Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Monday, March 28, 2016

Cherry Blossom Festival

I know...I know...a blog post about the Cherry Blossom Festival without any actual photos of cherry blossoms. A sin, I know, but remember...I'm the word guy, so bear with me on this one:

This past weekend was a busy one for everyone. Through sheer force of her own will, Elise took the kids camping for two nights near the Delaware shore by herself for their spring break. They played, roasted s'mores, and rode bikes for two days in the open air, and it was just what the doctor had ordered--for everyone--Elise included.

Myself on the other hand, worked late both nights they were gone and on Saturday. I had chips and salsa for dinner Thursday night along with one of the worst take-out burritos I'd ever had in my life. On Friday, I walked down Massachusetts to Foggy Bottom from Embassy Row around six, as the shadows were getting longer. As I stepped out of my meeting, I noticed the temperatures were noticeably cooler, and my thoughts immediately went to Elise and the kids in the great, wide outdoors. I knew they would be fine, but recollections of our last sub-freezing camping experience in Shenandoah where I stayed up all night with an infant Clementine, shivering in the front seat of our minivan came rushing back to me.

Yesterday, Elise had to work. She had lined up four family sessions down by the Tidal Basin, and so we all decided to go, walk through the Jefferson Memorial, and see the cherry blossoms. The day was cloudy and cooler than I thought it was going to be. We gave ourselves plenty of time to get down there and find a parking spot, two hours. The last time Elise did this, we made the mistake of taking 66 to Constitution Ave, then got stuck in traffic like a prehistoric ant in amber. We weren't moving, and as the time of her shoot approached, Elise eventually had to jump out of the car just as we passed the Washington Monument and run all the way to the tidal basin. We crawled through traffic until we found a parking spot, jumping a curb, and parking on the grass. I took the kids to see the Jefferson Memorial that time, too, though none of them remember.

We walked through East Potomac Park and tried to get our kids to pose for a few shots, but thanks to Peter no one could hold still or be serious enough for one half decent shot. Not to mention everyone was dressed like ragamuffins. Maybe we are failing as parents that we didn't make everyone go to church on Easter Sunday, take everyone out to an overpriced brunch, get dressed up in our Easter best--pink bonnets and baby blue polos for the boys--and make a giant ham for dinner. We do things a little bit differently. Perhaps in the process, creating a few of our own traditions while not adhering to all time-worn practices.

The Easter Bunny did make a stop at the house. We've been very conscientious about not letting Easter turn into a mini-Christmas (that being said, I did buy the kids a remote-control helicopter. I bought it off Amazon and it didn't arrive in time to put in anyone's Easter basket. When we got back from the Cherry Blossom Festival, the Amazon box was sitting on the front porch, but it was almost eight and everyone was falling-out-of-their-chairs exhausted at dinner so there was no way I was opening that can of worms...or a remote control helicopter...that night!). The Easter Bunny brought everyone a chocolate bunny (which we found out upon closer inspection of the box that it was hollow!! It was in tiny print at the bottom of the packaging. Tricky, Russel Stover. Cheap and tricky!), jelly beans, and Reese's peanut butter cups (for Dad). He/she/it also brought an egg-dyeing kit from Paas (which prompted the question of how Paas makes money the other 11 1/2 months out of the year). Fortunately, Dad bought an 18 pack of white eggs (we had gotten into the habit of buying cage-free organic...which are brown and really not all that good for coloring on wrapping paper).

We dyed Easter eggs in the morning. After finding all of the 50 plastic eggs the Easter Bunny had hid around the living and dining rooms. I made biscuits and fried up in a skillet some homemade sausage patties Elise had made for her camping trip.

