Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A P.S. to Mac's Essay

I should've noted that in the heat of battle this afternoon, Mac noted that I was being so mean and unfair after he'd just written this nice essay about me this very day at school. He didn't say it, but I knew he was thinking he'd made a big mistake in choosing me as the subject of his essay.  

So after a lot screaming and carrying on and unbelievably dramatic histrionics, he finally calmed down and asked me if we could just forget the previous hour had ever happened. Then he hugged me and acted like nothing had ever happened.  We've had a perfect evening since.  

It was our own Christmas miracle right here on Nelson Street.

An essay Mac wrote at school today

(Before you read this, put yourself in my mindset at the time of my reading this.  Mac and I had just had a major - and I mean MAJOR - battle royale over my not agreeing to buy him a dog this very afternoon).

        Is your mom awesome like mine? Well I know that my mom is! She cooks for me, she plans everything I do to make it more joyful, and best of all she knows everything that my dad and I like. She is also super intelligent, knowing everything that she needs to know; like how long will she need to cook dinner or when George Washington was born. I like my mom very much and I bet you like your mom too. So if your mom is special to you in any way, then you should tell her that.
         My mom is special to me because she knows when I’m sad or mad or bored. Each time when I’m in a mood, she knows exactly which mood I’m in. Another reason that makes her special is that she cooks the most delightful foods! Like last night she made a delicious chicken pot pie, oh, the flavors were so magnificent. The savory flavors of chicken, peas and corn were amazing! She is also one of the most intelligent people I know, I love her her knowledge in science, math (especially math!), and social studies. Yet another reason that makes her special!
          My mom is kind of like a psychic, she knows what my dad and I want for dinner or knows what movie we want to see before we say it. Whenever my dad’s football game starts she knows immediately that she has to watch T.V. in her bedroom. When my dad is cooking dinner and he comes to do something with me, like play football or baseball she cooks the rest of the dinner so that my dad can finish doing the thing he’s doing with me. She also knows the answer to hard math problems when I need some help. It’s the same with science and grammar issues in my passport essays. This is why she is special to me. Because she knows what is going to happen before it actually happens. Just like a psychic.
         You know who my mom is like? My mom is like Albert Einstein. Her big brain is just jam-packed full of intelligence and facts. Whenever I an answer to a question that I have like “What was the death toll of Hurricane Katrina” and she’ll answer. If not she will research it and tell me the answer the next day. She is as smart as Stephen Hawking, one of the smartest people in the world! That is special to me because I can ask her questions from my curiosity.
         That is how awesome my mom really is. She knows how to cook, what I like and what I dislike, and even the answers to ridiculously confusing questions. She is my favorite mother in the galaxy, wait that can’t be right, she’s my favorite mother in the Universe.

Too bad I didn't use my super-psychic powers to know that going into a pet store would lead to a full and complete meltdown worthy of any 3 year-old's best performance.  At least I can console myself with my Stephen Hawking-like intelligence while I watch tv in my bedroom while I ponder being my only child's favorite mother.  Thankfully there weren't any other moms in the running today.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

another letter to Cold Weather

Hello Cold Weather.  

Are you there?  

Can you hear me?  




Thanks a lot.  

Really, I mean it. 

I haven't spent a Thanksgiving in Moncks Corner since 2004 and am pretty psyched about being there this year. 

So excited, in fact, that I originally convinced Jimmy we should drive home tonight after he gets home from work.  

And then you started stalking me and decided if I don't profess my undying love for you, you will not leave me alone.  So you bring this to punish me:

You said to me, "You think you'll drive after work?  Just try it, you love spurner."  

I'm conceding on this one, Cold Weather, out of concern for the safety of my family and to avoid what will surely be a rush-hour traffic nightmare getting out of the Beltway in this awful weather. We're spending one more night in Arlington.  

But Cold Weather, revenge is a dish best served cold, so you better keep yourself toasty. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

An open letter to cold weather

Dear Cold Weather,

Thanks so much for dropping back into my life after a really long absence. You can go away now because this love affair is never going to take off.  Don't worry: it's me, not you that's the problem. You've done nothing wrong or unexpected and I'm sure there are some nice girls in the Arctic region right now that are glowing in your attention but I'm not.  My skin is dry, my hair is staticky and I hate you.  Really.  So let's call this whole thing off and you can swirl back on up to parts more northern and send some of your more fair-weather friends down this way.  No hard feelings, okay?


Friday, November 22, 2013

in the spirit of Thanksgiving

This week I have been the recipient of countless blessings for which I am truly thankful but two are worth mentioning.

1.  Our car brakes have been making a horrible noise, particularly when all three of us are in the car.  My non-mechanical brain decided we all weigh too much together and the brakes are rebelling.  So I took it to the shop which had done our state inspection and begged and pleaded for them to fix it (oh and to also check the antifreeze in the car).  The car was there for hours and I panicked that they'd found something horribly wrong with the car but were too afraid to call me.  When I finally called them, the receptionist said that, in fact, there was nothing wrong with the car.  He said there was some rust and the friction between the rust and the brake pads was causing the squeaking noise, but there's no need to replace anything yet because everything's just fine.  He also confirmed that the antifreeze was great.  After all that checking, they didn't charge anything - not one red cent - for the evaluation.  For the record, they could have bilked me out of considerable money to change brake pads or rotors and I would have paid it.  I'm very thankful for honest mechanics who don't take advantage of clueless women.

2.  For Mac's birthday dinner, he chose to eat at PF Chang's.  He ordered his beloved pork dumplings and the crispy honey chicken.  As we were finishing the meal, the manager was making her rounds to check on all the tables in our area.  Mac told her how much he'd enjoyed his meal and I told her that of all the great restaurants in our neighborhood, he'd chosen to go there for his birthday dinner.  She got very excited and offered him a complimentary birthday dessert.  He declined  (who does that???) and when our check was delivered, she'd removed the dumplings from the bill.  I'm very thankful for unexpected gestures of kindness and goodwill.

I'm reminded as we approach Thanksgiving that I need to be more cognizant of the many blessings in my life.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A very good birthday

Mac woke up as an 11 year-old to his bunk bed festooned in balloons and his bedroom door draped in balloon streamers.
After opening his presents and eating breakfast, we headed off to school. Today was Outside the Box Day, which is an annual event where each grade is assigned an engineering feat to design and develop in a 2-hour period. The highlight for the elementary school kids is when they get to do the Egg Drop in the 5th grade. It was so much fun to watch the whole process and to see the testing, which took place off a ladder fire truck that the city sent in.

Mac and his partner's egg did not survive the drop in their vehicle.

I left school at 11:30, only to return at 1:30 for early release Wednesday.  Mac and I went to see the movie Thor at the really nice theater with the awesome fully-reclining leather seats. I napped until Mac made too much noise trying to suck up all the Icee he was drinking.

We are now home for a bit before heading out to dinner.  The latest I've heard is that we're going to PF Changs, but that's changed from Chic-Fil-A and Mexican in the last hour so it's all negotiable.

I think Mac's had a great day. Thanks for all the well wishes you've each sent him!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

on the occasion of Mac's 11th birthday

Tomorrow is Mac’s 11th birthday.

Double digits plus one.

I could cry.

I can’t believe I was given the privilege of raising this boy.  He is so cool and funny and smart and clever. He's a good athlete and a good friend, but more importantly, he's a really good person with a large heart.  Being his mom is my single greatest accomplishment, and I wish – even on those days when we don’t agree on anything – that I could slow down the clock which just goes faster and faster with each passing year. 

