Monday, December 30, 2013

I'm BACK

After huge amounts of stress and anxiety, after 3.5 months, I am back on the register with my shiny new clearance. I am 11 out of 126 on the Consular register. Come on January, come on March invites, let's make this official!

I think this is the best early-birthday present I could have asked for.

Stain stains


A long, long time ago (seriously. It was before we joined the foreign service.) Terry's dad made a super cool hamper. It looked just like a bedside table, but inside the piece was a pull-out hamper. We placed an order. And then left the country.

Terry's dad did us one better and made a matching set: one hamper and one real bedside table. Then he put it somewhere safe and essentially forgot about it as we weren't coming for it any time soon. Fast forward seven years and the tables are in our house.

We had to stain them to make them match the bedroom furniture we already had - all dark and walnut-y. We had to sand down the table tops and eventually attach them to the bases. We had to apply a sealant something on top of the stain.

But they are now almost finished and oh, so pretty! I can't wait to get these babies into our room.


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Renovation - Floor down

Last Saturday, Lynne planned on taking the kids to the botanical gardens to meet up with friends.  I planned to stay home all day and lay the tile floor.  Laying the floor is a kind of a slow process as you have to lay some tile glue down, then wait for it to dry some and get tacky.  Then you lay down the tile in that area.  This gets repeated many times as you can't lay glue on too much of the floor or you would be tracking glue all over the new tile and anywhere else in the house you roam.  Well, on Saturday I managed to work through the room laying the tile and getting it all down.  In the end I am really happy with the floor.  Lynne was also pleased with the final product.  During the waiting time I managed to stain the end tables some more (more on those in another post later) and finish the cabling in the adjacent room.  Slowly we are moving towards finishing this room off.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Renovation - Prepping the floor.

I am trying to get better about the renovation posts and making them a little more timely.  Since last weekend the door is painted and rehung.  It is much nicer now - without the globs of excess paint it actually can close. I still need to put the door knob back on and put the new strike plate on the door jamb (the old one was no longer brass from all the coats of paint).  Then it will be done.

This week I also worked on leveling the floor for the new tile (this is the photo in the post).  The old floor consisted of carpet (that we ripped up) with tile underneath.  Many of the tiles near the walls were broken when they installed the tacking strips for the carpet, so we can not use that flooring.  So, we are going to be installing a new tile that looks like a fake hardwood floor.  Not the fanciest but the tile is very durable and considerably cheaper and easier to install than real hardwood.  In order to install this I needed to make the entire floor level.  So out came concrete that I used to fill in holes in the floor and where there was tiles missing.  If all goes well this weekend I am hoping to lay the new floor.  

Friday, December 20, 2013

What the hell Rockville?

I'm a planner. I like knowing what's going on and what the options are. It's December in the USA and I knew there would be Santa sightings. So I went looking for information about wheres and whens. Nothing.

I read in The Patch today that Santa hit Town Square YESTERDAY in an armored vehicle. Bet that would have been fun to see, eh? Then tonight during dinner we hear a fire truck sirens all a'blaring. It's coming closer. I guess a neighbor's house is on fire? But no, just as it rolls past our house we realize Santa's on the truck. We all rush to check it out.

Zoltan is the smallest and his chair is the farthest from the front door. He never even catches a glimpse. Thusly, he becomes completely hysterical, crying and wailing, because he missed it. If I had known Santa was coming, we had plenty of time from when we first heard the sirens to come out and see. But no, there was no way to prepare.

I finally had to tell Zoltan it wasn't our religion anyway so he should stop crying.

Sigh. Out of the mouths of babes

Tonight...
Alex: I don't have a phone to play games on.
Me: Right, so you have to play games in other ways.
Alex: You mean like tablets?
Me: NO, like on boards.
Alex: What are boards?

Later in the evening, talking about a new snowman stuffed animal
Zoltan: Mommy, I am sleeping with Frosty tonight
Me: Yeah, we like Frosty
Zoltan: Yeah, it is so yummy on cake

Monday, December 16, 2013

Renovation time

This Saturday Lynne took the kids to the Ballet with Auntie Heather and Harrison.  I decide to skip hunting one day and concentrate on getting something moving the in the study downstairs.

Last time I wrote anything the walls were spackled and needing paint.  Painting has since be completed (mostly by Lynne during nap time and on sadik days).  So now I have been working on the drop ceiling.  First I installed the drop ceiling grid, then a new light was installed within the grid.  The first photo shows the drop ceiling grid installed with the lights. 

Next I started installing the drop ceiling tiles.  I had to leave one area open to install the air ducts.  This required a trip to Home Depot for parts.  Once back I completed the duct work, terminating all the cables in the room, and installing the outlet covers.

With the duct work complete I finished installing the ceiling tiles.  Now the ceiling is done. I pulled the door to the room off its hinges so I could sand down all the old paint.  It is amazing that a contractor was paid to do a job this bad.  The guy painted over dirt and left paint drips everywhere.  With all that extra paint lots of doors in our house don't properly close.  I am slowly working on correcting that.  Last night I got the door sanded and started painting again.  So the list of work to is slowly dwindling.  We still have to finish painting the door and rehang it, touch up paint the walls where I made a mess putting up the drop ceiling.  After that I need to level the floor, then install the tile floor.  And lastly paint and install the trim work.  Lots to do but lots less.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Scranton

In the seven years since we bought the cabin, we have never spent more than a week a year there. 90% of our time there has been spent over the summer or nearby months. This means that we have thoroughly explored the library, the beach club, our property, and a couple of local playgrounds. We've hit the Wilkes-Barre mall and shopping centers. We haven't had the time or inclination to explore farther afield.

Enter: The D.C. Tour. This summer alone Alex and I got at least 2 full weeks here, maybe more. Terry and Zoltan got a bit less. We've taken two four-day weekends this fall/winter. And, we have now visited Scranton.

The first visit was just me and the kids. We visited the Everhart Museum, Scranton's own Science/Art/History museum. Yeah, you read that right. There was some event going on in the art gallery so we didn't get to check that out as our visit got cut short due to bad behavior, but we did get through the science (dinosaurs, rocks - many of which glowed under UV light) and the history (I can remember Egyptian and African art and a video of interviews and "traditional" dancing; "traditional" in quotation marks simply because I am not educated enough to make a judgment). The grounds are also lovely and back right into a park where we would have visited post-museum. Maybe next time.

The more recent trip was to the Steamtown train museum, not to be confused with the Trolley Museum located across the parking lot and the destination of our next Scranton trip. This time Terry and his dad accompanied us. I made sure we got there in time for the locomotive repair shop tour, which I thought would fascinate the kids until I remembered, mid-tour, that kids don't like tours. They were amazingly well behaved though and as there were some super-cool things to see and we did stay in motion a good bit of the time, it went well. The rest of the museum was also well done, and I am so glad we stumbled on the History section (you had to go back outside into the train yard, around 2 train cars and into another door) because there were the replica train cars we got to run around.

Our hope is that next time we'll have a whole day to devote to Scranton and get to Old Forge for pizza.

Friday, December 13, 2013

"Old" friends

Something I think every foreign service person would recognize: having in your life people who knew you when is important, but it is equally important to have people who knew you where.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Celebrating birthdays

Every year for the kids' birthdays Terry and I argue about how to celebrate. He prefers the way he grew up: birthday child chooses dinner and cake. That's it. No party, no gifts, nothing more. I grew up differently; birthdays were a BIG DEAL.

This year I think we found our happy compromise. Yes, the birthday child gets to choose the dinner we make and the kind of cake. This year their birthdays were on Saturday so they also got to choose the day's activity from a curated list. Plus, we have introduced the coupon book. It's a gift with no tangible residue (I do agree with Terry that the kids have too much stuff) and the kids have been thrilled to use them.

