Friday, April 30, 2010

TGIF on the Potomac

What's missing from this picture?

If you answered Elise, you're right. :(

This is me en route to our reception following swearing-in. Elise is in Florida working. I fly out at 5:45 a.m. to meet her. We shoot a wedding together tomorrow at the Jupiter Beach Resort (I say that like I do anything more than hold the reflector while she works her magic).

Super Barber

So, arguably one of the hardest things one must do when moving to a new town is find someone to cut your hair.

What did I have to lose? I tried the barber shop on the first floor of our building. Now, admittedly, I am a big picture sort of guy. Needless to say, I missed the bright neon as I walked into the barber shop...

When the very nice Vietnamese woman finished cutting my hair she reached for a hot towel. I assumed, at the time, for the purpose of wiping the excess hair from my scalp. She did wipe, but then the wipes became more vigorous until she was practically squeezing my hair. I was like, "Umm...okay..."

Then she started rubbing my shoulders. I was so surprised I think I blushed. I was thinking, "Whoah, all I wanted was a haircut!" Fortunately, the rub down only lasted like 5 seconds. I think she gathered how surpised I was and let me go, thereupon I quickly scooped up my coat and bag and hustled out of there. Though they did a great job on my hair, so I'll probably be back.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Little Boy's Heaven...

The view from our apartment window...

We get up every morning and check the status of our construction site.

National Building Museum

Elise had heard from someone that the National Building Museum had a great children's area. Somehow I got the impression that it would be a huge area where they dressed up like construction workers, worked with huge blocks and maybe even got to operate life-sized--possibly plastic--construction equipment, so I immediately thought this would be right up Sam's alley.

On a recent rainy Sunday morning, Sam, my mom and I took the Metro to check it out. The building itself it impressive...

The actual children's area, less so...

Even Sam kind of wandered around, arms outstretched palms up, kind of saying, "This is it...?" I guess we shouldn't complain since it was free.

Of course, no museum visit would be complete without a stop by the gift shop...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Lincoln Memorial Talks

Even though Elise is leaving tomorrow with the boys to fly back to Florida to shoot a wedding, a 'first look', a 30-year anniversary and a 2-day old (maybe), she somehow found time between packing and planning to make the best pimento cheese sandwiches I've ever had. Okay, so they were the first pimento cheese sandwiches I'd ever had, but they were eaten on a blanket in front of the Lincoln Memorial (pictures--I'm sure--to come) which would have made them the best pimento cheese sandwiches I'd ever had even if I ate them everyday.

She packed a picnic for all of us. Sam ate noodles and chased baby ducks around the Reflecting Pool. We visited the Lincoln Memorial first. I don't think Sam knew what to think. I noticed a sign that read, "Ranger speaks at 3:30" with the 3:30 on an interchangeable sign I'm sure they rotate through the day. It was 3:28 and I saw the park ranger approaching the designated speaking spot. I said out loud, "He's going to talk at 3:30." That's when Sam burst into tears. Evidently, he thought I said Abraham Lincoln was going to talk at 3:30....which honestly, yes, would have been terrifying.

We quickly left. Sam took several minutes to calm down. It was understandable. Lincoln had an extremely somber countenance. Even though we told Sam that we thought he would've liked Lincoln were he still alive and that he was a very nice man, he didn't seem convinced. I don't think he'd ever seen anything so big before.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Flag Day!

Brasilia, Brazil!

Friday, April 23, 2010

In The Rain

Both Elise and I will admit that we have had a string of bad luck upon our arrival in DC....a trip to the Washington Monument that--though we got a few great shots of Sam holding a red white and blue popsicle--ended up with me forgetting to put in one of the white plastic discs that keeps the water from leaking out of Pete's bottle and Pete screaming his head off all the way home on the orange line....a nightmarish trip to Ikea that went until 9 at night.....and a trip to Tysons Corner where Sam threw up all over himself (again), where we ate dinner at Sbaro and got to go into only one store. This blog is here to remember the bad along with the good.

But I think the tide is starting to turn.

A day or two ago, I got off work early. It was misting, so Elise picked me up at work and we were going to drive to an indoor play gym she had heard of, so Sam could jump around and burn off a little energy. Pulling out of McDonalds, we hit a curb and got a flat tire. For some reason, a sense of calm descended over the car. We drove on the rim to the play gym. Elise, presciently, had brought a change of clothes. I switched out of my suit like Superman in a phone booth. We had no reason to believe Sam wasn't going to throw up or that either of us had remembered Pete's bottle or that we didn't have a spare, jack or lug wrench. But we didn't panic.

