Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Time Hop Tuesday Tangent

After such a lovely Spring Break, Luke and I were a bit lonely without the older kids. To combat this sad situation, we decided to walk to the school to have lunch with Jack and Anna. On our way, we passed one of my favorite houses. I love to slow my pace and linger at the well-manicured lawn and beautiful plants. The park like setting of benches under large oak trees evoke a quiet happiness.   And, each holiday or turn of the season brings something new to admire. Many times I have driven by and seen an elderly couple working peacefully in this yard. We always smile and wave, but they are generally far back from the road. Today, the man was working right next to me as I passed. He stopped what he was doing to smile and nod at Luke and me. It appeared as though he would have welcomed a short conversation, but I did not stop, choosing instead to offer a cheery "hello" as we continued our walk. I immediately regretted my decision; I so wanted to tell him how much I admired his yard, but the moment had past.

As I was pondering what I should have done, a long buried memory resurfaced. When I was 9 or 10, my family lived in Massachusetts on a busy road. There were no children nearby, so my brother and I generally played together in the woods behind the house. Occasionally, we would ride our bikes down the dirt road that ran behind our yard. At the end of this road was a single, large white house with a beautiful yard. We made up stories about the house and convinced ourselves that something nefarious lived inside the walls. To us, the road was exceedingly long, but in reality, I imagine it was less than a quarter of a mile.

One day, there was an elderly lady working in the yard. I do not recall the specifics of the situation, but I know that eventually we were put to work. From that day on, we would occasionally venture down the road and find ourselves pulling weeds or pruning bushes. The lady's husband was ill and we never went inside the house. But, one day something changed. When we knocked on the door, we were invited inside. We sat and were offered cookies and a drink and we chatted with this kind lady. Although she did not speak the words, we learned that her husband had died. The dynamic had changed and I believe our visits became much more meaningful. Unfortunately, we were young and didn't quite understand what this change meant. Our visits were still infrequent. Eventually, we moved and this memory was long-forgotten...until today.

We all grow old. We should stop and quite literally, smell the roses. I wish I had been kinder and more attentive to my elderly neighbor when I was 10, and now 30 years later, I wish I had stopped to chat with my other elderly neighbor. Although, I have no reason to suspect my current neighbor is lonely, it would have been nice to offer him my sincere compliments on his yard.

I wish my children had more exposure to the older generation. I keep thinking there should be an eHarmony to match up families with no nearby grandparents with grandparents with no nearby grandchildren.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Spring Break 2017, Part II

Saturday--making the girls' "recipe" and dying eggs

Anna and Kara had come up with a recipe that involved making rice krispie eggs, filling them with a surprise, topping with a sugar cookie and adding a handle to make it easy to lift the sugar cookie. Oh, and they needed to have M&M flowers, stuck to the cookies using "spring colored frosting." We went to Walmart early in the day and got all the supplies. Then, we had fun putting it all together. I let the girls take the lead and they had a great time. I think they are ready for added responsibility in the kitchen. That night, everyone dyed our 24 eggs.

First we made the cookies
I didn't get any of us making the rice krispies, because we had to move too fast to shape them.

Frosting the tops

Completing the project

And, the traditional Easter Egg decorating

Sunday--Kids opening day at Nationals Stadium!

We had an Easter egg hunt in our basement on Easter morning. We also enjoyed a pancake and bacon breakfast. (Luke liked it so much, he demanded pancakes for dinner. Much to his confusion and disappointment it was not meant to be: "but, I said I wanted pancakes?!?!?") That afternoon was Kid's Opening Day at Nationals Park. We took the metro and got there early enough to enjoy the pre-game festivities. Our section was a bit crowded, so after a couple of innings, we decided to move to a less-crowded area. In doing so, we missed Bryce Harper's first home run.

