Monday, January 31, 2011

Five Alive!

Caleb had a birthday this weekend and now he is 5!  Every parent should be lucky enough to have a first child like Caleb.  He is smart, obedient, tender-hearted, generous, energetic, and kind.  He is such a great kid, I routinely have to remind myself to be more patient with him because he is, in fact, just a kid.  Caleb is very curious about everything and loves to learn.  He never stops asking questions or trying to figure out why things are the way they are.  He has a memory like a steel trap.  His teachers at school and church are always praising his good behavior and willingness to participate.  Caleb loves music and movies and playing games (computer, board, video, etc.).  He loves trains and dinosaurs and rockets.  He never gets tired of watching airplanes land and take-off and is constantly asking us when we are next going on an airplane.  He's a great traveling companion, especially because he is always happy to pose for pictures.  Caleb delights in almost everything and every day with him is joyful and fun.  He is rarely sick and when he is he's a pretty good patient.  He loves his little brother and is very patient with him.  Caleb will eat almost anything.  He is always up for doing something fun and I love that he thinks visiting monuments and museums falls into that category.  From the moment I found out that Caleb was coming to our family I knew he was a very special soul and the last 5 years have only made that more apparent.  Caleb made me a mother and every day makes me grateful that he did.

Happy Birthday, Caleb!
Day 1
1st Birthday
2nd Birthday
3rd Birthday
4th Birthday
Day 1,826 - 5th Birthday

Friday, January 28, 2011

Binge Over, Time to Purge

A few weeks ago, the last of our worldly possessions arrived on our doorstep.  For the last 7 years we've been in flux when it comes to keeping track of our stuff.   We've had things in storage, with both sets of parents, in the garages and basements of VERY GENEROUS friends, in transit and with us in our various domiciles.  And, now, with the exception of one box of ceramic angel figurines (don't ask) and another of pez dispensers, every single thing we own has been handled by us in the last 2 months.  A few things, like our crib, mementos from my and Kenny's childhoods and a patio table we had made in Caracas are being housed elsewhere because we know we'll want them in the future, but just don't need and can't store them now.  Otherwise everything else is crammed into our lovely, yet not as capacious as we would like, 1262 square foot condo.

Living overseas for the last 4 years has affected my storage habits in two significant ways.  1) We have weight limits for shipping and storage, so there is a maximum amount of things we can accumulate and keep.  2) Outside the US of A, if I need something specific and don't have it, acquiring it will be next to impossible so I have to plan ahead.  I am not a pack rat.  But, I am sentimental, perhaps overly so, and I like to be prepared, for every contingency.  And, I am.  Even the most unlikely of contingencies such as googly eye emergencies or pipe cleaner crises.  You know the kind I mean?

The thing is, though, we really do have too much stuff.  More than a family of 4 needs or could ever use.  I refuse to toss my memories, the real ones anyway, or the things I plan to need in the future (like baby stuff), but a lot of our possessions don't fall into either of those categories.  Like that lemon juicer I bought in Peru?  It reminds me of Lima, sure, but I don't have any fond recollections of a particularly good glass of lemonade it produced.  And, I haven't used it in entirely too long.  Or those suits from my former life as a lobbyist?  They're beautiful and fit well and were expensive.  But, I haven't needed them in years and probably won't anytime soon.  Or my collection of random fabric?  I do not have time to sew right now and won't again until we move to China.  And then...then I can go to the world famous fabric markets and buy anything I want or can even conceive of.

So, here's the deal.  I'm purging.  I'm going from Eagle Scout to Cub Scout on the preparedness spectrum and hardening my overly sentimental heart just a little.  We have approximately 500 days until we move to Beijing.  Every day between now and then I am going to get rid of something.  And, trash doesn't count.  This is not going to be one of those, if I buy something I have to toss something propositions, however.  I reserve the right to acquire more things, within reason and budget.  But, overall, I suspect I'll come out ahead, or rather behind.  I am determined to toss, give away or pass along something every single day until mid-summer 2012.  It has to be done, and I'm going to do it.  It's just one more facet of the improved, though not new 'cause I really am still the same person I was last month, me.  The me who drinks green smoothies and plays tourist in her own home town and performs random acts of kindness just because.

One more thing, I'll be keeping a list of the items purged.  Maybe I'll even post about it now and again just to keep myself honest and because I know you're overcome with curiosity.  And, just to get the ball rolling, today I got rid of the juicer.  1 item down 499 to go.  I'm feeling lighter already.  Oh, the fun we're going to have!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Selfishly Motivated, but Motivated Nonetheless

My babysitter is sick.  She's been in and out of the hospital for the last month.  She's finally on the mend, I think, but we've thought that before.  I hope she really is better this time.

I feel terrible.

Try as I might, I can't seem to make her illness about her and not about me.

I feel terrible that she is sick too.  That goes without saying.  But, does it?  Therein lies the problem.

The last few weeks have been exhausting trying to come up with creative solutions for childcare.  I have crisscrossed the city countless times for all the extra pick-ups and drop-offs.  I have called in favors and whined and lost sleep (lots of sleep) and failed to complete my assignments for school and let the housework slide and generally just felt frazzled and frustrated.  It's not helped that I have hundreds of pages to read each week.  Or that the weather is being uncooperative -- today it took 2 hours to go 5 miles -- I do not exaggerate.

And, yet.

And, yet, as much of a logistical nightmare this has been, I am not lying in a hospital bed.  I am able-bodied and mobile and nothing is uncomfortably stuck in and/or taped to my skin.  The fact that I have to keep reminding myself of this is embarrassing.  Shameful, really.

She's not sick on purpose, of course.  But, she is sick and therefore out of commission.  Our life, I've discovered, revolves around her.  And, without her, comes to a grinding halt.  Kenny has taken lots of time off, too much, probably.  I've been late to class and other things -- for the record, I loathe tardiness.

