Memory Bank

This is a screenshot of a video I recorded in May 2005. Using our digital video camera (which was the size of a brick and required a mini-cassette), I recorded my niece as she and I played an online Sesame Street game in English. She thought it was hilarious, repeating the English words after me. She was 2.5 years old then. Now? She celebrates her 15th birthday next month, and speaks English very well on her own. Continue reading

History & His Story

I discovered this adorable little video clip on my computer this evening. I recorded it just a few days before the movers came to our house in Northern Virginia, before all of us were swept up in the whirlwind of the international move. I recorded it, and then just as promptly forgot about it.

But when I watched it again, I remembered. Continue reading

Moving So Fast

Nov 30, 2015: There I was, minding my own business, making labels for our move when a second head popped out of my shoulder! At least it’s a cute one who offers to help with the packing … even if it is WAY past her bedtime.

 

I got a label maker a few weeks ago. I was out shopping for something, saw that it was on sale, and picked it up without consulting Martin, which is saying a lot. I normally do give him a call before such a purchase … not because I need his approval (as if), but because he is usually able to look up and provide a coupon code for further savings over the phone. He’s a lot more efficient and personalized than any coupon or finance app out there, and there’s that German accent, too.

Don’t judge. Continue reading

Mistaken Identity

My niece throwing us some serious shade.

The kids and I chatted over Skype with my nieces, Lil’ Jo and Baby MJ, this evening. I love that this technology exists, that we’re able to engage in a real-time conversation complete with sound and visuals.  It doesn’t replace real in-person connection, of course, but with a family like ours, with so many loved ones scattered in all directions, web chatting is such a blessing.

And this evening proved to be a treat. Continue reading

Watch Your Step

Got these gems during our trip to Disney World.

[dropcap style=”color: #9b9b9b;”]I[/dropcap] blinked and it’s already October.

At least, it seems that way when I look at my kids and see how much they’ve grown this year alone.

Doesn’t it always, though?

Martin and I are in the midst of a few home projects, such as re-doing our bathrooms. For the past few weekends, we cordoned off sections of the house, forbidding our children to engage with us, forcing them to fend for themselves when it came to food and entertainment.

So, fueled by a diet of cereal, milk, cheese cubes, slices of bread, chocolate-covered pretzels, and soda, my children got creative with their Legos, emptied their closets and toy chests, and re-organized the family room making blanket forts.

My oldest also created this using one of her Lego sets and her digital point-and-shoot camera.

It’s called “Watch Your Step.”

Enjoy.

Our Bird Family

It’s like she knows we’re watching.

[dropcap style=”color: #9b9b9b;”]L[/dropcap]ast week, I suffered a figurative heart attack when I opened up our grill to make some salmon, and a tiny bird shot out the side like a bat out of hell.

And let me tell you, had I not paused before pushing the ignition button, had I not listened to that little voice in my head that warned me to open the lid first, that poor little bird really would have been racing out of a hellish inferno.

I’m really not sure why I listened to that voice in my head, but I did, and in the split second I saw the bird fly past me, I realized that the mossy, green pile of sticks and grass in the corner of our grill was, in fact, a nest.

We normally have a cover on our grill, but this past winter, the weight of the snow from all those snow and ice storms actually pulled our cover apart at the seams and destroyed it. We weren’t in a rush to replace it, and obviously, that’s when a resourceful bird found her new home.

So I called for Martin, and noticed the tiny bird up in the tree next to our porch, chirping furiously at us as we gingerly peered into the nest, using our iPhone camera feature to get a good look  without touching anything. As far as we could tell, there were five little eggs inside.

So, we closed the lid and took our salmon inside to throw on our countertop grill. There was no discussion other than asking each other if we had the capabilities to set up a web cam.

We love bird watching via webcams, as I first described three years ago. Up until now, though, it’s usually been bald eagles in Maine or Iowa. Having our own little bird family in our own back yard is much more awesome!