With room to roam, the kids, Luke in particular, did much better. But, there was still some whining and discontent. The score was tied at the end of the 8th when we decided to leave. In doing so, we missed Bryce Harper's game winning home-run in the ninth. Seriously, what were the odds? We were there for 8 complete innings and missed the two biggest moments! Jack was great at the game, he watched the game, didn't ask for anything, and never complained. I won't comment on the others...

The three older

And Luke, this would have been an awesome picture, but for the guy climbing in the background. Unfortunately, Luke was done and wouldn't pose a second time.

Monday--Calvert Marine Museum and Rita's

For our final Spring Break outing, we went to the CMM. We had fun seeing the otters, doing the marsh walk, and browsing through the exhibits.  We also climbed into the lighthouse. Then, it was on to Rita's for some Italian Ice. A good time was had by all!

I asked the kids their favorite activity we did during Spring Break. Kara said baking our Easter things. Anna and Luke said Six Flags. Jack said the field day on base.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Spring Break 2017, Part I

We kept very busy during Spring Break this year. Unfortunately, I didn't take a lot of pictures, at least until we get to the weekend. Nothing unusual there, right?

Monday--Library and park.

I always like to start our breaks with a trip to the library. That way, the kids should have reading material for the week. The weather was beautiful, so after checking out our books, we headed to the park next door.

Tuesday--Field Day on base!

The base was celebrating the month of the military child and the opening of a new turf field. They hosted an event open to all with base access. They were 2 small inflatables, a jousting inflatable and a large obstacle course. They also gave everyone a free lunch, consisting of a hot dog, chips and water. There was face painting, a video game truck and some other games. We stayed for over 3 hours. We could have easily stayed longer, but Luke had reached his limit. He had done the obstacle course twice, but on the third time, he reached the part where you jump from a steep wall into a soft, sinking surface. He stood at the top and didn't want to move. I finally got him to jump and then he sunk into the bottom and just started crying. Finally, I had to go in after him. He didn't want to continue the course, but was super mad that I had pulled him out. Clearly, he had had enough! But, still, it was a super fun event. It would have been worth paying for, so to have such a good time for free was a huge bonus.

Luke climbing the tall hill that would later prove his downfall.

Jack and Kara getting ready to joust. Kara fought a great fight, but Jack eventually toppled her (he also beat Anna)

Who says there's no such thing as a free lunch? Of course, I am sure someone paid for the food, but it wasn't us!

The event also had an Easter egg hunt, Kara turned herself into a hula girl with the eggs.

Wednesday--Pump it Up.

We went to an open jump at Pump it Up. Unfortunately, they only let us use one side and it was not the kids' favorite area. Kara proclaimed that she was not having fun and while she didn't complain, she did bounce around with an unhappy expression. We met up with one of my friends. She had two kids with her and for a while, it was just the 6 of us. Eventually, a man came in with two small kids, but it was still much less crowded than we are used to and the other kids loved it!

Dancing for dad (still shot from a video)

Thursday--Six Flags

Our first trip of the year! It was a bring a friend free day and we brought in 3 members of the Reeve's family. They have a 3rd and 1st grader, so it worked out really well. The kids got along great and we managed to ride most of the rides. One very interesting thing did happen: late that afternoon, we noticed a helicopter hovering above us. I assumed there was a traffic accident, and turned on my phone to look for further information. I immediately saw what was going on--one of the roller coasters was stuck! There were 3 helicopters hovering above the park taking live footage. It ended up being national news! Jack had ridden that coaster earlier and I was relieved that he was not on the stuck car. Although, to be honest, I am not sure why it was such a news worthy story. It was stuck on a horizontal, flat area of the track. Granted, it was high in the air, and I am sure it was not a pleasant experience, but I am surprised it warranted 3 helicopters, a host of reporters, and a spot on CNN. Perhaps it was a slow news day?

We stayed from opening to close and had a wonderful time.

