Monday, April 30, 2007

Day 68 - 04/29/2007

I really don't want to wake up, it was much too early and I hadn't finished sleeping, but I knew one of us needed to get up as M and N were downstairs on the computer and were about to stop getting along.

D wasn't budging so I ended up getting up and overseeing the jibber jabber between the two.

One thing led to another and, for some reason, M got sent to her room. Actually, the thing that started it was her asking me to pitch her wiffleballs (vs. softballs) so she could practice batting. I'd rather she practice with the real thing (she needs to work on her swing, based on what I saw Saturday) vs. an imitation of it and this set her off.

She needs a batting helmet. With a face guard. Her coach said so.

When I responded that she didn't, that I wouldn't be throwing at her head, but over the plate, the waterworks were opened, which led to the other thing and she was sent to her room. (When will she break the habit of instantly crying when she feels slighted and/or doesn't get her way? We've tried to talk to her about it, but it never seems to sink in...or is it just something she'll have to outgrow on her own?) After a while, I went up and we talked about what happened. She finally agreed that she didn't need a batting helmet and we gathered our gear and went up to the school to practice hitting and fielding.

At first, M fielded while N batted. They then switched and N attempted to field while I pitched to M. (I say try as he lost interest, just like he does in the games and practice.) After a while, I discovered that M couldn't see the ball with her helmet pulled down over her eyes, so I had her exchange it for a regular hat and the results were instantaneous: A solid hit right down the 3rd base line. After a few more hits, I made some suggestions on how to get more power into the swing and before you know it, she was swinging for the fences. (Of course, she wasn't connecting with all the balls, but her mechanics were good. She just needs to work on being more selective about which pitches to swing at.)

When she moved out into the field to practice fielding, I gave her some suggestions on how to improve her throwing ability (both in distance and accuracy). She took them to heart and, again, the results were immediate. I hope she remembers the suggestions when she goes to practice. Now I just need to help her with her catching and she'll be on her way to being a pretty good softballer. She has the aptitude to be a productive player, she's just a little afraid of getting hit by the ball, which is natural. I'll have to come up with a way to decrease her fear of the ball and increase her sense of ability when it comes to catching a fly ball.

N gave up and went to the playground. After a while, M followed him.

After 10 minutes of playing on the playground, M and I went back to the field and she worked on hitting and fielding again. I got the impression she was enjoying it, which I was glad to see. I also noticed an improvement in her mechanics in both hitting and throwing. It looked like she was taking the pointers I was giving her to heart and putting them to use in action. Yay!

After our practice session, we went home, where we grabbed a bite to eat and then N and I headed to Lowe's for some deck cleaner. When we got back, I discovered that the sprayer we've had for a few years no longer held pressure, so I had to put the deck cleaning project on hold until we could get a new pump sprayer. (I had power washed the deck last weekend [two weekends ago?], but it still needed some chemical help to get the wood looking fresh again. I'm not sure when it had been cleaned last; it definitely needs a good cleaning.) So...I was unable to clean the deck. Not to worry, we stopped by Home Depot (I can't stand that store for a laundry list of reasons -- they're the Best Buy of hardware stores) on our way home from Sarah's concert (musical?) at their church.

Speaking of which, after attempting to clean the deck (and successfully cleaning myself up), we went to Sarah's musical (concert?) at their church. It was the story of David and Goliath in musical format. Afterwards, there was a cookie line (as usual) and the kids played outside while the adults made small talk.

On the way home, we decided to stop by McDonald's (gasp!) so the kids could have dinner before Mass. Since we were sort of in the neighborhood, I suggested going to St. Leo's for their folk Mass. After finishing my Asian Salad w/ Grilled Chicken (which, surprisingly enough, was pretty good), I called to see what time Mass was. 5p (it was 505p when I called). What about Holy Spirit? No Sunday evening Mass. St. Mary's? No dice. By this time, we were going to miss 530p at St. Tim's so we headed out to the car. Looking at the clock, I made the executive decision to head over to Nativity in Burke. I thought they had a 530p Sunday Mass, but as it turns out, there's no evening Mass their either. My bad. So, instead of going to Mass, we stopped off at Home Depot, got the pump sprayer and headed home.

I got half of the deck done (well, 1/4 is more like it as the second 1/4 that I did didn't get clean enough and I'll have to clean it a second time in order for it to look good) before calling it quits for the night. The part that did get cleaned turned out pretty nice. I couldn't believe what a difference there is between the cleaned portion and the untreated portion. It's almost as if the old decking was taken up and new boards were put down in their place. I'm sure once the stain is applied, the deck will look like a new deck.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Day 67 - 04/28/2007

N woke us up around 730a, so I went downstairs to set him up with a show. Afterwards I checked e-mail and responded to a query about supporting Suunto heart rate information in iTriTracker. (It currently doesn't, but if the guy can send in a file, I'll look into it.) Looking at the time, I thought I'd have time to fertilize the yard (as well as apply weed control) before we had to leave for N's game. The grass was wet from the night before (which is required for better weed control), so I only had to load the spreader and go.

Forty minutes later I was done, which left me with just enough time to change, grab some grub (oatmeal w/ a sliced banana, raisins and cranberries) and head out to the field. M wanted to ride with us, so the three of us left on our bikes; D drove the van and met us at the game (she would end up driving N and M over to M's game; I rode my bike and met them there). The problem child ended up not showing up, as did one of the other wanderers. However, one of the kids who just doesn't listen (and when he does, does it EXACTLY as he's told) did show up (he wasn't there last week).

It was interesting trying to get him to do what he was supposed to do. Funny, but interesting. He was playing catcher for the second inning and after I described what he needed to do, I left and coached the pitcher for a few batters, after which I returned to coach the catcher. In my absence, he had been playing in the dirt and just not paying attention. When I arrived back at home, I saw that he had been drawing a box (the opposing coach drew a box for the batters so that they would know where to stand). His box, however, had some flowers and a flag, along with his name to indicate it was his box. I was pulling my hair out trying to keep my cool, but I was able to struggle through it. (At times like these, I just keep thinking to myself [as opposed to thinking to others] that in an hour it will all be over. It usually works.)

Finally the game was over and, after loading the equipment into the van (Mike won't be there next week, so I've been promoted to acting head coach), as well as the kids' bikes, D took off for M's game and I followed on my bike. In my frenzy of volunteering for the kids' teams, I somehow signed up to keep stats. I thought "how hard could it be?" thinking that it'd be a piece of cake and likening it to keeping score at a professional ball game. Uh, no, it wasn't even close.

It was my first time and I had no idea what to expect. Not only was I in charge of keeping stats (each side of the inning was comprised of three outs or five runs, whichever came first), but I was also in charge of keeping the girls in order with regard to batting order. And all this without knowing but three of them. As I found out, it was nowhere near as easy as I thought it was, but I got through it. I now know what to expect the next game and will be much more prepared.

After the game, M and I rode our bikes home. It was longer than she thought, but she made it (it was about 3 miles, give or take) with only a few complaints (there's a huge hill at the very start, which would've been bad had it not also been the only hill). We got home just in time to head down to the Agan's birthday party. They celebrate their three kids' birthdays on the same day (this will be their last year doing so) since their birthdays are near each others. Sixty two kids were expected, as well as 40+ adults (some adults opted to drop their kids off, but since it was right down the street from us, both D and I stayed). Even with the size of the party, it didn't seem too crowded. They had a couple of moonbounces (on a regular one, the other an obstacle course), a cotton candy machine, arts and crafts stations, a couple dozen pizzas, the works. After the party wound down and most kids had left, the adults kicked the remaining kids out of the obstacle course and had races. Most of us ended up with moonbounce burn (sort of like rugburn, but worse), but it was worth it.

After the party wound down, we headed home where the kids got ready for bed, D got a shower and I went out for a run. I hadn't run in a couple of weeks (not really sure why) and was determined to go five...kilometers (which I did). Since I had been up and about pretty much all day, I didn't warm up with that much of a walk -- barely 1/10th of a mile. I then proceeded to run the next 3 miles and finished up in about 24 minutes. I don't think I could have gone much farther, although if I really pushed it, I'm sure I could have done another six (tops). Emotionally I felt fine, but I was huffing and puffing towards the end. The good news is that my knees didn't bother me all that much (well, not much more than they normally would). After getting home, I iced the right one while I played backgammon on the computer and then headed upstairs to shower for our group date.

One of D's friends had invited us out with her and and her husband and one thing led to another and before you knew it, there were three other couples joining them on their date. We had reservations all over town, but finally settled on Sakura (a Japanese restaurant in Fair Lakes where the food is cooked at your table). We met in the bar and after a couple of rounds, we were shown to our table. The table sat 10 people and there was another couple already there, so we immediately filled it up. We sort of felt sorry for the couple as they were overrun with a bunch of loud, talkative, laughing people who the didn't know. We couldn't figure out whether they were a couple or brother and sister. They looked alike, but it also appeared they were on a date. Regardless of their relationship, they didn't look like they were having much fun and we don't think they said two words to each other all night long. She spent more time on her phone than she did conversing in real life. They didn't even to enjoy it when the chef tossed the shrimp in the air for everyone to catch (well, one person at a time). Oh well, we had fun, even if the food wasn't all that great (well, not worth the price at least -- I'm pretty sure you pay extra for the "show" the chef puts on when he cooks at your table). The sushi we ordered was good though, and even though it was offered on a menu (vs. buffet), I might have to head there sometime as an alternative to Sho Chiku (the place in Centreville we usually go to for sushi).