So on the occasion of his 11th birthday, here are 11 takeaway motherhood lessons/appreciations:

1. Smelly feet are a good thing because it means my boy’s body is healthy and works as it was intended.  He can run and jump and kick and play enough to produce sweat to make those feet stink.

2. If it’s not going to matter in a year, it probably isn’t worth a fight today.  My mom has framed school pictures of her 5 grandchildren displayed prominently on a side table in her den.  My sister and brother’s children’s photos are always perfect.  Their hair is always combed and parted and their clothes are cute and ironed and neat.  Mac’s school photo is outdated (my fault, not my mom’s), but he did look so nice a couple years ago in his British school uniform from Bogota.  Last week was school photo day at his current school.  I had visions of how Mac’s new photo would look on her table, but he came out of his room dressed like a thug.  He had on layered t-shirts, using a long-sleeved one on the bottom that had a huge hole in it.  He completed the ensemble with his beloved hoodie.  I went nuts.  His response?  “This is my school picture and I can wear what I want.”  I argued back and it ended up being a huge drawn-out affair over breakfast.  For what?  For a nice picture on my mom’s side table?  For a picture in a yearbook that nobody’s going to look at after July?  Finally I stepped back and realized that this is such a short-term event in what I hope will be a long life that it just doesn’t matter.  I can remember what I wore for one class picture in 13 years of class pictures and that was my senior picture when I wore the required cap and gown.  Mac and I ended up compromising and he wore a button-down shirt over the t-shirts, but the shirt wasn’t ironed and I’m sure his hair was a disaster after wearing a beanie to school.  Gigi, plan on keeping the already outdated photo in that frame unless you want to showcase your hoodlum grandson.

3. It is so satisfying to see your child succeed after hard work, not to mention seeing him learn firsthand the value of hard work.  The testing and grading at Mac’s current school is significantly harder than anything he’s ever faced before. Good (or at least decent) grades came easily (or at least without much effort) to Mac in the past, but he’s studying harder and smarter than ever before.  It’s been a struggle for all of us, but he’s seeing some better results and he’s learning that a little hard work won’t kill him.

4. I know we’re soon going to reach an age where his Christmas list is more methodical and better defined, but Mac still has a stream-of-consciousness Christmas list, and I love that.  He can jump from a GoPro video camera to a rubber band rainbow loom bracelet maker to a pocketknife in less than 3 seconds as his brain spins and churns and turns at lightning speed and dips between childhood and adolescence.

5. To see compassion and charity and empathy in a little body turning into a great human being is such a remarkable gift to a parent.

6. Even though we don’t see our families often enough, Mac has such a love and appreciation for his family.  He’s very grounded in the fact that Moncks Corner is home for him no matter where this life takes us, and he’s always so excited to visit and see everyone.

7. For an 11 year-old boy, there’s not much that a little chat over a cupcake or throwing a ball in the park can’t fix. Why do we adults make it so much harder?

8. Having a child continually forces me out of my comfort zone.  Mac’s not (often) worried (yet) about embarrassing himself so he just puts himself out there.  As a parent, I want to protect him from doing something that I think poses a risk of failure or embarrassment, but he could care not one bit.  I know that’ll likely change once he discovers girls or realizes he can possibly fail at something, but I love to see how uninhibited he still is.

9.  Mac is old enough to make me turn around a block before school so he can walk in by himself, mature enough to realize that this practice is silly but necessary for him, and young enough to still let me kiss or hold his hand when there’s no chance anyone he knows will see us.  It’s a delicate balance!

10. I am now catching glimpses of life PH (Post Hormones).  The last year or two have been fraught with crying for no real reason and lots of hysteria and screaming.   It’s honestly been like having a prepubescent girl in the house. Only in the last couple weeks have I seen evidence of what life will look like on the other side of this.  Mac has calmed himself in what would have been red-hot situations before, and he’s presented viable solutions.  I think we’re going to survive this period.  Over and over again, I’m reminded as a parent that there are ebbs and flows in phases.  All you have to do is outlast the bad phases and the good stuff comes back along.     

11. The love that a mom has for her child is unlike any other.  I remember my grandmother telling me many, many years ago that she loved my grandfather, but that she’d lay down her life for her children.  I get that fierce love now.    

Happy Birthday Mac!  YOU ROCK!  I hope this year brings you every blessing you deserve.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Saga of Tippy

The other afternoon we got the following email from the apartment building's manager:

One of our resident's cats, Tippy, escaped this afternoon from their cat carrier in the garage on level P-2. The cat is a brown tabby. Please exercise extra caution as you drive through the garage. If you happened to see the cat, please contact the concierge with details regarding its location at 703-xxx-xxxx. We are working for a safe return of Tippy.

Poor little Tippy.  She escaped the cat carrier and was lost.  But don't despair for sweet Tippy.  The email below came the next day:

We are so happy to report that Tippy, the cat who was lost in our garage yesterday, was located and returned to her owner. Many thanks to all who aided in the search. It is amazing how this community comes together when one of our own is in need. Thank you for creating such a wonderful place to call home.

It almost makes you want to get a pet just to lose it in the garage.  You know, as a way of bringing people together.  So heartwarming.

Tippy and her mom were also appreciative because on the third day, the picture below showed up in the elevators:

You can all sleep well now, knowing that we live in that kind of building.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

so much to catch up on...

1.  First I must tell you that we love, love, love the new apartment.  Seriously LOVE.  We've created a lot of storage opportunities - thank you very much, IKEA - so almost everything is in its place and that makes me happy.  The apartment gets lots of light and feels bigger than it is because of it.  There's not a day that goes by that each of the three of us doesn't say how much we love the apartment.  Definitely the right choice for us.  Pictures will be forthcoming!

2.  We bought a lot of stuff from IKEA for the apartment.  If you've never bought from IKEA, let me explain to you what happens.  You walk through a humongous store/showroom and pick out all these great things that will provide you endless storage potential and associated happiness.  Then you get to the end of the store and you pick up a lot of boxes because you have to assemble all those great pieces you picked out.  Assembly is horrible.  Dreadful.  A nightmare. I'm sure I have carpal tunnel syndrome from the repetitive motion of screwdriving and allen-wrenching.  What comes to mind is Newton's third law of motion:  for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  If you're not scientifically minded, let me break it down for you.  For the euphoria-inducing action of spending lots of money at IKEA that you know will make your apartment perfect, there is an equal and opposite reaction of dread and dismay and physical pain and injury when you have to put all those boxes together.

3.  Speaking of science, Mac has decided to dress up as a nerd for Halloween.  This is fitting since he goes to the Arlington Science Focus School.  Scientists are stereotypically nerds.  Get it?  He will debut the costume at the school's Halloween party.  I hope nobody at the school finds this offensive or derogatory.  Wish us well.

4.  Jimmy and I have been halfway following the New ABS Diet for Women (don't worry - Jimmy eats more than the portion size allotted for women), and let me tell you this diet works.  When I say "halfway following", I mean that we followed it for 3 or 4 days the week before our move, we totally flubbed it on the week of the move, and we've more or less followed it the last couple weeks (at least for breakfast and lunch and more or less for dinner).  The diet allows you one cheat meal a week, but we've cheated more than that because of necessity, but we're finding that we're making smarter choices when we do cheat and we're not cheating when we have opportunities to cheat.  And we're losing weight.  Jimmy's lost at least 10 pounds and I've lost 5.  We are both pretty stoked about the weight loss but we also just feel better too.

