Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Great send-off, Mom!

With all the excitement on Friday evening through the night on Saturday etc., I forgot to write about the momentous event that I attended on Friday afternoon.

After over 18 years of civilian service with the U.S. Army (all of them in the Pentagon), my mother retired from her day job and entered a new phase of her life. As of that moment, Sheila became a full-time grandma! My dad, Auntie M., and I all attended her retirement luncheon, which was a jolly affair with many Army active-duty members and civilians who celebrated her career. You could tell that all the people that worked with her truly appreciated her years of hard work, her friendliness, and ready sense of humor.

The surprise of the evening was that she received a medal! Sheila joked that she will be wearing it on trips to the grocery store. :-) So now, I can tell friends and relatives that my mom has been decorated, right? She also received a U.S. flag in a shadow box that had been flown over the Pentagon in her honor and a framed letter from her Congressman on gold-embossed stationery. The lunch ended on a positive note when my mom gave a very gracious and funny speech that delighted all.

And yes, she was working at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. For the whole story on that, read this entry. Congratulations, Mom! I'm so proud of you. I hope you enjoy every minute of your retirement; any time you get bored and want the kids, come by and get them. ;-)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

It can only go downhill from here...

Last night, I went out with the girls and had a most fabulous time! We ate delicious sushi, indulged in some hot sake, and then really went all-out and had an eclair each at a nearby Italian bakery. Yumm-mm-m! We were all enjoying each other's company so much that we were surprised when the bakery employees started closing down their shop around 7:30 p.m. What? You're not an all-night bakery? We can't just stay and chat while you mop around us? We very reluctantly parted ways and I got home much earlier than expected.

AJS was watching the kids, and as usual when I'm out for the evening, he refuses to make them anything nutritious. Their dinner was milk plus lots of air-popped (healthier than microwaved, maybe), buttered popcorn. After watching Barbie of Swan Lake featuring Barbie as Odette (Rosie's pick) and Iron Giant (which was my pick for Dash, and wow, it should have been a Disney/Pixar movie! Why doesn't this movie have more of a following? It was wonderful, even tearjerking).  AJS brought out his newly acquired, wide-screen DVD of ZULU. Ahhh, beautiful, young Michael Caine. :-)

Now, I have loved this movie from my first viewing, and I can't stand most military flicks. Through brilliant tactics, a group of about 100 soldiers at a missionary outpost in South Africa—mostly Welsh, with some Brits and Swedes mixed in—managed to wage a defense against 4,000 Zulu warriors. FOUR THOUSAND scary mofos. COMING TO KILL THEM. And this ragtag 100 soldiers not only stand their ground, they SING at the Zulus in 4-part Welsh harmony while they defeat them. 

Only knowing that our kids love to watch The Wind and the Lion (can I watch "pirate movie?), West Side Story (let's watch "Maria!"),  The Adventures of Robin Hood (Robin Hood! Robin Hood), The Phantom of the Opera (we watch Phantom, pleeeze?) and have sat through all the Star Wars franchise and all of The Lord of the Rings series did we consider that they might sit through Zulu. They seemed interested, and Rosie asked lots of questions throughout. Dash was quiet and asked to go to bed (it was getting late) but when I got him ready, he refused. So, as I wanted to see more of the movie and didn't want to get into a struggle, I just grabbed him, his blanket, and hoped he would drift off in my lap.

[TMI warning] After a while, in the most heated part of Zulu with flames on the roofs, and "fire at will," Zulus everywhere inside the perimeter, with guns, spears, and mayhem, I smelled vomit. Dash had puked nasty, partially digested popcorn all over me. After three subsequent sets of soiled sheets + running loads of laundry all night I hardly got any sleep.

To complicate matters, given the sick-kid situation (101 degree fever at noon), AJS and I decided to cancel on our dinner party that I organized at a friends' house. I was introducing two sets of friends who I learned were new neighbors. And the new-neighbor friend (plus wife) is a coworker, so I have his work phone and his work email, but NOT HIS HOME NUMBER. So, I was unable to contact him in advance to warn him that it was going to be a blind couples date. I dearly hope it wasn't terribly awkward for all of them. None of them have kids, so I think they won't really understand why we cancelled. 

Anyway, Dash seems okay now. I am really hoping that I get some sleep tonight. Send me good sleep vibes, please!!!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Freaky dream

AJS woke me up this morning because I was making some strange noises. When I caught my wits, I asked, "did it sound like this?" and did my best imitation of the sound I was making in my dream, a breathy squeaking mini-scream. In my dreams, when I'm most terrified and trying to scream at the top of my lungs, I can only seem to squeak, and now I learn that it's actually audible? 