This year's coupons were (2 each):
- one TV show even after mom and dad said no
- one dessert without eating a good dinner
- one trip to a cafe or ice cream shop with just mom or dad (this was sweet, they pooled them once so the whole family could go together)
- one treat at the supermarket
- 30 minutes of playing on the tablet

6-8 weeks later they each have 3 left. I'm keeping track of which ones they use when, and plan to modify the coupons each year. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Final (8th) CSA haul

Oops, this should have been published a week ago!

For our last week of the CSA we brought home:
- the weekly cabbage
- a bag of leeks
- a bunch of carrots
- a small bunch of turnips (need to figure out what to do with these)
- a head of lettuce
- about a dozen red delicious apples
- potatoes

I have been delighted in rediscovering the joy and entertainment of a CSA membership. There is a winter one but I think we'll skip it, I'd rather buy my own broccoli than figure out something new to do with turnips and cabbage for yet another week. Come spring, we'll be back!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Lyle

For one night of Hanukkah, my mom got the kids (and me! and technically, herself) tickets to a show at the Imagination Stage - Lyle the Crocodile.  The kids had seen shows at detsky sad, and Alex had been to plenty of performances, but I was unsure how Zoltan would be.

Duh. It's children's theatre. He was mesmerized. The show is 1.5h with an intermission so pretty doable to any child who can watch a movie at home or even a long show. We had amazing front row seats, although the theatre is small and I imagine every seat is good. They have stacks of booster seats as you walk into the auditorium for smaller ones to be sure to get a good view. The parking garage attached to the theatre is the same kind of metered parking that's all over Bethesda and it is free Saturday and Sunday, although I had loaded up on quarters just in case.

The show itself was fantastic. Lots of singing, dancing, costumes that attract attention on their own. Simple plot. A few jokes for the parents. Zoltan kept asking me why the man who played the crocodile didn't talk. I repeated "Because he's a crocodile and they don't talk." I don't think the answer satisfied him.

The kids have already said they loved it and want to go again. I don't love the upcoming shows but I think I'll suck it up and we'll get back there, or try one of the other local children's theatres (there are several!!)

Have I mentioned lately that I love where we live?

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Gratitude #30

30. Today I am grateful for communities. I belong to virtual communities of foreign service folks or moms of children born in October 2007 and real life communities of parents and children who go to the playground after school pickup or people who went to law school with me.  It is instantly rewarding and validating to know that someone will just "get it" if I tell them a particular story, rant, or situation I need advice to solve. They say it takes a village and I don't think it's just about childcare.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Gratitude #29

29. Today I am thankful for my children. Often frustrating, occasionally precious (in the good way). Last night in the car home from my brother's house Alex suggested that we all go around and talk about what we're thankful for. I so love that she thought of doing that.

Gratitude #28

28. In honor of Thanksgiving I am thankful for good food. I am sure my mother never would have guessed, in my only-a-piece-of-Kraft-singles-on-a-piece-of-Wonder-bread stage that this would happen, but I have become picky about my food. I don't care what it looks like as long as it's high quality and tastes good. The cooking team responsible for our Thanksgivukkah certainly pulled out the stops!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Wordless Wednesday


Gratitude #27

27. Today I am grateful for the daily gratitude project. Every study on happiness shows that expressing gratitude is an important part of a well-lived life. Yesterday I received news that, while not catastrophic, derails plans that had been in place for a good year or so. But after a little cry and some self pity, I pulled up my big girl panties and put everything into perspective. Going through my past 26 expressions of gratitude helped with that exercise.

And a quote from Alex, that just randomly and serendipitously happened to occur last night:
"I like the word "happy" because it is a way that we feel good."

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Well, I guess I won't start working in January ...

I learned today that the invites for the January A-100 class have gone out.  People lower than me on the register got invites. I did not, because I am not technically on the register. After 2 years my clearance needed to be "re-upped" so I am currently under investigation yet again. This time it feels slower than any previous time. We had really been planning on me starting work in January, so this is an enormous blow. Please, if anyone's reading this, think good thoughts for this to be done in time for the March class (assuming there is a March class).

Gratitude #26

26. Today I am grateful for family. Since we've been back in the USA we have spent more time with family - immediate, extended, biological and not - from both sides than we had in at least 7 years. I am excited to see my one big brother I haven't seen in more than 3 years when he comes for Thanksgiving, and my mother might just faint when all her children and all her grandchildren are under one roof.

The first lost tooth!!!

Extra, extra, read all about it! After two teeth have already come in - behind the baby teeth, oy can we say orthodonture? - Alex has FINALLY wiggled and waggled that one very loose tooth to its very end. It happened about 10 minutes past bedtime so there are no photos as yet. Now we need to find the tooth fairy's special present (a light-up toothbrush) and figure out her going rate ($1.00, I think).

And now we can start wiggling and waggling the one not-very-loose tooth, because I think these adult teeth will eventually need to more forward.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Gratitude #25

25. Today I am grateful for the kitchen cart my mom got us for Hanukkah (yes, it was given early. I'm Ok with that.)  It has seriously transformed my kitchen experience, and given that I make dinner 9 nights out of 10, cook something for breakfast several days a week, make bread, yogurt, applesauce etc etc I spend a LOT of time in that very small space. Not having to take out half a cabinet to get to the one thing I need that got pushed to the back not because it's less used but because everything is often used is a joy. Not having to wash every single dish or pan before starting the new project because there is zero counter space is another joy.

Thanks again, mom!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Gratitude #24

24. Today I am grateful for good fortune and good habits. A short while back, Terry went to the doctor and during the course of the exam the doc performed a test on him. As it turns out, the test isn't covered by insurance and doesn't even come out of the deductible or out-of-pocket expenses (that is the part that truly blows my mind). So it's just cash we're out. Hundreds of dollars.

I'm annoyed, and frustrated, and angry. But I am NOT: scared; worried; anxious. This extra unforeseen cost doesn't change our Thanksgiving, Hanukkah/Christmas, shopping habits or family activities. The number of Americans for whom a situation like this might just push them right over the brink they have been teetering on ... it's more than I want to think about.

It's also a two part blessing, as I see it. Yes we have and have had jobs that allowed a better than hand-to-mouth existence. But we've also always saved no matter what we've earned. And for those things, and the heat in my house turned down because Terry is freakishly hot all the time and not because we can't afford to turn it up, I am grateful.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Gratitude #23

23. Today I am grateful to receive good customer service. It really does happen sometime, and (as a piece of advice to any business) it really does engender a sense of loyalty to the store that provides it. One of the kids' Hanukkah presents was not in the Fat Brain Toys box even though the packing slip said it was. I called with little hope. They sent out the item the same day. We already loved Fat Brain and now will be sure to use them and recommend them to everyone we know.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Gratitude #22

22. Today I am grateful for naps. I don't know how 10-20 minutes of sleep during the day can make a person feel like they got an extra 1, 2 or even 3 hours' sleep the night before - the math doesn't seem to compute properly. And yet, it works.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Gratitude #21

21. Today I am grateful for the DS customer service guy I spoke with yesterday. I have been diligently calling to check my clearance status every 2 weeks since September, only to be told every time that it's "under investigation" and not one word more. The target completion date has passed. Finally, today, the guy I spoke with said that he wasn't seeing what he expected to see for how long my case has been in the works and "not for me" (he was very clear about that) but for his own curiosity he's getting in touch with my case manager to see if something's up. He promised to call me within 24 hours with any information that he can tell me. It may be nothing but at least someone is actually looking into it!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Gratitude #20

20. Today I am grateful for the neighbor's teenage daughter who came by last night to offer her babysitting services at a totally reasonable rate. Do I hear "date night" calling?

