Monday, May 31, 2010
We laid low this weekend (which had us climbing the walls by Monday afternoon...). I have yet to utter a single word in Portuguese, though Elise has been working diligently in between various adventures. Saturday, Sam and I left the house on an errand no fewer than five times. I went to Harris Teeter (the grocery store) three times in the span of an hour! We were procuring supplies for Elise to make my sitti's famous frozen key lime pie that we were bringing to dinner in the 'burbs later that day. Sam loved it. Every time we returned from one of our outings, we would walk into the house, put our bags on the counter and get ready to go back out again. No sooner had I dropped the groceries off in the kitchen, Sam was opening the door to the hall, yelling, "No house! No house!" At various times, we all--Pete included--feel stifled by our temporary home.
After naps, we drove out to the 'burbs to meet up with a few families from work, gathering at the home of another family headed to Brasilia with us. The city gradually gave way to rolling hills, white picket fences and strip malls. Elise remarked that she felt like she was in Wellington. We soon found ourselves at the corner of Opportunity and Laughter in a master-planned community that had somehow eluded both Elise's GPS and Google Earth. I quipped that we I had yet see Success--both literally and figuratively. We eventually found our bearings. Sam enjoyed playing downstairs in the play room with the older kids.
As old as he sometimes thinks he is or acts, he has a way of reminding us that he is still our little boy. Like when he watches the Alvin and the Chipmunks movie and bursts into tears when the live action people come on the screen. Later that same evening, I would hear the theme from Indiana Jones trumpeting from below. I went rushing down the stairs, recalling what that movie had done to my psyche when I first saw the faces melt off the Nazis when they opened up the Lost Ark...and I think I was in middle-school. Fortunately, it was just the music from the Indiana Jones Lego video game, and I returned to the party, relieved.
The summer days are long here...and it's only the end of May. The sun seems to come up at 4 a.m. and set at 9:30. It was quickly 8:00, though it could have just as easily been high noon, and we headed home. Sam didn't eat much. It took all I had in me to get him away from the toys and upstairs long enough to swallow whole four pieces of hot dog and slam a cup of milk. We could tell he'd been overstimulated as we drove home. This, coupled with the lack of food, usually spelled disaster in the back seat of the car. We distracted him when we came up with the idea of a good behavior chart. We would draw out a chart and put it on the wall and document his good behaviors with stickers. At the end of the week, if he had enough stickers (I don't think Elise and I ever agreed upon how many stickers were 'enough'....some undetermined, hypothetical number. In truth, he would have to mess up pretty bad not to get a reward) he would earn a new Matchbox car race track. We felt like parenting geniuses as we thought this up. It was one of those seminal moments that made me feel like maybe I was a better than average dad. Sam fell asleep. When we were 2 blocks from home, he woke and threw up, so I unlatched the entire car seat and toted him upstairs as if he had been ejected from the cockpit of an F-14.
Sunday morning, we took the Metro to our favorite breakfast spot, Le Pain Quotidian, and walked home to work off the waffles. The pool in our apartment building open this weekend and we headed down at exactly 10:00. Unfortunately, the pool isn't heated and the water is freezing, and Sam made me get it not once, but twice.
The next morning, we drove to the 'airplane park', a small park at the foot of the runway at Reagan airport where you can watch the planes take-off and land right over your head! Picture this: the planes are taking off in the opposite direction, south or southeast, I think, headed away from us and into the vaguely smoggy, stark white hot summer morning, leading a vapor trail and a gush of sound. They take-off and land in waves. Five or so planes take-off, then the runway clears. Sam and I turn and look behind us, but the sky is clear. We don't see any incoming planes. We turn around to look at the runway. It's still clear. We spin and glimpse lights coming over the tops of the trees like 50 feet away! The planes come in so low, you don't see them until they are literally right on top of you! Then, they whoosh by and Sam and I wave, yelling, "Hi! Welcome to DC!" and they touch down so close you feel as though you could touch them.
I know I won't forget that moment, holding Sam because he didn't want to go down, for a long time. I hope he remembers, too.
We went to bed, early. No clouds in the sky, but thunder rumbling below.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Monday, May 24, 2010
Now, this isn't that big of a leap. Sam's been eating apple sauce in some form or another for years now. Set the scene: his dinner consisted of noodles, apple sauce and turkey. Of course, he devoured the noodles first which was quickly followed by, "More noo...more noo."
"Eat your apple sauce and you can have more noodles."
