Monday, August 29, 2011

The Power of the Dark Side

The boys have really gotten into Star Wars lately, which prompted this little vignette.

Trey: (goofing around in his best Darth Vader voice) Addison, you don't know the power of the dark side.
Addison: No, I don't know anything about the dark side. I'm a Christian.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

After the Storm

Hurricane Irene has gone and although it's still incredibly windy, the skies have cleared.

I love the weather right after a hurricane. The clear skies. The low humidity.

Thank you for your prayers. Our home was spared. We lost electricity for about a minute last night. Our basement remained dry. The huge tree in our front yard is intact.

The extent of our damage was limited to my poor wildflower patch. The tallest flowers took a beating. And all along the fence are leaves that blew off nearby trees.

Our front yard and street is littered with snapped off branches.

But other than that, we are fine.

Other parts of Philadelphia didn't fare so well. There is still extensive flooding, downed trees, and closed roads, but we feel so grateful to have been spared. You can see we even put the flags back up but are waiting until the winds die down to put up the swings and ferns.

The flowers are brighter than ever.

And everything is oh so green.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hunkering Down

Hurricane Irene made landfall this morning in North Carolina and is on her way up the east coast headed our way. The sky here is already leaden with clouds and drizzling.

This morning we made our preparations, taking down the porch swings and ferns and packing away our grill in the garage. The porch looks rather naked without anything on it.

The governor of New Jersey has declared a state of emergency and announced mandatory evacuations at the shore. Here, 50 minutes from the coast and closer to Philadelphia, the big concern is not the wind, although we've been told to expect gusts up to 80mph and we know that flying debris can cause serious damage. The big concern is the 6-10 inches of rain we're expected get over the next day. This has been the wettest month in Philadelphia history with over 13 inches of rain so far. The ground is completely saturated, and Trey and I are just bracing for what all this water will do to our basement.

We've experience some minor wetness and large puddles in it before. In true house poor fashion and with necessity the mother of invention, we rigged our own water containment solution. We rolled old sheets lengthwise and placed them along the front of the basement where the wall meets the floor. So far and despite all the rain this summer, it's worked and we haven't had any standing water in the basement. But 6-10 inches of rain is another matter.

The other major concern is the effect that all this water has on the stability of large trees. The one pictured here sits on the property line between us and our next door neighbor. The tree is more than twice as high as our house and could do some serious damage if it were uprooted from damp, unstable soil.

Tonight we plan to put Genevie in with the boys just in case. Her bedroom is in the very front of the house and would be directly in the line of fire if the tree were to topple.

We appreciate your prayers and I will update as I am able.

What are the odds of an earthquake and a hurricane in the same week?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I Spy Watermelon

At long last we have a watermelon sighting. After planting the seeds in late June, we finally have our first watermelon. Last week I discovered it and in the 5 or so days since, it's nearly tripled in size.

And then guess what I found this morning? Do you see what I see? Look very closely. Hint: it's not on the ground.

Here's a close-up. Now do you see it? That's right. It's hanging from the vines that grew up the fence between ours and our neighbor's yards. Watermelon number 2.

This shot gives you some perspective on just how massive this watermelon plant has become. My best guesstimate is that it's 20 feet along the fence. It's grown through the spaces in the chain link and over into our neighbor's yard. She's actually excited and hoping for some free fruit.

Also we finally have a red tomato on something other than our cherry tomato plant, which is still producing like a frisky rabbit. The cracks in the skin have perplexed me, but after doing some online research I've concluded that it's a result of the incredibly wet summer we've had. The water has been amazing for all things green (I've never seen Jersey lawns this green in August), but apparently over-exposure to moisture can cause tomato skin to break and crack. Oh, well. So it's not going to win a beauty pageant. I don't care. I could tell when I picked it this morning it was going to be delicious. It was firm with just the faintest bit of give that tells you how juicy it is inside. Pizza tonight!

My wildflowers in the back have gone...well...wild. They are about 6-7 feet high in places and just covered with the most beautiful array of colors -- deep pinks, light violets, dark reds, and cheerful yellows.

I will definitely be doing this again next year. What a lovely surprise a bag of wildflower seeds can be!

See what I mean about how green everything is? The hostas are just thriving!

What a grand growing summer it's been.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Earthquakes and Bin Laden: How Social Media Has Changed Everything

Yesterday as the clock crept inexorably toward the usual mid-afternoon malaise and I typed away trying to ignore and transcend it, I was brought back to reality in the rudest possible way. My desk started shaking. It began with a humming vibration that grew in intensity to a rattling tremor causing the items on my desk to dance and bounce. And the noise. The walls and ceiling were shifting. "Is your desk shaking?" I asked over my cubicle wall in mild bewilderment tinged with the faintest hint of distress.

