Sunday, November 28, 2010

Holiday Weekend, Part II

We realized yesterday that our children have never had the time-honored tradition of raking leaves.  Sure, we were surrounded by trees when we lived on the island, but we had a tractor that decimated and sucked them up for composting.  Those sure were the good old days.  Luckily, Virginia is currently blanketed in leaves, and our yard is no exception, so we put everyone to work.

Even houseguests aren't exempt from my slavedriving.
Some people worked more than others.

Finding the right music was the key for one.
I'd like to say it was a blast, but it was raking leaves, which is fun for about ten minutes.  The three youngest spent most of the time diving into the piles.  I was busy chronicling the event for all of you, because I'm a giver.  So basically, Mitch, Jack, and Peter did all the work.  Thanks, guys!  I did make them a cake, though.

After we stuffed our faces we went to Mount Vernon for their Candlelight Christmas tour.  I didn't get too many pictures, because it was dark out, and you're not allowed to take photos inside the house.  They had a large cast of people dressed in period costumes giving little talks in all the rooms and buildings, from slaves to Martha Washington, to blacksmiths doing actual smithing. 

Taking a walk with George and Martha.

The girls were digging the miniature replica of Mount Vernon.

There was 18th century carols and dancing, cider and cookies, and a, uh, Christmas camel.  This is Aladdin, and apparently George Washington rented a camel at Christmastime to entertain his guests. 
Random shot of musicians with Christmas trees and stained glass.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Holiday Weekend

We've been having a lovely weekend, although I admit we've painfully missed being with our extended family for Thanksgiving.  Luckily, I was able to have the fabulous brother and sister team of Nora and Peter spend a few days with us.  I may or may not have wiped their butts for a living at one point in my life.  But alas, they are all grown up and can handle their bathroom duties on their own now.   The food was generally pretty good.  Mitch made the turkey his bitch, and also made the best gravy in the history of graviness.  He is really handy in the kitchen when I stay out of his bidness.  We followed the gorge-fest with a quease-filled game of BeanBoozled, which is pretty much the grossest game ever invented.   You spin a spinner and land on a color of Jelly Belly.  Only, it's a gastric Russian Roulette in which case the brown jelly bean can either be chocolate pudding or canned dog food.  Buttered popcorn or vomit.  Juicy pear or booger.

It looked like caramel corn, but turned out to be moldy cheese. 

Pencil shavings had an especially bad aftertaste.
The very, very, very worst flavor of Jelly Belly was the canned dog food.  I just threw up in my mouth a little remembering that first bite.

Since there's not enough Xanax in the world to get me to go into a store on Black Friday anymore, today we went to Arlington National Cemetery.  We walked off a lot of Thanksgiving carbs, and the kids were able to experience a tiny bit of the magnitude of the sacrifice American soldiers have made.
Look at Jack!  Always trying to get away....
 The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
We were there for the changing of the guard, which silenced even Grace.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Gunston Hall

I was lucky enough to chaperone another one of Henry's cool field trips on Friday.  This time it was to Gunston Hall, which was a plantation owned by Virginia founding father George Mason.  I almost didn't go because Olivia woke up with tummy pain, but Henry pulled out the sad clown face and Mitch called in sick to work so I could go.  No one is immune to that face!

The field trip was really interesting.  They had docents dressed in period clothing and the fourth graders got to spend part of the day working as slave children, and the other part as wealthy tobacco children.  They also learned about tobacco and it's role in the south back in the day. 

The kids  got to cook and eat Apples Charlotte over an open flame.
They learned how the laundry was done (and you'd better believe I came home and kissed my high efficiency washer and dryer),
 and they all had to carry heavy buckets of water the way slave children would have had to.
The view from the back lawn.  Not too shabby.  This is where George Washington
would arrive by boat to come visit.

Learning to roll a hoop on the lawn of the main house.

