Monday, December 20, 2010

My Totoro Plush Is Done!

Almost three months ago, Rosie and Dash enjoyed watching Toy Story 3 on video. The one thing in the movie that stuck with Dash more than all else was that little Bonnie had a Totoro doll in her toy collection. Having never seen Totoro in doll-form before, but immensely adoring him from the fantastic Hayao Miyazaki film, My Neighbor Totoro, Dash wanted one. Badly. He knew I was capable of making dolls, and started asking me to make him a Totoro doll—and continued asking persistently, for weeks. I finally sketched it out, bought fabric and started at the beginning of November. Here's the initial sketch:

I cut out the parts, got a little burnt-out on the hand-sewing/embroidery necessary for the boomerangs on the belly and the smile, and put it aside for a few weeks after getting a little more than this far:

At the beginning of December, I'd sewn on and stuffed the belly circle, stitched the arms up and painted the pupils (with black & white nail polish) onto the buttons. All that was left was making the claws, the ears, stitching it all together and stuffing, so this weekend, I decided to finish it. Here's the final result:

And this is the happiest boy ever.

Monday, December 06, 2010

This movie is kakashka.

"Kakashka!" from Dash's review of Inception.
We were watching Inception at home, with the kids, knowing that they would in all likelihood not be able to understand what on earth was going on. To be clear, we weren't planning for this to be a family feature, but once the film started, our movie-loving kids just gravitated to the rec room. If you haven't seen Inception, you may have at least heard that it's a DENSE, multilayered movie. It takes brainpower to follow the plot, necessary to recall all the prior twists as the next ones occur, to know which dream or non-reality the players are experiencing.

From Roger Ebert's blog review:

"...the viewer of "Inception" is adrift in time and experience. We can never even be quite sure what the relationship between dream time and real time is. The hero explains that you can never remember the beginning of a dream, and that dreams that seem to cover hours may only last a short time. Yes, but you don't know that when you're dreaming. And what if you're inside another man's dream? How does your dream time-sync with his? What do you really know?"

While Rosie quietly took the movie in, maybe or perhaps not understanding the plot's obtuse angles, Dash had an opinion part-way through the film:

"Mommy, this movie is kakashka." 

I could have taken the word as imaginative, as Dash makes up words all the time, but there was something definite about his tone. So I asked, "Kakashka? What does that mean, Dash?"

"It's Russian for poop."

Before I even went to the place where I wondered how he knew this, I boggled. Inception was so unfollowable and impenetrable for five-year-old Dash that he had to describe how awful it was IN ANOTHER LANGUAGE.

(Back story on the Russian: Dash's table-mate at school, Katya, had just returned from a 3-week family trip to Russia. Katya's older brother, Andrei, had been sharing some slang he picked up, passing it on to Dash through Katya.)

We all sat through to the end—Monkeyrotica and I thoroughly enjoying the mental workouts in the screenplay, the excellent special effects, and the wonderful actors—but Dash didn't waver from his first impression: pure murky poop.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The importance of being cozy

Dash's favorite word, above all others at the moment, is COZY. He likes to be cozy, wear cozy clothes, and have fluffy, cozy stuffed animals with names like "puffy," "furry," and "fuzzy" around him. When he's "cozy," he becomes an adorable caricature of a happy little boy. He curls up into a ball, a sweet smile shows up on his face (pictured above), he might start bouncing around a bit, and emits giggles or what seems to him to be happy-baby noises, i.e., "hoo-hoo, hee-hee, aaaaah!"

If his big sister Rosie is nearby, this cozy activity will jump-start her maternal and dramatic instincts. She rushes over, announces, "Oh, what a cute little baby!" and gives him hugs or pretends to rock him to sleep; she might stage a baby-feeding session or cover him with more blankets or toys. Clearly, this is the type of attention he's looking for! They both soak it up and symbiotically enjoy the baby-play.

At five years old and a few days scant of eight, this is all pretend play, of course. Rosie has quite the flair for improvisational drama while Dash loves to channel memories of being a baby. Some days, I'll find him in a melancholy, nostalgic mood, pining for his "baby things." When I try to pin him down on what baby thing he misses, he won't really be able to specifically say. He just knows that he had "baby things" and that we gave them away. I'm pretty sure what he's missing is the Nuk. He was awfully attached to it, and while we weaned him off two years ago, he probably has retained faded memories of something he once had that made him feel comforted.

For now, he'll just have to stick with cozy.

I dreamt about a puppy last night

In my dream, I was already in a pet store (or the breeder's home?) and had the puppy in my arms. The puppy had soft ginger and white fur with a freckled nose, and the breed name "Springer Spaniel" popped into my head. I was having a conversation with the owner that, in my memory of it, was a little muddled—probably about the health and personality of the dog—but in my dream-heart, I was already in love and was bringing it home.

For some reason, while I was standing there still holding the puppy and thinking about how much fun it would have in my fenced back yard and with my kids, someone started closing up shop, turning the lights out on me. I started yelling out questions like, "Wait! Do I need a crate for this dog? Can I get some puppy food?" and was answered, "No, this breed doesn't need to be crated. And, we're closed. Go to PetSmart for your supplies."

As I was walking out the door (and becoming more awake) reality was striking me. I owned a dog! I was going to put a dog in my car! I was going to take a dog home to Monkeyrotica, who doesn't want a dog. Where was the dog going to sleep? Would the dog get along with my parrot? Would it try to eat my parrot? Around this time, I woke up.

But the memory of a soft, warm, lovely, playful puppy remained with me through the morning.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Portrait of Weegee

I just found this photo of our pet parrot floating in my camera's photo archive. Rosie must have taken it, as Weegee looks totally comfortable; he has the opposite reaction with the boys. Nice lighting and expression!

Thursday, November 04, 2010

I think I'll need a clone come November 13th.

(Stricken text taken from Leonard's tattoos in the 2000 movie Memento.)

Never answer the phone. How will I keep track of all this?

Fact 1. Male. November 13th is Rosie's 8th birthday. She has invited a select group of her friends, mostly from her 2nd-grade classroom, to go ice skating (thankfully, outside the home).

Fact 2. White. The ice skating party falls squarely over the lunch hour, so I'll be catering lunch as well as cake for the party. Solution: Pizza delivery services will help with this one, and I've asked a party guest's parent to make the cake.

Fact 3. First Name: John or James. Dash's karate class and his dance class will both be overlapped by the birthday party. Solution: We will do a make-up class later on for karate and a parent of one of Dash's playmates will deliver him to dance; Monkeyrotica will pick Dash up.

Fact 4. Last Name G___. Monkeyrotica has a dental appointment that overlaps Dash's karate and the beginning of Rosalie's party. Um, yep. And I scheduled it, I sure did.

Fact 5. Drug Dealer. Monkeyrotica's birthday is tomorrow (if you read my blog and you feel like it, wish him a happy day on 11/5!) and we are ALSO having a party for him (with his select guests) later in the afternoon on November 13th (yeah! two parties on the same day!!). Monkey will be prepping barbecue for it starting the night before, before and after the dental appointment, and all the way up till his party. I'll drop Dash off at his playmate's house and head to Rosie's party after he leaves for the dentist and will be back to help two hours before it starts.

Fact 6. Car License Number SG137IU. Um, I think I need to take Friday, Nov. 12th off! I'll be delivering birthday cupcakes to Rosie's classroom that afternoon and will very likely need the whole day to get the house ready and obtain supplies for the weekend.

I'm disciplined and organized. I use habit and routine to make my life possible. Between now and then, I'm planning to unpack the basement, make Rosie and Dash each a Totoro doll (already started), and maintain the entire house in a presentable state for guests. I keep telling myself:

"I can fit it all in! Of course, it'll all work out in the end and everyone will have a great time."