After Sakura, it was still (somewhat) early, so we headed over to Coastal Flats for a couple of drinks. The ladies had Key Lime-tinis which, I must say, were pretty damn good (although I'd prefer it if mine were served in a highball for the more masculine look, please). After getting stuck w/ a Dominion Ale (which isn't all that bad) because they didn't have draft available at the outside bar, I switched to a mojito, which was also pretty good. After two rounds, we were ready to call it quits. We piled into Ted's car and were driven home.

For some reason we thought it was a good idea to watch SNL when we got home vs. going straight to bed. We finally dragged ourselves upstairs around 1230a and crawled into bed, dreading the next morning when we knew N would be in our room to wake us up at what we would feel was an unacceptable hour.

Day 66 - 04/27/2007

It's Friday and....

...The weekend's here
and we'll have a keg of beer
We'll relax!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
And take off our slacks!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
And sit around the house in our rotten underwear

Alright, now that that flash from the past is out of the way, let's get down to business. Not much to report today, other than it's Friday. I went in early and was able to knock out some work in the quiet early morning hours. I met my dad for lunch and went to Teocalli Tamale (two days in a row...yay!). This time I forewent the tamale platter and instead got the tamale burrito (with another tamale on the side). Have I mentioned how much I love their tamales?!? They are the deal!

Later that afternoon I hit the gym, before finally getting home around 6p. D and the kids were down at the pipestem which allowed me to get some decompression time with an icepack on my knee (they're doing pretty good, but from time to time still bother me, especially after working out, biking or running) and the latestcopy of Running Times. D called and asked me to pop a Boboli in the oven, so I started dinner. Right as it was ready, D, M and N came in the door and we sat down and ate.

After dinner, the kids got bathed and I took a shower before settling in to continue reading Narnia. Once they were in bed, I relaxed in front of hockey (as well as mindless Man vs. Wild). Buffalo was tied up with the Rangers when I turned it on a couple minutes into the 3rd period. They were able to take the lead with about six minutes left and the Rangers fought hard to tie it up (having a 6 on 4 for the last couple minutes of regulation), but were unable to do so. I love the playoffs. After the game, I hit the sack so I wouldn't be worn out for N's game on Saturday (it was at 9a, with M's following at 11a).

Day 65 - 04/26/2007

It's the official "Take Your Daughters (and Sons) to Work Day" day. Seeing as M is only 8 and pretty much all I do is sit at my computer all day (actually doing work, not just sitting there), I didn't think it was necessary to take her there for the full day. With that in mind, I picked her up from school at 11a and brought her back to the office. After an hour or so of introducing her to my co-workers, we sat in my office and I tried to explain to her what a database was (as that's what I was troubleshooting at the time), but am not sure whether I was successful or not, M was more intrigued with trying to solve the golf puzzle I keep on my desk vs. what her father does. Oh well, I had anticipated this, which is why I only brought her in for a few hours.

Since it was almost lunch time (and we were getting hungry from all the hard er um work we were doing), we headed out for a bite to eat. M wanted to go to McDonald's or KFC or Popeyes; I had other plans. Out of the suggestions I offered (sushi, Indian, Thai or pho), she chose pho, but only because I described it as noodle soup. When she responded that she likes chicken noodle soup, I 'fessed up that this wasn't like the chicken noodle soup she was used to, but more like the ramen noodles she likes.

"Uh, can we go to McDonald's drive-thru instead?" she said when I told her what pho was.


I can't recall the last time I ate fast food for lunch (there were times long ago when I'd break down and get a Wendy's #3 [Spicy Chicken sandwich w/ mustard] or a trio of tacos from Taco Bell, but those days are long gone). I guess the closest I come now to eating that would be when I hit Baja Fresh for their fish tacos. Mmmmmmmmmmm, I love their fish tacos. They are muy delicioso!

So, with that in mind, I decided to compromise and we decided to go to Teocalli Tamale. It's not the closest place to eat, and the ambiance isn't all that great, but the tamales are top notch (their fish tacos, eh, not so much).

Anyway, we ate lunch, although M didn't eat much, except for chips and guacamole. She (like me) loves the guac. Mmmmmmmmmmm.

After lunch, I took her back to school for the remainder of the day and I headed back to my office to continue investigating the database issues I've been encountering.

I took off from work to get home, eat dinner (fruit salad and cheese, as I was still full from lunch) and get to N's practice. Tonight's practice was trying. Mike (the head coach) wasn't there and it was up to me to run it. Rick, Tai and Mike were there to help, but even with the four of us, the kids weren't paying attention and were often lost in their own worlds. One of the kids has no attention span. As soon as you tell him to do something (or not to do something), he goes back to what he was doing, oblivious to what you just told him. If he starts interacting with other players, they get distracted and next thing you know, none of the kids are paying attention. He's also wont to get physical with the other players when going for a ball (e.g., tackle them) and won't stop. At one point he shoved one of the other kids, I took him aside and told him we were all on the same team and there wasn't to be any shoving, hitting or kicking between teammates (or in baseball in general). As I returned to the position I was shadowing, he started mumbling something under his breath. I caught his attention when I stopped in my tracks, turned around and looked him square in the eye, gave him my "don't mess with me look" and asked him "Is there something you want to share with me?"

His eyes grew to be the size of saucers and he stopped cold in his tracks.

"Because if there is, say it out loud so I can hear it. If not, keep it to yourself."

Is this what it's come to? Trying to instill discipline and respect to other people's kids? (This is the same kid who went on a sit-down strike during the game last week when he was playing pitcher. His mom gave him what for after the game, but I don't think it was enough to sink in and change his attitude.) After practice, I spoke with another coach about him (he had noticed his behavior as well and was the one to bring it up). He was under the same impression I was with regard to having to discipline other kids. He hadn't intended on having to take on that task, but he wasn't afraid of doing it. We'll see what happens at Saturday's game; hopefully his mom (who was at practice) gave him a bit of advice on the way home and it will finally sink in.

Somehow, I doubt it.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Day 64 - 04/25/2007

Met D for lunch at Preet. It's been a while since we had a lunch date and with her potentially going back to work and summer looming, time is running out. Of course, I could always go home for lunch, but that's not the same as having focused one-on-one time together. It's also been a while since I've lunched at Preet and it hasn't changed much. The tikka aloo was a bit overdone, but other than that, the food was excellent. And as is usually the case when I eat there (or any Indian buffet), I overate, finishing two plates, plus some kheer for dessert.

After work I hit the gym for 40 minutes on the bike and that helped me feel less full, but even after that, I skipped the bulk of dinner (I had some fruit and cheese) as I was still pretty full from lunch. D joined me in skipping dinner; maybe it's just the effect Indian food has on you: It leaves you fuller throughout the day.

Yet another day went by where I neglected the yard. The forecast called for rain, so I didn't bother putting down the fertilizer like I was planning to during the week. Of course, it didn't rain, so another opportunity was lost. Oh well, maybe Friday (as we have practice on Thursday).

D and I watched Heroes that we Tivo'd on Monday. While I enjoy the show, it's pretty much fluff. There's no deep plot, no twists and turns, no drama other than what's on the surface. But I think that's part of the draw. Unlike Lost, where there's a whole fanbase on the Internet devoted to every little detail, Heroes doesn't seem to have the same fanaticism associated with it (unless it's out there and I'm just not as interested in looking for it as I am with Lost). I'm still left wondering whether this will be a one-season story (much like 24) with a new story starting next season for our heroes to follow. Or will the same people even be in the next season? I'm not sure, but also really don't care. It's interesting, yes, but not all-consuming (at least to me) like Lost. Even with the negative press and slow start to the season, I still think Lost is the best show on TV. (Of course, there are only three shows that I watch, so maybe I'm not qualified to make that proclamation!)

Day 63 - 04/24/2007

Whoops! Sorry about that!

I flaked and rode my bike to work, failing to recall before I left the house that I was supposed to volunteer at the library today. That wouldn't have been a problem by itself, as I could have ridden it to school (except that I didn't remember that I had library duty until I received the voice mail from D, which by then was too late).


I did send an e-mail to Mrs. Watson apologizing for leaving them in a lurch and, in doing so, signed up to volunteer for the Book Fair coming up in May.

That being said, I did get a good ride in to work, as well as a good one home. Actually, it was good that I rode in as traffic was terrible. 28 was backed up to Westfields, Westfields was backed up to Walney, 50 was backed up past Stonecroft, and Stonecroft was backed up passed Westfields Marriott. I'm sure it would've taken me the same amount of time to drive as it did to ride. Aside from huffing the fumes, I really enjoy commute by bike: Not only does it give me the opportunity to get in a couple cardio workouts on the days when I ride my bike, it gets me out of the car and into the wind. I don't mind riding in the traffic, as (for the most part) it's not travelling that fast.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Day 62 - 04/23/2007

Monday, Monday, can't trust that day
Monday, Monday, it just turns out that way
Oh, Monday, Monday, won't go away
Monday, Monday, it's here to stay.