And, poor Isaac.  Trying to potty train in the midst of being shuffled between Mommy, Daddy, pinch-hitting babysitters and non-kid friendly venues has proven too much for our unflappable Isaac.  He is most definitely flapped and has the multiple changes of clothing each day as proof.

I don't want to hire someone new.  Our current sitter is a dream.  Plus, I know her.  And, I love her.  But, I need her and one more week like this one (yes, I realize it is only Wednesday) and I may as well quit my program.  I'm already so far behind, I may never catch up.  I'm praying for her full recovery and soon.  Yes, my prayers are somewhat selfishly motivated...but, nevertheless, I'm praying.  Surely that counts for something?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Bye, Bye Baby

Isaac turned 3 yesterday.  3!  And, I can believe it.  It's been a very eventful 3 years.  Very.  From the beginning, when were on medevac from Peru, living in my parents' house out of suitcases and waiting for his passport to now, it's been a whirlwind of a life.  Thank goodness he's a great kid. 

My first kid, was/is a great kid too, and I thought, an excellent baby.  Turns out, he had nothing on number 2.  Everyone told me to expect the worst.  Good baby first time around = colicky, fussy, never wants to sleep baby second time around.  Right?  WRONG.  Isaac was a perfect baby.  Happy and good-natured almost all the time he was awake.  Which wasn't often, because he slept A LOT.  Really.  Daily 5 hour and 3 hour naps and 10-14 hours at night from 6 weeks old on.  I know, I know, that's not normal, but it was GLORIOUS.  Simply, wonderful.

He is still an excellent sleeper.  He cuddles up with his stuffed animal of the moment, his bolsa, and whatever blanket he is rotating through that week and drifts peacefully off to la la land.  Sleep is important to me, clearly.  I'm a great sleeper and I love that my kids have inherited that gene.

Isaac is a wonderful younger brother.  He loves Caleb and wants to be wherever he is, doing whatever he is doing.  Caleb is so patient with him and they always have fun together.

One of my favorite things about Isaac is the joy he derives from being in the kitchen.  He never wants to be left out of food preparation and will happily mix, stir, fetch, empty, pour, scoop, and watch as often as he can.  He's very curious about everything too.  Just today, in fact, he was helping Kenny make chicken soup.  From his usual position perched atop his black stool he surveyed the soup preparation and the contents of the big, red pot.  Kenny told him he was going to peel the potatoes before putting them in the food processor.  Isaac obviously misunderstood and a few seconds later asked, "Daddy, are you going to kill the carrots now too?"

He says funny things all the time.  His vocabulary has just exploded recently, in English and Spanish and he loves to chat.  Every time we ask Isaac why he's done something, he smiles and says, ever so sweetly, "Because I wanted to."  It's hard to punish so cuteness, and luckily we don't have to very often.  Time out is sheer torture for him and therefore an excellent incentive to behave.

I am enjoying all the one on one time he and I are having this year.  I know I will miss him when he goes to preschool in the fall, but I am excited for him to learn new things and become the person he is destined to be.  I miss my baby Isaac, but I love the person he is daily becoming and the joy he brings to my life.  Every day is happier because he is a part of our family and I feel very blessed to be his mommy.

We've come a long way from this: this:

Happy Birthday, Isaac!

Friday, January 21, 2011

It's Not Easy Going Green

I just finished my day 3 green smoothie.  And, it wasn't bad.  In fact, I sort of like them.  They are very spinachy, but that's not surprising, you know 'cause they are FULL of spinach.  And, more importantly, my body likes them.  I already feel better, just 3 days in.  I have more energy and feel like my concentration is improving.  Right now on the green spectrum I'm somewhere between mint and celadon.  I've got a long way to go before I reach kelly, forest, or the granddaddy of them all, hunter. 

In addition to the daily smoothie, I'm also cutting out sugar, eating only (mostly) whole grains, amping up my vegetable/fruit intake and trying to cut out as much salt and fat as I can stand.  I thought about going totally nutrarian, but I likes eggs and dairy and meat too much.  I haven't had any of those in days, but I'm not ready to cut them out completely...not yet.

It's going pretty well this whole new eating experiment.  But, here's the thing, I love, Love, LOVE sugar.  Well, not sugar per se, but I love baked goods, a lot.  Pie, brownies, tarts, tortes, cookies, and everything in between.

And then there are cupcakes.  

Cake I can live without, but there is something about the cake to frosting ratio in cupcakes that just makes my heart sing.  My favorite cupcakes in the whole world live at the Sweet Tooth Fairy in Utah, thank goodness.  But, even thousands of miles away, I still think about them.  Dream about them.  Wonder when I'll have them again.  It's a sickness, really.

2 blocks from my Master's program building is Georgetown Cupcake.  Their cupcakes are, good.  Better than I can make in my kitchen, but definitely do not compare to the Fairy!  And, they're a bit pricey, for just good cupcakes.  But, what they offer me that no other cupcake purveyor does is proximity.  2 blocks!  2!  And, I have to walk past them on my way to campus, twice a week.  It's a problem.  Especially, because EVERY DAY they have a free flavor.  All you have to do is know the flavor, walk in, order it by name and if you're one of the first 100 to do that, free cupcake.  FREE.  Who doesn't love free stuff?

Free + cupcake = Linsey has no willpower to resist

Confession: Yesterday, I ate one.  And, I was hoping to hate it.  Hoping to feel a little sick.  But, I didn't.  It was good.  Really good.  Better than I remember, even.  Vanilla cake, fluffy pink frosting WITH sprinkles, and free, what's not to love?  And, you know what, I didn't, DON'T feel guilty.  For the last week I've been eating better than I have in years.  And this one aberration doesn't diminish that.