I'll be repeating that mantra in my head all the way until 11/14.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

On my way to the polling place...

I voted yesterday afternoon, at the third polling place I'd visited in the day. No, I wasn't confused or lost, but it was a little irritating that you can't vote at the place that's closest or most convenient to you. We must vote at the polling place that has been arbitrarily assigned to residents based on some arcane boundary system. Whatever.

When I dropped the kids off at SACC (which was all-day, due to the school closures for teacher conferences and voting), I hit the first polling place. I actually asked the elections officials there if I could get my vote in while I was there and was denied (irk!). A few hours later, I had a mid-morning teacher conference concerning Rosie's progress at the second polling place. As I entered, a couple of cheerful leafleters attempted to press their documents into my hands, but I had to convince them that I was not there to vote. Although the conferences were running behind schedule and I had about 45 minutes to kill, I didn't bother checking if I could get my vote at this location—those elections people are pretty hardcore.

The conference itself was glowing as always with Mrs. Clark (she LURVES Rosie with all her heart). Mrs. Clark told me things I'd heard before, such as Rosie is a unique thinker, not cookie-cutter, takes projects in directions none of the other kids think of; she blew all the other kids out of the way on her spelling placement test at the beginning of the year, placing into 3rd or 4th grade level words (e.g., she spelled alliteration correctly!); and is one of the best class artists along with her friend Janna. The only negatives she received were with math and organization skills along with a negative-positive comment that Rosie has really blossomed socially with her peers to the point that she's too chummy and chatty, getting distracted by the socializing.

That afternoon, I almost considered not voting just out of irritation with being thwarted twice, but then couched going to vote a different way in my mind. I hadn't had any exercise yet, so I would bike to the polling place! It was really just three miles round trip, so nothing much really, but upon arrival at the middle school's polling place (third of the day!), I was surprised by something. There were absolutely no, none, zilch, nada bike racks there. I circumnavigated the entire school grounds and baseball field and found not a one. When I asked the group standing outside the voting entrance where the racks were, they were confused. One girl who attended the school informed me that there were no racks because the middle schoolers WERE NOT ALLOWED TO WALK OR RIDE THEIR BIKES TO SCHOOL.

I was astounded. This just went to another level of annoyance with me. The reason for this, I was told, was that the wide-but-only two lane road outside the school was deemed "too busy." There were sidewalks and bike paths leading up to the school—I had just ridden on or by them. The road itself was very wide, plenty of room for cyclists. What on earth? Are they concerned that the buses would run the biking children down? I'm sorry, but no wonder our kids are so unhealthy. They must be driven everywhere, have so much homework that they can't do after school activities, and probably have trouble with maintaining endurance during the activities they do choose. I've googled information for this school and can't find anything prohibiting walking/biking online. Thankfully, my kids won't be attending this school (and I am planning to allow them to walk or bike), but I'm hoping that someone is willing to be an activist to do something to get the school to change this policy. There should be a way to make the area "safer" if that is the concern? Crazy.

And also, I voted.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Ouija boards: paranormal or group-think?

Okay, this isn't really going to be a philosophical/academic discussion of Ouija boards complete with expert references, bibliography, or any such thing. Just personal anecdotes, and my usual half-assed conclusions (feel free to add your own thoughts/links/stories in the comments!). I hadn't thought about the Ouija game in a very long time, honestly; but the Halloween spirit and friends' recent tweets about "soulmates" got me remembering playing it as a youngster.

In case you avoided the entire Ouija experience, here is how Wikipedia describes the game:
A Ouija board (possibly from the French and German words for "yes", oui and ja,[1] and usually pronounced /ˈwiːdʒiː/ in English), also known as a spirit board or talking board, is a flat board marked with letters, numbers, and other symbols, supposedly used to communicate with any spirits. It uses a planchette (small heart-shaped piece of wood) or movable indicator to indicate the spirit's message by spelling it out on the board during a séance. The fingers of the séance participants are placed on the planchette, which then moves about the board to spell out words or become physically manifest.

It was the 70s, and against her better judgment, I'm certain, my mom bought my sister and me a Ouija board. I recall relentless begging leading up to the purchase as well as personally logging many hours in the "occult" area of the Young Adult section of our local library. I wanted to know if ghosts could talk to me. I'd dutifully try to clear my mind before playing and will the spirits to come, to tell us what they knew from beyond. We'd play with friends down in our low-lit basement, asking questions of the "spirits" such as how they died, what their names were, and where they were buried. We would ask about our own futures to see if they knew what might happen in our own lives. I recall getting very creeped out, with thrilling goosebumps and chills if one of us was told that she would die young or some such thing. Sometimes, I was convinced that the spirits were pretty self-centered, only wanted to talk about themselves, refusing to answer our queries. At a family gathering, we mentioned to an extremely superstitious aunt (or very in tune with ghosts—family legend is that her house was terrifyingly haunted) that we had the game, she told us to "Never, ever touch it again! Take it and burn it when you get home! It will bring the devil to find you."

Over time, however, it seemed more likely that my strong-willed buddies were just moving the "planchette" (I never called it that, but see above) to wherever they wanted it to go, fulfilling their questions with answers they wanted. During one later game when my friends and I were getting boy-crazy, we were all asking questions about the name of who we would eventually marry. My friends were coming up with nice sounding, common guys' names, like Steve or Mark or Michael. I was hoping for a similar fortune when my turn came. Instead, the planchette kept hitting letters that didn't make any sense together, all kinds of vowels and just one consonant. It didn't look like any name I'd heard before! I gave up on the Ouija board after that. Stupid thing. Couldn't even give me a straight answer, like it had given my friends. The game languished in a closet after that, probably sold in a yard sale.

On to the soulmates part: What was the name that the spirits had come up with for my husband to be? I don't recall clearly, as a few decades have passed, but I think the letters went something like:

(Y) (A) (K) (Y) (I) (U) (O)

Damned ghosts couldn't spell. My darling husband's name is Akio.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rosie's Self Portrait

I'm so impressed with this self portrait that Rosie drew in her 2nd-grade art class! Mrs. N, the art teacher, was telling me how wonderful it was before I had a chance to see it, and now that I've had a peek, I agree wholeheartedly. With just a felt-tip pen and crayons, she drew a beautiful scene of herself and our family pet parrot, Weegee. I love her beatific expression with a slight smile. She's set herself in her (imaginarily pink) room, holding Weegee next to his cage (that *does* have yellow, purple, and brown toys in it). In her right hand, she's holding his pelleted food, since she's now in charge of feeding him. Around her neck is a bow, tied with her purple cape's strings, and the magenta dress with a red heart she's wearing is adorable. These articles of clothing are imaginary, although she does have vinyl butterfly decals on the walls of her room!

Her school has been kind enough to offer to reproduce this drawing on mugs, t-shirts, or journals. Hard to resist—I'll be purchasing several items as gifts!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

What's Rosie's favorite school subject?


Just like me, I adored my grade-school art teacher, Mrs. Sereno.

Li'l Pumpkinhead

At the pumpkin patch today we bought two of the wartiest pumpkins we could find. Warty old witches (or similar variant) to come!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Who's Going to the Inaugural Science & Engineering Expo? Oct 23-24, Nat'l Mall

After talking with Rosie's 2nd grade teacher yesterday about how Rosie is academically soaring right now, absorbing everything, blossoming incredibly, and should be enrolled in extracurricular learning opportunities like foreign languages, music, etc., I was poking around online looking for lesson plans for piano (yes, I'm finally attempting this at home with Rosie, who seems interested and enthusiastic).