While not as good as California Dreamin', it's still a fine song (sort of like Brandy, who's a fine girl).

But the only similarity it has with this post is that it's about a Monday. The first day of the workweek for both me AND D. Yes, you read right. After almost 6 years out of the workforce as a full-time mom, D went back to work today.

What's funny about this is that she indicated to the school last week that she was interested in subbing next school year, once N started kindergarten. We've been discussing her going back to work off-and-on once N was in school full time. Her concerns were that she wanted to have something that provided a somewhat flexible schedule so that she could be home with the kids, as well as something that wasn't stress-filled, so that she'd be able to leave work at the office. She reached the decision that being a substitute teacher would meet those needs and she ran with it. I stand behind her 100% as it makes the most sense. Why go back to work and have to shell our money for day care when she doesn't have to go back to work in the first place. (Sure, it'd be nice from a financial standpoint to have some extra cash for vacations and the like, but it's not like we're this close to being sent to the poor house or anything.)

Anyway, about 730a, Mrs. Jardine called, asking of D would be able to sub. Remember, she only expressed interest last Wednesday and hadn't even filled out the paperwork yet. So, with that in mind, she drove the kids to school and stayed to work for a couple hours. She subbed for the other preschool class, so she was out when N was out, which was convenient.

I joked with her that she can bring home the bacon AND fry it up in the pan. She laughed. I laughed. It was a pathetic attempt at humor.

As for my day at the office, I worked on the usual stuff, went to they gym (where I put in 40 minutes on the bike as I had to pick up M from softball) and then went and...yes, picked up M from softball practice.

I had two Lean Pockets for dinner and burned my fingers taking the plate out of the microwave (not too bad, they were fine later on that evening). That's the first time that's ever happened; hopefully it'll be the last as well.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Day 61 - 04/22/2007

It's the most wonderful time of the year.

Yes, I realize it's April, and that Christmas is in December, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the playoffs. Multiple OTs, higher intensity play by all four lines (and even some questionable plays made by back up goalies on a certain team from Calgary): There's nothing quite like it.

Of course, since the Caps aren't playing (well, not playing hockey, that is, I'm sure they have their pick of tee times), I'm free to root for teams I normally wouldn't support.

Tonight's tilt comprises the Detroit vs. Calgary (the Red Wings are leading the series 3-2). So far, the team scoring first has won each game. We'll see if that continues tonight; Calgary just scored the first goal of the game. I won't mind if the Flames win tonight, as long as the Red Wings win the series. I'd love to see them play Buffalo (or Ottawa) in the finals (but, as I say every year, as long as the series are exciting, it doesn't much matter). Watching the playoffs on Tivo is even better. I'm able to start the game a little late and then catch up over the course of the game. Intermission isn't anywhere near the 20 minutes it is at the arena. Ah, the beauty of Tivo.

But that's what's going on this evening. Let's go back to this morning and catch up.

M and N were up late last night taking advantage of Britany babysitting. When we got home from bowling, N was still up and M had yet to fall into deep sleep. N woke up about normal time, but M didn't get up until about 930a. Since D was meeting Sheri and Janene for brunch, I decided we'd (M, N and I) would go for a bike ride. Down to Walney Pond. No, down the trail the other way to the Parkway. No, scratch that one, too: We would go to Burke Lake. After loading our bikes on the van (which was a pain as the bike rack didn't fit the van as it does a regular car -- the top straps had to be jerry-rigged to the roof rack vs. the top of the rear door) and loading snacks and drinks in the backpack (as well as M loading her backpack with snacks and drinks of her own), we made our way (gingerly, so as the bikes wouldn't fall off the rack) to Burke Lake. Upon arriving, we unloaded and mounted our bikes, only to stop every 20 yards or so to investigate something or another. After about a mile or so of this, we finally got going. It went much better than I expected, although some of the hills gave both M and N fits, forcing them off their bikes and walking up the hill.

During one of our stops, we saw a heron eating a frog for breakfast (brunch? lunch?). At another, we saw ants dragging away a rolypoly for a future meal (or so I would think). Later on, we saw people feeding Canada geese, completely oblivious to the sign right in front of them requesting that they please not feed the waterfowl. Oh, I get it, it's okay as long as you're doing it for the opportunity of getting a pic of your 3 year old daughter getting molested by half-dozen Canada geese because she's got a bag of popcorn and they want it. That makes it alright...I guess.

What I most enjoyed about the ride was the opportunity to teach them how to ride in a public environment. There were runners and bikers and walkers (and dogs) galore. Before heading out (as well as throughout the ride), I stressed the importance of riding in a courteous manner (e.g., keeping to the right, announcing when you pass, riding single file, etc.). For the most part, they both understood (or at least did as I asked them too), although it irked me when others on the trail didn't do the same, especially the kid on his bike passing us w/o announcing while we wee in the middle of two-way traffic. I gave him a verbal dose of what-for, but it probably fell on deaf ears; I noticed white wires coming from underneath his helmet as he rode away indicating that he probably wasn't deaf, but he definitely wasn't hearing what I had to say.

After (finally!) arriving back at the parking lot, we dropped off our backpacks and made our way over to the playground. N talked me into getting an ice cream cone for the three of us by agreeing to sample a fig newton. Yes, we have to bribe him to eat cookies (although in his defense, I didn't care all that much for them as a kid either). This was but another stop on the road to getting him to expand his palate. I got a race track set for him last summer in Illinois and was planning on giving it to him for Christmas. Christmas came and went and I completely forgot about it. Now that we've made progress in other areas (e.g., losing the training wheels, getting rid of his bed guard), I thought now would be a great time to make progress on the food front (although both the training wheels and the bed guard were his doing, so maybe we'll have to wait for his palate to expand on his schedule). So, I told him I'd give him his mystery gift once he started eating his fruits and vegetables. So what did he do? He negotiated with me to give him hints whenever he tried something new. So far, he's tried chocolate covered almonds (it's got wheels), honey nut cheerios (it's on a track) and this afternoon, fig newtons (no hint, he got an ice cream cone instead). This evening, we had canned peaches (from Illinois, not from Del Monte) for dinner. As always, I gave him a small piece and holy hell broke loose (the "as always" referred to both giving him a small piece as well as holy hell breaking loose).

Anyway, we were at Burke Lake, weren't we? Yes, sampling a fig newton in exchange for an ice cream cone. After licking our way to the bottom of our cones (and me helping N with getting his cone from melting all over his hand because he wasn't licking it fast enough), both N and M played on the play set for about 15 minutes while I sat back and watched the world go by.

On the way back home, I decided to go home via Clifton Road. It's not as short a route as 123 to the Parkway, but it's designated a Virginia Scenic Byway, which is much better than the regular way. Plus the houses back there are pretty impressive (which distracted the kids enough so that they weren't grousing about how long it was taking to get home). It's not often that I get in a Sunday drive (literally in this case) with the kids in the car; I'm glad they were busy looking at the scenery (and M didn't ask once about watching a DVD!).

We made it back home just in time to finish lunch (leftover pizza for them, a pork chop and egg noodles for me) before D got back from brunch. After a quick change, I went out and finished up the deck. I was able to finish the rest of the deck and the chairs just in time for the power washer to run out of gas.

Day 60 - 04/21/2007

Another Saturday, another game, another round of organized chaos. This time, however, the weather was vastly improved (clear with temps in the 70s vs. drizzle and temps in the 50s last weekend). As I relayed to the other coaches, I think the "games" are an inning too long (at this point at least). The boys get through the first inning alright, but begin to wane during the second so that when the third rolls around, a few of them would rather be somewhere else. Some of them walk off the field (as one of the opposing team's players did this week), and others don't wait to get off the field before they decide to check out of the game -- one of our players sat on the field and started playing in the dirt and didn't even glance at the ball that rolled by him into the outfield.

As I said, I think they're one inning too long.

But they got a snack afterwards, so that's all that matters, right?!? Well, almost. They're also looking forward to the trophy at the end of the season (not only N, but a couple of his teammates mentioned the trophy before the game). It's going to be a long two months before the end of the season if it continues like this. But, in reality, I don't think it will. We have practice once a week and a game every weekend. I imagine by the middle of May they'll have a rudimentary understanding of what they need to do (sort of) and then execute the play with very little reminding by the coaches in the field. I hope I'm not beginning to sound like a broken record, but even though they're out there for the fun of it, I do hope they're able to get a good foundation of skills. Or are they out there for the fun of it? Do the kids even know why they signed up? Did they even want to sign up or did their parents ask them and, not knowing any better, answer yes? I'm sure some of them are there because they enjoy it, but others I'm not so sure. But they get snacks (bags of marshmallows [?!?] this week) and drinks (what would we do without juice boxes? Oh yeah, drink more soda!), so it's all good.

But enough about that, let's talk about yard work.

