Posted on 6/30/2008 12:16:00 PM
My neighbor across the street has this plant growing up around his mailbox that I think it is gorgeous. It has deep purple blossoms with yellow centers and I'm not ashamed to say that I covet it like it's my neighbor's ass.

It's called a clematis, but I cannot ever remember the name of it and I always just use the first closest word I come to in the long term memory alphabetized file cabinet in my brain, and that is chlamydia (which, coincidentally, is also kind of purple).

Four years ago, I bought one for my mailbox. We planted it, nursed it, watered it and hoped that it would grow up as beautiful as his.

Four years later, this is his chlamydia:

This is mine:

I suppose, metaphorically speaking, I'm the one who's better off... but I still want his bush. (un-metaphorically speaking, that is.)

My thoughts: 

4 Bird Heads + 1 Deer Nose

Posted on 6/30/2008 07:33:00 AM In:
I ate ostrich eggs at a really nice restaurant once -- the kind where you have "courses" and for each course they use a different set of china and use they phrases like amuse bouche. If you think I told these guys about it, you'd be mistaken. What do you take me for? An idiot?

My thoughts: 

Hello from Underground

Posted on 6/29/2008 06:17:00 AM In:
So... after all that nonsense, we did finally make it to Luray Caverns... on the way back home. We love caves and have toured almost every tiny little roadside hole in the ground (literally) from here to Pennsylvania. Luray is by far the biggest and has the most varied formations, although some of the smaller ones are more active and full of beautiful colors. And there's one cave in West Virginia where if you stop the tour guide to ask a question, she will have to start her speech all over from the beginning. Clearly, that one was my favorite. These were ok, but the tour could have been greatly enhanced if the tour guide was a four foot teenager from West Virginia who constantly misspoke the phrase also known as and instead repeatedly said "also knowing as." That's just my opinion.

This is the Reflecting Pool. The bottom half of the frame is water.
(Click to make any of the pictures bigger and get a better view.)

The Frozen Waterfall

Nature's lampshade

The story about this is that a little boy was bouncing this ball in the cathedral room and got it stuck up there. They left it there because they didn't want to damage the formation while extracting it. I later tried to figure out if this was true or just a story that the tour guides made up like they do in The Capitol, but I couldn't because their website sucks.

Edited to add: I guess have to take back what I wrote about the website sucking. When I wrote this, I just kept getting an "under construction" placeholder. Today the link goes to a rather nice website. But there's still nothing about the ball.

The bottom half of this photo is not water despite it's appearance.
These are actually stalactites and stalagmites.

My thoughts: 


Posted on 6/28/2008 08:52:00 AM

My thoughts: 

It's a Little Ol' Cricket Bug

Posted on 6/28/2008 06:44:00 AM In:
When we finally did get around to the Luray Caverns, we went through a garden maze that was next to it. At the beginning, we made the mistake of telling The Dormouse she could lead everyone through the maze and she turned into the hound from the Aristocats. While the others endured The Dormouse's constant berating of everyone when they got in front of her -- "Wait a minute. I'm the leader, I'll say when to go. Here we go." -- I took pictures of the fountains.

My thoughts: 

Trapping Tourists, vol. 5

Posted on 6/27/2008 09:43:00 AM In:
OK - now on to the seriously good times because this experience was worth all the money we paid for all the other crazy places combined. The Virginia Safari Park is basically a drive through petting zoo. It's an open range zoo -- you pay admission and buy buckets of feed at the gate and then drive through and all the animals come up to your car window and you reach out and feed them by hand. For an animal lover like me, It. Was. Awesome.

As you drive in, all the animals come running - even the fat ones.

And then they stick their heads in your vehicle to get at your bucket because there isn't a shy one in the entire place.

Or better yet they get you to drop the bucket on the ground so they don't have to follow you like this:

Better still, they yank the entire bucket filled with feed out of your husband's hand so the greedy little beggars can have it all to themselves and not share it with the seven dozen other animals that are mobbing your car. I'm not saying that happened, I'm just sayin'.

I now know what it might feel like to be a celebrity and surrounded by paparazzi.

This is the pot bellied pig The KoH thought we killed. There were about nine deer crowding my side of the window and after awhile, we realized if we didn't start moving we may never get out and the authorities would find our meatless, decaying bones a few days later under a pack of animals that had chewed open the doors of a Subaru Forester. So I, ever so slightly, stepped on the gas and tried to move us slowly through the pack. When the car moved forward, the deer backed off a couple of steps and one of them stepped on the pot bellied pig that was trolling for sloppy seconds of feed dropped on the ground. The pig squealed. And then The KoH squealed, "Ahhhhh!! Did we just run over the pig??" I had seen what had happened, so that was pretty funny to me, but I don't think The KoH will soon recover from the shock of possibly committing pig-i-cide.

