Posted on 8/31/2009 02:00:00 PM In:
No phone, no lights, no motorcars. Not a single luxury.

OK - that might be exaggerating a bit. There were lights and motorcars. But there was no wi-fi, my go anywhere with you network didn’t go with me to this place, and there was not a television machine. I think if I were stuck with Gilligan and his friends, the first thing I’d make wouldn’t be a radio out of coconuts, it’d be a wireless router.

See? Even just now as I was typing the last couple of sentences in the mountains without internet access, twice I started to bring up a web browser to look up three correct spelling of Gilligan, and the Sprint tag line.

It’s amazing how addicted accustomed we become to having something. A few years ago a hurricane knocked out our power for a week and I was eight months pregnant at the time and on bed rest. So I couldn’t really leave the house, The KoH was working retail hours back then, which meant that pretty much any time during the day that would be convenient to be home he wasn’t and I was just hanging out in the house by myself all day every day. When the power first went out, I was determined to make the best of it. “My ancestors lived long lives without television to keep them company,” I thought to myself smugly, “why shouldn’t I be able to get along for a few hours? So I can’t watch tv. I’ll just listen to the radio.”

And then, when the sudden realization of the idiocy of that statement set in, I decided to pick up a book and read instead. Only it was nine o’clock at night and reading by light of a flashlight at eight months pregnant while lying on my left side (have I ever mentioned how I have this particular disorder that makes me see three of everything when I lie of my left side? Not so much good for the reading. Also makes me nauseous.) didn’t seem like such a great idea either. So I decided to call someone to talk to. (It must have been really bad if I was willing to use The Phone.) Only our phones are the kind that you plug in so when the power goes out they don’t work. “OK then, ”says a determined me who is now talking to herself, “I’ve been meaning to finish up some work on that book I’ve been working on, I’ll just fire up the computer and…. Wait never mind.”

I think I ended up going to my elderly neighbors’ house to lie on their couch and watch them bicker. It was at least as entertaining than most reality television shows.

So this weekend, I took the whole fam-damily and we went to the mountains of Virginia to attend a cue camp. Here:

Since Monica and Barry have chosen cued speech for the form of instruction for their daughter, I’ve been wanting to learn about the process and be able to cue with Mari as much as I can when I’m around her. And since The Dormouse and The Caterpillar spend an awful lot of time around Mari, this family-oriented camp seemed perfect for us all to learn more.

For those not familiar, cued speech is not the same as sign language. Which is a shame because I know a good bit of sign language and have been able to use that with my girls and with Mari when she was learning. It’s a shame because I was secretly rooting for them to choose sign language as Mari’s method of instruction so I wouldn’t have to learn as much new stuff. But I guess they made decisions based on silly things like what’s best for Mari and not what’s easiest for NG. Thoughtless aren‘t they? It‘s a wonder I‘m still friends with them.

Here's my nutshell description of cued-speech-as-I-understand-it after this weekend.

Cued speech is a method of visually reproducing sounds in language that you can’t see on people’s lips when they talk. There is a series of eight hand shapes that represent consonants and six four (I stand corrected; thanks Hilary) placements around the face that represent vowels. Together with the shape of the mouth when you form words, these are able to visually represent each one of the forty-two phonemes in the English language. The basic thought behind it is to give deaf/hard of hearing children and adults all the information they would normally get from their ears, but can’t. It is, instead, done visually. It doesn't replace spoken English, it just fills in the blanks where hearing leaves off.

I love sign language. I think it is a beautiful, expressive language. But cued speech appealed to the other side of my brain and while I didn’t expect to be bored by the weekend, neither did I expect to find it as completely fascinating as I did. I was surprised to learn that not only does the word get cued, but also the accent used to say the word. For example, the word “dog” said by a Westerner like me, sounds like “dahg.” But add a little Southern drawl and you get “dawg.” Both words, while spelled the same, are cued differently. To language and dialect geeks like me and The KoH, this is cool stuff. We learned that The KoH and I each say The Caterpillar’s name differently and therefore we each cue it in a different way. With cued speech, the nuances of regional dialects in a language are transliterated and communicated equally as well as they would be communicated to people who hear them.

We had a terrific three days and at least the attendees at the camp were completely kind and welcoming to us newbies. We met lots of new friends whom we hope to see in the future. The little kids had separate classes in which they played games, did myriad activities and learned to cue their names and some common words. Us big ones went through an intensive overview of the basics and now, while we conceivably could cue any word in the English language, we get to go home and practice. Be… cau… se… we…. are…. ssssslowwwwwww. And no one wants to have a conversation with someone when it takes five minutes to say “My name is…..” and then stand there waiting because you can’t figure out how you actually say two of the vowels in your name.

