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  • A Family Visit

    My nephew Eric is here visiting this week, his first trip to the D.C. area, so I took him to see a couple of his grandparents' favorite places. First stop: The Kennedy Center, where we saw a beautiful sunset at the end of a scorching day. Second stop: A nighttime tour of the memorials.

    How hot is it? Air conditioners throughout the region are singing the same refrain: "I think I can, I think I can..." Toward the end of the tour, Eric wiped the sweat from his brow and apologized for bringing Texas with him.

  • Full of Hot Air

    To the members of Congress who stubbornly refuse to believe climate change exists, I'd like to have you over for dinner at my place tonight. We can all sit in my 86-degree home and expose our beliefs while the floor fan struggles to keep up. 

     

  • MSA's Fly Performance

    Highlights from Friday’s 2016 Fly performance, featuring MSA students performing more than 20 tap, hip hop, jazz and contemporary numbers at the end of the annual two-week summer camp. More than 90 attended this year’s dance intensive, which featured the work of 11 professional choreographers under the direction of Christie Sirota. Five performances also featured student choreography.

    For more photos, visit my Facebook page here.

  • Musical Theatre Camp, Part 1

    Elementary, middle and high school students from Northern Virginia performed scenes from four Broadway musicals Friday at the end of Metropolitan School of the Arts' annual summer musical theatre camp. The first show was "Hands on a Hardbody" (above); the second was from "All Shook Up" (below).

    The students learned scenes, songs, and dances during the two week camp and then performed the pieces in a two-hour finale at Northern Virginia Community College's Ernst Cultural Center.

    To see more photos from the shows, go to my Facebook albums here and here.

  • A Summer Driver's Ed Class

    Dear Drivers of America:

    We'd like to take a moment to escape from the election rhetoric and poop-slinging for a brief summer school remedial driver's ed Top 10 list. Based on our recent highway experiences, these are the things we feel the general public needs to brush up on.

    1. Let's start with the brush, and other personal grooming decisions made behind the wheel. Or better yet, let's not. As in don't do it.

    2. "Pump Up the Jams" is a song. It should not be your approach to the brake pedal. Or the accelerator, for that matter.

    3. "Rubberneckin'" is an Elvis Presley song, not a habit you should get into while driving.

    4. "Speed limit" really should just be retitled "Speed." That way, drivers who get in the left lane and go 15 mph under would know that it is both wrong and stupid, as well as impolite. Same would go for the ones who are in a constant state of auditioning for the White Rabbit in "Alice in Wonderland."

    5. If you must engage in finger pointing, remember that the longest one is not necessarily the right one.

    6. If someone behind the wheel is having trouble and points the longest finger at you, don't shout or point back. Mutter under your breath. Keeps things from escalating.

    7. Remember how your mom told you to stay out of the middle of the street? Or those days when she felt like telling you to go play in traffic? Because it's summer, be aware that other neighborhood parents are likely telling their kids one, the other, or both on a frequent basis. Approach your neighborhood accordingly.

    8. Stop (sign or light) means Stop. It does not mean pull out your phone and compose a lengthy email or text to your first cousin twice removed.

    9. Speaking of texting (note the irony in that phrase), don't do it. It can wait. Really it can.

    10. Leave the stupid at home. Please. The universe thanks you.

    Bonus from a Facebook friend: All cars made in the last 50 years have turn signals. Use them. 

  • The 7 Dwarfs of Menopause

    Jill and I were sitting on the deck the other night, but given the summer heat and humidity, first she had to get her fan. She said it hopefully will help subdue one or more of the seven dwarves (dwarfs?) of menopause.

    Recognizing it for what it was, we then proceeded to develop a list of names. Our winners were: Sleepy, Moody, Grumpy, Sweaty, Angry, Teary and Saggy. (My vote for Crock was summarily dismissed.)

    Jill, who had come up more than half of the names, said I could post the list to Facebook as long as I didn’t include “Bitchy.” (Of course, that was the first one many of the commenters thought about when I presented it.)

    Other suggestions:

    • Is there one word to describe “sweet tooth and eating everything that isn’t nailed down”? (Hungry was a contender for a while, but it didn’t quite hit the mark the way the others did.)

    • Pissy and Forgetful are good ones too. Oh! And slaughterer of the English language

    • Divigel, estradiol, and the other dwarves.

    • Homicidal?

    • Chubby? (Not for Jill but for me!)

    • My menopause story is the opposite of Sleepy. Insomniaty.

    • Snarky? (Just missed the cut…)

  • Summer, Baseball & My Twins

    So this has been a big week for baseball for our twins, Ben and Emma.

    First, on Wednesday afternoon, Ben had the chance to sing the National Anthem at the Milwaukee Brewers-St. Louis Cardinals game with other cast members from Billy Elliot. The touring cast is in Milwaukee this week, and they had a chance to sit back and watch the game before performing that night.