Once we got to the spot Elise was going to meet her clients we peeled off and headed toward the Jefferson Memorial. Sam was grumpy. He was starting to act like that petulant tweener that was bored by seeing monuments of historical figures that many travel around the world to see. He whined the whole way as we walked up to the monument, asking me, "What can I dooooo?" How do you even begin to answer that question? (Come to found out, I think he was just hangry; I charged $3 at the refreshments stand on a pretzel, and he seemed to perk up a bit.) They were impressed by the statue. Less so by the fact that the thirteen original colonies snubbed their noses at the motherland for the sake of self-evident truths. I decided against reading them the text from the Declaration of Independence. I didn't want to be that dad, but I at least wanted them to know I knew that Thomas Jefferson was the third (not the second) President. Not that they cared.

After visiting the Jefferson Memorial, it took us a while to decide to go left or right around the Tidal Basin. Pete definitely did not want to go to the Washington Monument, even though I thought we had time. According to Elise, while they went camping, Sam, Peter, and one or two of their friends sprinted up an old watchtower. There were no windows in the tower until you got to the top, and on some level Pete didn't register the fact that he was ascending. When he got to the top and saw how high he was off the ground, he evidently freaked out and began screaming as though he had tripped and broken a leg. Washington Monument. For sure.

Pete did want to go to the Lincoln Memorial, but though I didn't think it would be too far to walk, it was in the complete opposite direction of our car. That's when we decided to hit the refreshment stand, because the kids had mowed their way through the snack I had brought for them within the first five minutes of our expedition.

At the refreshment stand, we were in line behind a family that was clearly from out of town. Perhaps, I jump to that conclusion too quickly, but given their general uncouthness, I am only hoping they don't live anywhere near me. The mother was morbidly overweight and in a wheelchair. The father was rude and argumentative with his family and the woman working behind the counter. The two daughters--in Batman t-shirts and dyed hair--seemed well-adjusted enough, if with a normal level of teen ennui.

In a biting Southern twang, the father tried to pull an order of his daughters, "C'mon, y'all, whadoya want?"

After they ordered, he recited it back to the woman behind the counter who asked, "Do you want the Kids hot dog meal or the Deluxe hot dog meal?"

"I dunno!" He gesticulated up at the menu board above his head. "I don't see nuthin' on here about no meal!" and "Can I just get a large Diet Pepsi instead of a small Diet Pepsi with that meal? It's $4 for a large Diet Pepsi. Jesus, girls! Jus' get one and share it!"

The mom got her soda and screeched, "Where's my straw!" Seeing one on the counter in front of her, "Is this my straw! God damn it!" Then, snatched it from the counter and stabbed it into the top of her large Diet Pepsi.

When it was finally our turn, I meekly asked if it was okay if I charged a $3 pretzel to my credit card, at which point, I think the lady behind the counter would have let me charge a penny or just given me the pretzel for free. The lesson here (which I shared with Sam), is that when you see unbecoming characteristics in others, you have to became keenly aware that you aren't inadvertently exhibiting those same unseemly behaviors. 'Cuz you don't want to be that guy.

A warm pretzel in their bellies, we walked over to the FDR Memorial before making our way back to the car and then to pick up Elise. Before we did though, everyone had to go to the bathroom. That's okay. They're kids with bladders the size of ping pong balls (I actually have no idea what the average size of a bladder is). The bathrooms at the FDR Memorial were under construction or closed for some other reason, so Port-o-potties it was. No problem for the boys. Big problem for four year-old little ladies.

There was no way on God's green Earth I was going to put Clementine's tizu anywhere near a port-o-pottie seat...especially one splashed as this one was. Commence Operation Pant Removal. In a crowded, smelly port-o-pottie, I helped Clemie take off her shoes, pants and underwear, then put her shoes back on so she could stand (with a little help from her dad) on the toilet. There was no toilet paper, so she did a little shimmy, and we took shoes back off to put pants and underwear back on. All while it sounded like a helicopter was about to land on top of us. "What's going on out there?" I called to Sam and Pete at one point. They were two police helicopters. "A hundred feet off the ground," by Sam's estimation.

