Saturday, April 30, 2011

Creepy encounters.

I'm a homebody, no secret there. I prefer to stay home and if I do go out I prefer to go with a family member. For some reason I approach going to the store with the same anxiety as approaching some dangerous activity... strength in numbers. I seem to have a face that says "talk to me" and if I'm with a child or spouse that tends to go away.

Katherine apparently has the same face.

Last week when we took the kids to the ice rink neither Ian nor I skated. Our feet were still recovering from the blisters we earned in Las Vegas and just the idea of squeezing our aching toes into rental skates was painful.
Katherine with her meandering, halting efforts at sliding on the ice, attracted the attention of another skater.
He asked her if she was there with her kids.
She politely told him she was here with her three siblings, then came and sat with us for a bit.
He was in his 40s.
Yesterday I visited with my mom, a friend and her two kids at Caribou Coffee. I arrived early and sat with my coffee and a crossword as I'd forgotten my Kindle at home. (BTW, I finished World War Z. Good book, you should read it. It's told as a collection of first-hand account interviews during the zombie apocalypse. Skip over the foul language in parts.) Minding my own business and wearing my Caps jersey (yes, we lost game 1 against the Lightning last night) a guy started talking to me. I honestly couldn't catch most of what he was saying, I think he kept repeating himself, but it had something to do with the Caps. I responded politely. He said how pretty my sapphire ring is. I thanked him. Then he asked my name, I answered. And hey, was I on facebook? Here, I admit I lied. Nope, sorry, not on facebook.
My mom and friends walked in.
Nice to meet you, I told him, then turned my attention to my friends' kids and he walked off. I suppose I should have flashed my other hand with my wedding ring? Said my kids like the Caps too? Told him I wasn't interested in seeing anyone but my hubby?
That's when I texted Ian and he asked if he should come over and beat the guy up.
I feel bad though. In one week he had someone hit on his oldest daughter and his wife.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

15th Anniversary Honeymoon

The stars aligned. It wasn't over our actual anniversary, that's coming up in May, but Ian had the vacation days, spring break had kids out of school, my parents were willing to take them all, we had points for the flights and Ian got a great deal on hotel. We left Saturday evening, returned Wednesday morning and the between times were just for the two of us.

We had few actual plans. Ian purchased tickets to Penn&Teller and we had a date with the Sunday afternoon Washington Capitals game, but otherwise our days were wide open.
No chores, no cooking, no laundry, no squabbling, no errands, for three solid days.
The spa tub in the room was the icing on the cake.
4/19/11: Las Vegas
Oh, and the food.
4/17/11: Las Vegas 4/19/11: Las Vegas 4/19/11: Las Vegas
Wow, Las Vegas has some great food. From our first meal at midnight (after a 7 hour delay in our arrival... our flights were purchased to arrive at 2 p.m., the airline changed them to arrive at 6 p.m., our flight was then delayed for 2 1/2 hours while we sat on the Dulles tarmac with no food), to our last one on a "Paris" patio across from the Bellagio fountain, we were surprised by the quality of the food. Even the Del Taco we had one lunch was surprisingly good.
4/18/11: Las Vegas
