What Also Floats on Water?

Posted on 4/30/2011 07:20:00 AM In:

This downtown D.C. duck was kind enough to pose for me and every time I look at this picture I have to remind myself that it's a real duck and not a decoy.  He's such a perfectly posed specimen and his legs look like they have wires in them that have been plunged into the ground like one of those plastic pink flamingos (it's a long bump, but totally worth the watch).  But we know that it was, in fact, a real duck because The Caterpillar desperately wanted to pet that duck and that duck desperately did NOT want to be petted.  Hilarity ensues.

My thoughts: 

Striking Out

Posted on 4/29/2011 10:35:00 AM In:
Another little-known historical place in downtown Baltimore is the still-standing house where George Herman Ruth - better known as The Babe - was born in 1895. 

I've always been a baseball fan, more so than any other sport.  But even I have to admit that my enchantment with the sport has as much to do with its rich history as the sport itself. My speech is littered with baseball references even baseball fans don't catch because they come from events that happened well before anyone around was born, like the Black Sox scandal in 1919. "Say it ain't so, Joe" is something my kids hear me say often and with great sarcasm.  I'll see any baseball movie that comes out and once watched the entire Ken Burns documentary three times back to back before it had to go back to the library.  Not being all that interested in the sport itself, but totally obsessed with the sport's history; it's all a part of the wondrous variety that makes up my psyche.  You may now pause to pity my husband for having to put up with me.  

We were tottering around Baltimore last week and ended up wandering in Pigtown (They don't call it this anymore; I just like saying "Pigtown."), when I remembered that after I first moved to the area, I'd spent a lot of time at Camden Yards and the Sports Legends Museum and the Babe Ruth birthplace was a little more than an outfielder's throw from that.  My traveling companions aren't that interested in baseball, but seeing as this is a building built in 1895 which still stands, I thought it would be fun to stop by the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum:

By the late 1960s, the property and adjoining three row-house structures had fallen into disrepair and were scheduled for demolition. Hirsh Goldberg, press secretary for Baltimore's Mayor Theodore McKeldin, launched a successful campaign to save and restore the Birthplace, which opened to the public as a national shrine in 1974. The not-for-profit Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation, Inc. was formed to govern the operation. Exhibits depicting the Historic House and life and times of Babe Ruth were installed with the help of Babe's widow, Claire; his two daughters, Dorothy and Julia; and his sister, Mamie, who was also born at 216 Emory Street. 

This photo is not actually of Emory Street, it is a perpendicular street to Emory street. But I liked the ancient-looking cobblestones juxtaposed with the brand new cars and guy with the tattooed shoulder unloading his trunk.  Emory Street has been paved, so this is probably a lot closer to what it looked like long ago:

The actual house he lived in is the second of four in a rowhouse.  The museum now encompasses the entire row and the interior walls have been blown out to accommodate the memorabilia and exhibits but even given that, it is TINY with a capital TINY.  You can't pass a person in the hallways without brushing shoulders.  Then stop to consider that the Ruth family lived in only one of the houses (in the first photo above, you see their door and the parlor window directly to its right... the next window to the right belonged to the next house over)... well... I don't know how they lived there without killing each other.

 Front parlor from the inside.

 Staircase up to the second floor, only open to staff.  Probably for good reason, as more than two patrons in there would be like a phone booth packing contest.

Babe Ruth was known as the Home Run King and he changed baseball forever.  His charisma drew crowds and made the sport more popular than it had ever been.  He was a complicated dude, who lived hard and fast but was also charitable and kind to adoring fans, especially children.  But the thing that I find the most interesting about Babe Ruth is that in addition to being the Home Run King, he was also the Strike Out King of his time.  People who came to see him play were just as likely to watch him walk back to the dugout after trying and missing, as trot around the bases (though as he aged, he often even had someone do that for him) to excited cheers.  When he retired in 1935, his one thousand, three hundred and thirty career strikeouts was a Major League Baseball record. That record was broken in 1964 by Mickey Mantle. 

