Thursday, February 25, 2016

Worst Yoda Ever

Renderings courtesy of Elise who has never seen Star Wars! Yoda does not wear a beret! But her C3-PO is actually pretty good!

Adventure + Travel

This past weekend, we went to the Adventure + Travel show at the Washington Convention Center. It was a chance to see what adventures awaited us in nearby WV and PA, and also to do a little daydreaming about where we might end up once our time in DC ends.

There was a giant swimming pool with scuba divers and a climbing wall (photo below: by reaching the top, I won a free tubing trip!). But I think our favorite booths were the Japanese bullet train and also meeting the guys from Eeyou Istchee Baie James (James Bay, translated from the French) in Quebec, a part of Canada that sounded beautiful, fascinating, and that I didn't even know existed before going to the show. I even picked up a few words of Cree!

Tea from Taiwan.


Finding my footing...

I totally beat that tiny girl next to me!

We'll see.... : ) 

The Best Part of Your Day

When I left work, the sky was dark, but it wasn’t raining, though it had, on and off for most of the day, sometimes torrentially.

I made it to the Metro station dry, took the Silver line as far as East Falls Church station, then switched to the Orange line there, a tactic engineered under the assumption the Silver train might be less crowded than the Orange. It seemed to work. As I emerged from the tunnel at my Metro station, it had just started to sprinkle. I paused, opened my umbrella, not really thinking anything of it.

It’s about a half mile walk from our house to the train station. I cut corners when I can, “run the tangents” as it’s called in racing parlance. As I started across the parking lot, the wind picked up and the skies opened. Unbeknownst to me at the time, my cell phone was buzzing: text messages from my dad, hopelessly glued to the Weather Channel, and Elise, “Storm just hit here [surprised face emoji] should we come get you?!” Followed a few seconds by, “Do not walk home. Stay where you are.”

Too late.

My umbrella did a back bend against the wind. As I reached the far side of the parking lot, rivers of mud and mulch poured into the street. There was no way around, and my shoes and socks were suddenly soaked. Lightning flashed overhead, the kind that lights up the entire world, putting everything into stark contrast, black and white, like an overexposed photo, followed immediately by the crack of thunder overhead. Okay, I thought to myself, maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. But how was I supposed to know?? I’ve got too much to live for. I’m too young to die! Will my life insurance cover a lighting strike??

As I reached the end of our street, it started to hail. Aww, man (as Clem would say). Really? Hail? I had no choice at that point—or any other, really, since I stepped foot out of the train station—except to go forward and cross, again, the Rubicon of flowing mud, leaves, and twigs.

I went straight to the basement door. No since in coming in the front and getting the living room soaked, even though Elise and the kids were at the front window, looking for me to emerge from the storm. As I came in, I called out, “It’s me!” They didn’t hear me at first, and I overheard their worried conversation, plans to come save me from the weather, plans stacked together in tiny voices, crafted by completely selfless, worried, tiny minds.

I called out again, and they all came galloping down the stairs to the basement. They hugged my wet pant legs in relief. I stripped to my underwear in the laundry room, shedding my soaking wet trench coat, suit, backpack with running clothes.

A few minutes later, I was in sweatpants and a dry t-shirt. Elise described to me her afternoon. The kids who had been home since 1:30—early release day—had been alternatively at each other’s throats and quietly and peacefully reading, playing legos, or chess. As Elise started dinner, their wildly oscillating behavior took a sine wave for the worse, and they soon found themselves banished to their beds.

Elise made shrimp and grits with crispy kale chips (yum!), and I chased it with a New Belgium Tangerine IPA. We talked about politics and the incomprehensible rise of Trump. Pete who bathed before dinner, climbed back into bed and read dinosaur books. Clem was in the bath. I collapsed next to Elise on the couch, exhausted, trying to summon the strength to clear the table, wash the dishes, and makes the kids’ lunches. Sam played legos at our feet. Clem played quietly in the bath for fifteen to twenty minutes until she called out, “I’m dooooOOOOOOOOooooooone.” And Clem who before dinner was screaming that she was hot was, after bath, screaming that she was freezing, and so I put her in bed under four blankets and laid with her until she calmed down. Me, trying not to fall asleep, because a young couple was coming over at 9:30 to buy the crib we sold on Craigslist.

