Monday, December 31, 2012

NYE2012

I've got 12 minutes to hit "publish" so I'll make it fast. 2012, what a ride. You blew right by and yet, wow, here we are with our own house. I've got big plans for 2013. (I figure if I set lots and lots of goals and manage to accomplish three or four, I'll be doing pretty well.) So here's to it. Happy New Year, all. Much love.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

In keepin' with the situation!

It has been a busy couple of weeks. Heck, it's been a busy month. We bought a house, painted a couple of rooms therein, moved (almost) all of our stuff over, and even bought and decorated a second Christmas tree (after stripping the lights and decorations off the first one). But we've been sleeping at our new place for a little less than a week now and are settling in quite nicely.

I don't even have words for the shootings and general awful happenings of late. We have done our best to shield the kids from the horror, and it's probably been best for my own sanity to dwell on it as little as possible. It's the sort of thing that merits a mention, I think, and it of course serves as a reminder to be grateful even when the kids are driving me up the wall. But I'm significantly better off not delving too deeply into the news reports. I'd like to, you know, not have an even harder time sleeping at night than I already do.

So. We've survived yet another predicted apocalypse. I've got to admit it, last Friday I mentally gave the high school version of myself a reassuring pat on the head. The whole Mayan prophecy thing really freaked me out when I was about 15 years old. I remember thinking I should never have kids, because what sort of awful person would I be to bring someone into a world that was going to catastrophically fail when they were about 3 years old, and right before Christmas, no less? (Side note - pretty good guess on my part as to how old my hypothetical offspring would be in late 2012.) Obviously I got over my silly fears, but anyway. Glad the world didn't end. Of course, now I'm back to thinking about Newtown and how nothing in this world is guaranteed.

I really didn't mean for this to be a depressing post. What happened to not delving too deeply? We just had a lovely Christmas. Our first as homeowners. The kids got a great haul of goodies, thanks in large part to the wonderful people in their extended family who adore them. We had a delicious dinner of roast goose, Brussels sprouts, mashed sweet potatoes and biscuits. We spent the day playing with our new toys and laying low. Tom and I both, unfortunately, seem to be coming down with yet another cold, so that's somewhat less than ideal, but at least we don't have to deal with work and school this week.

So a merry Christmas to ya, if it ain't out-a keepin' with the situation (to quote Mrs. Dilber from Scrooge). Let us snuggle our loved ones close if they're nearby, give a mental hug if they're not, and hope things get better.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Grr, Blogger!

I just wrote a nice long post, and Blogger ate it. And now I'm too sleepy to re-write it. Gah. Tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Check-check

My Facebook and Twitter feeds have all even clogged with people making the "sound check day" joke today (one-two, one-two, one-two). Har har. Still, on this last triplet date of the century, I figure I should at least write something online.

Of course, it's now 11:58 pm, so I'm going to wrap it up and post something with actual content in a few minutes. ;)

Friday, December 07, 2012

Closing Time

We closed on our house this morning! Woo-hoo! Soren was at school, but Eleri came with us and was just about as well behaved as could be. She sat there pretty quietly, ate a snack, eventually got fidgety enough to warrant pacification-by-iPod, but then she kept the volume all the way down and mostly just listened to music. We signed paperwork to the accompaniment of the Beatles, Pomplamoose, and (appropriately enough) Signing Time.

All told, it took a little under an hour, which surprised me, but I wasn't going to complain. Soren got to go home with a classmate and have lunch at her house. When we arrived to pick him up, he and S (whom he's actually known since about the age of 2) were playing dress-up. He told us on the ride home that they were about to get married, had we not so rudely interrupted them. Hehe.

Later in the afternoon/evening, the lad and I went to get some paint for our new digs. We brought painting supplies over to the house, letting ourselves in without the assistance of a realtor for the first time. Exciting! Our new neighborhood seems nice and quiet, and a few of the neighbors have Christmas decorations out on the lawns. I'm excited to get moved over there in the next few weeks!

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Happy First of December!

Soren's been wishing everyone a happy first of December today, which is pretty adorable.

We appear to be finally, finally, closing on our house this coming Friday. Whoo-hoo! It's about time. Then we'll get to play the "can we get painted and moved by Christmas?" game, so that will be fun. I have an army of mom friends ready to help me paint the new place in the evenings (any excuse for a little kid-free time, amiright?), so I'm hoping it'll all go pretty quickly and smoothly.

Tom just had a birthday (happy birthday, Tom!), and he & I will get to have a celebratory dinner out tomorrow night for the first time in quite a while. No idea yet where we're going, but I'm sure it will be great.

Tom and the kids have been sick with some sort of sinus somethingorother for the past couple of weeks. I foolishly said something a few days ago about being surprised I had managed to avoid catching it. (Dun dun duuuuuuun...) Naturally, I woke up this morning all congested and sore-throated. D'oh.

I'm sure there's more news, but I'm sleepy and sniffly and should probably get some rest. So I'll do that. But Happy December, again. :)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Memory Dump

I need to write, but haven't. It has been a gloriously long 4-day weekend here (the first we've had in a good while). There are still a few remaining spanakopita left over from Thanksgiving. Tom and the kids brought home a Christmas tree yesterday, which we've set up indoors for the first time. Alas, it does not smell as strongly as would be ideal, but it's faintly piney and very pretty, all decked. The cats have largely left it alone, though the kids (especially Eleri) have had to be reminded repeatedly not to mess with it. I sure like having it here, though.

We're waiting to close on our new house. We were all set to sign the papers a little over a week ago, and then there was an 11th hour paperwork problem on the seller's end that necessitated pushing back our closing date by almost a month. Ah well. "Hurry up and wait" is still perhaps better than "keep looking, fruitlessly." It's a nice place. A two-level townhouse close to metro, in a quiet neighborhood. And it has oodles of storage, and I mean oodles. And 4 bedrooms (so any potential visitors should take note and consider themselves welcome).

I've gone through a bunch of photos that have been languishing on the computer, some of them since July. I've done a terrible job this year of keeping up with daily photos of the kids, but I suppose that's the way it goes. I'll endeavor to do better, as always. I've actually found myself missing my camera lately, which is in itself rather telling as to how infrequently I've picked it up, in recent days. The iPod is a somewhat satisfactory substitute (I do like the ability to take and upload video on the fly), but not enough to really justify not using the "real" camera more than a few times a month.

Tom and the kids have been suffering from a bit of a headcold this past week. Soren was the last to fall, and boy howdy. His tendency to rub his face on his shirtsleeve has resulted in a super-sad nose and pair of cheeks. Mostly he's not been especially afflicted by any more bothersome symptoms than a runny nose, though, so that's pretty good. Eleri was a little fragile and feverish for a few days, but she seems to be doing better. I figure I'll finally get hit with it tomorrow, once Tom goes back to work. Murphy's Law and all that.

Mostly, though, things are good. Soren's doing well in school. (Not that we are concerned with "academic progress" in preschool, but Tom and I are both glad he is enjoying himself.) Eleri's working hard at sounding out words and continuing to enjoy learning sign language. Soren actually signed a full sentence at me the other day, unprompted. We've established (and tried to enforce) a rule that talking with one's mouth full is verboten, but signing is permitted, and Soren signed (with his mouth full of food) asking for some water. I was pretty impressed.

Not much horsing for me lately, but plenty of Zumba. I never would have predicted I'd enjoy that as much as I do, but there it is. My friend N may be close to finalizing the purchase of a second horse though, so there may be more opportunity for me to ride again in the near future. I do miss it, though I've been so busy lately that the missing has not been so acute. It helps, I suppose, to know that the opportunity is there if I really, really want it.

I guess that's it for now. Memory dump complete.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Turkey Duck Day

Oh look. I made that same joke three years ago. Hehe.

Happy Thanksgiving! We had our friend Carlota & her kids over for dinner this year.

On the menu:
- duck
- salad
- pumpkin/black bean soup
- mashed sweet potatoes
- cornbread stuffing
- cranberries
- nine BAJILLION spanakopita
- homemade rolls
- apple pecan pie

I think that was everything. There was also wine, so it's possible I'm forgetting something else...

I'm thankful for my family. I'm thankful that my kids have good relationships with all of their grandparents. I'm thankful that we've (almost) got a house to call our very own. I'm thankful for Tom's good nature and Soren's silly nerdiness and Eleri's snuggly sweetness. I'm thankful for health and good friends and good food and good wine and warmth and hugs and laughter. Life is pretty freaking great.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Fall Back

[obligatory griping-about-the-time-change post]

Used to be, I whined about setting the clocks forward in the spring for Daylight Saving Time. Especially when I was getting up early enough for work that that hour meant the difference between waking up with the sun and waking up in the dark. Setting the clocks back an hour in the autumn was great. Especially those first few days of feeling like you get an extra hour of sleep in the morning.