I need to keep up with the Joneses. Literally. They did their yard work on Thursday this week and the neighbor on the other side did his yard on Friday, so I had to get ours done today. I edged and mowed the front yard before the game (so that the clippings would be dry by the end of the game and easier to sweep up) and finished up the rest of the yard after the game. N and I picked up all the sticks in the back yard (filling up a trash can with debris left over from the previous week's storms) before even getting to cutting the back yard. After getting the grass mowed and cleaned up, I took care of a variety of yard chores: I transplanted the dwarf peach tree from beside the driveway to the bed near the playset, I planted two lavender plants near the peach tree's original location and I was about to transplant an azalea from the front yard to the back yard when I got a bug up my ass to start power washing the deck. So, 90 minutes later I'm only halfway done and I run out of gas. I took this as a sign to call it quits for the day as I had to get ready for bowling. Busy, busy, busy.

After getting washed up and dressed, Britany arrived and D and I were off to the house. Chris and Lori wouldn't be there, so we were on our own. We arrived to find out we were in sole possession of second place, behind the leaders by 4.5 games. They ended up losing all four of theirs, so depending on how we did, we may be 1/2 game out of first next month. More than likely we'll be bowling them for the first place spot. It'll be a good time, to say the least. It's been almost 15 years since my last bowling championship, although the last one only gave us money; no trophies were involved. Since Chris and Lori weren't there (they pre-bowled), scoring wasn't able to be done accurately, so we're not sure how they did. Based on their absent scores (average minus 10 pins), we lost the first two games, but won the third (total pins might have been close). At the very worst, we went 1-3 (putting us 3.5 games out of first place). Regardless of how we do, our destiny is in our hands. If we win outright next month, it appears the championship is ours.

Day 59 - 04/20/2007

Supposedly it's hemp day today...or something like that. The things they have these days; they never had that when I was growing up! Actually, a quick check of says it's been around since 1971, so I must've not been that hip as a misspent youth. And now that I'm a mature, responsible adult with charges of my own to look out for, I have no interest in pursuing such folly. Ah, wisdom, what would I do without you?

Now that that's taken care of, I was smart enough to ride my bike to work today and got a great morning workout at the gym. I was somewhat surprised to see a turkey over by Stonecroft Boulevard on the way in. I've only seen one one other time in this area, so it was a nice treat for the morning ride. (Looking back on it, I wonder if there was any significance to me seeing it and it being a day of remembrance for the Hokie students and faculty gunned down earlier in the week. I'm sure it was just a coincidence, but the thought did make me think twice about it.) The weather was a bit cool when I started, but I dressed appropriately this go-round and I ended up a bit on the warm side by the time I got to the office. After working out (weights only this time, the ride in to the office served as my cardio/warmup), I hit the showers, got dressed and went to work.

I was pleasantly surprised to see lots of colleagues wearing maroon and/or orange as a visible way to show support/grief/acknowledgement of/for the victims of the shooting at Virginia Tech. The director of our group is a huge Tech fan (he graduated way back in the day) and he stopped by to thank me for wearing my orange shirt in support. Uh, certainly, Mark, I wouldn't have thought not to do so. The tragedy that occurred down in Blacksburg didn't just affect those on campus, but, as evidenced by the impact it's had on the media, is a nationwide affair. (I would add that it may even be an international event, but I doubt not all the world is impacted by this event, even though some of the victims were from other countries.) As it turns out, the shooter went to the elementary school less than 1/4 mile from our house and one of the victims went to M's school. When D told me that she went to St. Tim's, I thought she meant she went to the church, not that she was a student there. That's when it really hit home for me. Is there something about this area that makes kids grow up dysfunctional? Last year a Westfields student killed two police officers at the local police station. This year a Westfields grad kills 32 of his fellow Virginia Tech community members. Is there something more to it or is it just a coincidence? I hope it's the latter and we don't see more events like this one coming out of our community.

Headed out to sushi for lunch. I hadn't been to the sushi-house in a couple of months, so Matt and I headed down 28 for some raw fish and seaweed. Of course, not all of the sushi consists of raw fish and seaweed, but we had our fill of both of those (especially the salmon and tuna...yummy!) before heading back into traffic to finish out the day at the office. Matt had taken the doors off his Jeep, so the ride to and fro was a bit chilly, but after the past week, the weather was beautiful. Like I told him on the way to lunch, it was a Ferris Bueller day. Unfortunately, we had work to do back at the office so we couldn't emulate Ferris and take the day off...but we did consider it.

The ride back home was uneventful. I got home to an empty house (well, empty except for D, who was on her way to Molly's to watch the kids). There were pot pies in the oven for dinner (one of which was for Molly and her girls as they are without a kitchen until their new one is installed). I delivered hers to her house and got the grand tour of their new kitchen. It was neat to see what a difference taking out a couple of walls, cabinets, posts, etc., made and it completely modified the flow. It also gave D and I some ideas on what we can do to ours to better utilize our space. (Molly's floor plan is very similar to ours, so it's fun to compare the various projects we've both undertaken.)

Day 58 - 04/19/2007

If it's Thursday, it must be practice.

Actually, bit by bit, the kids are improving. While a couple of them still have a lot of growing to do with regard to staying focused, overall they're coming along. I imagine that in a couple of weeks, this bunch of kids will actually look like baseball players (vs. looking like a pack of kids chasing after a ball). As for that lack of focus, I think I'll attribute that to them being 5. Yeah, that's the ticket (and a perfectly acceptable one to boot!). But, to a player, they all appear to be having fun, which is really all that matters at this age. While I'd love for them to pick up the skills quicker, if they have a good time doing so, that's good enough for me.

Hit the gym at lunch for a quick spin on the bike. (I was supposed to do this on 04/18, but a Nationals game got in the way). Did 45 minutes and was sweating like a pig. I'm not sure why, but riding the stationary just makes me sweat profusely. Maybe it's the fact that there's no circulation at the gym. Oh well, at least it gives me time to catch up on my reading!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Day 57 - 04/18/2007

Katrina and Brook Haven.

Winner! Winner! Chicken dinner! And thus my career at winning radio contests continues. Today it was a pair of ticket's to tonight's Nat's game, plus 20k points in the Washington Post Reader Rewards program (whatever that is). Sweet.

I planned on picking up the tickets from the station at lunch (WJFK's studios are down the road in Fairfax) and had to find someone to go with. Before I could get a response, the station called to confirm my address. After confirming, I asked Meghan (the station rep) whether there were two or four tickets.

"Two tickets," she said, but then asked "Do you want four?"


"They'll be ready for you when you swing by, plus a parking pass."

After returning to the office, I checked the seat locations (1st base side, behind the dugout, about 20 rows from the field) and called D with the news. We made plans to leave the house at 5p. M had been to an O's game when she was five, but didn't really remember it; N hadn't been to one at all. Both of them were pretty excited about the prospect of going to a professional baseball game, and I was excited about going as a family. (Typically I'll go w/ colleagues as weeknight games can be pretty late.)

Traffic was normal on the way down to RFK. It took just about an hour, with us hitting the normal backups at West Falls Church and getting across the 14th Street Bridge. Once we got in the parking lot, we scoped out a spot in Lot 8 and set up our seats to get a little tailgating in before heading into the stadium. Both M and N were excited about the prospect of filling their bellies with snacks, both in the parking lot and inside the stadium. D was more concerned about staying warm (as was I -- I should have dressed warmer, but didn't think about the wind near the river being as bad as it was). Fortunately, once we got in the stadium, the wind died down and we were a little more comfortable.

We headed into the stadium in time to get to our seats, where we witnessed the National Anthem and the ceremonial first pitch (I can't recall whether I had ever done that before). Barbara Harrison was there w/ Joe (that's it, just Joe) as part of her Wednesday's Child series. He actually tossed out a pretty good pitch.

We stayed long enough to see the Nat's get a three run lead, but had to leave early in order to get the kids to bed at a reasonable time. (The Nat's ended up winning in 13 innings, so it was a good thing that we did, otherwise we wouldn't have gotten home until past midnight.) M has testing this week, so we didn't want her getting to bed too late (and N would have fallen asleep on D's lap had he laid his head down long enough). Before we left, though, we had our share of good times. Screech (the Nat's mascot) came around and we were able to snap a pic of him w/ the kids. He gave free pizzas to four guys behind us and in the hoopla surrounding that, we got our mugs on the jumbotron. As a bonus for those of us in the surrounding area, we received coupons for a free pie from Papa John's. The winning just didn't stop!

Overall, we all had a great time (except for having to leave early). Hopefully the next time will be a day game so that we can stay for the whole game, even if it goes into extra innings.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Day 56 - 04/17/2007

CCR, baby! Fear the Clear!

Another round of CCR and another free lunch. Thanks, Frank! For the second month in a row, I was the first one drawn. That is such a great feeling. Your card is placed on the table and, instead of a sinking feeling growing from within your stomach, elation overcomes you as you realize that, for another month, you've dodged danger. Well, not exactly danger like surprising a rattlesnake on the trail, but still, having to shell out $80 or so on the group lunch is something you want to avoid as often as possible. Now, if only the pulled pork sandwich was vinegar based vs. tomato based. There's nothing like the tart acidity of Carolina-style pulled pork barbecue.

That's alright, though, as D made up for it with a great dinner of porkchaaaaaaaps and ahppppplesaaaaaawse (along with egg noodles, broccoli and canned peaches).

