Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Day 160 - 07/30/2007

I was hoping to sleep in at least a little bit after coming back from vacation, but no, the cats had other plans. Smokey woke me up by walking all over me and then his motor started running. What he lacks in a meow he makes up in a purr (unlike Sam, who lacked in purring department, but more than made up for in his incessant mewing). So, at 620a, I got out of bed, showered, ate breakfast and was out the door, arriving at work about 7a.

On the bright side, though, getting in early means getting out early.


In this case, it was true. I got home about 430p and started on the lawn. It's been a few weeks (!) since I last mowed it and, with the rain we got over the weekend, it looked awfully shaggy.

After mowing, I cleaned the driveway in anticipation of sealing it on Tuesday. D's taking the kids to the Eastern Shore for the week (I'll catch up with them on Friday), so I won't have to worry about them walking across it accidentally or anything.

After getting my chores done (including putting the kids to bed), I settled down to catch the last stage of the TdF on Tivo. As expected, there were no changes in the GC, but it was a good final stage anyway. Hopefully there will be no surprises this year and Contador will ride in the Maillot Jeune to start next year's Tour.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Day 159 - 07/29/2007

Our last day on our weekend getaway was spent at the Jamestown Settlement. Visiting Jamestown was the primary reason for the weekend as this year is the 400th anniversary of the establishment of Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the New World.

Upon our arrival, we took in the introductory movie and then wandered through the various galleries before meeting up with the tour guide. (Unlike at Williamsburg, we actually shelled out for tickets at Jamestown, so we weren't doing it on the cheap, although it would have been very easy to experience it for free as we never had to show our tickets to anyone.)

The first stop on the tour was the fort where we learned about some of the buildings and witnessed a musket shooting.

(It should be noted that the fort is a replica and isn't in the same location as the original: Historic Jamestowne is located a few miles East and is part of the National Park System and is more of an archaeological-type experience vs. a re-creation of what might have been.) And thus ended our participation in the tour. The kids balked at continuing (it was hot and they were becoming crazy with the heat), so we quit the tour and spent some time in the fort before heading down the the ships.

I asked one of the docents (for lack of a better word) which ships were which and she explained that the Godspeed stayed at the settlement, whereas the Susan Constant (above) and Discovery were used to shuttle supplies between the settlement and England, sort of like moving vans. I couldn't resist the opening she had provided, so I responded...

"Shouldn't they have used the Mayflower then?"

"No, that was used by the Pilgrims in Massa..."


"Oh, I get it. That's a good one."

As I said, I couldn't resist.

We started heading back when I saw the pair below, which made me stop in my tracks.

It just amazes me to no end that in today's society, there exist such ignorant people as these. To take a quote from a powerful speech and attach it to a symbol of bigotry is unfathomable. And to make matters worse, the father is passing along his family values to his son, who no doubt will pass his along to his progeny. It's no wonder race relations are what they are in America.

We eventually made our way back to the cars and headed off to Cracker Barrel for lunch. After lunch we split up, Lori took her kids and headed on to Virginia Beach and Chris joined D, the kids and I for the trip back to NoVA. Traffic was terrible, but I enlisted the services of Claire and we were able to skirt most of it, arriving at home about 8p (after leaving Williamsburg at 4p and making a couple of stops for gas and coffee).

Day 158 - 07/28/2007

Happy Birthday, Nina! Of course, I wasn't there to celebrate with her, but I'm sure she had a great time.

After breakfast, we returned to the water park for the rest of the morning before leaving for lunch, a tour of Colonial Williamsburg and more economical lodging at the Sleep Inn. We stopped by Pierce's Pitt Bar-B-Q for some lunch and we savored every bite. If I had a straw I would've slurped the juice remaining in my bowl of green beans, but Lori said it looked like what leaks out of diapers and with that I decided to toss it with the rest of the trash. It's been years since I ate there last and was glad to see that it hasn't changed a bit. The tea is still just as sweet as ever and the pork just as tangy. In a word, Y-U-M!

As you could imagine (if you've ever been there), the place was packed. We were able to find two tables to seat the nine of us, but they weren't next to each other -- there was a table in between them. Not a problem, we thought, and we split the party up between the kids table and the adult table. Five minutes later, the table in between us graciously offered to switch with us. They thought we should have the opportunity to enjoy our children more then they were. Well, maybe that wasn't their intention after all, but I'm trying to put a positive spin on the story, so work with me here, alright?!?

After lunch we headed over to the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center. We decided not to do the passes (starting at $36 per person) as we only had a few hours before everything closed. Instead, we opted for the shuttle bus tickets ($2 per person) and boarded the shuttle for the ride over to the historic area.

