Friday, May 29, 2009

The Scottish Connection

We always pass Aberdeen, Maryland on our way down to DC, and this time it made our hearts go all warm and fuzzy.

So much so that we had to pull off the highway and take a look for ourselves (plus the baby needed a feed). This sign greeted us. How we laughed. Aberdeen: All America City. Riiiiiiight.

I spotted this man along the Memorial Day parade route. There is something curiously incongruous in a kilt-clad laddie wearing a "Don't Tread on Me" t-shirt, one of the slogans of American independence. Or perhaps not. After all, the Scots probably still hate the English more than we ever did.

This video evidences one of Trey's many endearing qualities. How to describe it? People who know him well will know what I'm talking about. He has little routines. Certain words, phrases, or, in this case, highway signs elicit them. For example, if you were ever to mention the word "tumor" in his presence, he would automatically say in his best Arnold impression, "It's not a tuma." (think Kindergarten Cop) Every time, and I mean EVERY TIME, we pass the sign to and from DC which says Glen Burnie, Maryland, he says in his best Scottish brogue the following:

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And that reminds me of a little story I don't know that I ever shared on the blog. About a year ago Trey and I took a little date night into the city center (of Aberdeen). I think we went to La Bamba for a little Mex and margaritas. I said, "I wonder what happens when you ride the number one (bus) all the way to the end." "Let's do it and see." So we two usually level-headed adults threw caution to the wind and intentionally missed our stop by the Tesco, riding the bus to its end. What happens, you ask. Nothing really. They turn the bus around in a church parking lot in Danestone, dim the lights, inspect the front of the bus, wait a few minutes, and then retrace the route in the other direction. The bus driver and his student (apparently Sunday nights are training nights) looked at us in slight bemusement when we told them that we just wanted to ride the bus to the end of the line. But the story doesn't end there. As we disembarked later, I dared Trey to say in his best Scottish accent, "Cheers, driver!" And he did it. Serious, intense Trey did it. I laughed so hard. For those of you unfamiliar with Aberdeen buses, that's what all the older gentleman say to the bus driver as they exit the vehicle. It's quaint and cheerful and sounds utterly ridiculous when spoken by anyone other than a tweed-clad pensioner. We later shared that tidbit with our landlord, who was from Glasgow. He laughed very heartily at Trey's impression of an Aberdonian "Cheers, driver!" and then we challenged him to say it with his best American accent. Of course, his tongue stumbled around our over-pronounced Rs. Good times!

DC - Part Une

Sunday morning we went to the first service at church so that we could get an early start to our trip. Trey and I have been visiting DC since our first year of marriage, and I think we've made DC and Memorial Day a combined tradition since the second year. It is a city rich with history, replete with stunning architecture, and kind on the wallet, unlike a place like NYC. All monuments and museums are free of charge and on weekends and holidays on-street parking is also free. We managed to hit the road around 12:40, not too shabby considering all we still had to accomplish when we got back from church -- five mouths to feed, four outfits to change, a cooler to pack, a few miscellaneous items to throw in the suitcase, and directions to our hotel to print. Whew! Thankfully, just as embarked, all three children fell asleep.

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Our stop for the afternoon was the National Air and Space Museum, the perfect place to entertain motor-obsessed little boys.

The first exhibit we visited was an old-fashioned American Airlines jet. You board as though an actual passenger and get a first-hand view of the cock-pit, first-class cabin, restroom, and other features of such a relic from the '50s. I had to laugh at the manual typewriter perched on one of the tray tables as we browsed. We've come a long way in 60 years.

Although this photo is a little dark, I love the look on Addison's face. The Air and Space Museum is a bit overwhelming. With cathedral-height ceilings hung with various aircraft and rockets, it's a sight to behold, especially for a first-time visitor, like he was.

The three of us disembarking the plane.

Charles Lindbergh's The Spirit of St. Louis, the custom-built single engine, single seat monoplane that he flew solo on May 20–21, 1927, on the first non-stop flight from New York to Paris and for which he won the $25,000 Orteig Prize.

A relative perhaps? Frank Jack Fletcher, a Rear Admiral in the Pacific front during WWII.

A bit crowded?

View from the second floor.

