Tuesday, November 13, 2007

All Aboard!

We went to Trainfest in Milwaukee this weekend. We stayed at the Brookfield Suites, about five miles from the fairgrounds. Bubbie and Zadie went up with us and took an adjoining room. The hotel was perfect for us - plenty of space, big pool, hot tub, free breakfast and free drinks at night. Ari went to bed with gum in his mouth and managed to get covered with it. We are stil finding pieces on him...

The train show was amazing - acres and acres of phenomenal layouts. We got to see Grandpa and his buddies at their display. Ari had the best time walking around with his own stool, stopping to gaze at the various exhibits. Max and Zach tolerated it pretty well, though by the end, they were ready to get out of there.

On Saturday night, Julie and I went to an amazing German restaurant called Kegel's. I had the stuffed duck and Julie had the goulash. We both had high-test beers which put us both in a really good mood. Grandpa's friends were all there in one big group, as they go here every year after the train show.

On Sunday, we had to leave early as I had to get to the AMIA meeting, and Zaidy had to get to his school conference.

Pictures here.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Autumn Leaves

It really is beautiful around here. We had a terrific Halloween last night. On Tuesday, we carved our pumpkins, which was the usual slimy mess. We opted for more simple designs this year, in lieu of the complicated patterns of past year. I think they turned out pretty well, though.

On Halloween, we went trick-or-treating on Harper Street, which is some sort of Hyde Park yearly staple. It was quite the mob scene. The houses are all beautiful and decorated, and people line up in to get candy from each person. At one point, I saw this tall guy in a mask and a hat directing his kids around from house to house - his voice was pretty unmistakable. I took a picture of the back of his head. If you can't figure it out, click here.

The kids got a ton of candy, though not nearly as much as years past in Dedham. Zach was disappointed in the take, but I think he'll recover. Now it's on to Thanksgiving.

2007 Halloween Pictures
2006 Halloween Pictures
2005 Halloween Pictures
2004 Halloween Pictures

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Tough Run

I had no business doing it, but I ran the Chicago Marathon last week. My longest run in the last year was 12 miles (about two months ago), and I ran maybe a dozen times in the four months leading up to the race.

My plan for the marathon was to take it very easy - maybe do 15 miles. I had no preconceived notions of what it would be like past 15 miles. I mean, I've run many marathons, but none in the past 9 years.

I took it very slowly, right from the start - 11-12 minutes per mile. It was brutally hot, and there was a paucity of fluid at the first station. I actually saw hoards of people jumping into and drinking from the large fountain at Lincoln Park Zoo.

After 10 miles, I actually felt pretty good. I was trucking along, and at 12 miles, I made the decision to follow the course west away from the lake. Once I hit 13 miles, I was committed to doing up to 18, since that is where the course looped back. Apart from falling once and ripping the pad off of one of my fingers, I did OK. There was no water at mile 16, which was tough... it was in the 80's by then. But then some random saint gave me a whole bottle of ice-cold orange gatorade. That made all the difference in the world.

By 18 miles, I knew I was going to finish. It was just a matter of in what shape. I kept pushing along and was surprised at how many people were off to the side of the road getting medical care. The medical tents were all packed - I know this because I had to stop in each one and, er, lubricate up my nips. In any case, I saw dozens of people getting medical attention along the way. When I saw a Lincolnwood Fire and Rescue go by, I knew things were bad - what could they be doing out there. I would only find out later that they had run out of EMT's and were calling in all the suburbs.

Around mile 21, the police were shouting from helicopters and cars for us to stop running and walk. I didn't listen (stupid me) and kept jogging. At that point, I wanted to be done as soon as I could be. As it turns out, it is a good thing I did keep running, because at some point, they shut down the course and made everyone stop. I would have been pretty upset had that happened to me.

I finished in 5:23. The last time I ran Chicago in 1996, I did 3:50, and my best marathon ever (Twin Cities 1995) was 3:37. But given my training and the weather, I am lucky to have finished. Better luck next year!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Sweet New Year

We had a really nice Rosh Hashana in our new home. Everyone came down for dinner - it was the first time we seated everyone around our table in our home - moving boxes and all. The services were at KAMII... short and sweet. Then we went to the lake shore for Tashlich, which really just turned into, "Let's feed the birds."

