Tuesday, August 31, 2010

County Fair

So the sunny girl and I went to the Prince William County Fair last weekend and we didn't leave until we had done it all -- and there was a lot to do!

The sunny girl just loves the County Fair -- and who can blame her? We live in one of the last truly rural counties in Northern Virginia, and around here the County Fair is a giant deal.

We loved looking at the calves and lambs and baby goats -- who wouldn't? Dairy cows are fun to ponder, too -- their bovine faces are so stupid and sweet. Plus we know that the dairy cows exist to provide us with milk and cheese -- not steak and hamburger.

On the other hand, the sunny girl closed her eyes as we walked through the enclosure that housed the pigs, because Charlotte's Web makes her a little sad, and because she knows she will fall in love with a nice pig, and then she won't ever want to eat bacon again -- and the sunny girl loves bacon. So I always end up being her guide dog through this livestock enclosure. She missed the hilarious sight of this pig resting without a care in the world -- stretched out in his own feed trough.

We loved the featured competition of the day -- the dog show.

The judges contemplated such categories as biggest dog, smallest dog, dog with the biggest smile, dog with the saddest face -- and then proceeded to such advanced levels as most glamorous costumes and best tricks.

As you can imagine, this was the best dog show ever!

A stroll through the home arts building made me feel completely inadequate as a tomato and basil grower.

Then it was time to hit the midway -- and when I say we rode every ride, I hope you know that this means the sunny girl rode every ride at least twice -- while I looked on and held her cotton candy.

We ate a lot of crappy food . . .

. . . and I did ride the Ferris Wheel, which for me is the epitome of a fabulous County Fair experience. I love looking out over the entire scene: the livestock barns, the rodeo and motorcross arena, the midway, the Kiwanis and Rotary food tents -- it's everything I love about living here. Come visit me next August -- and we can hit the Fair together!

Monday, August 30, 2010

The end of the beginning

So my tall boy is a college student now -- at The Catholic University of America -- and he couldn't be happier about it. And to tell you the truth, I am just as happy as he is. As you may have guessed by now, I cherish him more than life itself, and I will miss him every day -- and I also know that the family-sized box he has been living in since he was born is now just too small. It's time for him to experience a campus-sized box, and people! I love the campus he chose!

Move-in day was a little traumatic for the sunny girl -- who feels like she has lost her goof-ball mentor. The girl in charge is less broken up, mostly because she looks forward to being the oldest kid at home, and also because the bathroom just got one third less crowded.

The tall boy's move-in day went smoothly from start to finish -- enthusiastically cheerful students helped him at every turn. Really -- the perky dials were turned up to "eleven" all day: Orientation Advisors, Resident Assistants, Campus Ministers -- every student we encountered fiercely wrestled the tall boy and his dad for the right to carry the heaviest load; they elbowed each other out of the way for the privilege of giving us directions. Meanwhile, I spent the day collecting swag. My parent packet included a very groovy "The Catholic University of America" pen, so I knew the day would go well.

We (which really means "they") hauled the tall boy's crap into his room, and I offered (really! I did!) to make his bed, or help him set his stuff up.

He adamantly rejected this idea, and sent me to the student center to find the Starbucks -- one more reason I love the tall boy. The hardest thing I did all day (other than say good-bye) was stand in line to buy my t-shirt and key-chains.

As I walked away from my tall boy for the last time, I noticed this motto, carved above the door to the student chapel -- right next door to his residence hall. While I love the image it evokes, I must admit that my first reaction when I read it was to consider my tall boy -- kind, smart, good-looking, charming, confident -- and then chuckle and think, "Good luck with that!"

God is my light

Go, Cardinals!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Here's what I love:

Look at this fabulous video I stumbled upon at chookooloonks.com. It makes me happy.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Snapshot: urchin-love

This picture tells you everything you need to know about my three urchins:

1. Two of them are nuttier than a bowl of nuts, while the girl in charge suffers through their hi-jinks. A variation of this exact pose happens every single day.

2. The tall boy wears a t-shirt that says, "SARCASM -- just one of my many skills." He is not being sarcastic.

3. The sunny girl is really the tall boy on training wheels -- and look out world, because the training wheels are about to come off!

4. We will all miss the tall boy when he leaves for college next week -- even if some of us will miss him secretly, and some of us are already making plans to paint his room orange so it matches our bed linens.

