Saturday, August 30, 2014


I got this sweet card from my BFF today:

Our newest relative is doing great. We see signs everyday that his separation anxiety is improving. We think (hope?) he's starting to get it that he's stuck with us.  

Thursday, August 28, 2014


We went to sixth grade orientation. 

How did we get to middle school?

Mac seemed confident and was happy to see some of his friends from 5th grade. We met his home room teacher who is back in the classroom after a 5-year break to stay home with her baby. I like that. And we found out that her husband is from Bogota, so we were able to bond with her over that connection. 

I'm sure it's going to be a great year. 


My laptop got majorly hacked today. 

Worse than that, I may have been scammed by the hackers in my quest to fix the problem. That's still unclear but I spent hours working on this problem and have zero confidence that I've done everything I need to do to protect myself. I'm kind of freaked out here. 

As a matter if principle, I hate thieves. 

I hate pickpockets. 

I hate purse snatchers.

I hate robbers. 

I hate car thieves. 

I hate hackers who, even if they just create a nuisance, steal a sense of security. 

I hope there's a special punishment for them all on Judgment Day. 


National Dog Day!  

(Sorry for the cuteness overload.)
Eating a delicious and fancy doggy treat from his care package last week

Sleeping with his beloved tennis ball

Sleeping on Mama's chest 

Looking like a jack rabbit

Loving on Mac

Family selfie at the beach in Delaware

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Proud Mama Alert!  

Proud Mama Alert!  

Proud Mama Alert!

If you're still reading, consider yourself warned.

Today we got the rest of Mac's standardized test scores.  That boy is so smart.  He scored Pass - Advanced on the Science and Math portions and Pass-Proficient on Reading.  Since I am not a math or science person, I am super impressed with those scores.  And since I'm a reading guru, I don't understand why he didn't get Pass-Advanced on Reading BUT I didn't point that out to him.

In all honesty, after a really steep learning curve upon entry into his school last September, I'm thrilled that he did so well. I think I was hopeful he'd just pass everything, never mind any advanced scores. I love that boy and am so proud of him.

Sixth grade, here we come!



When we left Chestertown last night, we drove to Dover, DE where we spent the night in a pet-friendly hotel. Thankfully Leo was a credit to his species. 

This morning we drove to Lewes, DE where we went to Cape Henlopen State Park to see the beach. It was so different from the beaches I know. For starters there are huge surf fishing beaches where trucks drive out on the sand, park with their tailgates facing the ocean and fish. Dogs are only allowed on the surf fishing beaches so we didn't check out the swimming beaches. But it didn't matter because it was very rough and windy and quite chilly down by the water. We found a section of a surf fishing beach that had no trucks on it so Mac and Jimmy could throw the football and Leo could play on the sand (which he loved) and put his paws in the water (accidentally and which he did not like at all). 

After exploring the WW2 military installations in the park and driving to the park's northernmost point, we headed for lunch and a stroll around Lewes, which is so charming and sweet. 

Jimmy found a shop selling steamed crabs. Since the owner was ready to close, she sold him 15 crabs - several of which were true jumbo or larger - for just $29. To put this into perspective, Jimmy ate steamed crabs with a former colleague at a restaurant in Arlington in July. The cost for a dozen?  $95. 

We feasted like Chesapeake kings and queens when we got home tonight. 
(Mac's hand, which is longer than mine, next to our biggest crab)

Crab detritus 


One of the big draws of living in the greater DC area was that we'd get to see Jimmy's good friend from undergrad, his wife and kids often. We have been so fortunate to see them here as well as out at their place on the Eastern Shore. Sadly for us, they are moving next week to Ethiopia for Andrew's work so we made one last trip out to Chestertown today to spend the day with them. They're such good people and we had a great time, as usual. Bittersweet to see them go...

Leo had a great time. He got to run off-leash (and thankfully came back when called), and he took his first boat ride. 

But Leo wasn't the only boy in the family who had fun. The human boys enjoyed a neighbor's trampoline toy out in the water. 


