Friday, February 17, 2017

Father and Son

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Mexican Food Tasting

After Sam's Ancient Civilization food tasting, Peter did a tasting of Mexican food at his school. (Both of the boys are taking Spanish and doing well. Peter tried to speak 'Jordanish' this morning at the breakfast table. I wasn't sure if he sounded more like he was speaking Korean or Klingon. He actually sounded a little bit like Greedo from Star Wars. That being said, I'm excited for them to pick up more Arabic than the word 'tizu' (butt).)

I'm not exactly sure if this qualified as 'Mexican food' though. It looks like a cube of cheddar cheese to me!

Sam's Valentine's Day Party

Happy Valentine's Day!!

Friday, February 10, 2017

A Change of Weather (Or Why Trees Creak in the Wind)

Less than 24 hours brought a complete 180 in the weather. Three days of sun and temps in the upper-60s finally gave way to the cold, dark heart of mid-February in Northern Virginia. The wind whipped the bare branches of the trees in our neighborhood. When the wind blows, and its force moves the trees, the trees do not move uniformly back. As living organisms, the trees are in a constant state of growth. The muscle fibers in their trunk and branches are all at different stages of development -- some are fully mature and dry, some are new and full of sap. As the trunk and branches move, different areas of the wood respond differently. Some move a good deal, some don't move at all. Different fibers with different tensile strengths which are in close proximity react -- or not -- to the force of the wind, rubbing against each other. The tree creaks in response. Sometimes, hauntingly.

I came home yesterday to an empty house, snow flurries outside. Elise and Clementine had gone to a play date. They would stop at Target for new leggings for Clementine. She is growing. Fast. Unlike the trees in our neighborhood, she is all new and full of sap, and now none of her socks, underwear, or leggings fit her anymore which leads to a nearly daily break-down as she attempts to get pull herself into clothes that are two sizes too small. Unsurprisingly, this is frustrating. Not understanding why something that fit perfectly well just last week, is now riding, up, bunching, or rubbing. Tears ensue. They roll down her pinkish cheeks like marbles, clear and solid-enough looking that you want to pick them right up off her cheeks to make her feel better.

She also got a new superhero doll, though she wasn't allowed to open it yet. Elise is having to take Clementine with her to her three-hour hair appointment thanks to my crappy work schedule and lack of a regular babysitter. As a reward, she got to pick out a new doll at Target. DC Comics has a new line of Barbie superheroines: Wonder Women, Supergirl, Batgirl, et al. Clementine picked out Poison Ivy. Even in DC Superheroine World, even the criminals and villianesses now do good in Superhero High. Poison Ivy is the star of the botany department. I didn't have the heart to tell her, Poison Ivy was in Batman's rogues gallery.

Elise has been busting her ass for the past three days pulling out all the stops for a huge job she had gotten from Remy Martin. After a late night Wednesday doing food styling for a cognac tasting, she was exhausted. Needless to say, no one had anytime to go shopping, much less plan a meal, and no one was in their right mind to try and cook anything. Dinner out was in the cards (pun'll see why in a minute). Pete had other ideas.

When Elise bought Clementine the Poison Ivy doll, she was thoughtful enough to buy Peter and Sam each a pack of Pokemon cards for being so good on Monday and Tuesday -- the two teacher-planning days they were home from school.

Only -- as I've written previously -- Pokemon cards are like crack for Peter.

Pete ended up having a huuuuuge meltdown, and while there was no direct or overt cause-and-effect relationship, Elise and I are pretty sure it's the fact that Sam got a rare GX card in his pack and Pete didn't that sent him spiraling down into inconsolable despair.

When we announced that we were going out to dinner (and to one of our favorite pizza places, no less, Lost Dog), Pete freaked out and started screaming that he was hungry, "NOW!" Okay, fine. We're going to get something to eat right NOW, but that wasn't good enough. I offered him a banana, pineapple, grapes. He wanted none of it. "What do you want?" I asked him.

"A jelly sandwich."

There was the two ends pieces of a loaf of wheat bread in the fridge. I turned them inside out, so the insides were showing, and smeared huckleberry jam on the end pieces. I put the two ends together, so the insides were facing out and Pete wouldn't know I had just given him the two butt ends of bread. thankfully, he didn't notice and scarfed it down. Problem solved.

Or so I thought.

