1 2 3 7

camping, take 2


Since we had nothing scheduled this past weekend, we decided to take a trip out to Shenandoah National Park and give camping another go. We planned on leaving Friday at 4pm and coming back home on Sunday. Our first camping trip was only overnight (we were home by 10am on Saturday) and at a park much closer to home. At the least, we figured it would be much cooler temperature-wise in the mountains.

In a move that was appreciated at the time, Brendan took down the car-top carrier as soon as we unloaded from the cottage a few weeks ago. This meant that our packing was confined to the back of the car and the dog would be riding at the kids’ feet. We didn’t anticipate this would be too much of a problem. Let’s just say it was a learning experience and we learned the dog needs to be in the back of the car and the carrier on the roof. Not that he misbehaved, just that it would have been so much more comfortable for everyone.

The sky and the forecast turned a bit ominous on our drive out west. But it was not raining when we arrived at camp. It didn’t look like it was going to hold for too much longer, so we opted to skip the trip to the campstore for wood and just use a BIC FlameDisk (basically a giant sterno) for cooking some burgers and dogs. The tent went up much quicker than last time and the kids and I made up some silly scary stories. Bedtime came early for all of us too. Just in time for the rain to start. At about 1am Bridget woke up and had to use the bathroom. And it was pouring. Thankfully Brendan wasn’t about to reserve us a spot far away from a toilet. He took her down and they came back. Then Johnny woke up and was scared so he crawled into my sleeping bag with me, and naturally was squirmy and not really sleeping. Then Bridget woke up again and had to go to the bathroom again so I took her down. Then we convinced Johnny to go back to his own bed and sleeping bag. But he still woke up at least two more times. It was not the most restful night for any of us.

It was still drippy and rainy in the morning, so Brendan took advantage of a brief break to boil us some water for coffee/oatmeal while the kids ate cereal in the tent. It didn’t stay dry for very long, but luckily there was a single umbrella in the car. After that we were all going slightly crazy, so we all got into the car and went for a long drive down Skyline Drive. We stopped off at a trailhead just before Big Meadows intending to hike down to a waterfall, but it ended up being one of the few trails that dogs are not allowed on. So we buckled up the (now very sad) kids again and headed down to the Visitor’s Center at Big Meadows. It was pretty foggy still (because we were up high enough in elevation the whole time that we were inside the clouds. Down at around 1500 feet it was much clearer) but the ranger we spoke with assured us that unless there was thunder and lightening the Blackberry Festival scheduled for that day was still happening and she gave us a route we could hike with the dog and that would be easier on the kids that put us just at the bottom of the waterfall we had wanted to see.



The hike to the waterfall was much easier than the hike back. The trail was a well-maintained fire road and not hard walking at all, but the kids were just not having it. Somehow we did manage to make it back to the car in one piece.


Then we enjoyed some of everything at the Blackberry Festival: Blackberry lemonade, blackberry cobbler with blackberry icecream and blackberry pulled pork.


Of course that didn’t seem to shake all the crankiness, so we took another drive towards Luray. It was a bit harrowing actually at a few intersections, the clouds were so dense that it was very hard to see. In town, it was much easier and we got a good look at the cloud cover that was surrounding us. It didn’t seem to want to break any time soon.

Then came the difficult decision: do we stay another night or do we go home a day early? I was not looking forward to cooking dinner in the rain and then eating in the tent (again). And neither of us was exicted by the idea of another night of bad sleep. The kids were disappointed to leave, but really it was the best decision. One day we’ll be able to camp for a full weekend.


We did take a different route home and came upon a distillery that we went into intending to take the tour. But Johnny wasn’t thrilled by the idea from the start, so we backed out. We did buy two bottles — one single malt whisky and one single malt spirit (in short: legal moonshine) from the store though we have yet to try them.

I always find rural Virginia stunningly beautiful, and whatever part we are driving through, I immediately want to live in. I am adding Sperryville to the ever-expanding list.

Of course, the sun came out yesterday and we pulled out another FlameDisk and made s’mores on the front porch.

alone again

I know quite a few people who, for various reasons, find themselves alone for periods of time without their spouses around, and I don’t really know how they manage not to go insane.