5.  The diet allows lots of smoothies but we sold our blenders in Bogota, so I got to buy a new blender.  After some research, I decided on one of the Ninja blenders.  I got the 1100-watt one and not the super-powered 1200-watt one, but holy smokes, is this thing a blending machine.  I cut my fingers just washing the blade before the first use.  Mac loves to make "snow" out of ice so that was our first test.  Let me tell you, this machine can make snow in seconds.  No icy chunks, just snow. Snowcone ice.  I made a smoothie yesterday and overfilled the cup, which got me nervous about excessive blending, but the frozen fruit I used was pulverized. It's a beast of a machine and I love it.

6.  We got two chairs out of storage and they smell of moth balls.  I'm so frustrated as I've tried everything short of putting the chairs on the balcony (where they could get direct fresh air and sunshine which I know is what they need, but it's dirty out there).  What should I try next?  Right now I've got dryer sheets stuffed in, on, and around the chair.  The chairs gives me a headache.

7.  If we're Facebook friends, you know that we had one moving tragedy.  The piano was being offloaded from the moving truck and it fell off the back of the lift gate that lowers from the truck bed.  It was fairly horrific and almost surreal.  We have submitted the claim forms to the moving company and we'll see what happens.

8.  We are heading to SC tomorrow for a quick weekend trip to enjoy Camp Meeting.  The New ABS Diet for Women will not be followed in any way, shape or form.  I am so super-excited.  I LOVE Camp Meeting.

9.  Mac is very lazy in his schoolwork and is quite happy to accept B's that he makes with his eyes closed with minimal effort.  He is unmotivated by the pursuit of good grades and seems unwilling to put in a little effort to make the A's that he's capable of.  This is really driving me crazy.  So we have been reduced to bribing Mac for good grades.  We told him that if he got two nine weeks' worth of straight A's on his report card, we'd get him a dog.  (You know this nearly killed me to offer this.)  Mac asked what he could get if he made straight B's.  Really?

10.  It's really cold in DC right now.  The high is supposed to be in the 50s, which is crazy nuts to me!  Brrrrr.

On that note, I'm off to enjoy my delicious ABS diet for women-approved lunch.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Tuesday musings

1.  Mac's feet smell worse than anything I've ever smelled in my life.  I fear this will only get worse before it gets better.

2.  I have zero respect for the congresspeople who represent a particular faction of the Republican Party of the United States.  Make that negative respect.

3.  Jimmy has not been furloughed despite the best efforts of the aforementioned people noted in #2.

4.  Mac made an 87 on his math test.

5.  My eye is completely better.

6.  "The President's Own" United States Marine Brass Quintet performed at Mac's school today as part of the Music in the Schools program.  Thank goodness the band wasn't furloughed.  Maybe there should be a Music in the Congress program to make those people a little more agreeable and responsible.  

7.  I bought a couch and Mac's loft bed today for delivery next week IN OUR NEW APARTMENT.  Did I mention that I cannot wait?

8.  We went by the new apartment on Sunday and talked our way into seeing our actual unit (which we'd not seen before).  The apartment did not grow in size over the last few weeks, but we do have NEW faux wood floors in the living and dining rooms and ALL NEW appliances in the kitchen.  How lucky is that?  And this view of the church and park is so sweet.  I'm going to be so happy there.

9.  Mac is doing after-school activities on Monday and Tuesday afternoons.  Monday is kickball and Tuesday is flag football.  This week was the first week and he seemed to enjoy it.  Tomorrow he's going to a skate park with a few building friends.  Pray for no broken bones. I don't know how I got a skateboarder son, but I'm pretty sure it's going to involve smelly feet.

a political rant

A law was passed by the Congress.

The Supreme Court of the United States of America upheld the law.

Get over it.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

if you ever doubt the efficacy and efficiency of the US Postal Service

The diet book was shipped after 3pm on Friday afternoon and look what showed up in my mailbox by 1pm on Saturday?

Clearly even my mailman thinks I need to lose weight...

Friday, September 27, 2013

another Friday, more musings

1.  Yesterday I kept a friend's 4 year-old daughter so she could attend a class for State Department spouses.  My little friend Anna and I had a great day, but wow, was I tired by the end of it.  I forgot how much energy you need to keep a little one engaged and stimulated. We went to Barnes and Noble, two different parks, the farmer's market, the grocery store and the storage unit facility.  We made lunch, checked the mailbox, and watched tv.  That is a lot crammed into one day.

2.  Mac and I survived the week without Jimmy with just one major bedtime meltdown.  That's considered one for the W column.

3.  The diet is not working.  I have weighed EXACTLY the same every morning - down to the tenth of a pound - for the last three mornings.  Maybe the scale is broken?  I assume that is not the case so now I've ordered a book called The New ABS Diet for Women because I really need someone to tell me what to eat everyday.  Clearly what I'm doing is not working.  The book should be here in 2 days and then, I intend to hit the ground running, following this thing to a T.  Supposedly in 6 weeks, I'm going to be a new and skinnier person.  Right.  In the meantime, I'm going to cheat and eat good food.  Starting with chicken wings and french fries tonight.  I.cannot.wait.

4.   Mac had his first science test.  He made an 85.  I would have preferred an A - and we're going to change our study habits from this point on to try and make As - but we're going to put this in the W column too. Mac obviously has taken tests but at least for the last 3 years, with the exception of a weekly spelling test, we are parents never knew when the tests were going to be given.  There was no studying at home, no reviewing the books, no last-minute panicking.  Fast forward to this past weekend, and we realized that perhaps Mac wasn't well-prepared for this science test.  We helped him study the chapter, we quizzed him, we re-read some bits, but I've got to tell you, when I dropped him off at school on Monday morning, I didn't have great hope for a positive outcome.  So an 85 was a great start, he's learned how the tests will be formatted, and he got a little confidence boost.

Mac made A's on two other tests in the last week.  One was on grammar (and which I knew about), but the other test I have no idea about, and Mac couldn't remember yesterday what subject the test was in.  How can you not remember what you had a test in?  Considering this kid has mine and Jimmy's DNA, it should be genetically impossible for him to forget that sort of information.

But today is the day that has my stomach in the pits.  He finds out his math test results.  All the 5th grade parents got an email the other day that said the grade average was 81%. 81% for the AVERAGE? Naturally, in DEFCON 1 mode, I am assuming that Mac is one of the students that dragged the average down.  Ooh, my stomach hurts just thinking about it.   How do you pull up a failing grade?  And he's good in math and did so well on the homework, so there's just no excuse unless he rushed through the whole thing.  Oh, and the email said the teacher deducted points "for being imprecise with their answers (ex., failing to declare units) or not explaining their thinking.  At this level and above, math is mostly about problem solving, which requires precision and elaboration."  We are in serious trouble.  Mac is the antithesis of precision and elaboration.  Say a prayer for his score not being like a 24.  

5.  The countdown for moving is on.  I am so super-excited.  October 7 is just around the corner.  All the pieces are falling into place - we've got one moving company coming October 7 with Bogota stuff and another moving company coming October 8 with stuff that we had in SC.  The other storage stuff will be dealt with after the move when I have time to think about it.  AND Jimmy just told me that his trip to Guatemala has been cancelled for that week, so my mom and I will have an extra set of hands at least at night.

