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19 posts from September 2010

September 30, 2010

One step forward...

Four weeks ago, I bought a baker's rack for the kitchen.  I had wanted one since we moved here and had a spot in the kitchen perfect for one.  The proposed space even has an electrical outlet, which would be perfect since I planned on keeping the breadmaker on the rack (and, perhaps, actually using it at some point).

I had originally thought about trying to find one on Craig's List, but everything on there was pricey or not what I needed.  Then I found a very sleek and perfect-for-the-spot baker's rack at The Container Store.  It was on sale, it was dissassembled and would meet our needs perfectly.  I bought it, loaded up the car, brought it inside, put the wooden shelf under the couch and stored the rest of the shelving by the bench in the front hallway.  I figured it would just be a few nights before I had the time to tackle the project.

I had forgotten, however, that while it is not difficult to put together, it is noisy and could wake a wee one from a sound sleep...and we really, really, really don't want that right now.  So, there went naptime and nighttime, and my mornings (while he was at school) were filled with volunteering and trying to get in a bit of exercise (and the occasional nap).  Oh, and I also lacked the motivation to pick everything up and drag it upstairs, find the rubber mallet, find the directions and assemble it.

Finally, as I was sweeping that empty corner in the kitchen, I realized the time was now.  Nicholas was awake (but playing happily), it was a rainy afternoon, and I really, really, really wanted to get going with the breadmaker (and tired of shelves in my foyer).  I got out the mallet and Nicholas and I proceeded to "build the house" as he later told Kelsey.

So, now we have a "house" (baker's rack) in the kitchen and the foyer actually resembles a proper entrance to our house rather than a storage unit.  However, for every step forward, such as a tiny bit of organization, we seem to have two steps back...and I am at my wits' end trying to resolve this particular issue.

Nicholas seemed to be having the easiest "terrible twos" possible...until about two months ago.  In fact, even today, by all appearances (to teachers, school mates and friends) he is happy, basically mild-mannered and just enjoying life.  Sure, there might be the occasional pushing issue, but nothing that has been considered anything out of the ordinary...except at home.

In an instant, he turns from a happy, sweet, loving child to a raging and upset child..pulling my hair, throwing my glasses, hitting, punching, pinching...and then back to normal as though I flipped a switch.  There is no pattern as to when this happens, he isn't necessarily upset about anything, doesn't always happen at the beginning or the end of an activity...but it happens.  It has gotten to the point where I loathe taking him anywhere unless I have one of the girls with me.  I try to run as many errands as possible and even had Cait babysit him tonight so I could buy Kelsey shoes she has needed for weeks.

I have tried everything and nothing works.  Well, one thing works...separating the two of us so I can recover from my hair being pulled or having things thrown at me.   It is the only thing that has helped thus far, but obviously we have a hard time doing it anywhere but at home.  It is the only time he gets that I am actually in pain/not enjoying this not-so-fun game of his.

Now, for all I know, this is perfectly normal.  However, having only had girls up until now I don't know if this is a "boy" thing, a "I'm mad because Daddy went away" thing (personally, I'm going with this option) or a combination of the two.  The other confusing part is that he never seems upset (even when I am visibly upset) and just seems to enjoy it....and then within an instant, he is a happy, loving boy again.   

My big worry?  Peter comes home in fewer than 4 weeks.  While we are thrilled, of course, what will happen?   And, even worse, what will happen when he leaves...and then repeats the scenario two more times?  

I am toying with several ideas, but not sure what to pursue.  I am hoping, perhaps, that someone out there may have a few words of wisdom...as I am just really tapped out on this one.   He's such an awesome Little Guy, but clearly upset right now and I just want to figure out how to help him.    

 

September 27, 2010

Dear Unassuming,

yet chic (and expensive) wireless Mac Keyboard,

I must admit, I have worried about you from Day One.  Your slender build and the toy-like quality of the wireless mouse sent shivers up my spine...oh, what a wayward toddler might do with you!  From a toss into the toilet to simply being lost in the Lego bin...the possibilities were endless.

Then...nothing.  Regardless of your plaything-like appearance, no one mistook you for a mere toy. I worried occasionally about a drop of coffee here or a wandering crumb there, but never in my wildest dreams conjured up today's event:   the little hands knocking over the tiniest glass of juice that became an ocean-sized puddle on the desk.  You were but a tiny island floating in a lake of spirulina, wheat grass and jerusalem artichoke blend....and a very sad one at that.

We freaked out, cleaned you up as quickly as possible and set you out to dry....and you rallied.  You are here tonight as proof that nothing, not even a boatload of mucky, oozy, green antioxidants can bring you down.   And considering the day I had, thank you...I needed that.

Sincerely, 

Your loving owner who is currently installing a giant bubble around you

P.S. As it turns out you are not that $$$$, but let's still hope we don't have to replace you....

Evening Calm

As of last night, I had finally come to terms with the idea that not all Saturdays need to be perfect and mud pies can save the day.  A little advice from friends, a (handwritten!) card from a certain someone in a land far, far away and the idea that tomorrow must be better encouraged me to realize that all was not lost. Then something better and completely unexpected happened:  I ran into my babysitter's mother.  

The next thing I knew, I went from contemplating dinner out with the kids (against my better judgement) while Cait was in CCD (she has a 1.5 hour long class on Sundays) to having a free evening to myself.  I ended up at a local cafe with a book, a glass of wine, soup (tomato-bacon...yum), a field greens salad with goat cheese, shallots & bacon vinaigrette and a pot of tea.  An hour and a half later, I was so relaxed that one might have thought I  had some sort of spa hour.  I managed to read several chapters of my novel, eat dinner slowly and thoughtfully, update my calendar, read a bit more and...just bask in the joy of occasional solitude.

In fact, just knowing I had the time coming to myself set my day in a whole different direction. Errand running was productive...almost fun (and that's saying a LOT with the Sunday traffic here) and I didn't fret about the chores that didn't get finished.  Nicholas and I had a great walk/run and playground time and the day seemed too short...but in a good way.   Even though we were a bit crunched for time in getting to CCD, I wasn't stressed because I knew I had that little pocket of time truly reserved for myself.   

And now? I'm heading into the week with a new sort of calm...and thinking a regular cafe night even with just a book for a companion,  might be just what I need...who knew?

