Thursday, July 30, 2009


Man-Cub's expression says it all!

This week has been even crazier than usual! First Dharma, Bitsy and Rosebud were here for a week, with Vance jetting in to join them for the weekend. We had lots of fun, but, boy, was it nuts around here!

On the heels of their departures (and even delaying them a bit at one point), some very severe storms blew in. Flash flooding, tornadoes, straight-line winds, power-outages, downed trees, the weather outside has been truly frightful!

We lost power (though for only a few hours at a time) twice in three days and that never happens around here. Usually, the kids think power outages are great fun; they love scurrying around for candles, matches and flashlights and always want to sit down as a family and play games. They don't understand the ramifications of being without power for a good long stretch of time: notably a lack of climate control and refrigeration. But even they didn't think it was very jolly when we had a tornado warning only a county away.

Both of them were very wide-eyed when the Emergency Broadcast System interrupted Man-Cub's cartoon to tell all of us in the tornado's path to get into a basement or interior room far from windows. And then, theatrically, the power went out with a blink! That's when Man-Cub went into a near panic and even Redheaded Snippet got misty-eyed.

I was able to calm them down by directing their attention to faithful Nutmeg, who was sitting placidly nearby looking as if she couldn't understand what all the hubbub was about. I told them to watch her, and if she got ruffled, we could get ruffled. But, in the spirit of preparedness (and to distract them a little and make them feel productive instead of worrisome) we began to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best.

We all put on jeans and sneakers and I gathered jackets while they collected candles. Redheaded Snippet retrieved the flashlight from her (still as yet unpacked from camp) suitcase while Man-Cub relieved the Wii remotes of their batteries. We gathered candles, matches and a lighter and put everything on the dining room table right next to the opened basement door, ready for a hasty retreat underground if the need should arise. I was trying hard not to worry about The Viking who was driving home from work through the very county under warning, instead praying without ceasing for God to take care of us as He saw fit.

Once all the preparations were made, I couldn't help but put my "flight bag" together. I've only done this one other time in my life, when we had another tornado warning years ago. I got our wedding album and my baby boxes and double-bagged them and placed them near the basement door. When our boys died, the hospital gave us memory boxes in which we keep several irreplaceable mementos. I keep them safe in the secretary and they're always among the first things that come to mind when I think of things I'd want to save in a fire or flood (after the loved-ones, of course).

Unfortunately, I couldn't hide my efforts from the kids and as soon as they realized what I was doing, they asked if they could pack a few "prized possessions" (as Man-Cub called them), too. Redheaded Snippet grabbed all her journals and all the folded up squared and triangled notes from her friends, no doubt passed during class while they were supposed to be, you know, learning and stuff. Man-Cub grabbed his two favorite stuffed puppies. He explained his choices very seriously, "I thought about taking some Legos, but I figured you would let me get more."

All the while, Nutmeg sat in the same place on the living room carpet, watching us pass back and forth in front of her, as cool and collected as ever, unaware of her newly important status as living barometer. Man-Cub was so grateful for her services, he kept stopping and patting her head every time he passed her.

Obviously, there was no need for us to flee into the basement, The Viking made it home safely (the poor man was greeted in the driveway by an edgy woman in sneakers and raincoat hissing at him, "If you're alive, you answer your phone!"), and the power was back on in due time. We were among the lucky ones.

My mother's neighborhood, a mere 2 miles away, did not fare as well. Though Mom's property was spared, beginning one block from her home, a path of near-destruction wound through most of the development. Trees were broken in half or uprooted, roofs were damaged, cars were smashed and wires were downed everywhere. We drove around with her surveying the scene and couldn't believe what we saw! Roads were blocked by trees, wires were lying across streets or draped dangerously low above them and everyone was out of their houses, walking around in semi-dazed states. One poor, old man had at least 6 trees toppled in his yard, all of which managed to miss his house! My cousin's neighbor had his big maple tree fall right on the front of his house and The Viking, Redheaded Snippet and my cousin's 15-year-old son joined in the community effort to help clean it up. Although there was some minor property damage and everyone was without power until the next morning, no one was hurt, many neighbors finally got to meet and greet each other, some after living right next door or across the street for years, and it sure made for a lot of excitement!