Wordless Wednesday


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Monday, November 18, 2013

Gratitude #18

18. Today I am thankful for portable electronics. The 4-5 hour trip each way to the cabin is made much easier with my pre-readers due to the existence of portable electronics. It's a treat for them, and I get to read my book :-)  Win-win.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Gratitude #17

17. I am grateful for the opportunities I have had to travel and live in other countries. There is an excitement I feel just going into an airport no matter where or why. Although Mark Twain was wrong, there are plenty of closed-minded bigots in the international hotels of the world, when properly embraced travel is a huge mind-opener and lesson-teacher. I am fully aware of how fortunate I am/have been to have the time/money/fortitude to engage in all this travel.

And it looks like I am raising a couple of nomads too. Alex has on many occasions expressed her displeasure that we've told her we won't get on a plane for at least a year. She was also somewhat shocked when I told her half a year has already passed.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Gratitude #16

16. I can't believe I waited this long but today I am thankful for the CABIN!!! You are the reason we had to buy a fixer-upper house (darn mortgage!) but you are still so necessary for my emotional health. I sometimes have a hard time giving up my connectivity but when I'm with you I don't even miss the internet. I can hike through our woods much longer than the kids' attention spans permit. I love the traditions we're building (Grotto's and trips to the local library ... I think we are about to add trips to Rickett's Glen too), the trees we're planting, and roots we're giving our mobile children. I love deciding at 7:45pm to build a fire and make s'mores and look at the stars. Alex is already a champion kindling and marshmallow stick finder. Zoltan complains that he doesn't like the "quiet woods" but when we're in the quiet woods he's pretty content.

I am also thankful for this (hopefully) 2 year period when we are here in the USA and with any luck will get to the cabin every month. We already missed October but I have decided that going up on November 1 plus another November trip makes up for it.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Gratitude #15

15. Today I am thankful for my good health. Especially in the last year, every member of my immediate family suffered or even still suffers from various mild-to-serious problems with their health. Even my blood is cleaner than it should be for my eating habits and level of activity (just had my first real "checkup" in 7 years - it always got pushed to the side while we were overseas).

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Gratitude #14

14. I am ever so thankful for the library. So many books! All for free! Since we've moved into our house in August I have been to the library at least once a week. More often than not it is in the company of Zoltan, who is also developing a love of the place. The pile of library books threatens to take over the living room and Terry is threatening to impose a borrowing limit. I just got out a Russian novel I currently have no hope of getting through (I could have back in May, according to my Russia teacher who recommended this author). Yes, Russian novels in my sort-of-suburban neighborhood!

The best part is when we go back overseas I'll still be able to use their e-book lending. I am giddy thinking about it. I may even let Terry convince me to put the majority of our books in storage rather than schlep them around the world just in case I run out of reading material.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Gratitude #13

13. Today I am grateful for the glimpses I occasionally get of the good people the kids will turn out to be. Terry was sick on the couch last night. Zoltan lovingly drew two blankets over him, then brought out a magazine (Hi-5) and his (Zoltan's) second favorite lovey - the most favorite stays in bed or he'd have brought that one. Then he kissed Terry on the forehead. It made my heart grow three sizes bigger.

Wordless Wednesday


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Gratitude #12

12. I am thankful for the endorphins that rush through me when I go for a good run (well, I'm just getting back into things, "good" is 2 miles). I am finally back into it regularly enough that I feel grouchy when it's been too many days. I love how the human body can let us know what's good for us when we pay attention to it!

Renovation Update

Finally the spackle is done enough that it is time for the primer.  In this case we are using white paint since we have a full 5 gallon bucket of it already.  Once the first coat or two of paint is on the wall then we will assess how much more spackle is required before going on to the final paint and eventually the ceiling and floor.  For now there is some progress.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Gratitude #11

11. In honor of Veteran's Day I am thankful for everyone who has, willingly or not (hello, draft!), physically or diplomatically, worked to keep our country and the people within it safe from outside threats. I am equally thankful for those who work to ensure the freedoms of each individual within our country, always remembering that it isn't "freedom" if it tramples someone else's rights.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Gratitude #10

10. I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to stay home with my children, and also to work part time. If anyone had said 7 years ago this would be my life I would be shocked and horrified. And yet as trite as it sounds, having children really does change everything. I wouldn't want to have missed all this wonderful time (well, from birth to 6 months I could do without, but apparently that is exactly the time children don't fare too well without a mama). The linked piece is that I am grateful to have worked part time for 3 of the 6 years I've been home with the kids. They had a chance to bond with other (wonderful, fabulous, almost better than me) caregivers and later to play with other children all day. My schedule let me be away from them fewer than 30 hours each week so my role as primary was pretty cemented. But having "adult time" is also important for my mental and emotional health, so it was a perfect balance. If only every job had the part-time options!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Gratitude #9

9. I am so grateful for my husband. We are truly a team in every good sense of the word. I know he has my back and I have his. He is still the only adult I want to talk to every single day, and I still DO want to talk to him every single day. Together we have produced my favorite two small beings in the world, who alternately sass me and beg me to hold them, often within the same 60 seconds. And I wouldn't want anything else.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Gratitude #8

Today I am thankful for seasons. Between Malta and Russia I had forgotten how much I love having four distinct seasons, each of which lasts longer than 2 weeks. As a New Englander there is definitely something missing in my life if the leaves don't turn vibrant red, golden yellow, crisp orange. I wish we'd been taking more photos this year!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Gratitude #7

7. Similarly to yesterday, I am grateful for the friends in the DC area with whom I've reconnected. Some are people I never knew very well and some are close friends with whom I have fallen out of touch. In each situation, however, it's been a highlight of returning to the USA to see people I've known a long time.

Comcast. AGAIN

So the guy from the Executive Customer Care division called us on halloween. Guess what? November 1 we are without internet for almost the entire day. I called him and left a message. Never heard back, although I did say it was a "heads up" message.

Today, only 5 days later, we were once again without internet. First the CSR got disconnected/hung up one me, but she did call back so it is possible we really did get disconnected? Then she says the modem is entirely offline and someone needs to come check it out. Then we're back online (???)  The end result is someone will come tomorrow, she said it could be the line is bad so the internet isn't even coming into the house properly. Zoltan will have to go to preschool late but at least someone will check it out. Three reported problems in less than two weeks is completely unconscionable.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Gratitude #6

6. I am grateful for the group of moms friends who have invited me and the kids into their group. Overseas it's pretty easy to make new friends as you move - there's a whole expat community standing in your exact same shoes. In the USA, well, nobody comes over with a basket of muffins and greets the new family with open arms anymore. It's been really nice to hang out with a group of moms.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Gratitude #5

5. Terry and I met while we both lived in DC (actual DC, not MD or VA). We don't like the DC area. Well .... we didn't like the DC area. See, we didn't have kids when we lived here before. I now understand all the wonderfulness that is to be found in this area. Parks, playgrounds, museums, activities, sports, the list goes on. If I were independently wealthy and only needed to entertain my kids all day as my job I could easily find something new to discover every single day of the year.

I am  grateful for the wealth of enriching, interesting, and fun activities/sights/events in my area. I am grateful that anyone with time can take advantage of most of them as much in the area is free or cheap.

