Tilt Your Head 45 Degrees to the Left

Posted on 12/31/2014 02:01:00 PM In:

One of the few clear shots of the currently-scaffolded Capitol Building dome I was able to get the other night.  I really should just leave my tripod in the car.

Here are the only other two.




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Never Seen Them Before in My LIfe, Mr. Park Ranger

Posted on 12/31/2014 12:23:00 PM

Whose ill-mannered kids are rolling down the hill in George Washington's back yard?



 Oh wait...



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Christmas Isn't Complete Until You've Visited the Christmas Camel

Posted on 12/31/2014 12:08:00 PM In:
The day after Christmas was nice so we all headed out to George Washington's Mount Vernon to hang out with the Christmas Camel.

Never heard of a Christmas Camel?

 
Aladdin is so disappointed in you.

George Washington, like many of his contemporaries, enjoyed the entertainment of exotic animals.  Washington recorded paying to see a "Lyoness," a "Tyger," and even spent $1.75 to see an elephant.  During the Christmas season of 1787, Washington paid 18 shillings to bring a camel to Mount Vernon for the enjoyment of his family and friends.  Aladdin, a seven-year-old camel, from Virginia, will live here at Mount Vernon until January 6th.

This is actually something I've heard of in the past but never really made note of it in my brain until we happened upon the Christmas Camel.  Some part of my brain thinks Aladdin should be wearing a Christmas wreath, but I'm guessing at some point, someone tried and he'd had none of it.


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In Lights

Posted on 12/28/2014 03:42:00 PM In:
It's by no means a unique shot around the D.C. area, but I'm just so impressed that I could get this good a quality nighttime/Christmas lights photo on my phone, I'm gonna go ahead and post anyway.



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A Very Special Christmas Edition of Hoarders

Posted on 12/27/2014 03:31:00 PM
Someone seems to need an intervention.






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Merry Christmas from the House of OCD

Posted on 12/26/2014 02:40:00 PM


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Merry Christmas Earthlings

Posted on 12/25/2014 03:21:00 PM


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So This Is Christmas

Posted on 12/24/2014 09:01:00 PM
December has been a whirlwind, hasn't it?



This is one of my favorite Christmas decorating traditions.  In a sweatshop I set up in the living room, I made the Shortlings string these popcorn and cranberry garlands while watching a A Christmas Carol with Sir Patrick Stewart, which is wonderful, but we all are compelled to randomly yell, "Make it so, Tiny Tim" in our Captain Picard voices (which sound surprisingly like our Sean Connery voices; we are not good impressionists) at the television every few minutes during the viewing, which I don't think Dickens intended.  And then we watched this.

Shut up, Wesley.

The Shortlings have each prepared a Christmas wish list for Santa.  Which I shall share for posterity's sake.  Here is the Caterpillar's, sic in [ ]:
  1. Goggle Eyes [google]
  2. Hihels [high heels]
  3. Malifasint [Maleficent]
  4. Fary pack [fairy]
  5. Nfer bellow from brave
  6. Pet
  7. Playdow cake mownten
  8. Mrkr makr [maybe I could just ask Santa to bring her some vowels?]
  9. Stretchins
  10. Dowvenchy
  11. Phone
  12. Magic
Some notes:
#5 = the KoH seems to understand this one so he's handling that. 
#10 = neither of us knows what that is. 
#11 = no way, José.  
#12 = My coworker was looking over this list and when she saw that item, said, 

"Oh, so she wants a magic set?"

Me: "No. Pretty sure she just wants actual magic."

Coworker: "So are you going to get it for her?"

I actually think number #11 pretty much is #12.  But she's not getting either one.