I turned the lights out. Sam crawled into bed, and Elise snuggled in next to Pete. At dinner, Elise will go around the table and ask everyone what the best part of their day was. Sometimes, the kids pick up the mantle and will ask us. But we had forgotten to do it at dinner, so Elise asked, "Pete, what was the best part of your day?"

Pete's response had something to do with purple hippos rubbing themselves inappropriately, or something like that. Exactly what he said, I'm happy to say, I can't recall. 

Sam: "Dinner". 

Clementine: "Godly play."

Elise: "Meeting Miss Morgan and having acai."

Me: "Dinner". 

The truth is, it's sometimes hard to pick just one part of the day that was best or better than the others, or sometimes, there just isn't any part of the day that is particularly good. Sometimes, the best part of the day hasn't happened yet, but you don't know that at the time the question is posed to you and it doesn't seem genuine or prudent to prognosticate too much. That being said, most days, dinner really is the best part of the day. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

What Does a Snowman Do at Night?

Clementine was asked the question above by her teacher. The answer:

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Friday, February 19, 2016

Tiny Houses

It’s cold. Really. Freakin. Cold.

Elise and I have spent some time in cold weather—she grew up in Eastern Oregon and Washington States and I spent four years living in Colorado—but the Band of Hannas is not currently set up to deal well with the cold. Our blood is thin. We’ve lived in South Florida, Brazil, and India too long.  

It warmed slightly following Snowzilla, but this week, again, threatened freezing weather. However, the only thing worse than a weather report forecasting two plus feet of snow is a weather report forecasting snow that doesn’t materialize…or even worse…turns to rain. That happened last week. 

One to four inches were forecast to fall on Monday night, leaving me to dream of a snowy morning. I woke several times in the middle of the night and convinced myself the white street light coming through the slats of the vertical blinds was reflecting off a shimmering blanket of new snow. Washington doesn’t handle snow well, so a delayed open or early release would have been inevitable.

Pete entered our room, like clockwork, at six. I whispered to him, “Pete hand me my phone.”

I checked the Operating Status, and we were open. Alas, it didn’t snow.

I pulled myself out of bed, made a quick pot of coffee, and dragged myself to the shower.

Worse, the adrenaline rush of moving into a new house, receiving our shipments, and unpacking has worn off. We are, perhaps, still in ‘settling-in’ mode, but it is time, too, to start falling into a routine. We’ve done so, slowly, but having to do so means fighting winter and the cold. Which has been hard to do.

We don’t have any pictures on the walls of our home and there is a giant glass coffee table still sitting in the middle of the living room. Despite these landmarks showing obvious lack of progress, routine has been slowly insinuating itself into our lives. Elise and I are inundated at the end of each day, swept under by a tide of forms, slips, notices, and emails from three different schools. Such is the price, I suppose, of having kids in some of the highest-achieving elementary schools in the country. I was recently informed that we may need to buy a new iPad, because the iPad we own is not compatible with the math software Sam needs to install in order to complete his arithmetic homework. Elise told me he is incredibly stressed out because he is behind in Spanish, among other subjects. I know I’m hard on him, but I didn’t take Spanish until eighth grade and I thought that was early. We’re desperately trying to keep up with the Joneses in academic achievement …if nothing else.

A few weeks ago, Peter came home bragging that he got to stand in front of a green screen. Last night, I got to see the fruit of his labors, a Presidents’ Day book. Each student in his class was photographed in front of the White House South Lawn and asked what they would do if elected President. Answers ranged from “Help the Universe” to “Be kind and nice”. If elected President of the United States, Peter G. Hanna would “Give People Soap”. I like his thinking.