Gratitude #4 and fifth CSA haul

4.  I am grateful for the CSA. It is so rewarding to do something that is important to me and reflects my values and lets the kids get a better sense of where our food comes from. It's also exciting to spend every Monday figuring out how to use all the good stuff and I love the unique and memorable experiences (rutabaga cake, anyone?). Last week's fennel was absolutely delicious sliced thinly and sauteed in olive oil with a bit of salt at the end. Couldn't stop myself from stealing slices as I got the rest of dinner ready. I'd never eaten fennel before.

This week we got:
- a bunch of carrots
- a bunch of kale
- an enormous daikon radish and something else that may be radish or turnip
- 4 ears of corn
- apples
- one green pepper
- one white eggplant
- a medium sized pie pumpkin
- an enormous head of cabbage
- a bag of potatoes

Monday, November 4, 2013

Gratitude #2 & #3

2. I am grateful for this opportunity to spend a chunk of time in America. In October alone we had visits with 4 sets of family and November looks to be similar with different family members. The kids are actually remembering people from one visit to the next!

3. I am grateful for the opportunity to see the cabin in all different seasons. Actually using our beach club membership this summer as the kids and I sometimes hit the beach both before and after nap; seeing the leaves change and hiking in the nearby state park; and I can't wait to see everything under snow and maybe splurging on snowshoes for everyone to recreate the kids' favorite activity from last year's trip to Lapland.

November gratitude

As a first world person with first world problems, it's too easy to get bogged down sometimes. I loved doing the daily gratitude post last year and will be continuing the tradition this year. Some posts will be redundant, I can't help it, there are some things I am continually grateful for every single time I think about them. That's a good thing, no?

I'm running a bit behind as we went cabin-ing this weekend so didn't have internet (and yes, you can bet the cabin will feature this month).

To kick it off -
Day 1: I am grateful for our enormous pasta pot that lets me cook down a crazy load of apples into several quarts of applesauce. Having control over what goes into my family's food is important, and being able to do it efficiently makes me happy.

(now I must get back to peeling and chopping apples from which to make delicious applesauce)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Giving props when due

Nobody likes Comcast. Normally, we don't like Comcast. But I am forced to admit that actually have the capability to do the right thing.

A week or so ago, I had an awful day exacerbated by the inability to use my telephone or get online due to non functioning internet. I blogged about it. As you can see, a Comcast rep found me and left a comment inviting me to contact him and go over what went wrong. Within the day of me sending the information he requested we got a call. (being a little picky, I will say that the choice of 7pm on Halloween wasn't inspired)

And ... the end result is we were compensated for the inconvenience and even given a rep's direct number for the next time we encounter a problem.  We have also noticed that our service has been much better since then.

I have a feeling if all problems were resolved like this, everyone would switch to Comcast voluntarily.

[Edited to add: the very next day we were without internet for the entire day. I even called  the guy who had called and left a message that was never returned. Ugh. Possibly back to hating Comcast.]

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Third and fourth CSA haul

With all of last week's excitement, I forgot to post what we got. So, here goes

Third week
big head of Romaine
huge head of cabbage
6 ears of corn (score!!)
a fennel bulb
4 green peppers
12 apples
4-5 potatoes
3 eggplant (1 big purple, 2 small white)


Fourth week
5 ears of corn
4-5 big sweet potatoes
a bunch of greens, possibly collard?
a big head of broccoli
a bunch of beets
a bunch of carrots
4-5 green peppers
7-9 apples, red and golden delicious

Friday, November 1, 2013

A bit more about Halloween night

This was the kids' very first Halloween*, at the ripe old ages of 4 and 6.

There's a great group of moms who meet at the playground near school and we've started hanging out with them. They invited us to trick or treat with them and at first I hesitated because it's "all the way" across the one main street and near the school. I am SO GLAD I changed my mind.

We met up at one mom's house (she has the oldest kids so the most neighborhood experience). Alex and Zoltan were seriously about to explode and I eventually sent them to run around a lamp post to burn some energy while waiting for everyone to gather. By the time we left, we had 20 kids and I have no idea how many adults. It was complete pandemonium but a ton of fun to be a huge group.
 When we got home the kids wanted to do some trick or treating on our street. The majority of the houses were dark. We only wanted to go to a few houses anyway as the kids certainly didn't need any more candy. There's an older lady on our street I once met and chatted with who had told me she loved Halloween, she decks the house out and the kids love coming to her house. I made sure that was one we went to and I am glad we did, she had put together a whole little bag of non-candy items like a pencil, stickers, eraser, etc. With that level of attention and effort I am glad we came by to appreciate and enjoy the fruits of her labor!


* Yes mom, I know they were both alive and Alex even went trick or treating at your house but she was 2 years and 2 weeks old, he was 5 days old, and I just don't count it given that they don't and couldn't possibly remember it.

Halloween Night


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Cabin John Regional Park

For Zoltan's birthday "thing" he chose the Halloween "not so scary" train ride at Cabin John Park.  He and I had visited the park once, briefly, on one of our adventure days before we started spending every M/W/F at the library, playground, or doing chores. Nobody else in the family had been there.

There were a lot of little things to see and do right around the train station so it was nice the kids didn't have to get too bored while waiting for the ride to begin. The attendants handed out "eye spy" cards of things to look out for during the ride. The ride itself was about 30 minutes or so on this rickety old line. It was a lot of fun keeping an eye out for the different sights to spot, and hearing down the line when a particularly rare item was spotted (the Dalmatian is only in the last 5 minutes  and then there's about 5 stuffed puppies along the line). The photo of a deer was the best as we didn't think it would be real deer to spot, yet there were a couple of groups of actual deer just hanging out and having a snack in the woods as we rattled along. Terry forgot the camera so we don't have any photos :-(

After the ride Zoltan wanted to watch the train go (with the next group on board) so Alex and I went into the party room where she could do some coloring and pick out a fake Halloween themed tattoo to do at home.

Then we had a bit of time for the kids to play in the playground. I had forgotten how awesome this playground is, how much space it covers and how it melds forest stuff with normal playground stuff. Even though we have 3 walkable playgrounds, Terry agrees this is one worth driving to.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo

Whenever we drive up to PA for cabin or family trips, we pass the Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo on Route 15. It's a bit under an hour away, making it an easy day trip. Turns out it's a bit less than an hour from Terry's sister, too, so we decided to get together on the Sunday between the kids' birthdays and meet there.
I'd read up on it a bit, so we made sure to get tickets to the safari. It was the highlight everyone said it would be!  The zoo/preserve itself is interesting - the enclosures are crazy small, but the animals seem healthy and well groomed. All the animals we saw had healthy looking fur and behaviors. Honestly, I'm not sure how this is true but it is.

There are several separate areas where you can feed an assortment of friendly animals. We'd gotten a cup of "zoo food" at the store/entrance and the kids were delighted to feed the goats, llamas, potbellied pigs.

 There's also two playgrounds on the zoo grounds. One is brilliantly located by the safari pickup point, as well as a snack bar (not open in the winter) and a bathroom (all bathrooms in the zoo appear to be portapotties, from what I can tell, except for the bathrooms in the same building as the store/entrance).

The safari: There's three "cars" in the jeep + trailer system and of course it's bench seating all along the perimeter. They had boxes of English muffins that we fed to the animals who came by. During the course of the safari we drive through four different enclosures and stop within each one and have time to feed the animals who show up. Poor Alex got pecked by an emu she was feeding so I had to pull out the Neosporin and Band-aids and she calmed down pretty quickly when she couldn't see blood anymore. My highlight was feeding the zebras.
 In sum, we spent a bit over 3 hours there and didn't see everything. We had decided to meet for brunch first so it was already getting toward naptime when we entered the zoo. If we'd gone in the morning we easily could  have spent more time. The concessions are closed in the winter, which was a benefit (whining for treats was minimal) but if we hadn't been prepared it could have been problematic (tired kids tend to want more snacks).

