Friday, August 26, 2016

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Home run!

Is it over yet???

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Ballad of Oberon the Owl

I feel a little like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde this morning, a little torn. The weekend is leaving me feeling split, confused, because one day was absolutely wonderful, Saturday, and one day was pretty miserable, Sunday. When I think about Saturday in isolation, I feel refreshed, rejuvenated, and happy, and when I think about Sunday in isolation, I feel exhausted, disappointed, and worn-down.

I probably wouldn’t feel as bad if it was reversed, and Sunday was the wonderful day. Were that the case, I think I could conveniently forget Saturday and feel as though I had salvaged the weekend with a wonderful Sunday, but the opposite is true. I am left with the more pleasant memory the more distant. And I feel as though I pushed a perfectly wonderful weekend in front of a train, rather than pulling one back from the brink.

Our weeks have been very long, and the past few longer than most. I have been having to fill in for my boss which a week or two ago added up to over 60 hours. Blah. He was again out of town at the beginning of last week, and I covered for him, coming in at 7:30 and not leaving until after 6:00. Long days for me. Longer days for Elise at home with the kids trying to help them have a magical summer, the perfect balance of fun (read: mini-golf followed by breakfast for dinner at IHOP and root beer floats) and relaxation (entire days spent on the floor building legos), even if it killed her in the process.

With long weeks come very, very short weekends. We try to make the most of ours. And start planning as early as Monday. But you know what they say about best laid plans? And many times, by the time Saturday morning finally does roll around we often find ourselves moving slowly, just content to all be home together with no place we have to go.

This past Saturday we fought hard against the gravitational pull of the comfort of our home (though I longed for it having just finished a six mile run and thoughts already trained on an afternoon nap). We didn’t pack anything except water bottles, supremely unprepared for whatever the day might present, and drove to West Virginia. We decided to go to the historic town of Harpers Ferry, on a promontory overlooking the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers.

We arrived around 11:00, in the heart of the day and with the kids already hungry (are they ever not hungry?!). We parked then took the shuttle bus into town. We had fortuitously arrived during a music festival. Woodstock it wasn’t, the bluegrass singer on stage telling the crowd, “I once had an owl. His name was Oberon. We lived together in a barn for three years. But that was six years ago and I don’t know what happened to Oberon, but if he had passed, I think I might have heard.”

We had never been to Harpers Ferry and had done exactly zero research before leaving the house. Yet, somehow we found the perfect spot for lunch, Bistro 1840. Maybe it was the sign outside that advertised craft beers on draft. We dragged our wilted kids into the refreshingly cool air-conditioning and quickly ordered two IPAs and a pile of French fries and waaaay to much food. We languished over lunch, not eager to return to the heat of the day. But eventually we did.

We climbed to Jefferson Rock, so called because it was the spot Thomas Jefferson stopped when he similarly surveyed the town. The walk coincided with a (very short) segment of the Appalachian Trail, and I briefly shared with Elise and the kids my dreams of a thru-hike:

“It’s supposed to be life-altering,” I told them.

“What’s that mean?” they asked.

“It means it’s supposed to change your life forever.” Then I looked down at Clementine. “Well you’re four, so most anything might change your life forever.”

I then went on to briefly explain the trials and tribulations of being a thru-hiker. Sadly, I don’t think I sold anyone. They may have balked after sheltering in lightning storms.

After I very brief walk on the Appalachian Trail, we went down to the river. As I mentioned, we didn’t bring anything with us. No towels. No bathing suits. But the four us (Elise declined) stripped down to our underwear and waded into the cooling waters of the Shenandoah River.

Clementine was the first one in and she splashed in the ripples of a few mild rapids nearby. The boys soon followed. Lastly, I dove in in my boxers. After a quick swim, I joined Elise on the banks of the river where we watched our kids making fish traps in the mud and throwing rocks into the river and watching them splash. Occasionally a kayak or raft of river runners would float past. The warm sun eventually dried me and I started to warm again, and Elise pressed her body close to me and we took photos of one another with our phones until it became time to drive home.

We took the shuttle back to the parking lot and back to our car. On the drive home, we listened to podcats from “This American Life” on NPR. The kids, too. Stories from and about summer, just as we were writing our own. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

How to Eat Like an Olympian

This summer seems to be one for the record books, and everyone thinks it is uncommonly warm. After a rainy May, we had a surprisingly mild June, only to be followed by a brutal July. 15 straight days when the temperature in Washington, D.C. hasn't been below 80 and several weeks in the mid-90s where -- along with the humidity -- heat indexes are in the 100s. Weathermen say to expect more of the same for August.

The last few summers we have been in Washington, D.C. (most recently three years ago), Elise has taken the kids to visit her parents in Spokane and missed the worst of the summer weather, While it was incredibly, brutally hot while she was gone, the weather did not let up upon their return.

Both Elise and I have been incredibly busy. Elise took the kids to the sprayground on Monday (a uniquely DC/Northern Virginia thing, I think. Maybe not. We didn't have spraygrounds when I was a kid in South Florida. Why would you, I guess, if you had the beach? But swimming in a pool during the summer seems to be a thing reserved for only the extremely privileged.  There are few public pools. Private pools charge exorbitant membership fees -- I could fly my family to Paris for less -- and waiting lists that are several years's like going to a restaurant and having the hostess tell you that there will be a seven hour wait for a table. Spraygrounds are playgrounds with fountains. They're free and they kids love them, so I guess everybody does win in the end). There, she received an email inquiry to do food styling for a cookbook author who would be appearing on one of the D.C. local affiliate's morning shows.

Ironically, just the night before, Sunday, Elise stood in the kitchen and asked me rhetorically, "What am I even doing?

"I take pictures of food and put them on Instagram? That's not a job! Nobody is going to pay me to do that!"

Well, fate intervened and decides that, yes, someone would pay her to do just exactly that!

When I got home from work Monday night, Elise ran to Whole Foods in search of all the ingredients she needed to prepare recipes out of "The Plant Power Way Cookbook". Ingredients such as spirulina powder and flaxseed. Then, with the help of a friend, she spent literally all day Tuesday preparing and styling the dishes before running back out to Whole Foods for more ingredients.

She got out of bed at 2:30 unable to sleep. I heard her tinkering around in the kitchen before dozing back off. Before she left, she told me she couldn't sleep and was going to go do yoga. I didn't think twice.

She did end up doing a half hour of yoga sometime around 4:30 a.m. I am impressed with her ability to center herself and find inner calm when she had every right to be completely freaking out. I helped her pack the car when I got up. Our new babysitter whose services we only have for the next few days showed up right at 6:45, and Elise and I hugged and kissed Peter and Sam who had just appeared from his room seconds before we were to walk out the door.

We drove into the city together, taking advantage of the carpool only option on 66 East, and she dropped me off somewhere around Pennsylvania and 26th where I walked the rest of the way to work. It was Elise's first time on a TV set and she was dispirited by the extent to which all the cameras and lighting were automated. She told me there was only two people on the set really, the producer and an intern, when I was picturing gaggles of cameramen, gaffes, lighting boys, and set designers scurrying about. It was exciting to hear about her experience. Not nearly as exciting, I imagine, as being there in person. And the finished product was amazing. Elise, the ever-the-perfectionist, thought the burger looked like crap, but I'll let you be the judge:

 You can see the video by clicking here