The kids also made little scented sachets from the herb gardens and set off an alarm in the house.  Luckily, it wasn't anyone in my group.  Oh, wait, it was.  Gah! Dumb kids.  There was a little school house on the property for George Mason's nine children, and our modern-day fourth graders got to try their hand at writing on slates.  They thought it was fun because they knew they were going home at the end of the day to their video games, electricity, and other modern conveniences, such as toilets. 

One thing about Virginia that I've found interesting is the way the whole slavery issue is presented.  It's always completely matter of fact, no apologies or cautionary tales.  In Seattle, there would be the tsk tsking, the politically correct lectures, the added paragraph about how wrong it was at the end of the presentation.  It was Virginia-style at Gunston Hall, "This is how the slave children washed the linens for the Mason family.  Slaves lived in shacks along the river near the tobacco fields. Slave girls would do most of the tending of fires in the kitchen, but their brothers would gather the wood". Period.   I was itching to shout from the back of the group, "YEAH, AND ISN'T THAT TERRIBLE?!"  But I didn't, because I want to keep going on these cool field trips.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Let the Sunshine In

My better half took me out on a big ole' birthday date last night.  We went to see 'Hair' at the Kennedy Center, which, incidentally came out the year I was born.  I brought along some old friends, which I still love, but unfortunately they don't love me back.  My feet are still hurting, and I think I've actually gotten to the age where it's not worth it anymore.  I know.  What the what??

 Hair was fun,the music was fab, and we even had a hippie from the cast come climbing through our box, right over the top of Mitch.  Also, there were lots of naked hippies onstage.  I mean, full frontal, and, not that I was looking or anything, but lets just say the actors adopted a  grooming approach that was realistic to the sixties. 
Where my so-called "friends" spent most of the evening.

Outside the restaurant at the top of the Kennedy Center.  Wow.  My eyes look a
 little drunk.  That's just bad photography.

My husband thought he would park by an age appropriate number so we wouldn't
 have trouble remembering our spot. He's real considerate like that.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Today  I was volunteering at the elementary school, where  they were having a huge Thanksgiving feast for kids to share with their families.  Which meant I got to eat three times, since my kids eat at different times.  I also got to dump perfectly formed balls of instant mashed potatoes on several hundred peoples' trays.  At one point I was between serving and eating shifts, so I went to chat with some of the moms.  They were standing by a huge paper turkey on the wall.  On each turkey feather, students had written what they were thankful for, such as, "I am thankful for pop tarts".  "I am thankful for video games."   I am thankful for my dog."  If I had written one it might have said something like, "I am thankful for happy hour and Spanx".  My point is that it was cute little specific things the kids had put down.  The moms zeroed in on one that had a LOT of tiny writing on it.  It said, "I am thankful that when I get home from school, my mom is there.  She asks me questions about my day, and always asks me what was the best and worst thing that happened that day.  She stops what she is doing and sits with me.  Then, she makes a delicious dinner for the whole family, and makes everyone say what they are thankful for before they can eat.  Every night she does this.  I love my mom."  How do I remember what was written word for word on that brown-construction-paper feather?  Because I stole it, and I'm holding it in my hand.  It was written by my 10 year-old.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I would have joined them, but I couldn't find my recent copy
of  US Weekly  National Geographic.

Mitch made it home safe and sound, but without the Nigerian orphan I'd asked for.   We've hardly seen him because he's so busy at work, and he fell asleep right after dinner last night.  I had Olivia eat some toast on his side of the bed today to try and keep him up a little longer this evening.  I know.  He's a very lucky man.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Yet Another Post Involving Barf

Good news!  The house isn't trying to kill us.  Grace's allergy tests came back very quickly.  It turns out all this time she's been allergic to dust mites.  Eff.  With a side of crap sauce. Because that's something we can't move away from.  Wherever we go, there will always be dust mites.  Now, if we owned our home, we'd have all the carpets ripped up by now, but for now, that's just something we'll just have to live with.  I have a good steam cleaner I can use in her bedroom, and you should see my Amazon shopping cart!  Pillow covers, mattress covers, plastic zippered pouches for stuffed animals, more Clorox wipes.  I could go to a store and buy all this stuff, but I've been afflicted with some kind of bug in which I vomit if I'm upright too long.   Olivia had it first.  She came into my bed with a tummy ache a few nights ago and I woke up with her barfing into my hair. I told you I should have named this blog "There Will Be Barf".

