Sunday, July 24, 2005

Just like that, 5 months are gone.

We cannot officially say farewell, but since the computer gets packed up on Tuesday, it is farewell in a general sense.

While the kids were in summer camp last week, I spent many hours sorting, tossing and packing for our mini-move. We're not actually due to leave for post until August 29th, but because we chose to do our home leave at the end of training, our apartment gets packed up this week and we live out of suitcases for the next 5 weeks, either at my parents' house or on the road. It's almost like a weaning process since we're all rather sad about leaving home this time. Perhaps we became a bit too settled.
So what's in store for us. Here's a breakdownmore to keep myself straight than for your information.
Monday: Ian has consultations downtown all morning. After lunch we'll all go to FSI for our shots (yellow fever, etc, someone remind me to give everyone tylenol before we go), and Ian has a couple other stops there. Monday night we finish packing our suitcases for our road trip and the week at the beach.
Tuesday: Packers come to pack our air shipment. We only have 300 kilos to pack so it shouldn't take more than a few hours. That is, if they bring minor items like... boxes. Another family who moved out of here last month had horror stories of their packout, including the fact that packers arrived sans boxes. *sigh* We'll pack up our car with the suitcases we have packed, to bring them to my parents' house. At 3 p.m., Rebecca gets her spacer, at 3:30 Katherine has her fillings. We'll drop the kids off at grandma's house then come back to the apartment to pull together everything else that's being packed for our sea freight. Since this is a furnished apartment, I want to put -our- stuff together so we don't inadvertantly take an apartment phone, clock radio or tupperware.
Wednesday: The sea freight packers show up. This will most likely take all day. I don't know why, but it will. Once they're done, we drive to my parents' with everything left over. There's always stuff leftover. Items the packers "can't pack", things that are missed in a drawer here or a shelf there, or something that just repeatedly gets stepped over and doesn't make it into a box. Don't ask me why. We will most likely empty our fridge into a neighbor's fridge but there's already not much left to nibble on here. We also need to drop our modem at the front desk.
Thursday: We'll check out of the apartment, pick up our mail. Oh no, I forgot to fill out a change of address form for our mail. Must do that. I guess this day is also for any last minute stuff that comes up. But hopefully all I'll be doing is making sure our bags for Maine are packed.
Friday: Fly to Presque Isle, drive to Madawaska, stay in Edmunston.
Saturday: No clue, but my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins will be there.
Sunday: Fly back to Virginia.
Monday: Do laundry, repack, pack car.
2 August - 13 August: Stop in Pittsburgh and Toledo on the way to Milwaukee, WI. Drive back stopping in Chicago, Indianapolis, Lexington KY, Charleston WV, Charlottesville VA and on to Sandbridge VA.
The following week we're in Sandbridge in a beach house.
The last week we're back in Annandale doing all the last minute stuff you can't do before the last minute.
We fly out late night on the 29th of August.
OK. Basically all this is to say this: On Tuesday we're being disconnected. I plan to post updates of our trip along the way if I can. If not, I'll just keep notes and tell you all about it after the fact. We'll answer e-mail when we can as well. But this is our farewell. We've thoroughly enjoyed being in Arlington and we're going to miss Home very much.
Keep in touch.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

And just like that, another weekend is gone.

Let's rewind to Thursday.

