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19 posts from August 2010

August 31, 2010

I know,

IMG_5158 it's been quiet around here.  We had a houseguest this weekend as Sandy Bandita "Pantshead" Etter -Talbott stopped by for a long weekend visit.  She has  been a part of our extended family for years and I had forgotten how calming it is to have a pup* (okay, very mature dog) around for a bit.

The kids really loved having her here and while we are still not quite ready for a dog of our own, it was fun to pretend for a bit.  Sadly, we had to give her back today, but we are hoping perhaps she will come back for a visit soon.  Bailey was especially appreciative as Sandy's love of his food meant he was able to eat on (yes, on) the dining room table.  What we don't do for our pets...not much.

We have also been high gear to get the house in order as our first (human) guest arrives tomorrow. Grandpa Kirk's flight from Memphis lands at 11:35 in the a.m., so we should probably leave the house now to guarantee our on-time arrival.  He is here for the next 8 days, not only to enjoy the lovely (hot and humid, but less so than Memphis) weather, but to watch the girls while Nicholas and I fly down to...guess, just guess...um, yes, Memphis.  It's a long story, but the girls didn't feel like traveling the weekend before school starts, I have a high school reunion this weekend (I'd lie & say 10 years, but..), and it's been rumored I am going to actually have the time to go out and get a manicure AND pedicure with friends (ssh, I know it sounds vain, but I'm wearing sandals Saturday night...enough said).

What does all of this mean?  Well, I found Kelsey's floor (someplace for your suitcase, Dad!), so now just have a bed to fix, 12 loads of laundry, forms to finish for Nick's Montessori, forms for Cait's OTHER choir, forms for voice lessons, bills to pay AND remember to mail...hmm, not enough, I must be forgetting something..oh, yes, find slinky black dress (ha!) for Saturday night, 'sexy' tank top & tight jeans for  an event Friday night (again, ha!), shop for school supplies for Cait, pray the rest of Kelsey's school supplies arrive, remember that I forgot to pick up their backpacks from the store...oh, and hopefully get a few hours of sleep before we leave on, um, Thursday?  'Night all!


*maybe not the best photo, but a memory of the cozy spot the kids made for her behind the love seat...complete with skateboards to keep her afloat in case she fell off the blankets....those kids do think of everything!





August 27, 2010

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Wishing you a lovely weekend!



Idea courtesy of Soulemama


August 26, 2010

In a few short hours,

it will be a month since Peter departed for his post.  In almost every respect, I can't believe how quickly time has flown.  And, despite my worst fears, we have not spent the past month sitting around bemoaning his absence.

Well, we have occasionally, but not nearly as much one could, as we just don't have the time.  Between squeezing in 3 semi-decent meals a day, at least a couple loads of laundry, errands of some type, hopefully some exercise, taking care of the animals and getting kids up in the morning...and to sleep at night, life has been downright exhausting.  The bonus?  The hours turn into days, the days turn into weeks and the weeks have already turned into a month.

In fact, we have been so busy with other issues that we haven't even completely planned his first R & R.  I keep thinking that it is so far off the in the future, that it's pointless to even think about it.  Yet, like everything else (to include my 20th high school reunion next weekend, GULP!), it is approaching far more rapidly than I expected.

So the question of the day:  am I still the stress-bucket I was for the first three weeks?  That's easy...yes and no.  Some days are more difficult as I am still trying to get settled ( I'm thinking school starting will help immensely with this project).  I also have not had as much time to exercise as I would have liked, since I can pretty much only count on myself to do errands (which always take twice as long as they should).  My free time is generally whatever I can squeeze in after the kids go to bed and the chores (uber-necessary) are done.  I did manage to get in a 30 minute walk the other night and forgot how good it felt to to nothing more than take a brisk walk.  I do miss my walking group...

And while  I am sure I will sound like a terrible/ungrateful mother, I think the kids going back to school (and Nick possibly starting Montessori) will be good for all of us.  Cait has had a weeklong (afternoon only) orientation this week at her new school and has enjoyed it immensely. She has managed to meet up with at least one friend from first grade (she attended Kelsey's new school from 2004-2005) and seems really excited about the upcoming year.

Tonight I had the chance to attend the parent orientation at Cait's new school and I am sure, after listening to the presentation, that there will be a bit of an adjustment period.  However,  I think having had one year of middle school already under her belt will be a huge boost when school starts.  As much as there are slightly different rules and it is a different school...she has the class-changing, keeping track of things, independent-project completion business down pat.

We also have a busy few weeks ahead of us, aside from school.  Grandpa Kirk is coming for a visit next weekend, and will watch the girls while Nicholas and I head down south for the reunion and some family time.  I know the weeks will zip along when school starts as we already have weekend activities planned through most of September.  Then October will hit, with trips to the local pumpkin patches and farms, and, of course, Halloween...which will hopefully coincide with a certain someone's first trip home.  And who knows, maybe by then we will also know where we are going next year... only time will tell.