Yes, we spent a lot of time on food. On Sunday game day, we occupied a booth for three hours at the Sporting House Bar & Grill.
4/17/11: Las Vegas 4/17/11: Las Vegas
Donning our Caps jerseys proudly, we heard many times a "Go Caps!" as we passed people, or "You from Washington?" Sadly it was the one game in the series the Caps lost to the Rangers, but no one picked on us for that either. In fact, I wonder if there was a single true New Yorker staying at the New York, New York casino? I doubt it, it would be like a Parisian staying in "Paris" and that's just silly. Like everything in Las Vegas, New York, New York is a fantastical, condensed and somewhat mocking rendition of the real thing.
4/17/11: Las Vegas
So what did we do with the rest of our time? Aside from the Penn&Teller show (which we highly recommend)...
4/17/11: Las Vegas
...and our copious amount of eating, we walked. We walked a ton. We visited as many of the hotels as we could, from the Mandalay Bay to Treasure Island. Our feet hurt and had blisters. Granted, I hadn't picked the best shoes because I didn't want to pack an additional pair so I picked comfortable yet dressier. Not a good choice. Eventually we took some trams to give our feets a break. We also picked up tickets to three activities ("Bodies" at Luxor, "CSI: The Experience" at MGM and the "Shark Reef Aquarium" at Mandaay Bay) and Ian got himself into a poker tournament. Of course we lost some small bills in random one-armed/buttoned bandits.
4/19/11: Las Vegas 4/19/11: Las Vegas
What we didn't do? We didn't go to any risque' shows. Zumanity plays at NYNY but was dark our available nights. We didn't take up any of the corner pamphlets on their offers. I didn't strip down to a bikini with a sheer cover-up then strap on 4 inch heels and head to the street. We didn't drink alcoholic liquids out of hollow plastic guitars equipped with straws. We didn't dress up as the cookie monster or storm troopers. We didn't take up smoking. We didn't get tattoos.
Wow, it sounds like we didn't take up Sin City on any of its "fun opportunities"! My goal for this trip was to spend some quality time with Ian, and I think that was a mission accomplished. I did require one romantic outing and gave Ian three options. See the "Phantom of the Opera," take a gondola ride at the Venetian, or something else I'm blanking on but was equally sappy. We took the gondola ride and met Marco, our gondolier. He had a definite accent but I couldn't figure if it was affected Italian or heavily Americanized Italian. It turned out to be the latter. He's direct from Naples, came to the U.S. for school at UNLV, got his Bachelor's in Music and has been gondoliering for the last 10 years. He was sweet and took his serenading job very seriously. Sap that I am, it was a highlight for me. I'm sure Ian has different highlights. Probably that picture of him and Penn up there. But that's what it was all about, we had time and plenty of patience to do whatever the other thought would be fun. CSI was great for both of us and it was one of the times the kids came up. They would have really enjoyed seeing the scene, collecting data and reaching their conclusions.
4/18/11: Las Vegas 4/18/11: Las Vegas 4/18/11: Las Vegas
All of it was peripheral to spending time with Ian. We needed that time together and were lucky to have it. He's an amazing person and I love him dearly. He is my rock.
And next time, for probably our 20th Anniversary, it's my turn to pick.
We're going to an island and spending a week on the beach. At least there any little bikinis and frosty drinks will belong, right?