I say our luck is turning because we did have a spare, had the locks removed just prior to leaving Florida, had a jack and a lug wrench, a bottle for Pete, fries for Sam. The play gym closed, but Elise and Sam and Pete waited for me in Starbucks while I changed the flat. Elise had no reason to believe I knew how to change a flat, but she went along with the plan. 15 minutes later, I walked into Starbucks, grease under my fingernails and wet parking lot on my jeans. I had changed the flat and saved the day! :)

Something went wrong. Lots of things have gone wrong. But we fixed it and didn't panic and did the grocery shopping we had to do and ended up having a great night. Sam saw some kids taking tae kwon do and now runs around the house going "Hiyaaa!".

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cljaki & Bun (Jackie & Bill)

paul's aunt jackie & uncle bill
I had an idea of how much I might love these kids before they arrived, but I had no idea how much our family might love them; and for that I am incredibly grateful.

Composure Under Fire

So, I just finished a session on learning how to answer questions from a potentially hostile audience. It's a good thing I was given two chances, because I totally bombed the first time...think deer in headlights! I supposedly redeemed myself on the second least, I felt better about it.

The last month has been a whirlwind. On Friday, we find out where we spend the next 2 years of our lives...or, sadly, where I will spend the next 2 years of my life, while Sam, Pete and Elise stay safe. God, I hope that's not the case. Yes, Khartoum comes with a nice pay bump, but would it be worth it....? To miss Sam on his zoom skates, to miss Pete's first step, first words? To miss Elise holding my hand at night in bed?

We packed out on a rainy Monday in March. The biggest trailer (80') I've ever seen in my life pulled up in front of our house and hauled away all of our worldly possessions and placed them into a storage hangar. Carl, our effervescent truck driver, described how, in a blinding snow storm, he pulled his entire rig through the garage doors, whereupon the snow instantly melted off the truck and a team of 5 unloaded its entire contents in under fifteen minutes. Had his stories stopped there it would have been a long day. Thankfully, they didn't. Pete kicked and cooed in my arms as I watched them pack our plates, my comics, Elise's backdrops, things we thought were important, but when we unpack them months or years from now, I'm pretty sure we will have forgotten we even owned these things.

Elise and I made the mistake of going back to tidy up one last time before going to bed. We were to pull out early the next morning, en route to a brief stop over in Sumter. The house was even more empty than the day I had moved in. Then, it was merely potential, a container we would--over the next 6 years--fill with our memories, our lives, our boys, our dust bunnies, laughter and tears. We withstood hurricanes in this place.

It didn't start off that way. Initially, I joked that I had just bought Kitty a new townhouse because he was the only one who stayed there. Elise and I slept on the floor on a futon mattress in a room that would one day be Sam's room, though we couldn't have contemplated that then.

Our footsteps echoed on the wood floors. I spent forty-five minutes hauling trash bags to the dumpster. When I got back, I went upstairs to look for Elise and found her in our bathroom crying. I cried, too. It was only then that I feared leaving so many memories behind. I clutched my knees and Elise held me and we held each other. I couldn't stop picturing Sam lying in the alcove between the master bedroom and the bath, in front of my closet, propped on two pillows, under a blanket we called his "morning bed" a place where he took a mid-morning 'break' with a cup of milk while myself or Elise showered and dressed and shaved, getting ready for the day.

Everything that was important we took with us. This will continue for as long as we stay on this journey. We left nothing behind except a gift to another family that will, hopefully, take as good of care of our house as we did and fill it with their own memories and wonder and dust bunnies and tears. And hope that it will be as good to them as it was to us.

We stopped in Sumter. We ate at a Waffle House in SC. Sam charmed the wait staff (as usual). We drove to Washington, pulling a trailer behind a Jetta. We moved into a 22-story apartment building overlooking TWO construction sites (Sam wakes up every morning to check the progress of the dump trucks and bulldozers moving bright orange dirt and cranes swinging through the sky)! We researched 100 places to live across the globe. We don't sleep well. Sleep will come.

I bring Elise coffee and Sam donuts surreptitiously deposited on the door step like a Publishers Clearinghouse sweepstake, because it's all I know how to do, the only thing I can control.

Monday, April 19, 2010

An expose on O's

There is a second photographer in the family. Below is Sam's expose of his breakfast, taken with Elise's phone at 6:30 this morning...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Great 'Ga-mama"

I didn't know what to title this post until Sam came and crawled up on my lap while I was uploading photos and pointed to this picture and said 'dis Sam, dis ga-mama'! For the first time! He has been quite happy up until this point calling everyone 'ma'.

These are a few photos from our afternoon spent with my Grandmama at Swan Lake, a place where I used ot visit and feed swans as a child. We almost lost Grandmama to the hunger of a giant swan that morning, but Paul saved her at the last minute, thankfully. We think she was packin' some extra bread in her purse that we didn't know about :)

After a spin around the playground we headed to have lunch at Seasons which was like eating in the most warm and delightful southern kitchen, besides your own grandmothers! There, Grandmama introduced me to tomato pie, which was quite possibly the most wonderful thing I've ever eaten. Recipe here, by none other than Paula Deen, because....well....sheesh! She is like the queen of southern cooking people!