 

 

 

September 25, 2010

Travel Orders

Yes, one of us finally has them for the first of his three R&Rs. Now, really, you knew I was not referring to the rest of us, as that would imply we know where we are going next year and we most assuredly do not have a clue (or a handshake, as we in the FS like to call it).  So, yes, in 4 weeks, 3 days, 6 hours and 19 minutes a certain someone's plane will land at Dulles...IF all goes well.  He's not exactly flying Delta the entire way home, so we are really just hoping to see him that week.

Now it may look like we are counting down, but up until today, I really had not realized just how much time had passed.  It has now been over 9 weeks since Pete left, though I was certain we were only on week 6.  I have been seriously against doing any sort of countdown type scenario in this household.  I know it works for some, but to me it would just be another reminder that he's not here.  It can be a positive tool, I suppose, but I felt it would give the message that we can't live without him and give us a very visual reminder of how much time he had spent away from us. 

IMG_5214-1 Then again, I didn't even remember to think about creating any sort of count-down calendar until he was already gone for more than a week.  And given how busy we are, even on the weekends, I really don't need another chore...though sadly, that busy-ness has given me a major mommy meltdown two weekends in a row.

I understood last Saturday...Cait had an early morning choir event (second Saturday in a row) and we all really could have used more sleep.   Her event lasted most of the day and while we had no trouble filling that time, I ended up stressing those little things and by 5 p.m. was ready for anything but another evening at home by myself.   I noticed every (complete) family out there and watched dad after dad carry kids around on shoulders, play soccer outside, hang at the park, or just watch the kids so mom could...think.  I think the day culminated in a rant of an email to a certain person who did his best to talk me out of my sad state without using the term "I know".  Somehow it worked and by Sunday morning I was a far more level-headed and normal person.  I also knew enough to cut out an extra activity and give myself a bit of a break.  

Fast forward one week and we are back at Major Mommy Meltdown.  The weekends are not supposed to be stressful, but I feel like we need to get so much done...errands, fun time, decent meals, chores and just a good bit of rest.  Theoretically there is time for everything, but then you throw in the extra things you forgot about..and it's back to square one of too much to do in too little time.

I can't even bear to re-hash the day as parts were so awful (translation:  Nicholas did not so much love the latest fall festival), but then other parts were great...especially the mud pie the kids made with the banana topping.  I was having such a lousy day, but when we finally arrived home after our not-so-fun afternoon out, the kinks were suddenly worked out.   The kids who previously seemed so out of sorts were suddenly happy to sit and make mud pies together and have a whopping good time at that.  

And me? I had a little Facebook therapy (it works, thanks FB friends, you came through again today :-) and watched the kids get filthy.  It may be the answer every time, but I'll take what I can get for the next 5 weeks or so....

 

*note the "junior officer" sticker...it's apparently far less scary to wear a sticker to try on a peace-y uniform...though a "junior agent" sticker would be a little more appropriate (hmmm....)

 

September 24, 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.

 

IMG_5206-1

idea courtesy of Soulemama 


September 23, 2010

This year, I thought I would try to have one tear (and one tear only)

Img005to mark today's event...and that would be that. Sadly, I didn't even make it until this morning and buckets of tears would be more like it.   I'm now hoping that I will be busy enough today that I won't have the chance to dwell on the fact...

Momandcait

that it would have been my mother's 66th birthday. The age seems so young by today's standards and yet she did not even make it to 62.  I know I've written about it here and then again there.  I thought this year might pass without the need for a mention, but being back in the area and not having her three hours away has been odd at best.  Then there is the fact that I am looking forward to my cousin's wedding, not just to see family and celebrate his marriage, but to finally have a long overdue visit to the cemetery.  

We didn't have a chance to stop by this summer and my aunt graciously took care of the fall decor. Who doesn't enjoy mums and pumpkins in the autumn?  I just wish they were on Mom's front stoop...and that she put them there...not on her gravestone that is in place many years too soon.

Miss you...love you...Happy Birthday, Mom.

 

 

September 20, 2010

Why we moved...

again...

It seems to be a common question lately.  I almost feel like I should print up cards with bullet points, as I usually forget at least one of the reasons and inevitably have the "DOH!  I should have said that" moment 5 seconds after finishing said conversation.  The topic at hand?  Why we moved from California to Virginia only for the father and husband in the family to depart nearly immediately for an unaccompanied overseas post.  

I continue to be asked this question again and again, and honestly, I don't mind.  However, I often feel like I have to justify our move somehow, so here we go with a few reasons:

  • I enjoy torturing my children by ripping them out of schools they like and moving them every 2-3 years for the fun of it.
  • I thrive on stress and the unexpected.  You want both?  Move 3,000 plus miles, don't get completely unpacked, then send your only help and your beloved overseas for a year by himself...stress and unexpected happenings aplenty!
  • The U.S.P.S. was finally getting most of our mail to our correct U.S. address.  Time for a little shake-up!
  • I stopped getting all of those new homeowner discount coupons and really needed a few (just kidding, signing up to get off those lists).
  • I finally learned how to drive around most of the East Bay without my GPS and without getting lost....time to up the learning curve (yes, I know we've lived in VA before, but things do change).
  • I really enjoy being the new person every 2-3 years and trying to start all over again, especially just for 12 months or so. 

Really?  Well, no, of course not.  The above items are exaggerations, of course, but what I feel like saying sometimes.  Naturally, there are a few more realistic reasons though I am still not sure they will satisfy everyone's curiosity:

