Hot Lava, Cold Living Room

Posted on 3/01/2015 02:46:00 PM
I've been up since about 3:30 am this morning because it was fifty degrees in our house.  Apparently, when the oil company's record of your five-hundred gallon tank is off by two-hundred gallons, the Number One, Top Way this error is discovered is by running out of oil.  And since apparently, no one has seen fit to fit oil tanks with a gauge on them yet, the Number One, Top Way you know you've run out of oil is your furnace starts blowing cold air all over you.

You know how you tell how much oil is in your oil tank?  You take a ten-foot long stick and stick it down in there.  Like the dipstick in your car's engine compartment.  But unlike the oil dipstick in your car, this stick doesn't have any markings on it.  You just found it in the pile of renovation project leavings in your shop.  If you don't know the size and shape of the oil tank that is buried in your yard, this method can tell you only two things: 

You Have Oil 

-or-

You Don't Have Oil

I'm learning so much in this new house.

When I got up, freezing, my first thought was of that thirty-year-old furnace we worried about when we bought this house and the many discussions we had about how we knew we'd eventually have to replace it but would try to get through at least one winter with it first because: we poor now.  My second thought was, "I wonder how cold it's going to be today."  So I looked up the outside temperature on my phone.  Twenty.  Then I looked at the forecast for the day.  No higher than thirty.  And then my third thought was, "Yep, that sounds about right."

But then my fourth thought (this is starting to sound like a Steve Martin routine) was about how my kids' piano teacher bitterly complained all last winter every time her oil company let her tank run empty despite her auto-refill contract, and I thought, "As much as I'd like a new furnace, this is not a convenient time to have that problem, so let's pray it's the oil."  It was, so now I owe God a cheeseburger and a game of skee ball.

We spent the morning building blazing fires in not one, but two, fireplaces in hopes that that would keep the indoor temperature stable enough to prevent the pipes from freezing on the outside walls of the house because we had Not A Single Clue out quickly the oil company would send a guy out.  As it turns out, it was Pretty Quickly and now I am regret-less about the Very Large Sum of Money we will be paying them this year.  As I type this, the oil tank has been filled, the furnace has been restarted, we popped out to buy an air filter the furnace guy recommended to better push the air around the house, and it's risen to fifty-six degrees in the house, so I'm feeling downright toasty and decadent.

It's been bitterly cold this year in the D.C. area and the first person who sarcastically says to me "so how do you like that global warming huh?" gets a snowball thrown at them. The reality is that extreme weather patterns are an indicator of global warming, so this cold snap does more to support the case of global warming than refute it.  If you wanna have a discussion about the causes of global warming, then that's maybe a debate to have, but we should probably also debate whether a snowball can have a Twitter account.

Throughout the winter, and with the exception of this morning, I've actually been sweating like a racehorse more often than not.  The KingofHearts gave me a glass blowing class for Christmas, so while everyone else has been shivering in the cold, I've been standing in front of an eighteen-hundred degree glory hole.  (That is actually what they call it, I swear.  But please do not Google that term if you are faint of heart and naive.)

I took an intro to glassblowing class years ago.  I learned the basics, I made a snowman (which was really just an exercise to teach you how to use a tool called jacks, two misshapen cylinders (which, I believe we lost during the '11 earthquake), a couple of paperweights, and this, my crowning glory:



It looks a lot better in the picture than in real life, but I'm still really proud of it because I've watched a ton of glass blowing demonstrations and, dude, they make it look easy. It is not easy. I have learned how to attempt a reasonable facsimile of every one of the skills that man demonstrates in that video link  but despite that knowledge, I cannot make things even a fraction as beautiful as he does.  I am here to tell you, it is not easy.

But I learned a lot more and got a ton more practice with this class, partially because there were only four of us, so we basically each got a private lesson from one of the two teachers each week, got to assist for the other person, and made about two pieces per class.  Many of my pieces ended up on the floor, especially one colorful goblet I was particularly in love with -- I got all the way through that project to the end, only to have the bottom break apart as I was taking it off the pole to put it in the annealer. 