Monday, April 25, 2011

A new 11 year old.

Our trip to Las Vegas was specifically designed to coincide with spring break with special attention to being home for Nicholas's birthday. It landed smack in the middle of the break on Wednesday and we landed back home at 7 a.m. that morning.

Let me preface his birthday with what the kids did while we were gone, essentially stretching birthday fun into spring break fun at Camp Grandparents from Saturday to Tuesday.
We dropped the kids off around lunch time and my dad brought us to the airport. The kids were kept very very busy. Board games, a trip to the skate park (Nicholas has the face bruise to prove it), the National Zoo and even Barnum & Bailey Circus were on the calendar. My kids are funny. None of them were really looking forward to their time away and trust me it had very very little to do with the fact that Ian and I would be gone. They just wanted to stay home. They even made arguments for staying home alone the four days we were gone. Can you imagine? They wanted to hang out with their friends, well, the girls did at least. Nicholas just didn't want to leave home, he's a homebody. He has yet to stay overnight with my parents alone, or even "alone" with his brother. He'd be OK, just OK, if he was with Rebecca, but otherwise he comes home once it approaches night time. The kids wanted to do their own thing and going to grandma's house isn't like that. Grandma gets them up in the morning and they do stuff. At home we're boring in a comfortable sort of way: meals, homework, TV, video games, board games sometimes, outside time, and of course school, errands, lessons and soon... swim team. At grandma's house they do chores, play games and go to lots of fun places. I wouldn't tell them which fun things they'd be doing so they arrived skeptical. Honestly, I don't know why. Every time they spend a night or weekend over there my parents spoil them rotten. They go out for dinner, go shopping, see a show or something different/fun/what mom wouldn't do. Remember Rebecca's birthday? Then the weekend Rebecca had her retreat Katherine spent with my parents and they did Jazzercise and saw "Jason and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" at a local highschool. My parents take the boys to the skate park to watch competition, Rebecca went to the Capital Area cake show a couple times now, there is always something! And yet they were all grumbling a bit about three and a half days with the only close "extended" family they have. Sheesh.
They had a blast. I'm not sure if it was the stimulation or the sugar OD, but the circus was a huge hit. They had perfect weather for the zoo, though they were bummed that the big panda attraction is empty. And the skate park proved that even with a face plant Nicholas is improving in his skateboarding. Thank goodness for helmets though. They played Scrabble several times, Katherine won all the rounds. They ate well, slept well and played hard. It's what grandparents do, and my folks are really great at it. It's pretty awesome they're willing to take all four kids at once and make their time together wonderful. We are so lucky. I do wish the kids would quit grumbling beforehand!
By the time we returned home, they were packed with stories from the motorcycle stunts at the circus to the aforementioned face plant off the skateboard.
We as parents are just not that fun.
BUT... we were absolutely home for the big guy's 11th birthday. And we brought presents. Hmm, I should probably get a photo of them. All the kids got tshirts from Las Vegas but Nicholas got a little something extra too. I'll wait until he gets home to snap a pic.
We shared stories of our weekends then packed up the kids, said a huge thanks, and came home. A stop at Baskin Robbins procured an ice cream cake.
Let me tell you a bit about Nicholas. He's an 11 year old boy with a little brother: he can often be found rolling on the floor like a puppy beating on said brother. He can be pushy and rude... but with Jonathon only. If he doesn't want to do something he'll sometimes ignore it, sometimes finish it poorly, or in the case of cello, consider every tiny thing from taking the cello out to putting it back away as part of his 15 minute practice. He's tactile, still has a stuffed dog he carries around everywhere though he's promised to try leaving it on his bed. He curls up with people on the couch. His feet smell. He does his chores without question, except when he tries to pass it on to Jonathon; he goes out of his way to do nice things for his sisters, especially Rebecca. He has a great relationship with Rebecca, he looks up to her and admires her and plots against his brother with her. I've labeled him, as any bad parent would, my "Most Helpful." He still gives me kisses and lots of hugs. He'll even hug me in front of school. Clothes matter, he's always had a certain sense of style. Getting dress shirts and button-down flannel shirts for his birthday made him happy. Sports are also his thing. Video games are his passion too, but we encourage the sports when we can, like the EPWBA, Frogs, and the running club that starts this week at his school. Rebecca bought him a brand new football for his birthday, it was on his wish list. He has hopes of making the 6th grade football team in the Fall and if not he figures he'll try out for cheerleading. He's only mostly joking. You can read him like a book. He can lie, but he doesn't much. He doesn't care for chocolate and prefers gum: for Christmas he was thrilled with a Costco pack of Trident. He loves to be read to, but usually falls asleep half way through. For a while he preferred long hair, now he's strutting the buzzed look. He's a bit of a mama's boy. He's sweet and gentle. He's smart. He's charming to those he's familiar. He has a sense a humor. And he's all ours.
Though we were totally outdone by my parents (we had no sleep, a little jetlag on top, and no tickets to anything awesome), we did what little we could with an ice cream cake, a trip to LazerQuest and dinner at Olive Garden as requested.
4/20/11: Nicholas birthday 4/20/11: Nicholas birthday 4/20/11: Nicholas birthday
You can see the bruise on his cheek from his earlier wipeout.
In all honesty, I wish he could stay just as he is. OK, maybe I wish he'd be a little more secure and willing to spend a night away, it would be good for him. But that's so minor.
He's only 11, right?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Hoppy Easter!

4/24/11:  There's a bird nest in the holly bush at grandma's house

I hope your spring break/Easter was wonderful. We went to Mass last night for the lengthy Vigil service thanks to the boys being scheduled for two Masses this month that we couldn't attend (one we went to a hockey game and the other was last weekend when we were in Vegas) and trading it for this one. It all evens out in the wash, right?