Sunday, October 27, 2013

I hate my kitchen...

But I loooove my kitchen cart. I will confidently state that it adds 20% more counter and cabinet space to our kitchen. Thanks mom for the early Hanukkah present!!!!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

To Zoltan as you turn 4

To my very favorite, very special son,

Four! You are such a strong, independent little man. It is such a treat to see the workings of your thought process, the things you remember from last week or last year. It is, quite frankly, less of a treat to see how often you reject the premise of my argument. ("Can I watch a show?" "No" "Can I watch two shows?")

Your vocabulary is astonishing - a product of your verbose older sister I assume. You can't imagine the joy in my heart the other day when we got to the library early, you wanted to wait til it opened rather than go do something else, and went running in the moment the light turned green. I also get all gooey inside when you still want to snuggle when I read to you. You are without doubt a mama's boy and I dread the day that your kindness, sensitivity, and loving nature get ridiculed as being "sissy". I can only hope that you continue to be big for your age and your size encourages your peers to keep their mouths shut.

We're still seeing only glimpses of the young man you will become. Like your sister, you have an occasionally paralyzing shyness - coupled with sometimes wanting to tell every stranger on the street what you will be for Halloween. I hope that, like your sister, you work your way through that as you age so that it becomes a mere hesitation at joining in on the fun.

Friday, October 25, 2013

One of "those" days

So Tuesday actually started Monday when Zoltan fell backwards off the couch onto the coffee table and gashed his head right at bedtime. We called the kids' pediatrician's office and the answering service said we'd get a call back from the on-call doc within 30 minutes or so. The bleeding seemed to have gone down significantly, but the gash looked deep. Terry held Z and the ice pack (aka the sacrificial bag of green beans) while I packed them a bag and started looking into urgent care clinics. They were all closed or closing. The doc calls, says she really can't tell over the phone but normally if you think the kids needs stitches, the kid does. She had us take a photo on the phone and text it to her, which I thought was cool, but she still couldn't tell.

She suggests we take him to the local hospital's ER (duh). So Terry and Z leave and I get Alex to bed. She was amazing, fetching whatever we needed and literally running to get out of our way when we rushed here or there. She offered him her new, favorite stuffed animal to take - but of course he only wanted BlaBla.

Already long story slightly shorter, I lay down on the couch around 11, woke to read a few texts on their status, and welcomed the boys home around midnight. Ugh.

Next morning came early. Alex slept a tiny bit past wakeup time, I had to wake Zoltan around 9am to keep his schedule from getting completely off and because he had to start getting up to go with us for Alex's doctor's appointment previously scheduled for Tuesday morning.

Doc visit was fine, we went over her cough and the possible causes and what to do in various scenarios. He gave us a prescription for Prevacid, which I am assuming is something between Zantac (what she's already taking) and Prilosec (I hear it's pretty hard core). We got Alex to school and went to fill the prescription. Pharmacy doesn't have the full supply, can give us some that night and can order more. Fine. I get Zoltan home late for lunch and nap and of course today of all days, when he really needed a good long nap.

He goes down and I try to get on the internet to look up dinner's recipe. No internet. I call Comcast and that's always a huge hassle. In the end I rebooted the router and the cable modem and then had even less internet. I also get a call from Terry that the pharmacy called him because the generic was discontinued and the name brand will cost us about $150 for the prescription.

I spend the entire 2 hours of Zoltan's nap on my cell phone because our home phone is VOIP and thus useless without internet. I call Comcast several times. I call Terry. I call our insurance company. I try to call CVS but without internet I can't look up the number so I call Terry. I call CVS. One of the times I call Comcast the CSR hung up on me within the first minute, because when she asked if something was OK (I forget what) I joked "and what will you do if I say no". Oops. At least I had offered to take the customer service survey so I got to give feedback on the customer "service".

After nap, it seemed like things were starting to look up. After school we went to the playground with some new friends. I managed to make a tasty dinner without internet. The kids were surprisingly well behaved for the excitement and sleep deprivation. Terry got the internet working again.

And then, as the kids were on their way to brush teeth and go to bed, they fight about something. Zoltan pushes Alex and she goes down. When she comes up she's holding her arm. NOOOOOOOOOO

(to be continued)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Wordless Wednesday


Renovation Update

Time for a renovation update.

With the bathroom mostly wrapped up.  I have started on the 4th Bedroom/Study.  We have not decided on a name for the room because we are not entirely sure on the purpose of the room yet.  Either way it is getting somewhat of a makeover.

Before we moved in I tore open the ceiling to run data and coax cable to the living room. I wanted to rip out the old crappy paneling and put up new dry wall anyway.  So to accomplish getting cable into the living room I decide this would be the first area of the basement we undertake.  So the first order was to completely gut the room as you can see to the right.

Once the gutting was complete I ran new data cabling in the room.  Basically anywhere I open a wall I am running new cabling so there is plenty of copper around for the future.  Most places are getting 3 runs of cat 5 and one run of coax.  This should provide some growth for the future and not kill the budget.  Plus I am too cheap to run fiber.  I ran all of the runs back to an area under the stairs where I am putting in a small patch panel and the some shelves to house the networking equipment.  Eventually all the TV from the Antenna/Cable company will terminate there so I can distribute the signal throughout the house.  Eventually! 


Back before we moved in I borrowed my Dad's truck to bring down a load of things he had saved for us to use in the renovation.  Since we had the truck and I was going to need the drywall in the future I went ahead and bought the drywall then so I could get it home in the truck and save the rental fee.  That was June.  So Lynne was very excited when the drywall was finally removed from the kids' play area and hung on the walls of the BR/Study.  Drywall went up quickly.  In one evening and the following afternoon I hung all the drywall I had.  Unfortunately that left me one piece short.  The next day I went to Home Depot and with some creative cutting in the parking lot was able to get the last piece in the Subaru.  That piece is now up and all the walls are covered. Next up is the Spackle work. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Back to Croydon Creek Nature Center

A mere week after Alex's birthday adventure at Croydon, we were back for their Croydon Creep Halloween event.  At $2/person, it was fun even a furloughed government employee could afford, and of course the government had just re-opened.

Zoltan is all Superman, all the time. Ever since his costume arrived earlier this week he's wanted to wear it, and he's been permitted to wear it other than meals or outdoor time. Alex has been dithering about what to wear for weeks. We have about 4 different costumes to choose from, and all but one had been in the running. So of course at the last minute it's the last choice that she wears. But hey - she is a remarkably adorable princess, right?

We forgot the camera :-(  but let me tell you all the fun we had. First up was the magic show. The kids were enthralled. And at the end there were little goodie bags of magic tricks. Next we went to the craft room, where one of the options was to make a trick or treat bag - great idea for those of us who hadn't brought anything. There was a "wheel of fortune" wherein my kids brought home a plastic snake and a zebra mask. The usual nature center critters were in their cages so we could watch the turtle while waiting in line, and the room with puzzles and games was open as usual. We ended the night stopping by the campfire, then taking a night hike through the woods to trick or treat with some nocturnal animals who taught us a bit about themselves before handing out a relevant item (i.e. an owl shaped eraser from the owl; plastic bugs from the bat).

The kids also got a thrill walking home in the dark through the Rockville Civic Center Park fields and checking out the huge full moon and the deer chowing down in the field. I may hate my kitchen, but I love where we live!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Turning the corner

Last night Alex stopped coughing after about 30 minutes post-bedtime. Today she slept past the "alarm" so I had to wake her for school. We've been here before. When her health starts to improve, and her attitude too (because who can be happy while coughing all the time, waking up from the coughing, sore throat, interrupted conversations and even thoughts?)