6.  I really hope the government doesn't shut down next week.  If Jimmy doesn't have a job, then we're going to be hard-pressed to afford this fancy apartment building.  It's really scary to even think about.

On that really happy, light note, I'll close for now. Happy Weekend to you.  I hope the weather is as beautiful for you as it's supposed to be for us in the DC area!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

did you know...

... that three measly little Altoids have 2 carbohydrates?

You cannot even eat a breath mint without gaining belly fat.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

she's got Bette Davis eyes. I think not...

This morning at 3:30 am, I woke up with a throbbing eyelid that was nearly swollen shut.  I investigated in the bathroom mirror but couldn't see the telltale markings of a stye on the eyelash line so I immediately went to DEFCON 1 and assumed I must have some horribly invasive eye-eating bacteria dwelling in my head.

Naturally I then googled urgent care facilities since we, of course, don't have a primary care physician here yet.  There's one right down the road, thankfully, but since it didn't open until 9am, there was nothing to do but lay in the bed and watch old episodes of Parenthood (which always make me cry, so at least I knew it wasn't a blocked tear duct because they worked just fine).

6am Photo
I dropped off Mac at school and went to the doctor's office.  It turns out that I have the beginning of a stye on the inside of my eyelid.  This should only get worse before it gets better.  Which is nice since it's so attractive to have a big red puffy eyelid that looks like you're carrying a communicable disease.

Since I've not had a stye in maybe 30 years or so, I did a little research and I've learned that styes are most commonly the blocking of an oil gland at the base of the eyelash.  Since the currently developing stye is reportedly on the inside of the eyelid, those are "infections of the meibomian sebaceous glands lining the inside of the eyelids". I don't even know what that means.

And then I read that styes can be triggered by poor nutrition, sleep deprivation, lack of hygiene, lack of water and rubbing of the eyes.  I don't think I'm really sleep deprived (or not any more so than in years past), I'm fairly positive I've got great hygiene, I think I drink enough water, and I never rub my eyes (courtesy of lectures before and after my Lasik surgery).  So this stye might, in fact, be a result of my change in eating habits. Maybe the lack of carbs in my body has gone straight to my head, specifically my eyes, and caused the stye?  Is this nature telling me that I should go back to eating baked potatoes and pasta?

I watched a few back-to-back Parenthood episodes with hot compresses covering the eyesore before picking up Mac for early release day.  The only thing that would have made it better was if I'd eaten a bag of potato chips during the tv-watching marathon.
4pm Photo - looking better, right?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

to carb or not to carb

At Bible Study on Monday, I was discussing one of the other women's diet.  She's been on the Dukan Diet for a couple weeks and has lost double digits of weight.  Those sorts of results speak to me, so I thought perhaps I should try the Dukan Diet as well.  All you have to do is eat nothing but protein for a week, followed by a week of proteins only one day and vegetables the next.  You do that (or some variation thereof) until you reach your goal weight and then there's a whole maintenance program.  But proteins only for a week?  I love turkey and tuna as much as the next person, but every day?  Isn't there a reason they invented the food pyramid?  Aren't you meant to eat fruits and vegetables and some nuts and stuff like that?

So I quickly came to my senses and realized that Dukan Diet would not work for me.  I told this lady that all I wanted to lose was my midsection and she said that belly fat was entirely attributable to carbs.  Now I love me some carbohydrates.  In fact, I'm pretty sure I've never met a carb that I didn't love and that didn't love me right back.  But I could give up some carbs if that resulted in midsection shrinkage, right?

Well do you know that carbs  I mean everything.  EVERY.THING.  I'm pretty sure tap water has carbs.  It's just incredibly depressing to think of all the carbs I've managed to squander between snacks and second portions and oversized helpings.


So now I've downloaded a handy carb counter app on my iPhone and I'm tracking everything that goes into my mouth.  It really makes you think before you eat something.  It also means I'm hungry most of the time, but this is a small price to pay.

I also bought a fancy scale today.  It measures weight and body fat and BMI and body water content and who knows what else.  It better start showing some results and soon.  Between the headache and the constant gnawing hunger, I'm not sure how long I'll last without my constant intake of carbs.

(FYI, I have been exercising so don't write to tell me to get off the couch!)

Friday, September 20, 2013

a couple more musings

1.  No party games at the baby shower, but there was a lot of great food.

2.  The Arlington County Library was just bequeathed $800,000 from a retired federal employee who loved the library. How unbelievably cool is that?  I'm in awe of this person's generosity.  I'm not sure if this person had family, but somebody who may have thought they were getting more moolah just lost out.

3.  A couple Sundays ago, we attended Mac's school's back-to-school picnic hosted by the PTA.  The PTA grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, and families brought side dishes.  Reportedly more than 1000 people came.  To a back-to-school picnic, where attendance was not mandatory. On a Sunday afternoon.  These people are involved.

4.  The boys are still at the baseball game.  Apparently Mac's eaten enough to clean Jimmy out of all his cash.  Good thing for Mac they accept credit cards at the old ball game.

random musings on a Friday afternoon

1.  This temporary apartment is making me crazy.  It really is a State Department ghetto.  We have escaped staying here for 15 years and I hope it's at least another 15 years before we have to stay here again.

2.  Our lease at the new apartment starts on October 7.  We are starting the move on that day and will try to get the apartment organized during the week so that we start sleeping there on October 11.  Jimmy's just found out he's traveling out of the country that week so I'm even more grateful that my mom had already agreed to come and help me.  I would not be able to do it without her.

3.  The weather has been so incredibly beautiful this week.  Overnight temps down in the 50s and 60s but up into the 70s and 80s during the day.  I love it.  I hope it's as beautiful wherever you are.

4.  I'm going to a baby shower this afternoon.  I cannot tell you the last baby shower I went to (that wasn't at work).  It's been years.  That happens when you reach a certain age and most of your friends are past birthing babies.  I wonder if we'll play baby shower party games?

5.  Did I mention how bad the basement parking area of the State Department ghetto smells?  When Mac and I come down in the mornings to drive to school, as soon as the elevator door opens, we can tell if the garbage truck needs to come because it smells rotten more often than not.  We have to run out to the car, trying not to breathe too heavily.  That smell gets stuck on your nose hairs and you can't get rid of it.  It's disgusting.  As soon as we leave the garage, we open the windows, no matter how cold it is, to air out the car and our nose hairs.

6.  While I go to the baby shower, Jimmy and Mac are going to the Nationals baseball game.  Talk about gender stereotypes.

7.  Mac seems to be enjoying school.  I don't think he's made a ton of friends - we hear about the same few over and over - but that's okay.  I'm assuming these boys are from nice families and aren't setting up a meth lab in their bathrooms, so I hope it's all good.

8.  The Library of Congress is hosting its annual Book Festival on the National Mall this weekend.  I remember taking Mac to that when he was a toddler and we lived in Baltimore.  He got to see Clifford the Big Red Dog which was the highlight of his life up until that point.  We're planning to go again, but I don't think a Clifford sighting will elicit the same reaction.

Happy Weekend Friends!