Pix here.

Friday, September 14, 2007

First Day at the Lab School

The boys are off to a good start at the Lab School. The first day was hectic, but we got through it. Julie did a heroic job getting everyone's supplies together. Max was a little overwhelmed by the whole go-to-your-locker-and-get-your-books-for-your-next-class thing, but he will get used to it. Zach likes his class as well - he has a veteran teacher who is actually retiring after this year. We're wondering if it is a coincidence that Zach was placed in a class where the teacher is a specialist in spatial reasoning...

Max is playing Horn in the band - he had one lesson (from me) and has excelled mainly by just practicing on his own. He also had swim try-outs with the Midway Aquatics Club, and he made the highest swimming group that practices two hours every night!

It is going to be a busy year for both of them, but they are off to a great start.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Pretty in Pink

Sophie is such a girly girl. I took out the camera last night to grab some pictures, and she was all over it. After a few shots, she had to run and get her lipstick and fix her hair. Then she struck one post after the next. After each shot, she would say, "Can I see?" and run around to see the camera. She is going to be an expensive one.

More pix here.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Getting Oriented

(written by Julie)

We had a busy day at the Lab School. After Sam walked Ari to the Ray School, where he had his second tearful drop-off, I prepared the other three kids for the new student orientation for nursery-4th grade. (Ari is always happy at pick-up and gave his friend, John a high five today.)

We walked to the Lab School, where we escorted Max and Sophie to the courtyard playground. Zach came with me to the orientation. We were introduced to administrators, parent volunteers and learned mostly about logistics, and Zach sat very patiently. Then we had a tour with the 4th graders. We found Zach's classroom, all the way up on the third floor!! We were lucky to find his teacher, Ms. Carrasco, there eating her lunch. She was nice enough to say hello and invite Zach and Hao (another new Lab student previously at the Ray School) in for a quick look. This is Ms. Carrasco's last year here. She and her husband are building a home on their property - in Chile!

We were there for almost two hours, and I carried Sophie up and down the stairs...

We walked home for lunch and then headed back over for Max's orientation. This was much more intimate, in size and attitude. These are parents of 5th-8th graders, after all. We met the administrators, counselors and learning consultants first. Then a group of established middle schoolers took small groups of new students and walked them around the school. For all of this, Sophie and Zach sat quietly! Max came back to us, and I asked the head of the middle school and an admissions associate how to pick up three boys within 15 minutes of each other in three schools. They were very helpful, and we decided that picking up Ari first and letting M and Z wait at the Lab is the safest option. Phew!

Next we walked a city block north to pick up Ari in the crowd of parents and siblings outside the Ray School. I really wanted Max to have a chance to find his locker today, so we walked back down to the Lab School. Max's intuition guided him straight to his locker, and it happens to be the first locker outside his advisory classroom. For an extra bonus, Max's (advisory and math) teacher was there! Ms. Hilarides met all of the Volchenkids and recognized my "handful". Max not only learned to open the combination on his locker, but he also discovered a relationship between his locker number and his combination. oooooooooooo! This brought a smile to Ms. Hilarides' face - "I'm going to like YOU!", she said.

We finally pulled ourselves out of the school building and realized that each of the boys has a classroom in the corner of a building this year. Max's is the corner closest to our home, too. We got home just after Dad arrived from the Metra station. Now Auntie Lisa is here for a visit, and Sam is giving Max a crash course on the French horn.

I'm famished -

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The First Years are Hard Years

Ari cried on the walk to school and also for the first 15 minutes. "Don't leave me. I'm not big." He was the only tearful kid in his class, but I did see another K student weeping somewhere. I'm sure a lot of his feelings today have to do with being up 'til midnight last night. I think he snuck out of his room 3 times. Anyway, he'll be more tired today and ready to get to bed on time tonight.

