Saturday, September 27, 2008

Picking for Ourselves

There was a great article last year in Slate about how, in purely economic terms, apple picking is a "wasteful scam." History has shown that we don't really care.

Seven years ago -- in our second year in the area -- we first went apple picking as a family, along with our good friends the Wilhelms. We drove to a beautiful patch in the Virginia countryside called Hartland Orchard. At Hartland, apples are sold by the bushel (and they are very liberal about what constitutes a bushel). The orchard has apparently been around for a while, and the trees are large and mature enough to climb up and in. In fact, much of the fun was seeing just how high we could scale in order to reach the really, really big apples. We continued the annual rite with the Wilhelms for as long as they were in the area (before moving to the other Washington). We also went once or twice alone and/or with my brother Tim's family.

In most ways, Hartland is the perfect apple-picking venue. The only problem is that it takes a while to get there. As our family has grown, and the kids' activities have increased, we no longer have the "luxury" of spending the better part of Saturday traveling to and from hill-country Virginia to pick apples. So now, we pick a bit closer to home. The last two seasons that we've picked (we didn't get around to it last year, a fact the children reminded us of often) we have gone to Larriland Farm in Woodbine, Maryland. It's a bit more expensive than Hartland and not quite as "out of the way," but it's a neat place nonetheless. We continued the economically irrational tradition today, after soccer games and in between rain drops, leaving with about 30 pounds of red delicious, golden delicious, gala, and empire varieties. Give me two weeks, and I'll have had my fill until next season.

Some pictures of picking throughout the years:

2002 (Abby was younger then than Ben is now). We don't have any pix from 2001.

2005, with Tim, Crystal and Co. (no pix in 2004, although I know we went). Jen has occasionally made caramel dip for consumption on site.

2006 (first time at Larriland Farm)

2008 (a little earlier in the season than normal, and a little warmer/wetter)

(Pete trying not to think about getting stung by any of the inhabitants of the bee boxes to his rear)

(on-site experimentation is an essential aspect of the apple-picking experience)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Pete Rides!!

Some quick pix from our most recent two-wheel rider.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Beautiful Game...

... no more so than when played by a bunch of pre-schoolers and first graders.

Alex and Peter are doing soccer this year. Peter is in a pre-k "instructional" program (as if my kid needs instruction!) and Alex is in a first-grade "developmental" league. Alex practices on Tuesday evenings and plays actual games on Saturday mornings. Pete's program consists of a one-hour practice/scrimmage session, also on Saturday mornings. Pete's team is called the Lions; they roar after every goal (and much of the time in between goals). They also have lots of water breaks; I guess lions get thirsty a lot. Alex's team is apparently yet-unnamed (Alex informs me they are "still thinking of one"). As his team sports green jerseys, we have offered several suggestions, ranging from the green hornets, to the green bandits, to the green apples. I'm starting to get the sense they don't really care about the name so much.

With Pete's scrum at 9 am and Alex's at 10:30 (both at the same fields) our Saturday mornings are spent camped out at games (except for last Saturday when I abandoned my almost 8-month pregnant wife with our four children so that I could go waverunning / BBQing with some friends off the southern tip of Kent Island -- did I mention I have the best wife in the world). Some pictures from an absolutely exquisite late summer Saturday morning follow.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Morning at the Zoo

On Tuesday, Jen took Peter and Ben to the zoo along with Sis-in-Law (Aunt) Jessica and nephews (cousins) Sam and Luke. Actually, Jessica technically took Jen, as Jessica is a member of FONZ (Friends of the National Zoo) and therefore gets free parking and free animal crackers for the kids (the zoo itself is free for everyone). From the kids' report of the trip, it appears they witnessed a hippopotamus take a "bath" in his outside water tank, some tigers wake up from a nap (but none of which escaped), some monkeys, um, monkeying around, and other assorted animal life. Pictures on assorted statuary below.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

2 Less Teeth

Alex is finally beginning to lose some teeth.