No. Sam was not going to eat his apple sauce. Okay, you just have to lick. All you have to do is put your finger in it and lick it. Like this...No? Okay then no milk, no noodles, no cookies, no walk, no ice cream until you try your apple sauce. You don't have to eat it. All you have to do it try it. Okay, Sam right now. One...two...three... Get back in your chair. Turn around. Sit down. No, no more noodles.
After ten minutes or so, I decided to exert what little paternal authority I hold. I flexed my "I am Dad and you will do I what I say" muscles. I usually choose my battles wisely. I chose this one. Sam, you will try your apple sauce now or go to your room.
So, he went to his room, and I closed the door, and he cried and wailed behind the closed door for the better part of five excrutiating minutes. When I freed him of his confinement, I placed him back into his chair and began anew. I picked up the spoon with a miniscule dab of apple sauce on the tip and repeated my entreaty which prompted flailing arms. One of his fingers accidently flailed into the apple sauce and then accidently flailed right into his mouth...
ARE YOU SERIOUS?!?!?!
Elise thought her head was going to split open. I couldn't stop laughing. Sam snarfed the rest of the apple sauce. Pete, who was sitting in Elise's lap, laughed along with my laughing. Sam said, Pete happy," and kept shovelling apple sauce into his mouth.
We tried explaining to him that the antics of the previous twenty minutes could have eaily been avoided if he had just tried the apple sauce in the first place. It wasn't like we were trying to get him to eat eggplant or poop or something. We told him to trust us every once in awhile. Sometimes, as parents, we just might be onto something.
But did we really care? He was eating his apple sauce and that's all that really mattered.
As I mentioned above, Sam is a huge fan of trains. Sam is, emphatically, not a fan of statues.
So, what's wrong with this picture...?
...it's filled with statues. You may have heard about our experience at the Lincoln Memorial. Well, the problem with the train exhibit was, yes, there were a ton of really cool trains, but the exhibit was populated by these vaguely humanoid, white-faced stone people. Yeah, they were creepy. I'd probably be scared too, if I were 2 and 1/2. (We had the problem again at Lululemon Athletica where the mannequins are either headless or bodyless face with no eyes, noses or mouths....you fail to appreciate or even notice how unhuman these statues are until you appreciate them through the eyes of a small, but keenly observant, boy.)
We quickly vacated the train exhibit. Elise stuck her head into the replica of Julia Child's kitchen while Sam and Pete and I played with Lincoln Logs. We watched a scientist in the Spark lab make bubbles of carbon dioxide in a beaker (cool!). Outside, dad treated to ice cream sandwiches on the sidewalk before we chased squirrels and pigeons around the Mall and took the train home.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
On her recent trip south, Elise brought home plastic magnetic letters that we magnetized to the refrigerator so Sam could start learning his letters. Last night, Elise told me that as they were walking out of the house yesterday, Sam pointed up to the EXIT sign above the stairwell and said, "BDG". So, they must be working. He also has a toy shaped like a Palm Pilot or Blackberry that he practices his letters on. He knows 'K' best, because everytime he presses the 'K' key, the toy pda says, "K...is for Karate...Hiiiiyaaaaa!" So, now everytime Sam sees a 'K' he karate chops something and yells, "Hiiiiyaaaaa!"
The three of us were sitting on the kitchen floor after an early bath. Pete had gone to bed. Elise was teaching Sam the melody to the "ABC"-song. Instead of repeating, he was belting out a song like he was a finalist on American Idol that had the letters 'B', 'D' and 'G' in it.
I'm going to find the battery to the camera (no easy feat when you don't know what box it went into or if it even managed to evade being banished to storage) and see if I can't get him to put on an encore.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Monday, May 17, 2010
Fortunately, in the streets directly below was the Taste of Arlington, a food fair with live bands, vendors from all over the city and....a bounce house!
Elise ditched her camera and bag. Sam roused himself from his nap and pulled on his Crocs, and we all made for the door to head downstairs and see what all the commotion was about. Sam lead the way. I brought up the rear, pushing Pete in the stroller, and as Sam reached for the door knob, he paused and said, "Happy."
Elise and I kind of looked at each other as Sam continued, "Mom...Daddy...Sam...Pete....Sam happy." Mom was home. Everyone was back together the way it was supposed to be and Sam was happy.
Downstairs, we tasted a pistachio brownie and cold pea soup with a cayenne creame fraiche (umm...yeah....they didn't really play well together in the mouth), then we had burgers. On the way back from our favorite burger joint, we stopped at the bounce house. Previously, Sam had been somewhat skeptical of bounce houses, but this time, he said he wanted to go in, so I bought him some tickets (actually, Sam bought the tickets. All I did was give him a twenty when he turned to me saying, "Money...money" and I was thinking he is waaaaay too young to be starting that already!) and he climbed in with 4 other kids and started bouncing away!