Our plan was to get off at the second stop (the Capitol) and then walk back towards the Governor's Palace, where we would then take the shuttle back to the Visitor's Center. So when we got to the first stop, we stayed on board. After leaving, the bus driver announced we were heading back to the Visitor's Center. Apparently there was a failure to communicate somewhere along the line. So, after getting back on the next shuttle (we had to unload at the drop-off point and then walk over to the boarding zone), we rode it back to the Governor's Palace where we then got on the shuttle to the Capitol. It was very much like the scene from Spinal Tap where they were walking around the depths of the arena trying to find the stage and kept coming back to the maintenance worker.

We FINALLY got to where we wanted to go and started touring the area. Of course, since we didn't get the passes, we couldn't go into any of the buildings. That didn't stop Lori and D from trying to though. We got to the jail and as they were passing the gate, they started chatting it up with the pass checker (outside of each building is a worker dressed in period costume making sure only people with their pass pinned to their clothing are allowed in). He ascertained that they didn't have the requisite pass and prohibited them from entering. The conversation went something like...

"Sorry, you need a pass to enter."

"Oh. Can we just peek in to see the inside?"

"You need a pass."

"Oh, well can the kids just poke their heads in?"

"They need a pass, too."

It was quite comical, to say the least.

Humor doesn't keep one cool, however, and soon the kids were overheating. We made a few pit stops in the various stores to cool down and buy things, but, eventually, even that wasn't enough. We finally had to resort to...ice cream.

We finally called it quits -- or were forced to call it quits I should say -- when the thunderheads became ominous after the fife and drum show (I forced that issue as a way to reconnect with my youth). We found the nearest bus stop and made our way back to the Visitor's Center.

We found our hotel easily enough, but had some problems with dinner. There was a Pizzaria Uno right across the street, so we forewent our cars and decided to walk. That was a mistake. Not only were there no sidewalks leading from the hotel to the main road, there were no pedestrian crossing signals or crosswalks available. While we could have managed across, with five kids in tow we decided on the safe route and walked back to the hotel to make the trip in our cars. We arrived safe and sound, only to find out there was a 45-60 minute wait. The kids, having been pretty good all day, wouldn't have survived (neither would the petunias they were deadheading -- although the buds weren't quite dead yet...or even close). We made a quick call to Mirabella's (an Italian restaurant we saw down the street) and when they said they could seat us immediately, we loaded back into the cars to make the trip...next door. This time we could have walked. Oh well, maybe next time.

The service was excellent, as were the food and drinks. The kids were at their limit by the end of dinner, but overall they were good. No food was thrown and no surrounding patrons seemed to be bothered by them (unlike at Pierce's). All in all, the second day of the weekend was a success.

Day 157 - 07/27/2007

I got up early and went for a bike ride to get at least one workout in before heading down to Williamsburg for the weekend. Unfortunately I got a later start than I had wanted to, so I was gone for less than an hour. I took a new route out to the parkway and then wound through Franklin Farm before heading back home.

As I said, we're heading for Williamsburg for the weekend today. We're going with some friends of ours and their kids (the Barnes family). Chris and Lori are our bowling partners and their kids (Caroline, Lindsay and Connor) are about the same ages as M and N. We're hoping all goes well as being in close quarters can wear thin sometimes.

We were planning on leaving at 9a, but got a call from Lori saying they were going to have to delay departure: Connor broke a glow-stick and got some of the liquid in his eye. Fortunately he recovered and we ended up leaving about 10a. We met up with the Barnes-mobile at Fair Lakes and split up the cars by gender: D and M rode with Lori, Caroline and Lindsay while Chris and Connor rode with N and me. It seemed to work out just fine and, after stopping for lunch at Carmel Church, we arrived at the Great Wolf Lodge about 130p. Although we couldn't check-in until 4p, we were able to use the water park, so we changed and hit the water.

If you've never been, Great Wolf Lodge is a hotel with an indoor water park. There are a number of water rides/activities so all the kids had something that suited them. Some of the rooms have "kid cabins" or "tents" in their rooms, so the kids can pretend they're roughing it. We booked the kid cabin rooms; the kids really thought it was neat. Some of the adults even thought it was neat as well!

For the most part we split up and took turns watching 1-2 of the kids at a time. N liked the water tower (with the smaller slides), while M liked the wave pool and the larger slides. Of course, before we could take in all the rides, a thunderstorm moved through the area so the pools had to be closed (even though they were all indoors, they had to turn off the pumps in case there was a power outage -- or at least that's what they said).

That being said, great fun was had by all, but by 530p or so, my back was beginning to bother me. Fortunately, the kids were getting to the end of their energy as well, so we decided to head back to the room to get ready for dinner.

Dinner was, how shall I say, disappointing (the company not-withstanding). The food wasn't all that great and the service was pretty slow. Not only did it take 15 minutes to get our drinks, but they were the wrong ones. After dinner we took the kids to the arcade, where even the grown-ups had a ball (a skee-ball, that is).