Sniff.

But some stuff didn't break.  Here's a random sampling.

This was the first thing I made in this class.  It looks like an interesting water glass, but when you realize that it's destiny was to become a vase, you'll understand just how remedial my skills are.
This odd little guy was also suppose to become a vase, but I had a lot of trouble getting him to grow into a real boy, so he's now what I call my creamervase.
This is my favorite piece from the class.  That oddly shaped creamer from before was trying to look like this.  It's called a handkerchief vase.  This came out unbelievably well and I have no business saying it is my intentional work.  It was luck.
This was my attempt at Mexican glassware. This, unlike pretty much everything else, was planned as a glass and not a vase.  My vase teacher was very patient with me.  Or he couldn't care less what I made.  Either way.

I love this little bud vase because it was totally my design, although you can't really see it from this picture.  It's a three-sided vase.  This was a bunch of fun to make.

Here's a better view of the tri-corner aspect of it, but not a better picture.  It turns out it's kinda hard to photograph clear glass, ya'll.
This guy fell off the punty before I was finished with him.  Once that happens, your piece is telling you it's done, whether you happen to think you were finished or not.  My quick-thinking teacher snatched it up off the floor and tossed it in the annealer while I stared at it, mouth agape, sitting there like a slug.  It was my only defense. I was just starting to work on the neck when that happened so you can see it's totally unfinished, but I'm still pretty happy with the round-ness of the base.  That was hard, people.
The last piece I made was a pitcher.  I learned how to put handles on and was pretty good at that skill, but they can go wrong terribly quickly and my class partner right before this had made a gorgeous pitcher which was aesthetically ruined by a handle placement gone awry. I was too afraid to mess up the perfectness of this piece (all my others definitely have a "stance" and this was my only piece from the glass that was somewhat symmetrical) to attempt the handle so I chickened out.

Next class: bowls.  Or balloon animals, I can't decide.

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Having Hyper Verbal Kids is Good, I Just Keep Telling Myself

Posted on 2/28/2015 10:29:00 AM
I love that my kids read.  It's the best.  If there's one thing I could wish for them it's that they read and love it.  They do.  So I hope it's clear that I'm proud of them for this and wouldn't have it any other way. 

That being said...

The Caterpillar only really likes to read aloud to us and that's, well, great too.  In first grade, the teacher made a point of telling the kids they had to read for twenty minutes a day and it would be a good idea to sometimes read aloud to your parents. The Caterpillar has taken that very seriously and never not once in first grade read during those twenty minutes a day to herself, despite my sometimes begging and pleading.  This year, the teacher wants them to read every day but has made no such requirement to read aloud, yet The Caterpillar is completely and totally convinced that she cannot read unless it be aloud, to one of us.  I know this is an attention thing.  She follows us around the house, reading whoknowswhat, it could be the manual for our dishwasher for all I know because truth be told, no one is really listening.  It's just the white noise of the early evening.  She follows me into the kitchen and reads while I make dinner.  She follows me down the stairs and reads while I clean up.  She follows us to the bathroom and reads through the door.  Sometimes she gets stuck on a word and we have to admit that we weren't really listening when we aren't clear from the context what word was going to be because we weren't listening to the context.  That's when I roll out the "well, you're going to have to sound it out, say the syllables slowly" because I am the Smartest Woman Alive or and I can usually catch up with her being none to wiser.  Sometimes we make her read to her sister, who has no more patience for this than we do.  

I know I need to make time for her and listen to her.  I know having communicative kids is good because they are likely to tell me when something goes wrong in their life.  We always have conversation material.  It's less likely a teacher or someone will attempt something inappropriate with them because we all know they're "talkers." But here's the thing: no one in this family is EVER silent.  There is a LOT of talking going on in this house and when they're not talking to me or each other, they're talking to themselves, or, more annoying, just making random noises and none of the noises are quiet ones.  It's hard on my ears.  And my head.  So I need to make time and let The Caterpillar read to me, yes, but sometimes I also need to not hear their voices droning on and on and since this is almost never happening in my house, I often tell her to wait until Daddy gets home and read to him then.