I tried to explain this to The Dormouse as we walked along the tiny hallway to the bedroom they think he occupied.  That he was very good at what he did, but the thing that made him very good was that he never gave up.  He always tried to get a home run.  He was never satisfied with a base hit.  And even though he didn't always make his goal, he still kept trying.  I hope that's what she remembers about Babe Ruth. 

"Don't let the fear of striking out hold you back."

- Babe Ruth

My thoughts: 

Minutiae and the Marital Spat

Posted on 4/28/2011 05:45:00 PM In: , ,

Whenever life gets super stressful for me, the voice in my head shuts off and I have problems coming up with anything to write about on this weblog.  This is one of the main reasons why when people tell me I should quit my job and try to be a writer for a living, I laugh at them.  Because, my dear, when you are a Writer with a capital W, you tend to be required to... you know... write... even if you're uninspired.  When you are a blogger with a lowercase b and you're uninspired, you can always skip a day or two and no one misses a meal because mommy couldn't come up with a good potty training story.  And... as a blogger, if you absolutely must post something, you can always phone it in in the form of photo essays and minutiae posts.

Like this one.


While downtown on Easter Sunday, my mother and I took The Caterpillar and walked from the Smithsonian metro stop to the Lincoln Memorial and back, which, as it turns out, is a little over three miles altogether.  If I'd bothered to look it up before we walked that far with a three year old and no stroller, I would have balked at the distance.  But since none of us knew any better, we didn't notice until after we boarded the metro and headed home.  Ignorance is bliss.  


The Caterpillar was a great trooper on the Toddler Bataan Death March we forced her to take and made the entire trek without a single complaint.  But had we walked any further, I might have had to tape her mouth again because she narrated EVERYthing that happened as it happened.  

We're a verbal group.  Everyone in our family talks a lot and I know overall that's a good thing for kids - they're less likely to be molested by a family friend or priest because everyone knows she's a talker.  Mostly we put up with the constant verbal diarrhea but there are times when YOUR EARS JUST NEED A REST, DUDE.  She Faulkner-esque-ly described everything she saw and/or every thought she had from the crud between her toes, to the color of the cement, to the relative number of items or clothing on women compared to men.  There is not a single thing about which this child does not have an opinion.  I can't even fathom what she'll be like at sixteen.


On the way back from the Lincoln Memorial, we made a quick stop off at Signers Island, which is maybe one of my favorite places on the National Mall.  We pointed out family of ducks swimming along like they owned the place and stopped to take a photo while The Caterpillar began extolling and expounding upon the virtues and qualities of different types of water. 

This water is "duck water:"

While this water is "alligator water:"

Good to know.


The KingofHearts interviewed for a couple of jobs last week on the off-chance he can improve his employment and/or commute.  Both prospective opportunities are much closer to home and with gas being over $4 a gallon, even if he were to get an offer at exactly the same salary he's making right now, the savings in fuel costs each week could pretty much be equivalent to a raise - not to mention getting almost two hours of his life back every day.  

Yesterday, he came home and announced, "Sorry, I'm late, I had a job interview on the way home."

Me:  "How'd it go?"

"Well, the interview went really great.  They seem like they're interested and I could see myself working there, buuuut..."


"I finished the interview, walked out, got in my car, looked down and realized my fly had been down the entire time."

Call me crazy, but I don't think any offer he gets is going to involve legally-approved transactions.


Since the day I was born, the music I gravitate to has always come from generations before mine.  Not that I don't like current music too, but the music that speaks to me tends to almost always come from decades before my birth. The KingofHearts bought us tickets to see probably my all-time favorite musical group, Manhattan Transfer, at Blues Alley in Georgetown this week.  I love the Manhattan Transfer because they can take just about any era or musical style and best even the greats who created the style.  But mostly because they sing music I love:  Charlie Parker, Coleman Hawkins, John Coltrane... all the stuff I want to listen to, but the big plus here is the members of this band are all alive.  So you get to see them do it in person as opposed to a remastered CD recording of an old 78 record.


