Sunday, February 27, 2011

Being Social

I went out in public AND wore pants that buttoned up two days in a row over the weekend. I didn't get hives, but I did get a little burning sensation.  I went to a cosmetics party at Alix's (another FS spouse and mom of three adorable kiddos) on Friday and had a lovely time soaking my feet and sampling the products (both the cosmetic kind and the yummy food and booze kind). Any cream or lotion that promised even the remotest possibility of wrinkle reduction I slathered liberally around my eyes. Forty-something years of laughing have time marching right across my face and while I don't regret most of that laughter, I'm not one to turn away any help in the battle against Mother Nature. Everything smelled so good and made my skin feel so soft.  So, cream after cream I slapped on my laugh lines, right on top of each other. I figured by the time I got home I would be looking like the dewy fifteen year-old girl I was when my husband first laid eyes on me. In retrospect, I think I should have been a little more cautious, considering that I'm allergic to everything on the planet. Anyway, Mitch failed to notice that I had turned into a nubile fifteen year-old when I got home, possibly because I told him how much money I'd spent on my amazing transformation before he'd had a chance to fully appreciate my beauty.  I woke up in the middle of the night with the skin around my eyes on fire. It's still burning a little, two days later. Mother's Nature is working on her own laugh lines over this, to be sure. Bitch.

Yesterday we went to a Foreign Service blogger's potluck at the Foreign Service Ghetto, aka the Oakwood. We took our girls, and they were thrilled to be back.  My kids LOVED living at Oakwood. Lots of other kids, their own little store full of candy and ice cream, a pool, and a hot cocoa machine. What's not to love? I'll refrain from making a list for you. Carrying my dog out like a baby to do his business because he was terrified of the construction workers and all their machinery, the soul-sucking lighting in the kitchen,  and waking up at 4:45 am to get my kids to school were definitely great times at Oakwood, though. Ooh! See what I did? I made a list anyway. My misery at Oakwood was not Oakwood's fault (except the lighting-ick!), but the memories are forever intertwined. Anyhoodle, it was fun meeting other bloggers (every one of them nice, lovely, smart, witty, and attractive) and the girls had a blast playing with the other kids. Mitch even found a group of geeks to hang out with. Many thanks to the organizers. Unfortunately, the hot cocoa machine was out of order, but they did have heaping plates of tasty blogger-made treats to ease their pain.

I had a few people ask me for my potluck recipe. This is the perfect potluck dish, because it's easy, doesn't require refrigeration or heating, and feeds a crowd. It's my sister Kim's dish, but I've had to learn it since my teenager loves it and since I've been ripped from the bosom of my family to follow my husband who is working for the Man who may shut down the government and reduce his pay which was already cut when he took said job. But that's a really long title for a recipe, so let's just call it:

Kate's Sister Kim's Spicy Noodles

1 lb Vermicelli  *
1/4 C plus 1Tbs. toasted sesame seeds
 3 Tbs  Sesame oil
 1Tbs chili oil
 1/3 C vegetable oil
 1/3 C Sugar
 3/4 C Soy Sauce
 2 tsp red pepper  **
 1 tsp red pepper flakes
 1 Bunch green onions

Cook the pasta according to directions. Toast the sesame seeds unless you're lazy like me and buy pre-toasted ones. Mix the rest of the ingredients through the red pepper flakes and then toss with pasta.  Finely chop the green onions and mix most in with the noodles, leaving some to sprinkle on top along with the extra Tbs. of sesame seeds. I usually make it the day before and refrigerate so the noodles can really soak up the sauce, and then sprinkle the final onions and sesame seed just before serving.

* I like to use whole wheat spaghetti, but I've also used soba, angel hair pasta, and regular spaghetti with good results.

**adjust to your personal heat preferences. I like to feel my lips burning for at least a few hours after I eat it, so I generally add more heat. Note that if you make it the day before, the heat intensifies.

Under no circumstances take out your contacts when you are finished making this recipe, even if you've washed your hands. Ask me how I know this!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Dermatology gangstas

Next week, Henry is going to have a birthmark/mole thingie (why yes, I'm pretty sure that is the correct medical term) removed from his scalp. It's not a big deal, but it does require a few pre-surgery appointments and he'll be fully sedated. He'll also miss half a week of school and another week of PE/recess. Surprisingly, he's pretty excited about all this (especially the missing of school part, but also the shaved head part). The surgeon was explaining the procedure to us yesterday and Henry said, "So, do you just pour some chloroform onto a rag and hold it over my mouth to knock me out?" 

Somebody's been reading too many comic books.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Crime, punishment, and Legos

We had Mitch's brother and son visiting from Seattle this week. We took the kids to the National Museum of Crime and Punishment. I would say it was one of my kids' favorite outings in DC so far. The museum had fairly dim lighting and there was no flash photography allowed, which is why the pics are dark.