Sorry Daddy.

(But not really.)

This month Caterpillar is reading Charlotte's Web with her class at school.  I remember this book being fairly traumatic when I was her age, because - *spoiler alert* - Charlotte dies at the end.

She has been reading us one chapter at a time for some time and today she read me the last page of the book.

"Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. Although he loved her children and grandchildren dearly, none of the new spiders ever quite took her place in his heart. She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both."


She finished, and I, actually listening for once, said, "Aw, that was a good book right?

"Yes."

"Was it sad?"

"No."

"You weren't sad when Charlotte died?"

"No, because I just read the last page.  But I hadn't read the part when Charlotte died yet."

She had skipped ahead to the end and I hadn't noticed.  Woops.

Me: "Oh.  Well, I guess I just spoiled the ending for you.  Sorry."

Caterpillar: "No, I knew Charlotte was going to die."

"Why? Did someone already tell you the ending?"

"No. I knew that Charlotte was going to die because of facts."

"Facts?"

"Yeah.  It's a fact that after spiders have babies, they die.  Why would Charlotte be any different?"   

This, from my child who cries at telephone commercials.  Well, done, my pragmatic little one.  Well done.  But just the same, I'm not letting her read Bridge to Teribithia any time soon. 

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Way to Make Me Feel My Age, Kid

Posted on 2/23/2015 06:47:00 PM In:
*Disco song comes on the radio.*

Caterpillar: "I thought this kind of music was extinct."


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Right On So Many Levels

Posted on 2/18/2015 08:05:00 PM In:
Caterpillar: "Sister, what's 'dignity?'"

Dormouse: "It's underwear." *snickers under breath to self*

I think she was just trying to play a joke on her sister.  Either that or someone's been looking at photos of Britney Spears getting out of a limo again.

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Genetic Memory

Posted on 2/15/2015 11:45:00 AM
There is a legend that Siamese cats were once used to guard Buddhist temples and protect the riches inside from thieves.  The entrances to the temples and passageways inside were purposely built long, narrow and short, causing adults who might enter to bend over while walking through them. Children, however, who were tasked with the care and keeping of the temple once it was sealed, were able to walk through the passageways walking fully erect.  Siamese cats were left inside the temples after being trained to identify anyone bending over ninety degrees and then jump on the presented back and attack.

Somehow, living with this Siamese cat, it's much easier to believe this legend could be true.




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Future Hipsters Will Love Me Ironically

Posted on 2/13/2015 11:25:00 PM In:
It's been awhile since I've done a Friday the 13th post.  Getting this one in just under the wire.

Thirteen pretentious hipster things we do:

1. have milk delivered to the house in glass bottles


It might be more expensive than regular milk from the grocery store, but not a lot more expensive and they bring it to my door, ya'll!  It is so much better than grocery store milk. Plus, I get to tell stories at work about my milkman who sends me Christmas card. It is quaint and awesome to live here in 1950.

2. make pretty much all the bar soap we use in the house from scratch. Or actually, The KoH made several dozen bars a couple years ago and we haven't bought a bar of soap since.  It's not as drying as store soap and smells better.

3. buy loose leaf herbal teas from one of those tea stores and then have to find something to steep them in because they don't come with tea bags.  It's more expensive, but it's also more trouble.  Actually, I just like the options for varieties because Lipton tea sucks.

4. buy shampoo at one of those made by hand with no preservatives stores.  It smells better and doesn't make me sneeze.


5. grow and dry most of our own herbs.  I have become a much better cook since we had an herb garden, because now I use them in everything I cook to make it worthwhile to have and maintain this thing.

6. concern ourselves too much about privacy in the bathroom.  It's not like we all run around practicing for the nude beach or anything, but we're never made a huge deal about seeing each other somewhat-less-than-fully-clothed and have always been rather matter-of-fact about it and basic anatomy.  This probably is due more to our laziness and propensity to forget to close the door in the bathroom than it was any conscious effort in parenting, but The Dormouse and I had a discussion the other day about the process of changing in the locker room for gym which she started doing this semester in school and her outlook is remarkably healthy and nonchalant for something that a lot of people remember as nearly traumatizing.  Sometimes even blind squirrels find nuts.