We finally bought a couch. It’s not the one Elise wanted, and she recently told me she quote-unquote “hated it”, but at least we have a place to sit down and stretch out now. Trying to decide which couch to buy was daunting, and I did not want to pay a delivery charge. I don’t think of myself as cheap, but perhaps on this one point I could have gotten off my wallet a little more. I measured and re-measured the interior of our car to see if a couch would fit in the back with one half of both rows of seats folded down (the seats on the other half would stay up for kids and car seats).

I took the tape measure out to the car, then—after several minutes crawling around the back seat—returned to give Elise my report…it was going to be close. We went for it. I finally concluded, “Well, if we get down there and buy something, we’re not going to leave it there.” I thought by sheer force of optimistic thought, I could somehow will the couch to fit in our car.

Sadly, physics doesn’t work that way, and the truth of the matter is, we did almost have to leave the couch sitting on the loading ramp at Ikea. As it turned out I drove back alone, leaving Elise and the kids at Ikea. I got stuck in traffic on the way back (car fire. Not mine) and didn’t make it back to Ikea to pick them up for two hours. They had ice cream, hung out in the kids’ play place, and contemplated almost having to eat a second meal at the Ikea cafeteria…not necessarily a bad thing. It took all day, as it turned out but at least we have a couch!

After having been off of work for two months, there has been some adjustment. I miss the kids. I think about them all day long and can’t wait to get home, but then when I do get home it seems as though all they do for the remainder of the evening is fight, cry, scream, and generally not listen to a thing I say unless I say it four times, each time louder and increasingly threatening than the last. I know I catch them at their worst just as they catch me at mine. We’re all tired, hungry, and stressed out. I have a palpable anxious reaction to bath time; I can feel my heart rate quicken and my temper shorten at the mere sound of water filling the bath. I can’t catch my breath. It’s like a Pavlovian reaction, because bath time has become like Mixed Martial Arts with three tiny, naked, slippery bodies in a trough. I don’t think this is like me. I’m usually calm in the center of maelstrom, a rounded pebble as the din of daily life washes peacefully over me.

At Elise’s urging, I’ve started reading to them again before they go to bed. Both Sam and Pete can read. Clementine likes to look at picture books. At some point when we left India, I got out of the habit of reading to them before they go to bed. They seemed content reading to themselves until they got sleepy or lights out. I need to start doing this again. It benefits me and them. It’s a way of pulling back to earth after the firefight in the tub.

Inarguably, my favorite time of day comes at the very end, when the kids are asleep, tucked snuggly in their beds. Elise and I don’t watch TV, per se, but we have recently been indulging in Season 2 of Tiny House Hunters on the iPad and dreaming of our own tiny house someday. I don’t know what our allure is to tiny living. We have three kids and a basement full of stuff. But somedays, even a tiny house seems too big. Somedays, Elise and I just want a camper trailer we can pull behind our car and just drift back and forth from coast to coast and over the mountains. Likely, we’re not very good at settling down, and though we are falling into a routine, we are also daydreaming of our next adventure. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Requiem for Mix Tapes

For reasons I can’t quite explain, I’ve been thinking recently about some of the things that have changed since I was a kid. I’m guessing all parents watch as their kids grow up in a world much different than the one they grew up in, but it seems as though the changes are coming even faster, and our kids are growing up in a very different world even than the one they were born into a few years ago.

My commute to and from work is about forty-five minutes. I take the train. Sometimes, I listen to music. Sometimes, I don’t. I rarely read, and I don’t do crosswords or play games on my phone. I look out the window when the train is above ground at the cold winter scene around me, the leafless branches of trees sticking the dawn or dusk sky, the cars also busily hurrying to or from work, a river of taillights. When the train is below ground it is hard not to watch the people around me. In the morning, especially, I ride the train, more or less, with the same crowd. A man in a red hat who stops every morning to chat with the man handing out newspapers at the entrance to the train station. The woman who is reading Harry Potter in landscape-orientation on her iPad. The African-American woman with lipstick that matches her purple winter hat and shoes. Most everyone is reading or looking at something on their phone. It’s interesting and a little frightening to see, but I guess not all that different from a group of people all staring at a newspaper they are holding. It’s hard not to let the mind wander.