Today I received a really sweet package from my dog-loving friend Dena.  It was full of wonderful dog and dog mama treats and could not have arrived at a better time as I'm feeling overwhelmed with dog ownership and separation anxiety that Leo seems to be suffering. 

Thank you Dena!!


Mac and I went to a Nationals game this afternoon. It felt slightly decadent to be at a baseball game at 4:00 in the afternoon, but we were in very good and abundant company and we had a great time!


Mac went to a sleepover at a Bogota friend's house, which left me with hours to kill before my dinner date with Jimmy.  Other than cleaning Mac's room and bathroom and walking this dog a hundred times or so, I read on the couch.  A lot.  I finished a book called The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty.  I loved the book up until the very end, but I felt like I got shortchanged by the ending.  Oh well.  Good for Liane Moriarty for actually writing a book, getting it published and having it widely read.  Who am I to judge the ending???

What are you reading this summer?  I'd love to know.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Mac and I took Leo to his first dog park today with our friend Angela and her dog Andie. 

The concept of a dog park and consciously providing dogs with an opportunity to socialize with other dogs really is a novelty to me, no matter how urban I try to be. I grew up on a farm with dogs that lived outside always. Our dogs may have socialized with other animals unbeknownst to us, but they generally met their demise at the fangs of a rattlesnake in a socialization experiment gone bad. Well that, or they got hit by a car. Based on that history, it should be no surprise that I'm freaked out about everything Leo puts in his mouth or comes into contact with.  In much the same way as I had no real experience with babies before I brought Mac home from the hospital, I have zero experience with "city" dogs who require regular trips to the vet (we had our second today) and play dates at the dog park. 

I was also nervous about taking Leo to the dog park because you actually have to take him off the leash there. What if he didn't come back to us?  Or found another family he liked better and blew us off? Or what if he turned feral and bit or snapped at dogs?  Nobody wants to be kicked out of baby's play group for failure to socialize appropriately and nobody wants to be shunned at the dog park because you brought the bad apple. 
No need for Defcon 1 because Leo did great. He was easily the smallest dog there but he never barked or nipped. He ran around like a mad man and wore himself out completely. I think he had a great time and I know he loved being off the leash. AND he kept coming back to Mama every so often. 

In the paraphrased words of the Terminator, we'll be back.

Mac throwing the ball for Andie while Leo goofed off
Taking a water break with Andie

The aftermath:


Mac's middle school debut is officially close: the bus letter came today. 


This makes me sad on so many levels. 

Middle school?  Really?  How can that be when in my head, I'm still about 24?  

And middle school is full of mean kids. I realize we're in north Arlington, which isn't exactly the 'hood but still. Some of those little rich kids might be bullies. It feels like elementary school might have been more protective of the children whereas these kids will just be thrown to the wolves in middle school. I certainly don't want Mac to be one of the wolves, but I don't want him to be eaten by one either. 

And he's going to ride the big yellow school bus. For the first time in his life. I realize millions of children do this every single day, and he has ridden a bus (really, a van, for all of his overseas schooling) but again, this is a bus with middle schoolers. What if nobody lets him sit next to him?  Or he sits next to a wolf? Who torments him everyday? And makes him not want to go to school?

I realize my default position is to go all Defcon 1 and assume the worst possible outcome. And I do realize I'm doing that right now.  He could get on a great bus where he actually knows some people and where he has a great 2-mile trip to school. He's an easygoing kid who makes friends easily so even if he doesn't know anybody on the bus, I'm sure he can make a friend. And once he gets to school, he knows at least one other friend from last year who's in his home room so he's got somebody to hang with through that awkward entry phase. And wolves never attack if two or more lambs are hanging close together, right?

Here's to hoping all of our children's returns to school are full of good friends, happy learning and no wolves. 

Monday, August 18, 2014


For the second time this weekend, we got to visit with very special friends from São Paulo days. Jimmy's former boss and his wife are passing through DC for a couple days and came for dinner with their college junior son, who used to be a lot younger when we last saw him 5 years ago. 

It was a great reunion with people who helped to make São Paulo such a great tour for all of us. 