Monday, September 16, 2013

the hard, hard business of mothering

I have a pre-preteen that I really hope will make it to his preteen and teen years.  Honestly I just did not ever think that mothering could be this hard. I mean I knew that we'd have some tough days or even years during his teenage years, but I didn't know how early this change would start.  Sometimes I feel like a creature has inhabited his sweet little 10 year-old body and I just want to silence that creature.  I keep telling myself that if I can survive these teen years, I will have earned my Good Housekeeping seal as a "good mom".

But several bits of news over the last week made me realize you don't ever stop earning Mother Badge of Courage.  This mothering business is a lifelong endeavor.

Last Monday and again today, I attended a women's Bible study at the church we've been attending.  The fall series is on prayer.  At the end of these sessions, people can name their prayer requests.  The group is made up of women my age and younger (with children Mac's age and younger) and women who are older with children that are college-aged up into their 30s and 40s.  The prayer requests that were spoken have been specifically for children college-aged and up.  It wasn't the "young" mothers who expressed concerns about their school-aged kids; it was the mothers asking for prayers for their children who have already flown the coop.

And then last Wednesday, we learned our very dear friends' 18 year-old daughter received a diagnosis for a disease that she will fight for the rest of her life.  I'd never heard of this disease, but from my limited research, it appears to have ALS-type symptoms that, like ALS, progressively worsen. Again, you think the histrionics of toddler temper tantrums and teenage hormones are behind you and boom! you're blindsided by something in your adult child's life.

Our friends are great parents and have raised great, well-rounded, successful girls. They were our first close State Department friends who had teens and preteens when we met them.  I distinctly remember how surprised Jimmy and I were when we'd go to their house, and the girls, instead of pitching fits to be away from their parents, really wanted to hang out and have good conversations and play board games.  They were completely content to be together as a family.  Make no mistake - these girls are really popular and have always had many and close friendships since we've known them, but sometimes, many times, they chose hanging out with their parents over their friends.  They truly seemed to enjoy each other's company.  This was a novelty because at the time we met them, Mac was about 4 years old and I couldn't imagine we'd ever get past the point where I had to take Goldfish crackers with us everywhere to keep him happy.  Would we ever get to a stage of life where Mac grew up beyond his needy preschool self and actually chose to be with us?  (As a side note, Mac is now roughly the age that the 18 year-old daughter was when we first met them.  It's looking highly doubtful that he would actually choose us over really anyone else on most occasions, now or in the foreseeable future, but I remain ever so hopeful.)

Our friends are going to be fine.  They're going to learn everything they can about this disease and how to live with it as their new normal.  Their daughter is going to continue to enjoy her freshman year of college and then her sophomore, junior and senior years.  They're going to learn to adapt as necessary, make concessions when appropriate, and put one foot in front of the other to fight the disease's progression as much as possible.  Surely there will be hard days that feel tougher than they have the energy to endure. When life seems unfair.  When they just want to stay in the bed with the covers pulled up. When it feels like they got the short end of the stick.

Why is this family going to be fine?  Because they're going to fight the good fight together.  And that's what I need to remember on these difficult days of surly pre-teen-hood, when I'm pretty sure that Mac and I can't both survive until sunset. We are in this together.  As a unit.  As a team.

Mothering is not for the faint of heart.  It is not a sprint to the closest finish line, but rather a long, drawn-out, sometimes messy marathon where you can't see a rest stop anywhere.  There might be flashes of instant gratification, but those flashes can be few and far between on the marathon's run.

We joke that we need to only get through 18 years and then we send them off into the world.  But the joke's on us.  As parents, we get the good, the bad and the ugly for a long time.  A really long time.  For better or worse.  Until death do us part.

If we're lucky, we get to see our children grow into versions of their very best and most authentic adult selves. To be great mothers and fathers themselves, great partners to their significant others, great employees and bosses, great community members.  Great human beings.  If we're lucky, we get to see all that.

But life is messy and complicated and not tinted by the rose-colored glasses every day.  It's completely impossible to avoid seeing your child suffer.  Maybe it's just the childhood garden variety of suffering - not picked for the team or fights with friends, high fevers and skinned knees -or maybe it's the more adult version of divorce, money problems, substance abuse, illness, and lost jobs.  If we're fortunate to live long enough in the presence of our children, odds are that we're going to see some of this awfulness.

So what I've got to do is put on my big-girl panties and be a mom to a little boy who needs to know that I will love him for always and forever and then some more on top of that.  I can be his safe place to land, even when he hurts my feelings with his sullenness and angry outbursts. Because we're in this together.  We are Team Story and we're in it to win it, if "it" means a family that genuinely enjoys each other's company and wants to spend time together.   The long haul isn't often pretty, but it's worth it.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

going to the dogs

You may have heard that the Obamas got a new Portuguese water dog, Sunny, to join their older Portuguese water dog Bo.   (I poached this photo from the internet - I think Bo is on the left and Sunny is on the right.)
Jimmy's been attending meetings at the Old Executive Office Building (next door to the White House) in his new job and the other day, the dogs were playing on the lawn while he was walking in or out of the building.  And he saw them.

And petted them.

Petted them.  Did you read that correctly?

This makes me incredibly jealous because you know I'm a stalker of all people (and dogs) who are famous.  In fact, I think I learned about the new puppy on which I check with a frequency that I don't care to admit to you.

Jimmy didn't get to take a picture.  That was the morning he left his Blackberry at home and I had to drive it in to the District to drop it off at his office.

While he was playing with the puppies.

That's how we roll around here.  He gets to cavort with the President's dogs (which I'd already tried to spot frolicking on the White House lawn when I death marched my cousin's husband Jeff and Mac around the White House when it was about 112 degrees a few weeks ago.)  And I get to play cleanup, spending 40 minutes in rush hour traffic to deliver a cell phone.

Good thing I didn't have anything more pressing to do that morning.  I must have been all caught up on my reading for the day...

Friday, September 6, 2013

and one other thing

Three days in a row at the gym.

Do I look skinnier yet?

moldy yogurt

We had sandwiches at home for last Sunday's lunch.  I ate a half sandwich so I could eat a double triple portion of BBQ potato chips.  Then I rounded that off with a cup of Chobani yogurt with fresh raspberries and blueberries.  A little junky but a lot healthy.

As I was eating the Chobani, I notice some fizziness in the yogurt that seemed odd.  I also thought there was a weird mouth taste, but I really chalked that up to lingering BBQ chip taste mixing with the yogurt, which could really border on disgusting.

After lunch Jimmy and I went to the grocery store and my lips felt numb.  I thought that perhaps I was having the first allergic reaction to something in my life, so I asked Jimmy to make sure I wasn't turning blue or my lips weren't puffing up.  All looked normal, and eventually the numbness went away.

Fast forward to Wednesday when I heard a report on the Today Show that said there was a problem with mold in some Chobani yogurts.  The telltale sign pre-opening the yogurt was swollen and bloated packaging and post-opening was fizzing yogurt. That's so gross, especially because that's exactly what I ate on Sunday.

I immediately threw out the three cups we still had in the fridge (that definitely had bloated packaging), but I checked the new package of eight little cups I'd just bought on Sunday and they seemed fine.

And then this morning, I opened the Washington Post to see this:

Since I now had a concrete code to check for, I immediately went to the fridge to check the unopened, still-in-the-cardboard-packaging yogurt.  (For the record, once one believes they've eaten moldy yogurt, it's hard to muster the enthusiasm to eat more of the same product.  Hence the unopened yogurt five days after purchase).