In fact, we all enjoyed it so much that I did not, in point of fact, go into telecommunications withdrawal when I couldn’t get the internet for three days. In fact, I almost didn’t notice it. Alright, you got me I noticed it. But I did not go running naked through the woods with a laptop in my hand yelling “Help, help! My kingdom for a wi-fi signal!” and that’s something right?

Someone at the camp thought it might be a nice idea to have a twitter stream going throughout camp. But then when no one could get the local network to work on their computers (there was supposed to be a connection available in the conference building, but after the first day it didn’t work), they instead put up a “Twitter Page” on the wall and had people add their “Tweets.” Which I think, used to be called "writing on a piece of paper with a pencil" but I'm not sure.

Here are some of the things I would have tweeted had I had internet access and/or my husband did not tell me it was "inappropriate to put on a paper that hung in the conference center." Killjoy.

Untwittered Tweets

Dormouse crawls into bed with Monica:
Monica: Your elbows are bony.
Me: So are her knees.
KoH: And her feet and her shoulders and her ribcage and her chin…
Monica: And her soul?
Me: No that’s my soul.

Monica’s FacePlace status one day (she could get internet, damn my lack of iPhone): To all the people who can read this, congratulations! You aren’t one of the people I unfriended today.

KoH forgot to bring his pajamas and decided just to sleep in his jeans.
Me: Why don’t you take your pants off and just sleep in your underwear?
KoH: I don’t want Monica to see my peep.
Me: Trust me, she wouldn’t see it anyway.

Nature abhors a vacuum. The Dormouse abhors silence.

What's the past tense of "tweet", "twat"? That just sounds dirty.
Once I was trying to connect to the internet on my iPhone and it found a network called "Toys for Twats."

Little boy comes up. He’s fallen and scraped up his elbow and needs the nurses’s attention.
Monica: OK, let’s go find the nurse. Who’s your mommy?
Boy: Um. I don’t have a mommy.
Monica, once the boy had walked away: Well, THAT was awkward.

Me: If I’m complaining about sugar giving me heartburn then I probably should not be eating a chocolate bar right before dinner, huh?
Monica: I was gonna say something but my mouth was full of sun chips.

Excited little boy who won a door prize: I won! I won! I don't even know what it is! (It was a network travel cable.)

Here’s a cue a lot of people need to know if they work with little kids: Pee-Pee. Oh... also: Poo-Poo.

What are you doing here? I thought you weren’t coming until after work.
Well I left the house 20 minutes late and then I had to stop for gas.
So you just decided not to go at all?

I labeled my boob like five minutes ago and no one noticed. I’m offended.

I wasn't kidding about that last one.

I can cue that now.

My thoughts: 

Protective Mother

Posted on 8/31/2009 07:17:00 AM
I was outside taking pictures of the girls in the front yard the other day when my neighbor waved me over across the street and said, "Come take a picture of my baby birds."

So I walked over and he pointed this low hanging nest in his tree.

We could hear the baby birds calling for yummy regurgitated insects from mom and if you wanted to, you could have reached up and touched the nest. Except I'm thinking someone might have taken issue with that.

She sat there, six inches away from my camera, eying me suspiciously, but never moving a muscle. Not until I'd had my fill of picture taking and walked away, did she fly off to do some shopping or whatever it is bird mommas do. I'm always amazed by how nature takes care of its own.

My thoughts: 

Late Summer Flora

Posted on 8/30/2009 07:54:00 AM
I love taking pictures of flowers. They never hide from the camera. They don't blink when the flash goes off. They don't make weird faces. They just sit there and look lovely. They are so easy to photograph.

My thoughts: 

Playing with Depth of Field

Posted on 8/29/2009 08:04:00 AM

My thoughts: 

Fancy Schmancy

Posted on 8/29/2009 12:03:00 AM In:
Flower arrangement in the lobby of the hotel we stayed in in Times Square:

For those of you traveling, I recommend you get yourself one of these:

They are quite handy and save you a lot of money.

My thoughts: 

Interesting Stonework

Posted on 8/28/2009 07:18:00 AM

Another Harper's Ferry photo.

My thoughts: 

Fun with Fotoshop

Posted on 8/28/2009 05:36:00 AM In:

Having a little too much fun with The Met photos.

My thoughts: 

Rage Against the Dying of the Gumballs

Posted on 8/27/2009 11:38:00 AM In:
Still wrapping up our twenty-hour stint in New York. We went a couple of blocks out of our way to visit Dylan's Candy Bar which is hands down amazing. I'm actually pretty glad I didn't bring the girls here because I don't think I'd have gotten out of there for less than a c-note if The Dormouse was around and I didn't want to hear, "Can-nee? Can-nee? Can-nee?" from The Caterpillar for every minute of the next three months. In fact, though I brought them both souvenirs from the place, I did not bring back any candy nor will I let them look at the photos. My momma didn't raise no dummy.