We went out over the weekend and purchased a webcam with night vision, and Martin carefully placed it in the grill with a perfect shot of the nest. We discovered that some of the birds already hatched — so far, we can see four babies — and we enjoy seeing the parent birds flutter back and forth, bringing them worms and bugs to eat.

After a few late nights, consultations with techie friends, and cursing, I figured out how to share our web cam with you! You can see the live-stream on our Bird Family page. (Now archived.)

 

We don’t know how long this will last, but we’ll keep the camera running as long as the birds are there. Eventually, they’ll leave the nest (they always do!) and we’ll get our grill back. But until then, enjoy our bird family!

 

The Tooth and Nothing But the Tooth

My girl lost her first tooth yesterday. My birthday was wrapping up, and as the girls were getting ready for bed, Lola came up to me, grinning ear to ear about something. For whatever reason, that’s when I noticed her lower tooth looked a little … different.

I knew it was loose, but only mildly so. Unlike her older sister, who actively attempted to lose her teeth once she learned about the Tooth Fairy, my Lola seemed to be pretty nonchalant about it. When I asked if I could check her tooth, she obliged, not really thinking anything of it. Continue reading

Good Life: Dream Big.

Lola, Miss C, and Jaz cheering with Miss C’s classmates as others completed the run. (All photos here taken by Martin)

[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;”] A [/dropcap] few weeks ago, Miss C made an announcement at dinner. “Mom, Dad, there’s a fundraiser at school!” she said, handing over a folder full of documents explaining the latest method in raising money for her elementary school.

I admit, I felt my shoulders droop a little bit. Continue reading

Good Life: Travel Often.

Jaz is a travelin’ man.

 

Martin and I traveled often back in the day.

In fact, the first three years of our long-distance relationship, before we married, it was all about traveling.

1) We had to travel if we wanted to see each other and 2) we were in Europe.

As you may already know, Europe was built for traveling. Affordable transportation. Affordable boarding. History everywhere. New countries, new languages, new culture in every direction. It was nothing to get off work on a Friday, go down to the train station, and purchase a ticket to go somewhere, anywhere, and be back at home and ready to work by Sunday evening.

We kept the traveling pace during our years in Italy, packing light and hauling our newborn with us to places like Rome, Salzburg, and Verona, swearing to ourselves that we would never abandon our passion for travel, which is one of the Good Life suggestions on our artwork.

And for the most part, I think we’ve kept that passion alive after we moved to the United States. But traveling just isn’t the same here in the States as it is in Europe. It’s expensive and time consuming to venture off to a new, unfamiliar place, and with more children and more demanding schedules in the mix, the times we really get to go off and discover a new place are really few and far between.

So when the opportunity to go visit our friends in Michigan popped up at the end of January, we went for it.

It was shortly before the seventh anniversary of my friend Nancy’s death, which I’ve written about HERE and HERE. Back in 2007, just days after I found my friend after she committed suicide, I flew to her hometown just outside of Detroit, Michigan to meet her family and answer whatever questions I could.

Of course, that visit was brief and very somber and sad, but it was the beginning of my friendship with Nancy’s older sister Janet. Almost immediately, we began to communicate frequently via email and phone calls, working through our mutual grief while getting to know and care about each other on our own terms through that shared loss. As social media grew and expanded, our connection only grew stronger.

I always promised that I would return to Michigan for a happier visit, and that I would bring my family with me, but the years rapidly passed by as more babies were born, jobs grew more demanding, and Miss C’s school schedule dictated a lot of our travel time.

But alas, as this anniversary started coming around, Janet and I decided to just do it. Both Detroit and Washington DC were experiencing crazy amounts of snow, but the last weekend in January was looking pretty good, a break in that polar vortex. Miss C’s school already had two days scheduled off for an extended weekend, and Martin wasn’t going anywhere for the Air Force Reserve any time soon.