Props to Jack for taking care of everybody when I was at my worst. That boy can order a pizza online like nobody's business. And happily, finally, Mitch is on his way home from Nigeria right now to take in my haggard beauty. It was his first time using his fancy shmancy black diplomatic passport, so woo to the hoo!

Normally when their dad is away on a trip, the girls cry inconsolably at bed time.   Olivia cries for Mitch and Grace cries because Olivia is crying.  I think that's just a twin thing.   This time has been so much better, though.  They've been skyping every day with him, which has helped.  Skyping also serves the very useful purpose of allowing Henry to send images of his bare butt instantly to Africa.

Doing his part to make sure we are safe and protected while the man of the house was away.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Monster house

I took Grace to the doctor today.  Her allergies are about as bad as they've ever been and she's keeping us up with her snoring.  Her regular medications aren't doing squat.  I went in expecting a confirmation that yes, she has allergies!  Here's some new and better medication!  Goodbye!  And it started out that way.  "Yes!  She has allergies!  But these other symptoms...  They could be allergies, or constipation, or a reaction to toxic mold."  WHAT!?  Apparently, toxic mold is common with the humidity here.  So, the lovely doctor suggested we test her right now and "while we're at it, how about a flu shot?  Oh, and is that geen tint to her hair from swimming (she hasn't been in a pool since we left Oakwood)?  Because if you are on well water (we are) you could have  high levels of copper in your water supply."

Okay.  So, the last time Grace had a flu shot, she came home from school THAT AFTERNOON with what turned out to be the swine flu, knocking her to the ground for two weeks.  The nurse insisted she must have already had it at the time of the shot.  And the last time she had blood drawn for the State Department medical clearance, she vomited, passed out cold, and vomited again.  On me.  About this time Grace starts hyperventilating from her fears of needles and I start hyperventilating because my house is trying to kill us.

We compromised on the flu shot.  She got the nasal mist, but still had to be restrained, despite the fact that she takes a nasal inhaler every night. I insisted on the allergy testing, because I want to know when I should start lining up movers to get us the hell out of our deadly house.  I know!  I'm going to be awesome in the Foreign Service.  I'm made for it, really.  It took three of us to hold her still for the blood draw, but I'm happy to report she did not faint OR vomit, so I consider that a win.  Then I took her out for a treat at Starbucks and deposited her happy little ass back to school.  She even said, "thank you for taking me to the doctor!"  when she kissed me goodbye.   Dayumm, those Spongebob bandaids must have crack in them. 

So, It will take about a week to know the results of the allergy test.  That should give me plenty of time to bleach this place within an inch of it's life and research how to get the well tested.  Knowing me, I'm pretty sure I'll have a new place to live lined up by the time the doctor calls us back.

Monday, November 8, 2010


I feel like we're finally getting pretty settled here in Northern Virginia, as long as you don't count my basement full of unpacked boxes.  I've even gotten my new hideous VA driver's license.  And getting that was a treat.  I waited in line at the DMV for 45 minutes, only to be told I didn't have even close to all the necessary paperwork (who knew you needed a marriage license to register your car?).  I spent the evening gathering all the needed paperwork and put it in a folder.  I told Mitch to fill out the paperwork on the top that I'd left him and went to bed.  The next morning, I hustled the kids off to school, grabbed my folder, and headed for the line at the DMV.  Two hours.  They finally called my number and I triumphantly opened my folder to give them all the paperwork I'd collected. Only.  My husband saw the bills I'd put in there (to prove we really live here) and decided to be helpful and move them to the bill file.  But it's not over.  I went home (cursing and yelling in my car like a lunatic), grabbed the bills and went back for another hour of waiting, which is is when I found out he'd decided to be extra helpful and remove and re-file my birth certificate so it wouldn't get lost.  This is why my driver's license photo looks like an ID card for an insane asylum.  I'd show it to you, but then I'd have to kill you, and a lot of you are parents with young kids, so let's just say I'm keeping it to myself for the kids.