Thursday evening we had Mike and Sarah Queen over for dinner. Mike is an old friend of mine from middle school in Niamey, Niger. His father was with the embassy there. Currently, they are in Ghana (so close!) but will be transferring to Paris soon. How I wish they were staying in Accra another year. Mike and Sarah just moved back to Virginia from Texas where Mike finally earned his degree. We had a pleasant evening after dinner groaning about people going through Extreme Personal Makeovers on TV.
Friday was busy all day. The dentist was first on our list. While Jonathon gardened with grandma, Nicholas had his cleaning (all good!), Katherine had her clenaing (2 cavities to be filled in later, *sigh*), and Rebecca had her impression made and tooth pulled right in the office. I never realized how long baby tooth anchors are before the teeth are ready to fall out. Since this tooth should have stayed for another 3-5 years, she had quite a tooth holding on, well, aside from the gaping hole in it. On the 26th she'll get her spacer in and Katherine will have her cavities filled.
The appointment didn't take long so we picked up Jonathon (who had a quick bath after getting filthy and completely sweaty) and went home. My dad was coming home from India and mom was going to pick him up so it was best we were on our way. Ian had the afternoon off, we splurged and took the kids to see "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." Six thumbs up. It's a fun movie that has the same magic as the first with a more oblivious less maniacal Willy Wonka. The only thing I would change would be the OompaLoompas. No spoilers here if you haven't seen it, but I really wish they'd spoken clearly and been, well, different. We had a quick dinner at Taco Bell, tried to play the Harry Potter Scene It game (the DVD was bad), put the boys to bed, then the girls and I went to Barnes and Noble for the Harry Potter book launch party.
What a hoot! (no pun intended) Sure, there were kids there, but more of the participants were parents and groups of teens. Balloon twisters made "broomsticks", the kids created "wands", there were photos with "Snape", "Hagrid", "Hermione", and "Harry", quizzes, guesses on a har of Bertie Botts any flavor beans, stickers and loads of people in their wizarding garb. We left after a few hours when the line started to form for book dispersal at midnight. Since we ordered ours months ago it as scheduled for delivery on Saturday. I did have the opportunity to exchange the faulty HP game for a new one while we were there.
Saturday we picked up my mom to go to her company picnic. The offices are in Springfield and Falls Church, the picnic was held way out in Leesburg. Her office is rather unusual with how open they are with their activities. Several weeks ago we went on their company trip to Hershey Park and this time to the picnic. Food service was set up and we could pick from hot dogs, hamburgers, pulled prok, corn, macaroni salad, etc. all provided by her company. The rest of the park was open to us as well so we paddleboated, fished, played some volleyball and generally sweated ourselves sticky.
Guess who we saw? As we walked up to the food tent, someone called my name and when I looked around I saw a large black man staring at me. I stared back. After literally 30 seconds of staring at each other, he stood up and said "It's Ceasar." I haven't seen Ceasar Morrison since junior year of college, and here he was, a new hire at the same company as my mom, with his wife and step-daughter. I dropped my bags and gave him a huge hug. I'm sure the kids thought I was insane, but it wasn't long after eating that they were off playing with 6yo Hailey and we caught up on what's been going on the past 10 years. Ceasar and Jen just bought a house out in Leesburg, he plays football for the Virginia Kings football league (and has been for the past 5 years) and he's accepted that being an accountant isn't the worst thing in the world. If you knew Ceasar, you'd know that no one would have envisioned him as an accountant. It's amazing to catch up with people like that, out of the blue. We had all the kids fishing together and even caught a couple with a juicy worm Katherine found (it was big enough to split apart). The park provides bait, but the fish had it down to a science. Since the provided nightcrawlers were quite quite dead, they simply picked them apart off the hook. The live worm caught them off guard so both Rebecca and Hailey had great luck and both had appropriate grossed out faces with matching shrieks whenever the fish wriggled on the hook. Loads of fun for everyone.
Today, we attended Mass at the Franciscan Monastery in DC then took the tour afterwards. The church was built to be a replica of the Holy Land, for those who can't pilgrimage all the way to Jerusalem. It was rather fascinating, especially the story about Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of music whose instrument was her voice. The church gave me a chance to try out the camera again. I'm having a heck of a time figuring it out. Last night there was a huge lightening storm and Ian and I both tried to capture a strike but the camera wouldn't even click. Back to the instruction manual. It would have been nice to walk the grounds and see the grotto, but with the clock ticking towards 2 p.m. and everyone hungry, we met at the Boulevard Woodgrill for lunch. I found the food quite good but the key lime pie had more than a tartness to it, but I couldn't put my finger on what was off. Oh, and a mint leaf on Ian's pie had a caterpillar on it. That's always good to occupy the kids.
Back at home, I crashed. After having been up until 3 a.m. reading the first 400 pages of _Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince_ then being awoken before 7 a.m. by Jonathon (who was up way too early), I'm amazed I made it through the day. But this evening I finished the book and cried. Ian is reading it now, and I'm wondering if Katherine is really ready for it. It's not a happy book and she takes things very much to heart. If I'm sad, she'll be broken I fear.
But she won't be reading it for a while yet, we'll keep it for our trip. In the meantime, tomorrow the kids start their week of summer camp. Each day I'll have a few hours to clean out and pack. It'll be nice to have a little break too. This coming weekend my parents are taking the girls so we'll plan something fun for the boys. I already have something for Saturday morning I think they'll enjoy quite a bit.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Trying to get all the appointments done.