I know I know the name for this animal with the curly horns, but I haven't been able to think of it. It's not a
gazelle, an impala, an oryx, a kudu, or a bongo (though we saw all of those there). The KoH tried to tell is it was an ibis, but we were all , "Yeah, I think that's a bird." Anyone care to enlighten me? So far Professor Google has failed me with searches for "curly horned African animal."

We got to feed the lorikeets, which was a huge kick, but a traumatic experience for The Dormouse. If you get a finger too close while they're eating, they'll nip you and while The Dormouse did really well with them for the first twenty minutes or so, one of them got her finger and broke the skin a little bit.

Here's where I get to feel like a heel in the parenting department because as she started wailing, "I want to get out of heeeeeeeeere!", I didn't want her to leave the aviary defeated and scared of birds. So I took her aside, away from the birds, for a few minutes and got her to calm down then encouraged her to try to feed them once more before we left. I never know if that's the right thing to do with a kid, but The Dormouse has relatively few irrational fears so maybe this technique is working. Or maybe she's just the easiest kid in the world and I'm a damn lucky parent.

The Caterpillar got nipped a time or two as well, but she was all, "Wah... hey wait... what was I doing? Oh, look, a bird!", so I don't think it traumatized her very much. Let's hear it for a short attention span!

I wish I could have snapped some photos of the times when I looked around and there were about fourteen birds perched all over The KnaveofHearts' head, arms, shoulders and hands. I was busy having camera problems as it kept yelling memory card full at me and every time I'd deleted enough bad photos to take another picture, I'd look up and they were gone.

These were really beautiful birds, but they were LOUD.

Here's one on my hand though:

So I feel it's only fair to warn you, dear reader, that I took about eight hundred photos on this trip and over the next few weeks I'll be featuring many of them here. If you are bored by people's vacation photos, I give everyone full permission to take a break from this blog for awhile. I have so many photos that came out to my liking and so many animals that I've seldom had a chance to get close to and the walls of my home are full that I don't know what to do with them other than post them here. It seems a shame to file them away on a flash drive and never look at them again. Hey, at least you're not invited over to the house for the slide show! Just kidding - like I have more than one friend who would come to my house.

My thoughts: 


Posted on 6/27/2008 09:00:00 AM
I'm an excellent multi-tasker. When I listen to people complain about how hard it is to work at home with a child in the house and they need to hire a babysitter to be there so they can do their jobs, it perplexes me. That is my world and my reality. Do they work in an office with eight other people requiring computer assistance from them in order to do their job? Do they also have a job that they themselves need to get done? Do they do it with a baby attached to their hip, pulling out handfuls of hair the entire time? Do they cringe when on the phone every time that baby makes a noise, lest the person on the other end of the phone hear and declare you "unprofessional"? Oh and do they do it on four, non-consecutive hours of sleep? Well, pshaw then!

On the days when I work from home, it should be easier, but it's not because it just adds loads of laundry, putting away dishes and cleaning up after the rest of my family to the list of things to do while trying to work on the computer and answer email at the same time. I know, I know, I could let stuff go, but it's difficult to let a baby crawl around on the floor when there's a slew of dropped food, toys and hair balls (the cat's, not mine) for her to eat. So I end up spending a good portion of my day just getting the house into a state when I can sit down and work. I finally canceled the cleaning service I'd hired because I realized that I was spending an entire day just picking up stuff so they could clean and then the house only stayed clean during the two hours I was home before my husband and daughter walked through the door. I feel guilty that I'm not putting in a full day of work so I end up stretching my workday out from four in the morning 'til I go to bed at night. Don't even think about getting a shower.

I'm not saying other people don't have it harder. I love that I get to go to work and have an adult conversation every now and then. I don't know how stay at home moms do it - and I totally and completely admire them for it. I'm just saying that every once in awhile it'd be nice to have that adult conversation without tiny fingers being inserted into my mouth or answer an email with two hands instead of one. Sometimes, I'd just enjoy going to the bathroom by myself.

I love my girls. I love that I get to bring them to work with me. I love that I don't have to miss whole portions of their lives and that I can still pay the mortgage and the utilities and maybe contribute something to a school fund for them in a couple of decades when gas will be $69 a gallon and it will cost them all their savings just to get to college. I don't regret my decisions for a minute.