The Dormouse's list is a little more complicated... and demanding.  Parenthesis are hers:
  1. My ears pierced; two on the right, one on the left. And earrings.
  2. A blue scrapbook
  3. A chinchilla and the necessary things (food, cage, bowl, etc.)
  4. Lots of different tinted blue sparkly tulle
  5. Lost of white sparkly tulle
  6. A paint & oil pastel set
  7. Horse riding lessons (English style) (The pommel gets in the way)
  8. Dark blue (semi)-permanent hair dye
  9. Gel pens
  10. Labeling tap (4 a scrapbook)
  11. A good (not cheap trash) Elsa dress & wig
  12. Black tennis shoes
  13. Black & silver rinestones
  14. The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan
  15. Kindle (original) (just 4 reading)
  16. A #20 gift card to Michaels
  17. UNO cards
  18. Reign by Chanda Hahn
  19. To get to spend more time with my friends
  20. Another invisible ink pen/marker (mine is running out)
The Caterpillar has been struggling with Santa this year (though really, we thought she'd worked that out last year, so apparently she's also struggling with memory) and declared that she was uninterested in going out to visit Santa this year.  I asked why.

"It's just some random guy in a suit," she said.

We'd just had a church party where one of the guys we see every week was the guy dressed up as Santa and she was unimpressed. So we had a talk, leaving the door open for her to draw her own conclusions and then we dressed up in all our finery to go to meet Santa at the mall. The Caterpillar was uncharacteristically quiet and wouldn't even look around the corner at the man while we were waiting.   But then it was almost our turn and I said, "Look he's waving at you."

She peeked around the corner and took a look.  Then she looked back at me with wide eyes.  

"I think he has a real beard."

"Hmmm," I said, "So he does."

She went over to sit with him and pose for a picture and immediately started stroking his beard.  She did not stop stroking that beard the entire time she sat there.  

At some point, I walked over from dealing with the photographer and said, "Did you tell Santa what you wanted for Christmas?"

Santa said, "Not yet, we've just been talking about my beard the entire time.  And that's just fine."  

He spent a lot more time with them.  I don't know what she asked him but I have an idea.  I'll always be grateful to that man for being so sweet with her.



The next day we went on a little adventure to help Santa and maybe learn a little bit about what it might feel like to be Santa and bring things to others. The Dormouse declared this to be more fun than all the rest of the Christmas preparations put together.

We are heading to bed for the evening with a plateful of cookies and milk and tiny origami frogs named Norbert being left out for Santa.



Because what else would Santa want, really?

Merry Christmas one and all.

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Santa's Little Helper

Posted on 12/24/2014 03:55:00 PM




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And Now for the Feats of Strength

Posted on 12/23/2014 03:48:00 PM
This little Christmas village has celebrated Christmas for somewhere around forty years. I've always loved it and how simple it is.  The little people are made of pine cones.


This year I thought they could use a new festival in their town and taught them the tradition of Festivus.


Perhaps next year, I'll teach them to worship The Claw.

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Hell Has "Frozen" Over

Posted on 12/15/2014 11:24:00 PM In:
The Ornament Quest this year proved to be difficult.  I could think of a lot of things that might speak to who each of The Shortlings is this year, but they'd also been done in previous years and I like to think I'm better than that.  We all know it's not true; I am better than no one, but I tried anyway.  I spent many a late night (because that's just how much I've been sleeping lately) scouring the Etsy for ideas. 

Then it hit me.  The one consistent thing that my kids have focused on since late last year is that horrible movie that I kind of liked when I saw it in the theater, but I don't care how great a movie is, when you hear it repeated and acted out and sung and referenced in front of you eleventy-billion times, you get a little sick of it.  So.  No Frozen ornaments was my mantra.

But then I perused about eleventy-billion pages of handmade ornaments on Etsy and Amazon and I even went into a Hallmark card store to look at their 2014 ornament collections and I could. not. find. one. ornament. that pleased me enough to call it "their ornament" for the year.  The only thing that I could think of that really made sense for either one of them this year was that damn movie.

So I went back to Etsy and found the least objectionable Frozen-themed ornaments I could because this really is the best thing to represent who these girls have been this year and in the end, it's not about me.

The Dormouse's ornament had to be Elsa because she identifies so strongly with that character.  But I wanted something more than just a decoupaged picture cut from a Disney indicia box, stuck on a styrofoam ball.  I happened upon this Elsa-inspired doll ornament and I think it's fantastic.  She's definitely Elsa, but she also kind of reminds me of one of those Amish dolls.The Dormouse loves her.