Speaking of excitement, here are some photos of another kind of whirlwind, our week with Dharma and The Girls!

I followed Bitsy all over the place , trying desperately to get a few good shots of her. But she was uncooperative.
She kept playing coy, hiding as soon as she saw me lift the camera.

I kind of like this one, so HA HA, Bitsy! I win!

Caught playing with the computer, a big no-no, hence the disgraced expression.

We celebrated Bitsy's birthday while they were here. Hard to believe she's already two.

Still playing coy. Almost got her that time!

Rosebud clearly wants in on the action.

Three guesses which Disney movie and Princess is her favorite...she pranced around like this all day!

We had lots of fun with Rosebud, too. Her Viking uncle did this to her. He thought it was hilarious. She, not so much.

She and Man-Cub made friends despite her efforts to chew his face to bits.

He took it all in stride, though.

After all, she seems to do it to those she loves.

This just seemed to me to capture the essence of young motherhood: quickly dabbing on some makeup with a baby peeping around your arms. I really love this shot.

Of course, we had to get the obligatory Cousins shot. We're just so excited to have so many of them! I just well up every time I look at this.

We got ourselves up to other hi-jinx, of course. After the party was over, Dharma had a sudden need for an overly large bowl of salad. A need beyond the bounds of simple cutlery. A need requiring tongs.

The Viking gave her the dressing on the condition that she put oven mitts on first. No, I don't know why. She put them on. No, I don't know why.

But she dug right in, mitts and all.

It was Vance who decided other heat-proof materials were needed and plopped the pot holder on her head. He just likes putting things on her head. Like laundry hampers. He's a genius Master Scientist so I don't question him much.

As long as I've known Dharma, she has always gotten food on herself when she eats. You should have seen her with spareribs when she was seven!

We had a marvelous time swimming, visiting the zoo, enjoying cotton candy, funnel cake and rides on the boardwalk, playing with babies and visiting with old and new friends. But, all good things must come to an end and as everyone has gone and the storms have stilled (for now), the house is calm and quiet.

And I think I don't like it.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Ah, Summer

(Black Eyed Susans beginning to bud along the fence)

I don't usually like Summer. It is my least favorite season because of the weather. I find I am very profoundly affected by the weather. And Summer's oppressive heat and humidity just makes me miserable.

(Praying Mantis lounging in the hydrangea along the kitchen steps)

This Summer, thus far, has been different. The weather all through June was exceptionally cool and rainy. You couldn't take three steps out your door without bumping into someone complaining heartily about all the rain. But I loved it! It was cool, it was comfortable, we could sleep with the windows open! And now, here we are almost into the middle of July and the weather has been perfect; warm, hot even, but without a trace of humidity, just the way I like it! I've been in such a good mood and I find I've been actually enjoying Summer for the first time!

Look! Here I am at age 2? Maybe 3? In my bathing suit at a family cookout, clearly not enjoying Summer. Bet it was really hot and sticky that day! Well, I was a bit of a brat, so let's move on...

Here's The Viking at roughly the same age enjoying his Summer out by the camper. I love those sunglasses perched atop his tousled, little, blond head. He was so adorable--and still is!

While I don't particularly enjoy the season of Summer in general, there are several things I like very much about it. I love when the plants and flowers bud and grow full and we deck the house out in its patriotic garb. I also love when 14-year-old girls abandon computers, phones, tvs and video games in favor of spending hours sitting on the front steps or in the tree swing reading books. Can you see her? She's brushing up on Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince just in time to see the movie this week (we've already got our tickets--squee).