And in a few weeks we need to take this away from her, yet again, so we can try to find the real cause and help her live a life where she isn't coughing all day every day.

But for today, let's celebrate a good night's sleep, and a decent level of confidence that tonight will see more of the same.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Second CSA Haul

One of the things I love about this CSA is that if you don't like an item in your box, likely you can change it. For example, we all got either cauliflower or broccoli. If you didn't like the one you got you could rifle through other boxes and do a switcheroo. Of course, the later it got the less likely you'd be to find what you want.

Anyhoo, on to the haul!

This time we got broccoli, which is good because the family just doesn't like cauliflower. A head of red leaf lettuce looked all rotten and nasty but it turned out to only be the outer leaves. A bag of green beans that look a whole lot better than last week's bag. A 3lb Delicata squash. Green and red peppers, 6 apples and 2 zucchini. Sweet potatoes this time in the potato realm - "score" in my mind, "yuck" in the minds of the rest of the family. About 1 1/2 lb carrots have already been eaten. And lastly, a bag of beets and greens, which is awesome as a recipe I've been wanting to try calls for beets anyway.

As we put together our menu for the week we realized that even with four eaters, where at least one of us will eat each thing so nothing needs to go to waste, we will barely be able to use all the produce in a week. So, Delicata, the web says you'll store for up to 8 months. How about 8 weeks - til the CSA run is over?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Cox Family Farm

Although Terry and I met while living in D.C. (actual D.C., not MD/VA) this is the first time we've lived here with children. And it makes a difference. Take, for example, pumpkin patches. Where we each come from, these are normally fields where people can go pick their own pumpkins, in the same tradition as apple picking in the fall at a nearby orchard.

Pumpkin patches in this area are an entirely different experience.

My father was visiting last weekend and we all decided the right event for what turned out to be the most ridiculously hot October day in history was to try the mother of all local pumpkin patches, Cox Family Farms. It took us a good hour to get there, so I was already feeling a bit annoyed and skeptical when we arrived. I was soon transformed.

Because of our afternoon meetup time, we only had three hours there. It was not nearly enough  time.

There were slides and more slides. The kids are some of the tiny blobs on the slides (Zoltan on top, Alex about to get on the slide in the bottom photo)

A children's play area where my kids could hang out while the older "kids" tried the more advanced slides.


Hay for the children to play in.
Kids with their grandfather.

There were also rope swings, and a corn maze that my nephew led Alex and my dad through. I am happy to report they did get out just fine. The hay ride was surprisingly long and eventful - the kids didn't get bored or antsy.  And, my favorite part, there were boxes of apples to eat (Rome and Gala varieties) and Dixie cups in which to drink apple cider that poured freely from fake casks. Early on, my dad purchased an enormous bag of kettle corn from which we all snacked.

All in all, it makes me eager to check out the pumpkin patch in my neck of the woods - held at the orchard where we get our apples anyway.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Not a great day :-(

We put Alex back on medicine today, to get her through birthday and Halloween season. Cutting the dairy helped immensely, but not completely. We're still hoping out hope we won't have to go gluten free but I have to admit my confidence is faltering. The greatest challenge will be if we have to cut out both.

To Alex as you turn 6

To my very favorite, very first daughter,

I am so proud of the girl you are becoming! You are "leaning into your discomfort", advice given to me as a young woman. You are really starting to work on areas that are difficult for you (reading), rather than sitting back on the laurels that come to you for things that come easily (math). You worked all summer on crossing the monkey bars and by the end you could go they whole way without dropping down - that's tenacity. Good for you! It makes me happy when you pick a word out of our surroundings and read it to me and can't wait for you to fully embrace reading as I know you will.

Visiting your classroom I have been surprised and pleased with what a mother hen you can be with your classmates. I caught a glimpse of why you want to be a teacher, and the lovely young woman you will become, when watching you explain to classmates how to proceed when they get stuck on a step of a class project. I guess what comes out as bossiness with your little brother can be put to productive use :-)

I worry sometimes that your shyness holds you back, that you don't enjoy social situations as much as you could. On the other hand, comfort with solitude is also an important life skill and you are so clearly happy in general that maybe I needn't worry at all.

You've been such a trooper this year with your various health issues. It breaks my heart that I can't solve everything with a wave of my arm but I promise you that we'll figure it out.

The days when you are excited for me to show up at school, when you want me to stay during the play date, when you'll crawl into my lap and cuddle are severely numbered. I hope I'm smart enough to savor every moment as it comes, and celebrate your moved toward independence. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Apples!

Today was the first in what I believe will be a series of trips to our local orchard for apple "seconds'. From today's haul I filled all 6 trays of the dehydrator with apple chips; saved about 5-6 of the best looking apples for eating; and made 3 quarts and 4 pints of applesauce (canned) and 2 12-ounce jars of sauce for eating right away. Plus, the Dutch oven is filled with peels and cores to process into pectin for next year's jam.

This bounty came from a half bushel of mixed apples. Next time, I'll get a full bushel.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

S-T-O-P means "stop"

... said Zoltan to me this morning in the car. This is a child who only recognizes half the letters of the alphabet, can't draw a letter that looks like anything other than a scribble, and still colors like a 2 year old (i.e., all scribbles). Yet, at not-yet-four he recognizes the stop sign. This is not a child following in his sister's path!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Our first CSA haul

Yesterday the kids and I went to the local synagogue to pick up our first fall CSA* order. I can't deny it, I was and still am absolutely giddy about the whole thing. I had forgotten we also got an egg share, so I picked up a carton with 11 eggs as well.

As you can sort of see, we got the following: a head of Romaine lettuce; a monster cauliflower; a zucchini; a red, a green, and a tiny-maybe-hot pepper; a small bag of potatoes; a bunch of apples; a bag of green beans; three enormous radishes and greens; a bag of lemon verbena; an acorn squash.

The fun part is now we re-do our meals list for the week to work in the bounty. And of course we're adding salads to our lunches. With lemon verbena oil as part of our oil and vinegar for dressing!

* CSA = community supported agriculture, wherein a group of people put up a bunch of money before the planting begins, and then everyone shares the risks and rewards of a harvest. They are nearly always local and usually use more organic methods than agrobusiness. The synagogue bit - just happens that they have a relationship with the CSA and people can join the CSA through them. I haven't joined the synagogue, although it is a possibility for the future.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Moving out of our comfort zones

Once upon a time, Terry was the chef in the family and I was solely the baker. Then, I stayed home and that didn't make sense anymore. I moved out of my comfort zone. It wasn't always pretty and we had some fights over allegedly constructive criticism.

Tonight Terry wanted oatmeal raisin cookies. I agreed to participate but he would take the lead. I started directing him to where different ingredients were. When I told him to get the flour down his reply was "Wait, there's flour in this? Isn't it just oatmeal?"

Honey, when we have an income again, you can experiment with using only oatmeal. For tonight, let's put the flour in!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Major Academic Milestone

This week, Alex brought home a "my first reader" type book from school. She said it's for her to practice reading. We've been busy and hadn't gotten to it when, this morning, I suggested she read for a bit before she had to catch the bus.

She read the first two pages ALL BY HERSELF!! Then we had to go.

Many of the words were sight words that we've been working on each evening, and it's sure paying off. I am excited for us to continue the story tonight when she gets home.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Cougar All-stars

According to the school newsletter, Alex was one of two All-Stars in her class for September (the school mascot is the cougar). We have no idea what that means, but congrats to Alex!

Garden!