I’m also not very busy at work. I am told enjoy it while it lasts, because when I assume my permanent role in April, I will be very busy. I think about Bailey’s marshmallows, teardrop camper trailers, and butternut squash cake, among other things, some of my latest obsessions. Every day, the train passes an electronic billboard with the current Powerball jackpot amount on it in bright red lights, and it is hard not to imagine what I would do with $189 million in cold hard cash. It would buy a lot of Bailey’s marshmallows. Or Legos.

There are people on the internet funnier, wiser, and more clever than I who do a very good job of pointing out some of the things Elise and I grew up with as children our kids will never see, use, or understand, things like rotary phones, typewriters, and cassette players.

I wonder when Sam and Peter like a girl in high school how they will let her know. Given the proliferation of different modes of communication, it’s hard for me to imagine them calling her. Will they send an email? Or a text? Are cell phones allowed in school? Will they feel that same gut-wrenching anxiety I felt when I first picked up the phone to call a girl? Will that knot tighten into an even harder ball when her parents answer? It seems that the barrier to entry is lowered by texts or emails. It seems a lot easier to press ‘send’ than it is to pick up the phone and dial that seventh digit that starts the phone ringing, but maybe it won’t be. Will they make her a mix tape? Do they even know what a cassette tape is?

On long drives in the car, both Elise and I remember putting on headphones and listening to our Sony Walkmen. Someday, our kids will have their own iPods, and will be able to easily skip songs at the press of a button. On a Walkman you had to kind of halfway hold down the fast forward button then suffer through a squealy, Alvin and the Chipmunks, fast-forward version of the song, listening careful for the split second of quiet that meant the song was over.

Now, there are no cassettes. I don’t lament the passing of the cassette. The technology available now is far superior. I can remember few things sadder than seeing cassettes abandoned on the sides of roads, its brown tape entrails spilling out onto the concrete and fluttering sadly in the wind. I sometimes wondered if they were salvageable. Could the tape be rewound and put back into the wound?

But what about mix tapes? Is there a modern-day equivalent or replacement for the mix tape? The gift of a mix tape was unique; you could encapsulate a spectrum of feelings, myriad thoughts you wanted to convey to a person in one single object. And there were few more intimate ways to show a person you were thinking about them than opening up your soul to them in the music you loved.

It wasn’t just about the music, but also about the packaging, too, because in addition to creating a special mix of songs you had the ability to create the perfect package to put the music into. I’m talking—of course—about the intricately-folded cassette packaging that held the lyrics and liner notes. The more artistic among us used this, too, as a canvas for expression.

I think there were mix CDs for a short time, but even these didn’t have the same effect, because on a CD it was too easy to skip ahead over certain songs, and the order in which the songs were put on the CD meant less. The beauty of mix tapes were that the songs had to be listened to in a certain order and therefore the order, too, was very important; it had significance. Only at great difficulty could the order be circumvented.

Clem won’t ever get a mix tape. This is probably a good thing. She will get gifts though. Musical ones, possibly. I wonder what they’ll be. I guess I’ll find out soon enough.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Valentine's Day Morning

Cowboy cookies from Nanny! 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Random Act of Kindness, Part Two

The main purpose behind keeping this journal is to be able to share it with the kids. Someday, hopefully, they will want to read about their exploits as children, see photos of their global adventures, and find interest in the musings of their mother and father. I was fascinated by my dad’s collection of vinyl. In many ways, to me, by listening to his records, I could be transported back to a time of knowing him before I was born as though I were reading through his journal, going back and reading stories he may have forgotten, was unwilling to tell, or didn’t think were significant enough to share. I don’t get a lot from him about the time me and my brothers were the age the kids are now. I’m interested in what was going through his head—my mom’s, too—knowing the era had brought a lot of change. Our kids may not understand the reason we—as parents—do the things we do, make the decisions we make, act the way we do, but, again, hopefully, someday, they might, and also by reading this remember stories of their youth that they had forgotten.