All in a day's work! : )

With no food in the house, we picked CPK for Easter dinner. It was the same CPK in Crystal City we ate at the night before we flew to Brazil. Call me sentimental. Pizza. Ham. It sounded healthier, anyway. 

Camping, Part Two

Two more photos Elise texted me Saturday morning before they headed home from two days spent out in the wilderness. Can you tell the thermometer dipped down to 40 degrees?

Friday, March 25, 2016

Spring Break!

This week is the kids' Spring Break. I have to work, but Elise took the kids camping near the beach in Maryland. Here are a few sneak peak photos from the trip. I haven't received the full report yet, but they got the tent up last night and, accordingly to Elise, everyone slept like logs (except for her, of course!). 

More photos and a full report to come!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Peter's Leprechaun Trap

Neither Elise or I knew anything about the new childrens' mythos that has popped up around St. Patrick's Day. All I knew was that we were supposed to wear green, because if you didn't wear green on St. Patrick's Day then you would get pinched.

But nowadays, I guess a leprechaun sneaks into your house at night and leaves you chocolate in a pot of gold or something. I'm not exactly sure what their teaching in school these days. When Peter got up this morning he asked me where the leprechaun left his pot of gold. I looked at him blankly and said, "What leprechaun?" 

Peter then proceeded to make a leprechaun trap with masking tape and a discarded lego box. 

Elise felt bad she didn't indulge the kids' St. Patty's Day magic a little more, so she ran to Michaels and got some leprechaun dust and stickers and bubbles that the leprechaun is going to leave in Pete's trap for when he gets home from school. 

This excerpt from an article in today's Wall Street Journal explains it a little better than I can: 

In a tradition that is unknown to many in Ireland, children in American classrooms and homes are making traps to catch leprechauns on March 16, the eve of St. Patrick’s Day. The Rube Goldberg machines are usually green and filled with gold coins and glitter, all fabled favorites of the mischievous tricksters who reveal the location of hidden treasure when captured.
Rigging traps out of decorated shoeboxes builds interest in engineering and encourages creativity, teachers say. How on earth was this tradition born, parents say.
“You used to get a pass on St. Patrick’s Day,” says Katherine Wintsch, chief executive of the Mom Complex, a consulting firm in Richmond, Va. “Parents are coming off of Valentine’s Day,” she adds, “and pretty soon it’s Easter so you have to do the baskets, buy dresses and bonnets…and make a ham for your in-laws.”
Amen. Except for making the ham part. I would just go to Honeybaked Ham. They can do it better than I could anyway. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Happy Birthday Clementine!

Yesterday, the smartest and sweetest little girl I know, Clementine, turned four! I am told she had a good day with mom, including a special visit to the nail salon for mother-daughter manicures. Elise told me the nail techs couldn't get enough of Clem, especially after she told them her name, and offered her a free hand massage because it was her birthday. She laid her head right down on the wrist pillow (see happy photo below) and almost fell asleep.

Elise also told me that when she and Clementine walked the boys to the bus stop in the morning and were greeted by one of the neighborhood moms, Clem burst out, "It's my birthday!" 

When I walked up to the house after work, Clementine was in the front window waiting for me. My return from work, signaled the start of her special family birthday party . I hadn't seen her all day and gave her a big kiss and hug when she opened the door for me. A quick change out of the suit and we were all ready for the festivities to begin. 

Per Clementine's request. Elise made her spaghetti for dinner, followed by presents, cake, and ice cream. Needless to say, a good time was had by all (more pics to come). 

Ellicott City or Bust!

Saturday morning, Elise asked me what I wanted to do today, not knowing that she already had aspirations for an expedition.

Before we even moved to Washington, Elise had told me that she wanted to go on a road trip every weekend. I was initially skeptical. I didn't think there were enough destinations to fill an appetite of one road trip per week. That was before Elise informed me she had booked mark a website with 12 travel destinations within a few hours drive of the Washington, D.C. metro area. She was ready to make good on her promise.

