Tuesday, July 30, 2013

We survived the 7 year itch!

Well, not like there was an actual incident reminiscent of the "7 year itch", but as of today we have been married 8 years. For a super special anniversary, we are currently located in different states. I came to PA yesterday to transfer kids from Camp Grandparents to Slightly Less Like Camp Because Mommy's Here being held at Other Grandparents.

I'm too tired from parenting solo for 24 hours to say anything witty, pithy or adorable and loving, but hey, isn't that what marriage is really about?

Love you, dear!

Monday, July 29, 2013


I have been overseas for the last 6 years. I was also pregnant when we left the USA 6 years ago. Lots of things happen to a woman's body during pregnancy, some are enduring changes such as my friend's mom who went up a shoe size with each pregnancy (my friend is one of three. By the way, why the $&^%&^%$ couldn't that have happened to me? I need a southeast Asia tour just to get some shoes that fit!).

For the last six years, I have been almost entirely untouched by mosquitoes. I ignorantly figured that my body chemistry changed enough with those babies that my sweet, sweet blood was no longer so attractive to mosquitoes.


It turns out that my blood is unpalatable to EUROPEAN mosquitoes. American ones, Maryland varieties especially, are still driven to me like little vampires.

I may not enjoy the last month or so of summer as much as I'd wish.

Sunday, July 28, 2013


As I discussed in painful detail, we received our HHE from storage last week. Some things we haven't seen in 4 years, others in 7 years. It's 95% of our furniture. It's a few special items we didn't want getting thrown off a ship (think gifts from deceased grandparents).

And it's nothing at all that makes a house a home. Receiving the stuff made me homesick for our home in Russia.


Saturday, July 27, 2013

F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre

One of the things I do love about our house is the walkability. Just a few blocks away is the Glenview Mansion, F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre, and a playground, huge field, tennis courts, and Croyden Nature Center (all in one big site).

I say it is the Piter influence, but Terry and I decided to take advantage of our child-free status to go ... see a show. A Gershwin musical, to be exact. Turns out the theater troupe is fully volunteer, from the actors, to musicians, set designers, etc. We were incredibly impressed with the quality of the performance in every aspect, and it was lovely to just walk home at the end.

The space also hosts plays, concerts and ballets, with all tickets I've seen so far being less than $25. We're already planning who's taking which child to which performance.

Friday, July 26, 2013

we are idiots. IDIOTS

Wednesday should have taken up 3 days, at least, for all that has happened.

It started just fine... movers said they would arrive between 8-10am and I was at the house promptly at 8:10am.  Terry sort of forgot one step of the directions when he took Garmin from me, so I had to pull out the map and figure how to get to the house from the hotel, or I would have been more timely. I kept busy until the movers arrived. They were bringing the stuff from ELSO storage, so it was a teeny weeny 850lb.

Unpacking and putting things away took til lunch. Then we did some yardwork and Terry started getting the sandbox together that my mom bought as a housewarming present for the kids. It had a roof/cover that cranks up and down, pretty cool, hopefully Terry will deign to edit the photos of it soon so I can post it.

When he ran off to Home Depot for various necessities, the crew from Home Depot arrived to install our new washer and dryer. I do love them (w/d, not Home Depot or the crew although both impressed me today), but note that they were delivered only TODAY. It figures into the story later.

Then the waiting began. The movers with the big load - almost 4000lb from 7 years ago storage, weren't to arrive until between 3-5pm. At 4:30pm I called the person at the shipping company assigned to us. She didn't answer the phone so I left a message. Then she replied by calling Terry instead of me. Can you tell she's my new best friend? The movers arrived just barely shy of 5pm so I was pretty freaked out about how late we'd be working on unpacking. Shouldn't have bothered to worry, these guys were fast.

First off the bad news: Our dining room table is broken as well as the table Terry's dad built for our table saw. I guess it could have been worse, but having to buy a new dining room table will suck. It looks like it may be fix-able so keep your fingers crossed! Oh, and 3-4 items were missing and between the warehouse and the moving company everyone is playing a game of "not it" so I don't think they will ever be recovered

But on to the story. The moving crew was like lightening. Of course, there were few boxes of stuff, and the stuff was 90% tools, gardening supplies, and home renovation supplies (we were almost done with our 2 year renovation project of our Philly home when Terry got The Call). What did make up 3000lb and more was the furniture....

and ...

the washer and dryer that we put into storage. That we were sure we had left in the house when we sold it. That had we been just a tiny bit less stupid, we would have checked our inventory in preparation for the delivery and noted that we already owned a washer and dryer.  Here's the thing: not only did we already own a set, but we didn't have Home Depot carry away the set that was here because we planned to bring them to the cabin some day soon, as I am getting tired of the laundromat and hoarding quarters as laundry tokens when we go up there.

