Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Holidays

May the Holiday Season bring only happiness and joy to you and your loved ones! 

Jenn, Atom, Fletch & Baby-to-Be

Thursday, December 15, 2011

College - Now and Later

It's been a while since we posted. Life's been hectic with me starting a new job and Jennifer student teaching and finishing up her final semester at Marymount University and being pregnant. Not to mention raising a two year old! As Jennifer is closing one big chapter of her life, we start another with Fletch. Although he's still a long way from attending college, in terms of financing we as parents need to start planning for that sooner rather than later. I'm not wishing his life away or anything. It's just I don't want him to finish school in a heap of student loan debt like both his parents did. So we opened a 529 college savings plan for him. We chose to invest in the age-based evolving portfolio. They are designed to take into account the beneficiary's current age and the number of years before the beneficiary is expected to need funds from the account for higher education expenses. The asset allocations of the age-based portfolios shift every three years toward more stable, low risk investments, which is designed to help reduce the risk of principal loss. I set up a modest monthly direct deposit. I know parents have good intentions of consistently contributing to a college savings account over the course of their child's adolescent life, but a lot don't end up sticking with it for various reasons. I hope that we can keep it up for the next 16 years and increase it when finances allow. That, along with contributions from family, should provide a substantial amount to cover the high cost of secondary education. We have plans to set up a 529 plan for kid two after he's born.

I'll send details of how family can contribute to Fletch's college savings account after I get all the details. It makes a great Christmas present. ;) Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"Try It, You'll Like It!"

We had an awesome Fall kickoff weekend! Fletch got to experience two of his favorite things-TV show Yo Gabba Gabba and fire trucks-up close and personal. On Friday night, Yo Gabba Gabba Live came to Fairfax. It's the stage version of the popular kids show. 

The whole gang was there-DJ Lance Rock, Muno, Foofa, Toodee, Brobee and Plex.

Most of the time was spent dancing but the only picture captured of Fletch at the event was a moment of calm mixed with anticipation:

On Saturday, we went to the Fall for Fairfax Festival. It's the first family event of autumn. Both festivals are held on the grounds of the Fairfax County Government Center, which is walking distance from our house.  But the weather was chilly and rainy, so we drove. One of the main attractions is the fire trucks. You get an up close and personal look. 

You get to try out the equipment

And get a sense of how big these vehicles really are

Fletch went on his first pony ride:

There was a petting zoo:

And the characters from Madagascar paid a visit:

Despite the weather we had an action packed weekend!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Coming Attraction at the Shock Circus

Oops! We did it again :) Another Shock baby is on the way! Our bundle-to-be will be arriving some time around May 18th, 2012. Fletch is very excited to be a big brother. When we ask if he wants a little brother or little sister, he says "Sister, OK" or "Brother, OK" depending on which one we say last. In either case, we know he will be a great big brother.

Let me (Daddy) add that I guarantee this will be the last one. :)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fletch's Nirvana

This might make you feel old, but the legendary rock band Nirvana's album Nevermind turns 20 this month. If you're familiar with that album, you know there is a naked baby swimming on the cover. In sort of the same vein, below are pics of Fletch, sans clothes, rocking out on guitar. The anniversary and pics are coincidental. I wanted to share them because they are awesome and to give a shout out to on of my favorite bands and to make you feel old. I think the first two would make a great album cover.

Farm Festival

On Saturday we went to our annual first activity of fall, the Cox Farm Festival. We're so cool, we went on the preview weekend. "Cool" in this context means we're on the mailing list. The weather was great. It was cool and overcast compared to last year when it hot. Like last year,
we went on the slides:

pet farm animals:

go on a hay ride and eat kettle corn:

play on the playground:

and take a family portrait:

See the entire set of pictures here. We look forward to the festival every year. It's become a family tradition. We made it through all the fun without misplacing a shoe this time. :)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"I Feel the Earth Move Under My Feet"

Unless you've been living under a rock, which in that case you would still know what's going on as you probably would have felt it, there was a magnitude 5.8 earthquake on the East Coast centered near Richmond, VA at 1:50pm. We're all fine. This should give you an idea of how it went. I was in my office and Jennifer and Fletch were just arriving home from running errands when it struck. I didn't know what it was, but my first thought was not an earthquake. I thought it might have been a freight train that runs close to my office building. Gridlock ensued and cellphone lines were congested, but a co-worker and I managed to make it home around 4pm. No deaths have been reported in the region. There are no reports of major damage to the nation's infrastructure. The worst destruction seems to be to the National Cathedral, which had its central tower and three of its four corner spires damaged, and to the Washington Monument, which cracked in a few places.

The U.S. Geological Survey put the quake in its yellow alert category, meaning there was potential for local damage but relatively little economic damage. It was the largest on the East Coast since one of the same magnitude in New York in 1944. It was the largest in Virginia since a 5.9 quake in 1897. The largest East Coast quake on record is a 7.3 in South Carolina in 1886.

A 5.8 earthquake releases as much energy as eight tons of TNT, about half the size of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. But it released 63,095 times less energy than the March quake in Japan. The USGS said earthquakes like this can happen "anywhere at anytime." There's a lot of unknown faults in the east that are very unlikely to strike, but do strike periodically.