But for you, good blog readers, I will share. Here, let me take you on a tour of three floors of awesome.

Here's the main candy bar with every kind of "penny candy" imaginable:

The whole store is decorated with candy:

Here's a table:

And I mean everything:

Even the artwork is candy. This is made completely from Jelly Bellies:

I guess they couldn't figure out how to make the light fixtures from candy, but this is a pretty good facsimile:

The stairs, however, they figured out:

Haven't you always wanted to take a gumball bath?

Dive right in:

I've often said I could live very happily without chocolate as long as there was rock candy around:

So good wishes from the floor:

Looks good enough to eat.


My thoughts: 

Shadows of The Met

Posted on 8/27/2009 08:01:00 AM In:
I was quite taken with the interplay of the shadows cast on the floor from the statues and people in this room of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. If you have a chance, go to The Met at dusk. Viewing this from the balcony looking down was almost more enchanting than being down on the level with the statues.

My thoughts: 

Forewarned is Forearmed

Posted on 8/26/2009 04:22:00 PM

My thoughts: 

In Need of Restoration - Hotel Could Use Some Work Too

Posted on 8/26/2009 12:37:00 PM
I realize I'm crossing the vacation posts here, but I am Lord Emperor of the Universe of This Blog and so I shall since it amuses me.

We just managed to do so many things in two separate twenty-four hour periods that it's impossible to cover it all in a single post (or two, or three).

Or maaaaayyybe it's just that it's been over a year since I actually found more than twenty minutes to do something by myself that didn't involve work, cleaning house or being ordered around by two less-than-four-foot-tall dictators and suddenly, I have been able to do that TWICE
in ONE MONTH so I'm just a little bit giddy.

Or perhaps it's because I was recently referred to as a local "Momblogger," which initially felt how I imagine it feels to a cat to have its fur pet the wrong way, so any non-children-related posts are a plus today.

Thomas Jefferson, during a visit to Harpers Ferry, noted the meeting of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers and the encircling mountains as "worth a voyage across the Atlantic." The scene Jefferson described is visible from several of this more than 100 year old hotel's rooms. The hotel was built in 1888 and its first proprietor and manager was Mr. Thomas S. Lovett, an African American native of Harpers Ferry. (I stole that directly from the website - look at me and my plagiaristic tendencies!) While we were at the other B&B, the father of the family staying in one of the other rooms told me that he and his wife got married at Hilltop House and now they were bringing their adult children on a biking trip along the C&O Canal and had wanted to stay there again. Currently however, it is closed and undergoing an extensive reconstruction project - which I can aver that it desperately needs; I'm not sure I'd even change walking around inside in it's present state.

It was while we were walking around Harpers Ferry and the currently condemned Hilltop House Hotel that Monica announced, "I think I just saw a German Shepherd out there in the woods... or... maybe it was a bear."

Then we laughed and laughed.

That led to a complete retelling of this routine, which I do not think the tourists from outside the U.S. understood in the slightest. Their loss.

Later Monica announced that she saw "a bridge that went straight through the mountain" on the other side of the river. And then we pondered whether or not that thing might in some circles that thing be called a "tunnel." And people wonder why I like to spend time with her.

Other memorable quotes from the day include:

"How do I love you. Let me count the cheeses"
"Six. I only count six cheeses. That's not very much love."

"Always plan your getaway with a Mormon - guarantees the whole bottle of wine for yourself."

"Look! I even brought a corkscrew. Do I have a glass? No matter." *glug* "Oh wait, there's an empty glass in my hand."

"Just a minute, let me get my luggage." *pulls two Wegman's grocery bags out of the car.*

"Do you think people will think we're a lesbian couple meeting for a tryst?"
"Well, we are both driving station wagons."

*said to proprietor* "Hey, I heard you were from my home state."
"Betcha don't want to know how I know that."

"I was going to try to take home this desk, but I couldn't figure out how to get it into my purse. You're lucky." *written in the B&B Guest Book.*

Tourist to restaurant owner: "Are you closed already?"
Restaurant owner: "Well it IS eight o'clock."

My thoughts: 

The Met - A Photo Essay

Posted on 8/26/2009 11:17:00 AM In:
There's something about reading and studying something in a book, and then later getting the chance to see that something in person, that thrills me to the core. It's why I love living in D.C. so much. Sure, there's history everywhere in the U.S., but this is the history I learned about in my civics class in eighth grade. And somehow, seeing it now... getting to see it any time I want... is just about the coolest beans I can think of.

So the Metropolitan Museum of Art was some very cool beans indeed, because in my junior year of college? I wrote a paper on this guy:

Why do all my photos look so crappy in blog format? Click to embiggen, please.