Day 55 - 04/16/2007

Is it bedtime yet? I'm w..a..a..a..a..a..a..a..a..a..a..y tired and am really looking forward to going back to bed. And it's only 930a. I guess I need to start getting more sleep on the weekend, otherwise Monday's will be a d..r..a..g.

That being said, I was able to drag my ass to the gym and get in a good workout. I'm going to try a new schedule of workouts during the week in order to (hopefully) boost my cardio by doing weights and cardio on Mondays and Fridays, with a cardio session on Wednesdays. Hopefully I can add a couple of runs during the week for a good mix and I'll be set. I went out over the weekend and my knees felt pretty good. Now if they will stand the test of time and allow me to up the time and distance that I'm able to run. I'll be satisfied if I can reach 60 minutes (although even half that would be acceptable).

I continued working in the basement, moving the ping pong table out of the way and started to move some of the stuff in the front to the back. There's still a ways to go, however, but, as I told D, it took us a while to accumulate it, it will take us a while to go through it and get rid of it. My goal is to combine all of my various boxes of old stuff (e.g., junk memorabilia) into one storage bin. I don't plan on accumulating much else in the way of memorabilia (except for patches), so one bin should be enough for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Day 54 - 04/15/2007

Taxes are due today.

Well, they would be, but it's Sunday, so they're due on the 17th. Yeah, that doesn't make sense to me, but Monday is a holiday in Massachusetts (where a regional IRS processing center exists), so the facility will be closed. Thus, this year taxes are due on the 17th. Not that that matters to me, I finished our taxes back in March. Of course, I didn't file them until last Thursday, so consider me somewhat of a procrastinator.

We're getting a pretty sizable refund this year and have decided to use it to pay tuition in advance in order to receive a 5% discount. In years past when we receive a large refund, I would have adjusted my W-4 to reduce the amount withheld over the course of the year. Now that we have the option of reducing the amount of tuition if paid up front, I might just keep the withholding the same so that we have a guaranteed lump sum coming in just before tuition is due. I know, I know, I should be paying into a fund throughout the year with the money and be earning interest, but sometimes I'm not that disciplined when it comes to managing the household finances. Overall we do a pretty good job, but we're also lucky (or is it because we've been conservative with our financial picture?) in that we only owe on our mortgage and have no other short-term debt (our credit cards are almost always paid in full each month).

Maybe I'll change it anyway and up the amount that we put into savings in order to earn interest on it. I'll have to sit down w/ D and discuss it further with her in the near future.

Monday is also the Boston Marathon. Of course, I won't be running in it this year (or maybe ever), but I just figured I'd toss that out there. You know, in case you cared. (Or even if you didn't; either way, it doesn't have any effect on me one iota!)

Now, on with the show...

After going to be early on Saturday night (well, early for a weekend night, at least), I was able to sleep in and enjoy a lazy Sunday morning. (Note: I did NOT say Lazy Sunday afternoon; that would entail us hitting the bakery for some cupcakes before heading to the cinema for "The Chronic- What?!? -cles of Narnia.) Pancakes were had by all and games of backgammon were played (M was recently introduced to this great game and so far she loves it). Since it was raining and winding and generally pretty nasty out, I decided that we should start organizing the basement. (Had we actually organized it when we moved in, we would be reorganizing it, but we just put stuff where there was an empty space and we're just now getting around to, well, organizing it.) D went to Mass at noon, but the kids and I plowed on through the afternoon, taking stuff off of shelves, sorting it into keep, yard sale or trash piles and finally moving the shelves to the back basement.

The previous owner made some pretty heavy duty shelves out of 2x4s and particle board shelving. There are two units, each measuring 8'w x 4'd x 6'h. They were originally installed in the front basement (under the dining room area) and you had to pass them by in order to get to the back basement (where the toy area had been designated). This didn't make any sense to me, so, after some brainstorming, we decided to move them to the back basement area (where the ping pong table resided) so that our storage area was out of the way.

Anyway, the units were finally moved (after two trips to Lowe's for some more studs for additional support) and I called it a night.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Day 53 - 04/14/2007

Opening day for the 2007 CYA T-Ball league!

To sum up what these games are like, I would liken them to "Organized chaos." Nine kids scrambling for the ball, diving on it when it comes to them like it's a fumbled football. Or, like I thought while standing out in the field trying to coach the two players under my stead, like a soldier falling on a grenade, except that all of the players were fighting to fall on it as well.

Each game is made up of three innings. No score is kept, not stats are kept, no outs are made (and if, by some miracle they are, the player stays on base). Each inning is made up of all players hitting the ball of the T. After hitting the ball, the players advance a base. When the last player comes up to bat and hits the ball, the bases are cleared and the inning is over.

Of course, distractions are bound to occur, such as bathroom breaks during the middle of the game (sure, just leave the field if you need to go) or the playground calling the players from beyond third base.

N started out as pitcher (well, he didn't pitch, but stood in the pitcher's position) and stopped most balls hit his way. The second inning he played shortstop, followed by a stint in left field. No matter where the ball was hit on the field, the players all ran to the ball to try and stop it. It was quite comical, to say the least.

Like I said, organized chaos.

Afterwards, Riley came over and played with M while D went out to run some errands. I took advantage of the quiet and did some work on the migration (yes, it's a Saturday, but I wasn't able to finish up on Friday), before heading back out and finishing up on some of the yardwork I put off completing on Friday. Of course, as soon as I got to the point of no return, the rain started, making the job a wet one. (I planted the lavender and catmint next to the mailbox, but still need to cover it with mulch before I'd call it finished.)

Dinner was made up of pizza pie. Doug and Nancy dropped off Michael before heading over to an anniversary party and we all enjoyed a quiet evening at home.

Day 52 - 04/13/2007

Paraskavedekatriaphobians were on the lookout all day today.

I wasn't one of them.

I was on the lookout for dandelions and chickweed as I worked from home running migrations. In between, I did homework in the yard, trying to get a grip on it before the various weeds take over. I may not have been successful, though, as what I wanted to do (seed the lawn) won't be possible until late-May. I need to wait about 6 weeks after spraying the lawn before I can lay more seed. It's doubtful it will mature before the heat of the summer comes down on us and the grass goes dormant.

Of course, I could always water the lawn to avoid that.

After a long day of yard work, M, N and I went out to run some errands. We hit the Merrifield Garden Center (one of my favorite stores in the area, if only for providing me with ample "I wish I could..." material) and, in addition to having the helping staff member identify the weed in my hand (chickweed) and recommending a plan of attack, we also picked up some lavender and catmint for the area around the mailbox. We had planted lavender last year (which is still there), but the other two plants we planted don't seem to be coming back up (and it would appear they won't come back up since I covered the bed with a layer of weed blocker). I love that stuff; simply roll it out, plant your desired plants and mulch. Viola! No weeding required!

Afterwards, we went over to Lowe's to pick up some topsoil, a shovel and some fertilizer. (Recall that mine broke a few weeks back when I was trying to dig out the shrub by the back deck.) After checking out, we went to Milwaukee's Frozen Custard for a mid-afternoon treat of, yes, frozen custard. N loves going there for the trains that run along the ceiling (as well as for the custard, obviously). I love their vanilla custard, but since the flavor of the day was peanut butter cup (and I'm a sucker for peanut butter and chocolate in my ice cream), that's the flavor I chose. I wish I had stuck with vanilla. While it was good, the flavors were overbearing and there were too many pieces of peanut butter cup; the vanilla was too hard to distinguish. Oh well, lesson learned.

M spent the night at Riley's, so it was just D, N and I at home. After putting N to bed, D and I settled in to a quiet night in front of the TV. We rented Borat to entertain us, but were somewhat disappointed. Sure, there were parts that were funny, but at times it just seemed forced. And we both could have done without the naked wrestling scene; that was just wrong. Good thing we had Tivo'd The Office; that's pretty much always good for a laugh and this episode (where Michael demonstrated the dangers of working in the white collar world) had its share of them to offer us.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Day 51 - 04/12/2007

Practice was cancelled. It was raining off and on throughout the afternoon, but I'm pretty sure it was cancelled due to the lightning strikes throughout the area. Not that it matters much, the players need more than just a couple hours a week in order to get the attention their skillset requires. There are a couple that have lots of potential this season, but for the most part, I'm looking forward to a bunch of mistakes being made. Does that matter? At this age, no, but I'd hate for the kids to think that baseball isn't any fun if they don't do well. Even if this is supposed to be non-competitive, I'm sure some of the kids do want to win. Maybe I'm wrong, though, who knows. I guess we'll see at Saturday's game.

I got my results of my latest bloodwork today. They were unable to test for my cholesterol levels the first time as I hadn't been fasting. This time, I had fasted for almost 12 hours, although I had a big ol' dish of ice cream the night before about 10 hours or so before the blood was drawn (I'll have to remember to share that with Dr. Carter when I meet with him to discuss the results). Anyway, my cholesterol is high for someone my age. They'd like to see it below 100; it was 139. In December 2003 it was about 110. When I talked to Dr. Carter last, he shared this result with me and asked me whether I considered myself in better shape than then. Well, since I ran a marathon in 2003 and have had nowhere near the same amount of exercise due to my knees over the past two years, I would have to say I was not. As it turns out (or so it would seem), the numbers would back that up.