He continued to scream, telling us he wanted to take a nap. Clementine is learning to sleep without a pull-up on, but she didn't make it through the night and woke me up at 2:45 after wetting the bed. We then woke up Peter and Sam changing her out of her wet pajamas. This might explain why he was so tired and cranky. But my money is on the Pokemon cards.

Pete stormed off to his room, slammed the door, and slunk into bed. I went in their to try and talk to him, to convince him that he would feel better once he got out of the house and something to eat, but he wasn't having any of it, and, frankly, I was too tired to fight him. I feel like I sleepwalk through weeks that I am on opening shift, never really sleeping. I feel like I spend most of the night staring at the alarm clock, waiting for my 4:00 a.m. wake-up call. I didn't know how tired I was until I came home from work early on Wednesday. After picking Clementine up at school, taking the bus to Einstein's for an after-school treat, and walking home, we took a nap. I slept for an hour and a half and when I woke up, I felt like a new man. I chatted with the other parents at the bus stop and struck up conversations with people on the street walking there and back. I wondered what had gotten into me. Sleep.

I came out of Pete's room, and told Elise to go without us. Take Sam and Clementine. Just bring us back something. They left. Reluctantly.

Eventually, Pete emerged from his room. I didn't want to reward him for his tantrum by giving him extra special one-on-one treatment, but part of me also thought maybe that was just what he needed. I let him watch an episode of Star Wars: Clone Wars on the iPad,while I made him buttered noodles. When he was done with dinner, we played the "blowing up ships" game, the game where you fold a piece of paper in half and each player draws an armada of spaceships on one half. You then take turns trying to blow each other's ships up by penciling circles on the paper and folding it over to see if they hit. Its kind of like a poor-man's Battleship.

It may have been just what the doctor ordered. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Indian Spring

I'm not exactly sure if there is such a thing as an 'Indian Spring', but if there is, we are defintiely experiencing it now.

We've been blessed by uncommonly warm weather for the past three days. Fortunately, the spring-like conditions have coincided with two teacher planning days at the boys' school. 

While I'm at work, Elise has reported back that everyone played outside pretty much all day.

Yesterday, she sent me the following photo, taken after they had gotten back from the library. I asked her if she had been transported to an alternate dimension!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Movie Birthday Party

Sam spent Saturday morning at the movies with friends to celebrate his classmate, Kaelynn's, birthday. It was his first really big solo outing with friends (and Kaelynn's mom).

Of course, mom and dad (and Pete and Clem) were close by. We hung out at the mall, too. I was going to take the younger kids ice skating, but the with temps in the 20s, I decided it was too cold (for me, anyway!). We followed Elise around as she did some shopping before stopping for lunch at Wasabi, a sushi restaurant where the plates of sushi come to your table via conveyor belt. It was more for the novelty. The food was okay -- not great. Pete loved the dessert that was shaped like Pikachu and tasted like a Twinkie, and sushi is Clem's favorite. When she and Elise do the weekly shopping (at Whole Foods on Mondays), Clementine always orders a cucumber-avocado roll and finishes off the WHOLE THING! It was more for the novelty.

After the movie, Sam and his friends had a special lunch at T.G.I. Friday's. I could tell it was exactly what he needed to do, because he was kinder and gentler with his younger brother and sister in the afternoon.

I'm not exactly sure what he is doing in this next picture. I think it's a dance move. He calls it "dabbing" (??).

I just wish he hadn't covered his eyes. 

Morning Texts

When I am on opening shift, I leave the house at 4:45 to catch the 5:00 a.m. train into D.C. I try to shower, dress, and slip out of the house as quietly as possible. I don't see the kids before I leave in the morning; they're still sleeping soundly in their bed, warm and cozy.

The first indication I have that anyone is up and about is a "Good morning!" text message from Elise...usually around 7 or 7:30...knowing she is often in the middle of single-handedly wrangling three small children out the door and off to school.

Everyone once in awhile, one of the kids gets their mitts on Elise's iPhone, and I get the following:

I'm uncommonly excited for my unicorn ride later!

Friday, February 3, 2017


Last night, Elise and I took the kids to STEAM Night at Sam's school. STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics. At his school in Chennai, AISC, Sam was known by one of his teachers as the "Science Guy". The name was apt. He was in heaven. His face glowed the entire night, until it was time to go home and climb into bed. He was in his element.