Since having kids, however, all time changes are crummy. In the spring I have the same DST-related complaints as before, and now at this time of year, I have two little beasts whose internal body clocks pay no heed to the glorious gift of that extra hour of sleep in the morning. Le sigh.

[/obligatory griping-about-the-time-change post]

Fall is here though, no doubt about it. And though I think Arizona's got the right idea about saying "To hell with these blasted time change shenanigans!" I am still a big fan of this time of year. Fall indeed remains my favorite of the seasons. The air is crisp and fresh and cool, providing ample opportunity for the wearing of sweaters and the consumption of hot beverages. The leaves (around here anyway) are quite a sight to behold. And yes, I was complaining rather a bit on Friday when I took the kids to play outside and stupidly neglected to grab myself a jacket, or gloves, or a hat, to protect me against the blustery afternoon, but I'll chalk it up to the usual seasonal change boneheadedness (I do the same thing at the beginning of summer too). I know I'll be better prepared next time.

Anyway. Hello again, Fall. So nice to see you there. (Even if my weasels insist on waking me at 6am to greet you.)

Saturday, November 03, 2012

O library, my library

We have been using the public library system(s) a lot lately. The week of Halloween, we were at our local branch of the Alexandria City library four days in a row (story time for Eleri, Spanish story time for both kids, story time for Soren, costume parade). We use the Fairfax County library system a lot as well (multiple branches nearby, compared with just the one Alex. City location near us). We were going at least once a week to some library or other during the summer, plowing through Soren's 100 books, and it almost seems as though we've only increased our patronage since the start of the school year. Go figure.

I love it. I love that the kids love the library and consider visits there to be a treat. The children's librarians at Beatley are incredibly friendly (I'm not sure that the FCLS branches we tend to visit actually have dedicated children's staff), and there is always a nice variety of programs available between the two library systems.

We also rent lots of DVDs. That's where we got our start with the whole Signing Time series, and recently we've rented a couple of Schoolhouse Rock collections, some Magic Schoolbus episodes, and a few Dr. Seuss cartoons. Just yesterday we brought home our first Reading Rainbow DVD (and yes, that show totally still holds up, today).

Soren and I have been reading chapter books at bedtime. We've read some Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), some E.B. White (Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little, reading Trumpet of the Swan now) and some Laura Ingalls Wilder (Farmer Boy and Little House in the Big Woods, about halfway through Little House on the Prairie at present). This is relevant to the post because all of them were/are books we've borrowed from the library. I'm not sure how much he retains yet, but it's fun. He and Tom are going to start The Hobbit sometime in the next few months, too. This is something I'd really looked forward to - being able to read chapter books with the kids, a chapter or two per night - and I'm really enjoying it. I suspect it'll get even better as they get older. I still eagerly anticipate the nights I can read the same books to both of them.

Anyway. Yay for literary kiddos. Yay for a seemingly endless supply of free books at our disposal. Consider this my endorsement for supporting your local library.

Now, what else did I say I was going to write about soon?

Friday, November 02, 2012

Our car hates winter

I'm not sure what the deal is, but for the past three years, our car has had the annoying habit of refusing to start when the weather gets cold. The first year, we'd only had it for 8 months or so, and it wasn't until after the first big snow storm that it started pulling the "neaner neaner, gotta jump me" routine, so we just figured the battery was old or something. The second year, we got wise and bought one of those portable jump-start thingies that you charge up, hook up, and go. That thing has come in handy lots of times. Last year...actually, last year I don't remember having too many problems with it. It's possible I've blocked it out, however.

This week has been chillier, and rather rapidly so, than last week. Last week we were in the 70s, this week it's the 40s and 50s. This afternoon, when I picked up Soren from school, I shut the car off while he was putting on his seat belt, and then it wouldn't turn over again. What the...? It's not as though it was even THAT cold today. Over the course of the afternoon and evening, I think I had to use the jump starter three or four times. So, yay. Fun times. I find it hard to believe the battery's already bad; it was replaced, at most, two and a half years ago. So maybe the alternator's going now? Or perhaps the car just doesn't like to get up and go when it's chilly out. Who knows?

Not a super blog-worthy tale, I realize, but I wanted to make a note of the starting trouble so I will be able to look back and have a record of when it was happening. Lucky you, getting to read my drivel. ;)

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Headslap

I'm not sure how I managed to live here over 3 1/2 years without realizing this, but...

Note to Self:

You know the HOV-3 lanes on 395 South? You know how they have somewhat infrequent freeway off-ramps? Well, it turns out that those lanes going northbound have no off-ramps. At all. So if you think you're going to save yourself some time getting to Shirlington or something by jumping into the HOV lanes to scoot around some traffic, think again. Failure to remember this will result in a doubling of your transit time, as you will have to go all the way to the traffic circle by Memorial Bridge and turn around.

That is all.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pictures! And videos! As promised!

Hey! I have uploaded a few recent photos to Flickr! There are some super silly ones, and some super cute ones. Like this.


Awww...

And this.


She was pretty excited about the pumpkins.

So you should click on over and check them out. I've got lots more to upload still, of course, but it's a start.

Also, I've put up a few more videos on the kids' YouTube stream. For example, here's one from our trip yesterday to the fire station open house.


So I think I can check #5 off my to-do list. More coming this week, hopefully. :)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Monday, October 08, 2012

Coming Attractions

Perhaps if I put my intentions in print, I'll actually follow through on them. Worth a shot, anyway. ;)

Stuff to post about soon(ish):

1. I am handy! I built bookshelves for the kids' room and converted their old bookcase into a nifty coat-backpack-and-shoe-storage-thingamajig. (Thank you Pinterest for the inspiration.)

2. Balcony Garden, Year 3: The Year of the Jalapeño.

3. We've been house hunting for about a month. It's been consuming rather a lot of our time and energy, of late.

4. I've incorporated part-time veganism into my dinner planning. And I've actually been pretty good about advance meal planning (a week at a time) for a couple of months now. It's so helpful.

5. I have really fallen down on my job as the family photographer. Need to get my camera out every day again. But! I've been better about catching at least a few videos of the kids per week. So I suppose it's a trade-off. Shouldn't have to be, though. In any event, some photo and video posts are way overdue.

6. We did some fun stuff at the end of summer, right before school started up again. There was a zoo trip, a couple of birthday parties, probably something else I'm forgetting. I do have pictures though. Need to process & post them.

All right. That oughta at least do for starters. Hopefully I can work my way through this list in the near future.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Mas futbol

The other soccer star in our family. ;) These coaches deserve a ton of credit, by the way. Teaching a bunch of 2 year olds to play soccer is kind of like herding cats.

The kids' latest music recommendations

Somehow it's happened. My kids have discovered pop music, through no fault of mine. *cough*Tom*cough* They've both taken a liking to that "Call Me, Maybe" song, which I'm neither going to embed nor link to here. Anyway, from watching that video on YouTube and clicking sidebar links to other videos, they've discovered the band Owl City, which I find myself kind of digging. Here are three videos of theirs (equally beloved by the kids, but posted here in order of my personal preference).






It's not all pop music around here just yet. (Whew.) Soren's also enamored of Orthodox Jewish rapper Matisyahu, particularly this track.


And we've been hearing quite a bit lately of this one from The Dandy Warhols. (They particularly love the "woo-oo-ooooo"s.)


I introduced them to the soundtrack of the first X-Files movie a month or so ago, and now anytime we're in the car, Eleri begs to hear this on a continuous loop. So I can't say I disapprove entirely of her taste in music. ;)


Anyhow. That's what we've been listening to around here these days.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Friday, September 14, 2012

Backstory to a tweet

When we watched the Olympics last month, Soren was straight-up fascinated by Oscar Pistorius. ("When do I get to have awesome legs like those?!")

While I was at Zumba earlier this evening, Tom & the kids watched some Paralympic coverage we still had stored on the TiVo. Among the events presented was the 400m race that Pistorius won. It sparked the following conversation.

Tom: Do you remember watching that man run in the other Olympics?
S: But how did he be in the regular Olympics too?
T: Well, he practiced and practiced until he was basically the fastest man in South Africa.
S: But when can I be the fastest man in North America?!

All plaintive-like. Silly boy.

A brief musical interlude

In the car this morning at drop-off time.


(Psst. I also uploaded a couple of additional videos to the kids' YouTube page.)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Two Weeks In

Tomorrow's the end of Soren's second week back at school. He seems to be enjoying himself so far. He's brought home a book from the classroom's lending library almost every day. If prodded, he's full of stories about the various lessons he's been getting. (At the Montessori school they're first given "lessons" on the various types of "work," sometimes as a group but usually one-on-one with a teacher. After they've been shown how to do the "work" they're free to do it on their own as they please. I'm not using quotes out of sarcasm; those are the specific terms they use to talk about what the kids do in the classroom.)