So now we have THREE washing machines, and THREE dryers, in our very too small home.

On a similar and much less dramatic vein, we had pretty much the same experience with a vacuum cleaner. We remembered bringing our vacuum to the cabin when we left. In fact, at the cabin we frequently use the old vacuum. Apparently, though, we brought the vacuum to the cabin some time before we left, and it was enough of a gap in time that we decided to buy a new vacuum cleaner. So now we have 2 perfectly new cleaners in our very small house.

But no coffee mugs or drinking glasses. We rock.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Receiving HHE from storage

A big, big day today week - receiving our stuff from storage!  What an experience, to look for the first time in 7 years at the stuff we thought was important enough to save even though we didn't know when we'd ever see it again :-)

Here's an interesting tidbit:  storage in Hagerstown and storage from ELSO are both, physically, in Hagerstown. BUT they have different delivery schedules and different companies delivering!!!  This means that we get our 850lb from Malta between 8-10am, and our 3500lb from storage between ... wait for it ... 3-5pm.  Yeah.  With Home Depot delivering our new washer & dryer between 12:45-4:45.

I think there may be some downtime today. The good news? I can use that down time to take a bike ride, courtesy of the bikes we brought to Malta and never used. Assuming the bike pump is in there too.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Kids' rooms

Way, way overdue.

Here's Terry edging Alex's room.
And the finished product ...
... seen here with what will be the bunk bed's top bunk but for now is set up for pre-furniture-arrival naps [edited to add: the room is now complete with its adorable wood and white furniture and sweet pink floral bedding, courtesy of an off-to-college cousin].
Zoltan's room got similar treatment

He also, however, has received most of the furniture that will fit in his room. Yes, that's TWO pieces. Hey, at least he has a closet - better than he had in Russia!

Back in civilization

One more wonderful week at the cabin. Should mention though, we had never before spent time there during actual summer. It was HOT and of course there's no a/c in a cabin. Thanks goodness for the beach club, where we spent a lot of time in the water to cool off. Thanks goodness too for decent sunblock because although Zoltan now looks like a total surfer dude with his sunstreaked hair and a bit of sunburn across the bridge of his nose, nobody got any real burn.

We got to snack on red and black raspberries and blackberries from the property! Of course, there were single digit numbers of each of them, but they exist and that's what matters. We also got a few photos of a really funky looking bug. We checked out the Lands at Hillside Farms and ate ice cream from the cows we petted. We got lunch at Grottos for their a/c one particularly miserable day and ate lots of frosty treats. The kids played and fought, laughed and cried, and begged me every day to watch shows. Alex tried and decided she liked couscous, and Zoltan continued his love affair with green veggies (yay!)

As much as I love exotic adventures and cultural excursions, there really is nothing like a week at the CABIN.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Because that couldn't be the end of the story

I approached tonight's dinner a bit hesitantly. I made sure everyone was awake and on the potty and all essentials were in my bag before turning the burner on low to melt the butter and begin the risotto. Sigh. A few minutes into the warming, the burner starts smoking. Of course I turn it off and call the hotel, which sends up an engineer. She and I seem to have a major miscommunication as she's all focused on the disconnected burner from yesterday's debacle and ignores the more recently smoking burner. At one point when she's testing things and something starts to smoke gently, Zoltan proactively puts his hands over his ears. Poor guy.

In the end, she cleans the burners and it's all fine but too late to make risotto as that takes an hour. So, tonight's adventure was the Afghan Kabob house where we tried to entice the kids to eat by repeating over and over that "it's just like shashlik."  Worked on Zoltan, the budding carnivore. Alex ate bread and rice.

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

An exciting day

Following the amazing list of recommendations of things to do with the kids while in NoVA, today we took advantage of the cloud cover and headed to Clemyjantri Park in McLean. It was everything everyone promised it would be and more, we will definitely be back.