All of us walked him in, and the class was filled with parents. There seemed to be about 10 spider-man backpacks in the cubbies. I talked to a few parents this morning at the orientation. The biggest news for me was that the K grade is hiring assistants for the classrooms, entirely through parent donations and initiative. They already have enough to hire 2 assistants to float between the 3 kindergarten classrooms and will hire a third as soon as they can. So, it's good to know that most of the time the teacher:student ratio will be more like 1:14.

The student population is quite diverse, and the parents are very friendly. They seem to be eager to volunteer, too. Ari will be at recess at 11, and lunch at 11:20. We'll pick him up at 3:30. I really, really hope he enjoys something about his day today!

See more pictures here.

Monday, September 3, 2007

It Takes a Village

We are enjoying our village life. We live within a few blocks of two small grocery stores, three book stores, a cleaners, several restaurants, not to mention the boys' schools. My walk to work is all of 6 blocks and takes 12 minutes. I don't miss having a car one bit. Yesterday, we walked around the Museum of Science and Industry, stopped at the Osaka Gardens, and then we went to the beach - all a few blocks from our home. See our pictures here.

Ari starts school tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Midwest Nice

I had two good experiences yesterday that surprised me. First, I was looking desperately for a room from which to make a phone call at the Gleacher Center. Even though it was the business school, and I was a guest at the facility, they really went out of their way to accommodate me. In fact, I was just getting settled in the conference room, when an IT guy walked in with a new (better) phone to see "how I was doing and if I needed anything." Then, when I was going home, I asked the information guy at the Metra which train I should take to Hyde Park. He looked at his screen and said "Track 2." I ran off to grab the next train. I was half-way down the steps when I felt a tap on my shoulder. Turns out, he gave me the wrong info, but instead of letting me go, he left his desk and chased me down onto the platform to help me.

Anyway, these two episodes stuck me as pretty cool - something I wasn't expecting.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Movin' On Up

Well, we moved.

It was quite a lot of work. On Wednesday, we packed. On Thursday and Friday, the movers packed and loaded. On Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, we drove. On Wednesday, the movers unloaded. And since then, we've been unboxing and unboxing and unboxing.

Check out all our pictures of saying goodbye, the load, the trip, and the unload.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Cape Cod

Well, we finally made it to the Cape after six years in Boston. Max's baseball coach had a party at his beach house for the Championship Dodgers and used the opportunity to also have a farewell party for Max. The drive was long, and the day was hot, but everyone had a terrific time. Ari charmed everyone with this basketball and tree-climbing skills. Max and Zach had a lot of fun playing dodge ball. Max even got down and dirty in an ice cream eating contest (no hands allowed!).

Lots of pictures here.

Next stop... Chicago.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

A Day at Sea

We had a wonderful time today on Megan's houseboat. We drove down to Westport and spent the afternoon swimming, fishing, eating and enjoying a day in the sun. We keep saying good-bye to our closest friends...

Click here for pictures.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Ari Monkey

It was the weirdest thing... we were sitting around watching TV and Ari walks up to the wall... and he starts to climb it. Why should we even be surprised.

Watch here:

Friday, July 20, 2007

Man vs. Wild

We went for a hike on a small portion of the Appalachian Trail with our neighbors John and Jonah. We drove to Western Mass. and parked my car near Lee. Then we drove about 20 miles north to Dalton and left John's car near the Crane Paper Museum, which was supposed to be near the trail according to John's map. Unfortunately, the map was old, and it took us about an hour to find the trail. Once on it, though, we quickly made it the 4 miles to our first night's destination - the Kay Wood Lean-To. We got our tents set up just in time for the rain. The showers slowed long enough for us to build a fire, but then it rained on and off most of the night.

The next day, we set out around 8AM for a long day's hike. Our goal was to make it to the October Mountain Lean-To by lunch time. We covered the 9 miles in about 4 hours, and we took a long break, enjoying the fire that John started (I took the opportunity to dry out my socks). Then we set out around 2PM to cover the next 10 miles to our final destination, Upper Goose Pond Cabin.