  • I get organized by moving.  As lame as it sounds and despite my tortoise-like slowness in unpacking, I am becoming far more organized just by virtue of this move.  I am realizing what we need, what we don't and rapidly clearing out the clutter.  I realized that if we stayed in CA for another year, it would be another year of me ignoring everything that was neatly stored on the shelves in our garage.
  • Who doesn't want to spend a year getting to know this cutie (Baby Nate, of course)?  As much as we miss our CA friends terribly (yes, we really do :-(, we wanted the chance to reconnect with those in this area.  Nicholas and Baby Nate have quickly become good buddies and we are so not missing Baby Nate's first birthday party (it's only been in the works for, well, years!).  
  • Not that we have not lived far away from family before (and we are still not exactly next door), but we wanted to be a little bit closer.  The only way to visit from CA would be to fly and that would either not happen or we would spend a fortune on airfare, car rentals and hotels (thus negating the anticipated savings from this UT).  We can drive to visit family at Thanksgiving, we are actually going to be able to attend my cousin's wedding in November and while we may have to fly at Christmas (should opt to travel), it won't be an all day affair. Given our hope is to be overseas for quite some time after this year, we feel we should get in as many family visits as we can now.
  • Unlike the military, those of us in the Foreign Service do not get to automatically keep our state residency.  This was a HUGE blow when we moved to CA.  Not only were our taxes much higher (and home ownership pretty much out of reach), but we lost thousands of dollars in tax deductions.   All three kids have pre-paid tuitions plans with VPEP and losing our VA residency for two years meant far fewer deductions.  Oh, and not to mention the license fiasco...if we were allowed to keep our residency in VA, the DL issue would not have existed.
  • We were not thrilled with our housing in CA.  While it appeared great in the beginning, when reality set in, it was not fun.  We were not interested in socking another nearly 3K/month into a house we didn't own, much less didn't want to live in for yet another year.  While our current home may not be our dream home, the upkeep is far easier and we feel as though our money is actually going towards something...oh, and when something doesn't work, I can call a repairman and have it fixed...sometimes even the next day (and to my specifications)! Changes, painting and upgrades...all up to me, and so glad to have that, even if only for a year...especially during a time when I have little control over anything else.
  • And, last, but not least, the chance to go to events, meet other FS folks and know that they know exactly what we are going through.  From fall festivals where we randomly bump into FS friends  to organizational luncheons,   Stitch & B*tch  (at some point I will stitch...) and events such as the FSYF picnic yesterday.  We didn't see quite as many people as we had hoped, but ended up running into more friends from Iceland (having not seen them since we left Reyk) and other folks we had not seen in years. 

IMG_0423-1

And there we have it...my pathetic, but true, reasons for moving.  As far as photos go, with the LG being extremely active at yesterday's event, I was lucky to snap this one photo of Kelsey just after she had her face painted.  So glad she has dark hair, as hoping no one else will notice the streak of black along her hairline  that I completely missed last night.  And with that, I must get going, as lunch with yet another FS friend is on tap for today!  

September 17, 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. 

IMG_0390
idea courtesy of Soulemama - window seat doll house courtesy of Kelsey

September 16, 2010

Trump Card

I pulled it out yesterday.  Twice, in fact.  I don't like doing it, but I had reached my limit and realized that I simply had no more patience for what should be a simple task.   More to the point, my entire situation and inability to get anything resolved was due to Peter's unaccompanied tour, plain and simple.  So, I did it. 

IMG_5090 I wrote a long, cordial letter that explained the entire chain of events from start to not-quite-finished.  And I used my least favorite four letter word...twice.  I don't know if the word was truly the trump card, but I do know that after nearly 4 weeks of misery and worrying, I have the stamp of approval from the DMV and will receive a new, very official-looking Virginia driver's license in the mail within the next two weeks.  What, pray tell, happened?

IMG_5088 Four weeks ago tomorrow, Nicholas, Kelsey and I headed to the zoo to meet another FS family for a playdate.  It was a gorgeous day, if not a bit hot, and in anticipation of free parking for a year, I joined FONZ the morning of our trip.  I was warned to have my license handy, as well as my receipt, in order to get the parking fees waived that day.  In hindsight, they could have written, "Have them ready when you LEAVE the parking lot."  Who knows what it was (likely  sleep deprivation), but I had everything ready to go when I entered the parking lot, figuring I would get a special pass or ticket.

IMG_5096 Instead the parking lot attendant just handed me a ticket and I rapidly withdrew the receipt and my license...or so I thought.  I put the receipt in the console, headed to a parking space and reached in to grab my license...and found nothing.  We were a few minutes behind, but still relatively timely given the traffic, so I figured I would take a minute to find my license and then we would get going.  Surely it had just fallen on the floor.

Twenty minutes later I had scoured the car three times and there was not so much as a hint of that little card that meant so much.  I was freaking out and now we were quite late.  I realized if we didn't get going, the day would be that much more of a loss, so we packed up our stuff, got out of the car and headed out of the lot and into the zoo.  I stopped to check with the attendant in the hopes that the license had simply fallen on the ground.  Perhaps it was safely sitting in her drawer at that moment....nope, no such luck.

IMG_5092 We had a great morning and afternoon regardless of the license situation.  I had forgotten just how big the zoo had grown (not exactly the same as the uber-kid friendly Oakland zoo) and just getting around was much more of a hike than I rememberd (well, the memories came back once we were trekking up the hillier portions).  I got a good bit of exercise, though, the kids loved it (especially the indoor areas) and despite not having as much time with friends, we still felt like we saw enough to make the trip more than worth it.  However, the license issue still niggled at me the entire time.  I realized if nothing else that it was a sign I needed to get to the DMV ASAP. 

After we returned home, I loooked online at their site and gathered very piece of information I thought I could need.  I employed a local sitter, set off for the Tysons office and didn't make it further than the front desk.

I explained the situation and was immediately told that unless I found my CA driver's license (HA!) or obtained a copy of my driving record, I would not only have to retake the test, but essentially have to start all over again.  You know, as though I had never had a license IN MY LIFE.  The woman refused to listen to me when I tried to tell her that I had a VA license in the past and simply said, "You will have to start all over again and that will include having a learner's permit for a month IF you pass the test."  Yes, the idea of a learner's permit at my age scared the bejeezus out of me.  Who the heck was supposed to be my co-pilot, Caitlin?   Without mentioning my current situation, I simply said thank you and went home to scour the CA DMV site to see if it might be of any help.

Almost immediately, I found the option to purchase one's driving record.  I could print out an on-line copy or mail in the form for a certified copy.  I decided to go for the easiest option first, and then hit a wall:  in order to access said copy, I needed my DL number, date of issue and date of expiration.  I combed through two computers worth of documents and couldn't find a scanned copy of my license anywhere, though I know we had scanned them at some point.  Finally I searched my email for attachments and found a note from our lender with regard to need our DL information for the closing documents.  I wrote to my lender (who is also our very nice neighbor), explained the situation and within two hours he emailed me the information....everything I needed to gain access to MY information.

I printed out the non-certified driving record from CA, filled out the application for a driver's license in VA and went back to the DMV the next morning.  After two hours of waiting, I was able to see a clerk.  All was going well from the vision test to the picture-taking.  No questions about my driving record or anything else for that matter.  I could see my license being printed out as she grasped my credit card and swiped it through the machine.  Then it happened....