The kids played a game and all participants won these hats.
Friday--Mount Vernon

It was Thomas' Friday off and we decided to spend it at Mount Vernon.  Since we go often, we usually just try and focus on one or two things. Friday, it was a garden day. We walked through the upper and lower gardens and saw everything in early bloom. We also saw the new lambs and piglets. It was very crowded, but it was such a beautiful day that we didn't mind. Unfortunately, I did not take any pictures.

That concludes the first half of our Spring Break blog. I was writing the whole break as one blog, but I have a lot of pictures for the next couple of days and it was just too long. Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion to Spring Break 2017!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Orthodontics, Spring Sports, Books, and April Fools

Anna has become the first in our family to start the long process of orthodontia. She was fitted for a retainer last week. She has to wear that for 12-18 months, the onto the braces, followed by another retainer. She is looking at about 5 years of tooth work ahead. But, at the end, she should have a beautiful mouth. I am excited for her and curious to see how it all works. Jack will also need braces, but he doesn't need the pre-retainer. Kara and Luke are maybes for braces, but don't appear to have the same issues as Anna that necessitated starting so early (a really small mouth and a very large overbite).

Luke is finally over whatever ailed him. Following the birthday debacle, he was the sickest he's ever been. He would run a fever, usually just under 102, with a headache, diarrhea, and no appetite (and, he just had that sick eyes look). Then the fever would disappear and we would think he was getting better, only to have it return the following day. This went on for about 4 days before we took him to the doctor (because we kept thinking he was over it). He was diagnosed with an ear infection, strep and a virus. The virus was the catch-all, because strep and the ear infection didn't explain some of his symptoms. He was on antibiotics for another 3 days before we saw a significant improvement, although his fever was gone by the time we took him to the doctor and never returned. It was bizarre and we were worried about him. I am so thankful for antibiotics! We try to let our bodies work naturally, but it is so nice to have them available when we need them.

Random picture of Luke, he likes to be held in the fetal position :)
Since Luke has been sick, we haven't done much in the past couple of weeks. Although, spring sports have begun. Jack has baseball practice on Mondays and Wednesdays and Kara is doing soccer this year. Her practices are on Tuesdays. Jack's practices are about 20 minutes from our house and start at 5:30. To get him there and ready to play, we have to leave at 5:05. We generally get home around 7:30 (they are long practices). It is a long day for all of us. And, it is going to get worse because his play practices are increasing and he won't even get home until 4:50. That leaves him 15 minutes to eat dinner, do his homework and change his clothes. I'm pretty sure that is impossible to accomplish in 15 minutes, but we'll do what we can. The soccer schedule isn't quite as strenuous, but it coincides with the scenery committee meetings for the school play. Since it is a committee of 3, it is hard for me to miss, which means Thomas has to bring all the kids to Kara's practices. This might turn into a problem, as he may be stepping into the coach's role. But, that's a whole other story and we are waiting to see how it plays out.  In sum, it stinks to go from nothing on our evening calendar to all of these time constraints.

Anna is considering applying for the STEM program. We will see what happens, but I am not overly excited about the idea of having my kids at 2 different schools. I do love how much she has enjoyed school this year and of course, we want to encourage her in her academic aspirations.

Last week was the annual library book sale (although, most of the books are donated and not from the library). Thomas always enjoys going and browsing in the old and rare area. This year, he bought an old set of books (1880s) on John Adams. The books themselves were an interesting find, but Thomas also took interest in the name stamped as the previous owner--John S. Wirt, Esq. He spent several days researching Mr. Wirt and was able to determine he was a prominent Maryland lawyer and politician. Mr. Wirt had made some notes in the margins of the books and appeared to have a special interest in the morality of slavery and other moral based topics. He died in 1904 and his obituary was front page news. Thomas enjoyed learning about him and it is interesting to think about both the history of the books and the history of their previous owner, making notes on slavery, a short 20 years after the Civil War.