We got there a little after having dinner out at a new (new to us, anyway) Greek restaurant, Plaka Grill. We were actually looking to kill some time, so we didn't hurry out of there, even though there was nothing to watch on the big-screen TV except ESPN. Now I know why we don't have television. Even something as innocuous as channel...had incredibly violent commercials. Maybe I think ESPN is innocuous while forgetting who their target audience probably is, young, testosterone-driven males with too much time on their hands.

Sports don't do much for me now. I used to love watching sports on television and a huge fan of the NBA, in particular. Now, watching sports seems such a luxury, something I have zero time for and don't really miss. I admit to--on occasion--liking to catch the big game. For me, it's not so much about the outcome or contest itself. Sports is a diversion, an escape. That makes them even that much more a luxury, something I am able to do only when I have the time for diversion or escape. I think many people can be drawn to sports because intrinsic in the competition itself is a dramatic narrative lacking from many spectators' lives. My life is full enough (thank you very much) without adding in another dramatic yarn to follow. I just don't have the bandwidth to follow sports anymore, but when I do watch, it's mostly for the aesthetic. As some may enjoy going to an art gallery and appreciating the masterpieces or staring out over the ocean or at the mountains, I don't know if I'm really watching so much as seeing the green of the field, the colors in the players uniforms, and appreciating the crip clarity of hi-def television.

I'm still glad we don't have TV, because when I do take the family to watch a game, inevitably commercials for violent movies are aired. Twice in about a twenty minute span, I had to tell the kids, "Don'tlook!Don'tlook!Don'tlook! Not for kids!" when an ad for a horror movie came on. These kids sleep restlessly enough without interjecting images of ghosts into their dreams. In people with televisions in their homes, in prominent places in the center of their living rooms, as their hearths, around which the family gathers, I can't imagine what either subliminal -- or not so subliminal -- imagery kids are absorbing.

Our kids are pretty well-trained, though. It usually only takes one "Don't look!" before all three of them have their heads buried in the crooks of their elbows. None of them wants nightmares any more than I do. Especially Sam. I think they appreciate the warnings. They never fight Elise or I on them and they never raise their heads or uncover their eyes before we give them the all-clear.

We arrived early for STEAM night and that was definitely a good things. The cafeteria and gym where STEAM night were being held filled up quickly. In arriving early, we were at least able to see one or two displays before hoards of kids swamped us and unintentionally elbowed our little guys aside.

Sam, Pete, and Clementine had the undivided attention of one engineer who connected a small circuit board (I apologize in advance as I really know nothing about technology; I'm probably using all the wrong terms) to a computer, then by entering simple lines of code was able to make the line blink on and off at varying rates.

We also built "smash-bots" out of legos and made them joust one another. Clementine won her match against an older boy who slunked away in defeat while Clementine did a celebratory jig, whoop-whooping, and pumping her first in the air as though she scored the game winning touchdown at the Super Bowl. We need to work on her sportsmanship...especially as she is signed up for spring soccer.

We briefly built molecular models out of gumdrops and toothpicks before moving on to the computers. They were all full with kids playing Minecraft. Sam is smitten. I know he wants a device badly and is probably old enough for -- if anything -- a retro Atari console or something, but both Elise and I agree that once you open up that Pandora's Box you're never going to get it closed again, so we're holding off as long as we can. Especially as we read more and more evidence against exposing young brains to screens, we're happy to hold off as long as possible. I'm glad we were able to keep them off as long as we did. We see children much young than ours unable to sit still for two minutes in a restaurant without an iPad flickering in their face.

We saw programmable robots made of Legos and a 3d printer. I knew Sam was excited, but I was stoked to see Peter and Clementine equally engaged. Especially Clem. The last thing we saw before leaving was a real robot built by two high-schoolers. They controlled it from an iPhone and had designed it to throw a ball. Cool stuff. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Ancient Civilization Tasting

Yesterday at Sam's school, they tasted foods from Ancient Greece and Rome. It was funny to hear Sam report back after school that he tasted grapes, as though they were a food only found in ancient times!

Anyone who knows Sam knows what a particular eater he was, so Elise and I were excited to hear that Sam liked the hummus! This is a very good thing, because for the next two years, he will probably eat hummus everyday!

Anyone who knows Sam will also not be surprised by how he scrutinizes extra carefully any new food.

We're still working on getting him to comb his hair in the morning. The pre-school routine is a bit harried as it is, so we may not throw a wrench into the cogs anytime soon.

That's him! Front row, hand raised! Go, Sam!