A minute later, we saw the hand signal for 'all done' and Elise reached in and extricated him from the bounce house though he still had four or five minutes of bouncing left to do. I'm glad he remembers this hand signal, if no other (He remembers 'thank you', too, but it has become more of Sam blowing a kiss than the proper signal).
Next to the bounce house were play train tracks in a tight circle. A young twentysomething with a splotchy beard pushed three train cars with a broomstick around the tracks. Sam had to go on, so we waited in line until it was our turn. Sam got to ride in the lead car. Each car had a hand crank and Sam cranked on it with everything he had. I didn't know if the crank helped the train go faster or not. I didn't think so, but then when Sam went for a second time with two older boys, and all three of them were madly cranking, the train definitely seemed to be steaming faster.
I mentioned a second time, did I not? Well, when the train stopped the first time, Sam didn't want to get off and the only way he was going to get off was if we promised him a second go-around. Fortunately, the ride was free.
We headed back upstairs for dinner and bathes and to Skype with Nanny. Pete crashed early. Sam made Elise give him his bath, put on his "zump" (zippy pjs) and read books to him. I made a beer run.
We survived guys weekend...but it was definitely good to have Elise home. Sam wasn't the only one that was happy.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
This morning I was woken at no later than 5:30. Usually, I'm good, but for some reason--maybe having been woken at no later than 5:30 for the past 3 weeks--I just couldn't do it, so I went to pull Sam out of his crib and immediately collapsed back into bed, knowing it wouldn't last. I had piled all the excess pillows and comforters on Elise's side of the bed and I guess, in retrospect, it did look a little like the contraption Ferris Bueller had constructed to convince his parents that he was still in bed, because Sam sprinted around the foot of the bed, thinking the pile of pillows was Elise. When he realized it wasn't her, he immediately burst into tears and I had to remind him that mom was on a trip. If Pete wasn't awake yet, he was then.
We watched cartoon and, after Pete had his mini-morning nap, we took the Metro and walked to the park where I snapped this lovely self-portrait....
I have such a hard time getting out of the house remembering everything, but this morning I was extra proud of myself because I brought bottles and milk and even a hat for Pete (which I notoriously forget). I even remembered to bring Sam's bucket and shovel to play in the sand box. At this park, there are common toys that 'live' there that everyone can play with, so all the kids assume that all the toys are everyone's toys and it is a general free-for-all. It's hard for Sam to understand why the kids are making off with his shovel and bucket when we went to so much trouble to carry them with us on the Metro. And while I do encourage Sam to share his toys when we remember to bring them, I was so excited that we had actually remembered to bring toys this time and I wasn't--for once--the deadbeat parent bumming toys off of other supremely more-prepared parents than I and that we had gone to all the trouble getting them there, that I became genuinely distraught when Sam's red bucket went missing for thirty minutes.
After naps, Sam and I agreed that he was going to get a haircut this afternoon. I quickly learned that his enthusiasm at home would immediately vanish at the door to the haircut place. I opened the door to Super Barber where I had recently had my haircut (see previous post), and Sam strutted in...then burst into tears and clawed for the door. When I stooped to talk to him, Pete started crying, so I aborted and returned to the sidewalk outside. I spent the next 30 minutes trying to build a persuasive argument as to why Sam should get his haircut hear. I tried bribery (lollipops, cookies, milk, ice cream, movies, even "anything you want to do" which was equally vague and dangerous). I told him how happy mom would be if he got his haircut today.
See, part of the problem is the last place he had his haircut was this super-cool barber shop in Jupiter. Two tattooed bikers opened a shop with loud music and flat screen TVs. When Sam went there, they let him watch cartoons. Everytime we talked about him getting his haircut again, he would point to his forearm and say, "'Toos...cool!". It was definitely a hard act to follow.
When the nice Vietnamese women saw Sam and I migrating back toward the front door, they came out onto the sidewalk wielding Dum-Dums, but Sam still wasn't having it. I realized this was never going to happen with Pete in the baby bjorn so we came back upstairs whereupon I had to explain to Sam that the barber shop with the guys with tattoos was in Florida, at Nanny's house, and that we had to find a new, equally cool barber shop here. I suggested the mall. He, again, showed enthusiasm. I offered to do a trial run at the dining room table where he sat in my lap, but he wouldn't stop crying long enough to do a role-play which is when I decided that maybe this was another one of my parenting tricks that was doomed on the launch pad.