August 25, 2010

What better way

IMG_5061 IMG_5065 to spend your birthday than with old friends?  I was flummoxed for quite some time as to how to spend 'the day'.  I couldn't go overboard with a huge party, as Cait really hasn't met too many kids her age.  She hadn't really mentioned anything in particular (other than 'the movie'...), and I wanted it to be memorable and fun without the entire focus to be on "we just moved, I don't know anyone and dad is gone".

As luck would have it, friends that we met in Iceland are in town for a bit.  Our kids went to school together in Reykjavík (okay, technically Garðabær), played together and swam together.  We had many great times with this family, and Lauren (the mom) is the saint who kept Kelsey overnight without blinking an eye, both when Cait broke her arm (and needed it surgically reset and this took forever) and when Nicholas was born.   To say  we were thrilled when they moved here is an understatement.   I realized last week that time with old friends might possibly be the best way to spend the day.  The kids would have fun, Lauren and I could chat and it would be just like old times.

IMG_5076 IMG_5073 We both seem to have the same 'get out and see the best of DC' goal, and neither family had been to the museum of the American Indian.  So, we met up at the museum, ate a mostly healthy lunch, became insanely dizzy by the tray collectors in the cafeteria, watched a film, made beaded necklaces (well, Kelsey, Cait & Josie) and tried to soak up as much as we could from the museum's offerings.

I can't say I remember as much as I should have, but that is primarily due to the fact that Nicholas was very busy.  There was much to view and, as one would expect, he was most thrilled by trying to climb boulders that are apparently just for decoration in the outdoor garden.  Oh, and playing in the water pool (yes, also just for decoration).   Thankfully, Lauren filled me in on the interesting facts she picked up to include a very interesting tidbit regarding passports.

After a busy afternoon in the museum and even busier in the outdoor garden, we realized it was almost 4 p.m. and if we left any later, they would hit Metro rush hour and we would hit trafficky rush hour.    Despite a late lunch, the kids were getting hungry and I figured dinner would be much better sooner rather than later.

IMG_5079 On the recommendation of a fellow FS blogger, we opted for the Quarterdeck in Arlington.  It was rumored they had excellent steamed crabs, which just happens to be a certain someone's favorite dinner.  We just beat the dinner rush and were able to dine on crabs and fried oysters before the restaurant was overflowing.  She loved it (crabs were awesome and definitely a good idea to go earlier...)!

IMG_5080 After dinner, we returned home for the obligatory cake (a small Oreo cake from Cold Stone) and the gift opening.  Though I usually like to make the cake from scratch, Cait had a serious yen for the Cold Stone cake and since we may not always have one nearby, figured it couldn't hurt just this once.

IMG_5082 As you may have seen on a previous post, we were actually able to make it a family gathering.  Peter was adamant that he wanted to be a part of the celebration, even though it meant us waking him up at 4:30 a.m.  In case you are wondering, he leaves his Skype on at night...this allows for any sudden "I miss Daddy(s)!" to be attended to promptly and also for participation in events such as this one.  We had cake, he watched the presents being opened and then we all realized it was about time for bed.

I wasn't exactly sure what Cait thought of the day until Sunday night when she commented, "It really was a great weekend!  My birthday was awesome, we got Theo and we had a great time sailing!"






August 23, 2010

My kids

IMG_5109 IMG_5110 are sort of nuts about sailing, courtesy of our friends, the Salty Dogs.  The minute they walk down the dock to the (wait, wait, just guess...) yes, the Salty Dog, the kids have their sea legs (even Nicholas).  They don their life jackets, hop on the boat, hoist the pirate flag (every good sailboat has one) and know way more about the lines than I am likely capable of learning.  I generally try to absorb one new boating term per trip, then celebrate with a nice glass of wine, taste the latest gourmet offerings from Chez T.  and enjoy the view.

IMG_5117 IMG_5122 Today was no exception.  Well, I may not have learned a new word, but we did manage to have an exceptional sail on what could have been a rather gloomy day.  We were originally slated to depart about noon, but our family's general laziness and a bit of a storm delayed the trip.  We made it out to the SD homestead and had just enough time to squeeze in a swim before we walked (yes, walked) to their marina. IMG_5140

Picnic baskets, wine bottle, kidlets, life jackets on and sunglasses in hand, we boarded the boat and motored out into the bay.   "I drive the boat, I drive the boat!" was a popular refrain from Nicholas, though he thoughtfully let the girls take turns, too.  We sailed for several hours and enjoyed a gorgeous sunset, tasty tapas paired with the perfect bottle of wine and sailed until night was truly upon us and the glittery reflection of the moon danced on the water.  A perfect evening on the Bay only lacking in only one respect...maybe next summer, babe?



August 22, 2010

Introducing Theo...

IMG_5105 the newest member of our family.  No, I'm not pregnant, nor did I suddenly give birth.  Theo is our newest pet and is a (drum roll):  guinea pig.  And, no, I didn't lose my mind, a new(er) pet has been in the works for a while.