I'm not planning on making the free cupcake pilgrimage a habit.  I am committed to changing my diet and feeling better.  But.  Let's be real, there might be more free cupcakes in my future.  The combination is just too irresistible for the currently only slightly green-hued me.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Back to Life, Back to Reality

You're singing the song in your head now, aren't you?  Nothing like a little late 80s Soul II Soul to get you goin'.

I've had those lines running through my head this week.  After a really extended winter break/vacation, we're back in the throes of real life again.

Last night was my first class of the semester.  I don't have a lot of flexibility with my courses.  I have to take classes when I have childcare.  Yesterday's class was just that, a class that fulfills a program requirement and is scheduled when my kids are cared for.  I didn't even know what the course was about when I arrived.  Check that.  I still don't really know what the course is about, but that's not going to stop me from doing this week's assigned readings and showing up again next week.  And, every week after that.  I think it's going to be a good least I hope so. 

I'm really enjoying my Master's program, by the way.  Have I mentioned that?  I hate, Hate, HATE the homework and not having the flexibility I've had for the last 4 years.  But, what I've read and learned and discussed over the last 4 months has been, well, cool.  I wasn't sure about this program before I started.  Democracy and Governance -- huh?  But, now, I'm enjoying it and am actually see practical uses for the degree in the future.  What more could you want? 

And, speaking of real life, Isaac is potty training this week.  Or rather, Isaac is wearing big boy pants and talking about earning M&Ms.  I'm not sure if he's getting it yet, his success has been pretty hit or miss.  Literally.  But, he seems ready, so we're going to continue, for awhile anyway.  He needs to be potty trained by September, that's the goal.

Caleb is back at school and doesn't want to be.  Not because he doesn't like school, or church, or museums, or family outings, he just only wants to be where he can play Mario Kart.  He threw probably the first real tantrum of his life this weekend because of Mario Kart.  But, we stood firm, and he learned his lesson and yesterday and today have been much improved.

But, I need some help with this one.  So, seasoned parents out there, do you have a system for video game and computer usage?  How much time is too much?  How do you track it?  Do your kids earn their time or just get an allotment each week?  What works for you?  I could really use some insight here.  Up until now we've essentially had no system.  But, I can see that was a mistake and is an approach that is going to create problems in the future.   Any and all thoughts are welcome, so bring 'em on.  Please.

...back to the here and now...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

We love Washington, DC, #9

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr., Day!  I re-read his speech today here and then listened to it here.  It's powerful.  Take 16 minutes and read/listen to it yourself.  

"From every mountainside, let freedom ring.  When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, 'Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!'"

Every time we drive along the Mall I look over to the site where they are busily finishing his memorial, and I get excited by the prospect of its' completion.  The Martin Luther King, Jr., National Memorial is scheduled to open this August on the anniversary of his delivering the "I Have a Dream Speech."

In observance of this day commemorating a most extraordinary life, we joined with our favorite playing tourist buddies and headed to the National Museum of Natural History.  We have been here before, but there is so much to see, each visit is unique.  

Today, we started with the minerals and gemstones.  Caleb's idea.  We arrived moments before the doors opened and ahead of the massive crowds that assembled by the time we left.  Our first stop was the Hope Diamond.  In all the years I have lived in DC and the numerous times I have visited this museum, I have never actually seen the Hope Diamond in person.  There is always a long, Long, LONG line.  But, not today.

 The diamond is in a special setting right now and will soon be displayed either alone or in it's normal setting, or so the sign says.  I'm not sure why that's important, but then, a gemologist, or even a gemophile I am not.  The setting notwithstanding, it is a beautiful jewel, and ginormous.

 We actually spent the bulk of our visit looking at the minerals and other precious stones on display.  The boys were fascinated by the myriad colors of rock.  They wanted to know the names of what seemed like hundreds of specimens.  Hooray for good pronunciation skills!

 Here are Isaac and Nancy (aka tourist buddy) dancing to the music in their heads.  After minerals and gemstones we watched a movie on plate tectonics (twice), walked through the bug rooms, read even more difficult to pronounce scientific names in the animal skeleton room, and then finished with the hall of mammals (the taxidermists responsible for these animals should be very proud of themselves, they are very life-like).

Our kids are good for about 2 hours at museums so we headed out at lunch-time in search of rice and beans.  Isaac's idea.  It took so long to get to the restaurant that by the time we arrived, all 4 kids had fallen asleep.  The blame for this lies entirely with President Obama.  Not an exaggeration.  His motorcade of 15 vehicles and a helicopter, not to mention all the cop cars positioned along the route to block traffic, was between us and lunch for a ridiculously long time.

I read later today that the President, the First Lady and their two daughters had been on Capitol Hill doing a service project at an elementary school this morning.  So, now I feel a little guilty for being so irritated.  But, only just a little.  Shutting down a major traffic artery for 20+ minutes so he can be driven 12 blocks seems excessive to me, but, maybe it's not.  After all, I'm not a security expert either, and we still had a good day and a nice, if slightly delayed, lunch.  And, most importantly, we still love Washington, DC, presidential motorcade and all. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Going Greenish

Thank goodness for lounge pants.

After weeks of holiday goodies and dinner invitations and a kitchen overflowing with non-figure friendly items my jeans were starting to feel a bit snug.  Add to that this last week of all-you-can-eat breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets and the lounge pants are pretty much my only viable wardrobe option.

This eating myself into oblivion over the holidays/vacation was a conscious choice.  A temporary approach to not feeling guilty about any consumption choices.  A way to embrace the holidays with arms wide open.  And, boy howdy, did I ever do that!

But, I failed to account for one huge detail.  I'm not 25 anymore, DUH!, and my system got overloaded.  Way, overloaded, with carbs and fat and sugar and grease.  And, now, I feel kinda yucky.  And mostly grateful that tomorrow is my last official day of break.  I go back to school on Tuesday for semester #2 and none too soon, frankly.