Instead, I stumbled on details for the first ever Science & Engineering Festival on the Mall, just two weekends away. I am entranced by the feats of science and engineering and highly encourage my kids to develop wonder and inquisitiveness about how things work in the physical world. Exposure to these exhibits might create some sparks with Rosie and Dash (who will be interested in the weapons and aircraft components)—just the thing!

I pulled these details from the USA Science & Engineering Festival's blog:
Date: Saturday, October 23, 2010 through Sunday, October 24, 2010
Location: National Mall, Tent #102 (in front of the Capitol Reflecting Pool)
Time: 10:00 AM to 5:30 PM
Cost: Free and open to all
Age Range: Open to all

Saturday, October 23
10:00 The Mouse that Roared (Roain Egnor)
10:30 Reverse Engineer Your Brain (Louis Scheffner)
11:00 Nobel Purpose: NPR's Joe Palca Interviews John Mather (Nobel Prize Physics)
11:30 The Scoop on CSI: Separating Fact From Fiction (Marvin Schecter and CSI Miami)
12:15 Be a Bone Detective (Diane France)
1:00 Nobel Purpose: NPR's Joe Palca Interviews John Mather (Nobel Prize Physics)
2:00 The Engineering Behind Disney's Magic (Lanny Smoot)
2:30 Bon Appétit: Better Eating through Chemistry
3:00 Be a Bone Detective (Diane France)
3:30 The Scoop on CSI: Separating Fact From Fiction (Marvin Schecter and CSI Miami)
4:00 A: It's a Jeopardy-Playing Supercomputer. Q: What is IBM's "Watson?"

Sunday, October 24
10:00 Disney's TRON: Legacy Captured Live on Stage
11:00 Nobel Purpose: Joe Palca interviews Vincent Cerf (Draper Prize)
11:30 The Scoop on CSI: Separating Fact From Fiction (Marvin Schecter and CSI Miami)
12:15 Be a Bone Detective (Diane France)
1:00 Nobel Purpose: Joe Palca interviews Peter Agre (Nobel Prize Chemistry)
2:00 What's the Buzz?: The Status of Pollinators in North America (May Berenbaum)
2:30 A: It's a Jeopardy-Playing Supercomputer. Q: What is IBM's "Watson?"
3:00 Be a Bone Detective (Diane France)
3:30 The Scoop on CSI: Separating Fact From Fiction (Marvin Schecter and CSI Miami)
4:00 The Engineering Behind Disney's Magic (Lanny Smoot)

I know Rosie and Dash will love some of this stuff! Anyone planning to go?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Secretariat Review

Lately, Monkeyrotica and I have been digging through the recesses of our brains, recalling some of our favorite childhood movies to share with our kids. While I watched Secretariat at a screening last week, I was transported back to the 1970s, when I was growing up, and viewed a familiar time packed with feminist issues I can recall clearly, as well as a world I never knew—the world of horse breeding and racing. The authentic feel (awesomely bad 70s wardrobes, among many other great details) of this movie and the inspiring story that unfolds brought today and forty years ago together for me, and I want to share with you and my kids.

Penny Chenery Tweedy (Diane Lane) was a highly educated woman, in a time when many women were in the first generation in their families to go to college. And, as did many women of her time, she found that along with marriage and children, having her own career outside the home was fraught with barriers. My own mother joined the National Organization of Women and AAUW to vent her frustrations with having a career thwarted by family life (she was told to quit as she became visibly pregnant). Penny Tweedy may not have sought out those support groups in 1969—she had an outwardly comfortable life as a stay at home mother of four and wife to a successful lawyer husband. What became apparent was that after the death of her mother, her father's decline into dementia would quickly take their family's horse farm. Unless she drew upon her education—from learning the ropes as a child as well as her university degree—and saved her father's empire, the family horse farm and the many generations of husbandry, care, and prestige built upon it would fail. The horses were of no interest to the men in her life (her university professor brother or her husband); they just wanted her home, in her place, caring for the kids.

She was raised to run that business. She wanted it, she knew how to do it, and she could make all the right decisions. If only someone she loved believed in her. Well, nope, that wasn't going to happen; see ya, bro & hubby! If only she could hire people to believe in her. YES! Her father's house manager, a crusty horse trainer (John Malkovich), and a gentle stable hand would take that on. And history was made.

Secretariat. Penny Tweedy's only non-fair-weather friend. Everyone else in her life abandoned her when the going got rough.

I will take my kids to this movie. I want to see it again and add it to our collection of movies, I enjoyed it so much. What I want to see more than anything else, beyond the edge-of-my-seat, heart-thumpingly exciting horse racing, beyond watching Penny rock on with her bad self, telling off her competitors and creditors (all high-powered men), is John Malkovich. I want to see pink-suited, plaid-hatted, crusty old horse trainer Malkovich swearing in Disney-curses and in stilted French, dancing while celebrating the horse that he helped train to victory beyond belief.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

School year scheduling

We've made several new scheduling transitions for the 2010 school year thus far, to move toward balancing the rocky mountain/valley that is our work-life, especially now that both kids are in public school. The changes all arose from my need to adjust my work hours, because getting home after 6:30 p.m. every night just was draining me, with only 90 minutes to spend with my family before they were all in bed for the night.

What we had been doing:
When Rosie started Kindergarten two years ago we made some big changes to make the timing work, first with Monkeyrotica changing his work schedule, arriving super-early and leaving super-early (and as a result, exhausted and going to bed the same time as the kids). Grandma S came to our house every morning for the past two school years to help Rosie get ready for school while I took Dash to daycare. The first year and a half, Grandma S also came after school to pick up Rosie from the bus stop, but when we moved Dash to a pre-K closer to home this past January, Monkey was able to make the bus in time.

What's the latest twist? 
Monkey still has his early-early workday, but I'm dropping both kids off at morning-care (a.k.a. school-age child-care or SACC). At work, I've shortened my days slightly to arrive home in time for the bus because I've decided that the after-school time between 4-6 pm are golden hours of family engagement time. Even this early in the school year, the kids are bringing home homework, which is best done while they have enough energy to complete it, not after dinner when they're starting to get bleary and surly. Also, many age-specific after-school activities, like sports clubs, scouts, art classes and the like are scheduled right when school ends, so if I want to get them to an activity, I need to be around. Monkey's already said that due to his complete disdain for all things sport-related, he's not schlepping kids to sports training. And the other activity that the kids were missing out on? Playing with the neighborhood kids. Today, after school, Rosalie will have her 2nd ever playdate with one of the little girls who lives one block over. Why weren't these happening earlier? Let's just say, out of sight, out of mind——by not being home earlier and visibly available, my kids just weren't socializing with the neighborhood kids (even though there are a dozens of them in their age groups). Starting this week, I'll be home every afternoon at 4! Yay!

Results: More family time and kids activities (and homework).
The activities are already racking up. Monday is after-school soccer for both and Wednesday is tap class (just Rosie). I want to get them both into an art class when it comes available, and maybe into track club. Neither of them have shown any interest in scouting, which is fine—that's a major time-suck what with all of the parent-volunteer work. On Saturdays we also have back-to-back Japanese calligraphy (Rosie) and karate (Dash), then Dash takes ballet in the afternoon. For each, that's currently 3 activities. Not totally overscheduled yet, right? There are still four free days in the week for family walks, bike rides, and outdoor fun! And, then just maybe I can fit in some crafting or personal activities, huh?

Back to the homework, however. Dash was out of school with a fever for three days last week, and I was completely blindsided by the nine make-up assignments that were sent home with him on Friday. I didn't even notice they were in his backpack until Sunday night after they were in bed! I'm becoming aware that we haven't really established our home as a place of learning, because the children truly struggle with the assignments. Groaning, flopping, distractions, sidetrips, stalling—Dash has been trying the works. This morning, I realized that I had a trick in my back pocket: their morning care. The kids are supervised by licensed childcare professionals for 1.5 hours before their bus arrives and they have a homework table. SCORE! I had no idea that I'd be calling on them so soon, but we were getting nowhere at home. Out of nine assignments, Dash scribbled out one yesterday, fighting it the whole time. Today, sitting down with the staff at SACC, Dash was working away on his homework even before I'd left the room. Warms my stressed-out, stretched-thin-mom's heart.