"I think we're in an earthquake," someone said as 26 stories above Center City Philadelphia on an ordinary day in August our office groaned and swayed.

And in that moment, just an instant really, I thought of 9/11. No, I didn't think we were experiencing a terrorist attack. My brain didn't even have the time to register such a logical thought. I simply experienced a wave of emotional empathy with those hundreds of trapped business men and women in the World Trade Center suspended in their eventual coffin above the New York skyline. Looking at the flimsy drop ceiling above me, I had this momentary vision of the 16 stories above me crashing down on my head as I rode a roller coaster the remaining 26 down to street level.

The adrenaline rush left me shaking long after the building had settled. And then I did what any normal social media consumer of our day does for answers. I turned to Twitter.

I think we just had an earthquake in Jersey

If any of you are in Cape May right now, did any of you feel a shaking just now, or is our building falling down?

I just experienced my first earthquake!

Woah, earthquake in center city, philadelphia. Didn't feel it at all but everyone's buildings are evacuating.

Within minutes #earthquake was trending on Twitter and there were rumors that the news reached New York through social media even before the tremors hit the Big Apple. And all long before the news broke on any major media outlet.

I had just experienced my first earthquake.

My personal favorite tweet came from new Phillie Hunter Pence.

Apparently earthquakes don't discriminate, affecting rich and poor, famous and obscure alike.

It was a 5.9 magnitude earthquake centered between Richmond and Charlottesville, VA whose tremor was felt as far north as New Hampshire. Cell networks were completely jammed and I couldn't reach Trey, eventually getting through via Gmail Chat.

Last night lying in bed, Trey and I laughed over the day's events. He had been picking up toys with the boys when the mirrored doors of their closet began to rattle. Trey said the first words out of his mouth were, "Davis, what did you do?" Apparently, Davis had snuck down to the basement earlier in the day and Trey immediately assumed he must have pushed or pulled or turned something in our octogenarian home which was causing it to rattle on its hinges. We both had a hearty guffaw over it. I told Trey this is why he needs to get on Twitter because then he would've known immediately what was happening. Just as I had learned months earlier about Bin Laden's death via Facebook.

Although people complain that social media has made privacy and intimacy obsolete in our overly mobile age, I have to counter that in those terrifying few moments of uncertainty as the skyscraper that I was in swayed at the mercy of tectonic activity I felt great comfort in the collective reach of the Twitter-verse, even if it was only to reassure me that they were all equally freaked out too.

Which made me wonder what it would have been like if Twitter had been around during 9/11. We'll never know.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


By now my cherry tomato plant is producing a few tomatoes every day, which Trey and I are really enjoying. Here are some early harvesting photos of one eager little helper. Incidentally, that is thyme in the foreground. Despite a disappointing showing by my peppers (at least thus far) and the larger tomato plant, the herb garden of basil, thyme, oregano, parsley, and chives has been a smashing success. I did enjoy some cilantro early in the summer, but it inexplicably turned into a stump of leafless stalks mid-July. Not sure why, but will definitely have to replant some next year as cilantro is a staple in this Mexican-food-loving household.

For the record, Davis hates tomatoes. He's just hamming it up for the camera.

This little gem was duly washed and properly enjoyed by a real tomato lover, namely moi.

I also planted some zucchini and watermelon really end of June late. No fruit or veggies yet, but the watermelon has spread nearly 12 feet horizontally and several feet vertically up the fence between ours and our neighbor's backyards. Apparently, watermelon has a long growing season before it produces. So we may be eating watermelon in October. Or this may have just been an exercise in leaf growing.

From a Few Months Ago

So I stumbled across these pictures from our trip to DC back at Memorial Day. Apparently, I started a Part II post and then never got beyond just uploading photos. At this point, I'll let the photos do the talking. Enjoy!

Phil's Back

Remember the visitor I told you who surprised us with his return?

And you thought I meant an actual human.

Well, it's crab-apple-dropping-season in our backyard, so...

...Phil has returned, and in true American fashion turned into quite the little porker.

And although I am rather fond of him, I am not pleased that he mistook one of my yet-still-green tomatoes for an overgrown crab apple. I found the discarded remains with tell-tale massive jaw prints in the middle of my driveway cast away without a care for my feelings...Animals.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Joys of Traveling with Children...and Adults

I thought it would be a very long time before I ever got to fly without children. That is until I started traveling for work. And can I just say, "Wow! What a luxury?!?" I had forgotten how truly blissful it is to board a plane without hauling 5,000 carry-ons, holding little hands, and hoping I've remembered enough snacks in case we're detained on a runway for 4 hours because of, oh I don't know, how about a freak snowstorm in Atlanta?