7. The KingofHearts' latest favorite hobby is black smithing and he has two forges in the back yard.  That seems loud and ridiculous since we have no horses. Until you learn that he can make me stuff like this.


8. Speaking of odd hobbies, my Christmas present from him was a class in glass blowing -  vases, to be specific.  I made a lot of misshapen stuff so far, but this one is my favorite.


9.  this new house has a three-sided fireplace and we've used it almost every day of the winter so far. I remembered a long time ago my parents bought some sort of chemical you could throw in the fire to make the flames different colors.  So we went to our personal shopper Amazon and found that they not only still sell it, but that some can be on it's way to you too with the click of a button. It's kind of awesome.


11. take our kids to classical music concerts.  I'm pretty sure we haven't been to one yet where some fuddy duddy didn't give us the sideways glance for bringing kids to a concert, but screw you, snobby people.  They are at least as well-behaved as that guy in the front row whose face is always lit up blue because he's playing farmville on his phone through the whole concert.

  12.  each month, we go to a facility where we assemble and pack frozen dinners for the month.  Yeah, we could just make stuff from the grocery store, but both the Shortlings learned how to follow a recipe and measure this way.  And it's better than nachos and mac and cheese, which is probably what I would make if left to my own devices.

13.  handmade Sheepskin slippers.  It's like sticking your foot inside a cloud.

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Playing with Children in the 21st Century

Posted on 2/12/2015 11:33:00 AM
I am trying very hard to get back into a rhythm where I might be able to post regularly here (though I would settle for a rhythm where I might just think regularly) but certain things have taken over my life lately.  These things include work; a glassblowing class which was a lovely Christmas present but given our recent move, turned out to be ill-timed; children's schedules; children's social lives; children's school projects; fixing all the broken stuff in now two different houses; and of course my war with social media.  I know that last bit doesn't make sense to anyone reading this, but if you're inside my head, man, that was funny and timely.

The other night I got back from a rehearsal pretty late and the Underland crowd had all gone to bed, but left on the table, was this menu.  I asked about this later and apparently the Shortlings had made dinner for the KingofHearts.  And, true to form in this family, they couldn't just make dinner. No one Just Makes Dinner in this family, oh no.  No one Just Plays The Tag in this family, ever.  They made dinner, but they also had to name the restaurant, develop a series of specialty recipes, create a menu, produce the menu, bring in ambiance with decoration, invent new waitress names and probably dress up and present the meal in costume, I don't know.




It was cute, but not all that different from something I would have done at their age.

The KoH's Yelp review on the back, however, would never have been a part of what I'd done in the 1970s.


Despite lots of bickering in the kitchen, the food was excellently prepared. The meatloaf was especially good, but the sauce was served cold... a bold choice.  The side applesauce a la Dormouse was delicious but could have had more cinnamon.  The desert occasioned a tone of bickering which spilled out into the dining area - very unprofessional.  Despite that, dessert was a masterful concoction, both salty and sweet with notes of coconut and many different textures.  All in all, Carolina's Cafe is not to be missed.  I give it 8.5 stars.   -- Mr. Critique 

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Fire Bad, Tree Pretty

Posted on 1/31/2015 09:09:00 PM
You may have noticed a dearth of posts around these here parts lately.  

This month, and really the last three, have been a whirlwind. Ones which have caused my inner monologue to shut down entirely.  As a result, all my thought processes, if typed out, would just look like one long list of To Dos, Things I Am Late For, Things I Have Forgotten Entirely, and a few rote survival mandates like "Don't Put Your Face Under Water And Breathe,"  "Fire is so beautiful, ow, but don't touch it!" and "You Should Probably Stay Away From the Meds Cabinet Right About Now."

My brain is mush but here's the quick and dirty for recent events.

About three years ago, we stopped enjoying bumping into each other in the halls of our house and seeing what the neighbors were cooking for dinner through their kitchen window while sitting on the toilet looking through our bathroom window, so we casually started looking around to see about another house in the area. One on a little bit bigger piece of property, hopefully.