I had no idea what I wanted to do on Saturday. I press through the week with little thought to the weekend, usually simply content to make it from one day to the next relatively intact. By Saturday morning, three kids who are starved for my attention beg me for waffles, chocolate chip pancakes, microwaveable silver dollar flapjacks from Trader Joes, bacon, sausage links, and sausage patties. The Iron Chef I am not, and one of the main reasons I don't make dinner anymore is because I hate feeling rushed. I don't work in a diner, and getting enough food in three kids fast enough so I don't have a full scale riot on my hands is stressful. As soon as I have breakfast on the table, they wolf it down and are gone. I clean the kitchen, then ten minutes later, they're back for a snack, somehow starving. I've reluctantly accepted my lot and the fact that this will only get worse. They're not even teenagers yet, and I know they will eventually eat us out of house and home.

By Saturday morning, I have given zero thought to what I want to do today except for what I want to do everyday...go for a run. Have some coffee. I did know I wanted to eat something good. A burger. Maybe some fries. A beer at lunch. That's all. Low aspirations.

Elise wanted to go to Ellicot City.

I hadn't even heard of Ellicot City, much less know where it was or why she would want to go there, but--knowing I had already wholeheartedly agreed that we would go on one road trip per weekend before coming back to DC--I wholeheartedly agreed, too, we should go to Ellicot City. They had a train museum...I mean, how bad could it be, right?

Right! Ellicot City was beautiful. Even on a surprisingly cold and drizzly day. Some of the more recent photos to the right --> were taken there.

It was about an hour drive. We arrived around 11:00, and instead of going to lunch first, we decided to go to the little B&O railroad museum in the original Ellicot City train station. Founded in 1772, the town itself was cute and quaint with a main street of old Colonial-era buildings now storefronts for rows of antique stores, among the shops offering more eclectic wares such as handmade wooden razors, record stores, a Grateful Dead/hippie store, and other coffee shops and galleries.

The train museum was small but interesting and it had a caboose and model railroad for the kids. After the train museum we walked across the street to have lunch at the Phoenix Emporium, and I got my burger and fries, along with a beer with lunch and NCAA conference playoff basketball on the TVs.

After lunch we explored a few more of the shops, including an antique store that sold slabs of raw wood for desks or dining room tables. Elise and I daydreamed and promised ourselves we'd be back.

The next morning, we sprang forward, lost an hour of sleep, then ran out the door to catch a morning matinee showing of "Zootopia". One of the most jarring aspects of being back in the U.S. after having spent two years in India is how much the movie-going experience had changed. In Chennai, there were very few movie theaters that showed first-run movies, only a handful that ran movies from the U.S., so you had to purchase tickets days in advance with reserved seats like you were going to a sporting event or concert. If you bought the tickets online, you had to have them delivered to your house. As you have probably read in this blog before, having anything delivered to our house in Chennai--a city where every house has an "old" address and "new address, neither of which are of very much use in a city where everything is located by landmarks--was a disaster. So, going to the movies in India was a huge production. Guess what? So is going to the movies in America. Seemingly, gone are the days where you look outside your window, see that is raining, and decide to go catch a flick on a whim. We tried to do that last weekend, and upon reaching the box office were told that the only seats that were available for the 10:00 showing were in the very first row and the only seats available for the 10:50 showing were in the first two rows. Sadly, we decided to wait until the following weekend much to the kids' disappointment.

The following weekend rolled around, and I failed to order tickets in advance, reluctant to plop down the $50 for movie tickets if the kids weren't going to be up for going. We did end up going without advance tickets and were again told the only available seats were in the first two rows! We decided to go to the 10:00 showing because the tickets were only $11.00. I know this isn't India anymore where movie tickets were the equivalent of $1.25, but an evening showing was $15 per person! It would have cost us $62 to take the whole family to see the movie, and that is before popcorn and candy! What is the point of going to the movie theater if you don't get popcorn and candy?? When it's all said and done, you've shelled out a c-note for the cost of two months worth of unlimited movies streaming over the internet.