Way back when, I mentioned toying with the notion of adopting a dog while Peter is overseas.  I hadn't actually planned on doing anything just yet, but Kelsey recently attended a camp at the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria.  Ages ago (well, June) when we were driving across the country, I remembered that AWLA hosted summer camps for kids.  I knew Cait might be interested in one and decided to check on availability.  I went ahead and mentioned Kelsey, too, but wasn't sure either one would have a chance.  After all, this was early June and most registrations take place in February and March.

I wrote to the person in charge of the camps, threw out a few names (I'm utterly shameless), how I had worked at the shelter ages ago, we adopted our dog from there, etc.  She let me know that while the camps were completely booked, she was more than happy to put both girls on the wait list for any available camps in late July/August.  I thanked her and figured that was that.

IMG_5036 Not so at all!  About 4 weeks ago, I received a note from her letting me know that a slot had opened up for the week of August 9th.  I signed Kelsey up and then realized I hadn't really said much if anything about the camp, since I didn't think it would happen.  She hemmed and hawed (are you sensing a trend here?) but by Monday morning (the 9th) had become quite excited.  It was a full day "Shelter Buddies" camp, so the entire week was learning about animals, the shelter, police dogs, you name it.  To say she had a blast would be an understatement.

Now in order to attend said camp, as one might expect, one has to walk through the shelter, past the adorable kitties and a few of the smaller animals on display.  It just so happened that the week of her camp was also a special week for small animal adoptions.  Kelsey had a chance to see all of the little guys and fell in love with two different guinea pigs.  We visited with them, agreed that they were adorable, but I just wasn't sure.  After all, the girls had been aching for a dog for ages (or would 'settle' for another cat) and I had promised to consider adopting another after we were settled.

The only problem is that many aren't available to families with children under the age of 8.  More importantly, we simply weren't settled enough for a dog.  As the days went by though, the interest in the guinea pig went up (by both girls, and to later include Nicholas) and the more I thought about it, the more I realized it might be the perfect solution.  We discussed it many times, talked about the work involved (both have been far more active in Bailey's care recently) and also asked for Peter's input.

IMG_5099 We ended up visiting the shelter last Sunday and after much discussion, put an application in on Theo.  He is an adorable 3 year old (ish) guinea pig and had already been there quite a while.  We gathered all of the necessary paperwork for the shelter, had Peter sent in an email okaying the application and waited for the phone call regarding the consultation (only an in-house consultation for small animals).  Finally on Thursday we were given a time for Saturday.  The only part I didn't quite realize is that the adoption was pretty much final...unlike cat or dog home visits, the small animal interviews at the shelter are more of a formality than anything else.

We had an interview with one of the small animal consultants (whose father used to be in the FS...small, small world) and within half an hour were given permission to take Theo home with us.  Since this was a tiny bit of a surprise, his travel cage ended up being a shoe box with a towel inside.  We came home, set him up in Bailey's cat box (temporary housing, we like to call it) and headed to Petsmart.

IMG_5102 A few dollars and many decisions later, we had enough to create a safe home for the little guy.  The cage was relatively easy to put together, and the entire event spurred Kelsey to want to organize her room a bit, so he could 'bunk' with her.  It's not necessarily a permanent situation, but I'm fine with it for now, especially since it was an impetus to find her floor beneath the stacks and stacks of books.

The girls and Nicholas are still extremely excited that we were able to "Get Feo, get Feo!" today (as Nicholas put it) and were almost too worked up to sleep.  He is a quiet little guy (thus far) and although there is a bit of accoutrement necessary, it is not pricey and the maintenance for the cage will be fairly easy.  While I do hope we can adopt a dog at some point, with everything else going on, I think this was the perfect step for us right now.





August 20, 2010

{this moment}


A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Courtesy of Soulemama and Salty Dogs.

August 19, 2010

All Cait wants for her birthday

20040818-01 is her dad.  She mentioned this to me last night as we were driving home from Maryland.  Nicholas and Kelsey spent the evening with the Salty Dog Crew (and their almost 2 year old nephew....Nick was thrilled!) while Cait and I took in dinner (The Old Stein Inn) and a movie (Vampires Suck, uh, review pending...).

20060819-08 She had requested the dinner and movie almost at the last minute, but I was able to get it together and we had a lovely evening.  We were on the way home after picking up Nick and Kels  and without warning, she mentioned how her one birthday wish was really just to have her father here.  On one hand, I felt deeply frustrated...6,213 miles overnight when he can't leave anyway?  On the other hand...wow...so amazed....proud...thrilled that seeing her father on her birthday means more to her than anything money could buy.  Not that I would expect less...but to hear her say it meant more to me than she will ever know.

