Thursday, July 29, 2010

Mlex Fountain

What else is there to do on a 103 degree day in the middle of the concrete jungle? Run into a fountain with all your clothes on, of course!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

3rd haircut?

Someday, we might lose track of how many haircuts Sam has had, but we're not there yet. :) I think I relayed Sam's 2nd haircut experience (his first in Virginia). He's a regular now. Here is sporting his new Tom Cruise do (he jumps on the couch, too!).

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Leaf Races

On the way back from PF Changs we passed by this unique fountain. Narrow channels of water create rivulets. Each leaf gets its own lane. Sometimes the leaf is blocked by a leafjam. They race toward the pool at the end of the fountain.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


For some unknown reason (that is not facetious...I really don't know why), this morning I found myself thinking about the definition of home. Elise and I use the word "home" in different contexts, and I find it interesting that the word will continue to evolve for us, taking on new meanings and new connotations.

Sometimes, when we talk about things that are happening in Florida, myself or, possibly, Elise will say, " home." meaning back in Florida, which I find curious since we have few intentions of ever living in Florida again (the townhouse we own that we can't sell there notwithstanding), but I suppose isn't too surprising given that we have spent the last 10 years of our lives there. It will, most likely, for sometime to come, have a strong gravitational pull that only time and the accumulation of more memories outside the state lines will break.

Otherwise, we most often use the word "home" when indicating our temporary corporate housing, our apartment, our often claustrophobic three rooms 18-stories above the wailing ambulances and wailing hockey fans that Sam never wants to return to after an excursion, yet where, ironically, he and Pete and Elise and I are most comfortable because it is the place where we all come together and laugh and eat and sleep and get on each other's nerves and draw stories. No matter where we go, no matter how awful the housing, electricity, bars on the windows, civil unrest down the block, home will be this base we tag every night.

Just as Sam's bed gets shorter before our eyes and Pete goes from being someone you cradle while feeding, to a baby that bounces in his bouncey chair so vociferously you literally have to hold him down to feed him, to a small boy sitting in a chair across the table beaming at you, it would be easy to believe that life in Florida--or anywhere, for that matter--is held in suspended animation. I need to remind myself that just because we are not there, life has not stopped. Our friends' children grow, too, and their relationships evolve and deepen and, possibly, split apart or fracture, just as our alliance is tightens.

We wake early. at 6 or shortly before. Pete coos in his crib from the other room, just as Sam did at that age. Sam, if he hasn't already insinuated himself between Elise and I, pads across the carpet in his footie pj's, carrying his tattered yellow blanket not unlike Linus would. This morning, I quickly whipped up a batch of banana pancakes. Though both boys were breaking down early--Pete because his gums are waging war with, not one, but two tooth buds, and Sam...well, Sam woke up not once...not twice...but three times in tears. We have no idea why. We can only attribute it to the heat and bad dreams--though both boys were breaking down early, we strapped them into the stroller, crossed the street and walked to Starbucks. This is our neighborhood, our home, for now. I put my sneakers on and power them through the streets. I ran shamelessly in Florida, infamous, I think or have been told, in our neighborhood for the distances I would push Sam. I do the same here, because I know no different. Now, we hurl two boys down the bicycle paths winding through Arlington, when we can. Half the people we pass marvel and smile, the other half sneer because we take up too much room, I think. Don't know. Don't care. We don't walk.

It makes me excited to get to, not only Brazil, but everywhere we will go even though I don't know those places yet, to not only see the physical layout of our house, but to meet and know the nature of what will become our home. To speculate or wonder too much, would diminish the present. Sam and Pete only know the present. Truth be told, Elise and I don't know much more than they do. Our assignment, in theory, could change tomorrow. The present is all that is certain.

