and write them a check."

"That won't help. You didn't get to close to them did you? You could probably take out Margret, but Stumpy bites."

"What, you know these people? Stumpy?"

"Yeah, Margret and Stumpy are library detectives. They've been after me for a while."

"What?"

"We need to talk."

So over the next 4 hours and forty-seven minutes, Mary laid out all of her altercations with the library enforcement officers. It turns out the scene from the Woody Allen movie where the police tell Wood Allen "to come out with your hands up and kick the book in front of you" was based on a real life event that Mary had with Margret and Stumpy back in Philly. Apparently, that is where Mary learned that Stumpy bites.

After learning about all of Mary's library problems, we decided that it would be easier to pick up and move, than to try to come clean back in Washington. So, when Mary and the kids returned from vacation in the summer of 2010, we quickly loaded up a trailer and moved Mary and the kids into hiding in West Chester. We put Mary into a treatment program and put an ankle bracelet on that would shock her if she got within 200' of a public library.

All is well, or so we thought. Last week, William and I went down to the West Chester public library to checkout a few books. It seems that Mary has gotten a new account using the names of the children. When William and I walked in and handed the librarian our card, red lights started flashing and the doors to the building automatically locked. Margret and Stumpy dropped down from the ceiling repelling on long ropes with night vision goggles and red-laser beam bar code readers attached to the belts of their drab tweed skits.

"Well, Mr. Rogers, we meet again" Margret said.

"This must be William. Come with me." She pointed to me and said, "You stay here with Beatrice." This time Stumpy smiled, revealing a grill with little golden books inlaid in the front teeth. Then she grabbed my arm with a grip that would impress Pop-eye. I looked down at her wrist and saw a tattoo that said "It's a book bust - Bitches!"

"Beatrice?" I snickered. The smile went away then she leaned over and bit my elbow.

In the back room they told William that if he didn't rat out his mom he wouldn't be able to check out any more Animorphs or dinosaur books. He screamed as if he were having bamboo spikes driven under his fingernails. "I'll tell you anything, just let me have my card back!" William cried. 

A half hour later, they are hauling Mary out of the house, bite marks on her elbows. The total from her West Chester rap sheet is $55.10. They haven't calculated what she owes in Washington State, but it is sure to balance out the state budget. If you see Mary out and about, and it looks like she is heading to a public library, please help her out by taking her to Starbucks or something. Do anything you can to keep her away from the library, as it never works out well when she goes there.

See her mug shots here

Russell