Blues Alley is a tiny, dark, intimate, old-style jazz club that looks very much how I imagine the original Birdland to have been, so for me, it's almost like going back in time.  The best thing about it being so tiny, is that there isn't a bad seat in the house.  While waiting for them to take the stage, I texted Monica, "At Blues Alley, waiting for show to start.  I'm so close I could spit on Manhattan Transfer."

She texted back, "I'm so not-old, I don't know who Manhattan Transfer is."


Of course, then I looked around and realized that the three people at our table - me, The KoH, and Uncle Matty - were probably the youngest three people in the entire room with the exception of the servers, whom I'm reasonably certain didn't know who Manhattan Transfer was either.

It's like that time we went to a Rush concert and someone asked the waitress what was going on and she said, "Oh, some old-people's band, I think."


So we turned our attentions to finding an appropriate cougar for Uncle Matty. But he was all, "I don't need a cougar, I have a girlfriend" and stuff. 


That cougar could have bought him stuff that I could have used too.


Manhattan Transfer was excellent, by the way.

Don't ask me how this came up in conversation (how does ANYTHING come up in conversation in our house?) but The KingofHearts claims the term badonkadonk is an onomatopoeia and comes from "the sound it makes when you drive over a bump with a lot of junk in your car's trunk. You know, 'ba-DONK... a-DONK.'  And since junk-in-the-trunk is also a word for a big butt, well, you can make the correlation."
Uncle Matty and I called bullshit on this theory and yelled, "Cite your source!"  Then I spent the better part of the next hour ignoring my amazing plate of flan trying to find something, anything, on the interweb that either proved or disproved his theory.  And yes, I know the earliest known mention of it was in a Missy Elliot song (not a Trace Adkins song as some would try to tell you), but that still doesn't speak to the etymology of the phrase.  
Finally, I announced, "Well, I can't find anything one way or another, so I'm going to ask the Tweeple and the FacePlace.
"Well, that's not gonna be accurate," he whined, "because you're just gonna post something like 'my idiot husband says this, tell him how wrong he is.'" 
He has so little faith in me.  I totally removed the word idiot before posting that tweet. Also: Twitter's 140-character-limit wouldn't leave me the room for tell him how wrong he is.
So I told him that in the absence of any real data, if even one person could, in fact, corroborate that they too, had heard this is where the phrase came from, I would be willing to concede his point.
There you go, internets, prove me wrong.

My thoughts: 

Looking at Lincoln

Posted on 4/27/2011 07:45:00 AM In:
I've talked before about my inability to take the kind of photo I want of most of the monuments in D.C. I think it's because I've spent so much time looking at amazing photos that with my amateur skillz and equipment, I can never quite reproduce the kind of photo I have in my mind when I look through the lens.  It's tough to have an artist's eye, but then to lack an artist's talent.

My mother's been in town for the past couple of weeks and we revisited some of the monuments I've seen many times before.  Last Sunday we headed down to visit Mr. Lincoln and while I was taking a rest with The Caterpillar on the cool, marble floor, I decided to aim my camera at something other than the typical iconic images... because who can compete with this?  

These are two of my favorites from that day:

My thoughts: 

At the Wall

Posted on 4/26/2011 06:25:00 AM In:
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was the first of the D.C. monuments that I can remember being erected in my lifetime.  At the time, it was hugely controversial which, I imagine, is not unique in comparison to older monuments on the D.C. Mall, I just remember this controversy.  The winning design's architect was young and inexperienced... Maya Lin was still a student at Yale when she submitted the design, gasp, shock.  Many thought the unconventional design was hideous and ill-befitting those whom it intended to memorialize, calling it the "black gash of shame."  I'm not sure why I remember this so keenly since it was completed all the way back in 1982, when my main concerns in life included memorizing all the words to Safety Dance and how I could get one of those asymmetrical haircuts past my parents.  I honestly didn't really understand the vitriolic opinions, both pro and con.  Then in the early 90s when I visited D.C. for the first time, I walked in silence past all those names and was struck by how completely appropriate it was... grandiose and understated all at the same time.  