    Check out the sign Ben is carrying in the photo above, and watch the video of the performance below.

    Emma is even a bigger baseball fan than her brother, and with Jill in Minneapolis and Kate in New Orleans, it gave us a chance to spend some father/daughter time at Nationals Park with her friend, Ashley Frey.

    The game got off to a great start, with the Nationals taking a 9-0 lead over their hated rivals, the Atlanta Braves. Given that it’s summer in D.C., however, we had to endure a rain delay, and it didn’t end well.

    The Nationals gave up the nine-run lead and went into extra innings tied 10-10. Before long, fans started chanting “Sell more beer! Sell more beer!" As an Astros fan, that’s an all-too-familiar chant in games like this.

    Of course, the Nats lost 11-10, but we had a good time together…

  • Stories Published in National Magazines

    Life as a freelance writer has its challenges, but the diversity of topics you get to work on is often fascinating.

    Since March, I’ve had six different pieces published by national organizations, and more are coming soon. Of those already available, five of the six are for two education associations (ASCD and the National School Boards Association), while the sixth is a piece written for the Minority Corporate Council Association (MCCA). 

    Even the MCCA story has an education component. Titled The Future of the Legal Profession and published this week, it focuses on the winners of the organization’s LMJ Scholarship. The winner who starts off the story,  Jiali “Keli” Huang, has a fascinating tale to tell.

    Here is a list of what has been published recently. (Click on the link to access or download any of the pieces, unless otherwise noted.)

    • Early Start on STEM (May-June 2015): Early colleges take on many guises and forms, ranging from separate campuses that serve small groups of students in a targeted manner to schoolwide initiatives that offer college-level courses to all eligible students. Students at the STEM Early College, a partnership between North Carolina’s Guilford County Schools and A&T that opened in 2012, will graduate from high school with up to 60 hours of college credit in their chosen field.
    • Electronic School: Tech Visits (March-April 2015): Any school leader knows that ongoing success is contingent on factors that go beyond who lives and works in your community. When your technology programs are versatile enough to be replicated in other districts, that’s even better.
    • Principal Leadership: Focus on Professional Development (Winter 2015): The days of leadership by decree are gone, as this series of stories written for ASCD's quarterly "Policy Priorities" newsletter shows. Today, successful principals collaborate, communicate, and share responsibility with their teachers and staff. They understand the job has evolved to one that puts instructional leadership first, even when the mundane, though equally important, day-to-day administrative demands threaten to interfere.

    The next two articles, written for ASCD’s “Education Update,” point you to a landing page where you can read a short sample of the article. Entire issues are available for purchase and download.

    • The Final Push Before Summer (May 2015): What schools can do between the end of standardized testing and the ringing of the last bell to set the stage for student success in the next year and beyond.
    • Reaching Them Early On (March 2015): Schools and cities are scrambling to provide early intervention as infants and toddlers suffer from the highest rates of poverty in the nation.

    Meanwhile, as part of my work for AASA’s 150th anniversary issue that was published in February, I’ve also written up and edited transcripts of interviews conducted with 16 top education leaders. The interviews, which are being archived and likely will be used online, provide a great deal of insight into the organization, its advocacy efforts over the years, and its victories and struggles.

    What is fantastic about this is that it gives readers an opportunity to see the full interviews, which had a lot of fascinating tidbits and insight that did not make it into the six features I wrote for the organization. (You can read individual stories or all six here on my website.) 

    The interviews include AASA’s current and former executive directors (Daniel DomenechPaul Houston) key former staff (Bruce HunterGary MarxFenwick English), board members who made a dramatic impact (June GablerSarah JeromeEugene White), D.C. area education leaders (Anne Bryant/Thomas ShannonGene CarterJack Jennings), state association leaders (Ozzie RoseWalt Whitfield), and longtime AASA members (Burke RoysterPeter Corona).

    Access the individual interviews by clicking on the person’s name, or see the entire set in one document here.

    Thanks for reading, and if you know anyone who’s in the market for a good writer, let me know. Right now, I don’t have much to work on, and as you can see, I like to stay busy.

  • Boys and Summer

    With Emma off at "Legally Blonde" and Kate busy with a friend, Jill and I took in a Nationals baseball game with the boys tonight. It was great fun to see Nicholas and Ben together again.

  • Close Up: Ballet Intensive

    My second photo assignment Friday — it’s been a very busy few days around here — was to shoot the final week demonstration for Metropolitan School of the Arts' summer ballet intensive. I took pictures at the first week demonstration the previous Friday, and many were your standard performance photos that try to capture what happened.

    This time, I decided to go for something a little different, focusing instead on close ups of the dancers' faces as much as possible to capture their concentration, preparation, and emotion. You can see the hard work that many of these kids put into this camp and training while having fun at the same time. It really is inspiring.