"Oops!"

What?  Oops?  There was nothing wrong with the credit card, how could there be an oops?  The driver's license within my grasp suddenly sprouted wings and flew off before I could say a word.   The clerk then mentioned that the "oops" happened because the system suddenly noted that I was still a licensed driver in VA.  I explained how I had taken the (God awful, extremely difficult, never want to take again) test in CA and turned in my VA license at the time...two years ago.  

She remarked that she understood, but that the CA DMV had a habit of forgetting to turn licenses over to the issuing state...as they had in my case.  She went on to mention that it should only take one quick phone call to DMV in Richmond and we could likely get it squared away.  She dialed the number only to learn that they had closed 20 minutes earlier.  I would have to come back the following week with a new application.  The good news?  The phone call to DMV would likely resolve everything and I would be on my way with a new license once the phone call was wrapped up.

The following Tuesday, I went back to the DMV and spent two more hours waiting (extremely patiently, I might add), assuming I would do nothing more than re-submit my application and walk out a few minutes later with a VA license....oh, was the joke on me.  I was so confident that because I was a licensed VA driver that the CA license would no longer be an issue and/or that the clear statement of my driving record (with proof of receipt) from the DMV site would suffice.  Again, I was wrong.  The clerk assisting me called DMV in Richmond who insisted I would need a "certified copy" of my driving record.  Since I doubt they had magically received my CA license within those few days, I was befuddled as to what had happened or why the fact that I was still a valid driver (according to their own system) in VA suddenly didn't matter.

Whatever.  I was tired, I was stressed and I was sick of the issue.  I very nicely thanked them, headed home, printed out the certified copy business and mailed it off with a check.  Foolishly, I figured it would show up in a week or two, I would go back to DMV and it would all be resolved...again, not so much.  After two weeks and two days of agonizing waiting, I tried to call the CA DMV (are you laughing yet?).  I realized it was likely futile, and hung up after 10 minutes of trying to get an actual human on the line. 

I decided  I would simply try again.  I printed out the document again, filled it out...again, enclosed another check and took it to the post office.  I sent it off by Priority Mail and by yesterday had heard?  Absolutely nothing.  No checks had been cashed and nothing even remotely official from the CA DMV had been placed in our mail box.   I was at my wits' end and simply couldn't take the stress of the situation any more.  I decided it was time to pull out the big guns, so to speak, and plucked the name of an FS DMV contact from an email I had received a while back.

The name was of someone who was purportedly able to help those of us in the Foreign Service, should we have issues with DMV, particularly with regard to driver's licenses.  I realized that when I added it all up, I would not be in this situation if not for Peter's current assignment.  I opened the email, composed a thoughtful and cordial letter explaining the situation and clicked send.  I hoped for the best, expected the worst and...

16 hours later I was leaving the Tysons  DMV with an official driving permit in hand.   The license is a super-duper fancy-schmancy piece of i.d. now, designed much like the CA licenses.  It takes time to make it 'just right' and I have about a two week wait before it shows up in my mailbox.

The entire process (once I reached the front desk) took maybe 15 minutes.  Given the circumstances, I bypassed the regular 'waiting in the chairs' bit.  I still needed all of my other documentation, but the CA/old VA license issue was no longer a problem.  Quite honestly, I don't know what happened regarding that, I just know that I only needed to prove who I was (passport and expired "Overseas Only" military i.d. were perfect), that I had a SSN (a 2001 Social Security statement sufficed) and that I was indeed a resident of Virginia (water bill).  A flurry of typing, picture-taking and credit-card swiping later and I was on my way.

I have profusely thanked the two people who assisted me with this endeavour and can only hope they truly understand how grateful I am.  However, I should add, lest it look as though I was trying to curry favor or use our unfortunate situation (Peter's tour of duty) to our advantage, please remember:

  • Peter's not in a happy, cheery place right now...there's a very good reason he's receiving danger and hardship pay.
  • I have three kids to care for, a house to deal with and many other things going on...and I am doing it 110% on my own...and that would not be the case if not for the current assignment
  • I did everything, and I mean everything by the book.  I didn't try to slip anything by anyone (the clerk hadn't indicated a non-certified copy of my record wouldn't work) and I had almost every piece of documentation possible at each visit.
  • I didn't write to the contact the minute I couldn't get things resolved.  I did everything I could to get this completed on my own.  However, after this long, I simply couldn't justify not trying another way to get this issue out of the way. 
  • I was nice as nice could be. I  never raised my voice or remotely looked like I might go postal while at the DMV.  While internally I was raging (primarily due to the craziness of the situation), I knew that if I lost it at the counter, it would only make things more difficult (in fact, I watched a woman go postal on my second visit...it was horrid to have to witness, and it got her absolutely nowhere).  Oh, and in my letter, I simply asked for words of wisdom...I had no idea the issue would actually be resolved or so quickly.

And now?  A huge sigh of relief on my part...and a few long overdue photos from our fun zoo day.  I might also I add that I hope no one ever has to go through the above situation...but if you do, know that there is hope and most definitely a likely solution.  Thank you, thank you, kind DMV contact, you rock!

 

 

 

 

 

September 14, 2010

Pop, kathunk..kathunk

is not what one wants to hear when one is driving home from picking up the LG at Montessori, planning out the afternoon (which most definitely will involve driving) and (most importantly) said person has just finished up a 3 hour trip to the mechanic (and, ahem, tire place).  Sadly, it is exactly what I heard (and felt) as I drove home from Montessori yesterday and realized quickly I would likely (if I was lucky) spend most of my afternoon where I spent most of my morning.

Well, to be fair, I didn't spend my entire morning at the mechanic.  In fact, I lucked out as our new (and now much beloved) auto repair shop is located within steps of the W & OD trail, something I have been wanting to explore for a while.  I dropped off the car for its routine maintenance and tire check and started off towards the center of town, planning on catching the trail on the way back.  

My plan was then slightly derailed when I learned that my new favorite coffee shop was closed on Mondays.  Since I desperately needed some sort of refreshment, I backtracked to a Starbucks in the middle of town.  After inhaling a bit too much cigarillo smoke from a neighboring table while trying to sip my mocha, I realized I needed to get walking towards the trail or I would miss it entirely.   