This story does have a happy ending involving rewarding myself with a pair of buttery leather  boots I've had my eye on, a bouquet of flowers bought by my "helpful" husband from some guy at the metro station (hey, at least they weren't carnations), and a nice bottle of wine.  Which, let's be honest, is pretty much how all our stories end, minus the boots and flowers.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Henry celebrated his birthday by getting the day off from school.  Usually on the kids' birthdays, we take them out for lunch if they have to go to school, but  our school district was super nice and gave the kids Monday and Tuesday off for conferences.  So, on Monday the kids sat around in their pjs eating nothing but Halloween candy all day.  I know!  I'm an excellent mother.  Who didn't have to prepare meals that day.  They still had huge bags full of the stuff left when they woke up on Tuesday, so I bought all their candy from them (five bucks each) and dumped it in the trash bin, pouring all the leftover crap from the refrigerator on top of it so I wouldn't be tempted to sneak some.  In that way we were able to enjoy Henry's dark chocolate coconut almond pecan four layer cake with chocolate almond ganache without guilt.  Sort of.
The coma was just starting to set in. 

I think my little bug had a pretty good birthday, considering that he didn't have his usual buddies here, but he got the present he'd been hoping for since forever  (guilt over moving had nothing to do with it.  No, really.) and was able to play it all day while his siblings waited on him hand and foot.  Grace even cleaned his bedroom!

The conferences with their teachers were great.  Mitch was able to take part of the day off to go with me and we were pleasantly surprised to learn that the kids are rising to the academic challenge.  Well, three of them are.  One of them is doing just slightly better than average, but tends to not turn in her homework because she doesn't care one way or another.  We're just happy she hasn't punched anyone she thinks is a "jewk" (jerk). Both the twins' teachers and the recess teacher have stopped me recently to tell me that the girls are like magnets whenever they pass each other in school or at recess, and hug each other every time they see each other and when they part from each other.  Aw. 

And friends, that cake is in the refrigerator right now, calling to me.  I'm only human.  And the jeans I'm wearing do have 5% spandex.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Tricks and treats

I've had some emails and calls and Facebook messages regarding my decision to take the kids to the Rally to Restore Sanity.  More to the point, am I sane?  Well, the quick answer to that is no.  Obviously.  Friends and family are aware of my anxiety in crowds.  Specifically, crowds which also include my children.  And yes, I may or may not have needed a little pharmaceutical boost when I was trapped in a crush at the metro, but honestly, I am so glad we went.  The energy was so mellow and, I don't know the word, maybe cooperative? 

The other reason we wanted to go was because it was Halloween.  Back home we would have had a week's worth of celebrating, beginning with a huge scary bash at home, and a smaller one before trick-or-treating at our good friends' house, plus a parade through the town and a carnival at the elementary school.  We were all painfully aware that this year would be nothing like that, so we decided to go to the rally to take our minds off it, and so our kids could experience something they never would have on the island.   So that's that.  We did it.  We're glad.

That left us one day to get ready for the throng of trick-or-treaters that would be gracing our door.  We set up the cemetery, got the strobes going, and carved pumpkins.  We got exactly three trick-or-treaters, which means the size of my ass will be suffering.  Why didn't I buy something gross, like Baby Ruths?

Our teenager actually took part in the pumpkin carving.  I won't show you what he carved, though.

Miss Pippi Longstocking

Little Red Riding Hood

Ninja costume which was thought up/assembled 15 minutes before this photo

I am lucky enough to be married to a guy who's not afraid
to look like an ass just to make his daughter happy.
We took the kids to the townhouse development right behind our house, and they hit the motherlode.  Minimal work, tons of candy.  And someone gave them a handful of loose pretzels (?).  There were tons of kids (several who our kids knew from school), and a very celebratory atmosphere.