    You can see the rest of the album here.

  • Ballet Intensive

    Students participating in Metropolitan School of the Arts' summer ballet intensive camp performed in a 45-minute showcase for parents and friends at the end of the first week of classes on Friday, August 15. The students performed several excerpts from famous works as well as some lesser-known numbers.

    You can see more photos by visiting my Facebook album here. You also can purchase any of the photos from the event by visiting my E-store. Just click on the link at the top right corner of this page.

  • Fly 2014

    Fly 2014, the two-week Metropolitan School of the Arts summer intensive showcasing the work of three levels of dancers in multiple genres, concluded with a spirited show and demonstration on Friday, August 8 at the Northern Virginia Community College's Alexandria campus. More than 30 numbers were featured in the show, which ran almost two hours.

    Students participating in Fly auditioned for a chance to perform self-choreographed solos, duos and trios during the showcase. This year, for the first time, a separate student showcase was held prior to the main performance, with the top vote getters receiving a chance to perform in the main show.

    You can see photos from both events here and here. You also can buy photos from this and other MSA performances by clicking on the E-store link above.

  • MSA's Musical Theatre Camp

    Students who participated in Metropolitan School of the Arts' annual, two-week summer musical theatre camp performed excerpts from four shows (Hairspray, Dreamgirls, and concert versions of Frozen and Les Miserables) at the Spectrum Theatre in Arlington. 

    Click on the links above to see my Facebook albums from the shows. To purchase any of the photos or to acquire high-res downloads, visit my e-store here.

  • The Joys of Summer

    So let's see what's on tap for the rest of this week: 
    • I have a presentation in Silver Spring to a prospective client tomorrow and a freelance story to complete.
    • Footloose dress rehearsals start tomorrow night for Ben, Emma, and Jeremiah, which means I'm moving with them and my cave into the cave through the weekend.
    • Kate is kid sitting for one of the MSA after-school children this week.
    • Jill leaves Thursday for her annual conference, which happens to feature the First Lady speaking at the closing general session. (And Jill was the point person who secured her appearance!)
    • Nicholas and his girlfriend, Katherine, arrive Saturday to see the Sunday Footloose matinee, which features Ben in the lead, before they head back. Other friends are coming from far and wide to both shows on Sunday as well.
    • Jeremiah leaves on Monday for a three-week camp. After getting him to the airport, I start on the honey-do dead sea scroll to prepare us for yes ... a vacation!

    Hope I make it to the Fourth of July...

  • Transitions

    The school-to-summer transition always is a strange time.

    May and June, like the holiday period from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, always is a crazy period in our lives. Inevitably, we’re dragging the kids to the finish line for school, tired and weary ourselves from getting up early and going to bed late. Meanwhile, all the end-of-year activities jam the calendar, leaving us to rush from one place to the next at a more chaotic pace than usual.

    As I write this, I’m sitting in a Starbucks in Alexandria. My daughters are up the hill, dancing in the first of two performances of “Grease.” Ben is in New York, performing in the matinee and evening “Billy Elliot.” Jill is in Seattle at her conference. And Nicholas is in North Carolina with his other family and his girlfriend.

    For the first time, it looks like our family won’t be able to take an extended summer vacation. As the kids get older, and activities become even more diverse, it’s becoming more and more difficult to string a week of days together that everyone can be together.

    This is a transitional period in our lives as a family, a cycle that every nuclear unit goes through to a certain extent. It has been extremely difficult for Jill, much more so than for me, because I find transitions and changes generally come easily. For Jill, this time of year is doubly hard because of the work/family conflict caused by her conference and the recital always falling on the same weekend.

    Despite our best efforts, cloning is not something we’ve managed to master.

    ••••••

    At times like this, it’s hard to imagine that we’ve lived in Northern Virginia for 10 years, that my kids really were 3, 3, 4, and 8 when we moved here.

    This year, more than any other, I’ve been aware of that transition, which is one reason I’ve been hanging around the auditorium where the “Grease” dress rehearsals took place. Normally, I can’t wait to get out, to the point where my kids have perfected the tuck and roll as the van hits the parking lot.

    But this year is different. It likely will be Kate’s last year to dance; she’s planning to play field hockey starting this fall when she enters high school. Over the last few months, her enthusiasm for dance has waned. You can see she wants something different.

    Emma, on the other hand, has really stepped it up. If anything, it’s another part of her emergence from the wide shadow cast by Ben and Kate, another example of how she is growing into her own.

    Watching the girls and their peers, you can see transitions occurring for other families, too. Some are getting ready to go to college, like Nicholas. Others, the ones you remember from grade school, are driving themselves to the theatre.

    Little kids — fortunately I’m seeing a lot more boys this year — are dressed up in their costumes and don’t want to leave. Their parents, having not been through the drill before, can’t wait to go home.