I'm not a dieter.  I'm just not.  I don't do them, I don't like them, they make me cranky and I get headaches.  Bad ones.  But, I do try to maintain a reasonably balanced food intake.  Lots of green stuff, not just because it's healthy, but because I really like the green stuff.  And, when I say green stuff, I mean veggies that you eat with a fork. 

However, it seems everywhere I look these days in the blogosphere people are drinking instead of spearing green stuff.  Everyone is on the green smoothie train.  Are you seeing this trend too?  I keep thinking I'm going to try them, and then I chicken out.  In my experience, when the green stuff in your life turns to liquid, it's time to toss it.  Not guzzle it down.  I know this is a mental block, but I'm still struggling.

My friend Robin has been raving about her smoothies for months.  And, she's pretty convincing, because in addition to oozing joy, she also looks phenomenal.  And, it's not just the smoothies that have made a difference.  She's eating differently all around.  And, running, a lot.  I hate to run.  Truly.  I have a gym membership at a gym I haven't visited in, um, years.  Yep, years, not a typo.

I've thought now, for awhile, that I'm a bit of an old dog.  I mean, I haven't really changed anything about myself in a long time.  And, I'm not over the hill, by any means, but I like who I am and where I am and what I am.  Mostly, anyway.  Or, so I thought.

But, being in grad school has shown me that I am absolutely capable of new tricks.  I've made space in my life for all kinds of new tricks and I'm succeeding at most of them.  So, maybe now is the time to dust off the gym membership card and blend up some green juice, too?  I'm in the new trick zone anyway, so what's a couple more, right?

I'm off to Costco tomorrow to get the ingredients for the Robin's Green Smoothie recipe below, and on Tuesday, after I drop the kids off, I'm hitting the gym.  I refuse to run, especially not in this weather, but I can row or cycle or spin or stretch or something.  Surely, for the bargain price of $8/month (I've been a member a REALLY LONG time), I can find something that works for me. 

Robin's New and Improved Green Smoothies
  • 1 cup liquid (I use water unless I suspect that the greens might be too greenish tasting then I use a milk substitute [soy milk, almond milk, or rice milk])
  • Spinach - 3-6 cups - whatever tastes good to you
  • Greens - work your way up -shoot for 3-5 large leaves of kale, chard, beet greens, or romaine
  • Banana  - this is a must have item. It provides creaminess and sweetness. Sometimes I add 2 bananas
  • Apple- or some other fruit cantaloupe, pineapple, peaches, whatever you have handy.
  • Flax seed - about 1 T per serving. just toss in the whole seed and let the blender grind it. This adds creamy texture too.
  • Frozen fruit - about 1 cup unless you want it thicker (add more for thickness) I am partial to blueberries. Also try strawberries, and frozen fruit mixes. they should be sugar free
If you don't have a vita-mix ( I don't) add the liquid and half of the spinach first. Then add the remaining ingredients a little at a time so they can mix in easily.  These are remarkably filling and satisfying. I usually make about 6 cups of smoothie. Roland and I drink about 2 1/2 cups each and Ike has 1 cup.

I'm cautiously optimistic about the results of this latest set of new tricks.  But if I don't do something, I'll be destined to drawstring waistbands for the rest of my life.  That's a bad thing, by the way, right?

Wish me luck!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

And, Scene.

Originally, our last day of Disney magic was supposed to be at Animal Kingdom.  But, after realizing the height requirements on the rides there did not work in our favor, we made a last minute switch and went to Hollywood Studios instead.  There are not a lot of rides at Hollywood Studios, but it was an action packed day and a great ending to a really fabulous week.

Isaac, ready to blast-off!

 Me (second from right), walking off the sound stage after my run as an extra in Indiana Jones Adventure show.

 Meeting Lightning McQueen.  I couldn't get Isaac's attention through multiple shots.  He just wanted to gaze at the car.

We took our almost 3 and 5 year olds on the Tower of Terror.  It's true, we're that crazy/irresponsible.  I fully anticipate a hefty therapy bill down the road as a result.  Have you been on this ride?  It's pretty intense.  We told them it would be scary, but they were still unprepared.  Caleb's reaction was one of supreme displeasure.  He was quick to point out though that he didn't cry, he just whined a little.  Isaac, on the other hand, whom we have discovered is a regular adrenaline junkie, would have been only too happy to go again.  We didn't, however.

 My four favorite Incredibles!

 Caleb using the "Force" to fight Darth Vader.  This was the highlight of his week.  Shhh, don't tell him, but the birthday fairies might be bringing him his very own light saber once he gets back home.
 The obligatory "we came, we saw, we conquered (insert name of Disney destination)" photo.  And, indeed, we did.

 We rode Toy Story Mania twice.  And, considering it is the most popular ride in all 4 parks, apparently, that is something to be proud of.  At one point, the wait was 70 minutes and that seemed just too long to wait.  We were told by the usher, however, that 70 minutes was nothing and that at Christmastime last year, the wait was regularly 200+ minutes.  It's a fun ride, but it is not worth standing in line for 4 hours.  Note to self, never visit Disney at Christmas.  Never.

Our last photo from a wonderful week.  Finally, I need to record for future reference that Caleb and Isaac were exceptionally well behaved this week.  It was a pleasure to be with them and made me excited for our future family adventures...whatever they may be.

Friday, January 14, 2011

WDW = Weary Drained Washingtonians

Tomorrow is our last day at Disney World, and, it's a good thing.  We've had just about all the fun we can stand.  

Today, we went back to the Magic Kingdom and though eventually it was a terrific day it started off not great.  

First, it was freezing, literally.  32 degrees in Orlando seems like a cruel joke.  We left those temperatures in DC, or so we thought.  

Then, because of the cold, everything at the park seemed to move in slow motion.  It took us almost an hour to get from our car to the entrance, compared with under 20 minutes 2 days before.  