A picture on his first day of school (he lost tooth #1 later that day -- yes, it's still in there, although very loose)...

...and a few days later.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Remembering a Bad Day

I'm not very good at keeping a journal. Two years ago, however, on the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, I felt the need to record my recollections from that tragic day. I've cut and pasted those recollections below. I note as I re-read them that I tended to focus on the overwhelming sadness of the event, and that I did not record the amazing displays of heroism and absolute selflessness that were exhibited on that day and in the days thereafter. I am convinced that those sacrifices will not go unrecognized. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13.


September 11, 2006

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in the history of our country. It was a bad day; a really bad day. I remember it all too well. I was working out in the basement of the law school at Georgetown when the radio DJ said that a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers. At first, everybody figured it was an accident. We went to the room with the TV to see what was going on. Then, as I left that room to do another set, the second plane hit. At that point, we knew it was no accident. I called Jen from the phone in the gym because my friend Jeremy Meacham was working the desk [Ed note: I had no cell phone at the time]. I dressed and went up to the main law school campus [which sits on Capitol Hill, a few blocks from the Capitol building] where I called Jen again from the phone in the Georgetown Law Journal office. She told me that there was a fire at the Pentagon and that maybe I should come home. I told her that I would see what was going on at the school. I retired to the main TV lounge at the law school where everybody was watching the big screen in disbelief. Soon thereafter, people said the Capitol was being evacuated, classes were cancelled and we should leave. Our understanding was that the Metro was shut down, so I fled, with a mass of other pedestrians, out of the city. I walked with several people from the law school. We traveled by foot all the way to Dupont Circle, passing on the way a stalled van that federal agents were checking for explosives. We all ran from that scene. I remember thinking that I very well may die; that it could go off and that would be it. Arriving at Dupont Circle, I was taken into the apartment of the girlfriend of one of the guys I had been walking with (a guy I had never met before that morning). It turned out that both towers had collapsed as we had been walking.

I learned that the red line was in fact operating, so I boarded the Metro and met Jen at White Flint station [in Maryland]. She picked me up and we picked up a suit that I had had altered (it was, after all, interview season – I had my callback interview at Jones Day the day before). We went home to our apartment at Westchester West [in Silver Spring, MD] and there was an eerie silence. Air travel had been suspended. We could hear and see fighter jets patrolling the skies every once in a while.

We watched the news for most of the day. I remember watching, either that night or the next, and feeling overwhelmed with sadness. I had checked the NYU website and read how the campus had shut down. Everything was a shambles. It was more than most of us could bear to watch. Nobody wanted to see any more pictures of the plane running into the South Tower. We had seen enough.

The next Thursday (two days later), we [Jen, Abbigail, and I] traveled to New Jersey for law firm interviews in Philadelphia. On I-95 as far away as Baltimore, there were signs indicating that tunnels and bridges into New York still were closed. It was a somber drive. While in the men’s room of the Four Seasons hotel in Philadelphia [where I had gone for a break before my afternoon interview with a nearby firm] a man in the stall next to me, whom I had never met or said a word to before in my life, turned to me and said, “We’re going to get those sons of _____.” I nodded. That’s how we all felt. It was on everybody's mind. That morning, I had received a message from Jones Day (left the night before) extending a job offer. It was a happy moment in an otherwise sad week.

A week later, I went to New York for an interview with White & Case in midtown. I arrived in the city early so I could go downtown; I wanted to see it for myself. The scene defied my ability to describe. Signs with pictures covered every lamppost and subway wall, asking for information about missing loved ones. Thousands of them. The scene at Ground Zero was like a war zone, with military personnel roaming the streets and a layer of dust covering everything. There was a distinct and awful odor emanating from the ruins. And the ruins were gigantic; almost mythic in size. It was surreal. I cried. And I was not the only one.


Andrew, Timothy, Grant, and Matthew Willis: World Trade Center, circa 1986.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

First Day of School!!!

First day for Abbigail (3rd grade) and Alexander (1st grade).

First day of school for Peter (pre-K).