20080819-05 20070819-03 She may only be with him courtesy of Skype, but she at least she will see him and talk to him.  Maybe they won't eat the same cake (okay, he will likely not taste any), but they'll still have time together.  It's hard to explain that even 10 years ago, she would be lucky to speak with him by phone on that special day...and 40-50 years ago?  A letter...maybe?

20090819-18 No worries, I'm not going to remind her that technology has given her so many more options or that even seeing Dad by computer is so much more than even I would have had as a child.  Instead we will have Skype time, cake time and present time...and I will just enjoy my (now) pre-teen.  Amazing that this time 12 years ago, at a hospital only 15 minutes away, I was not even in labor...and yet by noon we were holding our sweet baby girl.

Happy 12th Birthday, Little Buddy!

August 18, 2010

I read about

IMG_0260 IMG_0261 this particular park ages and ages ago.  It was under construction when we left for Iceland, but promised to be an amazing play place.  It's a large, open, airy space where kids of all abilities can play.  It looked to be an absolute wonderland from the photos, and as we actually had nothing else to do today (that I can write about...Kelsey & I did have to run a secret errand tonight), and we were up uncharacteristically early today for Cait's doctor appointment (just a check-up), we actually had time to go without having to worry about traffic (the bane of my existence).

IMG_0263 IMG_0267 It was a bit further off the beaten track than I originally thought, but had plenty of parking and surrounded by woods.  Given that the day was a *bit* warm, we had our water bottles, hats, super sunscreen  and the like.  We arrived to a nearly empty parking lot ("First ones here!") and cheered the wide open expanse.

IMG_0268 IMG_0272 A mere 15 minutes later we realized why it was so empty, save a 20-30 children from a local daycare.  No shade and the sun was pounding (at 3 p.m.).  It was a beautiful, colorful play area...a school bus, a fire engine, a maze, and tons of open space for running or wheeling around.  However, after a few more minutes of being out in the broiling sun, with no shade in sight (except from the slender poles of the equipment), we simply had to call it a day.  Call us wimps, but we had already exhausted our water supply and little guy's sunscreen (mostly zinc) was sliding off his face.  Even more telling?  His little nose was as red as a cherry and beaded with sweat...yep, quitting time.

We'll go back, but save it for later in the afternoon on a low traffic day or early in the morning on a fall day.  I had forgotten how even the early morning sunshine can be brutal here in late summer.

IMG_0273 IMG_0274 Amazingly, despite being exhausted by the heat, Nicholas was once again up for making dinner.  I have had a badge for this site on my blog for ages now, and have been meaning to try one of the healthy and seemingly scrumptious recipes.  The recipes that have popped up on my Facebook page daily have been simple combinations of unprocessed foods and look as though they must be quite tasty, especially for the toddler set.

We had procured the ingredients a few days ago and gave a go tonight at the Pasta Con Zucchini.  It was very easy to make, requiring only the zucchini grating, lemon zesting, and basil/garlic chopping.  Unlike the recipe, we used basil left over from our trip to the farmers market and chopped up garlic.  I am all for the ease of frozen ingredients, but when kids are involved, think it's extremely helpful for them to see the whole process.

A few minutes later and the zucchini was sauteeing nicely and simply waiting on the addition of the pasta.  Despite the fact that I used the correct amount of pasta, it seemed at first that the zucchini did not blend as well as I expected.  I later referred to the website and it didn't seem to be as mixed as I originally thought though I do think a different (or thicker) pasta may have been a better option.

IMG_0277 We were super simple with sides tonight and added nothing more than sliced peppers and carrot sticks.  The verdict?  All three kids loved it and had seconds, if not thirds.  Cait was so excited about the zucchini that she wondered aloud if we couldn't try something along the lines of zucchini fritters...which just happened to be the previous recipe on the blog.  We love our Pretend Soup cookbook, but I think this blog will also be a fabulous addition to my kids recipe choices in the kitchen.

August 17, 2010

And now,

a bit of calm.

IMG_5055 IMG_5053 I know the previous post must have made me sound like a crazy.  Or maybe the combination of posts from the past few weeks.  One minute I am up, the next I am down, the next I am sailing through life like no one's business.  Welcome to life during a UT (Unaccompanied Tour).

IMG_5056 Yes, it finally hit me that this is simply what it's going to be like...one day will be awesome and organized, and the next will be my worst nightmare...and then we will ease back into a happy, semi-sort of normal.  I can't say today was that day, but it was certainly better.  I finally came to the conclusion that it might not hurt to start Nicholas in Montessori sooner rather than later.

For whatever reason, I have enormous guilt about sending him to school.  Little Guy is only 2.5 (actually, not technically til Friday) and despite the fact that I am fairly sure he would not only enjoy, but excel in school (Montessori, to be exact), well...I still worry.  I worry I will be judged, as though I have sent him off to some sort of military academy without nary a backward glance.  In reality, I could just use a few hours to myself.  And, as we all know, this is the only way...yes, honest to goodness, the only way that will happen.  However, I want him to be in a happy, safe and loving environment.