No big surprise, he's been doing lots of typical Montessori stuff. They're really big on their specialized toys and tools and such, which frankly seems a little silly sometimes, but whatever works. There are a lot of practical skills lessons taught as well. Last week Soren proudly informed me he'd had a lesson on watering the classroom plants, and now he knows to look for colored sticks in the pots to see which ones need watering on any given day. He was also excited about washing tables and pouring/scooping oats. The kids are allowed to go to the snack table when they're hungry; there's one special "everybody eats together" snack time per week, but the rest of the time it's up to them if/when to eat. Soren tells me how he takes one serving of snack, then uses the "crumber" to clean up after himself, then hangs the "crumber" back up on the wall.

Every day this week he's been super jazzed about getting to play The Sound Game. Today he came home saying he'd gotten to play The Sound Game using the sandpaper letters. Yesterday he worked with the Movable Alphabet set, which had him rather flummoxed ("I used the mobile alphabet, Mommy, except the letters were in another language, called Cursive!"). Today was, I think, the first time he's gotten to save work overnight. If they're working on something (in this case, lining counting blocks up on a rug on the floor to count to 100), and they don't finish by the time the school day is over, they're allowed to put their name tag on the rug and leave their work out overnight to continue the next morning.

It's kind of hard sometimes to talk about "the Montessori way" without sounding like a total pompous jerk, but I really do appreciate how much credit the kids are given for what they're capable of. And I don't just mean academically (although that too). They're expected to behave civilly, and they seem to rise to that expectation. I also totally dig that they're given the freedom to find what appeals to them and learn in a way that keeps them engaged and interested.

So, yeah! It's going well so far, and I'm glad. I'm also waiting patiently (read: not patiently at all) for all the responsibility and initiative and cleaning up after oneself to kick in at home. I suspect that holding my breath for that one is ill-advised. ;)

Wordless Wednesday Catch-up (two weeks' worth)




Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Back to School

I did take some pictures with my "real" camera too, but for now, here are some from my iPod.

Hey! It's finally here! The first day of preschool! Yaaaaaaaaay!


I'm not the only one who's happy about it.

Unlike last year, I managed to actually get us out the door and off to school on time for the first day. We were even a little early! The kids played on the playground briefly, and then we headed inside when the doors opened.

The first week, only the new kids get to come to school, which I think is a pretty smart way to do it in a program when you've got 3, 4, 5 and 6 year-olds all in one class. Lots of returning students, in other words. Soren's class has, I think, 8 new kids (out of 25) this year, so it was a nice, small group today. Lots of opportunity for close attention from the teachers as they get accustomed to the routines and such.

We went inside, and Soren put his spare clothes away in his bin, set his backpack in its place, got a carpet square (to sit upon) and a book, and sat down to read on the floor with the other kids while they waited for everyone to get in and settled.


El ran over and gave him a big hug & kiss, and then we left. We had paperwork to turn in upstairs, errands to run, chores to do at home. The three hours flew by.

We picked Soren up after school and went out to Silver Diner for lunch. I always forget, somehow, that I really should not ever take my kids to restaurants by myself. I mean, they're not as bad as they could be, but they're certainly not as calm and well behaved as would be ideal in such a situation. I was trying to be all, "Yay! Back to school! Let's celebrate!" and it turned into, "Seriously. We haven't even ordered yet, so if you don't stop wrestling in the booth right now we are just going to leave." Sigh. But we made it through, and lunch was tasty.


They look so angelic, I know. Don't be fooled. That window behind them? Eleri had to be forcibly removed from the sill. Twice.

Soren was amazed and delighted to discover he could order off the breakfast menu if he wanted to. He indulged his Nate the Great obsession by ordering pancakes (Nate is a biiiiiig fan of pancakes and eats them at least once in every book). So that was very exciting. I tried to get him to tell me about his day, but I didn't get much from him. He seems to have enjoyed himself though.

After lunch, we met A and his mom & baby brother at the mall so the kids could run around a bit at the play area. It was nastily humid today, so we opted for some indoor fun. They ran and played for a good 90 minutes before we headed home.

Tomorrow we do it all again! Well, most of it! Yay for 5 days-a-week preschool!

Oh, but first, one "first day" photo out-take, because as much as these little goofballs infuriate me at times, I do try to remember how much they make me laugh, too.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Also, (not quite) Wordless Wednesday

A fungus among us

So, Soren and I have ringworm. Yippee! I have no idea how we got it. (Well, that's not actually true. I got it from him. I suspect he got it by virtue of being a four year old boy who touches everything and doesn't wash his hands enough.) Up to now I had not, to the best of my knowledge, ever had it before, so the lad and I have both gone days and days - in his case, over a week - with it before I finally figured out what it was, this evening. So, naturally, I'm assuming the whole house is infected and it's just a matter of time before some pops up on Eleri & Tom too. Let the psychosomatic (and actual) itching begin!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Just call me Susie Homemaker

I never used to be particularly talented in the domestic arts. I was kind of a disaster in the kitchen for many years. I'll never forget one of the first times I made pizza for Tom; he requested sausage on his pizza and, not knowing any better, I brought home chorizo from the grocery store. (In my defense, I was a vegetarian at the time and had been one for several years, had in fact spent nearly all of my formative cooking years as one.) I was involved for, I think, a year, in sewing 4-H in late middle school. I managed to make one decent pillow case, which I kept until it ripped irreparably about a month and a half ago. And as anyone who lived with me in college can attest, tidiness is not my forte.

(Okay, Tom and the kids can still attest to that one, but I'm way better than I used to be.)

What I'm getting at, though, is that I've actually grown to be a half-decent cook. I've been baking bread from scratch since Tom & I moved in together. For a while after we first moved to Virginia I was baking some nearly every week. That waned dramatically as I got more heavily pregnant with Eleri, until somewhat recently when our friend Heather moved away and gave me her sourdough starter. Since then I've been steadily working my way up to actual good sourdough bread. (Current achievement: "reasonably decent") Making bread is not so difficult once you know what you're doing, but sourdough is a whole different animal. For one thing, it takes two days to make each batch. It's not necessarily a huge increase in work, but you can't exactly just whip up a batch without some serious forethought and time management. I haven't yet managed to make what I would consider a "true" sourdough, but my most recent loaves have borne just a hint of that sour tang I'm working toward. I'll get there, eventually. (A lot of it has to do, I think, with cultivating the starter in just the right way. I'm still experimenting with different feeding regimens, trying to develop the flavor I'm looking for, but more or less guessing about the specifics.)

In recent weeks, I've branched out from bread to making homemade granola bars. Tom & the kids go through tons of granola bars, and keeping a steady supply the "least bad" ones can be a bit expensive. So I consulted Pinterest and have been working my way through different recipes. I think I've found the one I'm going to stick with, at least for a while, and should be able to tweak the flavor profile for some variety. (Recipe to be added later.) I've also got a recipe for homemade pop tarts I want to try soon.

This is turning into a bit of a humblebrag post (or maybe just straight up braggy brag), which honestly wasn't my intention. Mostly I'm still marveling at the fact that I am apparently way more domestically capable than I ever thought I could be. I've made Christmas stockings for both of the kids, and not long ago I patched a pair of Eleri's jeans by hand, and they not only came out adorably, but the patch is thus far holding up just fine to repeated washings! I marvel at it every time I pull the jeans out of the dryer. Who'da thunk it?

I suppose you could conclude from this that there is indeed hope for me where cleanliness and organization are concerned, but I don't know. Maybe that's just a bridge too far. ;)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Two weeks

That's how much time is left before Soren goes back to school. He starts two weeks from today! Where did the summer go?!

Well, since my blogging has dwindled dramatically of late (my "high water" mark for the past 9 months is 13 posts in the month of April), there's not been much of a record here as to where exactly the summer did go. So I'm going to do my best to recap.

Ohio Trip

Road trip! Technically this trip took place the week before summer break started, but it counts. We packed up the car and headed some 500 miles away to attend the wedding of some of our California friends. It was awesome to visit with some people we only see about once a year, others we haven't seen since we moved.


It was a long but fairly pretty drive through western Maryland, a bit of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio. We broke the trip up into two days on the way there, stopping in Zanesville, OH for the night (about 3/4 of the way to our final destination, near Dayton). We listened to an audiobook (Shades of Grey), the kids had lots of iPod time and music and books. I'd bought them "restickable" alphabet stickers to put on the windows and (rather foolishly) also bought some "window crayons" which did, as promised, clean right off the windows themselves quite easily; it's just that they were rather tougher to clean off the upholstery, the plastic of the doors, the kids' clothes, and the kids themselves...but lesson learned! I didn't take any photos while we were driving, but there were a lot of trees, tons of rolling hills, some bigger mountains, and then a lot of flatland. Very green and summery all along the way. I bet the view would be gorgeous in the autumn with all the fall colors, but it was also quite pretty in the early summer.