Aldous Huxley said, "After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is Music."  

I don't necessarily disagree with him... but The Wall does a pretty darn good job of it too.

My thoughts: 

That Easter Morn

Posted on 4/25/2011 06:13:00 PM

Easter was pretty low key this year. The Dormouse has figured out that there's not a real Easter Bunny, but hasn't seemed to extrapolate that knowledge to other fictional figures, like some.

"Momma, I'm pretty sure there's no such thing as the Easter Bunny. I think you and Daddy hid the eggs in the yard."

Me: "Is that what you think?"

"Yeah, because the candy in the eggs was the same candy Daddy had leftover last week when I went with him for his presentation at that elementary school." 

I knew that tiny bit of frugality would come back to bite me in the ass.

But, after a slight pause, she still chose to leave the door open for whatever might exist in the realm of possibility:  "Either that, or the Easter Bunny broke into our house after midnight, defeated our alarm system, stole the candy out of the pantry, and hid them in our eggs."

Is it better for her to believe there's no Easter Bunny or to believe that the Easter Bunny is a brilliant, thieving monster who will violate your home when you're helpless to do anything about it and steal even the food out of your kitchen?  I try not to think too much about that. 

The Caterpillar, however, bought into the Easter Bunny myth whole-heartedly.  She talked of nothing but the Easter Bunny throughout their entire egg hunt.  Then when we were on the Metro a couple of hours later and a random woman asked if she had a nice Easter, she spouted off:  

"YES!  And we had a egg hunt and we found Easter eggs that had CANDY in them and my momma and daddy hid them in the yard!"  

So apparently, saying you believe in the Easter Bunny and intellectually believing are two different things for a three year old.  The mom and dad part didn't make it into her impromptu Easter song, however.  So you can tell where her loyalties lie:

Warning: It's the Hotel California of Easter songs.  
Don't feel pressured to watch the whole thing. 

That dreaded bunny also left an assortment of small items in their Easter baskets.  Among them, colored bubbles.  I'm gonna go on record saying this is perhaps the WORST idea the Easter Bunny EVER had and that includes that time the Easter Bunny encouraged them to put plastic eggs in their mouths like torpedoes while he videotaped it.  While those bubbles do surprisingly float out with a distinct color, they are the messiest damn bubbles I've ever seen. 

I was extremely glad of the fact that I made the Ankle Biters take the Bubbles outside to play with them.  I completely regretted the fact that I didn't strip them naked first.  It was less than four minutes before The Caterpillar had her hair so covered in purple bubble goo that she looked like a Halloween costume from the 80s:

And The Dormouse had transformed herself into a real-life vampire child in that same four minutes.

This photo creeps me out more than I can describe.

That stuff says it's washable and I guess in the sense that once your white shirt is stained so red it could implicate you as the main suspect in a spree killing, and that you could then, well... wash that shirt... their advertising is truthful.  When the Shortlings came back in the house, I had them stop short in the entryway while I stripped them naked and carried all their clothes directly to the washing machine, while The KingofHearts carried their bodies to the bathroom for a good scrub down.  It all eventually came of of their hair and clothing, but I had to use half a bottle of stain-treatment for all the splatters and somehow they managed to cause me to have to pre-treat even their underwear.  So... sure it's washable. 

While they weren't looking later, The KoH threw the remaining bubble stuff out.  It was totally worth the big sarcastic "Thanks, Dad!" he got from them later when they finally figured it out.

My thoughts: 


Posted on 4/22/2011 11:56:00 AM
We made Easter Eggs yesterday and like last year, gave a shot using some natural dyes from found food items around the house we started by boiling stuff.  Random stuff.  Any stuff:



...and a few other things, spices, weeds, whatever...  supplemented by a set of Paas egg dying kits.
The Shortlings took responsibility for most of the dying.

And came up with quite the color palette.