I'm feeling really good about all these schedule decisions! Which helps a great deal, because our basement flooded AGAIN last week and we have to replace the flooring, with three to four expensive days of repairs and installation ahead of us.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Happy Anniversary to Us!

It's Monkeyrotica's and my 13th anniversary today (or yesterday, because I got distracted by sick boy and forgot to hit the publish button), and true to style, we didn't really plan to do anything on the day of to celebrate. To help keep the romance away, Dash has a fever and I stayed home to take care of him, so we are really putting things off until our anniversary date night this coming Saturday night at Restaurant Eve, where we have spent several anniversaries in past years.

We are terrible at getting each other special-occasion gifts. Seriously, neither of us likes surprises and wasting savings on frivolities, so we typically get practical items and check with each other several times before purchasing. This year (our gifts are rarely "must have, evening-of-calendar-date") we are looking at chandeliers. The requirements, including no dangling jewels or fussy beaded curtains:

1. replace this despised chandelier:

2. no obvious chains/brass
3. no dustcatching glass cups
4. an artistic/modern look
5. warm & inviting
6. nothing too Victorian or busy
7. just kooky enough

Some chandeliers that have caught my eye on the web so far:

The minimalist George Kovacs chandelier
(chains: +10/dustcatching: +8/artistic:+5/inviting:-2/kooky:0=21)::

The champagne bottle chandelier
(chains:+3/dustcatching: +3/artistic:+3/inviting:+8/kooky:+3=20):

The popular IKEA MASKROS chandelier
(chains: +8/dustcatching: -5/artistic:+5/inviting:+10/kooky:+8=26):

The wine bottle chandelier
(chains:-3/dustcatching: +2/artistic:+3/inviting:+5/kooky:+5=12):

The Cthulhu (Medusa?) chandelier (by Murano Imports)
(chains: +8/dustcatching: -5/artistic:+5/inviting:0/kooky:+8=16):

According to my scale ratings, the IKEA MASKROS lighting is the winner, but I'll have to let Monkey weigh in. I'm expecting he'll pick an item from the George Kovacs line. Kovacs is quite the prolific lighting designer.


I almost forgot about one of the most awesome wine-jug chandeliers EVAR! The Carlo Rossi wine jug chandelier! From The World's Best Ever blog:

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Flash Cards for Kid's Lunches

I was reading an article on Asha Dornfest's Parent Hacks blog asking parents to discuss a topic dear to my heart: How to get your child to eat more of her school lunch?

Dash just started Kindergarten and while we don't yet know if he will be too busy socializing to eat his lunch (likely!), we do know that Rosie has brought home many an uneaten lunch. We have taken some steps to keep this from happening, but it's just frustrating as a parent to find that your lovingly packed lunches get ignored or discarded. I was reading through the insightful comments and saw some parents were recommending that your child pack his own lunch. My first reaction was, forget that! My kids are too young/irresponsible/unmotivated and then I stopped myself.

While they might not yet be able to physically pack their lunches, they can certainly get involved! Since Rosie eats about 50 foods total (not including variations on chocolate), we have already been to a nutritionist. I have detailed lists [OCD-alert] of her foods broken down by their nutrient content. I decided that my best option would be to make flash cards with delicious-looking images of the foods on them (because Dash is not reading—yet)!

I took my lists, my graphic design skillz (practically applied—I'm just making usable items here), and made some decisions on how to structure the cards for the kids' use. Then, I stayed late at work to print them out. Pictured is one of three pages from my layout. While the food pyramid at USDA's website is helpful, the group-breakdowns weren't set up for balancing a lunch for kids. There is a lot of information there, go look if you want.

Here's my structure. I set up five categories for the kids to pick one or two each (with guidance that they needed to have at least one from EACH number group), color-coded them, and added where they fell in the USDA Groups set up:
  1. main course items, purple; my main course foods have the most protein, come from the USDA's meat/beans/nuts/seeds group and will help to keep my kids' energy levels high.
  2. fruits and veggies high in vitamins, red for fruit and green for vegetables; many of these foods are raw, just how my kids like them.
  3. side items, orange; are often from the grains group, but might also be a vegetable with a lower vitamin count.
  4. snack foods, white; treat items with higher sugar, mostly chocolate-flavored for my kids (#4 will be first to get eliminated if a previous lunch has #1-3 come home uneaten!).
  5. drinks, blue; my kids drink white or chocolate milk or water, no juices, so easy pickins here.
The kids were super-excited about the cards last night and wanted everything, but remember where this post started? They weren't finishing what they were getting. In fact, Rosie hadn't eaten her main course from the prior day (edamame, which is a favorite), so she didn't get a #4 today. Here's what they picked for today's lunches, with a quick addition of pizza for Dash:

**DISCLAIMER** These cards are for my personal use; I am not selling them and many of the images I used are FPO and not licensed. Were I to sell them, I would either shoot new images or legitimately purchase the photo licenses from the image owners.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

First day of school!

Today was the very first day of the 2010-11 school year for Rosie, in second grade, and for Dash, our little kindergartener. Rosie picked out her outfit for school days ahead, a pretty red-orange dress that Auntie M bought her. I dressed Dash in a bowling shirt (why not, eh?) and brand-new shorts, both purchased while on our beach vacation.

We changed up some things on the kids this year, like instead of a bus ride from the neighborhood, they're riding a short bus from morning care. However, they're still riding the neighborhood bus home. I'm pretty sure we told the kids about this. And I know for sure that I wrote it down for the teachers, along with the ten million other things they collected last Thursday. Anyway, you can see where this is going, right?

Grandma Sheila and Monkeyrotica waited to pick up the kids at the 'hood stop and they weren't on the bus! Both kids had decided to take the short bus to the after-school care. Whoops!! At least their location was relatively easy to figure out, in hindsight.

Otherwise, it was a good but uneventful day, meeting old and new friends, getting back into a school-day routine. Dash has at least 6 or 7 kids he knew beforehand in his class & he's such an easygoing boy, he'll be fine.

Have a wonderful school year, everyone!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Elementary School Open House Today!

Five days and counting until the first day of school for both of my kids!!

We went to the open house this morning, where the class assignment lists were posted for all the students in this coming year. Since Rosie had been in a 1-2 multi-age class with Mrs. Clark, we knew that she would be continuing with her beloved teacher, despite restructuring. In this school year, the administration eliminated all multi-age classes. I have mixed feelings about this change, but I'm pretty sure the decision had a lot to with budgetary restrictions and limited overall County support for multi-age. We were all delighted to see Mrs. Clark and reunite with Rosie's old classmates and meet some new ones (there are two Rosie's in her class this year—unheard of!).

In the parking lot before the open house started, we ran into a friendly teacher named Mr. M. He told us that he was a Kindergarten teacher, so I pointed out that Dash (standing at my side) was a Kinder, while my guy volunteered, "I'm five years old!" Mr. M. didn't recognize Dash's name from his class list, but told us that he hoped Dash would be in his class. I was hoping, too, because he seemed like a kind and open person who would be a good match for our little man. Lo and behold, we arrived at Dash's assigned classroom with Mrs. Smith and found that Mr. M. was the teacher's assistant! The class looked awesome, with toys strewn everywhere, learning materials on every surface, and fun, creative opportunities everywhere.

I believe that 2010 is going to be a remarkable year for my kids.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Deadlines looming...