We went to the mall. I had no better luck at Hair Cuttery. Even with a Coldstone right there. By this time, Pete was getting restless and I was beyond exasperated with Sam. I threatened to take him home again ("No house...! No house...!) and told him we would try the first shop we went into again.
Fortunately, it was ten to closing and the place was empty. I sat down with Sam in my lap and he acted like he does when we take him to the doctor. I almost gave up, but one of the women told me it was okay. No apron. She would have it done in 2 minutes and befor either of us knew what was going on she was cutting. Another woman came out of the back and served to try and distract Sam, cooing at him and showing him his hair (which was now all over both of us) and pretending to make it disappear like a magician. Another woman appeared and kept Pete company. They were all talking in high-pitched Vietnamese around us. I don't even think Sam knew what to make of any of it, at this point, and finally stopped crying and squirming long enough to be amused and then tickled.
Eventually, he earned his Dum-Dum (root beer flavored. He offered me a hair-covered lick). Then marched down the sidewalk proudly, as though he'd never made a fuss and as though it hadn't been the better part of an hour and forty-five minutes of back and forth and up and down, convincing him to get his hair cut. As we were headed back to Coldstone for his reward bowl of neon blue cotton candy ice cream, I told him how proud I was of him and how handsome he looked and he looked back up and me and asked, "Mom happy?"
"Yes, mom will be very happy."
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
This is what we brought home...
It prompted no fewer than three complete melt-downs last night. One when we tried to get him away from the construction set long enough to eat dinner, a second time at bath and a third time at bed. The melt-downs grew progressively less emotional as the evening wore on, the first being the most dramatic, prompting me to commiserate with him as he is served time-out in his crib for saying "blah" to the raviolis Elise made for him. I responded, "Sam, we understand you're excited. It's a very cool toy. That's why we got it for you."
Sometimes (most of the time) I explain too much to Sam. Elise calls me on this on the time. Telling me to just walk-away when she finds me explaining to Sam the rationale behind our discipline which usually just serves the purpose of exacerbating the break-down.
This toy, in particular, was very cool. It came with about fifty plastic 'boulders' that looked like little dried, grey peas that I am sure, by now, are everywhere but int he actual construction site.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
ETA: You can't see me because I'm wearing my most recent favorite, all black 'ninja suit' (again). This is not only slimming (ahem) but looks as though I have either just finished my workout or am headed directly to my workout. You=fooled. I did however, just join a gym on Sunday and hope to go there at least once before we leave for Brazil in seven months. elise aka: nike ninja
Sunday, May 9, 2010
All my love and thanks. Beautiful days, sunshine, hugs, sweet and dainty pastries, hot cups of coffee with tiny bubbles and moments (ok even one will do) of silence to you all......
the worlds best cup of coffee, in the simplest and most splendid cups
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Salmon fettuccine, a cake baked with love with a lot of help from Sam, shiny white frosting made with egg whites and warm sugar whipped by hand to stiff peeks. While some may argue, I'm sure Paul will agree, that our birthdays only get better with age.
May all your birthday wishes come true....
e, s & p
This is the part in the post where pictures serve better than words. The reader can't fully appreciate the events of the day without pictures.
Pete has mastered the art of eating rice cereal. In truth, he was a born natural, and it was one of my favorite parenting duties. Unlike the philosophical mind games and brain-bending stratega needed to sway the inswayable will of a two year-old --the task of feeding Pete rice cereal has a finite and tangible goal, empty the bowl into his mouth. You know you're done when all the rice cereal is gone and in his belly and he is kicking contendedly, and you can derive the same sense of parenting satisfaction as you do when you bathe Sam, get him dressed or convince him to eat his peas without the deal-making and lobbying that sometimes gives me a headache.
Now, I say pictures are needed here to appreciate the following fact....Elise taught Pete how to make zerburts (sp? the art of sticking out your tongue and going thplbllt!!!) the same week he started eating rice cereal. Picture a pale mushy spray covering his cheeks, nose, bib, chair, my chest, shirt, hands and, yes, sometimes, even glasses.
Pete insisted I lay down with him for 45 minutes. He was very convincing. When Sam woke from his nap, he insisted on a cookie. He was acting like he was in withdrawal, stumbling and swaying around the house repeating one word over and over, "Cooks.....cooks......cookieeees!" I'm easy. Sometimes, too easy. So, we all went out to get our little cookie monster his fix.
Even I admit our apartment can sometimes be claustrophobic. It's free, so I don't complain, but we all fair better in the great outdoors. That afternoon was no exception. Thoughts clear under a perfectly blue Washingtonian sky.