I was dreaming that I was a girl alone in my parents' house in Illinois, a split-level. There were some boxes of chocolates that had been delivered that seemed strange, like they were moving, so I took one down to the basement (which was finished with shag carpeting). When I opened one box, it appeared to be brownies, but then one of them turned into a worm-like thing that craned around and started throwing pieces of itself toward the bathroom in the corner of the room. This is where I got that awful blood-drain-out feeling, backed away and started the wheezy-squeak-screaming. I heard noises in the bathroom, so creeped past the growing pile of not-brownies to see small green creatures  (like evil versions of the green alien toys in the "claw" game from Toy Story) coming out of the bathtub.

I reeled away, screaming, and backed up toward the stairs, not taking my eyes off them. As they reached the pile of not-brownie, they ate and quickly began to grow into large, well-muscled orc-type creatures!! As I stumbled up the rest of the stairs, I had a brainstorm: like the green Wicked Witch of the West and the green aliens from Signs, these green creatures could be killed with WATER!

A bucket appeared nearby, I grabbed it and added water from the kitchen sink (not filling fast enough!!!!). Running back toward the basement stairs, I saw the frightening orc already half-way up! Screaming, I threw water at him!!! He yowled and started to fall.

And that's when AJS woke me up. Aieeeee!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Lessons to learn

To all of you young men out there, I hope you know this already and your mothers/girlfriends/ wives have taught you already. If not, there are just a few important triggers with women of childbearing age (or any age really) that you need to be made aware of. If you want to keep your women friends, that is. ;-)

  1. Don't ask a woman if she's pregnant. (Unless she's 7 months gone and she's reading a Babies R Us catalog, but even that's iffy.)
  2. Don't ever answer the question, "does my ass look fat in these jeans/skirt/vinyl-and-latex-fetish-catsuit?" There is no good answer. Change the subject.
  3. Don't ever venture a guess at a woman's age. Ever. If you guess wrong, you are screwed. Even women in their mid-30s like to get carded for alcohol at bars.

Yes, these are sexist comments. Despite attempts to move toward a race- and gender-blind society, beauty, age, and weight are still factors that count negatively against women. Heck, they can score negative points for men, too! Listen and learn.

Also, today I learned that service professionals can also be kind. The DirecTV guy that was 1.5 hours late discovered that we had unplugged the satellite ourselves trying to set up Cox's Internet cable. He fixed that and while he was at it, went above and beyond by setting up the cable lines (that were disconnected) by connnecting the box, drilling holes, AND running THEIR wires to our modem. I'm going to write a letter to his management. What a peach!

Friday, January 18, 2008

I have a bad feeling about this...

(My 300th post! Woot!)

My decision to order high-speed internet through Cox Cable was just plain practical. Straightforward. I wanted internet service, I did the research, Cox was the ONLY provider in our neighborhood (WTF is up with that?), so what else to do? They were our only hope. I ordered away. I kept the guy on the phone for waaaay longer than he seemed to think he should be, while I tried to ask him every question that AJS might come up with. I did okay, some hits, some misses.

What didn't occur for me to ask was whether setting up cable Internet would knock out our satellite and simultaneously fail to work because they would be running on the same wiring. What? That was your first question? Well, you're more of a smartie than me.

So, yikes! Was AJS pissed off when he tried to watch some morning news yesterday and discovered, WHAM, NO TV. Then, the modem arrived, and WHAM, NO INTERNET. (And for those of you who don't know AJS, he can be a very loud, angry dark cloud when riled.)

AJS's next prediction was that the cable people would blame the satellite people and vice-versa. BINGO! I called DirecTV first. It went more or less like this:

Me (to DirecTV): my satellite's out, & btw, we just had cable activated.
DTV: the cable must be running on the same wiring as the satellite. Call your cable people & tell them to install their own wiring.

Me (to Cox): you're running the cable on the satellite wiring, you need to install separate wiring.
Cox: that is OUR wiring that WE installed for your house's previous owner. DTV has no right to use it. They need to run their own wires.

Me (to DirecTV): um, hey, you know that wiring we/you've been using for 4.5 years? Well, you can't use it anymore.
DTV: you should have filed a complaint within the first 90 days, but we'll be there tomorrow to see what's going on between 1 and 5.
Me: how much will it cost? Hello?
DTV: that's not my department. I hope we've been able to provide you excellent service today! Thank you. [Click]

Bear with me while we have no internet or television. I heart my Sidekick! and TiVo! and DVDs! in the meantime.

Monday, January 14, 2008

aren't all little girls supposed to be shaped like eggs?