(August 1991)

Lots of good things have happened to me in the Summer. The Viking and I began dating in the Summer (of 1991--egad). We married in the Summer (three years later). And Redheaded Snippet was born in the Summer (1 year later). Man-Cub was born in the early Spring but we are so relieved that he was actually born safely we don't care when he was born!

(July 1991)

I threw this one in here because I was looking for photos that reminded me of Summer and this is one of my favorites! This was taken just a few days after The Viking and I had started dating. We were visiting a friend's house in Maine and had the opportunity to go water skiing. I was full of that starry-eyed wonder you have for a man you've just started dating and was taking photos of him all day long. I know, weird for me, right? This wasn't the best shot I took that day, but, for some reason, it's one of the few that have survived and when I look at it, I am transported right back to that carefree, innocent and exciting Summer at the beginning of our courtship.

(Life is a bowl of cherries)

I don't really have a point to this post. I've just been musing about how unusually much I've enjoyed this Summer so far which got me to thinking about other Summer delights. And then I piled these cherries in this bowl for a snack and I suddenly wanted to take a photo.

(Detail of hosta flower along front porch)

I hear (and feel) that our old nemesis the humidity is coming back today. We had several hours of thunderstorms last night that heralded its loathsome return. And so, I will probably spend the rest of the Summer cooped up in my nicely chilled house complaining about the condensation on the windows and and the elevated electric bill. And if there is a freak dry but warm day scattered hither and yon throughout the next few weeks I'll make the most of it, throwing open windows and finding excuses to drive around with the sunroof open and the wind in my hair. We might even brave a day or two at the beach for the kids sake.

But having had the past six weeks to enjoy, I won't complain quite as much. And I'll have a lot more added to the "good" pile of Summer Memories.

Friday, July 10, 2009

How to have a perfect Summer evening...

Visit your local farm stand and buy a quarter of a sweet Jersey watermelon, a pound of fresh broccoli, six yellow Jersey peaches, and six ears of Silver Queen Jersey corn--the best corn on earth. Spend $9.19. Hum in the car with the windows open. Stop at your local Genuardis Market and grab a "value" pack of boneless, skinless chicken breasts on sale for $1.99/lb, a loaf of on sale bread and a pack of English muffins (Breakfast Sandwiches in the mornin'). While in the checkout, notice a Buy 2/Get 2 special on $.99 Reeses Peanut Butter Cups. Realize it's an impulse buy but grab 4 for the family for dessert. Spend only $11.23 anyway. Sing loudly with the windows open all the way home.

Upon arriving home, thrill the children by telling them there's corn for dinner and then plunge them into the depths of despair by making them shuck it on the kitchen porch. Ignore their protests and don't let them throw the silk at each other. Bring to a boil enough water to cover the corn, then boil for 3 minutes. That's it.

Chunk the watermelon being sure to test for quality assurance frequently. This is a very important job. Also try to keep grubby, little, corn-silk-stubbled hands out of the melon bowl. This is another important, but much harder, job.

Rinse that bargain chicken (if desired) and trim of all fat (if desired), then pat dry, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then plunk it in any old pan and dump some of your favorite Good Seasons Italian dressing on it. Let it sit in the fridge to marinate for a bit, turning periodically.

Take note of your 14-year-old daughter's amazement as she discovers for the first time that broccoli actually has leaves. Resolve to buy from the produce stand more often. Trim and wash broccoli (being extra careful to check for worms ever since that time, years ago, when 5-year-old Dharma bit into a poorly washed head of raw broccoli and bit a worm in half) and place on a relatively square piece of aluminum foil alongside carrots you found in the fridge and peeled and cut on an angle.

Drizzle with olive oil...ooops, that was supposed to be a drizzle! That's what I get for trying to take photos while I cook...

Sprinkle with some sea salt and pepper...

And fold the foil into a pouch.

Fire up the grill, slap those chicken breasts on it and cook for 10 minutes before flipping them over and adding the foil veggie pouches. Cook for 10 minutes more.