Finally, we were sandwiched in between massive tour groups from South America everywhere we turned.  I don't know why one needs a tour group inside a Disney theme park, it seems pretty self-explanatory to me, but someone is making a killing marketing the concept that you do.

After these few false starts, the fun began in earnest.  Today was a day of repeats.  We went on Buzz Lightyear's Shoot Zurg and Anyone Else that may be in Cahoots with Him Adventure (no idea what the actual name of this ride is) over and over and over and over again.  Okay, so it was 3 times, but it felt like more.  Then, we blitzed Fantasyland.  I love the rides there, but it is always so crowded, and today was no exception.  Our afternoon was all about Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.  We really did ride this one over and over and over and over and...well, you get the idea.

We ended the day in style with the Main Street Electrical Parade.  I was skeptical and lobbied for skipping this in favor of more rides, but Kenny prevailed and he was right.  The boys oohed and aahed their little hearts out.

Since Caleb and Isaac are both January birthdays, we decided this trip was their birthday present from us.  So, today, they each wore a "Happy Birthday" button.  Everywhere we went Disney employees said, shouted, pantomimed, waved and yelled "Happy Birthday" to them.  Even during the parades, performers would shout it out and wave.  My boys were in heaven.  It was a magical day in a truly magical place.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Day 3 and Still Going Strong

Today we went to Epcot Center and discovered it's not all that fun for kids.  There are just not that many things to do and it was teeming with foreign tour groups and retirees which made it much more crowded than we'd anticipated.  So, we concentrated on meeting our favorite characters instead, and, as you'll see, got a little carried away.
The folks at Disney clearly appreciate that the under 4 feet tall set need special attention at Epcot because they have a veritable character frenzy going on all day long all over the park.

Just past the entrance, Stitch and Daisy are ready to wrap you in their "arms."  Only Isaac was willing to pose with Stitch and neither one wanted to stand in line for Daisy.  But, this was just the beginning of a character filled day.

Next, we headed to the aptly named Character Spot and posed with the mouse himself.  Mickey and his friends wait at this spot from 9am to 9pm all day long, every day.  They each have their own section and are lit with photo friendly lighting.  This set-up is perfect for parents who don't want to wander all over the park looking for their child's favorite furry friend.

 Next up, Pluto.

 Then, Minnie.

 And, Donald.  Isaac's second favorite after Mickey.

 Donald was not as popular as Mickey and Minnie so he killed some down time with us.

 Finally, we posed with Goofy.  He knelt down to get closer to the boys and Isaac promptly followed suit.  We talked about visiting these characters for the rest of the day.

 We then headed to the sea pavilion to look for Nemo, we never found him, and chat with Crush, the turtle.  Here is Caleb, posing inside Bruce's very large and toothsome jaw.

 Next, we made our way to the World Showcase.  There are characters scattered about the showcase in the countries that are most related to them.  First up, Mulan in China.  Caleb would only pose with he as long as he didn't have to touch her.  He informed me he didn't like any of the characters that talked.

 On our way to Morocco to see Aladdin, we passed through Germany and decided we absolutely had no desire to meet Snow White.  So, we just looked at her from a distance and kept going.  We waited to see Aladdin and then neither wanted to touch him.  But, Aladdin is very good at this picture game and coaxed them into a photo with high fives and games involving his monkey pal Abu.

 Before arriving in the United Kingdom to visit Mary Poppins, we walked through France and saw Belle and Princess Aurora, neither of which was of interest to Caleb and Isaac.  Thank goodness because the lines to see princesses are insanely long.  The boys were not really impressed with Mary Poppins, and frankly, she was kind of annoying and talked way too much.  But, she was clearly just be friendly, as is the Disney way, and we only spent a couple of minutes waiting to see her.

 Finally, we took the boys to a character dinner where you are guaranteed visits from several characters assigned to that particular restaurant.  We had been promising them they would see the chipmunks there and when they finally did getting them to do anything other than jump up and down was nearly impossible.  Here they are with Chip.  (You can tell which is which because Chip has a chocolate chip colored nose and Dale's nose looks more like a meatball, or so I was told by their handlers.)

And, here's Dale.  See the nose?

 Then, Pluto again, and they were just as delighted to see him the second time around as they had been earlier in the day.

And, last but not least, one more shot with Mickey, though he was slightly more casual this time around.  We did do many more things today like test driving cars, soarin' over California, watching dolphins and manatees swim and much more, but those memories will fade and these encounters with our favorite Disney icons will last a long, long time.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Not Quite the Heir and the Spare

Despite their very best efforts...

...the sword simply wouldn't budge.

Not even when they pulled with all their might.

So, they won't grow up to rule Camelot, but with charms like theirs, the future still looks pretty promising.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Day 1 = Perfect

Virtually traffic free ride to the airport = Perfect

Delta checking car seats for free = Perfect

On time departure despite lots of cancellations for weather = Perfect

Short two hour flight with veteran flyers Caleb and Isaac = Perfect

50 degrees warmer in Orlando than in DC = Perfect

Arriving in time to keep to our regular nap schedule = Perfect

Unexpected upgrade from a studio to 2 bedroom suite = Perfect

Night time stroll through Downtown Disney to whet our appetites for tomorrow =


So far, it really does feel like the happiest place on earth.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Leavin', on a Jet Plane...


My kids, who are used to flying All.  The.  Time.  have been asking me for months when we are going on a plane again.  And, the answer is, finally...tomorrow.

We're heading here,

for 4 glorious days of unadulterated fun.  The boys are so excited they can hardly stand it.  Me too, come to think of it.  I love Disney World.  LOVE it and we haven't been in years.  We have a date with Dumbo on Tuesday morning and it's gonna be AWESOME.

It's okay if you're a little bit jealous.  I'm jealous and it's my vacation. 

Saturday, January 08, 2011


I like being a Yes-Mom.  I love when my kids throw out random requests and neither time nor resources impedes me from saying, emphatically, "YES."