I had a wee bit of a dilemma over the weekend. A body-image dilemma, concerning Rosie. There are sooooo many poor models out there for what a "normal" body shape is that I just won't bother to list them (cafgh-Barbie). I somehow didn't expect them to be reflected in a four-to-five year old's ballet class, though (@ 12, maybe).

Don't girls only start to have defined waists when puberty starts its work? Apparently ballet costume sizing charts have a blind spot to this.

At the end of Rosie's Saturday class, I received said form and dutifully, took her measurements at home. Here's how her sizing worked out: chest, small; hips, small; girth (shoulder to crotch): small; waist, LARGE? Whaaa?

I read through, and the proportions are the same for adults and kids, narrower in the center. Grrrr. Stupid!

Now I have questions. What size do I actually order, and should I start doing situps with Rosie or yell at her teacher for dealing with such unenlightened costume manufacturers?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Boys

Nighttime rituals at the Strings' usually begin with Dash running into our bedroom to play in mommydaddybed. This tiny video of Dash inside the duvet is from AJS's Helio Ocean phone, and sorry, no sound. Just imagine wild shrieking.

AJS plays along, climbing into the blanket with him and helping him "hide."

These are Dash's favorite pajamas: the super-Dash-jammas. I don't know what he'll agree on wearing after he grows out of these. Any other pajama and we just have to distract him after I wrestle it on while he kicks and screams and begs for Dash-jammas.

Bonus video! Here's a little clip (with sound) from after our trip to the Natural History Museum, entitied, "Dash, Try to Get Me!" In it you'll see Dash looking slightly evil while brandishing a stick, Rosie in a too-short dress (leggings included), and me casually sporting Dash's sling as if it were some sort of cross-chest banner. At the end, you can catch sight of the Washington Monument in the distance, mid-screen.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Lurkers De-Lurk!

Hi everyone, It's officially "tied to my apron strings" De-Lurk day! Just pretend that Aimee's graphic actually says January 11th, okay? Thanks.

I may regret this, but I've changed the comment feed to accept anonymous commenters, so feel free to overwhelm me with your love. Obviously, if your particular idea of affection includes spam, I will be forced to return to my "registered users only, includes OpenID" filter.


Today I am working from home and realizing two major issues that I have to add to my proposal for serious telework.
1. I need high-speed Internet. I had to upload/email a 2.7 MB file and it took 20 minutes. See what I mean?

2. I need a second phone line for the computer's phone connection. While my cell technically does work from my basement office if I stand on the table near the window, that is not useful if my customer wants to give me changes on the fly while I input them.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


Thanks again to Unfit Mother and many other bits of new-year-fitness-resolution encouragement, I did join the gym today. Immediately after, I went in for a vigorous, 30-minute...


Does that count at all? I was technically IN the gym... heh.

So many articles I'm reading (or at least catching my eye) are about starting fresh, making changes, setting goals, reevaluating. I guess if there needs to be an excuse for taking stock of your life, a new year is as good as any.

Also thanks to Heather, I have a few excellent resources to set foot on the road to my next goal: telework. Heather's been sending me job announcements, as I do occasionally complain about my job sitch. But I'm really not that motivated to change jobs right now; I like my company, my pay & benefits, the people I'm working with, and the work itself. I don't like the hours and the commute. Nor do I like the idea of job searching, resume writing, interviewing, etc.

With that in mind, I emailed Heather that I was advising my managers of my Goal (capital G) to work at home 2 to 3 days a week come September (think: school starting), so being the resourceful jewel that she is, she sent me links to a bunch of articles that guide the prospective teleworker through writing a proposal to a reluctant management.

Telework is a hot topic in industry, what with fuel costs so high and high-speed Internet readily available, it's making less sense to be commuting all over to do your work.

I heart my friends! And will keep you all apprised of this goal, too.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


I know, the magazines and newspapers are full of advertisements to join a gym! get healthy! here's how! And I'll have to admit, I'm not immune to it all; it all has been sinking in, infiltrating my subconsious. So, while reading Unfit Mother's blog today, I really was drawn in and came out strongly identifing with her post. It's not just that I worked at a gym (YMCA) when I was a teen and was too goth to participate in high-school sports, and then somehow became addicted to classes at my gym (starting in 1993), sometimes going 3 or 4 times a week and taking two classes back-to-back (which during pre-wedding marriage counseling, I was advised to give up, for compromise's sake), but that I haven't had a gym membership for much too long.