Anyway, I wasn't going to disappoint the kids two weeks in a row. We bucked up and went with the second row seats. The movie was good, but unexpectedly intense. As the animal citizens of Zootopia began to turn savage, Sam grew anxious. Truth be told, he wasn't all that into it from the beginning. I think we were just way too close and the movie was way too loud for his liking. Before the movie even started, he asked if we were staying for the whole thing. I don't think the live-action preview of "The Jungle Book" helped. Talk about ruining a perfectly good movie by "updating" it with over-the-top violence and intensity.

As the jaguar turned savage and began snarling at the screen, Sam had had enough and wanted to leave. Pete and Clem wanted to stay. I had taken the kids to the movie by myself while Elise went shopping, so I texted her and asked her to come get Sam. She did, but I think the damage had already been done as Sam has been unusually anxious at night going to bed. He says he doesn't like to be alone and has asked me to lay with him for the past couple of nights while he goes to sleep. I am very conscientious about what movies I think the kids can handle, especially when it comes to violence. For instance, I wouldn't take them to see the new "Star Wars". because it was rated PG-13, even though every other parent was taking their kids to see it. Don't get me wrong, I love Star Wars, and was very disappointed when the first trailer came out and I realized the movie was going to be too dark for the kids, because one of my daydreams is to share the movies with them so they can experience the same magic I did as a kid their age. Maybe it's just me but MAJOR SPOILER ALERT I don't think of patricide, mass genocide, planet smashing, etc etc to be themes appropriate for little kids. Obviously, Elise and I are in the minority on this point, or else I don't think the movie would have earned a gazillion dollars at box office.

Hopefully, this too shall pass, and his mind is once again filled with only happy thoughts.

After a late lunch at one of our new favorite fast casual spots, Cava Mezze, we stopped at the grocery then came home for some down time. Elise bought steaks and we grilled even though it was still cold and drizzly. Not a bad end to a not-bad weekend.

Grilling buddies.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Daddy and Clementine Dinosaurs

Drawings by Peter.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

On Paper

On paper, this could have been the most difficult transition for us. Ironically, coming back to the United States posed a lot more logistical challenges than moving overseas did. When moving overseas, our housing is assigned to us and utilities are already hooked up. We’re picked up at the airport, our fridge filled with basic staples—coffee, milk, and sometimes, even beer and wine—and shown where the grocery store is. I’m picked up from work and driven home, and the kids know what school they will go to before we even arrive.

When coming back to the United States to live and work, none of those things are a given, and the transition could have easily been overwhelming and immensely more stressful than it was. We didn’t know where we would live, what kind of car we would drive, where the kids would go to school, how to sign up for electric, water, gas, internet in a new city, how I would get to work, etc. etc. But Elise and I came up with a plan and did a lot of homework. We researched the neighborhoods in and around Washington, D.C., to find one with housing we thought might fit our budget, with good public schools for the boys, and a reasonable commute for me to work. We are not from the area, but we do have some experience here, living in Arlington and Falls Church during our two previous stays in language training.

As with moving to Brazil and India, the process seemed like a good one for our family on paper, but the challenge lied in executing the plan, to make the vision of what that future life could be like a reality. The devil is in the details, and it takes a lot of hard work to take what is on paper and in our mind’s-eye and turn it into the house we live in now, the schools the kids go to, the commute I have, and the work environment Elise needs. Maybe I am making too much of it, but I think there is a reason many sources suggest that moving is one of the most stressful things a person does in a lifetime. At no point can you start the day with the thought that you don’t feel like going to the DMV and standing in line for an hour for new license plates or stay on the phone for forty-five minutes on three separate occasions to make sure your gas is hooked up. It is a slippery slope, and if you don’t pop out of bed everyday like a piece of toast flying out of the toaster and immediately start the coffee and pour the bowls of cereal, before you know it, your living in a van down by the river, everyone waddling around in soiled diapers, crying all the time.