Have the kids set the table. Let them argue about who gets to do cutlery and who has to do glasses. As long as it gets done properly.

Bring everything to the table and enjoy everything so much there's hardly time to take photos of the finished product before it's all gone! Pass out the peanut butter cups and glasses of cold milk for dessert.

After the table is cleared, dishwasher loaded and counters wiped down, while away the rest of the evening playing cards in front of the open dining room windows while sipping a Mojito or cup of Earl Grey Lavender tea.

And, voila! There you have a perfect Summer evening.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Cake Dome Thingy

No, I'm not all caught up yet. There are still more reports of our recently-ended six-week whirlwind of activity to come. But I want to do this instead. So I am!

Look what Mom brought me yesterday!

Ooh, no, that's too close. I know we're excited but let's back up a bit...

Better? See? It's a...what is it? I mean, I know what it is, but what is it actually called? Or, how does it call itself, as Poirot would say. A cake dome? Cake server? Cake display? Whatever it is, it's one of those things I've secretly always wanted but could never recall when the time came to tell people who wanted to know what kinds of things I've always wanted. And also? Ignore the red water jug prominently featured in these photos. Redheaded Snippet is in the thick of field hockey training, this time for the high school team, so it's impossible to take three steps or a single photo without tripping over some kind of hockey paraphernalia.

Mom called yesterday out of the blue and said, "Do you have a cake dome?" I think that's what she called it. I said, kind of dejectedly, "No," thinking she was hoping I had one so she could borrow it and suddenly remembering that I don't but would love one. Then she said, "Do you want one?"

YAY! "Of course I do! I've always wanted one!"

She had it in the car with her, having picked it up at a friend's house (said friend is moving and getting rid of stuff and is most definitely not the cake dome type of person and thus was going to throw it away despite its brand-new-still-in-the-box condition). She thought I might like it and brought it over right away.

I immediately took photos of it and began fantasizing of ways to use it and places to put it. And I'm such a drip, this is all I've come up with so far.

Lemons. The sad, little lemons left over from the iced water with lemon slices I forgot to serve at our Independence Day cookout. Now, I don't think cake domes were ever intended to hold lemons (sounds a bit weird to me somehow) but this was the only thing I had (besides Cheerios) that I thought I could display in there at the moment.

Daria kindly made brownies last night so I was a) going to get photos of them and b) going to cut them into big, happy squares and stack them neatly in the dome and then take photos of that but a feeding frenzy erupted as soon the pan came out of the oven and that plan was scuttled.

So, I'm torn between setting it on the hutch with something decorative inside it...what I don't know yet...OR setting it on the little shabby table I have sitting next to the pantry with, you know, actual baked goods in it all the time. I know, that's a serious undertaking. But sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.

I'll let you know.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Virginia and Washington D.C.

So our trip south was not all about field hockey. Well, almost, but not completely. We tried very hard to work some non-hockey things in there, especially for Man-Cub's sake.

First, we have the sunset over the Chesapeake Bay. This was my first time over the dreaded Bay Bridge/Tunnel. I've dreaded it my whole life and I survived! I have a wee bit of a bridge/tunnel phobia. It's not bad, my kids don't even know it, but The Viking knows to please drive in the center lane and drive extra carefully so I don't completely freak out. I have recurring nightmares about really high, really long, really steep bridges that always end in me getting horribly lost, driving the wrong way and dodging oncoming traffic or actually falling off the bridge so I was not looking forward to this part of the trip. But it wasn't bad.

If you haven't braved it, you don't know that there is actually a little stopping point with a tourist rest stop at one point along the way. That seemed weird to me. I did not want to stop. I wanted to keep going and get the heck back on dry land as soon as possible. But The Viking saw that there sunset out the passenger window and was determined to get photos, frightened wife or no frightened wife. It was lovely and we did see dolphins frolicking among the waves, but I was glad we didn't have to do it on the way back.