When I opened the fridge, I notice there were white gunk dried on the butter compartment of the fridge door.  I wondered if Mac or Jimmy had spilled something and not cleaned it up, but how would they have spilled something there?

Then I realized that the white gunk was yogurt from a cup of yogurt whose cup got so bloated that it exploded when it finally pressed too hard against the cardboard wrapping holding the whole package together.

For the record, that makes me want to vomit.

I threw the whole package out and will have to think long and hard before I can eat any Greek yogurt again, much less Chobani Greek yogurt.

Maybe I'll go back to Activia with those probiotic cultures.  Perhaps those live cultures eat the bad mold in the yogurt as well as in your stomach????

Thursday, September 5, 2013

today's sign that the apocalypse may be upon us...

I have been to the gym for two days in a row.

Yes, you read that right.

Today, I even used those weight machines after doing the treadmill. But that was only because nobody was in there to see me embarrass myself.

I hate gyms, but I hate this flab more, so I stepped foot in a gym yesterday for the first time since we left Sao Paulo (4 years ago).

Unless I can find a cheap tennis instructor like I had in Bogota before I started the J-O-B, I am stuck in this godforsaken place called a gym.


(In happier news, Mac seems very content to be going to school, thanks to the buddy he met on the first day.)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


Mac did not take the bus.


He told me this morning that we'd discussed this already, but I must have tuned out to that part of the conversation yesterday.  Since we won't have bus access once we move to our new apartment anyway, I've decided not to fight this fight.  I will be the bus service from now until we move at which point, we walk or bike to school!

it was a great day

The day finally dragged on until - finally - it was time to pick up Mac.  I did get to the parking lot 30 minutes before release, but I promised him I wouldn't be late.  (The waiting at the apartment was killing me so I figured reading in the parking lot would be a diversion.)

The school sends out the extended day students first so they can get to the right part of the building.  Then the bus students come out and finally, the pick-up students are released to their waiting parents.  Except Mac never came out.  I asked the teacher's assistant I recognized from Open House if Mac's class had been released and she wasn't sure.  Then I asked another teacher and she said that the 5th graders were released from the front of the school, so I ran around to the front, only to be told that no, all students are released from the other side.  So I ran back around and the teacher's assistant said she'd go to his classroom to see if he was there.

At this point, school had officially been out for 15 minutes.  There was nobody left waiting for pick-up except that one poor first grader whose parents hadn't shown up yet.  Naturally I was in a state of hyper-DEFCON 1 and mentally had Mac crying on the bathroom floor by now, his teacher totally unaware that he'd been missing from the classroom since 9am.  I'm not going to lie.  I was nearly crying in the parking lot.

The assistant came right out with Mac, who was smiling big if not a little sheepishly.  He thought that he'd be picked up in the classroom so he'd just hung out there with a couple other kids.  I nearly collapsed with relief to see him in general and to see him so happy specifically.

He had a great day.  Of the 27 kids in his class (boy, do we miss the 16-18 total in his classes at CGB!), three were new.  Mac hung out with one of the new boys, whose family has just been transferred here with the military.  The two of them were friended by a returning student, who was able to show them the ropes.  He said the other kids in the class were friendly and talked to him, his homeroom teacher LOVES books and has a great class library of "about 200 books that she bought all by herself for us to read", there's a laptop or desktop for every kid in the class, he had PE today and one of the PE teachers is a Georgia fan so they smack-talked about the USC-Georgia game this weekend, there are 10 mini iPads in the gym (WHY?), his lunch was good but I packed too much food, and on and on and on.

He's planning to ride the school bus - another first, the big yellow school bus - on day 2.  We'll see if that plan is still valid when he wakes up.

For the blessings of prayers that were answered loud and clear, I am truly thankful.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

a day that'll break a mama's heart

Mac started school this morning.  And while normally this is a day for celebration - especially since I'm not working and should be able to do whatever I want all day today - he was so pathetic when I dropped him off that my heart is in about 4 million pieces right now and all I've done so far is get my vehicle emissions test done, buy him a red velvet cupcake for an after-school treat, and vacuum the apartment.  I have checked my watch at least 7 times in the  2 hours that school has been in session and time is nearly standing still. All I can imagine is him in a bathroom stall, crying.  I tend to be a DEFCON 1 sort of person and have convinced myself that he's having the worst day of his life.

As our first foray into American public school, where most of these kids have been together since K-5, this is going to be his toughest start yet.  International schools are better primed for new students since the annual turnover is so high.  They make a big deal of welcoming new students.  But these kids?  They've all got their buddies and don't really care about a new kid.  I don't have great confidence that the teacher will push for a welcoming committee either.  Not one child spoke to Mac at the Open House last week (except for when I spoke to them directly) and nobody spoke to us this morning.  It's a tough start.

Ever since Mac started school, we've told him to seek out the new kids, to invite them to play on the playground, to introduce them to other students, to help them if they look lost or sad.  And by all accounts from parents and teachers, he's done just that.  Could Mac please have good karma today?  Could we please have a positive case of "what goes around, comes around"?

Last night at dinner we talked about what would make today the best first day ever at his new school.  Mac's answer:  "if somebody talks to me".

I have begged the Lord today and yesterday and the days before to please, please, please let somebody be nice to him.  Now I add "talk to him" to the prayer.  If Mac crosses your mind today, please send positive vibes his way.  We need them.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Endorsement for the new school

Yesterday afternoon we attended Mac's school's Open House where you see the classroom, meet the teacher, etc.  When we got to the classroom, we met the girl Mac will sit next to.  She's been at the school for awhile, so I asked her what was her favorite thing about the school.

Her answer?  "The bathrooms because they're really clean."

She's a girl after my own heart.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Holy Communion

The Methodist Church we're attending here in NoVA celebrates the sacrament of Holy Communion every Sunday.

I have always loved Communion.  As an adult, I love the reflective nature of the exercise - especially on a weekly basis - and probably as a child, I loved what could only be described as a snack break during church.  Is that sacrilegious to say that?  If so, then it's probably even more sacrilegious to admit that I used to "play" Communion.  I vividly remember flattening and cutting white bread so it would look like those little Communion wafers of unleavened bread and eating that with grape juice.  I am confident I even did the whole "take, eat, this is my body" routine.  (Father, forgive me for I have sinned.)

What can I say except you had to make your own fun, living in the country.

So fast forward to my having a 10 year-old remarkably less picky eater, but one who is still very conscious of all textures he puts in his mouth.

Sunday before last, Mac took Communion with no hesitation, but probably only because of the relative novelty that it is to him.  That Sunday the church used a loaf bread from which the preacher pulled off a chunk (and I mean a nice-sized chunk) and passed it to each person who dunked it in the grape juice.  The texture and size of the bread was hearty enough to stand up to the grape juice bath, but Mac chewed on that bread until we got back to the pew.

Last Sunday, in church, a mere 20 seconds before it was our turn to exit the pew to head up the aisle to receive Communion, Mac told me he didn't want to take Communion.  Now there are a lot of reasons one may decide not to take Communion but not liking the texture of the bread is probably not legit in the eyes of the Lord.  So I told him in my best authoritative yet quiet church voice that he most certainly was taking Communion so get up and start walking.