Click to embiggen

Things that didn't work so well: dandelions from the yard barely registered as a color, spinach looked like it should work quite well because when you boil it, it turns the water this crazy deep green color but when you put the eggs in it, it comes out... meh.  I tried straining the spices so they wouldn't leave schmutz all over the egg, but clearly I needed cheesecloth instead of just a mesh strainer.  Still, it gives an interesting texture to the egg.  I still haven't found anything that really does a good job of reds.  All the pinks and the bright purples above came from the Paas kit.  

Now the real question: what to do with three dozen hard boiled eggs?

My thoughts: 

Beat of Her Own

Posted on 4/21/2011 06:19:00 PM
I asked her to put the cards away. 
She definitely has a unique approach to it.

My thoughts: 


Posted on 4/18/2011 05:32:00 AM
The Dormouse asked me to do her hair up all crazy last week since it was Crazy Hair Day in their Anti-Bullying Spirit Week.  Their instructions were to "wear your hair crazy to express your individuality - it's OK to be yourself!"

We came up with this little number, with which she was quite happy.

I post this here so that I can report that that evening The Dormouse came home with a list of things she was to wear for the very next day:  "Green and white t-shirt, sneakers, jeans or jeggings, pony tail."

I asked what the theme for this day was and she told me that it was "Twins Day" wherein the children were encouraged to "dress exactly like one, or two, or three of your friends."  

I'd like to take the principal aside and point out the irony of scheduling these two days one after another, but I fear it would be lost on her.

My thoughts: 

By The...

Posted on 4/17/2011 03:32:00 PM
Quick question:

How much do you think the following part for my car costs?  

a) $5.15
b) $25.22
c) $82.99

I think you can guess the answer is C because if it were one of the other options, I probably wouldn't be complaining about it on the interwebs, right?  Let's also keep in mind that that's just the cost for the part and not the cost to have someone pull out the air filter assembly and install it where it belongs underneath, since no one in my house can find a spare moment to attempt this job ourselves except on days where it's raining cats and dogs.

Now for the real question:  what do you think it is?

My thoughts: 

Bending Heads Toward the Sun

Posted on 4/12/2011 04:04:00 PM In:

My thoughts: 

Imitating Art

Posted on 4/09/2011 07:30:00 AM
I walked into the living room this morning to find The Caterpillar inside an upturned laundry basket, crawling across the floor.

"What are you doing, kid?"

More to herself than anything else: "Rrri'm a rootcase, Rrri'm a rootcase, Rrri'm a rootcase."

Gee, I wonder where she got that?

La la la.

My thoughts: 

My 3 Year Old May Have a Future in Standup

Posted on 4/08/2011 07:25:00 AM In:
"Momma, what do you call a bird with no wings?"

"I don't know.  What do you call a bird with no wings?"

"A falling-all-the-day-bird."

My thoughts: 

We have some relatives in town and The KingofHearts took a day off to show them around.  He decided to spend at least one day at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore.  I was working and couldn't go with them, so before they left in the morning, I said, "Be sure to take them to Fort McHenry.  That's really cool and it would be a good educational experience for the kids.  They can go back to school and tell their teachers they saw it when they get to that lesson in history class."

"Great idea," he said.

Someone asked, "What's Fort McHenry?"

For those who didn't sit through that filmstrip about Francis Scott Key at least fifty times in elementary school like I did, Fort McHenry was a key defensive fort on the Chesapeake Bay for many years and was integral during the War of 1812.  Key happened to be on a British ship in the Bay, attempting to negotiate the release of some prisoners when Baltimore Harbor was attacked by the British.  When the bombing started, diplomatic courtesies were suspended and none of the Americans on the ship was able to return to land.  All they could do was watch the attack on Fort McHenry throughout the night with no news about what was happening.  (A cell phone or two would have made life a lot easier back then!) The next morning when the smoke cleared, Key was thrilled to find that the giant flag General Armisted had ordered made was still flying, which meant that the Fort was still under American control.  Key was inspired to write a poem, which he titled "Defense of Fort McHenry." It was later set to music and popularized as "The Star Spangled Banner."  Weirdly though, it didn't officially become our national anthem until 1931.  Before 1931, there was no official national anthem.  Kinda makes you wonder what they played at the Olympic Medal Ceremonies before then, doesn't it?