"Deadlines looming" has been my life as of late. I'm racing to keep up with everything and falling behind. Since it's exactly one week until the First Day of School for Dash, who is starting Kindergarten, and Rosie, who will be starting Second Grade, I hereby owe you, my dear blog readers, the following blog posts with photos:

  1. Dash's superhero costume party
  2. Birthday events for my fortieth
  3. Our Rehoboth beach trip
  4. Dancing/Art/Karate updates

Let's just see if I can get up three out of those four before next Tuesday. A betting person would put money on this not happening, so let's put a challenge on. The first reader who calls me out next Tuesday as not actually having three posts up wins a prize! What shall it be...? I think I have an extra DVD set of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 3" that I'll mail free to you. And, well, if that's taken, we'll work something out; maybe a felt flower pin, similar to this white one I made, pictured here? (This post needed at least one photo in it...)

However, between now and next Tuesday, I'll be (and here comes another list, because lists are a busy person's best friend):
  • working full-time
  • attending the elementary school's Thursday "Open House" (where we find out which teachers the kids will have this year)
  • taking kids to calligraphy & karate classes
  • baking 72 cupcakes for our friends' Saturday wedding (Rosie is frosting them)
  • delivering cupcakes to the wedding
  • attending said wedding
  • helping cook (in the loosest sense of the word) for the groom's Sunday block party (the following day)
  • attending said block party, and then
  • working a full day on Labor Day Monday (sorry, Monkey).
So, lucky winner, you may still get your prize!

Monkeyrotica has Tuesday off, so I'm expecting him to take lots of adorable photos of the kids getting ready for their first day! Since we are using morning SACC, it would be fabulous to get pics of the kids getting off the bus, right? Please?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What do you mean you don't have a newspaper?

Some situations really strike hard to reveal how quickly our world is changing, like during my septuagenarian, non-driver mother-in-law's unexpected stay.

There have been massive power outages in the DC Metro area since Sunday when temperatures were upwards of 100 degrees and we had a sudden and violent thunderstorm. Many places around the Beltway are still without power, including my mother-in-law's neighborhood. On Monday, Monkeyrotica got a phone call from his mom that she needed to be picked up and stay with us until her power came back on.

Monday, this was fine, since Monkey had the day off and was able to get his mom, take her out to lunch and run a bunch of errands with her. When the kids came home from summer camp and preschool, they had a great time with Grandma I, showing her school projects and enjoying her company. They even watched a couple of Japanese movies with her. Tuesday morning we had a dilemma, as her power still wasn't on and Monkey and I were both going in to work. She was trying to figure out how she would spend her day in the scant minutes before I had to whisk the kids off to school and head to work.

Suggestions from Grandma I:

"I could read the newspaper or some magazines?"
Nope, we don't get a newspaper and have no magazine subscriptions, we get all our information from news websites.

"I could call my friends on the phone?"
Nope, we don't have a landline and use our cell phones at work.

"I could watch TV?"
Nope, we don't have TV, just laptops with Internet connections."

My suggestion:

"Why don't I show you how to view on this laptop?"
Oh, no, the text is too small, I can't read it or see the keyboard to type.

"Here's my Kindle, I could upload a few books onto it for you?"
No thank you.

I wound up buying her a paper and some magazines at the local 7-11 and dropping them off before I headed to work so she wouldn't be hopelessly bored. We might as well have been in Amish country for the amount of acceptable entertainments that we could have offered! Maybe we could get her one of those pay-as-you-use cell phones, so at least she could make some phone calls next time? Our home is unfortunately totally not set up for technologically unadapted houseguests.

Lucky for her, she'll be heading back to her house today. The power's finally back on, her newspapers are waiting, the TV's just an on-switch away, and unlimited local phone calls are within arm's reach.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The 2010 Dance Recital Videos! Now with more Dash!

The Dance Studio's recital theme this year was "Written Works," with our four dances referencing Eric Carle's "Hungry, Hungry Caterpillar," Marcus Pfister's "The Rainbow Fish," Roald Dahl's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", and Gregory Maguire's "Wicked." Apologies in advance for the focus issues in the 1st two; we are getting used to a new camera...

Dash's Dance, Pre-Ballet (adorable little preschoolers!): "Fuzzy Wuzzy Caterpillar"

Rosie's Dance, Introductory Ballet (1st graders) "The Rainbow Connection"

Rosie's 2nd Dance, Introductory Tap (1st graders): "The Candyman"

Nylonthread's Dance, Modern (teen & adult): "Defying Gravity," Glee

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dash & friends at the Park

Dash is in the back, 4th from the right!

Rosie & the Os

Todd, Thea & Liam are posing with Rosie in the background. They joined
me for my birthday breakfast! Thanks, friends!!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

How my brain ties events together

I missed the very last final exam of my college career.

Isn't that every college student's nightmare? You cram all night, then arrive at the exam hall at the testing hour to find it deserted? But, I didn't wake up in a sweat, screaming; it actually happened.

The fact that I missed the event has everything to do with how I schedule things, with my particular way of stringing my plans to each other. I might loosely pin an event to a Thursday, but it also is stuck to other events, like "after I pick up the dry cleaning" or "before my dance class." Sometimes I might say "tomorrow" to someone, actually meaning "the next time I see you."

What happened on the day of my "Literature of the 1600s, The Awesome and the Sublime" (a class that I adored!) exam was several weeks in the making. I knew the day and time of the exam, of course, and along the way, my parents told me that they were arriving that same morning to pack up and drive me home after graduation. So, in my head, I roped those two events together tightly: i.e. my-exam-is-on-the-same-day-my-parents-arrive. However, in the weeks before said day, while I was in the midst of the other exams and projects and papers leading up to the final days of my senior year, my parents switched their arrival date. To the next day.

Can you understand what happened? I didn't see the repercussions, I just stormed ahead, with my little threads of planned events all strung together, bobbing along ahead of me, without looking at a calendar. My parents arrived. At 3 p.m. that day, I went to the exam hall. All that late afternoon, I attempted to get in touch with my professor and finally found her home number in the white pages. She and I were both distraught about my absence at the final until I remembered that I had taken her class—which was far, far outside my major—pass/fail. Her response, "Pass/Fail? Oh, OH! OF COURSE you passed!!" If I had taken the class and exam with standard grading, I would have had an A. I graduated, with one credit to spare.

This anecdote is an illustration of how I process schedules to this day. Yesterday, for example. I had a full schedule at work, and was planning to meet friends at the end of the day. The happy hour was cancelled, but I had strung the rest of my day to that event. Forging ahead, I decided to cut that thread, and tie on my usual Wednesday plan: go to the gym. I also had to collect Rosie and take her to a recently rescheduled swim lesson immediately after my gym session. Knot.

What did I forget? I had invited my dear husband, Monkeyrotica, to the happy hour and had arranged for my mom to watch the kids while we socialized. He and my mom bumped into each other at kid-pickup, while I was at a secure gov't customer meeting with my phone off. Hilarity (and many apologies) ensued.

Is this peculiar to anyone else? Is it a symptom of a right-brain thinker? Or am I unique?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Dash's 5-Year Checkup & Am I in denial?

Yesterday was such a beautiful day. I requested that I telework, since I had Dash's midday doctor's appointment, and that just opened up all sort of possibilities.

After I got the kids up for breakfast, I announced that we were walking to school this morning! Since Rosie is in summer camp at the same location as Dash's preschool, this was an ideal way to start the day. The weather was perfect: 75° and overcast and the preschool/camp is just a 1/2 mile from our house. The preschool is housed in what used to be the neighborhood elementary school, but was converted to a senior center in the 80s due to the baby bust at the time—I often feel like my kids' generation was robbed of walking to school due to this type of event and other things, like heightened safety concerns and regulations that prohibit kids' autonomy. Rosie's elementary school (that Dash will be going to in the Fall) is 2 miles away. If I can get more telework days or a alternate schedule next school year, I would love to walk them to this preschool, where I'm enrolling them both for morning SACC (school-age childcare); they'll bus to their ES from there.