And this gate:

OK, I didn't ever write anything about this guy, but he made me laugh because he looked like a Muppet character or two:

My knight in shining armor was there:

Some very cool mosaics:

A Tiffany stained glass window I wanted to step into and live inside (I really wish I'd brought a tripod - this would be much clearer):

The theme of the weekend, a stained glass Tree of Life panel set by Frank Lloyd Wright. (I can't find this exact one on the Met's website - you get the idea.):

I was beguiled by this statue (no picture of it on the Met website) and it reminded me of a book I read once or twice (or five times):

Maybe it's my early exposure to the idea of running away from home and living in a museum (another book I read five times), but oh, how I would love to have stayed there all night with her:

My thoughts: 

Gardens of Harpers Ferry

Posted on 8/25/2009 03:07:00 PM

Everyone has these lovely gardens, even in the older historic section of town where there isn't any land to put them on. So they just build them up the side of a cliff.

I have a collection of antique bottles but I never thought of doing this with them.

We kept walking around wondering: do so many people keep nice gardens in small towns because there's so much less to do? Or because, unlike us city folk, they've been raised to actually take pride in their appearance and are willing to spend more than five minutes on it? I'd look up the answer, but I've got a very large entertainment debt I'm trying to spend down.

My thoughts: 

Now on my Grocery List: Sugar

Posted on 8/25/2009 06:18:00 AM
"Momma, can I have some watermelon?"

"Sure, honey."

*rattling in kitchen, then several minutes later*

"Look Momma, I made some watermelon-juice-aid."

"Good for you."

"I just squeezed out the juice and then I added some sugar."

"Pretty ingenious."

"Do you want to try it?"


*hands me a glass and as I pick it up, my arm almost falls to the floor under the weight of a tiny plastic glass that now weighs at least a pound*

"Did you add sugar to this?"


"How much sugar did you add?"

"Oh, just a little bit. I like it that way."

"I think you may have added too much."

This was full in the morning.

My thoughts: 

First of First

Posted on 8/24/2009 11:09:00 AM

Yes, today was the first day of first grade for The Dormouse. I can't believe that had I not been one of those parents and followed the birth date cutoff rules of our District, she might only be starting Kindergarten this year. As it is, it seems like she's a decade older than last year at this time.

Late last week, when we had not received a back to school night notice, a bus schedule or even word one from the district about the change in schools hours (the website still had all last year's information), I called the school office to ask when the back to school night was.

"Oh we only have back to school night for the kindergartners. Your daughter can just go to school on the first day."

"Well, aren't there new school hours this year?"


"Well, your website still has last year's hours."


"Could you let me know what those hours are?"

So she gave them to me and then tried to get me off the phone.

"Wait, who is her teacher this year?"

"Oh, they don't have those lists yet."

"So how will my first grader know what class to go to?"

"We usually ask all the first graders to congregate in a corner of the cafeteria, all the second graders somewhere else, etc."

"How about the bus schedule?"

"You don't have that yet?"


"Well, just come on the first day and I'm sure they'll give you all that information."

"So, basically, you're telling all the parents to show up on the first morning."

"I guess so."

"You're all kind of gluttons for punishment, aren't you?"

"Well, we might put a list on the door on Saturday, you could come by over the weekend and see if it's there and that might help you."

I don't think I have to tell you that there was no list posted on Saturday. I finally got the bus schedule on Friday of last week, but since I still didn't know who her teacher was or what classroom she'd be in, I decided to take her to school on Monday morning. This is what we walked in to find:

It was complete and utter chaos. Instead of separating the kids by age, they tried to get all the kids to sit in the bleachers under a sign of their teachers' names. But since NO ONE knew who their teachers were, you had to find someone with a class list to look it up. And only a few teachers had a class list. And they hadn't posted the class lists anywhere on the wall or door. So you had to wade through the melee to find a teacher, most of whom didn't have any identifying factor to distinguish them from all the parents in the room, to look up your kid's name on the list and tell you who the teacher is. Then you had to push through the throng to get to the place there that teacher's class was supposed to sit. I went through three teachers I knew before I found someone who had a class list and then when I found out who the teacher was, I had never met her and couldn't even point her out to The Dormouse.

If you see a suspicious spot of floor where there aren't people in any of these pictures and conclude that I'm just angling these photos to exaggerate, let me tell you that at least two kids had thrown up on the floor and any open spots you see in the photos are where the vomit was.

I'm not even going to go into the obvious concern of what this does to kids and their emotional experience on the first day of school, I'm just going to leave it with this question: You're the new principal of a school. Is this really the best way you could think of to administrate the first day of the new school year? Is this how you and your staff wanted to spend the first morning?

Looks like somebody's going to be a more active member of the PTA this year.

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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