So today I made the call...or, more appropriately, wrote the letter.  I dashed off a quick email to the principal of the Montessori that both Caitlin and Kelsey attended.  Did I mention they loved it? A kid-friendly (of course) setting, plenty of outdoors time, healthy snacks encouraged, and extremely varied student backgrounds.

It was the typical letter..."not sure if you remember us, but..."...and then within an hour.."Oh, yes, of course!  Why, we do have a slot left and would love it if Nicholas would attend."  I promised a return note after discussing it with Peter...and discuss we did...and now it appears that if all goes well, Little Guy will start pre-school a bit sooner than originally planned.   I think, though, it will be good for all of us...and yes, an extra expense, but as I have been gently reminded, that's why we receive certain allowances...to allow for the unexpected.

Even better?  Those dollars will stretch a bit further now that I don't have visions of a medevac dancing in my head.  A certain someone was asked to sub the other night for his division's soccer team.  He complied and played goalie..and did a darn good job.  In fact, he made an incredible save and his team won.

CIMG0126-1 The bad news?  The incredible save required such a maneuver that he landed in the health unit this morning thinking that his shoulder might be permanently out of commission.  Not quite, turns out to be just a strain.  Not only did his save capture the win, but he is now sporting this awesome reminder of said save...and the other team has a new admiration for "Senor Peter".  He has also been asked to sub again in the future and considering the caliber of the other players, pretty cool if I do say so myself.

Last, but not least, I would be remiss if I did not add a note of appreciation for the comments...here, there and everywhere...they make a huge difference and remind me that I am far from alone in this journey.

The pictures?  The kids made dinner tonight and had so much fun with it...not really related to the post, but I think a certain Dad-Guy out there will enjoy them...


August 16, 2010

Where can I get

a super-size vat of patience?  I will gladly pay overnight and heavy shipping fees if it could magically appear on my doorstep in the morning.

IMG_0252 IMG_5037 You see, I am trying.  I am really, really, really trying...but I forgot how bloody hard this single parenting gig can be.  I feel like no matter what I do, no matter how many reserves I try and dig up, I manage to crash and burn on a daily basis.  And I'm really not trying to shoot for perfection (my home-cooked, home-made, all organic pesto pasta w/organic farmers market corn on the cob was gracefully served at o'late hundred tonight)...just some sort of modicum of normal.

IMG_5043 I know there are mitigating factors.  I know that some avenues of support are sadly gone...just gone..and I forgot how that might affect me...even your cranky mom visiting you to remind you that your bathtub needs cleaning helps in a tiny way.  I know that I said yes to this.  But good grief, I'm just tired.  And what happens when I get tired?  I snap...and I snapped hard on Friday...which is really sad because it was supposed to be a happy day...

You see at 6:32 a.m. on Friday, I celebrated being 29 plus a few odd years.  Not a dramatic birthday, but still...last year I woke up to a mocha and a vegan muffin delivered to me by my husband and 3 happy kids...and the knowledge we were leaving for a 5 day trip in Tahoe (haven't been there?  GO!).

This past Friday, I barely got the coffee made, Caitlin out of bed, Kelsey to camp, did something with Nicholas, back to get Caitlin, had lunch (when it all started to go downhill), came home, did...I don't know, laundry, dishes, played with Nicholas, cursed moving every 2-3 years, ran to get Kelsey, came home, (?), sat in a stupor for 5 minutes, finally got motivated to go out to dinner, spent dinner trying to forget that Caitlin ordered a special dessert in front of me so I could be uber-surprised, ate dessert, came home, nearly collapsed from exhaustion during family Skype call (sorry, Dad & Gretchen), got Nicholas to sleep, blew out candle in a chocolate chip cookies, finally opened presents, cried over Kelsey's sweet home-made card twice, inhaled the scents of the Lush selection from Cait several times...(it's all natural soap, folks), tried to make it through Diary of a Wimpy Kid with the girls while Skyping again (Pete this time) and, sigh, finally lost it.

It's not even the big things...just small complications that appear out of nowhere, that become huge because Peter's not here to help with them...or little things that aren't a big deal until it's just the last straw...or the toddler who's just being a two year old and really just wants his daddy and what can you do?  You become grouchy despite your best intentions...

The irony? For as much as some of my frustrations come from the kids (and I don't mean things they do...just the stuff of life...trying to get it all done and never feeling finished)...at least I have them.  Nothing says forgiveness for  a little mommy crankypantsness like a giant hug from your 8 year old...or a huge grin from your two year old as he gleefully dives into the dinner you spent hours preparing like it's the best dish on the planet...or a clean living room (and cat box..double yea) courtesy of your 11 year old.

Scratch the double yea....cat box NOT done...snap...*sigh*...only 49 weeks to go...






August 12, 2010

Summer o' Science

IMG_5022 Apparently the experiment with the robin's egg was not enough.. Caitlin has decided to tackle another science project, this one a freebie courtesy of FCPS.