I may not be crazy about being 18 stories off the ground, but there are worse places to be. We see birds when we look out the window, airplanes land and cranes swing toward us as though they were going deposit cement into our bedroom. This is home.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Down the Road

We all arrived at this waiting place with the same sort of dreams. Different as we all are, I have begun for once to find people that are more like me than not in this foreign service-ness. This makes the task of hugging goodbye and wishing well quite bittersweet. Instead of saying 'goodbye' and hoping my friends will find and fulfill their dreams along the road, I know they already have and are just waiting for them to begin.

Making friends proves to be challenging when one is gearing up to leave the country in just a few months. Making friends proves to be hard anywhere...for me. I have never been one to warm up to people quickly and lead a sort of guarded existence that my closest friends will tell you is a wall not easily broken down. Why? I couldn't tell you, but it seems to work for me. I wouldn't consider myself shy, I just require a level of trust and handful of time to claim just the right friends for my treasured collection instead of hoarding a sorted collection of maybes.

While it seems that I am most attracted to Paul in ways, because he is quite my opposite. I seem to hold girlfriends dear who are just like me. To better understand myself, I suppose. And much like the arrival of Paul into my life, these relationships don't require much time at all.

Which brings me to today....

I said goodbye to one of my newest and dearest friends in DC this morning at our favorite coffee house. The first person that began to make me feel like I was going to be ok here and that I was, in fact, strong enough to survive this journey as a mom and as a wife and as an artist. We shared many a coffee at our haven for childless work mornings. Dueling laptops, batteries faintly dying while we (motivated by nothing more than guilt) stopped to glance at their illuminated screens for a moment while continuing our conversation.

I'll keep hanging at our beloved NSS but, I must admit the bitter sweetness of it all is kind of weighing heavily on the 'bitter' this afternoon.

Bon Voyage my friend, I hope to spend many an evening with you and a glass of wine in the crisp northwest air and coffee at the loveliest of coffee joints in the future and along the many crossed paths I hope we find.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Middle of the Night Lurker

In the last few days, Sam has grown an affinity for sleeping everywhere except in his own bed. I hope this is remedied with the arrival of his new toddler bed later this week or early next, because the kid can't keep sleeping on the floor.

Last night, after Elise put Sam to bed, a half hour or so later, she spied him sneaking out of his room, crossing the hall and crawling into our bed. Maybe the lamp on the bedside table was too bright, because an hour or so later, I found him, face buried into his blankie, behind the chair in the living room.

I carefully scooped him up and placed him back in his bed. A few minutes later, Elise and I retired for the evening. I awoke (for the first time) shortly before midnight. Sam was next to me. Neither Elise nor I recall waking up or pulling him into our bed. Neither of us know how he got there. I picked him up and put him back in his bed....again.

Around 3:45, Pete woke up screaming. We think it was his new tooth. Yes! His first. As I was giving him his bottle, Sam casually strolls into our room. After a few minutes, he curls up on the floor at my feet like an armadillo. I put Pete back in his crib and bring Sam into his bed. He doesn't want to stay, so I lie down on the floor next to him, my head propped on one of his Ugly Dolls as a pillow. Together, we listen to Pete coo and toss and turn and grunt in his crib for the next half hour until he fell back to sleep. I slip out of the room and go back to bed.

At twenty after five, Pete is up again. So is Sam. Sam takes my spot next to Elise, and I give Pete his pacey. Everyone falls back to sleep until 6:10. Myself included, curled up on Sam's toddler mattress.

Last night was uncommonly difficult. Both boys, Pete especially, have been sleeping much, much better. Occassionally, when Sam is reluctant to go to bed, I have taken to telling him one last story. I lie by his bed on the floor in the dark and whisper a story to him. I take fairy tales or children's stories and brutally mutilate them. Jidou became Gapeto and Sam Pinnochio in one. In another, our building became a spaceship and all of his friends wore shiny, crinkly spacesuits. In the most recent, I told him about our boat trips to the Bahamas when we were kids.

These stories are bittersweet, because I know I am caving into his desire for "one more" before he goes to bed. It doesn't have to be a story, it could be "one more" of anything, just something to keep from having to go to bed, milk, a book, a story. This would really only be a problem if I didn't mind making up the stories so much.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

HE DID IT!!!!!