I need one of these in my house.
No, wait, I need one of these in my house.
And I wouldn't mind having one of these, either.

The perpetrator was five feet tall and wore a striped cap.

After the kids had their fill of criminal activity, we went out for lunch and then hit up the National Building Museum.  We were unaware that there was some kind of kids' engineering convention there that day.  The look of panic on Mitch and Jack's faces was priceless when they took in the scene, knowing how well I handle crowds. It turned out okay.  Not really, it sucked, but I kept it together for the most part.  Except for the hives.

We went to the Lego exhibit, which was much calmer and more relaxing. The buildings were stunning.

Frank Lloyd Wright wannabe (this week, anyway).

Spotted: The elusive American teenager skulking about the museum.
Cool! We can play Legos! We never get to do that at home. Where we have three giant bins full of them.

Our excellent barf record was jinxed, as seen in (and probably because of) my previous post. Olivia had chicken strips at the restaurant we ate at and got a migraine that night. Probably MSG in the batter or something, but she's feeling all better, and the earth seems to be spinning back on it's axis now that we have barf  in our lives again.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Things are looking up.

This has been the longest week ever, but a calm has settled over the house,  which may or may not have something to do with this:

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Grumpy McGrumpypants

Don't worry, I'm not going to whine or anything.  Ha! Just kidding. I'm fond of lists, so here is my list of Things That are Bugging Me right now:

-This dry Virginia winter weather. We're all having bloody noses.
-Mean fourth graders. Especially ones that call my sweet boy a "f*g" for having a pierced ear (he took the little hoop out after this and has yet to put it back in). Also, the ones that told him his valentines were disgusting.
-Feeling guilty every time one of my kids struggles as a result of our moving to Virginia.
-Missing mild temperatures and overcast drizzle (really!). This bright sun is giving me eye wrinkles, which has nothing to do with my being in my forties.
-Worrying that we started this too late in the game. All the FS people we've met have either really young kids or kids that are grown or in boarding school. Do they know something I don't?
-Isolation. I am fully aware that this is my own semi-agoraphobic fault. Why, there's a church full of snake charmers just next door that would welcome me with open arms. They tell me almost every day.
-Not knowing where, or when we are going.  Or even when we'll know when or where we are going. I'm a planner. I can't plan until I know more, so I make myself crazy planning imaginary scenarious to keep myself in practice. No, I haven't been institutionalized, why do you ask?
-Missing friends and family is harder than I thought it would be, because my kids are aching for the ones they left behind, too, and when they ache, I ache times a bazillion.
-Fairfax County Public Library. At 30 cents per book, per day late, and a rate of about 25 books per week, many of which fall under the furniture and get left in desks at school, they are breaking my bank. If my old Island County library ever thought to charge for overdue books, they might actually build a collection of more than six books.

Alas, as always, it is what you make of it, and after getting that out of my system, I do feel a little better, so I'll close with a list of Things That are Making Me Happy right now.

-Olivia mastered double digit math. Seeing how easy it is for her twin sister ticked her off so she refused to even learn. Isolating them during homework and computer math games did the trick, along with a little help from Dad. Woot!
-My kids. They are mostly happy and resilient and funny, even in the face of fourth grade a-holes and second grade boys that tug on pigtails (yes, her father explained why the little boy was tugging on her pigtails. He's just lucky he picked Grace, because Olivia would have blacked his eye.).
-Thin mints and Samoas were delivered to my front door today.
-I fixed the Problem of the Flooded Basement all by myself when Mitch was in Africa. I felt competent and handy (There was a mighty clog of Olivia's hair bands in the drain. I pulled them out, saving the entire family from being carried away by flood waters.).
-Mr. Clean Magic erasers.
-Trader Joe's started carrying good sourdough bread.
-I'm pretty much sticking to my New Year's Resolutions, except numbers 1-9.

And the number one thing making me happy right now is:


You weren't expecting that, were you? Maybe it's the universe's way of telling me things are going to be okay.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Home, finally

Anxiously watching for the flight number to switch from "on time" to "in customs":


And waiting.

The dog can finally rest from his diligent protecting of the family:

Business class booty:

"I always thought I was the kind of person that should have one of these eye thingies!" ~Grace

Major props to all you families with a parent serving away from home for extended periods of time.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Love notes

Mitch will be home from Djibouti this weekend, just in time for Valentine's Day. We're not big on the whole Valentine's Day going out to dinner nightmare, but the kids love having parties at school and having heart-shaped pancakes and pizza, and we always make a decadent dessert for dinner. Last year I got a beautiful bouquet of some red strappy sandals I'd been coveting (seriously, men, if you want to impress your lady, you can't go wrong with a great pair of shoes. Or maybe that's just me.). This year I'm expecting a mug from Djibouti or something of that nature.