As I mentioned, we were traveling to Ohio for a wedding. This required us to get the kiddos some new dress clothes. Shopping for them was actually pretty fun; the kids were really tickled by the whole "take stuff to the dressing room and try it on" concept. Of course, that excitement didn't last too long, and they were quickly bored with my looking through the clothing racks, but we did end up with some good stuff, I think.


Soren was a little bit between sizes when we were trying stuff on, so his new suit has some growing room. El's dress should also, hopefully, be useful for another year or so.



Soren was terribly jealous that Eleri got to wear a pretty dress and kept asking why he couldn't have one too. I don't have any particular problem with him wanting to wear a dress, but I wasn't about to take away from the couple's big day by being the person who brought her son to their wedding in a dress. So we compromised. I told him he had to wear a suit like Daddy to the wedding but that if I could find a kilt for him that wasn't outrageously expensive, he could wear that to the rehearsal dinner. Happily, I was able to find one, and he got many, many compliments on his awesome kilt at the dinner.


I did also let him try on her dress in the dressing room at the store, but I'm not going to embarrass his future self by putting that picture online. ;) He looked adorable though.

Anyway! It was a lovely trip, and a beautiful wedding, and the kids were pretty darned well behaved, all things considered. We made the drive home in one day; it took 10 hours, but it was nice to get back to our own beds. I'm looking forward to having some more fun traveling adventures as they get a bit older.

Mom's Visit

About 3 weeks after our Ohio trip, my mom came to visit. I blogged about it at the time, and (almost 2 months later) I still haven't uploaded all the photos I took while she was here! I'm terrible. But it was very nice to have her here.

Summer Reading

We signed up for the library summer reading programs through both local library systems (Alexandria City and Fairfax County). Alexandria City lets you choose a reading goal; Soren declared he would read "one HUNDRED books!" this summer. (He's close to meeting that goal! Just about another 18 books to read in the next 10 days. I think we'll make it.) Fairfax County just said you had to read 15 books, and once we - quickly - hit that target, Soren was rewarded with a coupon book full of neat stuff. One of the coupons is for a free kids' ticket to a DC United game, so he & Tom are probably going to take advantage of that opportunity sometime in the next month or so.

As a result of this "100 books for the summer" reading goal, we've been going to the library at least once a week. For a while we were going twice a week, actually. Wednesday mornings in June and July they were offering music programs and, one week, a puppet show. So we went to several of those. And then on Thursdays they have the 3-5 year-old story time, which Soren got to attend by himself while El and I browsed for books or while I sat in the children's section and she played. The lad very much enjoyed story time, which always concluded with a song and some coloring. It's on hiatus for the last few weeks of summer, which is unfortunate, but when it starts up again we'll definitely be attending. And soon Eleri will be old enough to join in, and I will have a gloriously quiet half hour all to myself in the library! (I'm already wondering how many months early I can fib and say she's turned three...)

Anyway. Lots of library time for us. And lots, and lots, and LOTS of books. Soren has taken a huge shine to the Nate the Great series (which I believe I mentioned before), and I'm pretty sure he's read just about every single one of those. (Okay, looking at the website I see he's still got 9 to go, out of 26 total.) Lots of Nate the Great pretend play going on around here as a result, which is actually totally fine with me, since I can frequently coax him into using his detective skills to locate and put away toys and the like. ;) We've also made our way through some longer books together (Farmer Boy, Stuart Little, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and we're most of the way through Little House in the Big Woods), and he's just this evening we finished the last of the Lighthouse Family series.

Eleri, for her part, also enjoys her book time, though she does most of her reading with Tom in the evenings. She's still very much in the "fixate on one short book and ask to be read it over and over and over and over again" stage, so she will sometimes con me into ten minutes of repeated readings of Humpty Dumpty in the middle of the day, but she did actually sit through all of tonight's Lighthouse Family book with us tonight with very little fidgeting. And those are pretty long for a 2 year-old. I am continually grateful that both kids are so fond of books and reading. Seriously. It's awesome.

Summer Camp

Soren had two weeks (well, not quite...Tues-Thurs, two weeks in a row) of day camp at the end of July and beginning of August. The camp was run through the Rec Center preschool, so though he was not in his old classroom with his old teachers, he was in a familiar place with familiar people. Not that I think he would have had much trouble otherwise, but the familiarity probably helped a little. Anyway, the weeks each had a theme - "Beat the Heat" for the first one (they made fans and ice cream, played with beach stuff indoors and went to the spray park), and "Mini Olympics" for the second (opening ceremonies, made torches, day of games, medals, closing ceremonies, and another trip to the spray park). His team "won" a medal for javelin throw (which they apparently did with a pool noodle). He had a good time, and it was nice to be back to the El-and-me time we got to have during the school year, though she did seem to miss him more and ask about him more frequently. The daily reunions when we picked him up from camp were over the top adorable, all huge hugs and big smiles from both of them.

Mall Walk Wednesdays, Coffee Shop Fridays

I had to beg a double stroller from a friend, but mall walk has continued. Soren has claimed to miss it terribly and has at least been very glad to see his buddy L on a weekly basis. They'll be in neighboring classrooms next year, so he's quite tickled that they'll have occasion to (probably) see each other at least briefly, every single day. I have also, for the most part, maintained my weekly "mom dates" for breakfast and coffee at Grounded, which has been much appreciated. It's been good to maintain a routine at least a couple of days a week throughout the summer. We've had lots of flexibility to explore, and also to just veg when we've wanted, but not having to come up with something novel every single day has also been nice.

The Rest of It

Pool, spray park (though not as often as I'd thought), playgrounds, picnics, playdates, Fireman Sam, Doc McStuffins, Zumba, intermittent horsing (Tom's been late getting home for a while now), and of course our balcony garden. I was all set to update with recent photos, but I didn't get around to uploading them, and I'd really like to just go ahead and finish this post so I can put it up before the title and first paragraph are no longer accurate. But I'll put together a separate post all about the garden and its hits and misses. Promise.

I think that's all I can dredge up from my brain at the moment. More soon, hopefully.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Photo glut

For those of you who don't use Instagram, I've finally gotten around to exporting all my Instagram photos to Flickr. The quality's middling (since these are just iPod pictures), but I'm quite pleased with having almost daily candids up somewhere again. So go check out my Flickr stream, and see what we've been up to.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Four by Fforde

When British Jenny stayed with us back in November, she gave us a copy of Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair as a thank you present. I'm a little embarrassed to say it took me about six months to get around to actually reading it, but once I did, I was quickly charmed by Fforde's amusing narrative. The Eyre Affair is the first in his "Thursday Next" series, about a literary detective named (duh) Thursday Next who investigates things like Shakespeare forgeries and pirated copies of novels with alternate endings. She ends up fighting a supernatural villain and chasing him into Jane Eyre through a crazy invention of her uncle's called a Prose Portal. It sounds very bizarre but it's all quite funny and enjoyable to read.

Before I'd even finished The Eyre Affair, I picked up another by Fforde, Shades of Grey, on audiobook for us to listen to on our drive to Ohio back in June. This one's not part of the Thursday Next series and is about a world in which humans have evolved highly specific color vision. No one can perceive all the colors in the visible spectrum, and of course there is a social hierarchy built upon what one can and cannot see. Click through the link for a better summary than I can provide and take my word that it's another entertaining read.

Tom's read through Book 6 of the Thursday Next series and both of Fforde's "Nursery Crimes" books as well, but so far I'm straggling behind and have only finished Lost in a Good Book and The Well of Lost Plots. The story kind of goes off the rails at the end of Lost in a Good Book and transitions almost entirely into BookWorld. I don't mean off the rails in a bad way, but it definitely veers away from "bizarro alternate universe" and over to "straight-up fantasy world." Entertaining though. I'm taking a short break to read some nonfiction (and I also blazed my way through Wool in 4 days), but then I'll be back to see what's next for Next.

The Heart of the Sue

So. Last month I went to see a cardiologist for the first time in my life.

(Spoiler alert: I'm fine.)

When I was a teenager, I used to get these very brief, very specifically-timed, hormonally-related episodes of tachycardia. Not something to be concerned about, I was told. After I had the kids, this magically went away. Maybe even before I had Soren, but not long before. Since then, it's been replaced by a very occasional fluttery sensation in my chest that is not accompanied by an increased heart rate. I always just assumed it was an atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter. Asked my doctor about it and was again told, nothing to worry about. Whenever it happened (always at the same time of the month, though not even every single month), it lasted less than a minute and never caused any pain, shortness of breath or other symptoms that would raise red flags.