As a testament of the morning, the kids took lovely 3 hour naps. After Alex woke, I decided to start on dinner, so I got the pan warming on setting 5-6 as I took out the chicken and other ingredients. When it seemed warm enough I poured some olive oil into the pan. It started smoking immediately, which was unusual, and then ...

the pan caught on fire.

Cue up Zoltan being awakened by the sound of the fire alarm and handling it much better than I would have predicted; my attempt to contain the fire by turning the pan over on the stove (which did contain it but I guess I peeked too soon as it flared back up when I lifted it to check); and the front desk reacting not quite as fast as I would have thought, although it certainly may have been no more than 1-2 minutes. Oh yeah and I had a horribly delayed out-in-the-heat headache.

So I guess we're going out to eat tonight.

* Edited to add: We did go out for dinner, and serendipitously wandered into the Nepalese Momo Restaurant in the strip mall across the street from the hotel. Today was its very first day of business! Their official opening is Friday and we may very well be be back it.

Monday, July 8, 2013

UAB delivery, sort of

A mere 7 weeks after packing out, we received our UAB. Oh, wait, no we didn't as 2 of 5 boxes were missing. I know some posts in remote parts of the world this is a normal turnaround. For where we're coming from, 2-3 weeks is the norm. When the deliveryman showed up at 11:30am we discovered the problem. He kept suggesting that maybe the 5 boxes were consolidated into 3. I kept saying this isn't 700lb. Yes, apparently I DO know what 700lb of stuff looks like. By 5pm the moving company insisted the missing boxes were in the warehouse but nobody had physically verified this yet.

More to come (hopefully, soon!!)...

Sometimes she's a very good big sister

During a suspense-filled moment in the Land Before Time movie the kids were watching, Zoltan got a little nervous. So he asked Alex to hold him, and she did.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

We slept in our own house!

... on an air mattress in the living room, for Terry and me, but the kids got to spend the night in their very own rooms with their very own furniture thanks to our elder siblings, who just happened to each have a set of furniture to hand down to us. If we blindfold people and bring them to the kids' rooms they will think the house was inhabitable, just sparsely decorated.

Another red-letter experience is we planted a few pretty flowers in the flower beds we so recently denuded. Zoltan was all excited in the store to pick out his own plant, but lost interest when it came time to put it into the ground. Alex, however, was a great helper and seemed to enjoy the experience.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Kutztown Folk Festival

For all our time in PA, and for all of Terry's Pennsylvania Dutch Heritage (1/16 maybe?) we've done very little "Dutchy" stuff. This year, both in an effort to find entertainments for us and the kids and for me to see what it's all about, we decided to spend our 4th of July at the Kutztown Folk Festival.

I am thrilled to report the weather didn't top 90 until around lunchtime, so we got a lot seen/done in the morning before we started to overheat and suffocate.

First stop: funnel cake. As a Massachusetts native, I will go to my grave preferring fried dough, but funnel cake is part of the kids' heritage that they have not yet experienced so that was treat #1, accomplished within 15 minutes of walking through the gate.

We wandered around the booths selling stuff, and the booths explaining and showing stuff. Did you know there are absolutely no feral honey bees left anywhere in the world except for New Zealand and one other island nation? (I also want to note at this time Blogger's spell check does not seem to know about the really awesome country next to Australia). Here's the kids watching a potter making a bowl.
Later the the day the kids got to make beeswax candles ... well Alex made a candle, Zoltan flicked his hot-wax-dripping wick everywhere and got it confiscated so mommy got to make a candle. Oh, joy.

The kids' area was set up with several types of bouncy castles and a super cool "train" which must be seen rather than described. So here it is, with happy kids bouncing around. Terry's trying to convince his dad to make something like it for rides up at the cabin. Not likely to happen.

There's also the petting zoo. Zoltan had no interest in petting anything other than the bunny rabbits, while Alex visited everyone. She also had a great time feeding the goats.

We finished the day checking out the old time tractors. This one is pretty clearly the prototype for the star of a favorite book series, Tractor Mac, so the kids happily posed in front of it.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Hershey Park

The kids are still a bit young for amusement parks and quite frankly the prices nearly cause heart failure. But, when Terry's sis hands over 4 comped tickets to Hershey Park, only good until July 4, we started plotting a time to go. That was a day last week (Terry forgot to edit the photos off the little camera, so this post has been waiting). Yes, I know the temps were in the 90s.