About two years ago, I realized that when we bought our house, shortly after we were married, we planned on being in it for "oh, around five years or so" and then possibly looking for a little bigger property and a little more space when we had kids.  That was seventeen years ago.  And before we had two kids.

About one year ago, we realized that The Dormouse had only three more grades before she would enter high school. Now we love the school they're both in now; it's great.  But the high school choices, while I'm sure would have been fine if we never moved, weren't the best options for what my kids need. 

About six months ago, I started to pay attention to houses for sale in this neighborhood I really loved because I would drive through it a couple of times a month.  One of my favorite houses there went on the market and we went to the open house knowing full well it would be out of our price range, but when we found out they were asking ONE MILLION DOLLARS for it, I realized that living in this neighborhood would probably never be a possibility for Poors like us.  Also, if you have an entire horse stable and much of a very large property converted into an place for your model train habit to happen, you might have too much money.

About four months ago, another substantially smaller house in the neighborhood went on the market and we went inside.  We hated it.  But then we drove around on some of the side streets and found a whole other section of the neighborhood that we didn't even know existed and a house for sale that we did not hate.  We did nothing about this however.

About three months ago, we were still thinking about that house so we finally got off our asses and contacted the agent after looking at a half a dozen other houses our agent showed us that were either terrible, horrible, or no-good-very-bad-under-the-flight-path-of-BWI.  We found out that this house was not only still on the market, but also had been reduced in price.  After quite a lot of horse trading, we had an agreement, a contract, an inspection, and a closing date.

About two months ago, I went out of town for a week for a work Thing with the plan that I would come home and three days later we would go to settle on the new house, then move over Thanksgiving weekend.

Also about two months ago, two days into my trip, I got a call from The KingofHearts, telling me how he'd gone to work that day and found out, along with fifty or sixty other people, that they'd all been laid off because apparently rocket explosions and corporate mergers do not go well together.  Enough said about that.  

The bank, upon finding out that we were no longer a two income family, decided that two mortgages weren't a very good risk even though we had more than enough to carry us through until The KingofHearts found another job, so they said, "No mortgage for you!" and pulled their approval.  We were in no shape to do a contingency sale, and didn't think the sellers would go for it anyway, so we mentally prepared ourselves to lose this great house in this great neighborhood with great schools that was, wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles, also in our price range and stay awhile longer in Shantytown.  The KingofHearts found another job in like, two days, by the way, because that's the way he rolls.  But he would have to work there for at least a month before the bank would consider re-approving our loan application, so the damage had been done.

But then our real estate agent suggested we ask for an extension on our contract.  She'd heard that they weren't planning to put the house back on the market until Spring anyway, so maybe they'd go for it. So we explained what happened and asked for six weeks to get the bank approval.  And then the seller was like, "Weeeelll, okaaaaay..."  So there was this little glimmer of hope.  And then two days later they came back and said, "Oh... Um... yeah, we know we said OK, but hey, remember all that stuff we said we'd do, like fix the carbon monoxide leak in the furnace that might kill you in your sleep and address the radon problem that might kill you in seventeen years or so?  We're not gonna do that anymore, mmmmkay?"  And we were like, "well, what can I do, you have me." (I cannot find a link to the scene I'm quoting from Santa Claus is Coming to Town, so enjoy this version of Put One Foot in Front of The Other, which comes a few minutes before the scene where Kris gets arrested because he doesn't want to sell out his penguin friend.)

So we agreed to eat the cost for some of the things we had all agreed the seller would cover in settlement and sat around for a month while The KingofHearts worked away for thirty days at the new job and while we got the bank to grant a new approval on the same mortgage, which means all those tedious things you have to do to get approved for a mortgage like provide proof of every financial holding you have in triplicate and promise to name your next-born child Beullah?... we had to do them all twice.  So that was awesome.