Not only did we have to stop, but we all had to walk all the way to the end of the fishing pier. That was quite a dilemma for me: walk all that way out into the middle of the bay on a rickety wooden structure full of drunken fishermen and their free-flying, barbed fishhooks or stay behind by myself while my husband takes the children out there without me? I decided to go with and keep a hawk eye open. The kids weren't interested in the photo op.

But they cooperated. I was amazed that The Viking managed to somehow miss the fish heads, guts, blood splotches and cigarette butts littering the place. It was a delightful place.

And a photo of just the kids wasn't enough. The Viking wanted one of all four of us, but there I drew the line. I figured no one wanted a shot of me wearing a pained expression and I wasn't about to hand our camera to any of the people standing near us on the pier, all of whom I was convinced were living on it.

I know this photo wouldn't be considered the good one of the pair, but I like it infinitely more than the other one. Man-Cub is in this making-a-face-when-the-cameraman-says-cheese stage. You'll see what I mean before this post is over. It's hilarious.

On the way back from Virginia Beach (and the reason, mercifully, we did not have to do the Bay Bridge/Tunnel on the way home) we decided to stop for a day in Washington D.C. I hadn't been there in years, Redheaded Snippet had only been there once many years ago, and Man-Cub had never been. We would have loved to have had several days there, but one was all we could manage so we had to make some difficult choices.

Obviously, we did the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. And, obviously, he loved it. So much of the trip had revolved around Redheaded Snippet that we decided to schedule our day in D.C. around Man-Cub's interests.

We managed our way around the Metro and then we got really bold and decided to split up. Redheaded Snippet and I went to the American History museum while the menfolk headed off to the Air and Space with plans for us all to synchronize our watches and meet in front of the American History later.

The Viking took the camera. Which makes sense because it never would have occurred to me to take it out and use it. I'm a dingbat that way. But he got lots of good shots of Man-Cub making his faces of delight and surprise.

So while Redheaded Snippet and I took in things the Boys would have had absolutely no interest in (like the First Ladies Display--which, sadly, seemed much less impressive than I remembered it), they got to have their fill of rockets, spaceships and airplanes which would have put us right to sleep!

Man-Cub got to fulfill his lifelong ambition and was called on to assist in a demonstration. Something about vacuums and magnets and I forget the details but he was so very excited!

And, apparently, they had so much fun they had to linger in the museum an entire hour after the predetermined meeting time leaving Redheaded Snippet and I to wait just inside the doors of the American History museum scoping out teenage boys and rating them (hey, I was bored and she was a riot)!

But we managed to meet up anyway and take one last swing through American History together. I didn't anticipate Man-Cub's reaction to Oscar the Grouch nor did I understand The Viking's impatient comment of, "Okay, I think we need a new face," as I hadn't yet seen the other photos! And, incidentally, do you happen to notice what is sitting next to Oscar in the left of this photo? It's the infamous "puffy shirt" from Seinfeld. The Viking and I got a laugh out of that, as befitting our age.

The above picture items were in the "Thanks For The Memories" section along with Archie Bunker's chair, Dorothy's ruby slippers and a bunch of other stuff that, again, I found a little underwhelming. I know they change some of the displays periodically, but I felt we kind of hit a kind of boring cycle. Kermit, up there (whom I didn't even know the kids knew) was one of the highlights of that section.

And, last but not least, there is Man-Cub with C3PO. He was slightly disappointed that R2D2 wasn't with him. In his mind you can't have one without the other and I must say, I rather agree. He calls this particular android C3PeePants because of his annoying character in the Lego Star Wars video game, but he was still pretty excited to see the real thing up close and personal.

As anyone who's been to the Smithsonian Museums could tell you, those two buildings were the only ones we had time for in our one measly day in D.C. I wanted the kids to see the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Arlington Cemetery, the changing of the guard at The Tomb of The Unknown Soldier, the Library of Congress and much, much more. But that will have to wait for another time. We should probably wait until Man-Cub is a wee bit older for most of that stuff anyway, though not much. We will definitely be back!