After Air and Space we grabbed some dinner in Old Alexandria and then proceeded on to our hotel, the Washington Suites. It proved to be a wonderful hotel selection. For a remarkably low price we got a suite with a bedroom, full kitchen, dining room, living room, and bathroom. The bedroom contained two queen beds, and the living room with its 42" flat screen TV had a queen-size pull-out sofa. Housekeeping delivered a small crib for Evie within minutes of our arrival complemented by a box of baby toiletries, baby shampoo, lotion, powder, etc. If you are ever in the DC area, I highly recommend this hotel. It also has a pool, free high-speed internet access, complimentary continental breakfast (word of warning, carb city), and service to the closest Metro stop for those who prefer public transportation into the city. Unlike many hotels in the area, it also offers free parking, a real seller for us. We all slept snug as a bug in a rug Sunday night. The boys, as you can imagine, were thoroughly worn out from the day's activities. Although I didn't get any photos of the suite, you can check out their website here. We will definitely be returning!

Part Deux to come...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Diagnosis: Aural and Vehicular Infections

I am only now sitting down for the very first time today and catching my breath with a little lunch and my laptop while all three kids are (supposed to be) napping. What a morning! It all began last night. After a lovely evening with my sister at a coffee shop, the persnickety little engine light lit up like a Christmas tree as I began my journey home. How I wish I could have just asked the light, "Is this for real?" because, as we all know, the engine light could be just a switch malfunction or total engine failure -- quite a range there. So first thing this morning I call the dealership and they say, "We'll try to fit it in." Not promising since this is our only vehicle. While Trey and I discuss what to do, Davis, who has been crying off and on all morning starts saying, "Ear hurting!" It's the same ear he was complaining about in the the doctor's office two days ago which proved to just have fluid in it. Where is my my magic crystal ball which can tell me if this is worth another trip to the doctor's less than 48 hours since the last one? Oh, and how am I supposed to get there since the car will be at the mechanic's? Thankfully, I am able to get an 11am appointment for Davis and my dad is able to lend us his car to get there.

The word from the mechanic is both good and bad. They will have the car back to us this afternoon...many pennies later. Apparently, there was a sensor malfunction which caused the light to go on and the software needs to be updated. Software? What software? I thought it was a car, not a computer. I didn't speak to them, so I can only hope this is not some ploy. Of course, even if I had, I know next to nothing about cars and just accept as gospel what they tell me. In addition to sensor and software problems, there is something wrong with the carburetor and the injectors. Again, this is all very vague and sounds like it needs to be fixed. Sigh.

The word on Davis is that he has an infection in his left ear. After spending an hour and 15 minutes in the office waiting, I finally emerged with a script for antibiotics. By the time I got home with Davis and Evie (my dad watched Addison to give me a little break), prescription in hand, the whole ordeal had taken over two hours. So now he is on Tylenol for the pain, Amoxicillin for the ear infection, and Claritin for the allergies. Feel better soon, Davis!

And so I leave you with the following pictures, which have absolutely nothing to do with either saga. They just make me happy. They're from Saturday when my sister, Auntie Sarah, was cooking for a wine and cheese party Sunday night in honor of my bro's b-day. She graciously included both boys, something I consider both brave and incredibly kind. My limit is letting Addison help me make instant vanilla pudding. Something about the mess and the unpredictability of it all that sends shivers up my spine. She is a better woman than I.

My two culinary kings.

I had to include this one, despite its similarity to the one above because it showcases Davis's new trick, squinching his eyes closed when you're about to take a photo. C'mon, buddy. A little cooperation here. Of course, he thinks it's hilarious.

I love that the apron is full-length and that Addison is totally comfortable with that.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Diagnosis: Seasonal Allergies

We have a diagnosis. It's good and it's bad. Good in that it ain't catchin'. Bad in that Davis has been cursed with my genetic seasonal allergy struggle. If only he could have just inherited my baby blues.

Yesterday I carted all three children to the pediatrician, secretly thankful for my Camden bootcamp. A short trip to the doctor's office seemed like nothin' after that. We waited for quite awhile to finally be seen, but thankfully it gave me opportunity to prepare Davis. He got a little freaked when the nurse wanted to listen to his heart, take his temp, and weigh him (28 lbs, 6 oz. clothed -- I can hardly believe it), and it dawned on me that he might do better if I talked him through it in advance. After recounting the drill 3 or 4 times, he had it down, and when the physician entered, he was compliant and cooperative. We also filled the time with back-to-back-to-back Avis and Daddison stories. I was actually really enjoying the one about their trip to a candy store when Dr B. finally came in. She is a fantastic pediatrician with a young boy of her own and hardly batted an eye when Addison said, "Hey, doc," and proceeded to ask some inane question. "Did he just call you doc?" I laughed. She smiled and nodded.

Davis's clear snot, dark eye circles, gargley cough, and fluid-filled ears are all indicators of seasonal allergies. There is no sign of bacterial infection or inflammation from a virus. She recommended some over-the-counter children's allergy remedies one of which I started him on last night. So far I can't really tell a difference, but we will see. All I know is I miss my even-keeled, cheerful boy and pray for his swift return. Blasted pollen!