The night before our trip we were out a bit late, so we got a later start than planned. We pulled into the parking lot around 11:30am and had a brief conversation on the strategy of the day. I made a comment about leaving around 7-8pm and Terry said "We won't still be here at 8pm".

We had planned to head straight for the water rides, but they are at the complete far end of the park so we decided to stop for a few rides for the kids along the way. First, though, we got them officially sized. Alex is the little Reeses Cup and Zoltan barely didn't make it, so until probably some time next week he's still a little Kiss.
 Then we needed to have lunch. I'll give Hershey credit, the kids' meals were: mac n cheese, applesauce, carrot sticks, and milk; and chicken strips (real chicken under there!), applesauce, carrot sticks, and juice. It's pretty much what we would have fed them at home.

In the end, by the time we got to the water rides they had all just closed about 45 seconds previously because of predicted thunderstorms. It was also around 3pm. I was fuming, both figuratively and literally. The "aggressive thrill" version of the log flume was inexplicably still running, and there is a "splash zone". We ran over there, grabbed spots by the gate, and got soaked. That was all it took for sweetness and light to return to my demeanor. We went back to check out other rides while waiting for the storm to come.

Alex is the thrill seeker we thought she would be, but doesn't like spinny rides. Zoltan went on this miniature train ride about 10 times, and also demanded to stay and watch it carry other passengers another 3-4 times. We were often split into 2 teams, with Terry taking Alex on rides that were too scary for Zoltan and he and I found other entertainments.

The storm came and the rain probably would have felt good but the kids were on a ride under a roof and we were watching them, also under a roof. The water park did indeed eventually open, and we hung out in the tidal pool until we needed to get moving if we were ever going to get home.

Alex's highlight was the most roller-coaster-y ride we found to put her on. Zoltan's fave was the monorail. My favorite: there was no fighting and very little whining even though the kids were already overtired, missed their naps, waited in lines and walked through the entire park a couple of times in 90 degree heat.

The car is a "Hot Wheels" Corvette
Around 7:20pm we decided what the heck, let's do the Chocolate Experience and learned how chocolate is made. The mini Hershey bar at the end had nothing to do with this decision :-)  We then discussed whether either child had ever eaten a Hershey Kiss and we decided to get them a larger-than-life Kiss each as their departing treat. I am thrilled to report they now do several sizes of Kisses and not just the one the size of a  baby's head my dad's students used to routinely present him with.

We left the park at almost exactly 8:00pm.

First Ever Shashlik at Harveys Lake

Turns out the kids are total waterbugs and love the beach club. So I guess all that money all those years we never went are totally worth it ;-)

In addition to, you know, beach, the beach club has other useful features: a clubhouse you can rent out for parties, bathrooms, picnic tables and permanent grills and a playground. The grills gave us an idea - pull out the portable shashlik grill we'd gotten in Russia and cook our lunch waterside. It was the inaugural lakeside shashlik but I hope/think it won't be the last.

Hard at work

Working off the lunch

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

We love the cabin

I may have said something like this once or twice before. We finally got enough time at the cabin without having to do lots of work that it was relatively relaxed and we got to do the things we love best - wander through our woods ("take a walk up the hill") and get to the beach club at every warm and rain-free enough moment.
The field
Did I mention we have black raspberries? Only enough for each family member to eat about 7-8 berries, but with time and patience and some cuttings, we may eventually make enough for jam.

The kids are waterbugs, now we just need to get them lessons so I am comfortable they know how to swim. Apparently, swim lessons are not the universal means of learning to swim, as evidenced by Terry's very confused expression when I told him I was upset we couldn't get the kids lessons this summer with our here-there-everywhere schedule.
Drying off, ready for lunch and blowing bubbles.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Child Labor

Our first night at the cabin, we had a lot of food prep to accomplish. So the kids pitched in, Alex stemmed grapes and Zoltan shucked peas. Well, he did shuck them but few landed in the bowl for cooking. Alex did a much better job.

Mugging for the camera
 "Taste testing"

Major Milestone Cabin Version

We bought NEW furniture for the cabin, home of cast-offs and thrift-store finds. OK it was only deck furniture because the half-rotted wooden table the place came with is now quite a bit more than half rotted, but it's still a major deal.

Behold. There's no umbrella because we are so thickly shaded with trees that sunlight rarely penetrates the deck.