So, I write this for future Sam now, so that he knows why I was so hard on him, why I had such high expectations of him, because I knew how much responsibility he could bear and how kind and thoughtful he had the capacity to be while at the same time pummeling the crap out of his little brother and sister.

We spent the night before we flew from Florida to Spokane at my mom’s house. When we made the original plan, I didn’t fully appreciate that she wasn’t feeling well. We were flying out at the butt-crack of dawn the next morning, but she insisted we stay there anyway, even though I knew she would not be able to drive us to the airport. Elise and Clementine slept in the guest room. Peter slept on an inflatable mattress on the floor of my mom’s bedroom. I slept on the couch. Sam slept with Nanny.

The alarm on my phone quietly warbled at 4:30, but—truth be told—I had probably been awake for much longer before that ungodly hour. I got in the shower before rousing the others. Then, got the kids dressed and a quick bowl of Cheerios in their stomachs before he finished packing the car and heading for the airport. The kids are expert travelers at this point, and their torsos and limbs follow a well-worn muscle memory of early rises, marches to the car, and early-morning drives to the airport, orange blurring out the window as we zoom to the airport. We tried to be as quiet as we could so as not to wake my mom, but—honestly—how quiet can three kids clomping off to the airport and me dragging incredibly heavy suitcases possibly be? I was surprised that my mom never got up to say goodbye. I figured she must have slept through it after all.

Come to find out she was up, but had been too touched by something Sam had done that morning to face us.

In her words, “Without a word, before I reached for my glasses, he handed them to me. He likes to help and like you said almost without thinking sees when and how he can.”

I can see him now and imagine him lying in bed with Nanny, sees her reaching for her glasses and—much as he did on the Washington Mall last weekend—recognizes a need to help and, so quickly as to be nothing other than instinct, jumps and answers the call. Like a super-hero. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Windows to the Brain

There’s been little question for some time that Peter has a unique way of looking at the world. I won’t go as far as to say that he is brilliant, though I clearly think he is. I’m afraid many will think that I am biased. Maybe I am. Maybe I just don’t hang out with a lot of six year-olds (which is also true).

As we were walking back from sledding last week, Peter asked me how we breathe. He asked me what would happen if we forgot to breathe. I told him that we couldn’t forget to breathe, because breathing is an involuntary action, something your brain tells your body to do without you having to think about it. I thought a moment then corrected myself. Breathing could be both voluntary and involuntary, because you can hold your breath when you go underwater.

Peter asked me how we think. I tried to explain that our brain is made up of millions of cells called neurons that send electrical impulses to one another, and that these impulses carry thoughts. He asked me how we see, and I tried to explain that there were receptors in your eyes that transformed light and images into electrical signals for our brain to read. He then told me that his eyes are the windows to his brain. Yes, Peter. Yes, they are.

This morning, Peter flipped through a book on the universe that he had checked out of the library and asked me what super-novas and quasars were. I tried to explain that after a star died and collapsed in upon itself, it exploded, going ‘super-nova’, and that quasars were clouds of stars deep in space.

“Can spaceships fly though quasars?”


“Can they fly through stars?”

Me, “No.”

So why can’t spaceships fly through quasars when they can fly through stars? Crap, I don’t know. Any answer is predicated on the assumption that one believes ships fly through space, but I believe it is better to answer theoretical questions with theoretical answers, rather than tell him there’s no such things as spaceships. I believe his questions deserve answers. Let it be someone else’s job to tell him there’s no such thing as the tooth fairy, Easter Bunny, or space travel.

Pete—as you probably know by now—is our early riser. When we lived in India, he would get up at 5:00 every morning and draw Star Destroyers. The thing was: All his drawings were in perfect three-dimensional perspective. He can look at a picture in a Star Wars book, and reproduce it perfectly from memory many days or weeks later.