IMG_5019 She is currently taking a math refresher course at her new school.  When I picked her up last Friday, she was loaded down with a huge box and something that looked like a pop-up hamper.  She "won" the hamper for good behavior (personally not a big fan of behavior contests, but won't refuse the prize, I guess) and then volunteered to take home 20 jars of caterpillars.

The caterpillars were received by the school, but hadn't actually been ordered.  Not knowing what to do with them, the teachers did the wisest thing possible:  offer to summer campers.  So, we went home and Cait began to rearrange her desk and window seat in order to accommodate her new roomies.

IMG_5021 IMG_5020 There were no directions in the box  and this is where we cheer the advent of the website.  Having never raised butterflies, I had no clue what we should do next.  Luckily, the shipper of the caterpillars, Insect Lore, had easy to find online directions and we were set.  We really had nothing to worry about until the caterpillars had finished their climb to the top of the lids and formed chrysalises.

We (oh, sorry, I) had to carefully transfer the lids (with their easily torn paper linings) to the interior of the hamper through a tiny little entrance.  We even added a few caterpillars who had not yet turned, but were still alive.  One managed to climb to the top of the hamper, attach him (her?) self and begin the chrysalis formation.

The rest of them are still just hanging about the bottom.  According to the web-site, we have about a 7-10 day wait from transfer.  We are checking daily (obviously) but still probably have a good week to go.   When all is said and done, we hope to have quite a few Painted Lady butterflies to release. More on that as they develop...quite literally.

IMG_0248 In completely unrelated matters, Nicholas was utterly adorable at a special dinner tonight and I simply had to post the picture (for Peter, if no one else).  As you can (hopefully) see, he is fabulously talented and able to eat ice cream out of two spoons (one in each hand) at the same time.   Knowing the Little Guy as we do, this came as no surprise...now we must just hope there is some sort of college scholarship for that sort of thing (kidding, of course, Montessori comes first).




August 11, 2010

In our backyard....

we have a path that meanders along a creek.  A rickety-looking, rust-colored bridge appears out of nowhere to guide you over the creek bed and through the woods to our the community park and nature center.

*Sigh*... it's not really our backyard, but the woods back up to the houses that are located across the way from us.  We have but a few yards to walk before we end up in a suburban paradise of trees, two creeks, and many paths that lead to the nature center.  Yes, the nature center where Kelsey enjoyed nature camp in spite of her initial misgivings.

IMG_5008-1 IMG_5011-1 Cait, Nicholas and I took a hike from our home yesterday to  Hidden Oaks.  Nicholas did not have a chance to fully explore the center during pick-up and drop-off for nature camp, and as Kelsey was off at yet another camp this week (a story for another day...), we figured no time better than the present.  Off we went, and within 20 minutes we had arrived at the  center after hiking through the woods, past the second creek and up through the playground area to the main building.

We watched "turtors" swim, climbed in the play structure, hid inside a fake tree, and were scared by fake snakes.   We didn't have tons of time there, but it's a small nature center and a good portion of the excitement is (ready for this? ....sure?) yep...outside!

IMG_5015-1 We explored a tiny bit in the great outdoors (mostly admiring the plethora of butterflies), but the hour was getting late and we had to pick up Kelsey.  Sad, in one respect, as we wanted to explore Nature Playce more thoroughly.  Happy, though, realizing that this is our backyard and we can visit anytime. We trekked back home through the woods and loaded up the car to get Kels from her latest adventure.

The last picture?  We were on the way home from retrieving Kelsey  and she noticed a sign for Rita's (or Ritta's, as she so sweetly pronounced it).  She mentioned how tasty that might be right now, and given that we were all drippy and gross from the heat and humidity (what, 120% yesterday?), I couldn't have agreed more.

I threw all 'is this remotely good for us' caution to the wind and we were soon laden with a (red) raspberry ice and 3 different types of custardy treats.  The kids looked especially cute, carefree and happy...and I snapped a picture and sent it off to Pete.   Which reminds me, the next best thing to Skype?

IMG_0214 Emailing photos from the iPhone.  No days or weeks or months of waiting for photos...five minutes later and Peter is seeing the picture just as we did and he feels just that much more connected to us, despite the hours and miles that technically separate us.   I have begun to think that those very miles that originally conspired to divide us are actually bringing us closer together.  Emails, photos, texts, and dedicated time to converse make it hard for me to believe we are not just down the road from one another.  A very wise person recently said that a separation like this only makes a strong couple (and family) stronger.  At this point...I couldn't agree more.





August 09, 2010

Date Night (Redefined)

Wine If you are a Facebook friend, you may recall this particular photo.  Taken yesterday (well, maybe Friday for most of us), it represented Peter's preparation for our 'date night' last night.  I know, aren't we still separated by 5,000 odd miles (give or take)?