This week they used what looked like whole wheat tortillas.  It was definitely not the squished white bread-like wafers of my childhood church and it was definitely not the chunky bread from the week before. After dipping it in the grape juice, I'll admit it was a little wet to get down.  Mac did not want to swallow and he looked like a cow chewing its cud for about 10 minutes, trying to get that mushy tortilla bite down.  The bread ultimately must have just disintegrated in his mouth.

I foresee Communion protests in my future.  I may be the only mother in America who has Communion food issues with her child...

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

the local farmers market

One of the simple pleasures of being back in the US in the farmers market.  I love the idea of supporting local farmers (paying that forward, Daddy) and I love the idea of eating fresh.  Arlington County has a lot of farmers markets and we are lucky enough to have several within walking distance of our temporary apartment (and our real apartment).  We hit the big one on Saturday morning and brought home a bounty of deliciousness.

our new favorite dessert at Casa Story

Last week we had friends over for dinner and because a) we are in a kitchen with very limited cookware and b) there were children involved, and c) everybody loves ice cream, I decided to buy ice cream of some stripe for dessert.

The Harris Teeter has an enormous ice cream section (compared to Bogota grocery stores), but my eyes settled on the Edy's row, which has little individual cups of their low-fat Slow-Churned ice cream (so I could buy various flavors to meet everyone's taste buds) and they were on sale for $1 per cup.

We are now addicted.

The sale ended yesterday and I felt a compulsion to buy more and more and more. Our store only has vanilla, chocolate and mint chocolate chip (even though there's a row for cookie dough).  I can vouch for the vanilla and chocolate - they are excellent - and you don't even miss the fat of full-fat ice cream.  Vanilla, chocolate and mint chocolate chip have 5, 6, and 7 grams of fat, respectively, in the whole cup.  What a steal of a nutritional deal when you need a little something to cure your sweet tooth!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

the nightmare that is known as gel polish removal

I know I thought gel nail polish was the best thing since sliced bread the other day, but boy, have I changed my mind.  Actually I guess I think the polish is pretty great, but when one wants to remove it, it's a nightmare. On Saturday, I thought I'd use my regular nail polish remover pads, but they didn't put a dent in this polish.  No matter how much I scrubbed and scraped, there was not even a trace of red on the remover pad.

I googled removal of "gel nail polish removal" and apparently there's a lot of discussion on this topic as there were "About 2,290,000 results".  That's a lot of people trying to figure out how to get this stuff off their nails.

Yesterday I bought the necessaries - cotton balls and acetone remover - and this morning pulled out the aluminum foil to begin this treatment.

Step one:  soak cotton in acetone, stick on fingernail, and wrap in aluminum foil.  Wait 10 minutes.
(I'm 100% sure that my fingers would not look as messy as this had I had the removal done in a salon, but pretty good for a home job, right?)

Step two:  remove the foil and cotton ball and peel off the polish.

Houston, we have a problem.  The polish did not peel off.  I must not have strong enough acetone remover.  So I decided to repeat step one.  Except this time I used bigger pieces of cotton balls and more tin foil.

Repeat step two:


I did a shortened version of steps one and two, again, and this is the best I got.

And now my fingernails feel horrible.  I think they've had an acetone overdose, along with excessive scraping.  So now I've got to go buy a buffer to try to smooth them down and give them a little shine. Then I've got to file them down short to get rid of the red on that one nail that will not be removed otherwise.

Note to self:  no more gel nail polish.  Unless I'm going to a major fancy 'do and need my nails to look good for longer than it takes me to leave the salon and put the key in my ignition and ruin the normal manicure.  Then I'll get gel polish.  But only then.

Friday, August 23, 2013

bits and bobs

1.  We got our personal property tax bill from Arlington County yesterday for our 2003 Toyota Corolla.  It was just $53.  That may or may not include the $33 fee for a decal you have to display on your car window.  So either the car tax is $53 or $20.  Either way, I'm a tiny bit insulted.

2.  Mac and I are going today with Bogota friends to the Air and Space Museum extension out by Dulles airport.  We've only been to the original Air and Space on the Mall in DC and are pretty excited to see this newer one.

3.  We've joined the library and Mac is very proud to have his own library card.  Nothing screams "we are settled" like having a library card.

4.  We got to have dinner on Wednesday night with my cousin Julie's husband Jeff, who's in town for a conference.  Jeff is so stinking funny and is always in a great, happy mood.  We had a great time because you always have a great time with Jeff.  Next time we want Julie and the boys to be with him!

5.  We got to spend some time yesterday afternoon and evening with some of our longest-term State Department friends, Steve and Fatimah and their sweet girls, who are in town for R&R.  Steve and Jimmy were in the same training class over 15 years ago.  We were married within a month of each other and started this journey together as newlyweds a million years ago.  Now with three kids between us, we had lots to catch up on and the children played together like they've known each other forever.  It was another great evening!

our new 'hood

My friend Teresa sent this Youtube link to me yesterday and it describes Arlington to a T!  Prepare to laugh!

House Hunters Reveal

After my last post, Mac and I went back to visit Unit #3 as well as another apartment building altogether.   The new apartment was great - nice big island with bar seating, nice community, but horrible view of a bridge that's being reconstructed.  The leasing agent said that the construction was expected to be over by Thanksgiving.  So our view would change from watching the bridge being reconstructed to watching cars drive over the bridge.  Nice.

Unit #3 was still beautiful but it just seemed so small. But we got a better deal than we'd expected and based on proximity to the Metro (no trudging through the rain and snow for Jimmy), the amazing common areas in the building (the gym! the terrace! the Mac computers that Mac can do homework on, thereby avoiding a purchase of said Mac computer!), the schools, the great light in the apartment, and the views (the sweet little church and a park), we applied and were accepted yesterday at #3.  

Our move-in date is October 7 and we are super-excited!  No second guessing the decision...

Generic photos from the website:

the building

the business center

the common tv area

gym looking out over DC skyline

building lobby

Metro stop with building in background

"party room" with full kitchen 

rooftop pool
kitchen, dining and living rooms with photo taken from living room
(obviously not taken from the lower floor we're moving into!)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

House Hunters

My life is consumed at the moment with finding the "perfect" apartment.  We've seen enough to figure out what we want and that's allowed us to eliminate sight-unseen a lot of other buildings.  (And by "want", I mean the bare minimum square footage we think we can survive in without killing each other.)

Based on what we've seen thus far, we've narrowed it down to 3 units.  (It's House Hunters, Story-style).

Unit 1:   SIZE, SIZE, SIZE.  Plus here is size - this is a 2BR+den.  Same price as Unit 3 but 1352 sq ft.  Fixtures are very nice in the apartment.  Floors are totally wood laminate, which I prefer over carpet.  Kitchen is very nice and a little open. Gym is so-so. Unit is located in horrible (and I mean horrible), low-floor location in building.  The den overlooks a high-rise construction site (not sure what the noise factor will be because I couldn't get in to see the actual unit today but it was VERY noisy on the outside of the building) and the other windows overlook the next-door high-rise's parking lot. Blah.  Grills are provided outside, and there's a computer room with MAC desktops, but no other inside or really nice outside common areas to speak of.  Unit is available before we want to move out of temporary housing, so that means we assume payment faster than is necessary (State Department's paying for the temporary housing).  The living room is HUMONGOUS.  No balcony.  Building is 4.5 blocks to Metro but in the neighborhood Jimmy and I lived in when we first moved to DC 15+ years ago (which I love).  It's easy walking distance to my favorite neighborhood.  Building has a dog park, which is going to be provide a constant source of Mac begging for a puppy (definite negative).