I don't know how working people do this. How do folks leave the house for 10 hours a day? Today I left at 8:45 and returned home at 6:30. I'm tired.

Jonathon had his 4 year check up this morning at 9:15, and he's grown! Now up to 39 inches and 36 pounds, he's still our itty bitty boy but bigger than I thought. He was prepared for his 3 shots, held my hand, said our Ouch Ouch Ouch mantra (hey, they hurt, no sense sugar-coating immunizations) and didn't cry even for the MMR. Bugs Bunny and Daffy bandages made everything better.
At 10:45 we picked up the rest of the family to drop off Ian at FSI then pick up my mom for lunch at McDs. Ick :)
At 12:45 we went to a playground for a few minutes. The air was heavy and thoroughly unpleasant. Fifteen minutes later with sweat pouring off Nicholas from the oppressive air, we walked down the street to visit with Mrs. Bolognesi, a lady I used to babysit for when I was in high school. The kids especially had a really good time and were well-occupied with coloring and small toys. It helped that Mrs. Bolognesi pumped them full of Whole Fruit popcicles and that she had a fuzzy (if unfriendly) cat.
By 3:30 we were on our way to the dentist again. Yesterday we were there to have Katherine's chipped tooth fixed. An hour and $300 later, she looks good as new. Today was Jonathon and Rebecca's turn. Originally I'd planned to have the boys go together but Rebecca has been having tooth trouble we switched. Jonathon did great with nary a flinch even as she used the sharp utensils. He has a tartar problem, which I knew. Unfortunately, nothing that can be fixed with brushing or flossing or anything easy. He's predisposed to tartar build-up so we'll have to make sure he gets dental checkups as often as possible to get it cleaned off.
Rebecca also had her teeth cleaned. But here's where it gets interesting. She had a sore in her mouth over the weekend, it looked like a canker sore originally, but it has increased in size. Today, it looks bad, almost like a burn on her gum above a baby tooth. She's had some bleeding and complains at night about the pain. The hygeinist took a closer look at her tooth and saw a cavity (no surprise, it's her 3rd). To be sure, they took an xray... she has an abcess! My 7yo daughter has to get a tooth pulled and a placer put in because her teeth are so weak they are rotting from the inside out and causing an infection in her gum!
I'm so frustrated by this. She's in pain now, and she's predisposed to tooth problems which doesn't bode well for the rest of her baby teeth. I'm also concerned about her future adult teeth because we can't get her into the dentist 3 times a year like she should with teeth like this... ack. I just don't know.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Elevator dangers

We've all heard of people (or been the one) who got stuck in an elevator when the power goes out. We see in movies when someone gets an arm or leg stuck in the door as it shuts. Or maybe just a piece of clothing that then gets pulled and stretched as the elevator rises or descends.

Today was Jonathon's turn to experience the wrath of the elevator.

We live in an apartment building with an 2 elevator lobbies on each floor. Three elevators in one, four in the other. Our regular set has the four. The kids find it quite fun to run down the hall, press the button, then squish against one of the corners of an elevator, each kid getting their own elevator to "hide" next to.
We've always said not to, primarily because if a door opens we don't want a child there blocking the doorway should someone want to exit. Today though, it was drilled hard into their heads why they should stay far away from elevator doors, period.
The kids, as usual, ran ahead as the adults followed for a walk to the bookstore and surrounding stores. Each kid had squeezed up to an elevator hiding, but when the doors behind Jonathon opened, he didn't move. In fact, he started screaming (as did his sisters) and his -arm- was stuck between the door and the wall it was sliding into to open. I tried to pull his arm and when it became perfectly clear the doors were still trying to open and his arm was not going to move, I tried to push the doors open, realized I was going the wrong way then tried to push them shut. I couldn't understand why they wouldn't close, but they just wouldn't close and let his arm go. The girls were screaming more, and I learned after that Nicholas thought he was helping by pushing the elevator button. Ian jumped in an tried to push the doors open, I yelled that they had to shut to release Jonathon and he successfully pulled them shut. Jonathon's arm came free and amidst much shhhing and crying (still from the girls with Jonathon) we determined that he hadn't broken any bones, he could bend his arm and his fingers moved fine. He didn't even have a scratch.
What he does have is a 3-4 inch long and 1 inch wide section of skin and muscle that has been badly pinched. We applied ice and gave motrin, and he was laughing a few minutes later. In fact, aside from some swelling on his upper arm and a pale blue bruise, it's hardly noticeable. I imagine it will ache tomorrow and probably bruise pretty well after, but considering what could have happened, he was extremely fortunate. And so were we.