Monday, April 12, 2010

Objects in the rear view mirror may appear blurred through tears.

We are still alive! We are here in DC and we are getting settled. While I am missing my furniture and our 'full kitchen' as the movers referred to it, we are making due. I am using a crappy dull knife in place of my pizza cutter, corning ware plates that would make Martha Stewart put a gun to her head and drinking wine from something that is quite opposite of my beautiful Riedel stemware at home, but most importantly we are still drinking wine. Some nights more than we should and then whispering and stifling our giggles like teenagers to keep from waking up the kids and because that is the only thing that feels familiar to us right now.

I have always fancied myself a girl born in a small town, meant for the big city. My dad reminded me of my small town roots the other night as we spoke and I thought to myself "whatevs Dad, I'm so big city you don't even know" then I was like "oh shit, he's right" I dared not admit to myself that this transition might take a little getting used to. But, it has. From the first floor of a townhouse in a sleepy town in Florida to the 18th floor of a high rise apartment building, parking just outside my door to parking on the dungeon level of a parking garage that most days I can't find my way out of, have been a change. I have had a couple of breathless moments and bouts of claustrophobia in the elevator, in the parking garage and peering over Sam's shoulder as we watch the adjacent lot being cleared below for a new high-rise building.

In preparation for this move, I didn't prepare. In retrospect it was the best thing to do, or not do. Had I thought of all the things that would be new, all the challenges and delights and tears and laughter and highs and lows, I would have shut down, information overload, short circuit. I had to get through our last days in the 'Sunshine State' with peace and relative calm and take one thing at a time for me, for Peter & Sam.

We used to get up, play, get dressed, step out our front door to load up the car, each strapping in a baby, go have a leisurely coffee together before work then drive to destination a, b, c and, d, and return home. Now we kiss dad off to work on the metro or shuttle to start his day with 'the suits' from our loaner bed, filled with babies and Cheerios and sleepy eyes. With luck, careful planning and preparation I load my babies up in our new stroller a few hours later. I throw my grocery bag, my phone and keys in the bottom, a few diapers, a bottle and some snacks and we make our way down our hall to the elevator. Down 18 floors to the ground level where we emerge to the bustling of the city to take on our day and hope to get a coffee sometime before nap time.

Some days I am on such a high from all the excitement the "oh my God this is what I've always dreamed of, how cool is this urban living. shit yes!" and other days I am defeated by the simple task of getting everyone out the door and into the elevator. I don't know where to go, don't see any familiar faces and wander aimlessly. Tears fill my eyes and I'm thankful that they're hidden from the view of my kids as I walk just behind the stroller.

The other night we ventured out to a hit up a big fabulous mall nearby. Sam had thrown up on the five minute drive there. After running in to purchase him a change of clothes while Paul cleaned him up, cleaned the car up and settled and fed Peter, we went into exactly one store out of ten thousand, grabbed a slice of lukewarm pizza at Sabarro instead of at California Pizza Kitchen as planned. I/we were completely maxed out, we waived our surrender flags, (which is so not like me in any shopping mecca!) and made our way back to the car. I crawled into the crevice that remains in the backseat of our car between two car seats to soothe both boys as we drove home.

I began to cry as Paul and I discussed the day. Sam upon seeing me cry reached over and grabbed my hand and started to gently stroke my forearm saying softly and reassuringly, "Mom, no. Coo house, boose, tracks, dump. Coo house. No mom." which translates from this sweet two year old angels mouth, "Don't cry mom. We have a cool house, with trains (boose/caboose), train tracks and dump trucks right outside, It's ok mom we have a cool house and everything is there that we love" Which naturally made me cry harder.

With Peter sleeping to my right, Sam holding my hand from the left and reassuring glances from Paul in the rear view mirror we headed home on dark and unfamiliar streets. We didn't drive through frog hollow or lizards crossing (several of our self named neighborhood spots) but we did drive HOME.

Each day gets easier. Some will be harder. Changes are yet to come. We signed up for this, this is what we wanted, what we've always dreamed of. To travel to all the places listed in our collections of travel books, "1,000 Places to See Before You Die," places to fill pages in our travel journals to collect stamps in our new Diplomatic passports. Paul took an oath, but we never waived our right to be sad, to feel overwhelmed or to cry at the sheer insanity of it all. We continue to allow ourselves a few 'moments' throughout it all.

Tomorrow we send Paul off to work to submit our bid list, highs, mediums and lows. We have carefully researched, sorted and toiled. We are hoping for the best...*ahem* Paris *ahem*! We will be posting pictures from our journey from Florida to DC, our new neighborhood and our adventures soon!