Who knows why the number is high. Is it due to genetics or cheeseburgers? I'd have to say it's a mix of both. I've been eating soup for lunch for the past few years (it's easy and cheap), but I don't know how high the cholesterol levels are. I've also made a habit out of having a bowl of ice cream on a nightly basis after the kids are in bed. I would imagine that's not the healthiest of things, but I didn't think it would be that bad. I guess I'll have to switch to sherbert, sorbet or frozen yogurt instead.

Day 50 - 04/11/2007

Dog-friendly restaurants?!?

Read about half-way down where the poster asks for suggestions on where he can take his (her?) dog with him (again, her?) for lunch. Uh, how about your backyard? Or the dog park?

Don't get me started on dog parks. I mean, what's wrong with just walking your dog? Why do you feel you must put your four-legged animal on a pedestal that should be reserved for your kids. And don't start on the whole "Rex is like the child I've always wanted." or "Fifi goes everywhere with me, I couldn't bear to be without her while I do my grocery shopping." I don't buy that. How would your kid feel if s/he knew he was equal to your dog? Probably not very happy (of course, I may be wrong, fortunately I've never been in that position).

But I digress.

So the poster is looking for a dog-friendly place to eat lunch (or maybe dinner). Here's a novel idea: Leave your pooch at home. Your dog is a pet, not a built in dinner date. It's not that I don't care for dogs, I just don't think any animal should be allowed in a public eating establishment (guide dogs withstanding as they're working).

Next week I'm going to post a query to Tom and ask if he knows of any feline friendly restaurants. I mean, why should the canine crowd have all the fun?

(Full disclosure: I'm not really a dog person. I'd much rather scoop a cat box twice a week than bag warm dog shit twice a day.)

On a completely unrelated note, the playoffs started. What playoffs you ask? As if there are any others that count! I'm talking NHL, baby! The second season started with a bang with a 4 OT game between the Canucks and the Stars. I'm glad I decided not to watch the game as I would never have made it through the next day at work. It's too bad the Caps aren't in it this year; I'll never forget the feeling experienced during the '98 run to the Stanley Cup finals vs. Detroit (the excitement of getting there, not the excitement of going 0-4 against the Red Wings).

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Day 49 - 04/10/2007

Happy Birthday, sis!

41 years ago you entered my life. Well, not exactly my life; I mean, I didn't come along for a copule more years. Anyway, I hope your 41st year brings you much happiness and joy. At least you're not as old as CL!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Day 48 - 04/09/2007

Dragged myself out of bed and made it into work. Another Monday at the office doing migration work.

I went to noon Mass to hear the rest of the story. During Mass on Easter, Father Carr indicated that the Easter story plays out over the first eight days of the Easter season, also known as the Easter Octave. Since Easter is my favorite time of year (both within and outside the church), I figured I'd go to daily Mass and listen to the rest of the story. (And now you know the rest of the story as to why I went to hear the rest of the story.) Anyway, like I said, I went to Mass and heard more of the events that occurred at the first Easter. Father Alex than summed up the Gospel by saying that we shouldn't be afraid for God is with us.

Went back to work and continued to slog through the migration before hitting the gym. Since D and the kids were still in Fred, I didn't have to get home at any time, so I took my time and got in a great workout, before heading home to eat leftovers for dinner (chicken pot pie, barbecue chicken, fruit salad and cottage cheese, if you must know).

After tackling a few chores, and making a few phone calls, I settled into the couch and watched the second episode of The Sopranos we had Tivo'd, followed by skimming a couple episodes of SNL.

Nothing earth-shattering occurred. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Day 47 - 04/08/2007

Happy Easter!

We went to 9a Mass and after we got home, packed up the car and headed down to Fred for Easter Dinner at D's parents house. We drove separately since I had to work this week, so D and the kids went in the van and I drove by myself in the Altima. Since Lent was over, I was able to enjoy my hillbilly music shows that air on 88.5 on Sundays. As much as I like to listen to these shows on Sunday's, I don't always get my way. This time, I had over an hour of it. Oh Joy!

Dinner was excellent, as usual. Nancy made a ham, green beans and potatoes and sweet potatoes and Stacey brought cranberry stuff (her name, not mine). It would be great with a big ol' scoop of vanilla ice cream on top, especially if the cranberry stuff was as warm as it was at the dinner table. It was a medley of cranberries, apples and raisins topped with oats and then baked to perfections. It was good! For dessert I stuck with coffee. D and the kids made the Bunny Cake again this year, but seeing as I'm not a big fan of chocolate cake, I decided to pass. Anyway, I was too stuffed from my two plates full of food to want to eat anything else.

On the way home, 95 was moving along until just before the exit for 17. I decided not to take any chances and got on the exit ramp. It was a good thing I did as further up, I could see traffic stopped and three emergency vehicles driving up the shoulder of the highway. It was at that moment that I decided I would go 17 to 28 and in order to avoid Gainesville, but I would cut off of 17 on a back road that Stephen told me about that would put me on 28 just north of Catlett. I called him up for directions and was able to make good time until I got behind a couple of cars travelling just below the speed limit. It wouldn't have been so bad had the car directly in front of me not been a truck. If it were a small car, at least I could see around it, but it was a pickup truck with stuff in the back. The first chance I had, I passed both of them and was again the only car on the road.

The ride home on the back country roads was made better with what was on the radio. Sunday nights on 88.5 are filled with old time radio shows; tonight they had Jack Benny's Easter Parade, Gunsmoke and Dragnet. It made the trip much more enjoyable as it reminded me of what radio must have been like back when it was the main form of entertainment for the masses. It's interesting to listen as it gives you a sense of what was acceptable back then and how much society has changed over the years.

I got home in just over an hour and Butterfly was glad to see me. I fed her, turned on the TV and settled in to watch some Sopranos. No, it wasn't the season premiere of the 8th (and final) season, it was an episode from season two that had been Tivo'd. We don't subscribe to HBO, so the 8th season will have to wait a few years. That's alright, it'll wait.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Day 46 - 04/07/2007

It snowed this morning.

Yes, you read that right. It snowed this morning. The kids came in around 730a and opened the shades to point out that, yes, it did snow.

Last week we had 80° temperatures and now, the first full weekend in April, it's snowing? What up wit dat?!?

Oh well, good thing D hadn't planted the marigolds in the boxes on the deck yet!

Since I was up late Friday doing work on iTriTracker, D was kind enough to let me sleep in. Well, maybe not kind enough to let me sleep in, but kind enough to get up with the kids after they'd been up for an hour or so. After finally rolling out of bed around 930a, I got dressed and went for a short run. I decided to walk for about 5 minutes as a warmup and then run the rest of the way. The total distance I ran was ~1.5 miles, which is pretty wimpy, but was as far as I wanted to go without stopping for a walk in-between...which I also didn't want to do. Overall my knee felt good. I still iced it when I got home and popped a couple Advil after the shower, but over the course of the day, there were no aches or pains.

I showered and grabbed a bite to eat and, after what seemed like hours trying to get M and N to clean up their mess, hit the road to Grandma's house so I could help her with her computer and the kids could play with Sarah.

After talking with her a few weeks back regarding her new venture into the world of FIOS, I volunteered to setup a backup system on her computer using an external drive as a backup volume (in addition to helping her get her computer configured for connecting to the web via FIOS). This would allow her to survive a catastrophic failure of her hard drive w/o losing any data (which is something we should all have in place, especially now that most of us keep so much on our computers).

Configuring her computer for use with FIOS was a piece of cake, but the external drive was not. I spent a couple hours trying to get it working before I finally gave up. Knowing that I had recommended this solution, there was no way I wasn't going to get it working as I knew that if I didn't, I'd never hear the end of it. So, with that in mind, when she called Friday night to see if we'd be around, I invited the three of us over so I could finish configuring the drive. This was a win-win-win situation: I got to check this off my list of chores, the kids got to play with Sarah and she would now have a backup system in place (wait for it) to survive a catastrophic failure of her hard drive. As I said, we hit the road and got over there around 130p or so. I went straight to work and in about 30 minutes, had the external drive configured. (I had forgotten to disable the virus software when I was there originally, so the drivers weren't getting installed successfully.) One down and one to go.

Next, I created a backup system using SyncBack, a free utility that kick's ass when it comes to automating simple backup and synchronization routines. This system will not only back up her documents, but also her e-mail and pictures...automatically. She asked me what she needed to do and the answer is nothing, it will run all by itself. After getting that done, I helped myself to a bagel (well, I really didn't help myself, Rudy made it for me, and boy, was it G-O-O-D!) and a Old Dominion Ale. I hadn't had one of Rudy's bagels (plain bagel, toasted, with a schmear of cream cheese, lox and tomato, hold the onion please) in quite a while and the bagel and beer hit the spot. After shooting the breeze for a while, I tried to round up the kids to head home, but only made it as far as the living room, where N and I started listening to old records. Sugar Hill Gang and David Bowie made their way onto the turntable and both were hits. M and Sarah did a great interprative dance to "Changes" and I about broke a rib in hysterics. I wish I had a videotape. Oh well, maybe next time.