I'm just saying I'm tired.

As a consequence to this ability to multi-task, I rarely give my full attention to anything I do. When I'm cooking dinner, I'm also cleaning up the kitchen, putting away dishes, making sure the Small One doesn't fall down the stairs, the Large One doesn't drop the Small One down the stairs, and checking email to make sure I didn't miss anything that needs to be dealt with today that I'll get chewed out tomorrow for missing. When I'm up at three am feeding the baby, I'm also editing that one last chapter that needs to get done before the week's end. And all the while, I'm feeling guilty because I often don't give my full attention to motherhood.

Yesterday, I finished a project early and put away the computer, work, phone, turned off the tv and got on the ground and played with my daughter. For an hour. And at some point in building a city of blocks and watching her knock them down like Godzilla on a bender for the forty-fifth time, I realized that this may very well have been the first time I've spent an uninterrupted hour just playing with The Caterpillar in a very long time.... maybe since she was born. That is unacceptable.

This morning I dropped The Dormouse off at preschool and as she walked through the door, she immediately remembered it was "bike day" and they were all supposed to bring their bicycles to school so they could do some outside riding. She hadn't told me and I didn't hear it from anyone else. By the time I get to her preschool, I'm a third of the way to work and it's a waste of time and gasoline to turn around and go back. So I said, "Well, honey, you didn't tell me - what am I supposed to do? Plus, we haven't put the training wheels on your new bike yet, so you couldn't ride it anyway."

She looked at all the other kids with their fancy bikes parked in the classroom and back up at me and started to wail. And that's when my heart broke. This, in her four year old mind, was The Worst Thing To Happen In The World and all I had do to was take twenty minutes out of my day and get her a damn bike to ride with her friends and I could be the hero and I wasn't willing to do that for her because it'd make me late for work.

So that's why I was late for work today.

It's nice to have some perspective sometimes.

My thoughts: 

Cabin Pets

Posted on 6/27/2008 04:33:00 AM In:
These are little visitors we kept seeing in and around the cabin and The Dormouse would politely point them out for everyone by screaming bloody murder. We'd all come running, thinking there was an axe murderer coming out of the woods with his hook-for-a-hand detached and stuck on our car door handle, only to find a bug. The KingofHearts took this photo using the macro setting and all automatic exposures on my camera. I hate it when the pre-set levels come out better than anything I could set myself - it makes me feel like I didn't get my money's worth in those years of photography class in junior high and high school. Oh wait. I went to public school. Maybe I did after all.

My thoughts: 

Trapping Tourists, vol. 4

Posted on 6/26/2008 08:58:00 AM In:
I have a love/hate relationship with small, local zoos. On one hand, the animal lover in me hates that the conditions are often poor and the habitats are tiny cages made of chain link fence with a dead tree thrown in for realism. The animals walk around in their own filth and pace the ten by ten foot area with little quality of life or semblance of an existence that they would have in the wild.

On the other hand, they are some of the only places where
I can my children can get close enough to the animals to see them and sometimes even touch them and that's an experience I want me them to have.

This one was better than most but even so, I always have misgivings about giving my money to support these places. It's a dilemma.

This bird seemed to have imprinted on me and followed me as I walked back and forth around the cage:

Loved the colors on this guy.

I desperately wanted to take him home:

This llama had his head on backwards. See what I mean about the conditions? Or am I reading to much into it?

This elephant had covered herself in the red Virginia mud to keep the flies away. The Dormouse insisted that this wasn't a "real" elephant because "real elephants aren't red."

My thoughts: 

Old Ironwood

Posted on 6/26/2008 04:17:00 AM In:
On the climb down to the Natural Bridge, there's a huge old ironwood tree that looks like it's seen it's share of history. I wonder how many photos of how many children have been taken around the base of this old tree. I'm pretty sure, however, that this spider has only posed for a dozen or so shots so I feel justified in feeling this not a cliché pose.

My thoughts: 

Trapping Tourists, vol. 3

Posted on 6/25/2008 11:34:00 AM In:
The last stop on our Attractions No One But Alice Wants To See Tour Of Virginia is the Natural Bridge Wax Museum and Factory tour. This amused me to no end because of the randomness of the scenes. It's part history lesson, part proselytizing mission, part artisan showcase, and entertainment for the kids... all rolled into one.

The first scene we encountered was The Garden of Eden as it would have looked if it were in Southern Virginia.

The Garden of Eden

The natural wonders and beauty of the surrounding Virginia countryside brings to mind another wondrous creation that dates back many centuries... The Garden of Eden.