To say the hike was tough would be a severe understatement. Max and I did not do any training for the hike, so it took a lot for us to cover all 20 miles that day. My pack was about 35 pounds, and I paid for my gluttony. But we made it, and the cabin was a real treat. Staffed by volunteers, the cabin has 20 bunks (yes - real bunks with real mattress pads) and sits on the edge of a beautiful, serene lake. Taking a cool dip never felt so good.

We met the most wonderful couple there who were on a 6 month hike of the entire Trail. They "dropped out" in March and have been hiking since. Kelly is a school teacher and Ron is a graphic designer. They both had such a kind and gentle way about them, and it was a pleasure to keep company with them for a few hours that night and the next morning. After hiking only a tiny part of the Trail, I envy their courage and determination. They keep a running blog of their experiences here.

All in all, it was a wonderful experience. I doubt I would run out to do it again, but it is certainly something we will always cherish.

Click here for pictures.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Sophie Turns 3!

Sophie had her third birthday party on July 8. We had about 15 people over for a barbecue. Since I was attending on the oncology service, I was not around to help one bit. In fact, I came home at 6PM, over an hour late. Despite this (or in spite of this), Julie threw an amazing party, and everyone had a blast.

On Monday (Sophie's birthday), we all went out to Ron's Gourmet Ice Cream. Ron's is a small ice cream parlor in downtown Dedham. Of all the ice cream places in Boston, I think this place makes the best ice cream, though other favorites include JP Licks in Jamaica Plain and Herrell's in Cambridge.

Here is a pic of all four kids on their third birthdays. Who has the best hair?

Thursday, July 5, 2007

A Wet Fourth

Despite bad weather reports, we plowed ahead, and went with our original July 4 plans. We went to Max's friend's house (Itamar) for a party in the afternoon. It was a beautiful spread - tons of great food, a trampoline, and a heated pool. The kids all had a nice time. There was a little rain, but it didn't dampen anyone's spirits.

After the party, we went to Nahant, where we usually go for fireworks. We got to the beach around 7pm, which gave us plenty of time to build a nice fire and play before the fireworks started. I brought with some bottle rockets and sparklers, and the boys all had a good time being pyromaniacs. Sophie and Ari had a great time... until the fireworks started. Poor Sophie was petrified and spent the whole time hiding in her stroller. This year, Ari decided to enjoy them, and he went to great lengths to tell us how much fun he had.

Around 9pm, it started raining pretty hard, so we all got soaked. But we still had a blast - except Zach, who informed us that this was the worst July 4th ever... When we got home, everyone got a bath/shower and we fell into bed, exhausted. Next year, I suppose we'll be at the Taste of Chicago, which will be a little more crowded...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I can see your Vegas!

Julie and I spent 4 days in Las Vegas. Miriam came to watch the kids while we went with Jay and Dad. This was Julie's first trip and my second. We had a great time - pictures are online on our website. We ate a lot of great food, saw some great shows, and had an awesome hotel room.

Probably our most memorable meal was at Circo at the Bellagio. Aside from the terrific food, we had a full view of the fountain show. Other terrific restaurants were Il Mulino, Joe's Seafood, and Shibuya.

We saw two awesome shows. On Friday night, we saw Spamalot, which was hilarious. Having a lot of Monty Python knowledge was very useful, and it seemed like most of the audience was pretty into it. On Saturday night, we saw Cirque du Soleil - the Beatles Love show. It was pretty mind-blowing.

I guess the most memorable thing from the whole trip would be staying at the Four Seasons. The first two days, Jay booked us in THEHotel at the Mandalay Bay, which is the upscale all-suites tower. That room was amazing - big and beautiful. We were supposed to move to the Four Seasons after two days, but Jay only had a small room booked there (for $200 more a night). Since my Dad was with us, we wanted to keep this bigger room, but the Mandalay Bay was booked. My dad got on the phone, and somehow got us a $2100/night suite at the Four Seasons for basically the same price as the regular room. Awesome.