Yesterday was a Yes-Mom day.  After dropping Caleb off at school Isaac and I had some errands to run.  But, none of our destinations opened until 10 am and I didn't want to go all the way home just to head back out moments later.  So, we had some time to kill.  On our way out of the city, we passed one of 17,000 McDonald's.  Isaac pointed to it and said, "We should go to Old McDonald's (that's what he calls it) and you eat some food and I will play."  Remembering 1) how much he LOVES to play at Old McDonald's and 2) that I skipped breakfast, I said, "YES! let's do that."

And, we did.  We ordered two yogurt parfaits ('cause they're, ahem, healthy), a sausage mcmuffin ('cause you never know how hungry Isaac is going to be once he sees food -- and, true to form, he ate the whole thing), and a large hot chocolate.  The dining area was packed with the over 65 crowd, reading newspapers, sipping coffee and chatting with neighboring diners.  But, the play area, was a ghost-town.  We ate our food while Isaac sat in the lap of the plastic, life-sized Ronald McDonald and I sat next to them on the bench.

Then it was time to play.  But, he didn't want to play alone, that was immediately clear.  I tried to coax him into it, but he wasn't interested.  Finally, he said, "Mommy, you go down the slide too."  Suddenly, being a Yes-Mom didn't seem as cool as I'd thought.  And, to make matters worse, there were signs all over the place stating that the play area was designed for children ages 3 to 12 and Parents too!  Great!  I can play too!  I can't even beg off by claiming it's not allowed!  Now, I have to go down the slide! ! ! ! !

And, we did.  I gingerly followed him up to the top of the plastic play gym and crawled behind him in and out and through all the twists and turns.  We stopped to drive the school bus and look out the window at the big plant and discuss how high we were.  Finally, when my knees couldn't stand crawling on the hard plastic for one more second, I suggested we go down the slide.

And, we did.  He was delighted Yes-Mom was visiting.  I was delighted to be out and my knees especially were grateful for relief.  Do little kids just not notice the pain?  Or more likely, almost 3 year-old knees don't hurt the way almost 35 year-old knees do.  But, really, what is pain compared with the joys of being a Yes-Mom?

Weekly Department of State Blog Round-up

I am lucky enough to be hosting the Department of State blog round-up today.  For those of you who read my blog but are not affiliated with the Foreign Service (FS), you should know that there is a whole world of FS bloggers out there who write about life overseas.  In addition to publishing posts about the beauties of the world and funny, scary and weird experiences that accompany living in some pretty remote places, it is also a sort of cyber-support group for people like me who love the FS but often feel completely isolated from the "real" world.  The Round-up is published weekly and a schedule for where you can find each week's collection can be found here.  

This weeks theme is:  Resolutions, goals, dreams, and plans for 2011Since it's the first round-up of the year, that seemed like an appropriate topic.  We've got some great posts this week, so click on the links and visit FS blogs from around the globe. 

Since I'm the host, I'll start with my own resolutions first.  I'm keeping it simple this year.  My resolution is to focus on miracles, however they are manifest.

Sadie, last week's round-up host, is savoring the food in her corner of Saudi Arabia and making some really delicious discoveries at Sadie Abroad.

Becky, next week's host, is thinking about the future and simultaneously trying to embrace the present.  Also, check out her 365 day project when you visit her at Small Bits.

Over at What Ears and Other Wonderings, Connie made a fabulous birthday cake.  Looks like they're ringing in a scrumptiously sweet new year in Amman.

Pulling Stakes gives us a very humorous take on resolutions in general.  I think Kate's post is my favorite this week.

Okay, maybe Melissa's post at Just Us is my favorite.  At any rate, it made me laugh out loud.

Shannon offers some very admirable resolutions at Cyberbones today.  I should probably follow her example with all of them. 

Where in the World am I only has one wish for 2011, to stay put.  I hope you get your wish, Stephanie.

A-100 has started in earnest for Bfiles.  Go see if she thinks all the anticipation has been adequately rewarded.

Melissa is looking for some advice from the FS community experts.  Visit her at V for VonHinken and weigh in.  She'll love you forever!

Lisa has a great post up at What Were We Thinking about life in the FS from the perspective of the little people in our lives.

At Beyond the Cornfields, Denise is putting a positive spin on an annoying problem.  That sounds like vintage FS blogging to me.

Click over to Four Globetrotters for a hilarious take on the not always clear side-effects of New Year's resolutions.

Jen, posting at The Dinoia Family, is trying to be pragmatic about her resolutions this year.  She's a rock star, period.  And, her reasons for why she's making the changes she is, are proof positive of that.

Donna and her family took a beautiful vacation to Aqaba as recorded at Email from the Embassy.  I hope she does as she plans and goes back again before they depart Jordan.  Gorgeous!

The Perlman Update gives us a very funny look at our real priorities.  Read it, you'll love it.

There is a general consensus that it is time for school to start again, if it hasn't already.  Zoe posts some great evidence of this at Something Edited this way Comes.

Melissa V. was expecting a lot more from or by 2011 than it seems to have delivered.  But, as she points out at Brand New Day, it is still a brand new year and there is lots to look forward to.

In case you're looking for reasons to visit Turkey this year, Hannah provides an excellent list at The Slow Move East.  I'm ready to go now!

Leslie reveals a lot about herself with her resolutions.  Check out her list at Destination: Diplomacy.

Last but not least, Sara has a really good, and I think tough resolution on her agenda this year.  Wish her luck today at Wife - Mommy - Woman.

Thanks for all the contributions this week.  Here's to a very happy New Year and a new round of round-ups!