And God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the Earth."

I never realized this before, but the King James Version of the Bible seems to have a definite slant toward cattlemen.

Here we are in the Hall of Presidents. Don't recognize this guy?

Why it's Bill Clinton, of course.

Here's a scene you may not remember from social studies class in Junior High School:

In the tavern, sits Thomas Jefferson, Betsey Ross, George Washington, William McKinley, Benjamin Franklin, and Warren G. Harding all raising a pint together while their bodyguard, Spiderman, awaits at the ready.

The touching portion of the tour was when we were taught about Christ's life from the Last Supper to the Crucifixion -- while Leonardo DaVinci stood by the side with a paintbrush in hand ready to capture the moment.

If you were wondering how God created man in his image, here's one hypothesis:

My thoughts: 


Posted on 6/25/2008 04:09:00 AM In:
The KingofHearts and the KnaveofHearts spent a significant portion of our camping trip seeking out, discussing, catching, releasing and being threatened by local wildlife. This is a crayfish that The Knave fished out of a stream we were walking alongside. Apparently an unusual connection with crayfish is genetic.

My thoughts: 

Trapping Tourists, vol. 2

Posted on 6/24/2008 08:20:00 AM In:
Not far from Foamhenge, lies the second best event of our vacation, Professor Cline's Haunted Monster Museum And Dinosaur Kingdom.

Nestled back in the
kudzu near Natural Bridge, Virginia, lies this charming old house. Years ago, the hotel at Natural Bridge caught fire and residents had to have a place to stay. The owner of the hotel used this property for guests to stay in while the big hotel was being renovated.

Once the hotel was ready for guests again, this property fell into disrepair, went unused and was covered by the quick growing forest, much like a
Stephen King story. Professor M. Cline (yes, the same genius who created the seventh wonder of Virginia, Foamhenge) purchased the land and created this entertainment venue for and on behalf of all the people at Natural Bridge.

Or at least that's what the tour guide told me before we went through the very scary, "Ooops I crapped my pants" tour. OK - I might be embellishing above on the history of the house, but the tour guide actually said this part when we asked him how scary it could get for the kids.
There was a "no scare" tour that The KingofHearts took the girls on and The KnaveofHearts and I took the scary, scary tour. Near as I could tell, there was little difference between the two, but the house was cool.

I absolutely loved this sculpture outside the house, and it chaps my hide that I didn't realize you couldn't read the sign in the photograph while I was there:

It says, "Hale-Bopp Comet Fell to Earth on this Spot in 1997"

That part was pretty uneventful apart from the "Chicken Door" that you could exit half way through the tour if it got too scary... woooooo oooooooo... for you. (There was a giant sculpture of a chicken waiting to mock you outside the door.) But after you go through the haunted house, there's the Dinosaur Kingdom awaiting. What I love about the Dino Kingdom is how you just know you're in the South as you walk through. Here's the set-up that you read before you enter:

It's 1863. While excavating fossils in Lost Caverns, a friendly family of paleontologists have discovered a hidden valley filled with living dinosaurs! As the Garrison Family studies these creatures in peace, the Union Army has discovered their secret and is attempting to rustle up the dinos to use as weapons of mass destruction against the South. Which will devour them first, their greed or the dinosaurs?
I knew some people were still fighting the Civil War, I just never imagined it would be with prehistoric edu-tainment venues made from fiberglass.

Here, we walked by a nest of newly hatched baby t. rex.

When we saw this, we all said, "Ummm.... what's a gorilla in a purple cowboy hat doing in Dinosaur Kingdom?"

Then we came around the bend to see the full scene and said, "Ah. The gorilla has stolen the cave man's pants. Now it makes perfect sense."

Here's when the dinosaurs start to turn on the Union Soldiers. I'm sure they deserved it -- after all, they burned Atlanta.

The Dormouse decides to tame one of her own for use against those who would tell her to go to bed on time.

The Dormouse and The Caterpillar make suggestions for more fuel efficient vehicles in this economic downturn.

My biggest lament is that the batteries in my camera ran out before I got to the end to take pictures of where the Blue Coats get theirs. I encourage you to go
here and here to get the full effect. OK, sure it was no Foamhenge, but totally worth the price of admission.

My thoughts: 

Me in 3 Seconds

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Washington, D.C. Metro, United States
Married, 40ish mom of two (or three, or four, depending on how you keep score) who stepped through the lookinglass and now finds herself living in curiouser and curiouser lands of Marriage, Motherhood, and the Washington, D.C. Metro Area.

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