This entry will not have any pictures...You will thank me later! :)

SAM POOPED ON THE BIG BOY POTTY! Not once, but TWICE in the last 2 days the boy is on a roll!!!

I won't go into to much detail, but it involves having him play in the living room with his trains without any pants on at all and asking him every few minutes if he has to poop. Yesterday, however, he said to us, "Poop." Elise asked him if he had already pooped and he said yes, so I changed his diapey only to poop. I asked him if he wanted to sit down on the potty and he said yes....well, the rest is history!

He was treated to a lollipop and a peanut butter cookie from Starbucks as just rewards.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Thomas the Train Land

Sam's new thing is Thomas the Train. Ironically enough, he is not a fan of the cartoon, because not all the trains have "happy faces", (sidenote: these trains are really competitive with one another, several are very grumpy and, as a lot, I find them somewhat catty) but he adores reading the books and he can entertain himself for hours with his train tracks, once Elise or I set them up for him.

When we go to the grocery store, we have to be careful when we navigate the bakery, because they have this $45 monstrous Thomas the Train birthday cake that Sam wants every time. I told him that if he poops on the big boy potty he can have a Thomas the Train cake and I will write on it, "I pooped on the big boy potty" in phosphorescent neon blue cursive icing. Elise caught Sam going in his diaper and was quick enough to get his diaper off and get him over the plastic mini-potty before it fell. We're not sure if this counts or not.

Sam had really good behavior last week. He excelled at everything we had asked of him (with the notable exception of changing his diaper and taking his pjs off in the morning...this usually ends in Sam experiencing his daily "morning breakdown" as I've come to dub them), including being a superb big brother to Pete. He gives Pete his paci and holds his hand when he gets upset or restless (i.e. in the car) and has not hit or kicked him in weeks (except for yesterday, but that is a story for a different blog entry). As a reward, we got Sam Cranky the Crane and told him we were going to go see Thomas for real.

The Six Flags in Maryland has a whole Thomas the Train Land with a life-sized Thomas the Train we rode. Sam also got to ride in a helicopter with dad, a hot air balloon with mom and rode not one, but three trains! (he also 'got' to eat a soggy corndog and Dippin was a hit the other not so much...can you guess which was which? :)

Yes, it was 94 degrees that day, but it was worth every penny and every drop of perspiration. When we arrived in Thomas the Train Land, I hadn't seen that degree of awe and wonder since he saw his new, bright red trike on Christmas morning. He was in heaven. He literally ran into the park, grinning from ear to ear. I know Elise and I couldn't have been happier, either. I watched him sprint away, wearing shoes instead of his usual Croc sandals, because I knew there would be a lot of running that day. There was.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Fourth of July | National Harbor

4th of July Recap

In our old neighborhood in Florida, our neighbors were...well...."enthusiastic" to say the least when it came to celebrating holidays. They deemed it appropriate to set off firecrackers for every holiday...not just the Fourth of July. Memorial Day...Labor Day...Flag Day...these holidays all warranted the firing off of firecrackers. And not just on the day of the holiday, but pretty much every night for the 4 or 5 nights leading up to the holiday, we could expect to be startled from the couch by the loud snap, crackle and pop of fireworks going off right outside our window and lighting up the windshields of the cars parked in the street below and reflecting and echoing off the sides of the adjacent buildings.

So imagine our sense of impending dread as our first Fourth approached as new parents with a 6-month old who was still learning the fine arts of falling and staying asleep. What could we possibly expect on the Fourth, if Secretary's Day had made us feel like Francis Scott Key watching the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British? What did we do?

We got out of Dodge.

Recall, this would have been the summer of 2008...the season of the 'staycation', so getting out of Dodge was actually a pretty big deal. We decided we were going to go to the Gaylord hotel in Orlando, the giant hotel/convention center where my annual shopping center conference was held every August. The place is mammoth, with 3 pools, bars and restaurants, many under this enormous glass atrium that housed a life-sized pirate ship bar, crocodile habitats and the best steakhouse Elise and I had ever been to (except for Wolf Lodge, of course!) made to look like it had been plopped right down in the middle of the Everglades.