So, almost exactly a month ago, when I started feeling it one day, I barely took notice. Then it happened again the same day. And the next day. And the day after that. Every day for a week. Increasing in both frequency and duration. By which point I had definitely noticed. So I called my doctor and scheduled an appointment for an EKG.

I couldn't get in to see her for another 10 days, and my symptoms didn't vary much in that time. In fact, I felt the fluttering the whole time I sat in the waiting room and waited in the exam room. Until the moment the nurse left the room to get the portable EKG machine. Talk about bad timing. I was hooked up for exactly 10 seconds, and of course displayed a textbook sinus rhythm for those 10 seconds. Naturally. While I was talking to the doctor afterward, it started up again, and she listened with her stethoscope but couldn't hear anything out of the ordinary. She sent me for blood work and referred me to a cardiologist.

Blood work: normal.

Got in to see the cardiologist 3 days later. The day before my appointment, the symptoms subsided dramatically. The morning of the appointment, I hadn't felt the fluttering at all. I'd completely cut out caffeine for the past 4 or 5 days, just in case that was an exacerbating factor. So the morning of the appointment, worried that I'd show up to the cardio entirely symptom-free, I chugged a big iced coffee when I dropped Eleri off with A's mom. (Soren was at summer camp.) It didn't have any immediate effect, aside from the "WHEE!" feeling of consuming way more caffeine than usual. This was going to be interesting.

At the cardio's office I waited. And waited. I'd had a 10:30 appointment, but when I had seen neither hide nor hair of the doctor by 11:20 I started worrying that I wouldn't get out of there in time to pick Soren up from camp. (Camp didn't get out until 1:00 but I had no idea how long the appointment would take.) As I started stressing and trying to formulate a plan to get someone over there to pick him up (neither of my designated emergency contacts were available, so that was complicating matters), wouldn't you know it? Flutter-flutter. The doc finally came in at 11:30 and I gave her my history in a caffeinated rush and told her it'shappeningrightnowandIdon'tknowhowlongitwilllast. She sent for the EKG and they hooked me up...just as it started to subside again.

It would have been funny at that point if I hadn't been so frustrated and afraid of looking like some sort of malingerer. To her credit, the doctor didn't dismiss my claims and scheduled me for further testing. Once again, I started feeling it again while we talked, and again, she listened but couldn't hear anything unusual. She told me she really wasn't finding any indication of an arrhythmia and that I could be feeling a deep chest muscle twitching or something. I was to come back in a week and a half for a stress test and echocardiogram.

I got home, googled "What feels like palpitations but isn't?" and was directed to, of all things, an anxiety support message board. Huh. Apparently, anxiety can manifest in about a million different ways, one of which is precisely the fluttery feeling I'd been having. I hadn't been feeling particularly anxious when this whole thing started, but I was for damned sure getting increasingly anxious about the symptoms the longer they went on. Which, logically, would lead to a self-propagating sort of scenario in which anxiety about existing symptoms manifests as...increased symptoms.

So, after two and a half weeks of weirdness, I was more or less back to normal. Very mild symptoms here and there in the time between my first and second appointments with the cardiologist. It came as no great surprise that my echocardiogram and stress test both came back completely normal. (The echo tech did say he detected two very tiny heart murmurs, but they were too small to be of any concern at all.) The doc concluded that, more than likely, my heart is not causing whatever sensation it is that I've been feeling. If I do have an arrhythmia, it's a benign one, and she said if the symptoms come back again, she'd set me up with a portable heart monitor that I could wear and then press a button whenever I felt anything funny.

So that's that! I didn't keep everyone in the loop while this was going on because I didn't want to freak anyone out unnecessarily. But I'm blogging it now to continue my trend of medical public service announcements. ;)

Friday, August 03, 2012

El in the morning

She is a funny kid. ;)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Ten Years

In July of 2002, I had a major crush on a boy. A "drive 360 miles round trip on the weekend just to hang out" level crush. Major.

After several weekends of visiting, I finally summoned the courage to ask him on a proper date, to a concert. He agreed, and on July 26, 2002, we went to see Ben Kweller at the Roxy in Los Angeles. My Morning Jacket was the opening band, and old James Bond movies were playing (without sound) on TVs hung on the walls of the club throughout the concert. Odd, but memorable. After the show, we didn't quite want the date to end, so we went for a midnight snack at Donut Man in Glendora.

Must have been a good date. A decade later, we still listen to Ben Kweller together, sometimes. Only now, our kids listen with us. ;)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Spray park failboat

Yesterday we got to meet Tom for lunch, which is always nice. It was a hot day (the mildness of last week has taken its leave of us, and we're back to temperatures in the upper 90s), so I thought we might try to head over to the spray park in the afternoon. By the time I got my act together & got us all out of the house, it was after 3:30. I figured the kids would still get a good 30-45 minutes of play time in before we had to return home to make dinner.

About a mile from the spray park, I saw this up ahead.


Thar be thunderheads. Ruh roh.

I crossed my fingers and hoped any storming would hold off or skirt around us. It seemed for a little bit that we might be lucky. All the water things were on and spraying when we arrived, so there hadn't already been any thunder. We parked and started making our way to the front gate.

Drip. Drip-drip. Drip.

A little rain had started while we were walking. No big deal. We were going to a spray park, after all. We got to the front gate and were welcomed by the lifeguard sitting there.

WHOOSH.

Up came a huge gust of wind, catching the umbrella attached to the little entry gate podium thing and blowing the whole thing toward us. Well, toward me (the kids were on my other side). The lifeguard caught it and collapsed the umbrella. Two other lifeguards came walking over, saying they'd heard thunder. Great. That meant the spray park would be closed for 30 minutes, at least. Figures. I had to pee, so I shoved the kids toward the restroom before we could get kicked out of the spray park.

While we were in the restroom, the rain kicked into high gear and started coming down in buckets. We finished up and booked it back to the car. I suppose the kids got their water fun after all. I, however, had not planned on the thorough drenching I received.


In case you can't tell, there's still a tiny dry patch there under my armpit. That was it.

We couldn't really wait around for half an hour, then have enough time to play for any reasonable amount of time before we'd have to head home and make dinner, so we got on our way. Sorry, kiddos.

On the bright side, someone got what was probably a much-needed nap on the ride home.


Snorg

She must have been really tired. I carried her upstairs and she still kept right on snoozing.


Got a bit of a "passed out teen starlet" thing going on, with those diva glasses ;)

Anyway. We'll try again later in the week, I'm sure.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Regularly Scheduled Programming

Mom headed back home on Saturday, and we've been getting back to our usual routine since then. We had a great rest of the visit, though! It was quite hot outdoors, so we made a lot of indoor fun. Monday we took the kids to meet some friends at the mall play area, grabbed sushi for lunch, made pasta salad for dinner. Tuesday we went to the spray park. Wednesday was the 4th of July, so Tom had the day off, and the five of us went to the pool in the afternoon. Thursday evening Soren and Mom came out to the barn with me, and Soren got to take a little ride on Vanya. He was very thrilled. And cute.


Friday we went to Ray's to the Third for lunch (delicious burgers and "adult" milkshakes) and then went to another sprayground afterward to cool off. While we were there, a cameraman from PBS News Hour stopped by, working on a story about the heat. He took some footage that included our kids, but our Tivo failed to cooperate when I tried to record the program that night, so I have no idea if it aired. Oh well. I got some video. (I am loving my new iPod.)


Saturday morning, Mom & Soren went to a kids' workshop class at Home Depot while I went to Zumba. (They're in the same shopping center.) We took Mom to the airport a few hours later. The kids were glum, but we picked up smoothies for lunch, which cheered them a wee bit. We spent the rest of the weekend relaxing and avoiding the end of the heat wave. We were greeted by rain and a 15 degree drop in temperature on Monday. Yay!

Monday Eleri had her 2 1/2 year doctor visit. Soren insisted on doing everything first (weighing, measuring, getting his heart listened to), so El could see there was nothing to be worried about. She didn't even need any shots this time, but she was still very quiet and serious. And nervous. But well behaved. At 30 pounds and 36.75 inches tall (66th and 81st percentiles, respectively), she's exactly 6 pounds lighter and 6 inches shorter than her brother. Pretty crazy! After the appointment we did some grocery shopping and spent the afternoon at A's house, playing and visiting.

Tuesday morning both kids had appointments to get their teeth cleaned. Again, Soren went first. Last time, they didn't have appointments on the same day, and when it was Eleri's turn, Soren was at preschool, and she was not okay with any of it. I ended up having to hold her on my lap in the exam chair. This time though, with big brother leading the way, she was coaxed into sitting by herself and ended up behaving beautifully for the hygienist and dentist. I was very proud of her. Soren, also, had his first set of dental x-rays taken. He was a trooper, clearly having trouble holding the x-ray film things in his mouth and definitely having trouble staying still. It was almost like an Abbott & Costello sketch or something. Each time the assistant got him set up and tried to step out to press the button, he'd move, or open his mouth, and she'd have to start all over again. Eventually it took 2 assistants to get the job done, but they managed! We got to see the x-rays of his permanent teeth growing in (nice and straight, though a bit crowded on the bottom, no great surprise), so that was really cool.