At Dash's appointment, he was being very Dash. He was waving and charming all the nurses, complimenting random things (I like your shirt!), and being a cheerful little guy. He weighed in at 42 inches and just about 42 pounds, so he's a cube (shorter than his younger friend Liam)! The doctor arrived within several minutes and after recovering from Dash's disarming compliment (I like your glasses!), Dr. R checked up on normal things, like whether he knew colors and numbers, if he had chores, or could ride a bike, regular eliminations, and his balancing skills. All this time, Dash volunteered a great deal of random information and showed off a bit, keeping a running dialog, humming and making other noises. As an aside to me, Dr. R said, "Well, this boy will always have his own fun!" Set for life, Dash is, able to be his own entertainment! Dr. R did a bunch of calculating and suggested that we need to watch Dash's weight. Whaaaa?!? Really? Dash looks like such an average, healthy kid. Why? Dr. R quoted Dash's BMI (82nd percentile) at me and said that while he is not (whisper it...) F. A. T. , he isn't LEAN either. We need to up his activity levels and keep him eating healthily.

In doctor-speak, Dr. R let me know that Dash would need one shot, so I tried last year's approach. I asked, "Dash, last year you had 5 shots, how many would you like this year?" Dash answered, "Ohhhh, only just one." Dr. R said, "You're in luck, there's only one this time!" and went on his way. After several minutes of waiting for the nurse to come back and letting this sink in, Dash changed his response. "Aaactuuually, how about zero? Can I have zero shots?" Please?"

After dinner (grilled chicken breast and roasted potatoes), Dash and I spent an hour at the pool while Rosie had a swim lesson, splashing and goofing around. So, we were plenty active today, walking, playing, swimming. I was thinking about the BMI business on my commute this morning when I heard a report on WTOP about parents agreeing that obesity is an issue for kids today, but are in denial that it's a problem in their own child/children. Am I in denial? What do you all think of BMI calculating for 5 year-olds?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010







Birthday Boy!
I can't believe time has passed this quickly. Cheers to my sweet, imaginative, easy-going, playful, curious, and gorgeous little man.

June 22, 2010
If your birthday is today:
You're passionately emotional, regardless of how calm you appear. You love to explore the unusual because you're an adventurer. You appreciate fanciful whimsy in people and situations around you. What you build or construct this year will help you in the future. Other people's resources play a part in your search for household comfort this year. Instead of depending on them too much, you will want to inspire your own work by using all your talents, not just the ones that make obvious sense. Think outside the box and you win! There's a financial bonus in September. Love inspires you to travel in November and December.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

My two ballet dancers

Rosie and Dash, in costume, right before the 2010 dance recital. Video
to come!

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Dash made this for me out of Tinkertoys this morning. He explained to his Grandma and me, "it's the drill that the Romulans made in Star Trek to drill a hole in planet Vulcan before they dropped the red matter in and imploded it."

Yep, I'll go with that!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Future Secret Service Special Agent

When Dash grows up, he wants to be... "part of the Secret Service!"

Looks like jet packs with rocket launchers will be standard issue for
U.S. Secret Service Special Agents! (Or that's what Dash says he drew,
anyway.) Aim for the stars, Dash!

Monday, June 07, 2010

Dance Studio Photo Day!

(Sorry in advance for this long, long blog entry!)

Hey, I don't see any dance photos here! What gives?

Let me explain. If I had a split second, or perhaps a clone of myself with me who could wield a camera on Saturday, I would have taken a few photos. I didn't.

This was my day, June 5, 2010:

10 a.m. After breakfast and getting everyone dressed (Dash in dance clothes) & ready to head out the door, Rosie's calligraphy kit in hand, Dash's dance bag ready to go, we were off!

10:30: Arrived at Seichou Karate, where they teach Japanese calligraphy and Karate! There was a Karate class at the same time as calligraphy, did Dash want to try? Nope, he'll just watch. However, after the stretching and warm-ups were done and the Sensei was teaching punches, Dash announced, "I think I'll try now!" This is my only photo from the entire day. I swear, he had just been kicking like a champ!

11:30: We rushed off from Seichou, to get Dash to ballet by Noon.

Noon: My 1st trip of the day to the Dance Studio, to drop off Dash. Rosie and I headed home so she could get lunch, then I arranged her ballet bun with many pins and hairnet (thank goodness I had a bit of foresight!), then on with her leotard and back to the Studio for her class.

12:45 pm: 2nd trip to the Studio. Rosie's back-to-back ballet and tap classes started, then I got Dash home to eat his lunch. Now was the time I decided to try his dance costume on and see how it fits. I knew it was way too big, but did I alter it ahead of time? Nah, why not procrastinate instead! I measured and pinned his clothes, then set up the sewing machine. It fought with me, I adjusted settings, then had to leave the house again.

2:30: 3rd trip to the Studio to pick up Rosie. One other student hadn't been picked up on time and the photographers were setting up their equipment. Mrs. H was anxious that the parent wasn't coming in time. I offered to take Rosie's friend and get in touch with his mom via her cell, but was turned down. We headed to RiteAid to pick up some hair accessories, then took a side trip to pick up my costume from a classmate who had offered to do my alterations, then sped home. There, I got back to work on Dash's costume. It needed the pant legs taken up about 8 inches and the sleeves about 3 inches. I got the legs done, and Monkeyrotica came to warn me that "it's now 3:15, aren't Dash's photos at 3:45?" I finished the sleeves by hand-stitching with a loose baste, then threw the entire costume on the boy (white and baby-blue!) and arranged his hair with some hairspray. We left.

3:40: 4th trip to the Studio, for Dash's photos. It was a madhouse. The room was full to the brim with costumed ballet dancers, parents and siblings. Mrs. H popped her head out of the curtained studio to make announcements every few minutes. I put Dash's black socks on and slid his black ballet slippers over them. Somehow, I missed the call for his class but shoved him through the curtain just in time. I peeked in on him now and then, but parents are prohibited behind the curtain. At a few minutes past 4, I realized that Rosie's photo session is at 4:15 and Dash was nowhere near done!! I asked another parent to keep an eye on Dash until I'm back as I rushed home to gather Rosie's two costumes, all their accessories and get her dressed, all with no time to spare.

4:10: 5th trip to the Studio, with Rosie, her two costumes, and my dance bag. What? We needed her dance bag, with her ballet slippers inside! I phoned Monkeyrotica's cell, guided him around the house to try to locate her bag. He found it and agreed to drive it to the Studio. I went inside with Rosie, gave her a bit of lip gloss, tossed her tap costume in the dressing room, and asked her to stand with her classmates. I grabbed Dash, got his street shoes back on and took him outside with me. Monkey pulled up (the parking lot was also a madhouse), I grabbed Rosie's bag from him, and informed Monkey that he was taking Dash. I buckled Dash in, tossed his dance bag in the front seat and they were on their way. I pushed my way through the press of people to where Rosie was, jammed her slippers on, and shoved her through the curtain with her class. Whew! I found Rosie's friend Margaret in the dressing room, changing by herself, with a full ponytail, not a bun. "Margaret, sweetie, do you need help? Where's your mom?" I asked. "My dad dropped me off," She answered. I popped back in to the waiting room and Steve waved at me. "Would you like me to help with Margaret's ballet bun?" I asked. "Please!" he answered. Stepping back into the dressing room, I set eyes on Rosie's tap costume and realized that there were pieces missing. OMG-crap-crap-crap, I thought! Her tap photos were in 20 minutes. I ran out, apologizing to Steve.