We went to Annapolis today for lunch and a little walk around downtown. I'm kicking myself that we wasted an entire year without going there. It really is the most perfect city on the water in
the mid-Atlantic. It's a little reminiscent of Charleston, which is a very good thing to me. 

 We took Leo with us, after researching that it is a dog-friendly city. We found that many shops had dog bowls outside, filled with water, for the pups. We even ate (outside) at a restaurant that had a dog menu with dog bowls of ice water provided. 

While Jimmy had a soft shell crab sandwich and I had a crabcake sandwich  and Mac had Old Bay wings (all if which we're excellent), Leo had the assorted paw print treats. He loved them and ate them enthusiastically with no regard for possible indigestion from eating too quickly. 

Friday, August 15, 2014


Today Mac and I got to have breakfast with Walter, a dear friend from São Paulo days who's in the US for a couple weeks.  I can't imagine a life now without these types of reunions with friends we've made around the world. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

8-14-14 - my expert dog ownership advice

If you're ever going to get a new dog, my advice is that you get one at the same time as you have a baby.  Here are but a few of the reasons why:

1.  Crying is annoying. Barking is annoying. Your neighbors will hate you for either and you will grow tired of both (and maybe your neighbors, too) very quickly. If you're going to do these sounds at any point in your life, endure them at the same time and get it over with. 

2.  With a baby, your living room floor will be littered with a pack 'n play, activity center, toys, blankets, stuffed animals, balls, random diapers, teething rings, etc. With a dog, your living room floor will be littered with a dog bed, toys, blankets, stuffed animals, balls, random towels, chew toys, etc. You're going to lose that real estate in your home anyway, so lose it at the same time. Plus some of the stuffed animals, toys, balls, and chew toys might be interchangeable between users. 

3.  Listening all night for the baby's breathing on the bedside baby monitor is going to keep you up anyway so you won't be bothered by the dog's movement (which causes his name, microchip and rabies tags to jingle) in the crate sitting on a bench next to your bedside (since the puppy needs to see you if he wakes up; otherwise he barks). You weren't going to sleep much anyway. 

4.  You're going to vacuum or sweep a lot to clean up all those Cheerios and puffy things that miss baby's mouth. You're going to vacuum or sweep a lot to clean up bits of dog food and treats that the puppy drops. Do the cleaning once. Or maybe you'll get lucky and your dog will serve as the vacuum cleaner and Hoover up whatever leftovers make it to the floor. In this way, the dog will earn his keep around your home. (My advice also is to get a hypoallergenic dog so you're not cleaning up pet fur all the time. Even if you get a Hoovering dog, he likely will not eat his own fur. If he does, you're really lucky.)

5. With a baby, especially with a small one that you pick up a lot (i.e., too much), your clean clothes will soon be covered with spit-up, sticky stuff, baby food, dried-on Cheerios, etc. With a dog, especially with a small one that you pick up a lot (i.e., too much), your clean clothes will soon be covered with dog smell, dirt, and what you tell yourself is just dirt, etc. There is no re-wearing shirts. You're going to wash your clothes. A lot. Do it once. 

6. The baby is going to throw up on the carpet, sling sweet potatoes on the dining room rug, grind Puffs into the sofa. The puppy is going to slosh water out of the bowl, and he's going to urinate where he's not supposed to. You're going to use the carpet cleaner for the baby and the dog so get both beings at the same time and your carpets will be scrubbed like new by the time they're potty-trained. 

7. With babies and puppies, you spend a lot of time saying (in a baby voice), "who's the cutest boy?", "good boy!", "you're so smart!", "who's Mama's best boy?", "good poop", "want to go outside for a walk?", etc. Get them both at the same time and kill a lot of birds with one stone. 

8.  No matter if you're at baby's play group or if you're in the park walking Fido, you will be expected to compliment the other moms' babies and dogs.  No matter how poorly either behaves. No matter if you want to say "that's a face only a mother could love."  No matter if there's incessant barking or crying. Phrases such as "wow, you're such a big girl for 6 months", "that haircut is soooo cute on him", "how well does she sleep at night?", "gosh, he doesn't go potty for 8 hours straight? You're so lucky!", "do you like your doctor?", etc are entirely and completely interchangeable for pets and babies so you don't have to come up with different conversations all the time. (The good news here, is that even if your puppy is the only untrained one at the park, people will still compliment you on how cute your dog is, how lively he is, what beautiful coloring he has, and what a great name he has. I know this for fact.) 