    They’ll learn. 

  • Why, Hello There…

    I periodically take breaks from writing to concentrate on other things in life — job, spouse, children, the usual stuff. Ideas are constantly coming and going like cars on the autobahn, but something prevents me from turning them into something that’s at least somewhat entertaining.

    Recently, when I’ve had the time to work on a blog entry or something for work, my brain/fingers don’t cooperate. When the brain is working – shower, in the car -- the time is never right. And then everything else gets in the way.

    I realized earlier this week that I had not filed a blog entry since early July. Wondering why, I decided to check my version of a diary — status updates on Facebook. (Remember, all status updates start with your name. I try to finish the phrase by starting with a verb, but that’s not always successful.)

    See if you notice a trend...

    End of June:

    • I've spent the days of summer (3 thus far) in a darkened auditorium taking pictures of my girls (and anyone else I could shoot) doing 5-hour rehearsals of "Grease" (w/dance recital material thrown in for good measure). It is almost July, and I still look like someone who has not had sun since 1998.

    July:

    • It's been a good day ... on many levels. Wish Jill was here to celebrate the many things we all have to be thankful for. (To my editor friends, sorry for ending that last sentence in a preposition, but it's late.)

    • Has had a wonderful day with Emma. Toured the Harry Potter Exhibition at Discovery Times Square (her version of nerdvana), ate treats at the Cake Boss cafe (see 13th b'day pics if you want to know why that's important), and had a good time with Ben, Neil and Ginno during the dinner break. It's been a lot of fun.

    • Made the pilgrimage to the Lincoln Memorial with the kids tonight, something we do every time Nicholas is in town. I'm truly amazed by how much they have grown up over the past year.

    • Congratulates Ben on his one-year anniversary in Billy Elliot! He has performed in 416 consecutive shows without missing a beat — a remarkable feat for anyone, let alone a 13-year-old who also went to school full-time. We are very proud of you, son!!!

    • Has another one of those weekends lined up. Jill is in Boone today and tomorrow moving her dad. Kate is at a camp. Emma is meeting me in NY tonight and we'll get Ben. Nick is in North Carolina and going out of town. Yes, it is summer...

    • Survived the midnight premiere of the last "Harry Potter" and is at work while the kids sleep in...

    • Has taken Ben and Neil McCaffrey (happy 13th birthday, Neil!) to the train station, is schlepping Kate to camp, and has seen Jill off to her meeting in Georgia. And it's not even 9 a.m...

    • Took Katharine to a two-week wilderness camp today, a 520-mile roundtrip that featured three vicious storms, a 12-mile stretch of interstate that took an hour and a half to slog through, a few photos of rural Virginia, and a very happy 14-year-old. So I guess it was worth it...

    August:

    • Is getting ready to leave NY with Ben, who after 451 straight performances in Billy Elliot is doing something he's never done in his professional life — taking a vacation.

    • Had a great time with Jill and the kids. Of course, we had dinner and a show. Ben sang, Emma danced, Kate laughed (at herself, not her siblings), and Nick created food art in the middle of his plate. A typical family evening!

    • Has put Ben on a NY bound train. Nicholas is heading back to NC with the McFarlands this afternoon, while Jill and the girls are returning from Wintergreen. As for me, I'm going home to take a nap, and it not even 7:30 yet...

    • Had an amazing evening at Steve Earle's show (thanks again, Jill and kids), which reminded me of the power of music and how it can rejuvenate the mind, body and spirit. As part of it, saw/heard a new favorite band called The Mastersons. Check them out on FB; some of the best new music I've heard in some time.

    Last Week:

    • Blew two tires just before 1 p.m. and thought that would be my news of the day. Just before 2, at a gas station next to a very pregnant woman, the earthquake hit. 45 seconds later, we stood there wondering what happened. She said, "I thought my water just broke." I told her, "I'm sure a lot of people felt the same."

    • Presents the week in headlines: Ben as Michael; 4 tires and an earthquake; Kate in field hockey scrimmages; Nicholas off to college; finding a way home to VA in a hurricane watch with Emma. Next week's prediction: Frogs falling from the sky.

    • Amid unprecedented plans to shut down NYC, Emma is on a roll. We're scheduled to be on — literally — the last train out of the city, and she wants to stop at American Eagle one last time. My response: I've been shopping with you more this summer than at any time in your life, so why now? Fluttering her eyes (I swear), she said: You've raised my expectations.

    • Is back in Virginia with Emma, exhausted and thankful that the train ride was smooth. Full, but smooth...

    Given our lives for the past two years, it was an unusual summer. Nothing earth shattering, just a lot of back and forth, and — fortunately — some quality time spent with all of the kids. I guess you could say there hasn’t been much to blog at home about, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

    But now that it’s September, and things are picking up steam, I’m sure I’ll be back in this space soon.