A few minutes later, I found an entrance a few minutes later on Pennsylvania Avenue (Falls Church, not DC) and headed off.  Having already walked nearly 2 miles, this was really more of a get to knowthe trail/envy those who live in houses backing up to the trail.  While it was not quite as wide as some that we enjoyed in CA, it was more than enough for a brisk walk.  An added bonus?  The trail designers added exercise equipment along the sides of the trail.  Built from metal tubing and wood beams, one can work on their push-ups, chin-ups or just get in a good bit of stretching.  I'll admit I couldn't resist a few chin-ups (I am sure my arms will not thank me in the morning) though I certainly waited until the coast was clear on the trail.

While there were a number of cyclists and walkers, not so many that one could not say, make a phone call while walking.  I hate being that annoying person gabbing away on my cell whilst I am supposed to be exercising, but there was an important phone call to make:  to my new sister-in-law.  Peter's brother, John, was married  yesterday in a quiet, romantic backyard ceremony at his parents' home in Massachusetts.  He and his new wife, Kim, had dated for years and celebrated their nuptials a gorgeous, cozy ceremony.  I know, next question...why weren't we there?

As sad as it sounds, I am simply still overwhelmed.  While it may seem like an easy decision to just hop in the car, when one has 3 children, with 3 different schedules and no other parent (or relatives within hundreds of miles) around, it is a whole different ballgame.  I looked at scenario after scenario, but nothing worked in the way that I needed (or without a huge amount of work for several friends).   After many emails, phone conversations and Facebook messages with my now sister-in-law, I had to sadly decline.  Not that we did not want to be there, but it simply wasn't in the cards.

Who was there?  Peter, in a manner of speaking.  He Skyped in just prior to the ceremony  and was able to not only 'see' the ceremony, but attend the reception.  His uncle enjoyed the responsibility of carting the laptop (or "the head" as he was called) around so Peter could chat with his family. While it wasn't quite the same as being there, I think it had to have been pretty darn close. 

The quiet time gave me the time to chat, congratulate the newlyweds and simply catch up on the events of the weekend.  While it isn't the same as being physically present, we have heard that a number of photos were taken, as well as possibly a video..and the kids and I are quite anxious to view them all.  Now, as for the car?

To make a long story a bit shorter, I ran over a nasty bolt of some sort.  It inserted itself quite nicely in my tire, though was not seen by anyone until the car was back up on the lift.  The best part?  Whether it was just generosity on their part, the fact that I had just been in that morning (and a tire check was part of the visit) or that I was in the midst of scheduling works for the front brakes for later in the week, the mechanics waved any fees.  We spent a good hour in the waiting room (with snacks, drink, coloring books, and crayons aplenty) and didn't pay a dime when we left.  Can we say customer for life?  Or, in our case, until we move to our next location...and, no, we haven't heard a thing about the bid list.

Car matters aside, the best part of the day was hearing about the wedding...if only the stars had aligned for all of us to be present.  Wishing you many, many years of happiness, Kim and John!

 

 

 

September 12, 2010

Ah, Fall Festivals

how you wear me out...and, my kids, too (but, for that I thank you!).  We had a brief diversion from our normal Saturday schedule of a trip to the Farmers Market in Falls Church yesterday as Cait had her first non-school choir practice.  Ironically, it was also held in Falls Church, but we didn't have time for much between pick-up and drop-off (more on the choir later, but thus far, she is loving it, to her great surprise). Also, given that we would be attending the Falls Church Fall Festival later in the day, but more than one trip might be a bit repetitive.

IMG_0381 We had originally planned to attend two festivals yesterday, the one in Falls Church and another one, Arts on Foot, in DC.  I know, a lot to pack into a day, but a fellow FS blogger was participating in Arts on Foot.  Not only does Eve design and create leather goods that can the strongest of heart and wallet drool, but she does so from leather remnants. She repurposes the pieces that might otherwise be thrown away and each finished project is an original.  I have been salivating over the goods since finding her Etsy site months ago, but sadly have now failed twice at getting to a show.  Thank goodness it appears there will be another one in October, so I swear three times will be the charm.

Now, reading the above paragraph again, I realize it sort of looks like a hint...maybe even a giant hint.  You know, as though I  *might* want a new bag for Christmas and all a certain someone would have to do is click over to the Etsy site and....but, no worries, not a hint...not at all...unless he wants to take it that way, in which case, I am powerless to stop him.  

IMG_0385 I desperately wanted to go to Arts on Foot, but the Falls Church Fall Festival just completely depleted our extra energy.  I forgot how intense the need is for two parent-like adults at these events, even just for those bathroom runs or moments when not everyone is thrilled about sand art (which we skipped entirely, cause I am a mean, mean mommy and don't want more stuff to move).  Cait was able to help out a bit, taking Kelsey to the restroom and buying tickets when we didn't feel like waiting in line...but then she needed to take long breaks to stand around the playground and read 400 page books (if you think I am kidding, take her anywhere...you will spend the entire time talking to the spine of said 'tome of the day').

It wasn't just a fall festival, but also the taste of Falls Church.  You could buy 'tastes' (one ticket per taste) and each taste was a sampling of a local restaurant's offerings.  Everyone from Clare & Don's to Robeks to Open Kitchen (yum, yum, yum) was there.  My only problem with the whole event?  I loved it (well, aside from it being overly crowded), but got so tired of the waste.  It seemed every plate was styrofoam or plastic, you got a fork with each dish (whether you asked or not) and plastic bottles were the only thing being recycled.  With the renewed interest in real food, farmers markets and reducing waste, one would have hope the planners would have taken the refuse into account. Sadly, they didn't other than quickly removing the overflowing garbage bins (out of sight, out of mind?).

IMG_0389 After we ate, rode the train, bumped into several FS friends, jumped on the moon bounce, played on the playground, and sampled a bit more, it was time to head home.  We would have loved to get an official portrait of Nicholas by the "peacey* car" or in a "peacey officer's" uniform, but he wasn't having any of it.   Instead, we just had to admire from afar on our way in and out of the park.  The best part of the day?  The fact that the hosting site was a park that was equipped with a large (and free!) playground.  Not only a great place to play (and read), but in a very shady area far away from the ticket seller's booth. 

Not very creative pics, I know, but when there is but one of you...it's enough just to keep track of everyone and their stuff.  So, a few classic moon bounce photos and, of course, the train ride.  A fun (if not slightly overwhelming) festival for a gorgeous 'felt like fall' day.