In our final news, we tried out an April Fool's Day prank on the kids. It was not very well-thought out. It was pretty spontaneous and really should have been given more consideration. I was going to pretend that I was reaching over our balcony to retrieve a balloon and fell to the ground. When the kids came to see what was going on, I was going to jump up and yell "April Fools." So, Thomas threw something off the balcony, I made a falling scream and waited. But, no one came. The girls started crying immediately and ran off. Jack wouldn't come downstairs. Thomas ran down and asked them to come help him, but no one came. Basically, we just terrified them and I felt terrible! Epic fail. Note to self--never do a prank that involves pretend bodily harm. And, hope that Thomas is home if there is ever a true medical emergency, because they are useless ;)

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Happy Birthday to Luke!

Our baby is 3! It's hard to believe the amount of changes that have occurred in the past year. The biggest being the improvement in speech. Luke went from barely understandable to a fluent child. He talks all the time in well-thought out sentences and we can generally understand every word (not always, but usually). The other big change is probably being potty trained. It is so nice not to have any kids in diapers. Well, we still put him in a diaper at night. And, he wears a pull-up when we do car drives longer than an hour or so, since he is still working on giving us advance notice of when he has to go.  But, overall, I would say he is potty trained and he was super easy to get to this point, which was a huge relief.

Some things that haven't changed--he still loves, loves, loves to play catch. He also loves soccer, basketball and even golf. Basically, anything with a ball is right up his alley. He enjoys doing puzzles and loves story time at the library, especially ring-a-round-the-rosie and the bubbles they blow at the end. He is clever and says silly things that make us all laugh. The other day, the mom of one of Kara's friends was commenting on how her daughter's white coat had turned gray. Luke was passing by and said, "well, that's just terrible" to her and kept walking. Luke hears everything!

When you ask him to do something he doesn't want to, generally he will consent with an "oh, fine," in a slightly irritated voice. I had no idea where this came from until I heard myself say it, then I noticed it was something Kara did as well. Apple and tree and all that. Another humorous phrase Luke uses is, "it's too heavy." He uses that whenever he doesn't want to do something. I think it started out innocent enough. Someone asked Luke to put a toy away and he said that it was too heavy.  Since it got him out of doing the chore, he started using that excuse for everything. "I can't put my plate away, it's too heavy!" or "I don't want to eat my broccoli, it's too heavy!" It was pretty funny at first...

He loves to talk about his favorite part of the day, which up until our trip to Florida was always, "going to Six Flags." Since Florida, he has amended that to, "Six Flags Studios," which is what he calls Universal. After he tells us that, he always waits for us to ask his favorite ride (and, if we don't ask, he will remind us to ask him), which varies between the Cat and the Hat and the Hippogriff Roller Coaster.

I think he is very smart. He can count objects up to about 10 with accuracy and he has recognized all letters and numbers (up to 10) for several months. Actually, I have no idea whether that is smart, or right where he should be, but I am going to go with smart, because I want to (of course, he hasn't picked up that the rest of us only name something we did on the day in question when answering "favorite part of the day," but, whatever).

He has a sweet personality, although we are starting to see glimpses of the tyrannical toddler years. He has hit his siblings a few times when they haven't caved to his demands, but cries like the injured party when timeout is imposed. Fortunately, I have never seen him be aggressive toward anyone outside the family and he is an excellent sharer and turn-taker, which we appreciate. He is actually pretty patient for a brand-new 3-year-old. His siblings are great with him. He is still everyone's favorite and they go out of their way to make him happy. They are (almost) always willing to play with him and they treat him sweetly and in return, he loves and adores them.

We didn't plan a party for Luke. We had our big trip a couple of weeks ago, so we decided to keep it simple and take him to the zoo. But, he has been to a few parties lately and I thought he might want something more, so I sent out a quick e-mail invite to the parents of the littles in our neighborhood and got a good crowd to come over and play, sing, and enjoy a cupcake on his big day. It was completely last minute, but the weather was nice and we managed to wrangle up about 10 kids, which was nice. Then, one of our friends (and neighbors) stayed for dinner, which was Luke's requested "noodles" (Luke's favorite food is Pasta Roni Fettucine Alfredo, for his birthday, we let him eat to his heart's content, not forcing him to choke down any chicken or vegetables with it). Luke opened his presents and we watched Moana and ate popcorn. It was a fun day! Oh, Luke also got to be birthday leader at school. I am not exactly sure what that entails. But, I know they made him a birthday banner and we sent in cupcakes and he was very excited about all of that. So, for a kid with no party, he was pretty celebrated. As for gifts, I think his favorite are his Magic Tracks.