I have flown across the Atlantic 6 times now with children of varying ages, not counting numerous other domestic flights with various combinations of some or all of our kids. In those misadventures, I have forgotten a diaper bag on a train platform on my way to an airport. I've missed trans-Atlantic flights. I have witnessed a medical emergency over the ocean in the seat next to the one I was supposed to be sitting in but thankfully switched at the last minute. Made a scene at a British Airways ticketing counter when they tried to tell me we couldn't bring all our bags (don't ask, but I got my way). Had my breastmilk on display for all of TSA to see. As aforementioned, I've sat on a runway for 4 hours with two toddlers waiting to be de-iced in an airport with only 2 de-icing trucks. I've changed diapers in airplane seats. I've experienced day-long layovers in London airports and ridden escalators hundreds of times to keep small children occupied. I've had children throw-up right before a flight and had children pee in their stroller while at the airport (wet shorts and hand dryers come in handy). I've had children cry for an entire flight because they were too disoriented to know better and contemplated joining them in said blubbering even though I did. Needless to say, I've got a little experience flying with small children.

Wow, that felt good.

So back to my story. On my red-eye flight back from San Jose, I was one of the last people to board the plane, detained while my carry-on was gate checked due to insufficient overhead space. As I approached my seat, which incidentally was supposed to be the window seat, I was greeted by two wide-eyed and frantic-looking parents trying to console their fussing 7 month-old. The mother was attempting to breastfeed her overtired baby while the father looked on in ineffective desperation. With a deer-in-the-headlights expression he said, "Do you mind if we stay where we are?" I told him it was fine and a few minutes later leaned over to reassure him that I had three small children and the crying didn't bother me. He relaxed slightly explaining that this was their daughter's first flight (I tried to suppress the look of "no kidding?" that fought to flicker over my face) and tried to encourage him that his baby would fall asleep as soon as we got up into the air, lulled to sleep by the noise of the engine. After all, I've been through it a couple of times. He nodded eagerly and said that they were hoping that would happen as this was when their daughter was usually asleep.

Sure enough. As soon as we disembarked and were airborne, the baby fell peacefully asleep and stayed that way the entire flight to Atlanta. Happy ending...

...not exactly. Because Mr and Mrs High-strung proceeded to engage in a hissing, teeth-clenched marital spat most of the way to the east coast in spite of their angelically slumbering bairn. "You are so stressed out that you're not able to receive the help I'm trying to give you." "You have no idea what I've been through trying to get ready for this trip." "You want to control everything and you're so worked up because you can't control this situation." "All the work is falling on me." And on and on it went. It was like watching a parody of a fight, which, I suppose, is what most marital fights are like when you get right down to it. His frustration, her feeling misunderstood and under-appreciated, the build-up of fearful anticipation at facing something new and unknown for both of them.

And there I sat pondering the irony of how much more annoying two quarreling adults are than one cranky child.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Life in August

Here we are, mid-August already, and I've written a meager one time. So it seemed appropriate to do a wrap-up of the Holloways' comings and goings this month. After I returned from a business trip to the west coast the last week of July, I needed a few days to recover. I took the red-eye home, which may or may not have been a wise choice, but certainly produced a hilarious story which I'll share with you this week. The joys of travel never cease.

The first week of August Addison and Davis attended a local Vacation Bible School, one incidentally that I had attended as a kid as well. It was their first experience with VBS, and they loved it. No pictures from the closing program, unfortunately. I forgot our camera and my phone camera just couldn't handle the low level of light inside the sanctuary. You'll just have to take my word for it that the irony of Addison digging for gold live on stage wasn't lost on us considering the week's theme, "Gold Rush".

Then Saturday we went to my uncle and aunt's house for a birthday celebration for my grandfather, who turned 89. The kids had a great time in the pool.


Then this Saturday we finally made it down the shore for a proper beach day. Our last trip to Cape May a month ago involved toes being dipped in the water, but this time we did the whole thing -- umbrellas, painting soups (Genevie speak for bathing suits), and lots and lots of sunscreen.

The seagulls were as aggressive as I've ever seen them, maybe even giving this infamous Aberdeen thief a run for his money. In order to enjoy any food, you had to hide under towels, a la Addison and Davis here, or run the risk of your food being dive-bomb-snatched out of your hand. We literally saw a gull steal a cracker out a baby's hand.

The children had a wonderful time and the surf was gentle and warm enough to take them out over their heads for some real swimming time. We enjoyed watching a school of dolphins swim by, and then we closed out the day with ice cream.

Stay tuned for my airplane story and a surprise visitor from last year. Any guess who it might be?