Thursday, January 06, 2011

A New View for 2011

If you know me, you know, in real life, then you know Kenny and I don't have the same last name.  It's not because I'm trying to make some sort of political statement.  And, I have no objections to his last name in principal, or even in theory.  But, when I moved to DC, the first time, I had to register my car.  It's a long story how that was finally achieved and I won't bore you with the details.  Suffice it to say, I made four, 4!!!, separate trips to the DMV before the deed was at last accomplished.  4 visits = 22 hours of my life I will never get back.

When we got married, I was still reeling from the pain of dealing with the DC DMV and I couldn't bear the thought of going back there, just to change my name.  If you've never lived in a place like DC then you probably think I'm being overly dramatic.  But, I assure you, this city's government is run much like a third world country (I speak from experience here, on both counts).  Case in point.  When Caleb was born, we had to go to the live records office in DC to request a copy of his birth certificate so we could obtain a passport for him.  We couldn't go before he was 6 weeks old to allow the government time to put record of his birth into the system.  By contrast, when Isaac was born, in Utah, on a Tuesday, we had his birth certificate by Friday.  Ah, the bliss of a fully, functional state government not beholden to the whims of 535 men and women most of whom are not even temporary residents of the city for which they hold the purse strings and all administrative authority.  But, I digress.

Kenny didn't care about my taking his name, so I didn't.  I have since only be back the DMV once in the last 7.5 years.  Until today.  Last November, I got a parking ticket.  $100 fine for parking in a "No standing or parking during rush hour" zone during rush hour.  On it's face, you might think, well, duh, you absolutely deserved that ticket.  But, here's the thing, I was instructed to park there by a police officer.  Yes, one of DC's finest told me it was okay.  And, not surprisingly, I believed him.  Turns out, it wasn't even remotely "okay."  So, today, I went to contest the ticket.

Despite my previous experiences with the DMV, I had high hopes.  Hopes that were immediately dashed.  Upon arrival I was told, 1) that a penalty had been assessed for failure to pay within 30 even though it is allowable to appear for a hearing in lieu or payment within 60 days, and 2) that according to the computer, I was not a registered owner of the vehicle and needed Kenny's power of attorney to proceed.  I left, dejected, and feeling annoyed that I had been so foolish as to think today's errand would be any different than my last visits.  But, I was determined.  I walked the 8 blocks back to the car, retrieved our registration card which listed me as an owner and returned.  This time, success!  And even more miraculous, fewer than 30 minutes later, I was seated in a hearing room waiting for my turn to address the examiner.  And, most miraculous of all, he listened to my story and dismissed both the ticket and the penalty.  Just like that.  Okay, so not just like that because I have left out a whole bunch of frustrating details about this whole episode.  But, instead of $200 in tickets and penalties, listening to the police officer only cost me $14 for the parking garage and 3 hours of my time.

The lesson here is not that police officers should not be listened too, because they should be, or that the DMV has improved, because it hasn't.  It is instead that I need to have a more positive attitude.  The system is antiquated and inefficient, but I persevered and prevailed.  The police officer led me astray, but he is only human.  Parking garages in DC are expensive, but so is everything else and there are lots of great benefits to living here -- the local government notwithstanding.  Walking 32 blocks in near freezing temperatures is never ideal, but a little exercise is good for the body and the soul.  Miracles happen in my life all the time.  Small miracles and sometimes even really big ones.  And, I need to recognize them and be grateful.

That is my resolution for 2011, to look for and acknowledge miracles.  They're there.  In the red stains on white shirts that disappear with a little pre-treating, in the empty parking spaces in the perfect place at the perfect time, in the DMV adjudicators that trust your word, even without any proof.  I know God doesn't care if my whites are perfectly white, but I do know He wants me to be happy.  And these things that I'm calling miracles do just that.  Henceforth, I am resolved to embrace the happiness that comes from miracles, of any sort.         

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The Things We Do For Love

Last night I folded clothes.  Loads and loads of them.  It might have been the largest pile of clean clothes ever.  Okay, it wasn't.  The largest pile of clean clothes ever existed some 25 years ago, in a house on the north shore of Oahu. 

My dad does the laundry in our family.  When he and my mom were first married, she turned ALL of their unmentionables a lovely shade of mint green.  My dad took over from there and 40 years later is still going strong.  When we were kids, he would do the laundry, pile it on the spare bed in my brother's room and then fold it when he found the time.  Sometimes the pile would grow to epic proportions (I have 5 brothers and sisters), a veritable Mt. Everest of clean laundry, before he was able to get to it.

One day, my younger brother Lance turned up missing.  He was probably only 3 or 4 years old at the time.  We lived in a very small town then, on a circle where all the houses faced each other.  Everyone had kids all the same ages.  We used to play kick the can and red rover and dodge ball and freeze tag endlessly.  Most of the neighbors had an open door policy and kids would come and go at their leisure.  Even the little ones.  But, Lance was gone for a long time that day.  Too long.  And the panic set in.  Where could he be?  The whole circle started a search.  Every house, every room, everyone, everywhere.  No Lance.  And, then, when panic was morphing to terror, he was found!  Huzzah!  Peacefully sleeping nestled in the folds of Mt. Laundry.  Blissfully unaware of the manhunt going on around him.  Tears of relief came first.  And, then, we folded the clothes.

My pile last night was not swallow up a child big, but it was close.  And, while I was folding clothes and thinking about sleeping Lance, I wondered where my other half was.  I mean, folding clothes, like most chores is more fun if done together.  The kids were asleep and the house was quiet.  I stopped for a minute and listened.  I heard the tell-tale music of Mario and friends.  I saw faint lights dancing on the ceiling.  I thought, "surely he isn't doing that, while I'm doing this?!?!" I said, trying to disguise my irritation with calm, "Um, what are you doing?"  The reply came, "I'm trying to beat the game so Caleb can play more levels."

I love my kids enough to keep them in clean clothes and he loves them enough to clear the way on Mario Kart.  The things we do for love. 