Usually the kids make all their valentines, but this year, I had the valentines printed up from a cute idea I saw on the internet and they are decorating the envelopes:

Henry's was pretty typical of a ten year-old boy. It was all his idea and pretty much the only way he could be convinced to pass out valentines in school. He was a little disappointed by the lack of dripping blood:

And then there's Jack, who apparently is the dog's valentine this year. Seamus finally has a job that he can be proud of besides chasing the foxes out of the backyard.  Every morning it is a TRIAL to get Jack out of bed and I have to stand over him calling out his name to get him up. This cuts into my morning coffee-in-bed time, so I came up with a plan that worked better than my wildest dreams could have imagined.  When it's time to get Jack up for school, I open his door and say, "SeamusgogetJack!" in the same tone we used to say "Seamusgogetthechickens!" when the chickens were in the flower beds. Seamus quivers for the briefest of moments, and then goes tearing downstairs, jumps on the bed, and rubs his butt on Jack's face. Then he lies beside him and pushes him out of the bed with all four of his paws. Jack can't get mad at him because, you know, man's best friend and all. It's pretty much the most awesome thing I've ever seen, and it's my favorite part of the day.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Things that don't suck

The list of things that suck about Mitch being away is loooong. For example, I bet you didn't know he washes the dishes every night and now I have to do it (that's all the way up at number three, by the way). Fortunately, it's a pretty short TDY, and I always like to focus on the positive (shut up), so here is my list of

Things That Don't Suck about TDYs:

-I get the whole bed to myself.  This used to be a lot more fun when the bed wasn't a Sleep Number with a mountain in the middle.

-Breakfast for dinner. Every night!  Except when I take the kids to IHOP for dinner.  They do love their pancakes.

-I get my morning coffee exactly the way I like it: two shakes of cinnamon, a splash of half and half, and very strongly brewed in the french press.  Unfortunately, his coffee still tastes better because it's brought to me in bed.

-I can watch old episodes of Sex and the City on E! before I fall asleep, instead of shows about pre-something something iron forging using the something method on the dumb History Channel.

-I can listen to ABBA and 80s club music when I'm cleaning up from dinner.  For as long as I can endure Jack's agonized cries.

-He wrote a note for each kid for their lunch box for every day that he is gone and they are beyond excited about it.  I write notes on their napkins all the time, but THEY DON'T! ACT! LIKE IT'S THE GREATEST! THING! IN! THE WORLD! I CAN'T BELIEVE DADDY WROTE NOTES! WE'RE GOING TO SAVE THEM FOREVER! Oh, yeah, mom, that whole wheat pita with grilled chicken and tiny tomatoes and thoughtfully chosen fruits and veggies was good, too. And wow, a chocolate kiss-gee, thanks.

-I'm learning how to fix stuff.  Sure, it may be the Fonzie method, but I'm operating at about a 40% success rate, which is pretty spectacular if you ask me.

-I'm getting really close with our attack watch dog, who patrols all the levels of the house with his tags jingling. All night. Also, we have a pair of foxes that have moved into our backyard, and they are having a blast tormenting said attack dog.

-Uhhh. Let's see.  Oh yeah! I get the Sonicare charger all to myself.  Okay, with that bit of lameness, the list just officially fizzled out. Come home soon, babe, I miss you and I've got dishpan hands.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Stuff and things

I feel like we are in limbo.  Waiting to find out where we're going, which should be very soon.  Waiting to find out when we are going, which could be very soon or not until next year.  At any rate, I'm getting pretty tired of the tiny main bathroom in this house.  I've dropped three make-up brushes in the toilet this week alone. We've been scrambling to find a piece of property in Spokane to buy before we go, so Mitch can get started on the design of our dream house. Now, don't get a picture of a big old mansion with lots of rooms and fancy crap.  We want something modern and functional and with a tiny carbon footprint.  Simple.  But with a huge closet.  And two ovens inside and a wood-fired pizza oven outside. And the world's greatest mud room. Is it weird that I drool over mudrooms? Shoes and coats and backpacks tossed on the floor give me hives. The awesome thing about being married to an architect is that I can change my mind a zillion times and it won't cost me a red cent. Oh, sure, I'll pay in other ways, but I'm sure they'll be mutually enjoyable (steak!  I'm talking about ribeyes, people. Sheesh.). 

I've volunteered to foster dogs being evacuated from Cairo because I'm crazy like that, and Olivia would die from happiness with extra furry friends around, so I'll keep you posted about that.  I'm sure they'll be barfing dogs, at any rate. And speaking of dogs, I'm missing the Puppy Bowl, so I'm signing off.