Somehow we got through it all.  Like when the bank said three days before our second settlement date that they couldn't approve the mortgage because I hadn't submitted all of my financial statements.  And we went scrambling and asking WHAT FINANCIAL STATEMENTS? And it turned out that what they meant was that I'd sent pages one and two of my most recent 401K statement but didn't think to scan page three because it DIDN'T HAVE ANY WRITING ON IT but they had seen that at the bottom of page one it said, "Page 1 of 3" and even though the bottom line of the statement was clearly in the middle of page two with half of a page blank after it, since page three wasn't actually there, they assumed I must be withholding valuable information like possibly where the 401K statement said, "Just kidding about that bottom line on the page before, you actually owe us money!"  So I quickly scanned A BLANK PAGE and sent it to the bank and that made everything alright again.  This was not the only ridiculous and stupidious request the bank made from us for a mortgage that they had already approved once six weeks ago.  It was just the most recent.

That's all a long-winded wind-up to the end result where we made it to our second settlement with both of us still employed and we managed to BUY A HOUSE, YA'LL!

We have been moving seventeen years of crap and memories (and some memories are crap, let me tell you) for the past couple of weeks and are now solidly living in the new house while trying to get the old albatross, house! I mean house! on the market and off our financial books as soon as possible.  Because as it turns out, we don't really need a summer home.  

We have had some of the best people on the planet come over to lend a hand with one moving project or another over the past two weeks because even though I have emphatically said for a dozen years or more that if we ever moved again we would hire a company because it would be cheaper than therapy for me, as it turns out, I can't afford a moving company or therapy. 

So that's what's been going on with us.  Underland is moving to a new location, not so far from the old location, but one with more trees and really nice neighbors who bailed us out with firewood that first night when the power company cut off the power to the house by mistake instead of changing the account over to our name on a night when it was twelve degrees to help us keep all the pipes from freezing.  And really nice neighbors on the other side who showed up one afternoon last week with a three-course evening meal made from scratch,  homemade French bread, and an offer to drive us anywhere we needed or pick up the kids from school if we were stuck in traffic.  We had some great neighbors in the old place, but this was too hospitable even for me and I may or may not have thought to myself, "It's probably not laced with cocaine..." as I accepted the soup.  Didn't say it out load though.  Medal, please. (Perhaps we should be the ones bringing dinner to all the neighbors in a sort of preemptive Parents-with-baby-on-the-plane type buy-off/apology for stupid things I will inevitably say to them soon.) 

I am not, by any means, done running around and stressing and worrying and having way too many things to do, but now, I have the added bonus of having no money with which to do them.  And I am not put together enough to stop with the run-on sentences and the beginning two of each of my sentences in every paragraph with the word "and" so suck it, high school English teacher.  On the plus side, I am sitting in my new living room looking a fire in my three-sided fireplace and I can see stars from my window.  Actual stars.

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Happy Accidents

Posted on 1/12/2015 07:47:00 PM In:
I accidentally left the flash on when I was taking photos of the Washington Monument the other night and the result was actually pretty cool.
 

So then I tried again.  It's like the Ghost of the Washington Monument is looming in the background in some sort of Paranormal Witness episode.


And then all I can think of is this SNL Sketch with Hugh Laurie and "Sounded more like Roger to me... 'Roooo-geeeer.'"

This was what I was really trying to do.



which is much more sophisticated and austere.

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Sodapop and Ponyboy

Posted on 1/11/2015 05:04:00 PM In:
Not a great photograph, per se, but I love my two girls leaning against the Washington Monument at night like a couple of The Outsiders gang.  Posting for posterity... theirs.



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Mt. Vernon at Sunset

Posted on 1/10/2015 04:59:00 PM In:
I mentioned before that we went to hang out at some of George Washington's old stomping grounds between Christmas and the New Year.  While my kids were busy trying to roll into the Potomac, I took some pictures.



Mt. Vernon is one of my favorite places in the D.C. area, though it had been a long time since I had been there.  Washington basically had four different farms and did different stuff on each of them.  You can go through the house and see a lot of his actual things, which have been recovered and returned to the estate, but no photography inside so you'll have to do the virtual tour if you want to see it.  If you go during certain times of the year, you can also go up to the third floor, which they don't let everyone do.  I've managed to do that twice, but there is only one single-file staircase, so you have to get pretty chummy with the strangers coming down as you are going up and vice versa.  I prefer a butt-to-butt technique, but not everyone follows that logic and it gets... weird. 