Afterward, we went to lunch at Cafe Rio. I'd never heard of it before, but my friend Sarah recommended it. Free kids' quesadillas, and $1.50 tacos on Tuesdays! And they hand-make all their tortillas. It was pretty good! We met up with a group of friends (4 moms, 7 kids total) and all the wee ones behaved quite well overall. After lunch, half the group headed home for naptime, and A's mom and I took our kids over to the park to run around some more. We went back to Bluemont Park, which was shockingly empty, for such a nice day. I guess there's just not so much of a crowd there after lunchtime? In any event, the kids had fun playing and playing. At one point they were all in the sand pit, and Eleri was just covered with fine white sand. She looked like she'd been baking. Messily.

Today was a return to mall walk. Then a library program (bilingual song & dance program, English & Spanish), grocery shopping, lunch, then over to the other library to drop off books there & pick up a few more. Soren is absolutely hooked on the Nate the Great series these days. He reads them all by himself, too, which is excellent. After we got home from the second library he just settled himself on the couch and read, silently, for a good half hour. It was awesome! Eleri had a rough day, unfortunately. She'd awakened way earlier than usual and was very tired and fragile for the rest of the day, as a result. Very volatile moods - smiling and laughing, sobbing and wailing, back to giggling, all in a matter of minutes sometimes. Oy. I'm hoping she sleeps better tonight/tomorrow morning.

Whew. I think that catches us up. Next to get caught up on pictures. ;) I have tons to share. Tons! Check for them on Flickr later this week, and keep checking the kids' YouTube page for new videos.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Grandma Standard Time

My mom arrived Thursday afternoon, and it's been nearly nonstop Grandma Time here ever since. Lots of fun games happening, all day long. :) Which is good, since it's been brutally hot outside, and we would have been completely stir crazy with only our usual indoor diversions to entertain us. Having someone else around is like having an indoor diversion expansion pack. ;)

Friday night we had a tremendously intense storm. Very windy, rapid-fire lightning, buckets of rain. We have been extremely fortunate not to have lost power at all, as a result of the storm. Something like half a million people in the greater metro area did not fare so well. Some are expected not to have power restored for a week or more! I can hardly imagine.

Saturday night we met Alice, her friend, and Max at The Pig for dinner. Once again, a fabulous meal was had. That place is really, really outstanding. Lunch today was provided by BGR: The Burger Joint. Also delicious, as always. I must say, I really do think one of the major advantages of having out of town visitors is having an excuse to eat extra-tasty food from places you don't often get to go. And the week's just getting started. ;)

Monday, June 25, 2012

New video channel

I set up a new YouTube account for the random daily video snippets I'm shooting with my awesome new iPod. You can check it out here:

Kids of the Sue

Happy birthday to me!

Well, I'm now officially a thirty-something. Thirty-one: so far, so fun! Or something. ;)

Tom got me a brand new iPod touch, which is super awesome. It has the front & rear cameras, so I can even more easily take & post photos & videos on the go. Sweet! He also made me a super tasty cake. Yay cake!

In the afternoon yesterday, I got to have one last trail ride with N before Petey left to go back to his owner's. Both horses had been in their stalls since Tuesday (both had thrown shoes, and the farrier wasn't available until Sunday afternoon), so they were rarin' to go when we took them out. It was not, perhaps, the most relaxing ride ever, but it was nonetheless a good one.

I picked up a movie on the way home (free rental from Redbox, whee!). We watched Tower Heist, which was better than either of us anticipated. Always nice to be pleasantly surprised by a movie.

All told, twas a fine day. Here's to another year. :)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Busy Week

It was *hot* this week. We made two trips to the pool and one to the spray park. This afternoon we were at the pool for more than two hours. It's such a simpler endeavor than last year. No swim diapers to deal with (huzzah!) and both kids are big enough for floaty vests, so I don't have to be within arm's reach at all times (which is more work than you'd think in 2 feet of water). It's lovely. Not having babies anymore definitely has its perks.

Yesterday I thought we'd try to get to the spray park right when it opened. It seemed like the best option for avoiding having to stand in line. Unfortunately, I was dead wrong, and we ended up having to wait a good 15 or 20 minutes to get in, which really wasn't all that bad in the grand scheme of things, but if we'd just waited until about an hour after opening, there would have been no line at all. Lesson learned! The kiddos had a good time though. That spray park really is an excellent resource.

After the spray park I took the little weasels to get smoothies for lunch (it really was a scorcher of a day), and then later in the afternoon we had a library program to attend. The program was called "Creature Teacher," and there was a presentation with live animals. There was a chinchilla, a milk snake, a tarantula, a Patagonian cavy, a chameleon, and a hedgehog. The program lasted a bit over an hour, with rather a bit more talking than was really ideal for the younger kids in the crowd. Some very interesting information about the animals, but it would have been better suited to maybe ages 7 and up. Ah well. At the very end though, the lady got the chinchilla & hedgehog back out, and the kids got to pet them. Both Soren and Eleri were super stoked and wanted to stay and stay and stay. So in the end, at least, I think they probably felt more positive than negative about the whole endeavor.

This afternoon it was back to the pool, where we hung out for over 2 hours. There were some complaints about getting out of the pool to go home & make dinner, but not 2 minutes after I coaxed them over to the towels, there was a roll of thunder and the pool had to be shut down anyway, so it was just as well. And then not entirely my fault that we had to leave. ;)

Sadly, assurances that "we'll be back to the pool many MANY more times this summer" are not particularly persuasive to 2 and 4 year-olds who just want to play more NOW, but hopefully with sufficient repetition it'll get easier to leave the pool eventually. Maybe. I can hope.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Flying high

I got to have a jumping lesson this evening on Petey, the fancy Trakehner N has been leasing. He's a very talented horse who seems to really enjoy jumping, even though he hasn't done a ton of it yet. He's the first horse I've ridden in a looong time (and one of a handful of horses *ever*) where it feels like he barely has to try when we're clearing 3' fences. On his back I'm flying; it's a feeling I've missed quite a lot.

Petey was a tremendously good sport this evening because it was HOT out. And muggy. And also because I'm sorely out of practice and made all kinds of stupid mistakes that he had to deal with. But deal with them he did, and gamely. By the end of our lesson we were both dripping sweat, but happy. I wish he and I were going to have more time together; alas, he's going back to his owner's after this week.

Tonight's was my second, and most likely final, jumping lesson on this talented horse. Here are a couple of short video clips from my first jumping lesson (taken a few weeks ago).




Monday, June 18, 2012

Here's the Media-media-media-media-media

It's been a while since I posted about some of the things we're watching and listening to around here. Some of the songs the kids are fixated on right now:
And this one.


Seriously. Eleri must have watched the above video about 25 times on the day I introduced her to it.

Pomplamoose put out a new song and music video that Tom & I have been enjoying. It's a bit of a departure from their previous style, both musically and visually, and it's tremendously entertaining.


Also, anyone who's been in my general vicinity within the past six or eight weeks has heard me raving about Sherlock. It's a BBC series based on the Sherlock Holmes stories but set in the present day, and it's excellent. Funny and smart and visually interesting, and they occasionally do just lift sections of dialogue right out of the original stories. Seriously. Watch it.

We've also been enjoying some books by Jasper Fforde. Tom & I both read The Eyre Affair (the first book in the Thursday Next series) and listened to Shades of Grey (not Fifty Shades of Grey) on CD, and Tom's started reading the second "Thursday Next" book.

That's all I can think of for now.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Fathers' Day

Can it really be mid-June already? It's been unexpectedly mild this past week, which I have definitely appreciated, after the previous week's foray into the 90s. I have a feeling we'll be thrust back into the full vigor of summer weather again soon enough.

I've got a lot to update, per usual, but I'm going to split it into a few posts, in reverse chronological order. So I'll start with today.

Happy Fathers' Day, to all the dads, not least my own! We had a pretty nice day here, generally taking it easy in the morning and early afternoon, and then going to a BBQ with some friends later in the day. There are a couple of moms (Carlota & Christine), whom Eleri and I met in the lass's rec center class, and with whom the kids and I hang out a fair bit. So we were meeting up with them and their families to visit and eat some tasty food, potluck-style. Socializing with people he barely knows is not particularly high on Tom's list of favorite pastimes, but he's ever the good sport, and everyone ultimately had a good time, I think. The kiddos all get along great, which makes it easy and fun to spend time together.