I also acquiesced to Frozen with The Caterpillar and this Olaf ornament.  This, The Caterpillar says, is her second favorite line from the movie, "Some people are worth melting for..."  Her first favorite line is, "I don't have a skull... or bones," but it's surprising how few touching keepsakes are created with sporting that line.



For my birthday this year, The Dormouse decided that I should also be in on the ornament tradition (I am, actually.  I have a box of them from my childhood.) so she got me my very own 2014 ornament as a present.  I was touched by this because I've become convinced in recent months that if I were to die in the house without anyone else noticing but the children, my money would be on this one to eat me and then learn to write checks from my checkbook rather than alert any emergency personnel.



So now.  The tree is up.  The lights are lit.  Ornaments are on the tree. Cards sent. That's about all you have to do for Christmas, yes? 

Wait, what? There's more?!?

I'm gonna have to enter a mall this December aren't I?

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Christmas 2014

Posted on 12/13/2014 07:18:00 PM In:
I had the idea for this photo on this card quite awhile ago, maybe even last year; I just could never come up with the caption inside in a way that was brilliant or made sense.  Then this year came around and I still couldn't come up with anything clever, so I just relied on my weird, genetically predisposed, quirk of knowing every movie made before my birth, but not so much what's in the running for this year's Academy awards.  In the end I just put my kids in the Robert Mitchum role and stole the title.  So if you're older than me, you're going to get the joke right away.  If you're my age, and watch too much reality television, you're going to think I stole the idea from Duff Goldman.  If you're younger than me, you probably are too busy texty-talking on your smarty-phone to care one way or another.

The best part of this year's Christmas card was that it took a sum total of one hour to plan, pose, take the picture, Photoshop and upload to Snapfish to place a card order.  The cards arrived neatly packaged in the mail four days later and I stuck labels and stamps on.  I love love love how little time this took because I am LAZY. 







If you, like some of my family, take exception to the "Happy holidays" on the inside of the card, may I remember you to the fact that we are also wishing you a Happy New Year, so whatever holiday you celebrate, this is basically the plus one.  Also that word holiday comes from the Old English word hāligdæg (hālig "holy" + dæg "day"). The word originally referred only to special religious days. In modern use, it means any special day of rest or relaxation, as opposed to normal days away from work or school.  So if you like, you can consider that I've wished you a happy Holy Day, rather than declared war on Christmas.  Does that make you happy, Kirk Cameron?

I took a total of seven pictures and the first one I snapped ended up being the best one. But some of the others are quite fun, if only because of the expressions on The Caterpillar's face when I told her to "look menacing."  So here are extra bonus shots for you, internets.  Because you're so special to me.

Merry holidays from all of us, but mostly these two hoodlums.





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This IS the Status Quo

Posted on 12/12/2014 05:27:00 PM


I've been taking a self-imposed break from the interweb lately, because the status is... NOT quo and because the world is a mess, but I have zero desire to rule it.

Two Dr. Horrible references in one sentence.  That's gotta be some kind of record.

Smells like cumin.

I've fallen into the trap that bugs me so much when people at church do it, where they can't focus on or talk about anything but how awful everything is right now and how they need to shield their children from the evils of this world and how this clearly means the End of Times and how we should all just hunker down in the basement with our food supply and our homemade bullets and pray until Armageddon is over.  When the reality is that this time? well, yeah, it sucks... but once you live a few years beyond early adulthood, you realize that, hey, remember that time a little over a decade ago when planes flew into buildings?  That time sucked too.  And remember that other time a couple decades before that when there was a plane hijacking or a terrorist attack per week?  That time sucked too.  And remember that time when a President was shot and most of your seventh grade class applauded?  That time sucked a lot as well.  In fact, all of those times sucked just as much as this time.  Maybe in different ways, but not any worse or any better. (Can things actually suck better?)  But interspersed with all those sucky times were some true moments of charity, love and understanding. Many, in fact.  The moments where someone I know who lost their entire home and all their belongings in a fire and was benefited by the disaster response fund I help manage, turned around in the following year and donated hundreds of dollars to that same fund to support people who lost their homes in a super storm.  There are a lot more of those moments, in fact, than the sucky ones and you have just been focusing on the bad stuff, dumass.