 

*police car, police officer

 

 

 

 

 

September 11, 2010

Well, there it is...

the first (almost) full week of back to school completed and most of us are none the worse for wear.  We still have issues actually waking up to our own alarm clock (vs. our mother coming in 4 different times when said alarm does not work..."Cait".."CAIT"..."CAITLIN"..."HELLO, you are going to miss the bus!").  I know, it must not sound soothing or calm as mornings should be, but without a bit of jarring, she simply won't get up (until noon or so...).  

What we don't have?  Despite the trouble waking up, few are having difficulty going to sleep at night.  In fact, I find myself taking naps while putting Nicholas to bed.  Yes, normal people would just, say, go to sleep...but we know better about Jen.   Even Kelsey is tiring earlier every night.  We are still trying to figure out the correct amount of sleep for everyone, but we are all getting more shut-eye and that is important.

We can't forget that LG started Montessori this week and thus far appears to be a rip-roaring success.  I have taken him to the classroom each day and it is not long before he has a mat and is completely involved in an independent project.  Did I mention how much I love, love, love Montessori?  

It was a great fit for both Cait and Kelsey and I really felt I couldn't try anything else with Nicholas.  There have been no tears, each day he is excited and happy at pick-up and we spend the rest of the afternoon discussing new friends, teachers and snack.  In fact, the only downfall is that I feel as though I have wasted my 'free' mornings making appointments and napping.  Important stuff, I suppose, but feel like I should be cramming so much more into those three hours.

Did I also mention how grateful I am for the big, yellow school bus?  This is by far the most positive change.  Once I have successfully prevented Cait from returning to bed, she is on her own.  Just the knowledge of the bus, the chance to chat with friends, and the fact that she has a bit more independence gets her going.  She preps her backpack the night before, makes her own lunch, and gets herself to the bus stop 10 minutes before anyone else (and all of this allows me a few extra minutes of sleep).  Kelsey needs a bit more encouragement, but even on a 'late' waking morning, generally has an hour or so to get ready (well, has thus far).  Nicholas and I head to his school the minute the bus drives off, and with that, the morning is mine...and while I hadn't intended on the napping bit, this morning's dozing gave me enough energy to tackle a few boxes while the kids played this afternoon.   

IMG_0378 I also needed a bit of a nap as I knew we had an event last night.  Kelsey's school PTA held a Popsicle Party for an hour or so after dinner.  Nothing fancy, just icy cold treats and a chance for kids and parents to hang out, chat, and for Nicholas to kick up a lot of dirt and move around some mulch.  It was really just a casual, but fun get to know each other time.  I was pleasantly surprised by figuring out that a friend Cait made on the bus turned out to be the daughter of a woman I met earlier in the week at the PTA coffee (her younger daughter attends Kelsey's school).  We reconnected tonight (thanks to Cait) and she, in turn, introduced me to several other moms and dads.  A nice, stress-free way to meet people and Little Guy was so exhausted by the evening, that he did not last through one story, much less several construction-themed books.

The week wasn't ideal.  A certain someone was missing, but he has missed quite a number of first days of school and  I have begun to realize that the kids simply don't seem to notice. Now if he were to miss Halloween?  A totally different story (fingers crossed R&R scheduling goes through properly!). More importantly, if he wasn't over there, we wouldn't be here, so the kids couldn't once again astound me with their amazing resiliency.   There are some days when I wonder if I am making it easier for them...or if their presence makes this entire scenario not such a bitter pill for me to swallow?

It's not perfect, the house is still getting there, I have a million and one changes I want to make, Kelsey is still a bit worried about friends, and Cait frets over activities...but overall?  Things are calmer, happier and I feel like we are really starting to get settled.  Who knows, one day I may even find that Yoga class or a walking group.  In the meantime, we are simply going to enjoy the lovely fall weather that has begun to descend upon us and all that goes with it...apple-picking, pumpkin patches and fall festivals, sign us up! 

 

September 10, 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.

***

IMG_5044
via Soulemama - photo courtesy of Grandpa Kirk

September 08, 2010

I did the unthinkable:

IMG_5060 I forgot to get a picture of Nicholas on the front stoop on his first day of school.  Kelsey's bus came a bit later than expected (think Dad, Kelsey & I were all worried we had missed it for a bit) and then we had but a few minutes to get to Nicholas's new school.  While I should have thought of it during our 25 minute wait, Nicholas was busy moving mulch and playing King of the Hill...who wants to miss that?  I guess I shouldn't fret about that so much as the day itself is more important.  

IMG_5070 We walked him into the school as new students are taken to the classroom for the first 3 days, rather than dropped off at the door (yes, we will normally drop him at the door and he is welcomed by a parent or teacher each day...how awesome is that?).  We nearly tiptoed inside, dropped his extra clothes in the bin and entered the classroom.  He was a bit thrown off at first, as we finished the day in the large playroom yesterday and he assumed that was where he would return...not quite.  He was a little bit cranky about this, but the assistant teacher offered her hand and they walked together to get a puzzle to work on.  No tears, no fuss and by the time we drove past (a whopping 4 minutes later), I could see him sitting at the table, back to the window, clearly calmly involved in an activity.

IMG_5074 Was I sad?  A teeny-tiny bit.  It is a bit of a departure from our Cali walking group/Kindermusik days, but I think it is a good departure.  We will still do those activities, but maybe just in the afternoon (anyone local up for a weekday walking group?).  More importantly, I have a few hours each day where I can finish unpacking boxes, organize, sort, de-clutter, maybe hang some pictures (I know, let's not go nuts) and take care of errands that would be little or no fun for Nicholas. Meanwhile, he is happy and safe in a loving learning environment.

IMG_5073 And the verdict?  

He loved it.  He was grinning ear to ear when we picked him up at the door, and the teacher smiled and said it was a great day.   We buckled up, drove off and chatted about his day at school.  Maybe not exactly our prior routine, but I think I am going to like the new one very much...as is he.

 

September 07, 2010

And as of this morning, we have...