We are, but a friend suggested this idea, I passed it along to Peter and he ran with it.  We were going to meet up at 10 p.m. my time, 5 a.m. his time and have a date.  No kids, just us, a glass of wine, a slice or two of one's local artisan cheese.  I opted for the Seaside cheddar whereas Peter thought about, but passed on,  the local option of  Cheese Whiz (a P/X specialty).  There was only one problem...as the day passed, I became less and less excited about the prospect and more depressed, for lack of a better term.

Let's face it...even in this modern day and age, does one really think of Skyping as  a date?  Actually, I am sure many do, and I am not saying it can't be.  However, my day was bad going on worse and I realized the last thing I wanted to do was have a date by computer.  I wanted to be in the same room, cuddled up together on the same cushy couch (TMI?  Oops, sorry...) not hours and miles apart. I also hadn't thought about it at first, but then realized he couldn't actually drink the wine...so I would be there having a glass by myself while he would likely sip a Coke Zero..oh, the romance.  The hour grew closer and I became more stressed.  I had run out of several crucial items, made a hurried run to the grocery store with Nicholas in tow and thought I would make it home on time.

Peter texted me that he was running late and that was fine.  We were still trying to get home and a groggy Nicholas was on the brink of sleep.  I drove around for a few more minutes, he was completely out, and I put him in the crib, sound asleep, when I arrived at home.  Meanwhile, I had 5 other chores that simply had to be completed before I could sit down.  I had emailed Peter several times and out of desperation, finally realized it just wasn't the right time.   He had other things to do and decided that perhaps Sunday night was better.

Then I sat down and looked at the Facebook photo again and fell apart.  He was trying so hard, and I was just so focused on it being perfect, but in my mind that meant in person or at least in the same time zone.  Then I realized it wasn't just that, but other stresses over the past two weeks that had built up and I just hit a wall.   We didn't end up having a date, but did end up having a long talk...several, in fact, that weren't necessarily pretty, but were so needed.

The biggest issue?  My preconceptions of what our lives should or shouldn't be at this point.  I was trying to utilize strategies that in my heart I knew would not work.   Instead of just being myself, I was working too hard at not stressing out so that the kids would not feel worse.  Guess what? Completely and utterly back-fired.  Instead of allowing myself to just be me, I was so worried that any upset would flip them out...that I ended up being an impatient, cranky mess most of the time.  I stopped worrying about perfection, and I have been much happier since.  It's not happiness and light 100% of the time, but it's far more normal for all of us.

And the date night?  Well, I still have that bottle of wine...and the cheese is in the fridge, ready to be sliced.  Even in the same time zone (and at the right time), Peter isn't a big wine drinker, and we both know that he is a morning person, whereas night owl is stamped on my forehead.  Let's not forget that the last few times we watched a movie together, he was snoring in minutes.  Conversely, online he is wide awake and there are no other distractions.  Maybe, just maybe, this is the perfect date...I just needed to realize that just because it doesn't meet the standard doesn't give it any less value.  By my clock it's 3:20 a.m. in Peter's neck of the woods.  Plenty of time to finish out the day's activities here, slice the cheese, and let the wine breathe...before I click call on Skype.





August 07, 2010

He took a

IMG_0198 bath, while I took a break.  I left Nicholas in the uber-careful hands of his sisters yesterday after lunch, in order to grab a shower (doesn't everyone shower at 2 p.m.?).   I waltzed downstairs 5 minutes later, (somewhat) refreshed, clean, ready to tackle the day (after more coffee) and found the little guy (and his plate) covered in yogurt ranch dressing.  Pouring skills, check!

IMG_0199 The bigger news?  We finally made it to the Falls Church Farmers Market and 'Greek lady* who sells baklava from  the back of her car' was there!  Not only baklava, but also a killer spinach pie.  She is indeed the same woman who used to attend the Annandale Farmers Market.  I mentioned that I missed her there, and she replied that she could no longer attend as she, "had too many other markets to visit".  If that doesn't attest to the yumminess of her treats, I don't know what does.  While we caught up with her in time to grab a potato bar (phyllo, potato cubes & spices), we missed out on the spinach...just too darn popular.

The girls were thrilled to find a crepe stand (though no pesto, brie & tomato combo for Kelsey), a dairy stand (with the best milk we have tried in ages), and ...yes, our favorite Amish bakery.  Not only was the entire family there (and the mom is as charming as the son!), but had plenty of whoopie pies for the kids.

We didn't have time to explore the entire market, as some stalls started to close early.  However, from what we saw, there was an incredibly wide variety of veggies, ice cream, all types of cheeses (yummy curds, too), milk, baked goods (obviously), flowers, and grass-fed meats.  We will definitely head back next week, but a bit earlier so we can explore more and sample those treats that we missed this week.


*A foodie blog writer actually coined a similar phrase...so can't take credit and not poking fun...

August 05, 2010

It's here!

The long-awaited, much ballyhooed bid list has arrived.  Now, I realize ballyhooed, for the number of opportunities that are actually on the list, might be a strong word.  However, look at our current situation: any overseas posting that we can take on as a family gets three cheers in my book.