9.  It is apparently socially unacceptable to stumble out of the apartment into your elevator (that has people in it, dressed for professional work or for their 17-mile run to "start the day off right") at 5:00am with unbrushed hair and teeth and a pajama top hanging out from under a raincoat (when it's not raining) just because your dog woke you up to use the bathroom. However, it does appear to be socially acceptable if the baby woke you up and you're taking her outside to calm her down at that hour so others in your household can sleep in peace. People are much more sympathetic and don't look at you like you're a sociopathic loser. Get the pet when you have the baby and once again, you can kill a couple birds with one stone and look like a martyr in the process. 

10.  Parents of humans and canines are happy to dispense advice. I cast no aspersions for this behavior. Baby or canine parents all have surely had that wild-eyed, slightly maniacal, crazy, hysterical look that comes from too many sleepless nights or worry over sickness or behavior. Everybody's just trying to help so take the advice, try it and maybe you'll be as lucky as the parent for whom it worked and you can be thankful. And if it doesn't work, well then, you can just resent that advice-giving know-it-all who had to stick her nose into your business because what does she even know about what you're going through with her perfect little, non-carpet-peeing, sleeping-through-the-night, over-achieving bulldog?

(Excuse me.) 

11. You will no longer be known by your name. Your children will be known by their names and you will simply be xxx's mom. In the last week, I've met Sebastian, Zoe, Milo, Rocco, Chloe, Sophie, Luca, Cooper, Copper and Zeus (along with about a dozen others) but I don't know any of their humans' names in much the same way I know Mac's friends and classmates by name but know only a handful of their parents by name. You'll suffer just one identity crisis if you get the baby and pet at the same time. 

12. Babies and dogs are people magnets. Old people, young people, toddlers, babies in strollers, homeless people, people of all races, people who speak different languages, people you've never noticed, people you've lived in the same building with for 10 months with whom you've hardly made eye contact. Almost everybody loves a baby and a puppy.  You are fair game as xxx's mom and you better be prepared for sharing the attention with baby and Fido. Defensive measures will be the same whether somebody gets too close to baby's face or their hands get too close to the clasp on Fido's leash. You envision baby- and dog-nappings since you just read dog-nappings are on the rise.  Get both creatures at the same time and you can live through one intense paranoia state instead of two separate, but equally intense, ones. 

And finally lucky #13.  Much like everything associated with a wedding costs more because that "w" word is attached, there is a similar premium attached to anything related to baby or pet. And trust me when I tell you there are A LOT of "anythings" that baby and pet simply must have. It's questionable whether an adult will ever be able to hold her head up straight if she's not been placed for tummy time on a premium activity mat that apparently and directly stimulates the nerve endings that cause a baby to be happy on her tummy while strengthening neck muscles at the same time. Similar results will not be achieved by simply placing baby on the floor. Oh no. I believe this is fact based on truth in advertising laws. Similarly, my dog's teeth will fall out, his intestinal health is doomed, his play sensors won't develop, I'll choke him on walks, and his tender foot pads will crack if I don't buy the fancy dental products, the expensive no-byproduct/grain/filler dog food, all those stimulating toys, the harness and the paw pad protectors. It's A LOT of pressure to raise a healthy, happy, smart, well-adjusted human and canine. And I assume that's not just because I live in highly competitive Arlington. Since you're shelling out big bucks for one, you may as well shell out big bucks for the other at the same time. Two pinches hurt the same as one if administered simultaneously. 

So I missed the boat on getting a dog and baby at the same time. I'm 11.75 years late on the dog. There are very good biological and sociological reasons why middle-aged women typically don't have babies. The same reasons might apply to having puppies. 


Wednesday, August 13, 2014


We've been waiting the required 7 days since Leo's neutering to give that boy a bath because he's been stinking like dog. 

