Monday, August 29, 2011

These Days

These last days of August, we are:

Enjoying the sun after Hurricane Irene's departure (what an eventful week!)

Enjoying the calm after the earthquake. Although we are continuing to notice things askew, like when I tried to open the lid to the chest freezer and found the freezer had become wedged under the sideboard. And how we lost power for 10 hours on Weds, because something had broken underground due to the shaking on Tues.

Preparing for Betsy's final year of preschool. Our county has full day kindergarten, so this will be her last year of afternoons at home with me. I'm the only parent I know who is sad about school starting. I've had such a good summer exploring with my girls. And since I haven't been a stay-at-home parent very long, this is the longest uninterrupted stretch I've had with Betsy since she was born. It's enough to make me--briefly--consider home schooling. I think I'd regret it come November when the weather is bad and all her friends are at school (in other words, when we'd be stuck at home with nobody to play with), but I have LOVED having this summer with my girls.

Pausing to enjoy this summer just a little bit more. Today's agenda includes meeting up with a friend and her daughter, maybe going to a park downtown, perhaps finding a yarn shop. Bliss.

Learning to make pickles! And jam! We pretty much eat or share these as fast as I make them, because I am so excited. But summer's not over and I can make more! Betsy asks, "Are we going to the farmers' market again Mom?"

Contemplating making a big, wonderful life change, and working out some preliminary logistical details. And wondering if I'd feel the same way come winter. Hmm.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Happy FIRST Birthday, Baby!

Scenes from a very happy day.

Oh look! Here she is, with her very special lunchbox all packed, ready to go on a trip (into her sister's room and up the ladder to the loft bed, no doubt).

Cake is worthy of a good laugh.

Presents, however, are serious business.
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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Earthquake

Three Pepper perspectives on today's events.

I was in Abigail's room, trying to resettle her after a mid-nap wake-up, and I heard a rumbling, getting closer and louder. Having been in Arlington and DC during 9/11 times, my first thought was that it was a jet plane about to crash. Then things started to shake, and instead of one large explosion as I would have expected with a crashing plane, the rattling continued and got harder. My first instinct was to cover Abigail and yell for Betsy to come in so I could protect her too, but then I realized that we should probably get out of the house.

I grabbed Abigail and Betsy (who was heading to my room) and ran outside. On the way out, I noticed that the water in the fish tank was sloshing and I was glad that I hadn't gotten around to refilling it yet, or that would have been a giant mess on the floor. Both girls were shaking, which I found interesting. It made sense to me that Betsy would have been scared, but I guess Abigail sensed that something was amiss as well.

We still weren't entirely sure what had happened. Neighbors emerged from other buildings and convened in the parking lot. Was that an earthquake, we wondered? Here? A neighbor from Guatemala and survivor of several earthquakes confirmed that we had just experienced one, too. None of us had access to news and the cell networks were overloaded, so we just stood around outside, wondering what we should do. Would there be aftershocks? Was there something we should be checking? Eventually we decided to check on the rest of our neighbors and the property in general.

I went inside and loaded up the diaper bag with supplies, got shoes for the girls and myself, and texted a neighbor to see if she wanted me to let myself in to check on her dog and home. Thankfully, everyone and everything seemed to be fine. Some items had fallen off the shelves, but that was it. Our lifeguard, here from Bulgaria for the summer to experience America but sadly stuck at our pool, seemed excited to have watched the waves in the pool and to have experienced an earthquake.

The girls were a bit skittish tonight, and Betsy is having a hard time sleeping. But all in all I'm thankful that we're doing well.

I was watching Sesame Street and my mom was getting my sister down for a nap. It started to shake and I thought the whole house was gonna go down and fall over. It sounded like a car was moving in. Rumbling and grumbling. Nina [our cat] was running. I got really scared. I didn't know what happened. Mommy called me and I went to my mommy's room. We went outside and we saw all our neighbors outside with us.

I was in the office of one of my clients in downtown DC. We felt the floor start to shake and in my head I was trying to rationalize what it could be. Could it be a truck? Could it be pipes rattling? Construction on an adjacent floor? It was too consistent and long to be any of these so as I dismissed each of these the shaking got stronger and I realized it had to be an earthquake. Having grown up in California I had years of earthquake training so I instructed the other two people I was with to get in the doorway. Looking back, the three of us crammed in a doorway must have looked funny. Dust fell from ceiling. It felt like more fell than really did because there was nothing on my suit later. After the shaking stopped the fire alarm went off, I grabbed my bag, and we evacuated to across the street.

Outside everyone was trying to make calls. I texted Becca as I had no idea what she would hear and I wanted to make sure she knew I was fine. My brother Ben in Boston texted me soon after because they had felt it too. After I talked to Becca I asked Ben to call our Mom to let her know all was well. The national mall was full of people from offices and museums who had been evacuated. The National Parks Police helicopter was flying around, checking on the monuments (as I learned later from the news). Thank God it was beautiful day out. Everyone seemed fairly calm and were just trying to figure out what to do.

We stood around and talked as we got updates and messages on our Blackberries. Everyone was being sent home early as buildings were closed until they could be inspected. I met up with my coworker who had been in a different meeting and we went to see if we could get to his car. Luckily it wasn't in a federal building so we could access it. Realistically it didn't matter because the roads were jammed and we weren't getting out for a long time. So faced with spending hours in the car in traffic we opted to spend a couple hours at the nearby hotel bar. We got some snacks and a drink and had a relaxing afternoon. The wait was worth it because the drive home was the smoothest it has ever been.