Here's what rang true in Unfit Mother's post (she is an impressive writer, btw):

"When we bought a new house in July of 2006, our family had to reallocate every penny of the budget to make the West Coast real estate market work in our favor. One of the first items on the chopping block: my gym membership. I tried to exercise at home – I went for walks, calculated household chores into calorie burning equivalents and thought about running. But despite my best laid plans I became flabby. With folds of skin pooling on top of each other in soft mounds, I gradually lost muscle tone. I spend my days in a puddle at the computer and at night dreamed of accumulating digitized hours on a treadmill in a musty room pumping house music."

We did the very same thing. When Dash was born, the cost of his daycare forced us to eliminate several items from our budget, one of them my gym membership. Now, at my new job (location), there is a gym in the building that several of my coworkers go to. Just this month, they are offering aerobics classes! Ah, my favorite. I will go at lunchtime, twice a week to start.

Even the price is right! For what I will no longer be spending on cafeteria coffee and the occasional lunch, I can have single digit deductions taken out of my paycheck.

I'm signing up today.

NEW FIRETRUCK! & Xmas pics

Here are Dash & AJS testing out the new firetruck, a gift from Granddaddy Jim. 

I know, I know, Christmas was weeks ago! Close your eyes, and imagine it's Christmas morning: then open them and click the play button.


Rosie, the pink blur, speeds past a mountain of wrapped gifts! 

Dash is entranced by the card that Grandma Sheila picked out:

Monday, January 07, 2008

the little things

Things that made me happy over the weekend:
1. Taking the kids to the Natural History Museum and showing them the dinosaurs & BUGS! (Dash say, "fraid bugs!")
2. Hanging out with book-club friends at Kelly & Todd's, eating Chinese food and letting the kids run free (hope they didn't make too much mess); and if the book movie was discussed, I was too busy having fun somewhere else...
3. Little pony bottles of beer that AJS bought just for me, because they're tiny (and tiny delights ms. nylon!).
4. Finishing the neighborhood newsletter! Woot!
5. Carrying Dash in the sling while out on errands. Yeah, really now, he's getting so heavy, but he loves him some sling ride! Otherwise, he's awfully busy unless he's in the sling; man, am I going to miss the cuddling when he gets too big for it (which seems like it will be any day).
6. Making crafts with Rosie! We went to an all-ages playgroup (mostly 6 mos to 3 yrs) to do leftover-Xmas craft activities. While Dash ate all the snacks, Rosie and I made a christmas-tree pillow and a reindeer bag. She was so clever; when it was time to attach the antlers, she glued them inside the bag, so they'd be behind the ears. I wouldn't have thought of doing that!
7. AJS made 12 gallons of minestrone on Sunday. I wish I had taken a photo of his prep station before he started. It was an enormous pile of cans, vegetables and meat. The soup was delicious & I won't speak for it, but there may be enough to give to friends...

Dee's babes have arrived!

For any of us who were following Dee's escapades in gestating twins, you'll all be elated to know that Ethan and Alani arrived on January 6th at 12:23 and 12:31 a.m., respectively. Through some amazing force of will, she managed to deliver her twins WITHOUT a c-section or tearing. [genuflecting] She'll be back home with her family tomorrow, but I'm sure the call of newborns will be much stronger than Wordpress' for a while.

We'll miss you until you're back and are wishing you get eight hours solid sleep plenty as much rest and food as is humanly possible while you take care of Ethan & Alani! Don't forget to eat; you know how they say that you're eating for two when bfing? (which isn't actually true, but I won't get into that here). With twins, that comes pretty close to accurate. Ach, you're an old pro; who am I to attempt advice. Just sending supportive vibes your way!

Hope to hear some updates soon, Dee!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

new year's eve with the strings

We did our new year's eve a little differently this year, mostly because a couple that we befriended recently invited us over for new year's eve dinner. People rarely invite us over for dinner, so I immediately said yes! Gina & Brian live just a couple of miles from our house, so it would be a quick trip home if we wanted to stay late. Their daughter & son are the same ages as ours and there were four other kids to play with as well, so the adults were pretty much left to ourselves! Yay!

We really had a nice time. AJS brought his famous chicken wings, to Brian's delight! He told me that he was going to ask if AJS could make some, but didn't want to impose, so they were a welcome surprise. I did miss Kelly's new year's grape rituals, but I guess that was a trade-off for Gina's spicy cioppino and roast lamb.

Dash found a toy golf club and would occasionally appear, brandishing it like Thor's skyhammer. We caught a few glimpses of Rosie (who spent a lot of time alone in Ava's closet, trying on her clothes), but the kids all played well and kept to themselves.

We knew it was time to go when Rosie joined the other kids in leaping on the couch cushions and Dash was rubbing his eyes. After putting the kids to bed, I don't recall anything until AJS woke me up Tuesday morning, saying,

"Happy new year, my love!"