We did something Tesla’s new SpaceX rocket has failed to do on four separate occasions, we landed upright. I feel on some level that is one of our greatest accomplishments as a family. Among our peers and colleagues, the dreaded move back and repatriation to the motherland is one of the greatest collective fears for many of the same reasons I mentioned above. I was dreading it. I thought there was no way we would move back to the U.S. this early in my career. I was dead set on staying out of the U.S. as long as I could…if for no other reason than to avoid the astronomical expense of living in the DC/NoVa metro area. We spent $300 just to get our power turned on.

I cut myself shaving. Not once. But twice. In the same spot two days in a row. Yesterday seemed like a fluke. I’d been shaving for about two months and hadn’t cut myself yet. I had made a deal with the devil. It was only a matter of time. So, the first day, I took it in stride, though there were blood spots on the collar of my dress shirt. On the second day, I kind of lost it, yelling, “Shaving is so stupid!” and “I have zero margin of error in my mornings!” I don’t know who I was yelling at. Certainly not Elise or the kids. I had no one to blame by myself…and the institute of shaving. Which I think was the true target of my ire. I swore (again) to regrow the beard as soon as I’m done masquerading as an up-and-coming young DC staffer. I don’t know who I’m kidding…I’m neither young nor up-and-coming.

The days seem longer than ever and doing the same thing over and over day-in and day-out more fruitless. I spend 45 minutes on the train and walking to work and 45 minutes making the same trip home. I shave, make coffee, make lunches, make breakfasts, wash dishes, fold laundry, redoing the same tasks. Now that we’ve landed and are falling into a routine, I’m trying to breathe a sigh of relief but I can’t catch my breath. I’ve had stiff neck and shoulders since we arrived—Elise says it’s where I hold my stress—and I can’t stand up straight. I feel older than ever. I’m always tired. I can’t think of anything I do that is fun. Elise has accused me of treating the children as a burden, and I’d be lying if that wasn’t some days true. It seems like someone is always crying or screaming. Even running seems like a chore. I’m hoping this changes as the weather warms and spring comes. It’s supposed to be almost 80 here today.

Living in America is hard work.

If I seem to have it rough, Elise has it ten times worse. Getting the kids off to school, running Clementine to school and ballet, running Peter to piano lessons, making dinners, keeping the house clean, all while trying to support her career and run a business. It amazes me some nights that we have the capacity at all to even smile at one another.

But we do. We still find time to talk and laugh and hold hands in bed—in between helping Pete to blow his nose or making Clementine’s bed after her pull-up leaks—it can never be enough.

Clementine woke up this morning nauseous and feverish. We’re all fighting something. Two days ago I had a sore throat. Yesterday, I didn’t. Then, this morning, I did again. I attribute the sentiments above to the fact that my body is waging a secret war against a silent assailant. I read an article today about dealing with worry and anxiety. We have had a lot of worry and anxiety in our lives in the past few months, and in order to deal with it, I think I pushed it all down to some unseen place, sealed it away into a little Pandora's box deep within my soul and erected a force field around myself in an attempt to ward off any more worry and anxiety. The only problem with the force field is it kept out all emotion, happiness and joy, too. I think it may be time to drop the shield, pull out the Pandora's box and open it, for better or worse. 

Elise saw someone today with a t-shirt that read “Not Running Sucks”. She said she thought of me. For reals.

At the same time we celebrate our achievements, we retrench to face new challenges. This is what keeps people going, I guess. We recently sold the crib that Sam, Peter, and Clementine were all babies in. We have the bassinet on Craigslist, too. Elise asked me if I was sure we were done having kids. I was sure. But I had to think about it. Ironically, I told her I think I could do it again if we lived overseas, but I’m not so sure I could do it here. We do make cute babies, though. 