4:35: 6th trip to Studio, with costume accessories in hand. I had completely forgotten that Rosie's tap costume had little wrist bands and a long ribbon that needed to be shoelaced through little slots all down the back. I started lacing like a madwoman. I finished just in time to get the costume on Rosie, then remembered that she didn't have standard tap shoes (needed to match in the photos). We borrowed a pair from Mrs. H's stash. 4:55. Kids' photos, done! Rosie and I went back home.

My class' photos were next, but at 6:45, so there was a little time to spare. However, it dawned on me that we were going out that evening and had hired a babysitter, my neighbor's kid. The house was a scandal. Dishes were everywhere on all the tables, stacks of them in the sink, food left out, soiled socks and clothes abandoned in the hallways and bathrooms (quick changes necessitated this), scraps of random debris all over the floors! I worked up a sweat unloading, loading, and running the dishwasher, bagging laundry, sweeping, stashing food away, etc. By the time it was all acceptably picked up (not cleaned, who has time for cleaning?), I had 3o minutes to fix my hair properly, do my makeup, remove all nail/toe polish, get costumed and head out the door. Oh, and with the kids in full costume. See, I had my heart set on having a portrait of the three of us together, all in our recital togs. Who knew if or when this might happen again? One or more of us might opt out of participating in coming years.

6:40: 7th trip to Dance Studio. My class had our group photo taken. I was irrationally angry at a teenager in my class for having chipped black polish on her nails and toes. There were strict guidelines sent out weeks ago about no jewelry or polish. I'm sure she had all the carefree-teenager-time in the world to remove it—unlike me—but I managed to anyway. Oi, listen to me, I'm being a freak. I beckoned the kids to join me and I realized that I didn't have Dash's bag with his ballet shoes in it. Remember where I put it? Monkey's car. Thankfully, Mrs. H had a spare pair that fit perfectly. We gathered with the photographers and they posed us. I was instructed to kneel on one knee (on hard-wood floors! ow-ow-ow!) while Dash sat on my bent leg and Rosie stood behind him.

We posed for three photos as a trio and I'm crossing my fingers that they turn out fabulous!! I'll post them when they are shipped, in 4 to 6 weeks, I'm guessing.

B, the sitter, arrived and we went out for the evening, off to wish our lovely friend Liz a wonderful birthday at a bar downtown. Wheee! I sure needed to celebrate after such a long day.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The highest highs and lowest lows of last Friday

Now that I'm distanced a bit from last Friday, I'm recording it here for posterity, in all its glory and infuriatingness.

First the good bits:
Monkeyrotica and I had a lovely evening out. Our sitter arrived on time and was received with a seamless transition—Rosie and Dash adore him (B., our babysitter is a 17-year-old boy who lives two doors over; he's geeky, brilliant, slightly awkward, and great with the kids. We [heart] B.) While Monkey waited for me to appear, the kids were already engaged and not concerned about their parents.

We had last-minute reservations for dinner at The Majestic. Our table wasn't ready when we arrived, so we found seats at the bar and ordered drinks. Somehow, the cocktails that we ordered were the most fantastically perfect mixes of their types — they were über-cocktails!! I had a Pimm's Cup (a cocktail I have blogged about before), a lovely and simple concoction of Pimm's No. 1 (a gin-based beverage), ginger ale, and a long cucumber strip over ice cubes. Its delicious, intoxicating, and refreshing flavors turned the corner on my evening and I started warming up to the idea of just enjoying a night out with my husband.

Monkey ordered The Majestic's Mint Julep. Oh my, that drink was excellent! Perfectly prepared, muddled, mixed with freshly crushed ice, and served in a pewter cup, THIS was a damn good drink. I liked my Pimm's, but his Julep was stunning. [A moment of reverence here, in the memory of all beautiful and long-consumed cocktails...]

We had fried green tomatoes and fried oysters for appetizers, Monkey ordered the calves' liver (very good even in my judgment, and I don't ordinarily appreciate organ meats), and I went out of my comfort zone, ordering a whole (yes, whole!) grilled orata (a whitefish). My fish was served over a salad of fennel, olives, orange wedges and toasted almonds. Our waitress must have thought we were high, unbalanced, or eccentric, because Monkey kept telling her our food was fu¢&ing awesome! And it was. It was a great, glowing, triumph of a dinner out with my man.

Now for the bad:
Leading up to this was three hours of crossed signals, missed connections, poor assumptions, obstacles, and calamity — all mine. I left my office around 4:30, with plans to meet friends at a happy hours later Friday evening. We typically meet for mid-week drinks around 8, because there are children and parenting issues involved, and it didn't occur to me that this meet-up would have a different schedule. I replied to a Google invite, but really didn't look at it. I was on the on-ramp for the Beltway 20 minutes later (! — it's only one mile!) when the 10-minute calendar alarm went off. The happy hour was for 5 PM! Crap! I called friends to let them know I'd be late, maybe arriving by 6. Then, I checked traffic on my Google maps app — the Beltway was RED (code for slow as heck) on much of my route and I was already on the highway. I quickly exited and circled back to where I started, in order to take a different route that showed green (code for moving at speed) on the map. Despite the green, it crawled. Stop-and-go, stop-and-go, never getting above 35MPH for the twenty-five miles to home. My 45-minute commute dragged into an hour, then an hour and a half, and kept ticking away.

By the time I got home to pick up Monkey, the sitter had been there for 20 minutes, I had to pee! and it was well past 6. The roads looked better, so I promised my friends that we'd arrive by 6:45, in time to catch them before they left to make their dinner reservations. With Monkey behind the wheel, in familiar territory, we sped into town. At 6:45, we were just a block from the bar! I rejoyced! We made it, the goal was in sight! But, calamity: our right turn lane, without any signs or warnings, turned into an on-ramp for the Southeast Freeway. WTF? Typical DC.

On the G.D. fracking freeway now, we merged into traffic and took the very next exit, to circle back. The off-ramp fed into streets surrounding the Marine Barracks, where there was some sort of ceremony in the works. Graduation? Whatever. Young Marines in full-dress uniform were marching here and there, crossing-guards were directing absolutely unmoving traffic, and we were stuck, STUCK.

After a short discussion on whether we'd attempt to meet our friends just to hug goodbye, or just turn around and do our own thing, we bailed. So, at exactly three hours after I left my office, I was sitting down at The Majestic, ordering my Pimm's Cup, determined to purge the stress and just enjoy an evening out. I sincerely hope my friends had just as wonderful (eventually) a time without us.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Arlington National Cemetery: Memorials

Rosie has a research project this month on "Historical Locations." There are so many in DC, she had her pick from a long list. After a short discussion on all the options, she changed her pick from the Lincoln Memorial to the much richer mine of the Arlington National Cemetery. Of course, now she needs to narrow down her options to which part of that vast area (624 acres!!) she'll do her project on. It's a mixed-media project, with a model-building part as well as a written part, and of course an oral presentation.

We took a family trip over to Arlington last Saturday with the ultimate goal of giving Rosie fodder for her project, but a smaller goal of visiting her great-grandfather's grave out in Section 17. We all got up early that morning, had a light breakfast and headed out. I didn't realize just how lightly Dash ate (he only had a 1/2 cup of milk and 3 apple wedges) until he started saying he was tired during our walk from the car to the visitors' center! We had another 3 miles of walking to do and used this opportunity to teach a lesson about the consequences of not finishing your meals.

On our walk, we passed the Tomb of the Unknowns, the Nurses Memorial, the USS Maine Memorial, the Space Shuttle Challenger and Columbia memorials (Rosie is pictured at the Columbia Shuttle Memorial, expressly because her teacher is related to the late Dr. Laurel Clark, one of Columbia's astronauts who perished in the 2003 disaster), and we ended our trek with a gambol through the grounds and gardens at the Custis-Lee Mansion/Arlington House. We didn't visit the burial site of Dash's namesake, Samuel Dashiell Hammett; maybe another time, as it was well off our path.