At "school"
Looks like a party, right?


Today (Saturday) we took an ill-fated trip to the zoo. It was tough to get everyone in the car and as we were doing our metro card check, we realized we couldn't find the cards. We turned around and spent about 15 minutes searching for them, only to discover they were right where they were supposed to be (and where we had both looked). We took the metro in and tried a new stop, which didn't require switching lines. It was a super easy, downhill walk, but I REALLY had to use the restroom. I seriously can't remember being that uncomfortable since a long bus ride to the Tokyo airport when I was pregnant with Jack and Anna. Then, the ill-fated finale struck and Luke got sick at lunch and threw up on Thomas. Then, he (they, would be more accurate) just wanted to get home. Of course, home was not an easy distance away. By the time we did get home, Luke's fever was at 101.6. I don't know what's wrong with him, but it doesn't appear to be a stomach issue (I actually think the throwing up was more of a choking reflex, since he said his stomach was fine and he wanted to keep eating).  Of course, that distinction didn't help Thomas. But, on the plus side, the weather was really nice and it was good to be outside and using the new metro stop was easy and only resulted in a slightly longer walk than the usual metro stop.

The only picture I took all day. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Thoughts on Gender Equality and Decency in General

Once again, it is time for a blog that gets out some thoughts that have been battering around in my head for the past few weeks.

Recently, a scandal erupted when a Facebook page was discovered that had made a game out of sharing illicit photos of female Marines. The contributors to the page were current and former Marines. The photos were often obtained without knowledge and were universally shared without consent. The comments were degrading and disturbing. Several of the photos included the names of the females and where they could be found. More than one of the featured women now lives in fear. The people who reported the page received death threats for their act of decency.

This came at a time when the subject of gender equality has been on my mind. In order to remain a lawyer in good standing, I must complete credits of continuing legal education. One of the credits I opted to take discussed the results of a recent survey of female bar members. The survey showed that women felt they were treated differently than their male colleagues. They discussed subtle ways that they felt marginalized, such as being referred to as honey or sweetheart. There were comments about how they were assumed to be the secretary and off-color jokes. Most of the women reported not knowing how to deal with such remarks. Lastly, just this week, a lawyer friend of mine made a comment on Facebook about how she received an e-mail from opposing counsel that started with "Hey Beautiful." I am realizing how truly pervasive this problem is. Rather than it being a few small, rotten apples, there are bushels of bruised fruit.

All of this has made me reflect on my own experiences and my thoughts regarding societal decency. I can remember being a new Navy lawyer, fresh out of law school and attending training at the Naval Justice School. Thomas was using the restroom and I was waiting outside the door for him. Two young enlisted Marines walked by and looked at me before going into the restroom. I didn't think much about it until Thomas came out a minute later. He told me that one of the Marines had commented in surprise that they they were going to have salute me and then made a comment about me "looking good." At the time, I was actually flattered that two young men had looked at me and found me attractive. But, now, I wonder why they didn't see me as an Officer first, or even a lawyer. Why was it surprising that they would have to salute me as someone superior in their chain of command? And, why was my initial reaction to be flattered? Obviously, they saw my looks and gender as my primary attributes and as a 26-year-old, I didn't even realize there was something wrong with that. (To Thomas' credit, he did.)