For the second time this month, I’m home with the kids while Brendan is not. First, over Spring Break he went to San Francisco for a conference for four days. Don’t get me wrong, I had fun hanging out with the kids and taking a break from working, but it was exhausting. Last night, he left again for a camping trip with the Muskoxen. He’ll be back tomorrow, and it’s not like today was hard on me or anything (the kids had been sick but they are better now and both went off to their usual school and daycare today).

The evenings are always a bit harder for me. I find myself wishing I had a pal to hang out with. Locally, there really isn’t anyone. I do have friends, they just live hours away. I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that I am really awful at meeting people. I’ve (sort of) tried and it’s never quite clicked. Having kids has actually made it harder. I over-think it, I know.

Wah, wah, wah. I actually feel bad being all angsty about this stuff. There are people with real problems and here I am all melancholy because my husband went on a trip with his BFFs for a day and a half? Jesus. What a hard life I have.

That being said, I think I shall go somewhere by myself. Alone. Maybe see some damn art. 


I’ll be the first person to admit it: I am not a fan of balloons in my house. Balloons have a purpose and I’m all for them being decorations at a celebration. They are festive! So is crepe paper — and no one would ever accuse a person of being a killjoy or a merriment killer for taking down some crepe paper after the party is over. Why is it then, that a person who wants to pop balloons and throw them in the trash after the party is done is a terrible person?

As you can probably guess, I am that person who pops the balloons and is accused of being no fun or called mean (or both). I’m fun. I swear. It’s just… Ballooons get in the way. I don’t like running into them. I don’t like tripping on string. I don’t like the kids going bonkers slapping them around (and in the process driving the dog absolutely crazy). So after a day, yes, I pop them.

There was one particular balloon — a Steelers balloon from the last time they won the Superbowl — that stuck around FOREVER. Months. I got so sick of it. It was a mylar one and didn’t seem to be loosing any helium, so I very ceremoniously threw it out (maybe I went a bit Elaine versus George’s toupee on it though). That moment has never left Bridget’s brain. It’s burned into her mind. I murdered the poor balloon! Plus, Brendan always talks about how I was mean and popped that particular one. There is no forgetting.

It’s become a bit of a joke (with an admitted kernel of truth) in our house that Mom Hates Balloons. Fine, it’s an exaggeration that perhaps I get a bit sensitive about but whatever.

Of course, this joke has gotten out. Bridget recently went to a schoolmate’s birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese’s. There was a balloon on the table, but none tied on the back of the chairs. I randomly noticed that the decorations were different for the other parties but didn’t really think about it. Well, it turns out that Bridget told the birthday girl at school some point earlier that she wasn’t allowed to have a balloon. And that turned into: since she wouldn’t be able to have one, it wouldn’t have been fair for anyone to have them at the party. Thus, no balloons. So now I feel awful. I mean, it’s a bit hilarious to think about, but kids, I’m sorry if I’m the reason there’s no balloons at your next party.

can’t un-hear it

Recently, I’ve been trying to expand my music selections and have been letting Pandora do it’s magic. One of the songs I’ve become particularly fond of is a track my The Mynabirds, called Ways of Looking. I can’t find official video (naturally) but there’s a sample here at Amazon, and some live versions on YouTube. So I was playing it via Spotify the other day, and Brendan comments that the whole thing is “stolen from Springsteen”. Which I don’t hear until he puts on Glory Days. And now I can’t un-hear the guitar track. Grr. I adore the Mynabirds song, so I am resolved to not let it get in the way of my enjoyment.

necessary evils

We’ve got some flex spending account money to spend before the end of the year and so we decided that we should both get some new glasses. I’ve been wearing glasses since I was five and I’m pretty much blind without them. But it never changes too much. So I just planned on heading to the place in the mall where we’ve been before (and my prescription is on file), picking out some new frames and giving them some money. But no. It’d been over two years since the last time I’d been (Brendan was all set to get an exam, but I just wanted to skip it), and they wouldn’t allow me to just get frames. They literally said that to me “you’re not allowed to do that” and that “my prescription was expired” like it was some controlled substance that I was trying to obtain. Instead, I was willing to overpay for glasses I could get online, plus extra for lenses because the prescription is powerful, not to mention the scam that is the anti-glare coating. But no. I had to have a freaking exam. Actually, I think I would have just walked out if Brendan hadn’t already had his eyes checked and had frames picked out as well. The kids were not happy. I was annoyed. So I waited. Ages. And got the stinking exam. And guess what, one number went from -3.25 to -3.5 (they made such a point to tell me), big deal. 