Though we slept with the window open last night and woke up to birds singing, I woke up in a bad mood. I was exhausted. More exhausted than ever. All I wanted to do was take a nap. When Elise got up, she hugged me. Then she hugged me again and hugged me again one more time before I left for work. When I came upstairs after getting dressed, she took one look at my shirt and tie combination and burst out laughing. “Is it a boy or a girl?” she asked (I had on a pink shirt and blue tie.) It was the same laugh I remembered when we worked at Kee Grill together and we fell in love and I suddenly felt less tired and that...yes...I could do all those things over again today. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Email from Clementine

I emailed Elise this morning to see how her day was going. I received the following response. From Clementine: 

"I love you Moosey Daddy. I love you so much you make me breakfast. The breakfast is yummy everyday. I got a new pink ball. I hope you are having a good day. See you when you get home."

Lobby Behavior

Our first few weeks back from India, we stayed in my dad’s vacant oceanfront condo on Jupiter Island. The accommodations, though rustic, were seemingly idyllic, but marked a low-point in our transition back to the U.S. We get to spend a few weeks in an oceanfront condo for free! What could possibly go wrong? Well, a lot, as we came to find out. I chalk it up now to a particularly deep trough in what was a particularly turbulent transition. Though we didn't see it at the time. 

It didn’t help that we felt like trespassers. It was nothing that my dad or any of the other residents specifically said or did, and everyone at the front desk went out of their way to be nice to us. I think they were just glad to see kids in the building. But Elise and I were especially acute to the fact that there were no other kids in the building. In that, we stuck out like sore thumbs. It wasn’t quite snowbird season yet, and half the building was empty. The other half was filled with retirees, and Elise and I were scared to death we were going to get kicked out onto the street.

It didn’t help that the kids seemed to be crying, wrestling, screaming, or fighting constantly and at such volumes they were undoubtedly heard on every one of the building’s 12 floors. We had to institute what we called “lobby behavior”, a code of comportment reserved for military recruits and marching bands. 

Whenever we exited or entered the building, the kids were to be on “lobby behavior”, completely silent, hands in pockets, no touching anyone or anything. Such was our fear of being outed as we walked through the lobby. I could picture it now…a bony, withered finger pointing at us excoriatingly, trembling with age, followed by a raspy voice, “What. Is. That!? Is. That. A. Child?!”

Fortunately, we have had to re-institute lobby behavior on only a small number of occasions since. Such as our stay in the Hampton Inn in Everett which turned out not to be the easiest stay either. Not because we didn’t enjoy Everett or the Hampton Inn’s free breakfast, it was, in hindsight, perhaps one move too many for the kids. Or me.

One of the main reasons we haven’t had to resort to threats of lobby behavior is because our greatest instigator, the ringleader of the bunch, has turned a corner with his own behavior. I'm, of course, referring to Sam. Shortly after our arrival in Falls Church, Elise instituted a program wherein acts of spontaneous kindness are rewarded with “kindness quarters”. Peter earned a kindness quarter yesterday for holding the door open for Clementine. Sam earned a kindness quarter for reminding Mom Clem had ballet. The acts of kindness must not be premeditated or come about in the normal course of one's chores. That is to say, you can't get a kindness quarter for clearing your breakfast plate and putting it in the sink. But still, they all will soon have a small mint with all the kindness quarters they are earning.

On Sunday, Peter slammed his knee into a wall (this happens to everyone more often than it should. It seems like we all are stubbing toes and upsetting framed art from their perches on shelves. Our house is not big, but our movements are, I guess). Elise put him on the couch with a frozen bag of edamame wrapped in a kitchen towel, and Sam ran to their room to get Pete his stuffed animals. Random Act of Kindness, Part III. These random acts of kindness are becoming more the rule than the exception.

All our kids are the best at something. In Sam, I have always sensed he had the greatest capacity for kindness and thoughtfulness, and I am glad to see him finally living up to his potential.

Sunday, March 6, 2016


We've had yards before but now the kids are at the age where they can lose themselves in the backyard for some time without needing or really wanting adult supervision. 