Like Mother, Like Daughter

When I was young, my mother, how shall I say this...ahem, forced us to eat black eyed peas, cornbread and greens every New Year's Day.  See, my mom, is from the South.  Texas, actually, which is not the same as the deep South, but they can drawl with the best of them.  And, you've never truly met a good ole boy, until you've met a good ole boy from Texas, they are something special.  

On a completely tangential note -- my mother is so Southern, she has this uncanny radar for all things south of the Mason-Dixon line.  Example: If the phone rings and someone with a long, slow, syrupy, wrap you up in love southern accent happens to be on the other end, she knows.  She knows even before she picks up the receiver and her not as deeply buried as you might think Texas honey tongue makes an appearance with her very first, "heeeelllllllloooow."

Anyway, many in the South believe that if you eat black eyed peas, cornbread and greens on New Year's Day you'll have good luck, good fortune and prosperity in the coming year.  It's just superstition, but it can't hurt, I guess.  Now, I'm not so much a fan of the black eyed peas.  Cornbread?  No problem.  Greens with plenty of butter and salt, emphasis on the plenty?  Also, absolutely doable.  But, the beans?  I really, really don't like them.  But, I choked them down.  Every.  Year.  And, truthfully, I've been pretty fortunate in my life, so maybe it was the beans?  


And, if it wasn't, how will I ever know?  

Which leads me to my post-Mom calling the shots life.  Now, every year on New Year's Day I serve my own little family a healthy serving of, that's right, black eyed peas, cornbread and greens (we've opted for spinach as our green of choice).  And, I, ahem, force them to eat up.  And, they choke it all down, unhappily to be sure, but still down it goes.  The funny thing is, I still don't like black eyed peas.  Not even a little bit.  But, as I said, what if all my good fortune can be traced back to this meal?  If it ain't broke, well, you know.

 This year I tried a new recipe.  And, I liked it.  I probably won't serve it again...until next year, that is.  But, it was good, no choking required.  Even by the little people in my house.  

 Paired with a side of cornbread muffins and everyone was happy to partake.

Look, all smiles!  Okay, so they hadn't started eating yet, 
but eventually they cleaned their plates, mostly.  

Here's to another year of good luck, good fortune and prosperity! 

Monday, January 03, 2011

State Department Round-up Submissions Request

This week, Rambles and Ruminations is hosting the Department of State blog round-up.  The theme is, naturally, resolutions, goals, dreams and plans for 2011.  Please leave me a comment with your blog entry and I'll compile them into a post to be published Friday, January 7, 2011.  I'm looking forward to everyone's thoughts on embracing a new year.  I'm currently in the process of formulating my own ideas about how to make the most of 2011, so hosting the round-up is good motivation to actually put something down on paper, 'er keyboard.  

Can't wait to read your submissions!

Sunday, January 02, 2011

We love Washington, DC, #8

Washington, DC, 1/1/11 style.

1. Sleep in (Kenny was kind enough to let me sleep until 10am!, even though he was roused by our favorite almost 3 year-old at 7:30.)

2. Wii for awhile.  Is "Wii" a verb?  Should it be?  Anyway, we got Mario Kart for Christmas (thank you Lyman and Kelli!) and Caleb is in heaven.  He wants to race all day long.  Clearly, we are going to have to institute some rules about how much is too much.

3.  Eat breakfast.  Nothing like hearty oatmeal on a cold, winter day.  In reality, today was an unseasonably warm, January day.  At one point, the temperature on the car thermometer read 57 degrees.  Really?  Really!
4.  Drag your kids on random errands looking for the perfect home improvement and storage solutions to accommodate the dozens of boxes you have yet to unpack.  Honestly, as much as I love our lifestyle, I feel like I am in a constant state of unpacking, you know, because I am.  There was one box in Caracas that I never actually unpacked, the whole time we lived there it just sat in a corner.  I finally opened it today.  And, you know what was in it?  Cables.  Yep, yards and yards of cables.  To what, you ask?  Most of them are not labeled (thank you Apple for color coding everything!), so most likely, we'll never figure that out.  I am tempted to trash them, but what if we need them, or maybe even just one of them?  Kenny is going to test the cables and ascertain their reasons for being (i.e. let them sit in their box until the next time we move).

5. Reward everyone's patience during a very unproductive outing with a pizza buffet for lunch.  We did get a garlic press, somehow ours didn't make the move.

6.  Nap.  2.5 blissful hours of napping.  How much do I love that my kids are nappers?  So much.  So very, very much.

7.  Don some light outerwear and head to the Mall.  No, not the mall, the Mall, to visit the Memorials on the NW end. 
First, the Lincoln Memorial.

He looks pretty good, I think.  However, the perimeter ceiling is covered in mold.  Very unsightly.

Caleb, of course, was fascinated by Lincoln's assassination.  And that was just the beginning of the evening's discussions about violent deaths.

Next, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  Another prime opportunity to talk about guns and killing.  Good guys and bad guys.  Winners and losers.  War and why it's not great, but sometimes happens anyway.

The Wall at night.  I am always struck by the sheer magnitude of names.  I know this is not the most casualties the US has ever had in a war, but panel after panel of names is stunning, nevertheless.

Finally, the Korean War Veterans Memorial.  Yet another chance to talk about what happens when soldiers fight.  The pictures at night are not the best, but I do love the Mall after dark.  Enveloped in darkness and only dimly lit as they are makes the Memorials seem that much more sacred.  

8.  One last mad dash errand for the power tool you (and by 'you,' I mean Kenny) 
talked yourself out of earlier in the day, but decided 
you needed before the store closed.

9.  Wii some more, just for good measure.  See, it's totally a verb.

10.  Bed.

2011 is going to be a good year.  I can just feel it!

PS Remember my pseudo-resolution from yesterday about getting in more family pictures?  Did you notice me in 2 of today's?  Yea for Kenny and the tourist couple from San Diego for helping me hit this goal out of the ballpark already!

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