Commencement

My brother Nate graduated from Temple University with his BA in Music Education, his instrument of concentration, voice. Some of you may know that Temple is the alma mater of the great Bill Cosby.

The graduation ceremony for the Boyer Music School was held in Mitten Hall, flanked by beautiful stained glass windows and crowned with a carved ceiling. Nate's road to Temple began as a nursing student at Rutgers University, but in God's perfect providence, Tenth's music director discovered his beautiful voice and encouraged him to seek professional training. Thus, began his journey to music as a career.

Nate was asked to be the student speaker at the ceremony. His speech was very moving, a perfect blend of realism guided by optimism. He cited such musical greats as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Ella Fitzgerald, artists who flourished at a time when the world around them was in financial disarray. You see, everyone needs a break from the weight of the "real world", and the arts provide that much needed relief. The job market for new graduates is discouraging to say the least, but people will always look to music for an escape from the psychological great depression we can find ourselves in.

Trey and I got a sitter for the boys and took Evie with us. She was a perfect little angel throughout the entire ceremony, sleeping through most of it, including raucous, repeated applause. At the very end, however, she did finally rouse from her slumber and peeked out to enjoy the festivities.

Like father, like son. Nathaniel mentioned my dad in his speech, which I know really touched him.

The soon-to-be-wed couple. Joanna will graduate from Temple's music school next year with a degree in music education as well. Her instrument is piano.

The Holloways with Nate.

The Fletchers and Holloways. From left to right: my dad, my mom, my brother Dave, my sister Sarah, Nate, Joanna, me holding Evie, and Pop-Pop (aka White Papa). Trey took the photo.

Auntie Sarah with Davis at dinner. We went to a fabulous place in Collingswood called Nunzio (remember the restaurant renaissance I told you about?) This time the boys did join us, and it was one loud, happy family affair.

Collingswood is a dry town, a carryover from its Quaker roots. This, of course, is excellent for the patron, less so for the restaurateur. As you can see, these patrons were enjoying BYOB.

Evie spent much of the evening perched in her sling and I miraculously managed to only spill a few crumbs on the top of her head.

Uncle Dave with Addison.

Trey and me.

Nate and Joanna.

The glorious banana cake my mom made which I decorated as best I could with a Temple "T". Incidentally, it is also Nate's 23rd birthday today. Happy birthday, bro!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Back in the Saddle

A belated Happy Memorial Day to all of you in blogland. We returned late yesterday from our annual Memorial Day trip to Washington D.C. (which was interrupted by a two-year stint in Scotland). It felt so right to renew this tradition, and it was heart-warming to return, this time with three children, exposing them to a little piece of our heritage. The holiday weekend was kicked off on Wednesday by a wonderful visit from Nina, Trey's mom. With so much activity, the blog has lain dormant for many days now. I have such a backlog of material that I had to do what all good perfectionists do, make a topic list. With horror I noted that I still have yet to share the photos and tales of my brother's graduation from nearly two weeks ago. Egad! I've got to get cracking. Alas, other responsibilities await me here at home. All of the usual household duties, especially the laundry, have a way of multiplying exponentially when you are away. How does that happen? And for the cherry on the sundae, Davis's teething was also a cold, which has lingered and lingered and lingered. Yesterday, on the ride home I thought he would cough up a lung, and so first thing this morning I phoned the pediatrician and got him an afternoon appointment. He has always been prone to chesty issues (remember our third ambulance ride?), the legacy of an infantile bout with bronchiolitis. I will feel much better once we get the doctor's report. In the meantime, I leave you with the sweet little faces of my three from our recent adventures.

As I type this blog, I can hear Addison saying to Davis, "Davis, do you know God?" "Yes," he replies disinterestedly while moving trains along the coffee table. "God loves you," our little evangelist informs him. He is sitting on the couch reading what looks like an ancient tome. "What are you reading?" I ask. "The Life of God's Children," he answers. Without noticing me at all, he continues to prattle on with all sorts of pious language, some of which makes sense, much of which does not. "God wants you to be so good...All of the bibles I can tell you what it means..." and so it goes.

The picture above was taken yesterday in the food court at the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian where we had to take out a second mortgage to pay for two milks, chicken fingers, and some fruit. Now I remember why I usually pack a lunch.

Davis in Cape May just before we climbed the lighthouse.