2007 Recap Meme

My dear blogging friends Dee at on the curb and Sher at wrekehavoc both did this meme, so I jumped on the wagon. 2007's dead, long live 2008! I mean, happy new year!

1. Where did you begin 2007?
We spent last new year's eve at Kelly & Todd's, but really didn't stay into Jan 1 officially; we usually pretend that it's midnight at 7 p.m. New year's day last year was a Monday and I don't have anything noted on my electronic calendar that day.

2. Did you have to go to the hospital? Nope, don't recall entering a hospital for any reason, thank goodness!

3. Did you have any encounters with the police? Nope.

4. Where did you go on vacation? We spent a week at the beach in Rehoboth, DE in around Labor Day.

5. What did you purchase that was over $500? We bought the outdoor swingset that, with shipping, just crossed the $500 line. Also, my new specs cost about that much, because since my prescription is so bad, I order all sorts of high-index, anti-glare customizations to the lenses. Unfortunately, we had to replace the pump for our AC unit, and that took a sizeable bite in our budget, too.

6. Did you know anybody who got married? I noticed that our neighbor across the street had an outdoor wedding, does that count?

7. What sporting events did you attend? Um, none. Really.

8. What concerts/shows did you go to? Only Tori Amos, thanks to dear Wreke, who got free tix on a radio show!

9. Where do you live now? DC Metro Area, Alexandria, VA, specifically. We're in our fourth year at our current house.

10. Describe your birthday: The Majestic! We got two sitters to watch all our kids, then went out to dinner with Kelly, Todd, Heather and Amy. The atmosphere was fun, the company was fabulous, and I really enjoyed myself with all the wine and great food. Yum. Warm fuzzy.

11. What’s the one thing you thought you would never do, but did in 2007? Well, after 11 of 13 people on my team were right-sized in February, who knew I could run an Air Force outreach program at the Pentagon for Congressional audiences practically by myself (there was one other full-time person who had her own tasks). Did I mention that I have a fine arts degree?

12. What’s something you learned about yourself? I can, in fact, take on two volunteer commitments as well as work full-time, while still having happy kids (in daycare) and keeping up with friends and housework! What, AJS, you disagree?

13. Any new additions to your family? Nope.

14. What was your best month? I recall June as pretty good, mostly because of the great outdoor parties for Dash's and Jool's respective birthdays! (ooo, I almost forgot about the whole Helio debacle, but let's imagine that didn't happen.)

15. What music will you remember 2007 by? Partly the tunes I made up to go with nursery rhymes that I sing to Dash at bedtime and party the Grey's Anatomy Season 2 soundtrack CD that gets almost constant play when kids are in my car: play "Miss Halfway" again, mommy!! No!, play "Hello Baby!" PLEEEEEAZZE?!?

16. Made new friends? Yes! In addition to some new friends in the blogosphere (Venessa, Dee), I befriended a couple who I met through our daughters' ballet class. I think it was the Ramones t-shirt Gina wore at Ava's drop-off one day that made me want to know her.

17. Favorite night out? At the moment, I'd have to refer you to #10. Our 10th anniversary dinner was a close second!

18. Any regrets? I regret that my job at the Pentagon was eliminated due to contract funding. My commute is suffering these days. Also, we should have hired babysitters more often for more couples time together.

19. What do you want to change in 2008? I'd like to get a better commute situation, maybe working from home a couple of days a week. Rosie starts Kindergarten this September, and I'd like to be around for her, even if I have to be working.

20. Overall, how would you rate this year? 6. Our friends and family pushed it slightly above average.

21. Other than home, where did you spend most of your time? My office.

22. Change your hairstyle? I guess I did change it this year, but only by neglect. It's the longest that it's been since 1997, when I grew it out for my wedding up-do.

23. Buy a new car? Nope. I've got a little while before I pay off the current one.

24. Any car accidents? Nope.

25. How old did you turn this year? 37

26. Do you have a New Year’s resolution? I'd like to set a goal to lose 10 pounds before the dance recital in June. Also, I resolve to avoid high-fructose corn syrup and MSG as much as is possible.

27. Do anything embarrassing? How about the pants tear from a week ago?

28. Be honest - did you watch American Idol? Once or twice. I really prefer the fictional, scripted shows much more than reality ones.

29. Start a new hobby? I did pick up an old one: jewelry making! See the link to my Etsy shop at the right...

30. Will you be happy to see 2007 go? Not happy necessarily, but certainly not sad.

31. Been naughty or nice? Nice. Yeah, that's me, Ms. Nice.
Who links to me?

blogger templates | Make Money Online