4/23/11: Easter Vigil Mass
The boys managed so well, keeping themselves awake and relatively aware of what was going on. The Mass was well over 2 hours complete with baptisms and confirmations.
Once we returned home it was time to finish up the egg hunt details. I probably should have done it on Friday, or even Saturday afternoon, but no, I left it to Saturday night.
4/24/11: The Easter egg hunt begins. 4/24/11:  Becca used her iPod touch for her clues.
4/24/11:  Nicholas figuring clue #1 4/24/11: Katherine whizzed through some, and others not so much.
Our hunts tend to be on the quieter side now. Last year we started with clues, simple direct-substitutions (Jonathon) and Caesar shift types (Nicholas). Each kid had different code breakers with Katherine's being the most difficult.
4/4/10 - Egg Hunt '10 clues.
This year we mixed it up again. Katherine was faced with Jeopardy questions: "If Dr. Horrible had one of these, he never would have met Penny." Rebecca's Social Studies teacher had them do an exercise with Morse Code, so all her clues were in Morse Code. Seemed fitting. Nicholas's clues were built off the letters from the roster of the Washington Capitals. His was tough to crack in the beginning because all he got was a number (#8) followed by eight dashes for letters, with no context at all. Another clue was #22 with six dashes. We had to help him a bit to get going. Jonathon's clues all required him to do math problems with each result relating to a letter of the alphabet (i.e. the first clue dash might be 6-5, which equals 1 and 1=A, etc.) I threw in some superscripts and pre-Algebra to keep it interesting.
Clearly this year was easier than last year's as the kids finished in only 30 minutes.
4/24/11:  Dad pitches in to help. 4/24/11: An assortment of clues hidden in the eggs. 4/24/11:  Nicholas loves candy.
Before heading to my parents' house for Easter lunch, Rebecca and I finished up the dessert. Made with the white sponge cake recipe from Cake Boss and a very sweet buttercream frosting from Cake Doctor, we turned our cupcakes into Easter duckies. Yes, they should be round but the silicone cups we have are heart-shaped, so there you go.
4/24/11: Close-up of Cheep 4/24/11: Cheep cupcakes
Rebecca also stacked and frosted her tiny 3-layer cake from her new cake pans.
4/24/11: Becca frosts her tiny 3-layered cake 4/24/11: Tiny cake, isn't it cute?? 4/24/11: Finished tiny Easter cake
At the grandparents' house there was another egg hunt, with much better surprises inside. I give them candy, grandparents give money and candy.
4/24/11: Another egg hunt at grandparents' house! 4/24/11: All eggs found, time to open. 4/24/11:  Katherine opens her clue for her "big gift."
It was gorgeous outside, even a touch too warm. I think the car temp read 90F (which is really not cool since a few days ago the high reached 48F). Anyway, I wanted a photo of the kids with my parents since we've done these on and off since about 2002, I believe. The first photo is of my parents with the kids all sitting on an outdoor loveseat bench. Eventually only two kids sat on the bench with my parents while the other two stood behind. This year we decided to scrap the bench.
4/24/11:  Kids with the grands.
Aren't they lovely?
Of course to reach that point....
4/24/11: *Sigh*
Having fun is good... having fun is good.... having fun is good....
Happy Easter :)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Rock the Red

It's no secret... we're Caps fans.

Ian's office.

Washington Capitals ice hockey, that is. Just in case, you know, you didn't know.
My favorite sites to keep up with "my" team?
The NHL site of course: Washington Capitals
Russian Machine Never Breaks, titled from a phrase Alexander Ovechkin (Caps captain) once said off the ice.
Rock the
... and the Hershey Bears site, the AHL farm team for the Caps. Braden Holtby was pulled up for, I think, 10 games this season and ended with 2 shutouts and 8 wins. Holy smokes.
Here's a scene from a nearby neighborhood. Our HOA probably wouldn't like that so we'll live vicariously.
A nearby house.  I wonder if the garbage cans were on purpose.
I know some people really get into football. I used to be one who watched Sunday game every week with my parents, and then with Ian. Ian watched football this year as well but I have to admit my heart was totally not into it. Part is that our team stinks. Part is that the players are far too often, for lack of a better word, thugs. I know there are bad apples in every sport, but football seems to be packed with them and I have trouble cheering on any team where I can't respect its players, so I'm done with that sport until one of my kids picks it up, of course. It's much like basketball, another sport fraught with whiney babies and hoodlums. While my boys played in the local league this year I still didn't jump on the professional or even the NCAA bandwagon. Our local team, the Wizards, is lousy, so very lousy, beyond lousy, and regularly seems to have its players thrown in jail. No thanks. I do know that UConn beat Butler in the NCAA final (go me!) but it boils down to I couldn't tell you a single player's name or even what their jerseys or mascots look like. Heck, I don't even know where Butler is. Really don't care either. What did catch my eye? The Frozen Four... the college ice hockey playoffs. We told the kids on Sunday that their college decisions have new requirements: must have a hockey team. OK, ok, we're kidding. Sort of.
We're only in the States a few years before heading to our next post in Jordan so we're soaking up the wide availability of live sports (Ian brought Nicholas to a Redskins game, we've taken all the kids to Caps games [Katherine, Rebecca, Nicholas, no photo of Jonathon, oops], a DC United soccer game, and tennis matches with the Washington Kastles) and televised sports. There was a drought of such entertainment in India unless cricket was your thing (we tried to understand cricket, we really really did try). Hockey has taken ahold of all of us, some more than others (i.e. Katherine really doesn't care about it, but does own a Backstrom jersey because he's cute). But I think what's taken ahold of us is the players. Of course we only see what's provided to the media, but the Caps are everywhere. We can watch them practice at the Kettler Iceplex in Arlington. We can go to local restaurants in Arlington and DC and see them. They do clinics at schools, hold casino nights for charity, and in September there's a convention. There's a women's club called Scarlet Caps and recently held a Hockey'n'Heels program
Starting tomorrow we'll be in playoff mode. Is this the year the Caps finally win the Stanley Cup? We sure hope so because the team has been around since 1974. Tickets are pricey and playoff tickets tough to come by, so we'll Rock the Red right at home. It's time to wash the jerseys.