Miss Evie snuggling with her Nina.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Avis and Daddison

Meet Avis and Daddison. Well, let me back up. First there were Rachel and Betsy, the fictional alter-egos to my sister and I. When my mom would run into the grocery store real quick for an item and we were left in the car with Dad, two little high-pitched voices would invariably clamor, "Tell us a Rachel and Betsy story!" How I loved those tales. No matter how mundane or banal I would hang on every word.

Now we have Avis and Daddison. Instead of coming up with ordinary counter-part names, Trey concocted Pig Latin-esque ones reminiscent of a car rental company and a nonsense word. It all adds to the charm, I supposed. Now I get the pleas, "Tell us a story about Avis and Daddison." I draw a blank. "Tell us how they went fishing," Addison suggests. Simple enough. And off we go into a fantasy world about a little dinghy on a pond, which yields countless fish for a fish fry that night. Their eyes grow bigger and bigger, and although the story nearly puts me to sleep, they are thoroughly enchanted. Ah, to be that young again...

Incidentally, I'm very proud of myself for adding a new character to the storyline, a dog named Well. Funny how this dog's name rhymes with that of my dog growing up, Belle. Trey's naming process must be rubbing off.

The Mind of a Two Year-Old

Two recent glimpses into the wonderful and completely wacky mind of a two year-old.

Last night at the dinner table...

Papa: Davis, who made the whole wide world?
Davis: Mommy!

Wow. Too. Much. Responsibility. Pardon me while I go breath into a paper bag.

This morning before breakfast...

Nana: Davis, does Mommy know you came downstairs?
Davis: No. Big boy!

I actually did know he had gone downstairs, but I love how he denied it anyway in an effort to assert his own independence.

These awesome photos were taken on Friday by Aunt Joanna and swiped by me from Facebook.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tiny Hedgehog

Allow me to give you the background. On our first trip to the library we came home with 25 books. That, in case you were wondering, is too many. This time I told the boys they could each pick 3. We somehow ended up with 10, still high but a tad more reasonable.

Davis's number one choice was a Thomas the Train book called The Monster under the Shed. He re-dubbed it "Scary Thomas" and I've lost count of the number of times I've read it since it's been in our possession for 12 days now. As far as I can tell there is no rhyme or reason to the books they grow attached to. Maybe he will become a horror aficionado. Or maybe it's all about the tiny hedgehog (who turns out to be the imaginary monster under the shed). See for yourself.

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Lost: One Thumb

Lost: One elusive thumb attached to tiny hand.

Answers to: Grunts, rooting, and general discontent

Last seen: In utero with occasional, teasing sightings since birth.

Reward: My parents' undying gratitude and a stash of sub-par binkies.

The search continues.

The good news? She's found her hands. The bad? She hasn't quite figured out how to unclench her fists.

Photo shoot location: Backseat of car in traffic following Nate's graduation.

Photographer: One bored mama who inadvertently caught her baby girl's mad quest for a fugitive digit.

A Child of the Covenant

The baptism of a child is an event which invariably moves me to tears. I vividly recall baptisms at Gilcomston South Church in Aberdeen and Dominic Smart's stirring words directly to the young soul about to receive the sign of the covenant that Jesus had come, suffered, and struggled for them even though he or she didn't even know it yet. What wondrous love!

I tend to get very nervous in front of large crowds, but I felt as though God really allowed the presence of all those people to slip away so that I could truly focus on the words of institution. Our Pastor, Phil Ryken, always says, "What is the name of this child?" as the parent passes him or her over. He then speaks to the meaning of the name and prays for fulfillment and blessing in the life of that little one. In Evie's case, she was named after Calvin's Geneva, that great Reformation city. He prayed that she, like Calvin, would offer her heart to God promptly and sincerely. I found myself drawn in and deeply stirred by these touching words.

Evie fell asleep in Trey's arms a few minutes before the ceremony and stayed asleep the entire time, even here as Trey passed her to Dr. Ryken. I was amazed.

As Reformed Presbyterians we believe that baptism is a sign and seal of our children's inclusion in God's covenant just as the children of the Israelites were included in the Old Testament, male children receiving the sign of circumcision. Now, in the new covenant, which is perfect and complete, all children of believing parents are to receive the sign, water baptism as we read in Acts 2.39, "For the promise is for you and for your children..."

"Baptism is a sacrament ordained by the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a sign and seal of the inclusion of the person who is baptized in the covenant of grace. Baptism with water signifies and seals cleansing from sin by the blood and the Spirit of Christ, together with our death unto sin and our resurrection unto newness of life by virtue of the death and resurrection of Christ." (excerpts from The Book of Church Order, Celebration of the Sacraments)