IMG_0363 a 7th grader (a new middle-schooler for the second year running) and a 3rd grader.  It only took 3 wake up calls for Cait today before she bounded out of bed.  She couldn't even take the time to eat as she had to be at the bus stop before the crack of dawn (we ended up being 25 minutes early).  If you are wondering, she does have an alarm, but sadly it does not wake her up...it wakes me up (across the house) and I have to then trudge in and wake her up.  A very interesting method, but it worked (for today).  Here's hoping the fact that she wanted to go to sleep earlier tonight means she might not only get up with only one or two calls tomorrow or  maybe entirely on her own?

IMG_0365 Kelsey was able to sleep a little bit later, since her school starts at the more acceptable time of 8:40 a.m..   Cait's school doesn't start until 7:50 a.m., but she has to be in line for the bus at 7:00 a.m.  On the other hand, I am so grateful that I don't have to drive her, that I am thrilled for any mass transit pick-up, regardless of the time.  The hour and a quarter between the bus times also allows me to have one on one time with each the kids before they go to school (provided LG sleeps in a bit).

IMG_0369 At Kelsey's appointed time, we were at the stop, with cameras in hand 10 minutes early and still played the waiting game.  Finally the bus pulled almost up to our doorstep and Kelsey hopped on with barely a backward glance.  While it wasn't terribly hard for them to get up and going, it was immensely helpful that both girls had prepped their lunches, backpacks and clothes the night before.  Overall, it was a very smooth morning and with everyone already having had more sleep tonight, I'm thinking that tomorrow will be much easier.  Now, if I could get 4 plus hours, we will all be golden, as Wednesday is another big day:

IMG_0372LG starts Montessori!

After a flurry of form filling out and check writing last night, we stopped by the Montessori school this morning and took a brief tour.  It felt just a bit like going home again, as both Caitlin and Kelsey attended the same school and adored it.  Many of the teachers remembered them, and Nicholas thoroughly enjoyed playing with the toys and manipulatives.  In fact, when I picked him up as it was time to go, he burst into tears.  The teachers were thrilled when they figured out he was sad to be leaving.  

I have his outfit ready for the morning and his clothes and shoes are labeled.  I have a feeling it will only be a few minutes after drop off  tomorrow before he waves us off (Grandpa Kirk is still here and, of course, will be the official photographer).  While I am a tiny bit sad, he is just so excited about going to school.  

Now we just need to convince him that my car really is his "bussy"!

Oh, and I just realized I can't forget to mention my favorite memory from the day.  Kelsey's school's PTA had a coffee morning (Peet's, yea!) and we were able to attend after Nicholas's orientation.  As we were leaving, we walked through the very open vestibule and Nicholas took a long, hard look around. He then queried in the most plaintive voice, "Where is my Kelsey?"   A cute, sweet memory I hope to hold onto for a very long time to come...

September 05, 2010

Reunion Redux

IMG_0336 So, after going to my first high school football game in ages (Nicholas's first ever!), attending a family picnic on Saturday and dolling up for the official 20 year reunion dinner Saturday night, I have only one thing to say:

I have absolutely no business being in front of a microphone and pray to God it will never happen again.

It was a total fluke and probably shouldn't have been an issue in the first place. We were all handed ballots at the beginning of the festivities last night and I (in my happenin' black sheath dress, fancy lipstick and snazzily (in my mind) straightened hair) chose to answer one question in a way that allowed me to 'win' a certificate.  The question was in regard to how many states one had lived in since graduation.  I have only lived in 4, but a certain Salty Dog noted that countries should also count for something, so I threw in the two other countries we lived in.  So, while I didn't win for states (someone had lived in a whopping 8!), I managed to grab the "most places lived world-wide".  I had figured I would have serious competition in this arena (when you have been in the Foreign Service long enough, you assume everyone has lived in a minimum of 3 different countries over the past few years), but alas perhaps those folks just could not attend.

IMG_5194 I waltzed up to get my certificate and all was well until they handed me the microphone and asked me what was the most exciting thing that happened to me while living overseas.  I mumbled something about the coup in Venezuela, being on medevac and technically homeless (the medevac totally confused the issue) and tried to throw in a quick explanation about Chavez.  *Sigh*...for this I totally and completely apologize.  For those of you who were subjected to my rambling and likely not audible words, I offer you this instead...heck, I'll give you choices, as I really can't say one was more exciting than the other...the most exciting thing that happened to me overseas was:

  • meeting Matt Dillon at a friend's party
  • watching my husband cook Marisa Tomei an Icelandic hot dog (pylsur) and even more amazing, watching that tiny little thing put it away like it was nobody's business
  • meeting Garrison Keillor at the private party at the ambassador's residence after his live show in Reykjavik
  • meeting the cast of Lazytown and watching them perform at the annual party for diplomats' children at the home of the President of Iceland (actually attended 3 parties, they only performed at one)

No, no, no...that's just name-dropping and sounds vapid at best (but pick one one of the above if it suits you)....maybe what was really exciting was:

  • being the first spouse of a U.S. diplomat in Iceland to receive a work permit (to my knowledge)
  • having Nicholas in Reykjavik (his passport lists Reykjavik as his birthplace...doesn't get much cooler than that)
  • helping my 3 month old touch his first glacier
  • hotting-potting anywhere in Iceland
  • traipsing through lava fields just cause we could...and the same for visiting real Geysirs
  • seeing the Northern Lights from my doorstep
  • viewing the ocean from dizzying heights while eating incredible gastronomic delights just outside of Caracas
  • the fact that my daughter learned how to ski in Germany
  • the fact that my other daughter was incredibly fluent in Icelandic for two years

The above items are far more realistic to me, but would likely come across as well as the coup business.   So, one must be wondering ....the rest of the reunion?  Well, frankly, social situations can just scare the bejeezus out of me.  And while I don't generally feel I need to rely on my spouse (since he would likely be sitting there coding on his iTouch anyway), it did feel just a *tad* bit lonely. Granted, he Skyped towards the end of the night, and while it was sort of like he was there, I can't say it was what it should have been.

I managed to catch up a bit with folks though probably not as much as I should have (yes, being lame and hiding in the other dining room to Skype with Peter didn't help much).  It was still a good time, though and certainly worth going.  The reunion crew did a stellar job of putting together not only a fun Saturday night, but a great family-friendly weekend.  I'd say here's hoping we can go to the next reunion as a complete family, but since Cait will be (if they have one in 10 years), 22, gulp, that might not happen.  And with that, above are a few photos from the weekend (just don't mind the lighting, my camera was a bit wonky this weekend)

September 03, 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 happy and relaxing weekend!