We learned over the last day or so that once Leo gave up his days on the street to become an apartment dog, he gave up dealing with the elements. He loves a nice long walk in the sun, cloud or wind, but add rain and he will park his bottom on the inside of the building entrance. So we've had to walk him with the umbrella over him to protect his delicate self from the rain. 

So I wasn't sure how he'd do with the bath. There's a Petco Unleashed store a couple blocks away and they have self-serve bathing stations.  I figured it was better to have him go nuts in their store than in my bathroom so off we went.

Leo was skittish but ended up doing well once he settled down. 

And then we had a clean boy for about 10 minutes until we got to the park. 


The shipment was delivered and there's not a whole lot to go through. Our gorgeous reclaimed railroad tie teak dining room table, 12 chairs and sideboard from Africa were in the shipment and that surely must've accounted for about 750 pounds of the 900. 
(The bottom of our dining table top)

There were a few great finds in there:  

- the pink dress that I wore to my 8th grade prom which I loved then and still love now

- a huge plastic bin full of photo albums from my year as an exchange student in Australia 

- my clarinet from middle school (which Mac wants me to play for him) 

- boxes of tiles we bought in Mexico for some dream bathroom project we were going to do in the future.

I'm sure there are other treasures in there but this was a great quick taste!


We rented a second storage unit today in order to receive our last bit of household goods that have been in storage since October 2005.

Yes.  2005.  

We haven't seen nor apparently needed anything in this 900-pound lot for nearly a decade so rather than just leave it in storage until we ship out next, I decided I needed to go through it.  And since it has to be delivered by August 15 for the State Department to pay for the delivery (and I most definitely don't want to pay for the delivery), the time has come to act. 

By the time Jimmy retires, I will surely have enough knowledge and firsthand experience to open or at least manage a storage unit facility. 


Leo had his first trip to the vet. Poor little thing got a vaccine for lepto-something or other. And he had to get his very red eye checked with a fluorescent eye scan (just a broken blood vessel but we got some antibiotic drops just to help if there's infection). And they calmed me done about his wheezing (probably just adjustment to new grasses, pollens, etc but we can give him kids' Benadryl if it continues). 

I really wish there was a book called "What to Expect When You Bring Your Dog Home From the Shelter". (I've checked. There's not).  I just feel so overwhelmed at times. 


Sad state of affairs around here. We baked homemade dog treats for Leo today. Mac initiated this project and it was a great thing for him to do because he's usually averse to following recipes. He'd rather make up something gross that nobody can eat it, but for Leo, he measured, mixed and baked exactly according to the recipe. 

Leo was a very happy and grateful taste-tester!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


So we're home with this dog. 

Now what do we do??

We are all pretty clueless on dog ownership. We get the general idea that what goes in must come out, so we feed Leo appropriately (or so we think) and walk him every 3 hours to avoid accidents. And we read that dogs can sleep up to 18 hours a day so we got him this cute, cozy bed that he immediately fell in love with. But he likes our rugs just as well. 

We cuddle him and play with him and generally treat him like a newborn baby who can't be left alone. He spends a lot of time as my lapdog. 

He's pretty awesome. 


We arrived at the Charleston Animal Society at 7am in order to pick up our beloved Leo at 7:15 so we could start our long drive back to Virginia. 

We stopped with a quick visit with my mom and brother's family so they could meet Leo. 

It was a lonnnnnng trip home. We stopped for a lot of potty and exercise breaks, we made a crazy detour to find a Krispy Kreme doughnut store, and we sat in some ridiculous traffic in Virginia. 

 We left Gigi's house at 6:30am and arrived at our apartment at 6:45pm. Long day but Leo was a road trip champion and Mac kept him entertained the whole time. 


Pet ownership involves a lot of purchases for said pet. So we shopped today in anticipation of receiving sweet Leo tomorrow. 


Mac and I went to the Charleston Animal Society this afternoon to meet a potential pet dog. This sweet pup came in to the shelter on August 1, looking like this:

Before we met him, he was treated to a serious grooming at Head to Tail Day Spa today. Reportedly, he lost 7 pounds of hair!

It was love at first sight when we met him. 

How could we not adopt this adorable, personable, sweet boy??