I was so disappointed to read about the Marine photo sharing. It genuinely made me feel sick. These women have volunteered to risk their lives alongside their brothers in uniform and this is the treatment they receive? It was a large group, made up of thousands of people. And, only a small fraction felt the need to report the misconduct and then that small group was threatened and harassed. I am embarrassed by the number of times I failed to respond appropriately as a woman in in a primarily male environment. There were many, many educational opportunities that I let pass by, in order to get along, or to not be the one with "no sense of humor." Certainly, nothing as egregious as what has made the news recently, but small instances where perhaps I could have helped someone see things differently.

I don't know where the fault lies. But, I am tired of hearing about discrimination in all its forms. We, as a society need to do better. I am thankful to be married to a man who respects people of all races, genders and religions and I wish this for everyone. So, as I write this to my children, I ask my daughters to know that they deserve to be seen for who they are and what they contribute, not for how they look. I ask that my sons and daughters always look beyond the superficial and regard people as individuals. And, I vow for myself to do better. To not be the silent individual, sitting quietly and fearful of standing up for what I know is right.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Final Vacation Post

On Friday, we packed up the car and headed to our final day at Universal. Elizabeth had to register for classes at 8 and we needed to load the car, so it was a much later start. We didn't get into the park until close to 10 and that hour lost makes a huge difference. I am a huge proponent of being at a theme park when the ropes drop. You can get so much done in the first hour, but sometimes it just isn't possible. We rode a couple of rides and then spent some time in Diagon Alley, before taking the Hogwarts Express to IOA.  Luke was pretty unhappy by this time. We had lunch and he could see the Seuss area across the water and all he wanted was to go ride the carousel. We didn't think it was fair to make him wait in another line, just to sit in the Kid Swap Room (nice, though they may be). So, Thomas took him to the Seuss area, while the rest decided to do a final ride on The Forbidden Journey.

After we rode, it was 3 and time for us to leave. We had figured we were going to either leave sometime before 3:30 or wait until after 6, to try and avoid traffic. It was sad to say goodbye to Elizabeth and Marta, but we were on the road at 3:20. We hit a good amount of traffic in Orlando and then again in Jacksonville, but it wasn't too terrible. Everyone was tired and Luke was extremely cranky. He fell asleep about 10 minutes after we got in the car and slept for close to 2 hours. We stopped at a Publix in Georgia, right after crossing the state line and got food for dinner (around 7:30). A couple of of hours later, we stopped at a rest area and put Luke into his pajamas. That was a good signal for him and he fell asleep shortly thereafter and was out for the rest of the drive. Thomas took over the driving and drove the rest of the way home. We stopped one more time for gas, around 12:30 and pulled into our driveway at 4:30. Everyone was happy to climb into their beds for a few more hours of sleep.

Thomas liked driving through the night. It definitely had its plusses, mainly that Luke slept for the vast majority of the drive and we didn't have to worry about entertaining him. There was little traffic and the older kids dozed throughout the night, eliminating the arguing we sometimes are forced to endure. However, it also means that we have to stay up all night. Of course, I could go to sleep, but I feel like I should stay awake to help Thomas stay awake. And, we were really tired when we got home. We slept until about 8:30 and then took a nap when Luke did at 1:30. We slept a full night last night, and I still feel a bit worn out. I am sure it doesn't help that coming off of vacation, we are tired anyway. We could have stayed in Florida and driven home Saturday night, but we like at least one full day at home before we get back to work/school.

Overall, it was a great trip. We accomplished everything we wanted to: family time, theme parks, and baseball. The kids were well-behaved and got along nicely. It is wonderful that we have people willing to let the 6 of us invade their homes on just a few days notice and we are very appreciative. This trip definitely would not have been possible without free lodging. We hope to make this a yearly tradition and I am already thinking about our trip next year, which can hopefully coincide with Spring Break (but, I will never again visit any type of theme park over Spring Break, see last year's blog with our Busch Gardens trip if this isn't self-explanatory). I think it is important for the kids to spend time with extended family and it is nice for me as well. If we can tie it into Spring Training, well, then that's a win for everyone.