I'm usually the one who speaks up in Sunday School to contradict the fearmongers, but it's been hard for me to stay focused on that lately.  Not even because such horrible things are happening, but because I'm worn out by it and I wished for better from us by now.

But then one of the girls I teach at church had some stuff happen, which is not my story to share, and while I was trying to help her through that, she tried out for a special touring sports team and made it.  She was ecstatic.  This kid is smart and totally capable of going to college after high school, but finances are going to be an issue and this will be the best chance for her to work toward a college scholarship.  The euphoria of that lasted for about a week until she realized that it would cost almost a grand to participate.  Money she did not have.  And she needed it in a week.

I helped her with some ideas for ways to raise money, garner sponsorship and with online fundraising websites.  She worked hard, but still only had a fraction of what she needed.  So I shared her website with my friends and family and I sent an email to my workmates and promised them that if they simply read my email, I would consider this a replacement for whatever school fundraiser/wrapping paper/cheese pot/pizza dough sale my kids' school was having this year. 

And you know what happened?  People came out of the woodwork.  The donations came rolling in, slowly at first, but then a couple of my friends took a real interest in this girl who was not my kid, but somehow connected to me, and kept asking about her.  They told other people and dug into their pockets to throw a little cash her way on my recommendation and suddenly, she was within a few hundred dollars of her goal.  And then the other kids at church all decided to babysit for a week and donate the money they earned to her fund and then a couple of my friends and coworkers donated what I would consider large sums of money.  Between that and the money she earned off line, she got close enough that she was able to be a part of the team.  Oh there will be travel expenses to come, but there's a lot longer lead time on that for her to plan on earning it.  

It was wonderful to see, yes, because my friends stepped up to the plate when I asked, but mostly because I watched this kid who thought no one, including close family members, cared about her and her aspirations, and then she just observed while anonymous people donated to help her out.  You cannot believe the change in countenance that happens when someone thinks others believe in them.

I was touched by a couple of these donations in particular.  They were made anonymously online, so my little friend had no idea who they were, but I knew who and in some cases how much because of the string of events that happened.  And because I know these people, I also know how much of a privation a commitment like this might mean.  I wrote to everyone I personally knew who had donated to thank them, a) for making a very real difference in this girl's life and b) for helping me to see some good in the world during a much needed time too.  One person wrote me back to basically say, "You're welcome; I decided to put another couple hundred dollars in."

Wait a second, I thank you for doing something good and you respond by doing some more good stuff?  People, what am I gonna do with you?  This is not the narrative I hear when I flip past the block of news channels on my cable box.  

But what they reminded me was that this... this is far more my experience with people in the world than not.  And if I don't like the world the way it is, well I need to work to change it.  It doesn't have to be hard.  I might not be able to do everything to directly affect issues of social justice and fairness that I feel need to be addressed. But I can do something.  

It might not make a difference to everyone that I tried to do something, but it does make a difference to the ones for whom I do it.



Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.  

Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching.  As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea.  The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning!  May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”
The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”

The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “But it does make a difference to the ones I throw back!”

- adapted from The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley




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Thankful for a Place to Sleep

Posted on 11/29/2014 06:48:00 AM
Because we are stupid, or gluttons for punishment, or just stupid, we decided this week would be a good one in which to evict all the wall to wall carpeting from our house and refinish the original hardwood floors underneath.  We've been talking about it for awhile, but fate kind of forced our hand and gave The KingofHearts some time off in between jobs thanks to an impromptu layoff in November.  (Still pretty miffed about that one.)  I also had a couple of days off after my conference ended, so we decided to use the time to our advantage and declared this a good week to embark on that project - before he started the new job that he was offered less than two weeks later because he's awesome like that.  What we didn't count on was snow in November and how long polyurethane takes to dry.

Everything got stacked in the kitchen and our beds were disassembled and placed outside on the deck.  