On the way home I had to stop for gas. Nothing out of the ordinary about that. On the opposite side of the pump, an Eastern European looking woman, driving her X5 was trying to open her gas tank. I'm thinking to myself that she's never gotten gas before, so I sit there and watch her try to pry open the opening to the gas cap door with her key. (Not the gas cap itself, but the door that covers the gas cap.) She went back into the cabin and fiddled around a bit and then opened the trunk, fiddling around in there as well, before attempting to open the door. No luck.

By this time, I was done pumping my gas and she still hadn't even opened the door to start pumping hers. Feeling bad about the situation, I asked her if she needed any help.

"It whon't ohpen," she said with what sounded like a Russian accent.

"Did you press the lever inside?" I asked her (knowing she had done something in the cabin, but just not sure what).

"There iss no leverr inside. You press the button and it ohpens. Somtiymes it ghets shtuckh, so I ushe my key or push like thish." she said, as she slid her key into the slot between the body and the gas cap door, pushing the lower right corner at the same time.

"Uh, sorry, but I guess I can't help you then. Good luck!" I said as I got back into the van and left her at the pump. As I drove down the road towards the parkway, I couldn't help but wonder how long she was there until she either a) drove off; or b) got it open. Hopefully it wasn't too long - the wind was biting and she wasn't dressed for it.

I'll have to expand on that for my collection of stories. I see a lot of conflict in this woman's life when she goes home and tries to explain why the gas tank is still empty even though she said she stopped at the gas station.

Day 45 - 04/06/2007

Had my follow-up blood test this morning since the last time I wasn't fasting. The last time my cholesterol was checked (in 12/2003), the LDL (bad cholesterol) was 110, which is borderline. I'm hoping it's below 100 this time, otherwise I'll have to go back for more tests and/or lifestyle recommendations: either an increase in exercise or medication. I'll lean towards more exercise, especially now that my knee is better and I'm running again. (Yes, I realize that 3+ miles per week isn't much, but it's 3+ miles more (on average) than I was running for all the weeks of the past 20 or so months, so it's a start, right?!?)

Work has been quiet this week with a lot of folks out on Spring Break. It's been nice not having everyone in, as it's given me a chance to catch up on a lot of things, such as the migration, which is still running very S-L-O-W-L-Y. I'm hoping it's due to the database configuration (it's running against SQL Server) vs. any data or program issues. I can't wait for this tar baby to be taken off my hands. Of course, that tar baby is my built in job security as very few of my colleagues would have either the time or the understanding to take it over from me. I can't wait for the next cycle to begin and all the legacy programs get moved to the back burner.

Among the mundane items going on, we had cheese pizza w/ green and fruit salad for dinner. I had a few glasses of water. For lunch, since it was Good Friday and fasting was in order, I had an ounce or so of cashews, some trail mix and a cashew. I also went to they gym for some weights and 30 minutes on the stationary bike. I wasn't planning on getting a second workout in this week, but since work was getting knocked off at a pretty good clip, I decided to go for it. As usual, I'm glad I did.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Day 44 - 04/05/2007

N had his second practice tonight. I got to (try and) teach the basics of throwing and catching to a trio of 5 year olds who were more interested in kicking up clouds of dirt. Is it over yet? No, I'm not really complaining, just voicing my frustration at the lack of ability for me to let go and remember that these are 5 year olds who would rather kick up clouds of dirt vs. learn how to play a sport. No wonder practices are only an hour long!

That being said, when one of the boys went to bat, I did make progress w/ N and his teammate (after N learned that when going for a ground ball, he wasn't on stage and he didn't have to make a pratfall EVERY time, that is!). Now, if his teammate could get the mechanics of throwing the ball down, he'd be pretty good. They both took kindly to understanding what it meant to back up first base (we were positioned in the outfield during batting and running practice). It was pretty funny, though, to see the disorganization running amok on the field whenever a ball was hit. (Suprisingly enough, one of the kids hit the ball into the outfield off the tee!)

D was able to find the story on the fire on the web. Apparently the fire was started by the homeowner working on his motorcycle on his back porch. Apparently a spark caused the gas to catch on fire and before he knew it, flames were crawling up the back of the house. I went by it after mowing the yard on Wednesday and they were putting up a tarp over the roof to protect it further from the elements. I'm not sure what needed protecting seeing as they were dousing water on the fire on it for a good hour before finally getting it out; I'm sure the water from the hoses didn't do much for the interior as well! The news report indicated there were four injuries: the homeowner and three firefighters. All of them are expected to survive, which is good to hear. I wonder what will be done in the neighborhood to help them out? That was one of M's concerns as we were watching the house burn; hopefully we'll be able to do something for them. I couldn't even imagine what they must be going through.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Day 43 - 04/04/2007

Mowed the yard for the first time this season. It looks a little better now that it's even. Hopefully when I lay down the next course of fertilizer, the zebra striped effect will be subdued somewhat. When I laid down the first course of fertilizer with halts (supposedly to prevent crabgrass from germinating, although some of it is starting to come up), I either missed half the lawn or the spreader closed up on every other row. From certain angles it looks like a dark and light green zebra is laying down on the lawn. It's not pretty.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that for the first time in over two years, mowing the yard was pain free!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Day 42 - 04/03/2007

Relief! Hooray!

Be warned, a case of TMI will soon be approaching. If you're not interested in learning about a personal issue that ails me, skip the next paragraph.

For those of you still reading, here it is: I suffer from ear wax buildup. Specifically in my right ear. After about 10 days of suffering, I finally broke down and went to the doc's for a washout and relief. Well, actually, I went to my PCP to see if it was an infection, but Nurse Patrick said she couldn't tell as there was too much wax. Not wanting to leave empty-handed (and be out $40 in order to see my ENT), I decided to let them wash it out. The last time I was there I left in pain and refused to pay the balance ($5.46) out of protest. Having made that decision, I decided to let them have a go at it. If it worked, I'd be pain free a day earlier (vs. having to wait until my appointment with my ENT on 04/04). Ninety minutes later I left the office with clear ears and my hearing restored. Afterwards I searched for homeopathic solutions and found The Real McCoy, which looks interesting (although expensive). If I come down with another one this year, I'll give it a shot, otherwise, I'll stick to a monthly regimen of hydrogen peroxide per Nurse Patrick's instructions. (And why do I always refer to her as Nurse Patrick? It makes her sound like someone out of Young Frankenstein or something!)

Alright, you can open your eyes now. After getting home, D took off for the hospital to visit Maria. Her mother's been in the hospital for the past few weeks after having a stroke and now her father was admitted with chest pains. I couldn't imagine what she's going through; I'm sure it's a difficult time. I'm glad D is able to visit her often and provide a shoulder to lean on. I'm sure Maria is thankful for that as well.

While D was out, there was a series of sirens sounding through the neighborhood. Since we live relatively close to 66, I figured it was a bad accident on the highway. N asked if we could pray (although to me, it sounded as if he said play, which is normal for him as he still has a hard time with his Ls) and I told him now, we were done playing for the day. As usual, he got frustrated that we didn't understand him and clarified "No, can we PRAY?!?" Oh, yes, we can do that. And with that he started praying for the people in the siren and the firemen and the helicopter and the fire engine and for his classmate Tristan. It was amusing to say the least. Sweet, but amusing.

I sent him upstairs to get in the tub and as I was walking past the front door, noticed there was stuff left on the lawn. I went out to get it and noticed a plume of smoke coming from the woods behind our neighbor's house. It was a mix of black and grey, as well as some the color of a really nasty bruise after it's been sitting on your leg for a week. A second or two later I heard what sounded like a mix between a minor explosion and wood crackling in a fire (which I suppose was indeed happening, it was just really loud). I ran inside and called for the kids to get dressed and get downstairs, that there was a house on fire. After a slight hesitation, I added, "Not our house!" in order to alleviate any fear that my previous statement might have brought on.

After they got dressed, we rode our bikes down the trail to the next street over and made our way to the scene. There were a half-dozen fire engines and at least two dozen firemen (that we could see). The house that was on fire was burning fast. The garage roof was pretty much gone and the fire had started breaking through the main roof. You could tell the attic was nothing but an inferno as the flames started shooting out the opposite end of the roof. In addition to the house that was on fire, the firemen trained their hoses on the neighboring houses so they didn't catch on fire either (the siding had already started melting on one of them).

Both M and N were visibly shaken up, M concerned about the people who lived there and N concerned about their toys. Nothing surprising to me about either of these two observations. When it was time to leave, I made the mistake of telling them we had to check on our house, as I forgot to close the windows. This caused M to start crying all over again thinking our house would catch fire as well, but I calmed her by reiterating that I was only concerned about smoke getting in the house. (As it turned out, ashes fell on our neighbor's deck, so there may have been a slight risk for us as well.)