The earthquake didn't stop some Virginian's from voting however. Our friend Chris Wade who was running for Braddock District Supervisor narrowly lost the Democratic primary by only 42 votes! It's too bad because he put his heart and soul into his campaign. I volunteered a few Saturdays by canvassing and making phone calls. It was my first time volunteering for a political campaign. On the bright side, we get our friend back, his family gets him back and he gets his life back.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A-B-C and 1-2-3

Fletch with Jeffrey
Mom is taking a summer posting hiatus so I'll take over the reigns for the next few weeks. Let me start with the sad news first. We lost a family friend, Jeffrey Soderberg, over the weekend. He died in an automobile accident on Saturday night, August 14. Jennifer worked with him at her last job. That turned into a friendship with both of us.We played poker and went to concerts and sporting events with him. He and I shared similar taste in music. We had a memorable trip to Annapolis, MD last year to see our favorite band, Living Colour, where we were able to get the band's autographs. We both attended numerous Redskins football and Nationals baseball games with him. He described himself on Facebook as "...your typical guy with a few quirks - maybe on the lines of a renaissance metrosexual that likes to burp the alphabet and quote movies." He was an avid rugby player and coach. He was a funny guy with a great sense of humor. Guys wanted to be him and girls wanted to be with him. He is survived by his parents, brother and sister. Rest in peace our friend. Only the good die young.

Onto the happy news. Fletch is constantly counting and learning the alphabet. He can count up to 10 and recognizes letters. He's even reading small words! He learned the word "up" from the growth chart in his bedroom.

Potty training is coming along. Fletch is not yet proactively telling us when he has to go, but we put him on the potty after his nap and whenever he mentions it. He's peeing in the potty frequently and has earned some candy and quite a few stickers on his potty chart. He's not as successful in the pooping in the potty department. We've got lucky twice. He earns a big sticker and more candy for that accomplishment.

Fletch has spent a lot of time this summer at indoor soft playgrounds. He likes to climb, slide, stack, go under, go over, throw, kick and climb.

Jennifer celebrated her [age irrelevant] birthday on Saturday. She got a white iPhone as her gift. The counting video above was recorded on her phone. The poor audio wasn't caused by the phone. We suspect Fletch's voice was drowned out by the vacuum cleaner. We planned on going to a winery for a tasting, but our housekeeper got her dates mixed up and showed up on Saturday instead of Sunday. Also a afternoon severe thunderstorm rolled through our area. We went to a Korean BBQ restaurant for dinner.

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Moo at the Zoo

Up until recently, we had no idea there was a farm at the zoo. It is home to cows, donkeys, goats, chickens, bunnies and alpaca. It was very close to being shut down, but thanks to State Farm, they received a large donation to keep it open until 2016. They still need to raise about $100K. They had an event this past Sunday to celebrate. We are now FONZ members, so we were invited to come enjoy some free food and drinks and hang out with the animals before it was open to the general public.

Unfortunately, they ran out of the free Georgetown cupcakes and the Pinkberry fro-yo before we got any, but we did get some other goodies. It was so hot, I really didn't feel like pigging out on sweets anyway. After Fletch ate his free cookie, we went to check out the farm.

First we saw some Mediterranean Miniature Donkeys. They had the cutest little neighs.

They were the perfect height for Fletch. He got to see them at eye level.

Next up were the cows and an alpaca.

You are allowed to pet any animals that come up to the fence. Lucky for us, one of the cows was within reach!

I love the sweet face of cows. Especially those long eyelashes :) All of the goats were busy munching on grass to come up to the fence for a head scratch.

Fletch got to pet a chicken, but there was such a huge rush of kids I didn't get to take a picture. I am surprised he even got a chance to do it! It's funny to see us city folk get so excited about common farm animals. I got to see and pet them quite frequently growing up in Texas, so I let Fletch and Daddy have all the fun. I did give the pretty black and white cow some love though.

After we were done petting and washing our hands, we went back up to see what kind of free goodies they were handing out. We snacked on Ben & Jerry's, Upper Crust Pizza and delicious peaches from Whole Foods. There was a merchandise tent and the proceeds went to helping the farm. We bought Fletch a panda pillow pal. Atom was skeptical, but Fletch is quite fond of the cuddly critter. I only caved since the money went to the zoo :)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Summa-Summa-Summa' Time

Well we are smack-dab in the middle of summer! We have been trying to keep busy, but also keep cool. Lucky for us there are tons of things to do around here.

For the 4th of July, we headed to Great Meadows for an Independence Day celebration. We brought along some friends, the Tompkins, to help us tailgate and celebrate. We found out about this place through one of the many  coupon sites, so we figured we'd give it a try. Great Meadows is actually where they do equestrian competitions like steeplechase, and they even host the Gold Cup. We got there, parked and ate some yummy food and may have had a few beers. Then we decided to go look at the helicopters that were there (not sure who was more excited, Fletch or Daddy). We also stopped at the petting zoo to say hi to the animals. Along the way, Fletch saw some go-carts and had to investigate.