When we arrived we went down to the kid's pool only to find it ridiculously crowded. We had an early dinner, retired to our room with a margarita and a bottle of beer a piece and put Sam to bed. We stayed up and could see the fireworks from Epcot or Universal Studios. We weren't sure which. The next morning, we got up early and went back to the pool. We were the only one's there.

Now, living in the heart of the city, we decided to take a similar tact. Someday, we hope to brave the crowded Metro and tackle the mobs jostling for position under the Washington Monument, just to say we did, but it wasn't going to be with a two year-old and an infant that can't stay awake past 6:45. So, we decided to revisit the Gaylord. Only, this time, we went to the one at National Harbor.

As we pulled up to the hotel, we were greeted by a mob scene. The hotel was literally being stormed by families of all shapes and sizes (though most of the shapes were round and the sizes had a few 'X's in them). Why is it that everytime I think I come up with this great original idea I fool myself into thinking that no one else came up with the exact same great orginal idea? Sam and I waited in a line to check in that queued around wax statues of Lincoln and Washington. The United States has had approximately the same number of presidents in its history as parties waiting in line in front of us, and given Sam's recent aversion to statues of any kind, I was careful to keep his gaze from drifting from the impressive model schooners behind the front desk.

After we checked in and waited 40 minutes for the elevator and found that the first room we were assigned had yet to be remade and waited another 40 minutes for the elevator to our second room, we slipped on our swimmies and made for the pool. Unfortunately, we were met by the same crowd as we had encountered on our first Gaylord visit 2 years prior, so Sam played in the spray fountain instead.

An older boy was shadow boxing with the jets of water, and Sam took no fewer than 3 right hooks to the jaw like a prize fighter. Sugar Ray would have been proud. But his love of "mlex" overpowered and sting on his cheek, and every time he reentered the fray unfazed.

We found a sports bar for an early dinner. We retired to the room, planning to rest and recuperate for an evening stroll before the fireworks, but the boys started to unravel and I was sent for milk, cookies and beers. Sam fought sleep long enough for us to sneak from our room, Sam and Pete in their footie pjs. We camped out at the end of the hall, in front of a window that overlooked the atrium and the glass windows that looked out over the Potomac where the fireworks were to be launched. Many argued we had the best seat in the house as they summoned the elevator to take them down into the depths of the sea of people below.

Pure. Joy.

Toddler vs. Me | A battle of wills

Sam argued to sleep in Peter's crib for nap today (while Peter napped in our room) and I said yes. Without an argument. "What the hell! *Arms thrown up* Super idea, hop in!" Great....until I hear a faint noise, reminiscent of someone jumping on a trampoline coming from the other room. I peek in only to find, Sam jumping senselessly with Peter's pacifier dangling from his lips, swinging a stuffed mickey mouse by its ears.

Toddler wins!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

"Knees Up! Knees Up! Knees Up!"


Saturdays With Daddy

Last night I had my first dream about Brazil, one of those 'all-nighter' dreams.

It began on the long plane ride. Myself, Sam, Peter and my mother-in-law flying to meet Paul, who had forged ahead for work. Upon arriving at our new sprawling multilevel, Frank Lloyd Wright-esq home on a large body of water, we were greeted by our gardener who had one arm that was an elephants trunk. Handy(pun intended), me thinks for pool cleaning?! We make our way inside and wander through the dimly lit house and unfold room after room of mahogany Drexel Heritage furniture. I break down into tears, weeping, not about the elephant man but about the furniture. Celeste consoles me and we begin plans for slip covering everything, including the dining room table and china cabinet. I begin to unpack the kids clothes while Celeste gets Peter ready for the bathtub.