After we left India, Peter got into the bad habit of putting his fingers in his mouth. Come to find out, he had molars coming in, but it didn’t stop me from constantly reminding him not to put his fingers in his mouth. He replied, “My fingers are keeping my teeth company.” Which left me wondering where he comes up with this stuff.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Secret Sleep Word

What they say about kids’ resilience and ability to adapt to change is all true. By my count, Sam, Peter, and Clementine have slept in eight different beds (not counting the times one of them has ended up in our bed) since we left India in November. Now that we have moved into our house in Falls Church, we expect a measure of stability. (At least for the next year and a half…a lifetime for these kids!)

Over the weekend, I was given a rare glimpse into Clementine’s perspective of our lifestyle that caught me a little bit off guard. For the most part—for Elise and I certainly, and I believe in large measure for the boys, too—coming back to the United States equates with coming ‘home’, back to our home country, but also back to things familiar (if also, unique and strange at the same time), BBQ ribs, Starbucks, snow, among a few. But for Clementine, this is just another country. She asked me at the dining room table, “How long we be in this country?” Not the U.S., USA, or ‘Merica. “This country.” The country after India and before the next country.

Elise and I bought bunk beds for the boys, and all three of them are sharing a room adjacent to ours. Frequent are the requests from one of them for Elise and I to lay with them. These requests mostly come at bedtime. Every once in a while, they come in the middle of the night.

Clementine, particularly, has the habit of getting out of her bed at two or three in the morning and complain that, “I can’t sleeeeeeeeeeep.” I can hear her coming before the door to our room swings open. Two tiny footfalls thud on the creaky wood floors. I get up and guide her gently back to her bed. I tuck her in. She asks me to lay with her. I did…for a few nights. But I’m feeling especially decrepit these days as I nurse a neck injury sustained from shoveling snow. I just can’t fold my aging body in half and wedge myself in next to her in order to fit into her miniaturized toddler bed.

Elise reminded me the request to lay with them wasn’t about anything else but wanting some one-on-one time. I was the one making it harder on myself by falling asleep in Clementine’s bed. I’m wondering if maybe that’s how I hurt my neck in the first place after all. And now back to my original point, if after eight new beds, all they want is for me to lay with them for a few minutes—as opposed to having major behavioral issues or having been scarred for life—that seems reasonable.

All that being said, I’m trying to get break the habit of lying with Clem in the middle of the night. Three nights ago, at two in the morning, Clementine came into our room. I got up, put a palm in between her shoulder blades and gave her gentle encouragement to go back to her bed. I followed her and tucked her in, then kneeled by her side. I placed my check close to hers and whispered in her ear. I don’t know where the words came from. Call it sudden, middle-of-the-night inspiration, but I asked her, “Do you know that the secret sleep word is?”


“The Secret Sleep Word is ‘nod’.”




“What the Secret Sleep Word is?”


“The Secret Sleep Word is ‘nod’,” I whispered again. I kissed her on the cheek and slowly got up. 

She rolled over and went back to sleep.

Two nights ago, the Secret Sleep Word was ‘dusk’.

Last night, she didn’t get up. Thank goodness, because I’m pretty sure I fell asleep before 8:00. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Adventures in Furniture Shopping

Random Act of Kindness

We’ve been in our new house for about two weeks now. Though our efforts to unpack and settle in were slightly derailed by the snow storm, boxes are slowly disappearing and things are starting to fall into place. We received three separate shipments over the course of a week, including a load of our stuff that had been in long term storage since we packed out of our townhouse in Florida. We hadn’t see the stuff in six years, so there were some surprises, including a new queen mattress and box spring we didn’t even know we owned and a kitchen table and chairs which we actually needed for our new house. Also, much to Elise’s joy/fright/dilemma were two boxes of my old LPs, but she kindly embraced them and put them on center stage in our new home and even bought me a cool, new record player for our tenth wedding anniversary to listen to them on.

We took a break from the unpacking to get out and about a little bit. We were still feeling the lingering effects of cabin fever, too, so on Saturday we made a chilly trip to the farmer’s market where Elise and I sampled a Turkish flatbread stuffed with spinach and cheese reminiscent of Sitti’s what we called at the time ‘veggie patties’. I wasn’t a big fan then, but these were delicious (and warm!). Point won for developing palates.