And not to toot my own horn (much), but I made some damned tasty cornbread to bring along. I also made pasta salad, which is reliably delicious, but the corn bread was especially spectacular. When I was making it, Tom reminded me that we had some baconated duck fat in the fridge, and I included that in lieu of some of the butter called for in the recipe. Oh my. It was fabulous. I also put corn kernels and shredded cheddar cheese in it, and next time I think I'll try adding diced green chiles as well. Good stuff.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

The Eatening

My cousin Shannon was here on a visit from NYC Memorial weekend. Since she lives where she does (for another few days, anyway), it feels like the pressure's really on to seek out impressive meals when she's here. And this trip, I think we made out like bandits.

Saturday lunch: Yamazato
Yamazato is a top notch sushi restaurant right in Alexandria. It's easily one of my favorite restaurants, and it did not disappoint. We split two rolls and a sashimi platter, which came with big fat slabs of salmon and white toro, melt-in-your-mouth tuna and yellowtail, and a few more pieces I don't quite recall. Shannon liked that her green tea came with grains of toasted rice in the tea strainer. It was a marvelous meal to start off our "eatinerary."

Saturday dinner: Ray's to the Third
Max and Agnes were able to join us for dinner at one of the steak houses owned by the guy who owns Ray's Hellburger. My steak came served with wild mushrooms and a sauce made with truffle oil. Tom and Max got the steak with roasted bone marrow. Shannon's peppercorn-crusted filet mignon came with bleu cheese and béarnaise. Agnes got a bacon-topped burger. The only thing that was a little disappointing was the mac & cheese we got for the kids. But I would eat there again quite happily.

Sunday lunch: Maine Ave Fish Market
Sunday we metro-ed into DC to check out (among other things) the oldest surviving fish market in the country. It was pretty huge, and we walked around a bit looking at everything on offer before settling down with some tasty crab cakes and fried shrimp for lunch. There's nowhere to sit down, but one of the food vendors has some counters where you can stand and eat, so we did that. A looooong walk around the city followed, before we ended up not far from Dupont Circle for dinner.

Sunday dinner: The Pig
If you come to DC and can eat only one place, eat here. We had an amazing dinner - greens & bacon, and beets & greens for starters, then braised cheek, charred belly, crispy shank, and rabbit roulade for our shared entrees, and then a sundae bloody sundae and caprese cone for dessert. Blood chocolate ice cream sundae with a chunk of spicy bacon peanut brittle (drool), and then a rolled waffle cone stuffed with goat cheese mousse, served with tomato sorbet & a basil gelee. Oh. My. Word. It sounds funky but trust me. Ah-MAZ-ing food. I can't wait til my Mom comes to visit later this month, so we have an excuse to go again. ;)

Monday lunch: La Tasca
The Tapas were pretty good, but with the exception of the duck confit, all the meat was overcooked. After the perfectly cooked steaks at Rays and pork at The Pig, this was rather a bit more noticeable. But the fried eggplant was good, and it's hard to go wrong with churros & chocolate sauce for dessert.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Miscellany

Hello again. Sorry, I've got no idea where the past couple of weeks went. You know how it goes.

Well, okay, let me think. Week before last, we thought we might have been exposed to Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease at a playdate. Yikes! Not wanting to risk infecting others, we laid low for several days until I was sure we were past the incubation window. Fortunately, neither of the kids actually came down with anything, and Soren didn't have to miss any school. Phew! We've been up to our usual assortment of activities this past week (school, park, visiting friends, mall walk, errands). On the potty training front, Eleri's been accident-free for thirteen days! This is pretty excellent. She still does have the occasional "oops" (starts to have an accident, catches herself, makes it to the potty mostly in time), but I'll not complain about that. Yay Eleri!

On the 11th we had a Mother's Day Tea at Soren's school. Poor El was confined to the stroller in the corner of the classroom (this was two days after the Hand, Foot & Mouth exposure, and she'd developed a slight rash around her mouth the night before), but she was largely content to sit & play her iPod games. Soren & I shared some coffee cake and played with a couple of toys in the classroom, and all the kids had made crafts for us moms. It was sweet.

I've been tearing through books lately, relative to my sloth-like reading speed of recent years. I think I've finished 4 books in the past month, though admittedly, three of those were shortish works of fiction. I do really seem to get bogged down with the non-fiction stuff, but hey, I do what I can with limited time. Nothing quite like getting sucked into a story though. I've also been reading Farmer Boy (by Laura Ingalls Wilder) with Soren in the evenings. We usually do a chapter or two per night, and while I think it's probably still a wee bit beyond him, he seems to be enjoying it. I'm really quite excited to be entering the stage when we can read chapter books and series together. I fondly remember being read books a chapter or two at a time at bedtime; it was one of those things I looked forward to being able to do as a parent, and here we are. Pretty great. :)

I also picked up some Spanish language CDs (Pimsleur) from the library, and the kids & I have been listening to those in the car. That's been the source of much amusement, and the kiddos seem to be actually retaining bits & pieces. I don't think they're remembering much in the way of the meaning of the words, but the occasional "De donde?", apropos of nothing, is pretty hilarious.

Our balcony garden is looking quite good. I've got recent pictures which I will put up soon. Our herb seeds are stubbornly refusing to sprout (except for the basil), so that's a little frustrating, but everything else seems to be growing well. Now if we can just stave off a bug attack like last year's, we'll be in good shape to have a bunch of delicious stuff.

One last little thing and then I'm off to bed. Tom & I got married six years ago today. Soren went with me yesterday to buy a card for Tom, and Soren insisted on getting one too. I think he was expecting a party or something (he's been introduced to the concept of birthday parties this year, so he seems to think every celebratory occasion needs to be accompanied by a party). Hehe. Sorry, kid. It was a nice mellow day. I'm awfully lucky to have found someone with whom I'm so well matched.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

And so it goes

Taking a break from "all potty all the time" (I know, try to contain your disappointment) to write about something pretty cool.

My dad's side of the family is quite musical. All 3 of his sisters sang professionally at some point or another, and two of my cousins on that side are also talented musicians. When I was a young'un, my Aunt Colleen put together an album of kid music, songs she'd written & recorded herself. They were not your typical kid songs, especially not kid songs of the late 80s. Clever, silly but parent-friendly, great stuff. We listened to that cassette tape over, and over, and over. When Tom and the kids and I were in New York with my cousins this past Christmas, the three of us cousins busted out the chorus to one of Aunt Colleen's songs ("Egg Salad Sandwich") without so much as a moment's hesitation. Those lyrics were right there, two decades later.

(By the way, if there exists some sort of digital copy of that album, I'd love to get ahold of it.)

My cousin Shannon has one of her songs available on iTunes ("Centralia" - Shannon Kealey). Back when I was weaning Eleri, I used to play music on my iPod for her at bedtime, to help her settle and such. After a while I noticed that Shannon's song could fairly reliably soothe her and knock her right out, more so than pretty much anything else I played for her. Since then, she's learned to identify Centralia as "The Shannon," and just yesterday I heard her singing along with the song on the iPod for the first time. Not every word, of course, but good heavens was it adorable and awesome. There is something so incredibly cool about watching history repeat itself in a way, with the next generation.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

I should write a book

Eleri's had her potty training sticker chart up for almost 2 weeks now. She has a grand total of 2 stickers on it (one sticker per accident-free day). I'm not saying this to pick on her, but to merely illustrate that it's still not super easy for her to go all day long without any accidents. Usually she has one, sometimes two, late in the day, once we've returned home from whatever we've been out and about doing all day. She's great about focusing when we're out of the house, and I'm also better about reminding her to go fairly regularly.

But none of this is really the point of this post.

The thing is, Soren's been eyeballing this sticker chart of El's for, like I said, about the past 2 weeks. He would very much like to earn rewards (and stickers) like she's doing, and has repeatedly asked me if he could have a chart of his own. For a while I just kind of brushed him off ("Dude, you already know how to use the potty...I'm not going to reward you for that. Look how difficult this still is for Eleri.") but then I thought about it some more and decided to come up with something that would be equally challenging for him. Say...not whining, for instance.

Anyone who's dealt with a 4 year-old for any significant length of time knows that "no whining" is a pretty tall order. (Yes, all kids are individuals, your mileage may vary, yada yada, but in my experience, 4 year-olds are a whiny crew.) I actually worried for some time that I was maybe setting him up to fail. No whining? At all? Get real. But we talked about it and agreed that, just like Eleri has to work hard not to have any potty accidents, Soren could work hard not to have any whining accidents. Eleri's stakes are currently higher - for each accident-free day she's earning not only a sticker but a lollipop - and Soren was extremely interested in being able to do the same. So I told him if he could make it a whole day without whining, he would earn himself a lollipop and a sticker chart, from which he could earn more awesome prizes, just like Eleri can.