After all these experiences, I'm pretty sure she's planning to work on the Tomb of the Unknowns. We had the luck to arrive right at 9 a.m., when the changing of the guard was happening. I'll admit I knew next to nothing about the honor guard for the Unknowns, but we noticed the air of quiet reverence as we approached, so watched in kind. It was a mysterious bit of ceremony and I left somewhat confused as we moved on. When I next had a chance, I checked the good ol' Internet for details and am now astonished at the Honor Guard's rigors. Here are some facts that I was completely in the dark about (from :

  • The tomb is guarded 24 hours a day, year-round and has been, every minute since 1937.
  • Guard selectees must be between 5'11" and 6'4" in height and have a 30-inch waist.
  • 80% of the soldier-applicants for this duty are not accepted.
  • Guards must spend 8 hours of every day preparing their uniform, which is 100% wool.
  • Once selected, Tomb Guards must serve at least 1 year at the Tomb
  • At the Tomb, the Sentinel walks 21 steps, stops, faces the Tomb for 21 seconds, turns, changes his/her weapon to the outside shoulder, walks 21 steps back, faces the Tomb for 21 seconds, and repeats until his/her relief comes, every 30 minutes (or hr, or 2 hrs, depending).
  • I read that Guards make a commitment to not drink alcohol ever again in their lifetime, but was very relieved for them when I learned that this was a myth.
  • Only three Sentinels have ever been female.
  • Only 578 Tomb Guard badges have ever been awarded.
Finally, the Sentinel's Creed:

The Sentinel's Creed

My dedication to this sacred duty
is total and whole-hearted.
In the responsibility bestowed on me
never will I falter.
And with dignity and perseverance
my standard will remain perfection.
Through the years of diligence and praise
and the discomfort of the elements,
I will walk my tour in humble reverence
to the best of my ability.
It is he who commands the respect I protect,
his bravery that made us so proud.
Surrounded by well meaning crowds by day,
alone in the thoughtful peace of night,
this soldier will in honored glory rest
under my eternal vigilance.

These Guards do most certainly deserve our respect as they protect and honor our country's Unknown Soldiers who died while in service.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Dash's School Portraits

My little guy! His pre-school graduation is next month.

I'm a track meet parent

Rosie had her very first mini-meet for her K-1 track club last night. She was thrilled about it and such a champ. Despite gray, rainy weather that seemed to drop as low as 55 degrees, she was upbeat, goofing with her friends and ran her little heart out. (sorry about the digit in her photo!) After the meet was over (it lasted at least an hour and a half), I told her, "Rosie, you ran so fast!" Her answer was definitive: "Uh-huh!"

Rosie competed in four events, the 100-meter dash, the long jump, the shot-put (using a softball), and 4 X 100-meter relay. We won't know her standings until later. It was a great first effort!

Since I'm not one to often attend outdoor sporting events, I'll pass on these tips.
  • Bring a blanket. Even if you're not cold, your butt will need cushioning on the hard, metal bleachers.
  • Bring snacks, or cash if there's a concession stand.
  • Don't forget water for your little athlete! (I did.)
  • There's a lot of waiting around. A lot. The coach is pretty good at wrangling the kids, but it gets dull for spectators.
  • If you have a younger sibling with you, hope to Bob that there are friends of his there. A little girl named Katya saved us hours of Dash's whining.
  • Don't forget a flask for yourself, with enough to share!
  • Invite or make friends with other parents to stay entertained.
Thanks to Monkeyrotica and my parents for coming out to support Rosie and her team!

***UPDATE*** The school just posted photos from the track meet! Here's my girl (#5), powering up for the 100-yard dash.

Monday, May 10, 2010

I look freaking COOL!

So you do, little Dash, in your fabulous new suit.

Dash's faux-seersucker suit and tie were on sale at a consignment store for a ridiculously small amount. I snapped them up without him around and was amazed how perfectly they fit!

We went out with Grandma Ikiko for mothers day dinner at Kushi Izakaya in downtown DC and Monkeyrotica didn't want Dash wearing his usual "hobo" clothes. He and Rosie both behaved like little gentlefolk. Cuties!

Friday, May 07, 2010

Solo Parenting Week

Starting last Saturday at 4 a.m., I began my week-without-a-spouse. Monkey has never traveled for work before, ever. Seriously. This is fresh and new. Not to worry, I still have extended family helping out, which required lots of driving, at least Saturday.

The kids spent Friday night at their Auntie's so we wouldn't need to deal with getting them up at 4 am, too! Can you imagine how *fun* that would have been? After I dropped Monkeyrotica off at the airport and came back home (20 miles) early Saturday morning, I spent my first few hours completely alone at home well... watching tv. It was too early to be functional, but I couldn't get back to bed. Then at 8 am, I made an elective, autonomous move—sky's the limit!—to get the expired safety inspection sticker on my car renewed. Hoo girl! Livin large!

So, off I trekked to my sister's to pick up the kids (30 miles). They had tons of fun as usual, didn't want to leave, but we had dance classes to think of, so off we went back home (30 miles). Rosie started complaining that her hearing in one of her ears was muffled. I made the kids some lunch—pizza for Dash, chicken for Rosie—and took Dash to dance class. Upon returning home, I checked Rosie's ears, for what I don't really know as I'm no doctor, then collapsed in the bedroom for a bit. I heard Rosie struggling with her dance tights, the grunts turning into soft sobs, and gently suggested that she ask for help if she was having trouble. I fixed the tights (which still weren't right) and found the real problem was her ear was causing her lots of pain. She didn't want to miss dance class, which was a good sign (right?). We compromised by me insisting that Rosie take some Claritin. Dropped off Rosie, picked up Dash. I took a shower and picked up a call from the dance teacher, Mrs. H., that Rosie was weeping, holding her head, and wanted to go home. I started imagining that I might be spending my first stint solo-parenting with our first visit to the emergency room.

By the time I dried off, got dressed, wrangled Dash and drove to the dance studio, Rosie was back dancing, felt much better, and wanted to stay in class. Dash and I went to the cafe next door, where I ordered an iced coffee (so groggy) and he had a cookie while we waited for class to end. While we drove home I asked Rosie about her ear an annoying amount of times, all with her assuring me she was fine. We changed and got ready for a barbecue with Kelly, Mike, and several other friends in Silver Spring (30 miles and for those of you that are adding, we are at around 120, including all the incidental trips I made around the neighborhood). I had so much fun!! So did the kids. It was a wonderful break. (Total Saturday miles: 150.)

We all collapsed that night, and Sunday was uneventful, aside from my being my first attempt in I can't remember when to cook them breakfast from scratch, and not just reheat leftovers. I know I'm pretty spoiled by Monkey's cooking prowess and willingness to handle all things food-related. I got them off to school on Monday, and sent a quick email to Rosie's teacher to mention the ear. Sure enough, she was still complaining, so I took off work later in the afternoon, grabbed her out of school (asked my mom to pick up Dash), and went to the doctor's office. 45 minutes later, we had a diagnosis: ear infection.

So, the rest of my week went like crazy, getting lunches packed, washing clothes and dishes, getting clothes out for soccer, track, bathing kids, dressing kids and medicating Rosie. AND, it was Teacher Appreciation Week FFS. I publicly apologize here: I am sorry if Rosie and Dash's teachers don't feel as appreciated as they might have been by our family. I'll try to do better and make up for it soon.

Monkeyrotica arrived home late Thursday evening, after the kids were in bed. Thank you to my mom for all her help!
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