Wednesday, July 6, 2005


A day after London won the bid for th 2012 Olympics and on the first full day of the G8 Summit, explosions have rocked downtown London on buses and in the tube system.

The death toll is over 50, with hundreds injured.

Were you bursting with patriotism?

The 4th is one of my favorite holidays. I'm happy to be an American. I love this country and all it offers. I love the monuments, the parks, the availability of everything, the kitsh, the open roads, the little towns, the high rises... everything. I love U.S. patriotic music and I believe our flag to be the most beautiful in the world.

It was 10 years since the last time we'd spent our 4th in downtown DC, and it'll be years before we take it on again. Aside from the minor sunburn, it was well worth it.

At 11:30 a.m., the nine of us met at Federal Triangle metro stop and made our way to the parade route. We stayed the length of it and took snaps of the Thomas and Magic Schoolbus balloons. The bands were OK but we gave the biggest cheer to the Medieval Times knights (our red knight traded colors to blue!). After two hours in the heat, we found a cooler spot in the Post Office Pavilion for lunch. It's amazing how the crowds were nonexistent with the security checks at each door, as well as the entrance to the Mall where the yearly Folk Life Festival is held. The Festival this year focused on the Forest Service, Food and the country of Oman. It was actually better than it sounds. I don't know if this was done in past years, but there was a booklet for kids with activities to complete that either could be done on their own or by finding the answers at various booths. A different stamp was put on each completed page, making it a bit of a scavenger hunt.
Around 5 we made the trek to the west Capitol lawn to stake out a space for the Capitol Fourth. The concert began at 8 but even by 5 the center lawn was full. Apparently the Beach Boys were rehearsing so folks made a day of sitting on the lawn. Considering there was a separate security check just for the concert, those folks were pretty dedicated to their beach towels and folding chairs. There weren't even vendors in the area so picnics had to be brought in, and no grilling. Thankfully there was free water.
We didn't get a great spot on the southern end of the lawn, but we could see the giant screen above the trees and hear the concert well. Neat sheets are a fabulous creation and we layed two down so we could play cards and let people nap if they wanted. Jonathon did eventually succumb around 8:30 but it was short-lived as we packed up and stood by the reflecting pond to watch the canons fire for the 1812 overture. Thanks to Gloria Estevan singing a song that went way over time, the fireworks started before the 1812 overture. I wonder how it turned out on TV.
Our attempt to make it near the metro before the end of the fireworks failed. The Mall lawn was packed and the walking paths with any view were packed. We got caught in the crowd and decided once the fireworks were over to take out time getting out of the city. Smithsonian was closed and Federal Triangle was next closest with a line up the escalator and half way to the sidewalk. We stopped for ice cream. Then decided to get to Metro Center. There was a backlog trying to get to the turnstyle, but once through, the platform wasn't packed and we made it on the first train to come through. Not only that, we scored seats which is just about unheard of.
Calzones and hot dogs, ice cream, about 30 bottles of water and soda, a couple miles of walking with plenty of dust, parade, festival, concert and fireworks. We were tired, but happy with a successful day of celebrating our nation.

Sunday, July 3, 2005

Happy Birthdays!!

July is a busy month. Must fit in all the partying.