On Sunday, we drove to Eastern Market in DC. The depth of the market was a little disappointing. There were a few vendors at the flea market outside, but we didn’t see the breadth of furniture or other offerings Elise recalled being when we had visited before. The kids did spend some time ogling the pig parts at the butcher.

For the past eight years, our days have been clearly delineated into a ‘before nap’ part of the day and a ‘post nap’ part of the day. Most everyone else calls it ‘morning’ and ‘afternoon’, but to Elise and I, the all-important nap is what defined each and every day. Our entire day was planned around the kids napping. If they missed nap, or slept in the car, more likely than not, they would be complete raving lunatics by five o’clock in the afternoon. When Sam missed nap, he literally was like a patient in an insane asylum; you even had to watch what you said around him, lest you send him into a fit of rage or panic. It was like walking on egg shells. Some might have thought us a little bit obsessive about protecting the sacred nap time, but, to us, it was the sun around which all other parenting revolved. It gave us a crucial respite in busy days. Many days, we were just trying to make it to nap, doing whatever we could to wear the kids down enough so they would sleep, and we could enjoy a few precious minutes of quiet. On long morning drives, we would will the children not to fall asleep in the car, because we knew if they did, they wouldn’t take a nap when we got home, and we’d be screwed.

But, alas, Sam is eight, and our napping days may soon be a thing of the past, though Clementine still naps regularly. Heck, all three kids will if pressed hard enough. Pete has long fought naps the hardest. In India, I used to lay with him every Saturday afternoon to force him to go to sleep (most Saturday mornings, I had gone for a long run, so I needed the nap as much if not more than they did).

Though we will miss the napping days dearly, it is nice to go out for the day and not necessarily have to rush down to put a baby down for a nap. Now, we can plan activities that span across the nap, bridging and unifying the ‘before nap’ part of the day and a ‘post nap’ part of the day. Now, when planning our day, we can do it like most people…plan the entire day and not just two halves of it.

So, with this in mind, we drove from Eastern Market to the Mall. On a whim, we decided to go the National Gallery of Art to see a photography exhibit that I had been wanting to show Elise. Our kids were some of the few there. I don’t know if the appreciated all the art they saw. They were mostly well behaved, and I do know they got a kick out of all the tizus on the Greco-Roman statues.

On the walk back to the car, Elise and I were following Sam, Pete, and Clementine as they weaved and wrested their way down the Washington Mall. Another family had stopped several feet ahead of us. The mother was bending down to console her daughter in the stroller who was visibly very distraught, though it was clear the mother didn’t know why. Before either Elise or I had any idea what was happening, Sam picked up a blue plastic sand shovel at this his feet and sprinted toward the girl and her mother. He returned the shovel to the girl, and she immediately stopped crying. The mother thanked him. Sam smiled and ran back to us.

I was beyond impressed. Before I could even figure out what was going on, Sam had spotted a problem and—with cat-like reflexes—fixed it. His instinct was like steel. He was like Superman. Seriously.

We let him skip nap when we got home. 

Monday, February 1, 2016


On our tenth wedding anniversary, Elise and I took our three children, the product of said union, out to dinner at a local Indian restaurant. The restaurant, Haandi, is located in the shopping center behind our house. The date fell on the eve of ‘Showpocalypse’. The following day, forecasters were warning of a record-breaking blizzard set to blanket DC and the surrounding environs in over two feet of the white fluffy stuff. Shoppers were emptying store shelves. Elise and I shook our heads at what we perceived a greedy grab for the supplies many people though necessary to whether the storm. But the grab wasn’t about survival. It was about maintaining one’s level of comfort despite any exigent circumstance; the Kripsy Kreme display at the local Giant had been stripped bare.

Our understanding on a lot of things has been altered by our time in India, and our definition of what were deemed ‘necessary’ emergency supplies shifted similarly. My memory of eating Vienna sausages out of the can during Hurricane David also shapes my perception of what is ‘necessary’. Maybe we were just bitter. We legitimately needed milk, because we have three children that each eat two bowls of cereal every morning and not because there was an impending blizzard about to strike, and hoarders who would never otherwise buy milk had greedily bought up every carton within a 25 mile radius of our house.