The denouement of our outing was soccer in the courtyard. In retrospect, a bad idea in Crocs. Sam skinned his knee (again :( )and the rest of the evening was spent in serious convalescence. He deserved it. And afternoon cartoons were therapeutic to all. Elise made wonderful eggplant parm. I cracked open a beer. We found House Hunters, and the international version seems more relevant than ever. And was good and right with the world.
...Now if only Pete wouldn't wake up twice a night and Sam slept in past 5:45.....what can you do? I complain, but I think I would miss Sam sitting on the kitchen counter drinking his milk from a straw while I made his breakfast and my lunch and Elise coffee and watch the towering crane swing slowly across the violet, warming sky and the sun paint the apartment buildings around us a pale shade of......nevermind. Next time, I'll just a take a picture.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
This morning you cried as I left you to fall to sleep in your crib. Seeing that you were not settling, I picked you up in my arms. You turned your head to hide your eyes in my shirtsleeve, let out a sigh of relief and immediately fell asleep.
4 months, 4 years, 40 years, no matter what life brings, may you always trust your heart to call on me as a place of safety, to let go and relax.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
When we began the process of applying to the FS it was a great thing to look forward to. The blue skies ahead. When Paul took the job we immediately began daydreaming of all of the things we would do together as a family when we arrived in DC as we do before any trip. One of those things was picnicking on the reflecting pond in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial.
While Nanny was in town last week we decided it was the perfect time. We made pimento cheese sandwiches, packed potato chips, cookies and cokes and headed out. We ate, fed the baby ducks and placed another check mark on our list of daydreams.
Monday, May 3, 2010
Unfortunately, Elise, Sam and Pete were in Florida and couldn't make it. I would fly down to meet them early the next morning. My flight left at 5:45. I was woken at 3:30 a.m. by a text message from Elise asking me to remember to bring her tripod. It could only have meant that Pete was up, too. I knew I wasn't going to fall back to sleep, so I showered, got ready and headed downstairs to the parking garage. We had just bought a new-used car on Wednesday night and since I hadn't been down to the garage in three days, had trouble finding it. A lot of trouble. Like, it wasn't there! In a panic, I ran up and down the ramps of the parking garage, frantically scanning the cars for ours, but it--most assuredly--had vanished.
I dashed upstairs. The clock was ticking. My plane was to taxi down the runway in less than an hour! I asked the guy at the front desk if there was any possibility the car could have been towed. He responded in a lackluster groan, "...Could've..." and handed me a slip of paper with the name and number of a tow company on it. I called, struggling to keep the panic out of my voice. Sure enough, the car had been towed because I had forgotten to get a new parking decal. It had been in the lot since Wednesday night and was now blocked in by 5 other wayward vehicles. the nearest truck was 15 minutes away and it was going to take him at least that long to tow the other cars out of my car's way. He did make it and I watched anxiously as he disassembled the sideways Tetris puzzle of intertwined towed vehicles to extricate our new-used Outback.
I flew down the GW Parkway and sprinted through Reagan just in time to make the plane, ditching the car in the hourly lot (which would later cost me $70).
BUT before any of this could happen, I had to get sworn-in...
The ceremony began with a show of appreciation for our friends and family. This, I thought, especially apt. I had underestimated how hard it would be to get to this day, but each day already gets better and each obstacle is already easier to vault than the last, and the key to continuing to make this so doesn't lie in appreciation of the big picture, but attenuation to the small daily wonders that populate this blog: dump trucks and cranes, airplanes and flat tires and warm cups of coffee that never seem to wake us up enough. These things are and will be what keeps us going.
The Secretary was late, so our class mentor provided filler. Earlier in the day, she had regaled us with yarns from her time spent as ambassador to Tajikistan. Including wild tales spent in the court of Turkmenbashi the Great which involved shots of vodka, pork chops and the intervention of a Good Samaritan in disguise as the Armenian ambassador. I was hoping for another Turkenbashi story, but as she ran out of things to say, she opened the floor to us.
One of my classmates wished his mother a happy 59th birthday. She stood and bowed embarrassingly. And another of my classmates expressed his appreciation for having been given a second chance. This was his second go-around. His second class and his second swearing-in. I never found out what his story was or had separated him from our work the first time around, but I did find out that he felt extremely blessed to have been given a second chance, noting that he had quickly discovered that normal life has become quote "simply unbearable".
I don't at all mean to sound as though I don't appreciate the sacrifice the Secretary made to be with us that day or appreciate the honor she bestowed upon us as we begin this journey, but I won't remember much of the Secretary's address, but I will remember the sacrifices my family made to get me here, Turkembashi the Great and the words of my peers.