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 ├╝ber-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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