Elise asked me if we weren’t freaking out enough. We didn’t buy a snow shovel when the opportunity presented itself (this was, perhaps, in retrospect, a mistake. Fortunately, we were able to borrow one from a neighbor; otherwise our car might still be under a mountain of slush and ice). Instead, we bought a sled, beer, a bottle of wine, and a bag of Tostitos. Now we were properly stocked. We could eat Cheerios for three days if we had to. We weren’t going to die. I told her we’d survive.

The Indian food was good. If not spicy enough (or at all). Expensive. It cost about twenty times as much as it would have in Chennai. The gin and tonic was a little watered down, but at least they had Kingfisher. The fact of the matter is, we’d pay thirty times what we did in Chennai for a good Indian breakfast and we have done that twice, discovering two South Indian breakfast places in Vienna since being back in DC. You can’t put a price on comfort food, and it helps keep—not only myself—but the kids, too, to stay connected to India, to something comfortable and familiar. We have beans and rice and pão de queijo and now we have dosas, too.

I went to work the following day, Friday, but was dismissed at the first sign of flakes. It would be the last time I saw my office for five days. The boys were out of school for almost an entire week. The snowfall was impressive, and as the kids squatted at the top of one of the large mounds in our yard that resulted from my back-breaking efforts at clearing the drive, watching the bulldozer come down our street, Elise looked at me and said, “They’ll probably remember this forever.”

I’d never seen that much snow in my life and I’d lived in Colorado for a couple of years. Elise didn’t think she had either, though she grew up in Eastern Oregon and Washington states. For the briefest of moments, there was the thought that we wouldn’t be able to get out of our front door.

It snowed Friday night and all day Saturday, not stopping until early in the morning Sunday. I shoveled us halfway out on Saturday as the kids played around me, and finished the job Sunday. Later that afternoon, I took Peter and Sam sledding on a steep hill near the high school. The following day, Monday, a snow day, we brought Clementine and Elise back with us. By Tuesday, cabin fever had begun to set it, and we were getting antsy and we made our first tentative foray into the outer world…we went to dinner at Chili’s.

Elise and I had tickets to the ballet and a babysitter lined up to celebrate our ten years of wedded bliss. When I picked up the tickets the Tuesday before the storm, I asked the guy at the box office if performances were ever cancelled because of weather. He told me they were very rarely and usually when the Metro closed. Well, the Metro closed preemptively all weekend, and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Center was, indeed, closed, as well. The ballet was cancelled. We did get a refund, though, and have plans to go back. We’re interviewing a new babysitter this week. Our Saturday Night Date Nights were the lifeblood of our lives in India, and we are anxious to reinstate them here.

Elise’s uncle recently gave me some advice that I am taking to heart. Initially scared to death living in one of the most expensive metropolitan areas in the United States would crush us financially, I am learning to embrace what it means to live in the U.S. Our time here may be short, so we should make the most of it. Drink good beer and eat good food. Each of the kids gets to pick one extracurricular activity. Clementine is taking ballet. Pete’s first piano lesson is tonight, and I just signed Sam up in the city soccer league.

I may also finally be getting the hang of this technology thing. I bought a Roku. It’s not a blender, but internet TV. The device was $50 and we get a bunch of free kids shows through our Amazon Prime membership. Elise and I downloaded a season of Tiny House Hunters. Tiny houses are my current obsession as I begin to understand it is the only type of house I may ever afford to own. Evidently, the tiny house movement is catching on in the U.S. as many families decide to downsize. If it is popular, you wouldn’t know it by the sheer number of not-so-tiny houses in Northern Virginia. The only tiny house I know of is the one we’re renting. It is small, but comfortable and filled with the laughter, crying, screaming, fighting, and thundering footfalls of three high-energy children. We may only be in the States for a year and half, but it seems as good a place as any to open the next chapter and next ten years of our lives.