We don't have the time or the yard for a large garden but Terry did manage to put in 2 small "children's gardens" for A and Z. Well, next year it can be for them, for this fall we planted what we wanted. And this will be helpful as the government most likely plans, today, to take away my family's income for an undetermined amount of time.We can eat radishes and lettuce!

Then

Now

Friday, September 27, 2013

Conversations with Zoltan

Z: Mommy, [name of teacher] comes on Fridays.
Me: Yes, but you don't go on Fridays, not until Mommy starts working.
Z: Yeah. I love Fries days. But I like chicken nuggets more.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Four coughs

There are four people in my family. And right now there are four coughs in my house.

One is GERD/reflux
One is most likely a sinus infection
One, I suspect, is allergies
And one little cough is a simple common cold

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Homemade bread

It turns out, in America, that the fewer ingredients your bread has the more it cost. Being all house poor and all, paying $5 per loaf when we go through 1-2 a week wasn't working out. Plus, a good friend gave me the her special secret recipe (ok, not so secret and easily found here). So, I got cooking. Well, baking.

The first batch was decent. The second pretty good. By the third I definitely had the hang of things.

 The only problem is that we gobble up the first loaf the within the first 24 hours and then have to ration out the sandwiches for the rest of the week out of the second loaf. The only good news is Zoltan seems interested in helping me, so it can be a weekday activity we do together.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Pectin free jam

We eat a lot of jam in our family. Lots of peanut butter and jam, lots of toast with jam. We throw jam into our oatmeal and in our plain yogurt. For the 13 years we've been jam making, we have always stood by the Certo product and method. In fact, we've been quite timid about venturing on our own.  Until last year, when we made our own pectin.

I think that was our "gateway" experience. With homemade pectin, you add some, see if things gel, add some more, see if you get fruit cement, then grump about the ruined jam.

A couple of weeks ago I entered the as yet untraveled ground of pectin free jam. First, the trip to Butler's Orchard in Germantown. Because of some bad instructions by the lovely workers at the orchard, by the time we realized the middle was not in fact the picked over part there was massive grumpiness and hunger (Zoltan) and hot and tiredness (me) so we left with a mere 2lb of  raspberries. Then to the farm market, where we got 25lb of tomatoes and what I think was about 18lb of peaches. After lunch, while the rest of the family napped, I made raspberry jam. Way easier than I thought. One of the things I really like about jamming "outside the box" is the fruit to sugar ratio - 1:1 rather than 1:2. The jam tasted intensely of fruit, and was plenty sweet. In fact, the kids spent a healthy amount of time lobbying to be allowed to eat the jam with a spoon.

Some web sites that helped me figure out what to do:
http://www.nwedible.com/2012/08/how-to-make-pectin-free-jam.html

http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2012/05/10/how-to-can-some-jam-a-simple-method-without-pectin/

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Old-Fashioned-Raspberry-Jam-230700

The raspberry jam turned out perfectly. It has a wonderful jam consistency. The peach turned out not quite so "jammy" and a bit more syrupy ... well thicker than that ... more like Russian vareini.Turns out the riper the fruit, the less pectin, and the peaches were "seconds" so, well, overripe. The taste is wonderful and the kids like it on their pancakes so it's still a win.

Love changes over time

I don't know that I have ever loved my husband as much as I do at this very moment. He just drove away - with the children - for a weekend at the grandparents.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

That's it? Medical care overseas

Since December, I have had pain and limited mobility in my right arm. The doc in Russia told me to "stay off it" until it felt better and after a couple more visits where I tried to get more help, I gave up. I knew that, at least, I was moving to America soon and could find a doc to fix me up right. Of course, flying alone with Alex (who's going to move those suitcases?) and being the primary unpacker (who's going to move those boxes?) did no favors.

I had my first appointment with my new primary care physician last week, and my first and last appointment with the physical therapist yesterday. I am healed. Seriously.

After nine months of pain and no yoga, it took one hour for the therapist to fix the problem. I am both thrilled and frustrated. But working on focusing on the thrilled :-)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

My brilliant mathematician .. oh, wait

Today in the grocery store Zoltan looked up at the lit-up number of the checkout line we were in. He said "Look mommy, we're in number eighteen!" Cue up the pride. Pushing the envelope, I pointed to the one next to us. "What number is that?" I asked.

"I dunno. Seven and one?"

Guess he's a normal kid after all :-)

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Three cheers for the Rockville Metro station master

I like to get out of the house at least once a week with Zoltan, as it is just too hard to focus on him vs. all the chores when we're home. So today he asked to go to a museum on the train. Sorry hon, all those books you wanted me to read cut into our travel time. How about we go watch the trains?

Unfortunately, between the walls and trees, there are no good outdoor vantage points to see the metro trains as they go by.  I have been wondering what it would cost to go into the metro and back out at the same stop anyway, so I asked the station master. For anyone who's wondering, it's $1.70 (or $1.75, I forget, but it's close enough). I explained that my son just likes to watch the trains go by.

He let us in for free. He even suggested we could hop on a train, go a few stops and turn around to come back. He told me how long he'd be at the station so we could just go back out through him. First, we had a snack on the platform while watching trains come and go. Then we hopped a train and went three stops (the last outdoor stop, I think) and sat there watching trains for a bit. Finally, we crossed the platform and went home.

Was it worth $1.70? Absolutely! But how much sweeter to meet a man with sympathy for a boy who loves trains?

Bonus: As we started walking home, a freight train came by on the other track so we got to watch it too. It probably had 20 or more cars.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

What I like about Alex's school

I'll be honest, I worried a bit about Alex's school. Of course my darling is above average, as are all kids in Lake Wobegon, and the first week of homework - tracing letters A and B and the number 1 - incited a bit of over-dramatic heart palpitations and I called the teacher to set up a meeting.

I am so glad I didn't let the concerns fester. It turns out the homework is not at all indicative of the work they are doing during the day. The kids have already started writing and reading, they are learning about characters and plot and comparing stories. They start science next week and will learn about the water cycle. In addition, her teacher was happy to give her first grade homework (the first grade teachers are more than willing to share) and if it turns out to be necessary children can go to a first grade class for any specific subject where they are particularly accelerated while staying with their peer group for the rest of the day. Children who finish their work quickly are encouraged to help other children who aren't mastering the material as quickly.  In sum, it is every single thing I could have hoped to hear.

And, although Alex still misses her friends from Russia and tells me so, she also tells me she's made a new best friend. She's only in her third week of school! This is going to be a good year.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Reusable Sandwich Bags

In preparation for school and knowing Alex will eat nearly nothing of the hot lunch options, I asked my mom to pick up some reusable sandwich bags (thanks mom!). My mom likes to shop. She really, really likes to shop. So, in the end we have a plethora of bags from 3 different companies. I've now had a couple of weeks to use the bags and figured now was a good time to review them.

Lunchskins: These are made from a tough canvas, sailcloth-like fabric. Very sturdy. I like the simple designs and the space for writing a kid's name. However, the wonderful tough cloth makes it a little hard to turn them inside out, which I like to do to ensure a thorough washing.
Green Lizard Reusable Sandwich Bag

ReUsies: These are hands down my favorites. They are more cloth-y than either of the other brands, which makes washing them easier. They are roomier than either other brand too - the snack size is almost as big as the sandwich size of the PlanetWise. Plus, they have 2 vertical strips of velcro for the closure so that whatever size ends up in the bag, you can wrap or double wrap so it fits just right. Both other brands have the one horizontal velcro closure.
Peace Flower Two Pack

PlanetWise: These were the cutest, I love the little owls. Unfortunately, these are also the smallest and seem to have shrunk a bit even though I always hand wash them. This means that I can't put in a full sandwich unless I use a loaf of homemade bread, which is a good deal smaller than the commercial brand we like.