Unit 2:  MONEY TALKS.  2BR unit has been renovated and is very nice.  Unit is 1215 sq ft and is cheapest option.  Huge closets.  Kitchen is entirely closed, which I don't like.  W/D are in the kitchen, which I don't like.  No foyer, so I'd have to invent a foyer.  Living/dining room are huge.  Gym is decent, grills are provided with tables and chairs under a pergola near the pool. Building is 2 blocks to Metro.  Neighborhood is my least favorite of the three.  Two computer rooms with MAC desktops, but no other common areas to speak of.

Unit 3:  LOCATION, FABULOUS SHARED COMMON AREAS.  Beautiful fixtures in this 2BR apartment, totally renovated, nice closet space, least amount of square footage (1163 sq ft) but most expensive.  Kitchen is really nice, slightly open. Separate laundry room.  Floors in living areas are wood laminate, bedrooms are carpet.  The most amazing common areas (totally kitted-out gym, swimming pool, huge outdoor terrace with grills and great seating) all with views overlooking DC skyline plus a couple of computer rooms with MAC desktops, a great party room and tv room (so there are spaces outside the apartment that we're counting on using to extend our virtual square footage if we choose this one).  There's a Starbucks on the bottom floor.  The building sits on top of the Metro stop so no walking commute for Jimmy to get to the subway.  Easy walking distance to my favorite neighborhood for restaurants and shopping.

So do we go for more space inside the apartment, better common areas in the building, quicker access to the Metro, lower monthly rent???????


more odds and ends

1.  I just finished ironing 12 of Jimmy's dress and long-sleeved shirts.  I miss Ruth.

2.  Mac has been under the weather with what I think is an allergy-induced cough. Where is Ruth and her homemade remedies when I need her and them?  There's no fever, so no need for potato slices around the forehead.  But is the lime/ginger remedy for cold-induced cough or can it work for allergy-induced cough as well?  I miss Ruth.

3.  Gel nail polish is a modern scientific miracle.  I had a manicure 10 days ago and this stuff has not chipped or otherwise gotten ugly.  I can wash dishes and scrub pans and nothing chips off.  This has not made it to Colombia yet, so this is my first go and I'm a fan!

4.  I downloaded John Mayer's new album and Jennifer Nettles' new single this morning and cannot stop listening to them.  LOVE!

odds and ends

1.  Apartment hunting in north Arlington and trying to stay within the confines of our neighborhood school zone stinks.  The apartments are really expensive and are small enough to fit in my back pocket.  It's very hard to forget that amazing penthouse apartment we left in Bogota and embrace this new reality.  Sigh.

2.  We went to a Methodist church service on Sunday and it was  The church is community-based church and not one of the big Methodist churches in town, which I loved.  The sanctuary is a lovely old building and the church is "music-focused."  They have an amazing pipe organ (with an organist who knows how to play it loud which I love) along with an accomplished choir. The music was amazing and the sermon powerful, and there was a range of ages from teenagers to young parents with babies in infant carriers to 60 year-old couples to a woman we met who turned 102 last week.  We will definitely go back.

3.  Mac needs to go back to school.  That's all I'm going to say about that.

4.  We've had a great time catching up with friends in the DC area.  That's the real beauty of being back here, so I'm trying to stay focused on that and not the size of our apartment.

re-entry to life in Northern Virginia, afternoon of day 2

Mac and I returned from the zoo on Friday in a highly relaxed mode, only to find the light blinking on the answering machine.  The answering machine comes with the corporate apartment and the only form I put that telephone number on was the school registration form.  Not even Jimmy has the number so the blinking light could only mean one thing.

The message was from the school secretary, asking me to call back as there was a problem with the registration once it was passed to the principal for her review.  I called back and was passed from the secretary immediately to the principal.  This is never a good sign in my very limited experience with principals and even more limited experience with public school registration.

The principal stated that they don't normally get 5th grade transfers into a bilingual school and she was concerned about his academic Spanish level.  (I totally understood this because I had the same concerns.)  She asked if we spoke Spanish in the home (no.  our names are Jimmy and Susan Story... fairly Anglo names if there ever were), if he'd studied math and science in Spanish in the past (um, no), etc.  She said he may have no problems if he's extroverted and willing to make mistakes in front of his classmates (he's extroverted and I think he's willing to make mistakes but maybe in a new school, he'll be embarrassed to make mistakes) and if I'm not concerned about grades because he likely won't make the same level of grades he's made before in English.  I didn't say anything at this point, but all I could think was "Houston, we have a problem".  Because yes, I do think grades are important for a smart kid who can make and is used to making good grades. When the principal was talking about dropping grades and whether I was okay with that, she mentioned another mom that for "the lack of a better term", is a "helicopter parent" who hates the falling grades (quotes are from the principal).  I kept my mouth shut and pretended like I was one of those cool moms who could just roll with failing grades all in the name of watching her child struggle to understand math and science in Spanish but let's be honest.  I am the Webster Dictionary definition of helicopter parent.

The principal said to bring him in on Monday and she'd let him read math and science textbooks in Spanish and see what he understood.  Jimmy was all in favor of this, but I was not.  Mac is fairly confident in his conversational Spanish abilities and the last thing I wanted was for him to be tested (although the principal said we wouldn't call it "testing".  whatever. it was testing.) and be told that he's not good enough.  He's already going to have enough culture shock and resulting adaptation going to a public school for the first time.  Why add self-doubt to the equation?

So we had a family discussion on Friday night and weighed the pros and cons.  I, of course, had already checked out of the Spanish school  because let's be honest again - I don't understand 5th grade math and science in English, so how can I help with these subjects when they're in Spanish.  No comprendo. Blank stare.

Jimmy was a little harder to convince but he finally came to the conclusion that maybe this door closed for a reason.   We've fought some bull-headed fights (against the world, not each other) trying to get doors back open that really, in hindsight, would have been better left closed.  So we decided to leave this one closed.

The big catch in all this is that we moved to this area in particular for the bilingual school, but also because it's a team school area, where you can go to any of the 4 elementary schools in the team as long as you live anywhere in the area.  Well that was the system until about last week.  The schools are overcrowded so the county just made the decision to limit school enrollment to your particular neighborhood.  Well, that bit of news came a day late and a dollar short.  We're locked into this temporary apartment for at least 30 days out, after which time school will have been in session for a few weeks.

We're zoned in this temporary apartment for the bilingual school, so what happens if the bilingual school doesn't want you?

I scoured the Arlington County Public Schools website on Friday night and found the golden nugget that said yes, the team has been disbanded BUT kids in the bilingual zone (who aren't bilingual) can go to the Arlington Science Focus School.


So we registered for ASFS yesterday and thus far, we haven't had a call back from the secretary there to tell us we've been kicked out.  This school is "designed to develop extensive understanding of science content and process through inquiry-based learning.  Students embark on exciting adventures each day where science content is used as the catalyst to teach all subject areas by using natural inquiry to develop students' thinking skills for analyzing, reflecting, problem-solving and hypothesizing." I don't even know what all that means, but they have a space simulator in the computer room, for crying out loud!  Science was never my forte, but I'm so excited that Mac is getting this unique opportunity to continue his education at a school like this one.  

If you need to reach me, you better call me on my cell.  I'm not answering the home phone anymore in case it's the school kicking us out.