Everything about The Four Seasons was amazing - from the service to the room to the pool. I could get used to living like that. I guess it is the height of hedonism and consumerism when someone comes around to put cucumbers on your eyes and spritz you with Evian water.

Then it was back to reality - Southwest Airlines home to Boston. Austin was nice enough (as usual) to pick us up in Providence. The house looked great, as Miriam had cleaned it up for the Open House. Unfortunately, no one showed up... wah wah wah.

Monday, all four kids had camp - all starting at different times. It looks like it is going to be a summer of short driving trips. In typical summer-of-Miriam form, her flight got canceled, and she spent an extra night on 18 Ridge. We are so grateful to her for spending a week watching our kids, so we could have a trip.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Max... living large

Max and his friend Itamar are having quite the week. They flew to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands in a private jet. Then they helicoptered to Peter Island, where they are staying at the $3000/night Peter Island Resort in the Hawk's Nest Villa. Max has called us a few times, and says he is having a great experience.... I hope he doesn't get used to it.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Too Many Things...

This was supposed to be a quiet weekend - one of the reasons we decided not to go to Shabbaton. Max was to go with his friend Jake and spend the weekend with the rest of the school up at Yavneh camp in New Hampshire. As fate would have it, tonight was the first baseball playoff game. Poor Max was torn - he wanted to go to the game and be at Yavneh with his friends. So, we made the decision to let Max go to his game, and we'll drive him up tomorrow afternoon. They won their game, so the next game is in the morning. Then we will have lunch with Bil and Jana who are visitng from California. Then we'll head up to NH to drop off Max and Zach at Yavneh. We'll sleep over up there and then drive back on Sunday morning. As if that weren't enough, the boys have a piano recital Sunday afternoon - so we'll have to drop off Ari and Sophie at home on the way back from NH and then head up to Wellesley for the recital.

Not exactly a restful weekend, but it will all be fun, I'm sure. Well, we'll keep telling ourselves that.

Someone is seeing our house tomorrow morning with their realtor. I hope we can sell it soon. I put up a web page for the house and sent it out to 150 people at the hospital.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Who got whacked?

Warning - Sopranos spoilers below.

At first, I liked the Sopranos finale... then I felt betrayed. Now, after two days of near-constant analysis, I'm on board with it. I think it was a brilliant way to end the show. Howard Stern had the best appraisal IMO. He said that Chase created an atmosphere of tension and paranoia that must start to approximate how T and his family live their lives. Listening to the dozens of theories of "what happened next" has been very amusing, and in some ways, this must have been exactly what Chase wanted. And no, I don't think there will be a movie deal. Oh - the other funny thing that Stern said was that James Gandolfini should legally change his name to Tony Soprano... good stuff.

Slate keeps a running Sopranos dialog, and this week's is excellent, as usual.

Monday, June 11, 2007


I finally graduated MIT last week. The whole program was 2.5 years and consisted of a handful of graduate classes and a Master's thesis. There were two graduations and my parents and sister came to Boston to attend. The graduation on Wednesday was for HST students and was held at the Harvard Club. It was pretty fancy but still had a nice relaxed atmosphere. A small paragraph was read for each graduate, so it had a very personal touch. The ceremony was followed by a reception and then a large lunch... there was way too much food. Our planning wasn't perfect, so Julie and Miriam had to leave early to get the little ones at DCH. That left me with Mom and Dad. So, after lunch, I hoofed it back to the parking garage, grabbed the car and came back to pick them up.

The ceremony on Friday was the full MIT blowout. In the end, we decided that it would be too much for my parents to go, so they watched it on the web. I thought it was a blast. It was one of the most organized events I've ever been to. Basically, they need to figure out how to line up 2000 graduates, so that they can all get called in order and all receive their actual diplomas - an organizational nightmare. But it went off without a hitch. I ended up making friends with some of the other HST grads in our group, and I really enjoyed the ceremony.

My official degree is "Masters of Science in Biomedical Informatics." That and 25 cents will get you a cup of coffee, apparently.