At home it was great to see my family. The girls are both sleeping in our room tonight and we are so thankful everyone is well. It was not scary for what it was, but for what it could have been.

We Have Carrots!

Though they be but little, they are fiercely good.
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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Ten Great Reasons to Take Your Baby on a Nature Hike

1. If you wear her, you'll get an extra workout.

2. If she walks, you'll get to slow down.

3. Give her an opportunity to explore, and you'll appreciate all the different textures on the ground; soft grass, fuzzy moss, crunchy bark.

4. You'll also appreciate all the interesting snacks on the ground; pointy sticks, crumbly rocks, pinchable Roly Polies.

5. Benches? No, those are climbing structures and diving platforms.

6. Dirt. One can kick it, roll in it, eat it, dump the contents of your water bottle on it and make it into lovely mud... so many possibilities.

7. Where you see an ordinary Gray Squirrel, she'll see an amazing and exotic animal. That or she'll think it's the cat. Either way, it's worthy of The Bloodcurdling Scream of Glee.

8. While she's having this great sensory and educational experience, you're outside in a peaceful place. Consider that at this very moment you could be at a mouse-themed kiddie arcade, trading your money for tokens, greasy pizza, and a splitting headache. Take a deep breath and be thankful.

9. Unless you're wearing a particularly heavy kid up Mt. Washington, you can actually be kind of lazy. Sit for a while and let your kid poke sticks in a hole. Stroll leisurely while she toddles beside you. Feel her snuggle against you in the carrier while bluebirds go zipping by. The entertainment has been provided for you.

10. Love of nature. This is how it starts.

This post brought to you from our porch, where the baby is, again, digging in the dirt.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Happy Birthday Daddy

Happy Birthday, Dad. The picture on the blog is for you, Daddy. The picture is a tornado and I hope you enjoy your picture. Thank you for making tornadoes with me. Happy Birthday.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Return to Manassas: All Signs Point to Yes

On the heels of our last adventure at Manassas National Battlefield Park, we decided to return, this time with the National Parks Passports, and with Matthew. If you have ever traveled with Matthew, you will know that he is very interested in reading the signs. All the signs.

And when a sign says "interpretive," he'll do a little interpretive dance, that's what.

Okay, this has nothing to do with signs. I just love the way Abigail has hooked her arm over his. It's one of those sweet little things that she does all the time now so we take it for granted. And yet someday she will be too big for the ring sling and this time will be long gone. I'm trying to capture more of those ordinary moments that we love so much.

Also, we really love signs. Wow! Look at all of that informative information! (Photo by Betsy)

Also, it rained a little.

But we did finally get Abigail's parks passport stamped, and with all four stamps available at this park. Who knew?
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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Snack Attack

Okay, so I left the plastic container of cereal within reach. And guess who figured out how to open it, and helped herself to a snack? She was so proud of herself, too.

This is pretty much what the floor looks like after she eats anyway, so I think she was increasing household efficiency by pouring the cereal directly on the floor.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Badger Badger Badger Badger

How can it be mid-August already? We are trying to pack as much fun as possible into these last days before school starts, which means I'm spending more time doing than blogging.

So I present to you this drawing I did on the new tablet, of some cool mushrooms near our parking lot. I think the tops look like slightly toasted marshmallows, just starting to crack.

I wonder if they would actually be good to eat? Maybe I should go to the library and get some books on mushrooms and take the kids on foraging trips around the neighborhood... or maybe that will have to wait until next summer.

That's probably a better idea.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Fabulous Birthday

Today is my birthday, and I've had a great day.

First, I wore my new dress to church. My best friend Sarah gave it to me the other day and it fit perfectly right away, because she's an awesome costumer, that's what.

And then at church we had a surprise service in the new building with champagne brunch.

And then I got to hang out with my great family who made lunch AND dinner. I did not cook all day!

And then we had lime and coconut whoopie pies and presents, and then while we drove home the kids fell asleep in the car and they transferred into the house!

Oh, and my husband got me a tablet so I can draw pictures to put onto the computer.

All in all, a great day.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Experiencing History! Now in 3-D!

This morning's adventures included a trip to Mannassas National Battlefield Park with the Hochkeppel girls, to Get The Kids Out of the House and to Experience Some History. Also, I realized last night that while we have visited some national parks in Abigail's first year of life, I have neglected to stamp her National Parks Passport, and it has become very important to do this before her birthday next week.

So, here we are! Experiencing history! And lots of grass!

Betsy, Ella and Mimi recreate the historically accurate "standing around near a cannon, watching a herd of tourists, possibly while eating apples."

Gratuitously cute shot of my BFF and my kid.

There was only minor disappointment when my older child realized that the big horse was not real and therefore unavailable for riding around the battlefield.

History now includes 3-D glasses!

This reminds me of so many 1980s family vacation photos.

Ella and Betsy in their new bonnets from the gift shoppee. History on their heads!

Sarah and Becca enjoy themselves immensely. On the inside.

Also available at the gift shop.

Mimi completes her Junior Ranger exercises, and earns a patch! Or a badge!

And now I can proudly say that Abigail's passport is... untouched. Left home on the kitchen table. I guess we need to visit another park!
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