Thursday, September 5, 2013

Alex update (final)

Almost a year after it all began it has finally ended! Alex had her last dose of medicine around the end of August. So far there has been no coughing, no heartburn. She has even gotten to eat french fries and pizza. I think this crazy saga is finally, finally put to bed.

Of course, now Zoltan's got mysterious runny nose. He's probably got allergies, and his adenoids are probably enlarging while I type. Can't have it all!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A declaration of adverse possession

One of the fun things about law school and lawyering is learning about arcane facets of the law. For no particular reason I have always loved the law of adverse possession, by which a person can become the owner of property by simply using it, openly, continuously, exclusively (acting like they own it) hostilely to the deed owner, for 21 years. I have always wanted to adversely possess property.

Our cabin has a right of way over the piece of property that abuts the road. My rant about the people who own that property will be saved for another time. What I will say is that Terry and his dad mowed that property for the very first time all summer back in September (we regularly mow the piece that is our right of way). Since then we have let the kids play freely on it whenever we are at the cabin.

I need to do more research, but I learned at a CLE recently that somewhat recent caselaw states clearly that simply mowing the property is enough possession to count in Pennsylvania.

I am hereby declaring that September 2013 is the month in which we began to adversely possess this piece of property. Check back in 2024 whether it's ours!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

A conversation between foreign service folk would have gone differently...

This week I met a neighborhood mom at the bus stop. We were chatting. I asked her some question, not relevant to the post, and her reply was "I don't really know. I haven't lived here that long." So I asked when she moved.

"We've been here three years."

My jaw dropped. Of course, in the foreign service if you've been somewhere for three whole years you are (1) the resident expert on everything and (2) probably leaving next week.

Life is different for other Americans, I think.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Public Service Message

When the home inspector sent us his report, prior to our purchase of the house, one of the items he noted was that the railing was just the right width for a child to get its head stuck. When we went into the house for the first time, we noticed it was the original railing - meaning, at least one family had already raised children here. We put it out of our minds.

Today Zoltan was having a snack and I went to the bathroom. I heard him trying to talk to me and called out he can wait, because of course there's not much one can do from the bathroom.

When I came out ... his head was stuck in the railing. I tried gently easing it back out and couldn't find a way that moved his head through without it hurting him. He was starting to panic so I calmed him down, told him to just hang on (luckily the position wasn't too uncomfortable) and asked my good friend Mr. Google what to do.

This lovely blogger had the solution:
http://chicmommy.blogspot.com/2007/05/how-to-safely-remove-child-stuck-in.html

So, for anyone out there who needs to know: at least through age almost-4, the head is still the largest part of the body. I managed to help him ease his arms through, then the torso, then I picked him up and the legs easily came around the bend from the other side of the railing. And he's learned his lesson - no more sticking his head through the railing!! 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

First day of sadik!

Today did not go as well for Zoltan as yesterday went for Alex :-(  He didn't want to leave mommy. The good news, if it can be described as such, is that he stopped yelling for mommy within a minute of me leaving (the kids were all playing outside and I went inside to put his stuff away so I could still hear everything).

Let's hope this turns out like detsky sad did for, well, both kids, where they clung to mommy at drop-off but didn't want to leave at pickup. And I am now doubly glad we decided to have him in part time now so it wouldn't be such a shock when he goes full time when I start working.

First day of school!

Today was Alex's first day of school. Boy was she excited! I love how excited she was. We walked to school and got there way earlier than we needed to be there (although we were in good company for that) and got to hang out with the other kids and parents from her class. We stayed entertained by noting the various characters or color combinations on other kids' clothes or backpacks. Kindergarten parents were permitted to walk our kids to class and hang out during the introductory routine, variously snapping photos and video of our little cherubs, until the loudspeaker alerted us that our presence was no longer desired in the classrooms. Good work - lay it on the administration not the teachers.  I approve.

Alex came home just as excited as she left. She rode the bus home - her decision. She had great fun today and referred to the different children she interacted with by the color of their shirts. We agreed she would try to remember one child's name each day.

And - my highlight - Alex described the color-coded behavior chart employed by the teacher.Everyone starts off on "green" and can move up to purple and finally blue. Misbehavior drags you down to yellow and finally orange. Guess who was the only child at blue at the end of the day? Yeah.

Zoltan can't wait til it's his turn to ride a bus and go to school.
Photos will be added when Terry edits them. Sigh.
[edited to add photos]

Monday, August 26, 2013

Farmers Market

Yesterday we managed to get the kids' bikes ready for use. Then, of course, Alex wanted to ride her bike immediately. She put on her bike helmet and on it stayed for a good half hour, until we told her it had to come off because we had to run an errand in the car (getting the Subaru titled in MD). When we got home we also remembered the Rockville farmer's market on Saturday mornings and quickly came up with the plan that, we thought, would cover all bases.

We grabbed some snacks and water, bags, the wagon, Alex's bike, and some bungee cords. Some SNAFUs along the way: Alex decided she didn't want to ride the bike after 2 blocks and the first few attempts of bungee didn't pan out; the route we walked ended up involving a massive detour as there was no way to cross 355 at the point where we reached it. But we got the hang of things.

Some thoughts on the farmers' market. In my previous experience - entirely in Pennsylvania - farmer's markets are a place to buy your produce directly from the farmer, where you can chat with the farmer, find out where the farm is and what their practices are and - most importantly for the consumer - pay a discounted price due to the cutting out of twelve layers of middlemen. Not here. Goodness, the prices are crazy high. Like the cheapest items cost around grocery store levels.

Not that it stopped us from buying, of course, because the stuff was local and largely if not entirely organically grown.

And then we saw them. The Amish/Mennonites who came down from Pennsylvania to sell their pork, lamb and who knows or cares what else to the Marylanders. Pennsylvania lamb!! Terry and I started concocting the recipes on the spot. It will involve creating rosemary infused olive oil with fresh rosemary that is flourishing in our yard next to the sadly dying mint (what the heck? We once experienced a pot of mint living 2 months in a storage unit. I am very disappointed in this wimpy specimen). So, we will be back with the insulated grocery bag and some ice packs. Cookies sweetened the walk back, as well as the slight down incline that let Alex ride her bike a good portion of the way.

To finish the day, we grilled our antibiotic-laden, forcibly-grain-fed supermarket beef with pesticide-and-GMO-free corn and roasted some local potatoes covered in parsley from our garden. We paired it with beer from Utah (which gives me such a kick) and it happens to be organic too although I didn't notice that when I bought it. It was a good night.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Pictures on the wall

With all the moving we do, it becomes relatively easy to develop an understanding of what I need to be settled, comfortable, feeling like "home".  For me, no matter what's in the house or not, how much is unpacked vs. strewn across the floors, a residence is finally home when we hang the pictures on the wall.

Today is that day.

Hallelujah. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

172 boxes - almost done!

So every box has been touched and 90% of stuff put away. Unfortunately, the moving company only comes back on Saturdays for the empties, and last Saturday was too early, so some stuff can't be unpacked because there is a wall of broken down boxes, or boxes filled with packing material, where the thing should go.

We've been to Target 3 times for different forms of storage.  We may have more pictures and photos than we have walls.

...

And in the midst of all the craziness, Bathfitters finally had all the parts they needed for our install and was able to fit us in within 4 days and we got a new bathtub. The kids are disappointed because the sliding shower door frame (sans doors, of course) was a "railroad" for them to play with - their bath toys took a lot of trips. The adults are about as far from disappointed as one can get.

Photos to come...