I will freely admit that I did not anticipate his being able to collect on this offer any time soon. But then, two days ago, he almost made it. We had a whine-free morning, and a whine-free mid-day, and it wasn't until about 4pm that he had "an accident." Quite impressive, actually.

And yesterday? He did it. He actually made it all day long. Oh, he came close to whining a few times, got right up to the edge of a whiny tone, but he held himself together and soldiered on to earn that lollipop and sticker chart. I can hardly believe it worked.

Less than two weeks to a day without whining? Damn right I should write a book. ;)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Hooray! Science! (and metro trains)

The various Johnson Family Plagues of the past week are, thankfully, on the way out. Cripes, that was unpleasant.

Last night I got to go riding for the first time since Easter. Yay! Twas nice to get back in the saddle again, and Vanya was a pretty good boy.

This morning I went to Zumba class, then hurried home so we could all rush out again. We headed to DC to check out the big Science and Engineering Festival. It was quite cool, and would have been super awesome if it weren't so damned crowded. There were a ton of very kid-friendly, hands-on exhibits and demonstrations. One of the highlights for Soren was a full size Magic School Bus; there was even a lady dressed up as Ms. Frizzle. Unfortunately, the line to actually get inside the school bus was insanely long, but it was still cool from the outside. The other big excitement for the lad was a chance to see Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage - the Mythbusters! - in person. They were giving a talk on one of the stages. I wasn't too surprised that there were too many people there for us to get a very good view, but I was bummed that we couldn't really hear much of anything either. So the kids (sitting on our shoulders) got to see them for a little bit, and then we took off. It's possible Soren and Eleri were more excited about getting to ride the metro than they were about the actual science expo, but that's okay too. ;)

In the evening, we took the weasels over to A's house and got to go have a dinner date. We went to Big Buns in Arlington, which, despite sounding like a specialty strip club, is actually a burger place. The burgers were pretty good, but sadly overcooked. BGR and Ray's Hellburger still serve up the best burgers in the area, I think. But dinner out is dinner out, and we had a nice time.

Soren & Eleri have developed a liking for the Bree Sharp song "America." It's pretty funny to hear them singing the chorus ("Ah-ooooooooooh America!"), and of course they ask to listen to it over and over. Better than Barney's Greatest Hits, for sure.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

She's on the board :) And he's puking again :(

I feel like I haven't written much lately about poor Eleri that doesn't involve potty training, but I'm hopeful that we're finally nearing the end of that saga. And then the constant updates on my children's bladder and bowel habits will be a thing of the past. Lucky you! Lucky me! I think we'll all rejoice.

After the big earning of the ice cream cone, her discipline slipped for a few days, so even though we've had her new sticker chart set up since Saturday, she was finally able to put her first sticker on it today. She's on the board! I hope this will be sufficiently motivating for her to keep trying. Fingers crossed!

So. Remember those jackhammers I was complaining about yesterday? They were back again this morning, no great surprise. So when my friend Carlota asked if we wanted to meet her & her kids for breakfast, we all got dressed & out of the house in record time to escape the godawful noise. Soren wasn't seeming quite himself upon waking, and sure enough, a few sips into his apple juice at Panera...yaaaaaack. Right there on the table. Poor kid. The kicker is that he'd been completely fine the whole day yesterday! Probably could have gone to school, no problem. Oy. Anyway, he was all right for the rest of this morning. Not his usual boisterous self, but not miserable either. We made a quick run to the store for some Pedialyte, and then I stopped at Carlota's house to pick up some paints I'd left there (intending to maybe chill with the kids at home this afternoon and do some painting to keep them entertained). We got back home just minutes before the jackhammerers went on lunch break, so we had a good 45 minutes of blissful silence. During which time Soren perked up and was back to his usual self again, as if nothing had happened. He was fine for the rest of the day.

So now I'm a little scared to send him to school tomorrow, since mornings seem to be his most fragile time, but keeping him home another day also seems like a silly choice. He'll probably be just fine. I'll have to see how he's acting first thing in the morning and make a decision then. Really hoping he wakes up bright eyed and bushy tailed.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Siiiiick

Ugh, thanks a lot, weekend!

I began a slow descent into headcold crumminess on, I think, Thursday morning. By Saturday I was too congested to attempt Zumba. I did take Eleri out in the afternoon for ice cream & erranding, and we did some major rearrangement of the kids' room (ditched Eleri's bed, put her mattress under Soren's loft bed, pseudo-bunk-bed-style, got a bunch of new drawers & bins for their toys). El & I also went to the international grocery store in search of some Indian spices so we could make butter chicken for dinner. It was rather a bit hotter than I expected, but still pretty tasty. And as I told Tom, at least it cleared out my sinuses a bit.

Saturday night I took some Tylenol PM and basically blocked out the world until after 9am Sunday morning.

I awoke to discover Tom had some sort of stomach bug. A nasty one. He'd been up for hours already, completely miserable, and was in no condition to take Soren to soccer class. Eleri & I still forged ahead to her swimming lesson. She's no longer loving it quite as much as she did those first couple of weeks; mostly she objects to having to be on her back and gets pretty cranky after that part of the class. Oh well. Only two weeks left.

Poor Tom was pretty much out of it all day. I was still feeling crappy with my congested head, so it was a very low-key rest of the day. Dozing on the couch, maybe watching some TV, while the kids played. Soren was extraordinarily bummed that he didn't get to go anywhere all day, and I think that may have contributed to some not so great behavior later in the evening. Tom & I switched kids for bedtime, so that meant I was putting Eleri to bed for the first time in a while. And I completely failed. She's normally well asleep by about 8:20, and it was after 9:00 by the time I finally got her down. Bah.

And then around 1am this morning, Soren came padding into our room. I told him to go back to bed. He told me he couldn't because he'd spat on his hand. I didn't know what the heck he was on about, assumed he'd drooled or something, led him back to bed. At which point I discovered he'd puked all over his pillow. And his hand. Poor little dude. Got him cleaned up and re-settled on the couch, and he & I slept there for a little while. Fearing he'd caught whatever it was that Tom had yesterday, I kept him home from school this morning, even though he seems completely fine. Better a little disappointment and stir craziness at home than getting a call at 9:15 telling me he'd yarfed on a classmate.

And now it seems the apartment above ours is having some sort of renovation done, because someone has been jackhammering directly over my head for the last hour. This is just too much awesome for one day. I think I'm going to try my luck with these stir crazy little gits and go run a couple of errands.

Update: The jackhammering wasn't coming from overhead; it was coming from the parking garage. Way to go on the extreme conductivity of sound there, concrete! They kept at it until 4pm. It was awesome.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Three days!

Eleri has now gone three days without any accidents! Until yesterday she'd never even made it two days in a row. As you may be able to imagine, this is very exciting for all of us.

After a particularly rough morning on Monday, I sat her down and told her that if she could really buckle down, concentrate, and make it through the rest of the week accident-free, she would be rewarded with an ice cream cone on Saturday. I've been saying for a while that we just need to find her "currency" (Soren's was little yogurt biscotti cookies from Trader Joe's). Potty training has long since stopped being interesting to her, and she doesn't seem to particularly care if she doesn't make it to the bathroom in time. But that one little conversation just might have done it. I think after this weekend maybe she'll get a sticker chart again. Every accident-free day she'll earn a sticker, and when she fills the chart (30 days or something) she'll get some kind of awesome prize of her choosing. Hopefully that will be sufficient incentive to get over the hump and into the realm of the Fully Potty Trained. Fingers crossed!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Little Zumba Foo Foo

I love blowing Soren's mind by joining in when he's singing some new song or reciting some rhyme he's learned at school. ("Yeah, the dish DID run away with the spoon! How did you know that?!") The other day, though, I got one of the song lyrics wrong. I learned that the good fairy from "Little Bunny Foo Foo" has apparently gone soft.

"I'll give you three chances, and if you don't behave, I'll turn you into a goon!"

"What?! No, no, no, Mommy. Not a goon. He gets turned into a duck."

"Buh?"

Indeed, every time Soren sings the song, the field-mouse-bopping bunny (they did retain the violence of the song, it seems) is horribly chagrined to discover he's become a duck by the end. I find this strange. What's so objectionable about "goon"? And how does turning a rabbit into a duck teach him a lesson about leaving defenseless field mice alone? It's one thing to punish wicked behavior with an outward manifestation of inner wickedness, but simple prey-animal-to-prey-animal transfiguration? Doesn't track.

I will admit that it is entirely possible that I'm overthinking this whole thing. But anyway.

Yesterday Soren adapted the lyrics to make up his own silly verse.

Little Zumba foo foo
Getting some exercise
Leaving at 5 o'clock
So it can see its family

No goons there, but the kid is definitely a goof. ;)