5. I am the luckiest mom because my three teenagers like to go out in public with me -- even if it means I will take their picture.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

You want "Real Housewives?" I'll give you real housewives . . . .

OK, so I have never watched a single episode of "The Real Housewives of Any City on the Planet" -- and if I have my way, I never will. But unfortunately, I have encountered commercials, clips, and excerpts from this heinous television show, and I feel like my eyeballs should be rinsed in Clorox. Here are just some of the words that come to mind when I consider this television experience: vulgar . . . OK. That's the main word that comes to mind.

But the thing that most irritates me about this show, now based in Washington, D.C., is that these bimbos are foisting themselves off as "Real," as "Housewives," and as actually "from D.C." While Mrs. Bush and Mrs. Obama can both credibly offer themselves as real housewives of D.C., there is nothing real about any of the women on this horrible show, and everything -- EVERYTHING -- they say is a lie, including the words "a," "an," and "the."

So I thought I would introduce you to the REAL real housewives of D.C. Are you ready? I hope your sensibilities will be able to handle the truth:

While the FAKE housewives of D.C. are using biometric locks to keep their daughters away from their precious designer clothes, these real housewives are making clothes for their daughters and for their friends. While the FAKE housewives of D.C. are insulting everyone in the city who doesn't look exactly like them, these real housewives are truly celebrating diversity by making it just one fact of their lives -- not THE fact of their lives.

While The FAKE housewives of D.C. are drinking enough champagne to ensure that they will be unable to speak a coherent sentence, these real housewives are raising their kids, going to church, volunteering at their schools, hospitals, churches, food pantries.

This real housewife homeschools five kids, and has written a hymnal of traditional Latin liturgical songs with her daughters. In her spare time. In Latin. And she throws a kick-ass party.

This real housewife hangs drywall, tiles bathrooms, lays carpet, installs flooring -- and leads three Girl Scout troops, all the while ensuring that her three daughters stay active and engaged -- and that they never miss their weekly trip to the library.

This real housewife works two free-lance jobs and volunteers at her four kids' schools, and she ensured that her grandmother's last days were filled with tranquility and comfort and love. She also knows how to throw a swell party; and not once -- ever -- has one of her guests thrown a drink at anyone.

This real housewife went back to work when money got tight, and then stayed at her job even when it was no longer "necessary," because she knew that the students she worked with needed her. She is also raising three fabulous urchins, and is the queen of the afternoon swirl -- from dance lessons to Boy Scouts to internship site; she rocks a Honda Pilot.

This real housewife is raising four beautiful children; she also militantly advocates for Newborn Screening, turning her own family's tragedy into a cause that has saved countless lives all over the country.

This real housewife is a popular and busy substitute teacher; when she's not subbing, she's volunteering at the school. She's also a Girl Scout leader, a community volunteer, and an active member of her church, plus she does all the bookkeeping for her husband's business. And she's crafty as all get-out, y'all.

This real housewife works full-time for the U.S. Army and still is able to attend her kids' concerts and sporting events, and participate in marathons, 5K and 10K runs, golf tournaments, and breast cancer fund-raising walks. And Perfect Days in Manhattan.

This real housewife has served in the U.S. Army herself, and now works full-time to raise a family while her husband continues to serve. Interestingly, while some FAKE housewives and their husbands crashed a White House state dinner, with no thought or consideration for the fact that their actions had endangered the President of the United States, this real housewife and her husband have spent their entire adult lives defending the President, the nation and the whole idea of freedom. This means that while the FAKE housewives have continually pissed and moaned in order to get even more publicity, this real housewife and her husband have quietly put their very lives on the line -- to make sure that the FAKE housewives have the freedom to live selfish, thoughtless, moronic lives of no meaning.

Well! Now that I have gotten that off my chest, here is my challenge to you: the next time you are tempted to watch this awful, awful television show, why not take that time instead to pick up the phone or sit down at your computer, and thank a REAL housewife of your own hometown for all the ways she makes your community safer, healthier, more vibrant, more educated, more humane.

You'll make someone's day -- and you won't even have to gargle with bleach when you're done!

Monday, August 9, 2010

One Perfect Day

So my bestie Lisa and I went to Manhattan on Saturday, and had a day that can only be described as perfect.