After checking out all the stands and vendors, we headed back to the car to get ready for the fireworks. We were on top of the hill so we had a great view.

Then the fireworks started. Fletch actually sat in his mini-camp chair and enjoyed the entire show. He was in little boy heaven with helicopter shows and bright, loud fireworks.

Daddy is now back to working a job in an office far-far away, so Fletch and I don't get to see him during the day anymore. We really enjoyed spending time with him in the early part of the summer. However, I have been trying to keep Fletch occupied. I purchased a 5 hour block of play at an indoor soft play area. It is actually a martial arts school, but during the day they have open play with lots of balls, foam noodles, hula hoops, trampolines and soft play stations. Fletch loves running around since we don't have that much space at home. I don't have any pics because I am always in there playing with him :)

We found out that the county libraries have scheduled activities throughout the summer. Some of them are during Fletch's nap time, but we have been to one that was about bugs. We were read some stories about bugs, did some singing and dancing, and then got to color and create. There are some more on the calendar that I hope we can make it to.

We went back to the fountain last week to let Fletch splash around. We did have an ulterior motive though. We now have a Pinkberry less than a mile away! I got to try it on an outing with the girls, but Atom had not tried it yet. So we walked up to Fairfax Corner to let Fletch get wet and then go indulge in some frozen yogurt. YUM! Fairfax Corner now has a little train that drives around the shopping center for a mere $3. We did not ride it this time, but you have to see the name of this train. What the heck where they thinking?

Yesterday Fletch and I went with our DeVoll family friends to do some fruit and veggie picking. We went to Hollin Farms in Delaplane, VA. It was a pretty drive through the Virginia hillsides to get there.

They had a lot of good things for picking, and for the most part things were labeled you so you could find them easily (except the potatoes-which we found after we were all done).

Fletch helped me pick a giant zucchini!

And then threw it on the ground after I took his picture with it! What a stinker.

We grabbed some tools and picked some peaches right off the trees.

In the end, we came home with some summer squash, a giant zucchini, half a peck of peaches, a pint of blackberries and raspberries and some string beans (which I cooked for dinner and they were DELICIOUS).  There were a TON of bugs and we had no bug spray :( No bites for Fletch or me, but I did get punched in the lip by a giant grasshopper. RUDE!

Fletch and I went to go explore the National Aquarium that is in the basement of the Department of Commerce building in DC. Before we did that though, we walked over to L'Enfant Plaza where Daddy works to have lunch with him :) We ate at Potbelly's in the underground shopping center. When we were done with lunch, Fletch and I walked over to the aquarium. Actually, Fletch was in the stroller and pretty much passed out right before we got there. He didn't get to see one fish :( I however got to enjoy it and snap a few pics.

It was a pretty small aquarium, but what do you expect when its in the bottom of a government building? It was nice and cool and a great place to escape from the heat for a while.

We went as a family to the Folk Life Festival hosted by the Smithsonian on the National Mall. We have been before, but this was the first time taking Fletch. The 3 representatives this year were: Columbia (the country), Rhythm & Blues and the Peace Corps. Both Atom and I have friends that served in the Peace Corps, so we thought we should go check it out. We ate some BBQ from the Rhythm & Blues section and then wandered over to Columbia for a bit. This picture is of a woman from Africa who is making Shea Butter. They try to empower the women to create businesses of their own to support themselves and their families.

That was my only picture I took the entire time. It was hot and there were a lot of people moving around in the same place. To top it off, I lost my wedding band somewhere that day. Sucks, I know. Good thing it was insured.

We still have about a month of summer before I have to go back to school (my last semester - WOOHOO). We plan on doing more library outings, more indoor playgrounding, some zoo trips and who knows what else the summer holds!

I have a couple of videos of Fletch showing off his agility, language and curiosity.

Here is Fletch climbing up into his high chair. He had been coloring at the table and I put him down to get ready to leave. Well he did not like that one bit, so when I wasn't looking he crawled up into his high chair. When I turned around and saw him in his seat, I was dumbfounded as to how he got in there. So I took him out and told him to show me how he did it, and then I video taped it :)

The second video was taken while I was downloading the first one. Fletch has figured out what I'm doing when I point that big square contraption at him..."PICTURE!" So I recorded him talking a little bit, but then he had to come it for himself.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Fun at the Fountain

We live a little less than a mile from a great shopping center, Fairfax Corner. They have an awesome movie theater, great restaurants and some interesting shops. In the summer they turn on their in-ground fountain and it turns into a wet wonderland for the kiddos. Parents put their kids in their swimsuits and bring a towel and just let the kids run through the fountain.

It has a changing pattern so it keeps the kids guessing where and when the water will come out.

We took Fletch for the first time this week. After about 5 minutes of apprehension and curiosity,

 he finally got soaked!

After that he was busy looking down spigots and getting a face full of water.

He yelled at them to try and make the water come out, which was a sight to see. It was a great way to cool off in this crazy heat we've been having. We only have a few full days left until Daddy is back at work during the day, so we're glad we got to go do this with Daddy.