Bid1 Not that I am complaining about our current set-up, as the time is going quickly and seems to speed up each day. We are busy, without a doubt, and starting to feel more settled.  Each day it seems I am able to get a box unpacked, organize an area I had previously ignored (well, not had time to attend to) or Freecycle a few items from my massive 'to be Freecycled' box.  It's not perfect nor is it going as quickly as I would like, but I'm hoping the place will be pretty spiffy (maybe we will even having living room furniture - gasp!) by the time Pete returns for his first R&R.

Cathedral What?  Oh, what's on the list?  What will we pick?  Actually, one should ask what we "chose" as we have already created a list of 6 core bids.   And, no, we are not getting particularly excited about one over another.  Instead we opted for 6 fairly different posts that will...well, that's enough information for now.  Unless you can decipher two of these pictorial clues and as they just *might* be on the list.

Oh, and when we will find out?  Truly, your guess is as good (and maybe better) than ours.


You say it's your birthday...

The kids enjoyed the e-card fun so much with Grandpa Kirk's birthday, that we thought we would give it a go for another 'grand'.  It's Peter's mom's birthday today, so this message is for her:

All together now...


One more time?
Happy Birthday, Noni (& Mom)!


Pete, Jen, Caitlin, Kelsey, Nicholas, and, of course, Bailey-Kitty

August 02, 2010

Guess who is the newest member

of the (insert name of Cait's middle school here) chorus?

I learned that Chorus was an elective when I first reviewed the school website. I couldn't believe it and was elated, given that Cait sings her way through most of the day.  When I mentioned it, she just wrinkled up her nose and looked at me as though to say, "Why would I take that?" as though I had suggested something truly awful. She was even less thrilled when she found out that the choir was divided into levels and she would have to audition.

I am not generally a pushy parent.   If you know Cait, you know that she lives to sing, and thus far, has impressed a number of people with her ability.  However, sometimes she needs a bit of a nudge and reminder that she needs to care for such a talent. Being the crazy stage mom I am (not), I pushed a teeny bit and signed her up for the chorus audition.   She rolled her eyes and claimed to be utterly disinterested, but eventually (later that afternoon) agreed to it.

Tonight the director was back in town and able to do the audition over the phone.  Cait took the phone upstairs and called in at the appropriate time.  Fifteen minutes later she sashayed down the stairs and announced she would be in the Advanced Chorus.  "I told you so" started to form on my lips, but died out when I saw the twinkle in her eye and extra bounce in her step.  Instead, I let a simple congrats suffice.

IMG_0187 The picture?  Let's just say I was psychic and we celebrated the results of the audition early by getting ice cream this afternoon.  Nah...in reality, we had lunch with new friends and simply couldn't resist stopping at Cold Stone.  Nicholas was quite proud of himself,as it was the first time he had his own cup and he picked the flavor (normally we share).  I guess the upside would be that the drips matched the pants?

August 01, 2010

Leaving the nest

IMG_0174 IMG_0175 Yesterday morning we left the house and discovered this egg.  I should clarify:  yesterday afternoon we left the house to do a tiny bit of Saturday afternoon shopping at Target.  We should have left in the morning, but a certain Little Guy is having a wee bit of trouble falling asleep.  As he has trouble falling asleep, this means that his primary caretaker gets to bed a bit later than usual. Couple this with said caretaker also having a bit of trouble sleeping and one ends up with sleepyheads who wake later than they should and drink too much coffee and take several hours to really get with it and leave the house. Well, the PC drinks too much coffee, while the Little Guy appropriately chugs his kefir.

The egg was sitting in the grass and had not so much as a crack.  We were a bit surprised, as we had not realized there was a nest in the tree.   I wasn't entirely sure what to do as the nest would not be reachable even by the tallest ladder.  Enter Cait, robin's egg savior extraordinaire.

IMG_0182 As the egg did not appear damaged in any way, Cait decided to create a new nest.  After several tries, she came up with this and hoisted it up to the highest limb she could reach.  Unfortunately, she did not have the nest-building touch of the momma bird and it wasn't strong enough to hold the egg.  After several more hours of researching "robins egg fallen out of nest" on Google, she came up with a homemade indoor nest/incubator of sorts.  

IMG_0184 I have a gut instinct that the egg may not been viable, and thus was pushed out.   However, I dislike raining on Cait's parade, especially since the subject intrigues her so.  We will try candling as soon as the flashlight has enough charge (depleted from being part of the make-shift incubator), however, I have a feeling that we still may not be able to discern much and will end up dropping the egg off at the Nature Center.  They clearly have more experience with all things bird related and may have an easier time telling her that the egg was discarded for a reason.  

I suspect she might not be happy to learn that the egg didn't have much of a chance after leaving the nest.  I was thrilled, though, to see her basically create a science project for herself.  If nothing else, added a little bit of excitement to our first daddy-free weekend.