Being anxious in a new home I head back into the darkened bathroom to check on Peter (in the jet tub) and hear a rustling in the linen closet. I open the door and find a large rat...who looks just like one of the cartoon rats from the Disney movie Ratatouille. I scream at him to get out and he picks up his suitcase and places his tiny fedora on his head and huffs out.

Then I wake up.

I'm taking this dream as an advanced lesson in coping provided to me by my subconscious: Take the good with the bad. Nothing is too big to handle as a family....even bad furniture and babies sleeping in bathtubs. You were led to this adventure because you are the right family for the job. Use your innovation, creativity and open minds and use them to accept and adapt in a new environment.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Friday, July 2, 2010

If you build it (and it sprays water), he will come....

One of my favorite things about my mom is that, while a lot was expected of us, good behavior, good manners, good grades, etc. she knew the importance of letting us get into a little safe and exciting mischief. She let my brother throw a dozen eggs against the backyard fence for fun when he asked, let us have chocolate milk on our cereal in the morning (on occasion), and let us 'bobsled' down the stairs in her laundry basket into a pile of couch cushions. On a recent trip home she let Sam pick up rotten apples from the ground beneath her apple tree and throw them over into the adjacent the nude. Him, not her :)

Therefore, one of my favorite things about being a mom is getting to pass on to my kids the gift of spontaneity and allowing yourself to be goofy and let loose when you can, when you need to. and when the consequences are not harmful to anyone. If more people did silly things like this and let go before they were at their wits end we might be living in a happier world. Just sayin.

So when Sam gives me 'the look', you know the one, 'will I be sent to bed with no stories if I do this-look?' I often give in.

This is one of our favorite outlets: Sam is addicted to water, as we've mentioned before. Anywhere, anytime, any outfit.

. . .

I have a tiny pair of Adidas sneakers drying on my porch and a tiny pair of athletics socks, jeans and little yellow tee drip drying in my tub and a sweet boy, sound asleep under his blanky after lunch and 'two books!'.



What good is a celebration with out sprinkles? No good at all we say!

He tasted the frosting and then we ate it all up in front of him while Sam, wagged his finger said, "No, no, no Petey, too bitsy. No yummy(cupcake), Sam yummy! big boy."


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Peter .5


On your half birthday:

We had no power, we had no water. We had a perfect day.

You woke up at 6am and Dad gave you a bottle while big brother sipped his morning milk next to you both. We played on the floor you with a tower of lego blocks that Sam lovingly shared while Dad readied himself for work. We kissed him off to another day of Portuguese. I layed your sleepy, fuzzy head down for a morning nap. You awoke just 30 minutes after falling asleep as you often do and we gathered ourselves for a trip to the store for water and Kleenex. We were all fighting a cold, your first. Upon feeling the crisp, cool summer air, we took an impromptu walk to our favorite neighborhood park. We sat sandbox-side while Sam played with shared trucks and you sprawled over my knees reaching for sand with your tiny hands. I knew you got it when you cried out with joy. I took off your tiny faux shoe-socks and let you kick your little toes in the sand. You were so excited you tried to run across the box alone. If will were wings you'd have flown. We took the long way home as we often like to. We returned to a dark building and patiently waited for the elevator to carry us up 18 stories. After placing you boys to rest in your own beds we somehow all ended up fast asleep in my bed. Sam in Dad's spot and you in yours, in the crook of my arm. I listened as you slept with stuffy noses and the afternoon sun warmed our room, I thought for a minute I was dreaming. Dad came home early and we strolled in our double decker neon green stroller to the grocery. With a 'no-cook' dinner we returned home for dinner al fresco. Sushi and cold day old noodles, sprinkled cupcakes and a frosty beer, we celebrated poolside with our new friends and marveled at how fast six months goes. Frosting ringed mouths and sprinkled laps we took to the elevators one last time. Bath, books and zippy pj's with dad and you were sound asleep in grey striped footies for the night, just an hour after the power and water returned.

Celebrate the little things everyday. Thanks for choosing us Boozalee.

All the love in the world,