Then we began the not difficult, but long and arduous task of removing about a kajillion staples (yes, we counted) placed in the floor by overzealous carpet installers.  Everyone helped (well, everyone but The Dormouse, who was pretty bothered by the change overall so she pouted and read books in the other room while the rest of us worked).


Then, because this is how all projects go, we took two steps backward and decided that while we had the room empty and the floor bare and unfinished, we'd better oughta paint the walls first.  So my beloved sage and cherokee red colors got changed to this:

 
I still don't love it, but it's nice and we changed it because Reasons!

After that we began stripping the floor down to its bareness with a floor sander.  I have no pictures of this stage of the process because it was back breaking and unpleasant and I do not wish to remember it, or do it ever again so don't suggest I come help you refinish your floors unless you plan to do the Sanding Step yourself.  Come to think of it, I also do not like the Painting The Trim Step as The KingofHearts can testify due to my complaining. 

Once that was done, we began staining the bare floor a less objectionable color,


then applying a polyurethane coat, (smelly!),



until we had a finished product.


The cats are still bothered by the change and refuse to lay on or walk on the new floor whenever it's an option.


Then just for good measure, The KoH did this in his spare time:


Our plan was to be finished before the snowfall on Wednesday, but that also didn't work out too well because Reasons!  So we ended up finishing on Wednesday evening and then trying to put the house back together and bringing in sodden doors and bed frames from the deck while simultaneously preparing a Thanksgiving dinner.  We finished around noon, with just enough time to put the turkey in the fryer and to eat by dinner time.  The Caterpillar declared this Thanksgiving "the best day of the year;" I have yet to understand why.  Probably because we let them watch an insane amount of television this week.  For me, the day didn't really get good until desert:



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Philosophy from a 7 Year Old

Posted on 11/26/2014 09:03:00 PM


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Mommy's Little Busker

Posted on 11/24/2014 04:02:00 PM
That...



is my daughter, who has made a jar that says "Tips" on it and is now playing viola in the driveway for the neighborhood afternoon traffic.

Finally, I can rest, assured that I will be taken care of in my retirement.

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Sunrise

Posted on 11/10/2014 04:03:00 PM
I've been away for the last week and got home late last night, exhausted. The Shortlings were already in bed when I got back, so I put my feet up, laid my head on The KingofHearts' shoulder and stared at the television show he was watching in a sort of comatose, post conference stress disorder.  Things have not been going well lately and I've been cranky about it to say the least.  That's another post, but if anyone knows a new, miraculous way to stop time while we get a few ducks in order to meet a deadline, or maybe a few hundred thousand dollars they aren't using just now, I'd really love to hear about it. 

I looked over at the footstool and my foot was resting on a purple index card with The Caterpillar's handwriting on it.  

"What's that?"

"Oh, that's something The Caterpillar wrote while you were gone," said The KoH idly, "It's a poem."

"You told her to write a poem?"

"No, she just wrote it. I don't know why."

The Dormouse is working on a book of poetry for her write-a-book entry this year, so I asked, "Did The Dormouse help her write it?"

"No, she just did it all by herself. I just looked down and she was finishing it up the other day."

I picked up the card and read it.  It was full of seven-year-old's spelling-isms and not written in verse, but once I figured out all the words, I was floored by the depth of eloquence in her little brain.  

They fill up your life, these kids.

Sunrise 

It is one of the most remarkable things.
When beauty rises with the colors of the sky, it makes the sunrise.
With all the colors of dawn it makes the morning 
filled with joy, happiness, beauty, quietness, 
but above all,
love.


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We Tank You for Your Patronagery

Posted on 11/10/2014 05:40:00 AM


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Raising Awareness

Posted on 11/09/2014 07:58:00 AM
I think our Movember effort is coming along nicely, don't you?





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Happy, Cheesy Kids

Posted on 11/08/2014 07:52:00 AM
These are photos from a talent show they competed in a couple months back. There was a story I intended to write to go along with these, but we've entered the season of Big Work Things and My Brain Is Mush (the two may be related). I do not remember it now.  What do they say?  A picture is worth a thousand words.




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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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