Happy Birthday to my wonderful husband today. He's 32 and doesn't look a day over 31.
My maternal grandmother is visiting this weekend for the 4th but we've also celebrated her 72nd birthday coming up on the 11th.
Seeing as Ian passed his French test on Thursday (yay Ian!), he took Friday off as a mental health day. We spent the morning at Ballston Mall then hosted my mom and grandmother during the afternoon until my dad joined us for dinner (lasagna, my staple). The kids kept the Grands busy hopping from game to game and great-grandma saw her first VeggieTales video. The girls, of course, remember her well while Nicholas held back a bit and Jonathon didn't remember her at all but it didn't matter. He'll talk to anyone about anything so great-grandma was another pair of ears for his babble.
Saturday morning we left the apartment at 10:30 to be at my parents' house by 11 a.m. Katherine was in cahoots with my dad so once we arrived they spirited away for an hour to arrive back in time for lunch and birthday cake.
And then of course there were presents. I usually try to downplay birthday gifts, choosing to do fun activities, letting the birthday person do what they'd like, basically just getting out and having fun. This year was extra special. Not only did Katherine (with grandpa) choose her own gifts for us, my parents outdid themselves. Ian received a wall map designed for tracking travels. My parents have had one for as long as I can remember and now our family does as well. Hmm, I guess that's only if Ian will share with the rest of us though. And for me, my mom has spent the past year building scrapbooks of the first 21 years of my life. I'm not ashamed to say that I opened the cover and burst into tears. My mom painstakingly has copied hundreds of my childhood photos but even more wonderful, throughout are handwritten notes by both her and my father, letters I wrote to them, and letters I received from grandparents. I could try to impart how much her time and effort, and the photos, mean to me. But it would be a mere shadow of my true appreciation. Those books have touched me to my very core. Thank you, mom and papa.
Once I'd gathered myself together (and it did take a bit), it was time for my dad to reveal his surprise for the whole family. First we had over an hour drive, complete with the the repetitive "Are we there yet?" from the peanut gallery. Ian was let in on the surprise, which made driving there considerably easier.
Arundel Mills oulet mall was our destination. Parked by the fabulous Egyptian theme Muvico, the women and kids went shopping while Ian and my dad disappeared elsewhere. If you've ever been to Arundel Mills, you probably already know our destination...
Dinner at Medieval Times.
From the 3yo youngster to the 72yo oldster, we had a ball. During our wait, the King arrived to knight those celebrating special days. My husband, my grandmother and I were all bestowed titles before we entered the hall and took our places in the front row supporting the red knight. What can I say about a jousting, sword fighting, horse jumping show that doesn't make me sound like a RenFest geek? Who cares, it was great. The boys didn't touch their food, they were enthralled with the horses pounding by and the sparks as metal clashed on metal. The girls were mildly concerned with how they would eat their meal without utensils. Everyone cheered long and loud when the list of birthdays and occasions included a welcome home for a soldier, returned from Iraq.
Katherine's luck is holding too. She received a flower from the knight after he successfully completed a game challenge. But she's also sharing her luck. Rebecca received the red ribbon as the Red Knight's Queen for the evening. But don't think the boys were ignored for they may not have scored from the knight, but daddy bought them each their own wooden shield. Grandpa splurged on some princess wreaths for the girls and it seems we brought Medieval Times home with us. After the show, the kids asked for autographs and we took plenty of photos to remember a fabulous evening of entertainment.
We were all bushed.
Today being Sunday, we went to church in Annandale, had a yummy lunch with my parents and spent a few hours at Lake Accotink (is that spelled right?) Park walking the trail and playing minigolf. Nicholas has the best luck in things like minigolf and poker. I don't think he uses any skill, but he's the only one who pulled off not one, but two holes-in-one. For getting one on the 4th hole, he won a free ride on the carousel, a 5yo dream.
We're plugging through the birthday desserts still. After the park we shared ice cream, cake and jell-o. A bit much sugar? Back at our own place, the kids had baths and we vegged. Tomorrow is the 4th so we have a full day planned downtown. Which means, I need to get some sleep. Happy 4th everyone!
Sidenote: Sometime this week we need to take Katherine to the dentist. Last night she managed to walk into a wall and chip her front (adult!) tooth. *sigh* I did the same thing as a kid, only mine happened at a pool.