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.


We’ve had a ridiculous amount of rain. Ridiculous. 

Last night, I was sitting at a PTA meeting at school, which was of course running long, waiting for the conversation about where people should stand to pick up their children after school when my phone rang. I saw that it was Brendan but figured that he was just wondering why I wasn’t home yet – 45 minutes after the meeting was supposed to be over. My phone wasn’t catching much of a signal, so I let it go. And then I immediately got a text. So I walked out of the meeting to look at it.


Not exactly the best text to receive. As I walked outside, the rain was coming down seriously hard. Roads were flooding. Our street was full of water – it was almost over the curb. I came home to find our basement carpet soaking wet, all the electronics up off the floor (phew) and everything moved away from the exterior walls.

Poor Brendan was outside bailing out our one window well with a pink beach bucket. I took over and he went to the store fingers crossed that they’d still have something to help solve our problem. Water was just pouring in the window well from underground. It simply had no place else to go (we have gotten somewhere around 12-15 inches of rain the last 24 hours!). Thankfully, Bren was able to pick up a sump pump and get it working so we didn’t have to bail all night. 

There’s no school, and no daycare today. Hopefully there’s very little in the way of rain.

first day jitters

Bridget starts school on Tuesday. She’s thrilled about it. I know that she’ll do great. I’m not worried about her making friends, or riding the bus, or anything else. No, I’m worried about me having to meet other parents. This afternoon at lunch time we’ve got a playdate thing at the school where all the new kindergarteners are invited. 

I’m sitting here getting all nervous and worked up at the prospect of having to talk to another parent. I’m forcing myself to just do it. Because honestly, the thing that I am really afraid of is silly – I’m afraid of just standing there looking like an idiot having no one to talk to. 

It’s ironic really, because more often than not, I end up putting my foot into my (giant) mouth. It’s guaranteed that I’ll offend someone. It’s high time that I just embrace that, and look for the other mom who’s laughing at the offended person and be friends with HER. 


Johnny has always been a little bit harder to contain than his sister was at his age. If we closed the gate, she may not have been happy about it, but she always just accepted that was the situation. But not Johnny. He pulls on the mesh at just the right spot where the velcro is slightly weakened and blammo, he’s free. Yesterday we also had to remove the side table that you can only barely see in this photo (if you’re not distracted from the mess of toys) because Johnny thought it would be awesome to stand on (and turn the light on and off). I always knew he was going to be a bit of a climber. I don’t think it’s going to get any easier from here on out.

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.)


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.


too hard, who knew?

Apparently, it’s impossible for a supermarket bakery to make a cake that is "not in the book". We called them all and explained that we wanted a custom cake that was not in any of their books; we just wanted a cake that looks like a ladybug. But they all either flat out said "No" or went to look in the book anyway and then said no.

I’m looking at a bakery brochure for one of the supermarkets, and it has a whole section on birthday cakes and says "Your next birthday party is sure to be a smash. We have cakes for everyone in mind — just pick your favorite theme! Or, if we don’t have exactly what you want we’ll help you design your own." (emphasis mine) Then to the right of that little quote is a photo of a cake with bees on it.  But this particular store was one that had a whole lot of trouble even understanding what we were asking for and Bren just said "You know, I don’t think this is going to work out" and hung up. Just not worth it to get a cake that I’d probably end up submitting to CakeWrecks.

 Maybe we just should have said, "Do you make round cakes? Do you have red icing? Can you put black polka dots on the red iced round cake?" But seriously, it should not be that hard.

All the stand-alone bakeries close to us "don’t do that" so we’re out of luck on that front. And I don’t need something along the lines of a Duff creation so I think we’re on our own. 

I don’t know that I’m going to attempt to decorate a round cake as a ladybug. I have zero confidence that the dots wouldn’t look like little mounds of poo. So I think the plan now is to either look for ladybug toys to put onto the cake, or to maybe decorate strawberries to look like bugs. Or something else entirely. Rest assured, no matter how pitiful the cake is, I’ll post photos.


so much for plans

This post was going to be about how awesome the new front flower beds look. But about halfway through digging out the old flowers and small, young forest that has sprouted there, I had to take a break, planning on finishing up after Bridget’s nap. And then it rained. And rained some more. And it’s still raining today. I hope it stops at some point.


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.