Washington's grave:



Interesting side.  Washington did not want a monument for himself.  So that giant Washington monument downtown?  He would have never gone for it.  Before he was even elected President, Congress planned one but when he became President, he scrapped the plans for that one, saying funds were simply not there and he did not want the nation to spend the money.  Which is true, the country was suffering budget questions even then, but I've also read some theories that suggest he would have simply hated the fact that so many Washington Monuments exist..  He just wanted to be buried here at home and simply, on the land that he was always trying to return to. 

Nearby Washington's grave, is this tree with brick inside its knothole.



I was fascinated by this and when I got home, did a fair amount of Googling Googleing searching the internet and finally learned that that's probably not brick.  This was a common style of filling a wound in a tree.  They would use pitch or tar to seal the wound and then after applying the patch of pitch they would gouge in the brick lines with a chisel before the pitch hardened.  I have no idea if that is correct or not as I only found one fleeting reference to this in the comments section of some website, but it sounds plausible.  So I'm going with it.

I like to sit on the back porch of Mt. Vernon and look out over the Potomac taking in pretty much the same view George and Martha would have enjoyed after dinner in the evenings.  Of course, back then, I'll bet there were a lot fewer chairs on the porch. 


This photo comes from Declan McCullagh Photography's website; I would never have been able to ask all the tourists to get up for a photo.
These photos, however, are mine:



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You Know What's Convenient?

Posted on 1/06/2015 04:07:00 PM
A cat that puts itself away when you're done with it.


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A Plague Upon Your Fair

Posted on 1/05/2015 09:49:00 AM
There is required cultural education that goes on in the Underground household.  Recently, we had the Shortlings watch all of the Star Wars films from our childhood - the original cuts, just as God and George Lucas intended (though we all know George Lucas is a little bit wishy-washy).  I have forced encouraged my children to watch everything from Charlie Chaplin silents and Abbot and Costello movies, to contrasting versions of Miracle on 34th Street, Annie, and Karate Kid, to E.T., to Les Miserables, (which, at nearly three hours running time, takes a really long time to watch when you have to stop every fifteen minutes to explain French history and philosophical dilemmas to a six and ten year old).  We have also watched an obscene amount of movie musicals.

Currently, the following are on my DVR-recorded-yet-still-to-watch list:
  • Annie Get Your Gun
  • Amadeus
  • Easter Parade
  • In the Good Old Summertime
  • Love Actually
  • Columbo episodes
  • Selected episodes of The Twilight Zone (there are just too many to watch them all and The Children claim they "creep them out" [*cough, wussies, cough*] so I just pick the best ones)
  • Finishing up the last few episodes of Route 66 (though that's more for me due to the fact that I have this recurring fantasy of buying a '56 'Vette and taking off to leave all my problems behind and drive around the country a la Martin Milner)

I'd add to this a list of musicals The KoH dubbed "the most annoying and repetitive thing ever," but I don't think an entire list of things can be "THE most annoying" thing ever and so I reject his premise outright.

I forced encouraged The Shortlings to watch Meet Me in St. Louis on New Year's Day morning.  They've seen the Wonderful Wizard of Oz before, but I guess I've been remiss in my Judy Garland training because they did not know who she was nor recognize her as Dorothy when they saw her.

Whoops.

After having to stop explain what a World's Fair was during the first number, why everyone was so excited about it (I told them to think of it as a big renaissance fair with modern stuff and that seemed to do it), and why they no longer hold them (answer: well, we do, kind of, we also don't, but we do) the Shortlings settled in and watched intently.  During Judy Garland's first solo number in the film, "The Boy Next Door," she got to the second or third note and The Dormouse, apparently new to the idea that Garland had a voice, exclaimed, "Woah!"

Love that kid.

Note to self: Add Andy Hardy movies to the list.