 

IMG_0321

 

via Soulemama

 

We owe you one, Mr. Nice Guy...

One long travel day later, we are here.  And by we, I mean Little Guy and myself, and by here, I am referring to Memphis.   After a very sleepless night (to which even Grandpa Kirk can attest), I barely woke up this morning, finished packing, pointed out a few more important notes to Grandpa, loaded up the car and headed to National Airport.

We had a near repeat of Tuesday's lack of traffic and ease of parking.  The cranky factor was a bit higher, but it hit Kelsey somewhere between boarding passes and security that I was actually really and truly leaving for the weekend.   Those tears were genuine and a compliment of sorts.  We had a chat, Starbucks was promised for them on the way out and they waved me off once we zipped through the security check.

I had the flight beautifully planned, and even came up with a last minute winner of an idea:  stopping for bagels and "choklit milk, choklit milk" as it had now occurred to LG that Kelsey and Cait were not coming and he suddenly missed them utterly and completely.  Nothing helps like a food-related distraction. Never mind I was holding Nick, pulling the mandatory carry-on, had two backpacks and was pushing the Britax in the stroller...what's one more thing?

We arrived at the gate and stood in line until I realized I had almost missed the pre-board.  We hurried up to the front, were allowed to cut in front of folks sans toddlers and their accoutrement and headed down the jetway.  It was smooth sailing, even getting the car seat installed and Nicholas settled before 19A (the window seat occupant) arrived.  I gratefully noted that he seemed nice enough...no glares at Nicholas or pointed looks or eyes rolling.

Sadly, there are many travelers who do this upon seeing kids or babies on planes. The automatic assumption is that the kids are going to bawl through the entire flight and make everyone miserable. Frankly, I will take a bawling child (who is likely suffering from ear pain, not trying to upset everyone) any day over the guy who insists on grabbing my seat and pulling it down every time he stands up or the other guy  who absolutely must recline his seat into my lap and snore for the duration of the trip.

While I had Recliner in front of me (thankfully, he didn't recline too much nor did he snore) and Seat Puller (two, in fact, yippee!) to the back, I lucked out with Mr. Nice Guy to the left of Nicholas.  No looks, nothing.  In fact he fell asleep not long after take off.  Soon after that, we learned just how nice of a guy he could be.

You see, we had a Funtainer (Thermos drink container) for the chocolate milk.  No muss, no fuss, a nice container that keeps the drink cold and very little chance of spillage...or so we thought.  I poured the milk in, Nicholas drank some, and I put the thermos away for later in the flight.  About an hour into the trip, Nicholas decided he was thirsty again.  He asked for the milk and since he has no problem popping open the Thermos, I obliged.  Forget a pop, it was more like a firecracker.

Apparently, the Funtainer was a little shaken up and I don't think being at however many thousand feet helped much.  So instead of just a little click and the lid opening, the straw nearly exploded out of the top and quite a decent amount of chocolate milk spewed out...all over Mr. Nice Guy, who was, yes, still sleeping. 

He woke up to me apologizing profusely and muttering something about wipes.  I frantically handed him a few and grabbed back the dirty ones the minute he was finished.  I dabbed about the ceiling, tried to get every last drop and fell back in my seat utterly defeated...forget my worries about Nicholas kicking the woman in front of him, I had just managed to ensure dirty looks for the rest of the flight.

Guess what?

There weren't any.  Not much small talk, but no glares or annoyed glances (even when Nicholas kept threatening to randomly push buttons on his laptop...darn those high car seats!).  In fact, when I offered that he could get off the plane ahead of us, he actually smiled and mentioned that he was not in a hurry as he had an hour and a half before his next flight.

I still felt awful.  Not as bad as if Nicholas threw up on him (ooh, I just jinxed our flight on Monday...) but still pretty low.  For lack of anything else, we just tried to keep quiet for the rest of the flight (the laptop business aside).  Since I have no idea who he was or where he was from, I will just have to send this thank you out to cyberspace and hope somehow he knows how much we appreciate what he did...and more so, what he didn't do.

He didn't yell, point,  or curse children traveling on planes.  He cleaned himself up and went back about his business.  He didn't seem bothered by my incessant chatter to keep Nicholas occupied and was gracious enough to let us deplane first.  Mr. Nice Guy, thank you.  Thank you on behalf of anyone who has traveled with a child and had something similar happen.  By doing absolutely nothing, you made what could have been a nightmare bearable and almost happy.   I knew I could count on myself in some respects, such as bringing the Clif bars, books, toy cars & a mini-Magna Doodle to keep LG occupied, but didn't realize I could also count on you, my fellow traveler.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

 

 

 

 

 

September 01, 2010

I'm so ashamed

as the consummate hostess, I am apparently not.  Though I was 15 minutes early to the airport today, with 3 kids in tow, a near-miracle in my opinion...in other words, I started off slightly on the right foot.  Not only was I early, but had no traffic, the airport was practically empty, many planes thoughtfully flew in and out to entertain Nicholas, there was plenty of parking and we only paid $2 for quite a bit of time in the hourly parking garage.  I don't know what I did right for a change, but seriously, you can't buy that kind of driving/parking ease at any DC airport.  So, we picked up Grandpa on time, had lunch and headed home...where any good hostess points were lost since most of my basement is still taken up by boxes (I swear they will be opened and sorted prior to Peter's retirement).

IMG_5162 I had managed to get Kelsey's room as ready as it could be and the house was mostly presentable. However, I realized I failed miserably at the small details when I found this sign on the bathroom door.  Cait had not only organized and cleared out the bathroom cabinet (under the sink) with no prompting from me, but also the medicine cabinet, so Grandpa Kirk had plenty of room for his things.  (He is sleeping in Kelsey's room as, despite the comfort of the couch, the idea of anyone sleeping in that castle of cardboard gives even me the willies.)  That bit of straightening up was not enough, though, so she created a sign in order to indicate if the bathroom was in use.   And to think I was proud of myself for remembering to get an appropriately chilled six-pack (Blue Moon, folks, calm down... ).

Many thanks to Cait (and Sweetwater Tavern) for making our first guest happy enough to have not yet run screaming for the Residence Inn one day into his visit...success!  Oh, and welcome, Dad!  Now off to create that list of chores, I mean, fun things you and the girls can do this weekend...