I do like the new frames I picked out, though. I’m hoping that I’ll still like them when I can actually see myself with them on.

snowball, please?

I’ve was off from work this Monday and Tuesday as our daycare provider is on vacation, and so I took the kids up to my parents’ house in Arbutus for a little visit. I had the perfect afternoon in mind: we’d hang out at the house for a while, have lunch, and then walk down to the corner of Sulfur Spring Road and get ourselves snowballs; then we’d walk back, take a trip over “the little bridge” (above) and run around in the sprinkler in the yard when we got back since Bridget would probably be sticky. 

Things did not go as planned.

There are TWO snowball stands at the same corner and both of them were closed. And there weren’t any signs with hours, so there was no telling when they’d be open (if at all on Monday). So instead we went down to Rita’s. I love Rita’s, but there’s one down the road here at our house, so it wasn’t really special. If we hadn’t been on foot, we’d have gone down the road a bit to the Ice Cream Cottage, but it was too far to walk. After we picked up some water to take with us on the way back, we did at least get to go across “the little bridge”. However, the sprinkler was a bust. Bridget got in her suit and we got it all set up and she wasn’t having it. Didn’t even get a tiny bit wet.

Ah well, it was still a nice visit with my mom.

Thing is, I am still, two days later, thinking about that damn snowball. I want one. I might have to start my own stand in order to get one “Baltimore style”. It didn’t even occur to me that snowball stands might not exist in Virginia. I’ve lived here for just shy of a decade and it never occurred to me. I never wanted one. And now, now I can’t stop wanting one. 


“Mom,” Bridget asked the other night, “why is there a hole in our ceiling?”

“Go ask your father.”

You see, we’ve had this hole in our ceiling in the kitchen for I think about four years. I honestly can’t remember what came first, the hole, or the birth of our first child. I think it was the hole. We came home to a water stain one day (our shower in the master bath is right above) and Brendan cut this hole to see what was going on. There’s no pipe or anything there, turns out we just needed some more caulk.

So why then, you might ask, is there still a hole in the ceiling? Brendan is very good with drywall repair. Well, it happens that the kitchen and the room off of it (the kids’ play area) is the only part of the house with ugly popcorn on it. So we want to replace the whole ceiling. But if we do that, then we might as well take down the paneling (that’s thankfully painted cream) on the walls of the play area. If we do that, then we might as well take up the stained Berber carpet that’s in the play area and the peel and stick tile in the kitchen. You see, it’s not really just the ceiling that needs fixed, it’s the whole room.

So we have a hole.

(I have seriously thought about contacting some remodel show on HGTV and begging for a renovation.)



Either I get better at coloring my hair myself or I accept going gray gracefully. After today, I don’t think I’ll be returning to a salon to have my hair colored. It took way too long. Cost way too much. And I am going back tomorrow to have them fix the highlights because they are not good. Bah. It’s not totally terrible, but it’s just not right.

It’s a pretty safe assumption that my hair will go gray just like my mother’s (since it’s already started) and if that’s the case, then it will be everywhere. I think I will just accept that and move on.

mean reds

Yesterday was one of those days. A Terrible Awful No Good Day. Or at least, it ended badly. Bridget did not nap. Not a single wink. Boy did she need a nap, too. By three she was bouncing off the walls and driving us all crazy. Poor Johnny is working on a tooth and so he’s been cranky and not wanting to sleep a whole lot and generally needy. The snow was falling and blowing and we were all inside. Together. For the fifth day.

There was a brief point where the snow ended and the sun came out briefly and so I went out and shoveled the drive. I’m sure this is why my mother always shoveled when I was growing up: to get away from us. Plus, it’s quiet outside just after the snow stops. I thought, maybe that break would be enough. But alas, it was not.