When we got to the scene where Mr. Smith told the family they were going to have to leave Saint Louis and move to New York after Esther had only just made friends with the Boy Next Door, I heard a sniff next to me and looked over to see The Caterpillar wiping away a tear.  In that moment, I had two conflicting thoughts:

I love that my seven year old is moved to tears by sad scenes in movies.  I do not understand it, but I love it.

and

Oh crap, we're never going to make it through the snow people scene are we?

But we did make it through Margaret O'Brien's tears (you know that Vincent Minelli didn't really tell her her dog died to get that scene, right?) and to the climax where the gut-wrenched Mr. Smith decides they're not moving after all and they get to stay in Saint Louis with their boyfriends and will go to the World's Fair.  Hooray!

A bumper slide appears on the screen that shows the house and says, "Spring."

Suddenly, The Caterpillar registers her discontent and we have to stop the film.

"But what happened?' she whines.

"Keep watching."

"But, I don't understand.  What happened?"

"What do you mean? It's not over yet."

"But they didn't finish telling the story!"

"Well, like I said, it's not over yet.  There's more, so just watch."

"But did she get married?  What is the sister gonna do? Is she gonna get married?"

"Well, not yet," I said, still paused on the "Spring" bumper slide, "but they're staying in Saint Louis and look, it's Spring.  Do you remember what was coming in the Spring?"

She looked up at me and smiled, "Cicadas?"

Yes. And that's when the whole town of Saint Louis was overrun by the 1904 swarm of bugs and everyone perished in a horrible slow death.  It was the feel-good movie of the decade.

Sigh.

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7 Year Old Fancies Herself a Wit

Posted on 1/04/2015 02:46:00 PM

Each year, Santa brings a selection of mixed nuts for the stockings.  I doubt that even he realized how much entertainment they could provide.

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Say Goodbye to Christmas

Posted on 1/03/2015 04:01:00 PM
The two best days of December are the day we put the Christmas tree up and the day we take it down.



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Sour Santa

Posted on 1/03/2015 08:08:00 AM
For some good little children on Christmas Eve, Santa brings a Christmas orange.  

And for some others, Santa brings a Christmas lemon.


And those others are probably more excited about that Christmas lemon than all the other things in the stocking combined.  

Because they are weird kids.

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This May Have Been a Mistake

Posted on 1/02/2015 02:32:00 PM

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Mount Vernon at sunset

Maybe it's just the antidepressants talking but all in all, 2014 wasn't that bad for me.  Some ups, some downs, but that's life and life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful.  The latter quarter of the year sucked a bit and caused us to change a whole lot of plans we'd made, maybe I'll write about that some later, but even that was a pretty small blip on the screen because we weathered it pretty OK after some initial kicking against the pricks.  It's not my worst year ever, by far.

The other night, I helped teach a lesson on goal setting to some teenagers and we asked them to imagine where they wanted to be in ten years.  What did they want their lives to be like? What did they want to be doing?  What did they want to have accomplished?  And then based on that, we asked them to back up five years.  Where do they need to be in five years, in order to be where they said they wanted to be in ten years?  Then back up to next year.  Then next month.  Then next week. The adults in the room walked through the exercise as well to set an example and I was thinking about my own goals, all I could think of was this:


Oh dear. 

The truth is, I am a fairly goal-driven person and yet, I have no idea where I want to be ten years from now.  I could not think of a single thing that I don't have now that I want to have then.  Oh, I have lots of ideas about doing random projects and education and new experiences, but none of them was an overwhelming goal that I really cared about enough to write down.  If those things were to happen, that'd be fine, and if not, well... that'd be fine too.  I can't decide whether this means I'm not excessively materialistic and I kind of like my life, I've accomplished all the things I want to and now I just want a vacation, or I've just grown so apathetic I can't articulate anything.

Is this what happens when you get old?

Perhaps my goal for 2015 is to get a goal.

Either that or my goal for 2015 is to refrain from eating fiberglass insulation and to wear my shoes over my socks.  Because that seems easy and I think I can accomplish that.

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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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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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