So, I went ahead and put in for a few days of leave from my work, and that was that. We loaded up the van — even Patches Der Hund came along — and we headed up north.

Google added the snow effect, but I’m not kidding – that’s how it was nearly every single day of our visit.

 

The drive itself wasn’t bad at all. It took about the same amount of time it takes for us to drive to my family in Cincinnati. Detroit and the surrounding communities were all blanketed in gorgeous, record-setting snow, but all the roads were clear for the most part.

Janet and her husband Mark were so excited to see us, and almost immediately showered the kids with so many goodies and treats.

(I’m not kidding. The kids really did think we were in the North Pole and that Mark and Janet are Santa operatives.)

Though we were only there for a few days, it felt like much longer! We did so much — we visited Hitsville USA, the pawn store featured in HardCore Pawn (another of Martin’s favorite shows), and the kids were outside playing in the snow nearly every day. That area offered *the* best hills for sledding.

Best of all, we just got to spend time with Janet and Mark, and visit with their parents, who all treated me so kindly during my last visit in those unfortunate circumstances.

Janet and I got to talk a lot, too, about Nancy, and I learned a great deal more about her life before she came to DC, how she grew up, and how her death affected them all. Janet and I also shared a lot of the funny coincidences and situations we swear up and down are true signs that Nancy is still with us, and working on our behalf. Those who’ve lost loved ones know exactly what I’m talking about.

Both Janet and I marveled at how relaxed and ordinary it felt to be around each other. We could see how Martin and me are very similar to her and Mark, and not just because of our initials. We wondered if maybe that’s why Nancy felt so comfortable with us so immediately, because we reminded her of her family. Of course, we’ll never know for sure, but I think it’s fair to say that the gift to come out of that whole thing was our friendship.

 ****************

Our Michigan Scrapbook

Janet and Mark knew just the method for bundling up small children as quickly as possible.

 

Ready for the snow, yo.
Climbing up a snow pile in front of our friends’ house.
Jaz ready to go shovel some snow. Note the ski helmet.
Miss C drove the plow.

Lola did too!
That’s Miss C snapping the photo there. She’s becoming quite the photographer.
Martin listens as Paul describes his memories of Nuremberg during World War II. Paul was there at Utah Beach during D-Day.
Probably the most adorable photo I took during the entire visit.
Janet shows Martin some of her mom’s doll collection. Everything was very well organized and every doll was documented.
Lola and Jaz played with dolls and stuffed animals that we later learned were original from the 1950s and 1960s, but you wouldn’t have known it even though generations of kids played with those things. Toys were so well-made in the day, weren’t they?
Recognize this place?
Hitsville USA, where Motown was born and created for years. We took the tour, and even sang “My Girl” in the room where it was recorded.
This photo cracks me up. Janet and Miss C were two peas in a pod while hitting up some thrift shops. Shopping with those two got kind of crazy.
Jaz realized on this trip that he really likes ski wear.
We even visited the site where “Hardcore Pawn” is filmed.
And thanks to Janet’s persistence, Martin and Miss C even got to meet the owners, Les and Seth.

The One About the Flash Mob

As you are aware, it’s December already.

Which, of course, means November is over, as is my National Novel Writing Month challenge to write a 50,000-word novel. The good news is that I accomplished that goal, and the novel isn’t even done yet. I’ll keep writing and working on it, because it’s a great story, if I do say so myself, and I like where it’s going.

But more on that later.

In other news, we had a pretty busy month — a birthday, some traveling, lots of eating great food — and I’ll be using the next week or so playing catch-up and sharing some of the highlights.

In the meantime, I’m sharing a video that the U.S. Air Force Band posted overnight. They performed a flash-mob concert here in downtown Washington DC, at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. Funny enough, Ashley and I ate a late lunch there, hours after this all happened. I’m sad we missed it.

But fortunately, it was beautifully captured in this video for all of us to enjoy as a kickstart to the holidays.