After a morning spent picking through the treasures at the Georgetown flea market then wandering through the neighborhood's historic streets, they went straight to the backyard upon returning home while I made them tater tots and bacon grilled cheese sandwiches no one ate. 

It's a new and wonderful feeling to watch them play through the window over the kitchen sink. It's still pretty cold. High of only 50 today, but spring is coming, so I suspect this is only the beginning of good things to come.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

My Family

Drawing by Clementine.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Sliver of Spring

The weekend offered a tease at how beauteous spring will be with a taste of warmer weather. The weekend began with a much-needed and deserved “date night”. Elise and I finally hired a babysitter, a luxury we probably can’t afford, but which seems almost a necessity with three children who demand every second of our attention during waking hours. Seriously, I’d probably forgo electricity and running water to pay the babysitter.

We’re living a little further outside of DC than we ever have before. As such, we’ve escaped the District’s gravitational pull to some extent. Also, since it was the babysitter’s first night, we wanted to stay within sprinting distance in case of an unscheduled calamity. We checked out a new place in Merrifield, the Open Road Icehouse. It was just what the doctor ordered. Cold beer. Good bourbon, wings, and burgers. Loud music, good company (natch!) and convo. There was even live music. He wasn’t great, but at that point, I didn’t care.

Fast forward to Sunday and highs in the mid-60s. We—along with everyone else within a fifty mile radius of DC—decided to go to the zoo. On the way to the zoo we stopped at Duck Donuts for made-to-order doughnuts. Gourmet doughnuts as a fad have usurped the trend of gourmet cupcakes which is just fine by me; a doughnut seems less of a caloric commitment than a cupcake and an itch that can be scratched with only a modicum of guilt, the made-to-order doughnuts at Duck Donuts notwithstanding. They were so good and gooey I had to handfeed Clementine hers as though she was a goat and we were already at the petting zoo.

Once we began our final approach to the zoo, we quickly discovered by the long queue of cars in front of us that all the parking lots were already full. We meandered around to the other side of the zoo and finally did find a parking spot about a mile and a half away after momentarily flirting with the idea of throwing in the towel altogether. I’m glad we didn’t. We met old friends, and, as usual, everyone had their favorite animal. Mine is usually the seals. This time, the seals were Peter’s favorite, and several of us liked the cheetah best, not the least of all because it seemed to be actively stalking this bright green beanied boy amongst the onlookers. The enclosure—which at first glance seemed sufficient in containing a large hunting beast—suddenly seemed vulnerable to a cat that could run 60 mph.

We headed home around two, and Elise and I immediately threw ourselves elbows-deep into dinner preparations. Friends from Chennai were coming over for dinner, and so we quickly whipped up a delicious Mediterranean-inspired menu, replete with Sitti’s tabbouleh. To our great fortune, our rental came with a grill built into the back deck and hooked up to the house’s gas. No messing with heavy cylinders. We fired the grill up for its inaugural run, the kids played in the backyard, and I can still remember the exact golden hue that glowed from my IPA-filled mason jar as the afternoon sun shone through it.

The warmth was short-lived. Cold temps, wind, and the promise of snow have returned, and we are battening down the hatches. Or at least, cinching our mufflers a little tighter. Until the next break in winter. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Morning Drawings

As many of you know by now, Pete takes after his dad in many ways. Like me, he is our early riser. There's not a lot for a kid to quietly do at 5:00 in the morning. Sometimes, he reads, but most of the books are in his bedroom where his older brother and younger sister are still sleeping.

In India, the downstairs bedroom doubled as the art room, allowing easy access to pads of paper, crayons, and colored pencils. Beginning there, he often would have drawn 50 different renderings of TIE-fighters exploding before six.

I've been having to come in early for work this week. A few minutes after 7:00, Elise sent me an email with the following photo attached, one of Pete's morning drawings:

Wow. Just wow. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

100th Day of School

For the 100th day of school, Petey got to dress up as an old man. If you've never seen his old man impression, it is actually very good.