We rode the train up early in the morning, and made a pit stop at all nine stories of the Herald Square Macy's -- where we were entranced by the wooden escalators.

Then -- dig us! -- we strolled along Fifth Avenue in the sunshine on our way to brunch; I refrained from breaking into song, only because I couldn't decide between "We're a Couple of Swells" and "Easter Parade." The beauty part is that Lisa would have totally joined in. That's just one reason she's been my bestie since we were thirteen.

This pretty little park took us by surprise: a quiet little island in the middle of the busy city. Inside the park I saw my first real dog run -- unimaginable in the Virginia suburbs!

Then -- dig us again! -- we went to brunch at Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill.

I had the most glamorous eggs ever: "Spicy Chicken and Sweet Potato Hash with Poached Eggs and Green Chile Hollandaise." People . . . there's a reason the man is an "Iron Chef."

After brunch we headed to the theater district. Check out this quinceanera party we happened upon -- in the middle of Times Square. Fabulous!

Our destination for the afternoon was the Music Box Theater, where we saw the fantastic Lend Me a Tenor.

It was perfect. In fact, it led to the only casualty of our day, when Lisa sprained her face from smiling too much. That's gotta hurt!

After the play we took another stroll, wandering from Broadway to Seventh Avenue and back to Fifth Avenue (Tiffany's, people! -- and even better, Anthropologie!). We ended up at the Plaza and the entrance to Central Park.

tangent: You know, of course, that the Plaza is the home of Eloise -- one of my literary heroes. Here are some of her words of wisdom:

"You have to eat oatmeal or you'll dry up.
Anybody knows that."

"Here's where he's been: Paris.
Here's where I've been: boiler room."

"Getting bored is not allowed."

Our perfect day was completed to perfection when we ate dinner at Pastis -- my new favorite restaurant in the world.

Lisa and I ate perfect food, and drank perfect wine, and were taken care of by Zach -- our perfectly charming and cute young waiter. I love those!

It was a really great day.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A suburban walk on the wild side. Even though this is a contradiction in terms.

So the sunny girl and I went to the zoo today with our street sisters, and realized again why we love living near Washington, D.C. We have a great zoo!

We hit the petting farm first. We were told the alpacas were named already -- names like Lulu and Iris. The sunny girl hated these names, and re-named every alpaca; since she tends toward names like "Percival von Fluffington," I suspect the National Zoo will reject her suggestions.

And while we're talking about the petting zoo, here's what I want to know:

How come the goats at the National Zoo have nicer playground equipment than the kids at my neighborhood school?

The Amazonia exhibit space took us through a rain forest habitat.

After walking though the aquatic space, we entered an area where the animals are free to roam the entire habitat room -- including the paths. It was cool!

Although I suspect the urchins were hoping to be accosted by a monkey or dive- bombed by a toucan, the closest animal we were able to approach was this sexy bird. No one bothered to find out what it was -- we were all just so excited to happen upon it.

The Amazonia exhibit space also includes a research room; it's filled with books and maps and tanks filled with teeny tiny poisonous frogs, and microscopes and globes and lab space where you can interact with scientists (or at least scientist re-enactors).

The great cats were asleep in the heat of the August sun, and roused themselves only to seek more shade. Smart.

By contrast the Think Tank, where researchers study the language, communication, and reasoning abilities of orangutans, was hoppin'! We watched as this researcher played a game that was clearly based on three-card monte with the orang, and the orang won every time. I'd like to take her (the orangutan, not the researcher) to Manhattan with me next time I go.

The urchins played every game in the exhibit; they were almost as good at all the tasks as the orangutans were!

At this point the torrential rain started, so the rest of our zoo adventure was basically a sprint from indoor exhibit to tent to kiosk with an over-hang.

Before we sprinted to the car we did squeeze in a visit to the Panda House. The pandas busily turned their backs to us as each proceeded to stuff a room full of bamboo inside his or her cute little panda mouth. I feel like a loser as I report that this panda picture ( of our sweet little Tai Shan who went back to China) is a screen capture from one of the zoo's video exhibits.

Then we headed back toward our happy little cul-de-sac in the suburbs -- a trip that should take thirty minutes, and during rush hour can take as long as an hour. So you can see from the above self-portrait how thrilled I was that because of the storm it took us three hours to get home.

We should have camped at the zoo.