By 4:30 and after a whole lot of whining we had all (and by we I moslty mean myself) had just about enough. So I got Bridget in her PJs and fixed her some eggs and toast and had her ready for bed by 6. Man did she need to sleep. Of course, she fought it the whole way. Johnny went down at about 6:30 and she just started yelling for her Dad. She’d already tried Mom and I told her that I’d have to take “her guys” (whatever stuffed animal she’s picked for the night) away if I came back in. Switching it up was her way of trying to get around that.

But I went in instead and she was not happy. I had her hand over her guys and she just started bawling. Asking for dessert. Wanting her Dad. So I asked her, “Why do you want Dad?”

“Because I love him. You’re mean to me. You only love Johnny.”

That killed me. So I explained to her that I am not mean because I like it, that there are rules and she has to follow them. It’s bedtime. After some hugs and assurances that yes, I do love her, Johnny just needs extra attention right now, I back-tracked a little and let her have just one guy (instead of the usual two) and promised her I’d tuck in the other one after she went to sleep.

And of course, by now it was around 7. Her normal bedtime.

Beer and some emails to friends and family made me feel a little better.

We are on-track for a better day today. And that’s all I can really ask for.

finding it funny

Last year I joined an organization through work to take advantage of some published materials that they make available. It turned out to not be as useful as I’d hoped so I let my membership lapse. Occasionally, I get an email from the organization asking me to consider coming back, or asking why I haven’t. I understand the need for them to send these emails, they make their money off of memberships. I just let them go to a special folder to be ignored and deleted later.

Yesterday, one email made it through the filter. No big deal, I deleted it. Someone else who also got this email decided that they were going to reply asking to be unsubscribed. However, turns out the email that gets replied to is a listserv set up to email every other person who was being solicited. After a few more emails from other strangers asking to be removed from the list, someone figured this out and sent one saying as much. But the unsubscribes have continued. Then someone else tried to be helpful:

Dear all, 

could you please just stop sending e-mail to “[LISTSERV]”?
I’m doing it now to ask you to stop doing this. If you don’t stop doing that, everyone else will keep receiving your messages as well.
And we’ll all end up in each other’s spam boxes, all thousands of us.
If you want to complain to [ORGANIZATION], send it to another address at [ORGANIZATION], not to “[LISTSERV]”.

Nice enough. But of course there were more unsubscribe requests and various other commentary about how stupid the organization was for setting things up this way etc. This made some people angry:

For Heavens sake, will you people take this into a forum or something!!! STOP REPLYING TO ALL! The biggest reason I didn’t renew is absolutely none of anyones business. I resent surveys of any sort as you’re simply using my time for free to help out your business.
I’ve had two screens of messages from an organization I don’t belong to. That is SPAM, harassment and a general pain in the ass.


This guy is clearly very important, because he sent another email after a few more people responded with unsubscribe requests:

I didn’t SUBSCRIBE to ANYTHING. That’s what makes it the definition of SPAM.
BTW, You don’t get the English language very well?? The entire point of the last post was LEAVE ME ALONE!

Clearly, he might think he’s important, but he doesn’t seem very smart. (Maybe he should review his English is all I’m saying.) So after some more emails, someone else tried to be helpful:

Enough already!

The fact that you joined [ORGANIZATION] in the first place shows that you are an intelligent member of the computing and technology world. Email and its use should not be foreign to you nor the use of professional etiquette.

Continual replies to this list will only keep informing ex members like yourselves that you want to be removed. If this was my organization I would not place any valid internal email addresses within this lapsed member list. If my assumptions are correct your replies are not even being viewed by anyone at [ORGANIZATION] and you are only wasting your time.
From a spammer’s point of view the more you continue to reply the more valid email addresses they can harvest.

Sorry for the continued spam but I thought some explanation might be in order.

Personally, I don’t know how it helps spammers harvest email addresses, but whatever… But of course people kept chatting a little and then this guy chimed in:

Having unsubscribed a number of times, I believe that the [ORGANIZATION] is now in breach of the CAN SPAM leglislaton so I believe that the next step is to report the [ORGANIZATION] to FTC, state attorney and Internet service provider for review.

And no one has said anything else (which makes me a little sad). Maybe there will be more later because I was enjoying the outrage.


1 2 3 7


Brendan joined the party on January 2, 2004. He's cool now.

Jessica has never been cool. She is OK with that.

And just so everyone is clear, what we say here is not endorsed by either of our employers.