Hey, look, 8th grade Social Studies class is good for something after all!

Anyway, it's a really cool star-shaped fort (each of the points being a place where there could be artillery cover for its neighboring points) and there's lots to do.  I think my favorite view of it is from above because you can really see the defensive architecture:

The Wonderland brood, minus me and the girls, spent the whole day at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore and when they came home, I asked how it was. 

Me: "Did you get to go out to Fort McHenry?"

KoH: "Yeah, but it was boring.  There's nothing there."

"Ummmm... there's a fort there."

"I guess, but the only thing at the top is a playground.  I don't know why you told us to go."

"Uh, because it's an historical place.  There's a museum too.  Did you not go inside?"

"There's no museum.  There's just a playground."

"You didn't go inside the fort?  See the armory?  Check out where the soldiers slept?"

"We looked at the cannon, but that was about it.  The kids played on the playground while we just looked around at the Science Center and the Aquarium."

"Last time I was there, there wasn't a playground.  And... You can't really see those things from Fort McHenry.  It's not even in the line of sight. Wait... there's a cannon on Federal Hill, DID YOU JUST TAKE THEM TO FEDERAL HILL AND TELL THEM IT WAS FORT MCHENRY?"

*blink, blink* "Huh?"

Short answer:  yes, that is EXACTLY WHAT HE DID.

For those who don't live in the vicinity, Fort McHenry is point A on the map below and Federal Hill is point B, a little over two miles away:

You can't see Fort McHenry from where they were standing without a magical telescope that looks around corners or at least through buildings.  

This tickles me to no end because a) we have lived in the area for fifteen years, b) as such, we have spent a great deal of time in Baltimore, the Inner Harbor particularly and c) I am almost 100% certain he has accompanied me to Fort McHenry in the past. (Though he now claims this is not true and he had never been there before. Well, he wasn't there this week, at least.)

The great thing is this has given me a new outlook on company and revolutionizes how I will from now on approach tour-guiding out-of-town visitors when they come to stay and want to see the cities... with only minimal effort on my part: don't take people to the actual place; just tell them they're already there. 

See that house across the street from mine?  That's the White House.
See that big retaining wall in the park up the street?  The Vietnam Memorial.

See that spire on top of the liquor store at the end of the road?  Washington Monument.

And now your tour of D.C. and Baltimore is complete.  Let's go eat nachos.

Showing people around town just got easier.

My thoughts: 

Superhero Aspirations

Posted on 4/05/2011 08:26:00 AM In:
Some of us have dreams about falling or being chased, some have dreams about being naked in front of the whole school... 

...and some of us have flying dreams.

What are you looking at?

My thoughts: 


Posted on 4/02/2011 09:06:00 AM
The Dormouse tries not to blink when I take her picture:

Very hard...

The harder she tried not to blink...

...the more difficult the not blinking becomes.

So you have to surprise her:

For some people, it just comes more naturally:

My thoughts: 

These Jokes are Getting a Little Morbid

Posted on 4/01/2011 06:02:00 AM In:
In honor of April Fools' Day... I guess.

What do you call a cow with no legs? 

Ground beef.

Funny, right?

Except when The Caterpillar tries to tell it.

"Hey Momma, what do you call a cow with no legs or a dog with no legs and no mouth and no head and no neck?"

"I don't know, what do you call a cow with no legs or a dog with no legs and no mouth and no head and no neck?"

"Grounded beef."

"What do you call a cat in a bones that's stuck together with no legs?"

"I don't know, why don't you tell me?"

"Grounded cat."

"What do you call a pencil that has no eraser?"

"I don't know, what?"

"A backpack that has no grounded beef."

"Now, you're just getting predictable."

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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