On the way home, we saw the Medivac helicopter circle overhead before landing at the school. Since this wasn't an everyday occurrence, I decided to forego getting them to bed on time and we went to the school to check out the situation up there. While we were waiting for the paramedics to load the patient into the helicopter, a police office drove up and, nonchalantly, asked me where my camera was as something like this doesn't happen every day. This struck me as odd, but he was right, I should have grabbed the video camera to capture some footage. Just like at the scene of the fire, M was concerned about the people and asked what we could do for them. I told her that once it was determined what they needed, I'm sure we would help out in some way. N announced that fires were fun because of all the fire engines and helicopters (from his perspective as a five year old, I'm sure they are, as long as it's not your house and toys that are on fire). The helicopter finally took off and we headed back home.

The fire is still under investigation as I write this (it's been speculated that it started under the deck and moved its way up the back of the house), but, as far as I know, there were no serious injuries. No mention of it has been made in the paper or on the news. The community paper comes out on Thursday, I'm sure Bonnie Hobbs will write something about it.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Day 41 - 04/02/2007

Took the day off today to see the home opener of the Washington Nationals. They got shellacked 9-2. This by their "ace" pitcher. With that in mind, it'll be a L-O-N-G season. Aside from that, however, we had a great time. Seats were pretty good (sat in section M47 out in right field), the beer was cold, the grub was good and the company was enjoyable. A fun time was had by all, except for Nats fans, who had to lament their team's 0-1 start. I guess that now includes me as I've finally made the switch from being an AL fan to being an NL fan. Maybe one day I'll visit Camden Yards and root for my (formerly) beloved O's, but that won't happen as long as Peter Angelos has his fingers in the heart of the organization.

This was the last home opener at RFK for baseball (for the foreseeable future). As part of the promotion, they gave away hats to all those in attendance. The hat was actually pretty nice (for being free) and fit rather well. Too bad, though, it was short lived. When I got home, N asked me where I got it and after I told him, I asked him if he wanted it. The look in his face when I did that more than made up for me not having it. It's the little things like that that make me feel good inside. I wish I could have come to that realization years ago and enjoyed M more as a little girl. Live and learn, I guess, but at least I can now move ahead with that philosophy and try and enjoy the days to come.

Next year the Nationals will be moving to their new stadium. I seriously doubt tickets will be as readily available for their home opener as they were for this game, but you never know. It was mentioned at the game that we should get tickets to the last home game of the season, just to close out the stadium. Lots of good times were had in the parking lot during football games, concerts and baseball games, it's going to be sorely missed. Word on the street is that The Danny will be moving the 'Skins back to DC, but more than likely that will include imploding RFK and doing away with the parking lots as we've known them. I'm not looking forward to that one iota.

On the way home I looked over to the driver in the car next to us and saw her sneeze. No one else was in the car with her, so I said (to myself) "Bless you." That got me thinking about who she was and where she was going, what she did for a living and what kind of house she lived in. A few more questions popped into my mind about her and then she was gone, only to be replaced by a single male driver who was making hand gestures while he talked on the phone. That was my Eureka! moment; I would write about people I see in their cars, filling in as many gaps as possible, while at the same time basing their stories on the facts of their lives as I know them. I'm not sure how I'll accomplish this (or even why I want to do this), but I figure if I can get a dozen good stories out of it, it would be worth it. I've always had an itch to write a novel, but haven't found the right story to tell as of yet. Maybe it will come out this exercise. Once I get the gist of it figured out, I'll write more. I'm thinking it will probably be in blog format, so it's more readily available, but then again, maybe I shouldn't so it won't be so readily available. Decisions, decisions, why didn't I buy insurance?!?

Monday, April 2, 2007

Day 40 - 04/01/2007

Well, here we are, 40 days later and it's Palm Sunday. Coincidence? I believe so. There's really nothing grandiose going on within this blog, it's just a place for me to capture the events of the day. There's really nothing earth-shattering that's going to come about from it.

Or is there? I suppose only time will tell.

Today M spent the afternoon in her room. It was hard on her, but hopefully it will sink in that she needs to control her behavior. I realize that she's only 8, but she's on the other side of the hill and fast approaching 9. While I do see a vast difference in the way she acts this year vs. a year ago, she still has a long way to go. Of course, as I said, she is only 8, so maybe it's me that needs to loosen my expectations with regard to her behavior and accept it for what it is. That being said, I had a sense of schadenfreude while I was out in the court with N, knowing she was looking out her window at the two of us.

Oh, we did all kinds of fun things while she was stuck in her room, including playing some baseball in the backyard and riding around the court. I tried to sneak a practice session of hitting, catching and throwing in, but he didn't quite fall for it, he wised up and refused to play catch. I was able to bribe him into trying to throw the baseballs into the bucket by offering him a Popsicle if he got one in and while he didn't get one in, he came awfully close, so I gave him one anyway.

Later on we went out front and he rode his bike around the court. He showed me how he could ride one-handed, so I told him that....

"If you can ride one-handed, that means you don't need your training wheels anymore."

A blank stare.

"Do you want me to take them off?"

"Yes. Take them off, Daddy."

Shock (on my part).

I snapped out of it and went to the garage for the wrench. I expected him to start up at any minute when I was loosening the nut, but it never came. One wheel was off and I started working on the next one, again anticipating the cries of despair when he realized what was happening, but still, they never came. I finally had both of them off and he jumped on and almost immediately fell over. He wasn't used to having to put his feet down, so I had to give him a quick lesson on starting off.

Fifteen minutes later he was riding like he had never had them on in the first place. Of course, he's pretty much not needed them for the past several months as they rarely touch the ground, but he's steadfastly refused whenever we suggested that we remove them. Way to go, N, way to go!

Day 39 - 03/31/2007

Hi, this is N and I'm Coach M.

Today begins my career as a youth sports coach. In this case, I volunteered to help coach N's T-ball team. I'm not sure what to expect, but hopefully will have as much fun as I can, while attempting to teach the fundamentals of baseball to a group of 5-6 year olds. It should be interesting to say the least.

There are about a dozen or so kids on the team. Some of them are in his class, so that should make it better (for N) in terms of reducing his anxiety about playing. Not that he's shy or anything, but he seemed a bit nervous when we were walking towards the field (which quickly faded when he saw Tristan, one of his buddies from school). The first practice went fine, except for the fact that N didn't have a hat. He didn't like that and when they were handed out at the end of practice, he put it on his head, where it remained for pretty much the entire day.

M had softball practice in the morning, so when N and I got home, we hung out until she got home. The neighborhood Easter Egg Hunt was in the afternoon, so we had lunch and rode our bikes to the community center to meet D (she had volunteered to help out). I love it that we're able to ride around the neighborhood. I recall riding bikes with my family as a kid in Germany and continued to use the bike as a mode of transportation through college. It's a great form of exercise (even if it's not advertised as such) and it's a great way to do something as a family. Hopefully our family bike rides will become somewhat of a regular thing, especially as the kids get older and can go longer distances.

Saturday night M got in trouble (again). N got a bath in our tub and she thought it wasn't fair that he could get one in there, but that she had to take a shower in her bathroom. (It wasn't that she couldn't take one in there, she chose to take it in there.) Words were cast towards him about how she hated him, etc., and the next thing she knows, she's being sent to her room. I told her she needed to go apologize to her brother and then wait in her room until it was time to read Narnia, but she decided that that wasn't acceptable and was insubordinate towards me. The next thing you know, she's lost Narnia and Webkinz for the next week. After thinking about it further, I decided it wasn't fair to N to lose Narnia, since he didn't do anything wrong, so I changed the consequence from missing that to staying in her room from the time she got home from Mass on Sunday until dinner time. That didn't sit well.

That being said, once we read Narnia, she calmed down for the rest of the evening. I can't believe what a difference there is between hers and N's personalities. He's so very easy going, especially at bedtime and with regards to discipline, whereas she's a holy terror. I'm not sure if it's a result of her being the first and therefore we made most of our mistakes on her with regard to parenting, or if it's just her nature. I really don't know, but I do wish she'd learn to learn from her mistakes as it seems like this is becoming a weekly recurrence.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Day 38 - 03/30/2007

Rode to and from work for the second time this year. On the way home, I passed by the Craig girls, who thought I was a professional biker decked out in my gear. It was a little chilly in the morning, yet I decided that shorts would be enough -- this due to the fact that I'd go running in shorts in this weather -- why not biking as well? I guess I didn't take into consideration the fact that I'd be riding at a much faster clip and basically be making my own wind. (Easy there, I said making -- NOT breaking -- my own wind.) Once I got to work, I hit the gym. Usually when I ride in, I use that as my 30 minutes of cardio, as well as my warmup for lifting. This time, I had to hit the stationary bike for another 15 minutes to warm up my legs. They were a bit stiff!

The ride home was much better since it had warmed up. To top it off, I didn't get stopped at a single light the entire way home. I'll have to check the time and see if I can replicate getting across 50 w/o having to wait for the light. Even though I didn't stop for a light, it still took me 30 minutes. I guess it'll take a few more weeks to see an increase in fitness before I start seeing a decrease in time.

The day ended on a sour note, however, as M and N were melting down. They both lost Narnia and were put to bed without songs. This nice weather is making it harder for them to be brought in at night since they both want to play outside until it's too dark to see.

We'll see what happens tomorrow. Speaking of which, I start my stint at Assistant Coach for N's t-ball team -- that should be interesting.