Friday, July 27, 2007

Day 156 - 07/26/2007

The TdF got its second black eye of this year's race today: Michael Rasmussen was given his walking papers by Rabobank for lying on his travel diary.

Actually, it was yesterday, but today's the first stage after it was announced.

Hopefully this will be the last one of the tour. It was shaping up to be a good one, but, like last year with Landis' doping allegations, Rasmussen proved to be too fast for his own good and his (at this time alleged) illegal activities have caught up with him.

Oh well, at least there's always the Bonds Home Run Circus going on for those interested in following steroid-free activities.

Day 155 - 07/25/2007

Happy Birthday, Sarah!

I lied about today being the first day of my C# career. Actually, I had to go down to the customer site to finalize their migration. I was hoping to be in and out in a matter of hours, but things went better than we had hoped and we ended up staying for a couple hours longer. We demo'd the new product to management and they were excited with what they saw. Hopefully that will continue to be the case as we move forward with the implementation.

Day 154 - 07/24/2007

We had our official release this afternoon for the next big thing. Since I don't like to talk about work on this blog, suffice it to say that it was the same old stuff. Mouths and hands were moving and marketing speak was being spoken.

Actually, there was a lot of excitement from the gallery about how this will impact their business.

Tomorrow (officially) starts the next cycle of development and the beginning of my career in C#. This should be interesting.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Day 153 - 07/23/2007

Another day at the customer site downtown. This time our man in Havana was out on vacation, so I didn't have to deal with him directly. I say directly as we still had to deal with his incompetence in trying to get their environment up and running in order to support the migration effort. After a series of errors (a comedy of them is more like it), we finally got the migration running. The kicker occurred early on in the day when I put the CD in the drive to install the latest version of our software. I waited for the autostart feature to kick in, but it never did. I checked Windows Explorer to see whether I had put it in the right drive, but there was no disk in the drive. Thinking I had put it in the wrong drive, I reopened the drive and it was empty. Since we were working on a rack of servers, where one keyboard and monitor drive 10 servers, I opened up all the CD drives and the disk was nowhere to be found.

It was gone.

After about 20 minutes of searching through the drives (and putting a flashlight to use from the shelter-in-place kit), I was finally able to find the disk: it wasn't seated all the way in the drive when I pushed the drive in and it was pushed between the top of the drive and the top of the server. Fortunately it was easily accessible after sliding the server out and popping the top. That out of the way, we moved forward with the installation. I wasn't quite sweating bullets at the time, but I didn't relish the thought of having to make yet another trip downtown!

Due to the mishaps at work, I missed M swim her freestyle at her meet. She had her best time yet and will look to improve next year. I was able to see her swim breast stroke, however, and again, she did great.

While she has a way to go with both strokes (considering she's only been "seriously" swimming for a few weeks now) I'm very proud of the progress she's made. I'm even more excited about her excitement about swimming. I stopped doing the hard sell about joining the swim team last year as she was adamant that she didn't want to do it. I'm sure she might have done it had we forced the issue, but that's not the way to succeed with her. (Actually, she probably would've done it had she known other kids doing it. That's one of the negatives about not attending the neighborhood school, she doesn't know that many kids from the neighborhood.) Now that she's experienced the swim team buzz, she's even committed to swimming over the winter with the team.

What she said after we returned from vacation sums it up well when, after D asked her how practice was, M replied: It felt great to be back in the water. Who knows, maybe she'll follow in her grandfather's footsteps (or maybe she'll just follow in mine). Whichever route she takes, I'm sure the experience will provide her with enjoyable memories to reflect upon some years down the road.

Day 152 - 07/22/2007

Sarah had her birthday party today and I wanted to get in a bike ride, so I loaded my bike in the back of the van and headed out with D to drop the kids off at the party (at Michael's in Vienna -- the "family" party would be held a little later at Nina's house).

She drove home; I rode home.

It only took me a little over an hour to ride from Vienna to Chantilly (via Reston and Fairfax) and traffic was pretty manageable. I took the W&OD from Vienna to Reston, getting off at Sunrise Valley Drive. I took that to South Lakes, which I then followed to Reston Parkway. I rode that to Rugby Road, which I took to the end at Melville (which then took me the rest of the way home).

My average speed was just over 14 mph, but that was due to getting stopped at assorted lights. If there were no lights, I probably could've gotten up to 16 -17 mph. As I sat at the light at Rugby Road and 50, I was five minutes shy of an hour with 1.23 miles to go before 14 miles. The light turned green with about 3:45 remaining in the hour. I hauled ass to make the full 14 miles and for a minute or so, was approaching the speed limit for cars (25 mph). I pushed it and pushed it and finally made it to 14 miles before the 60 minute mark. That last mile was covered in 2:57 (~20.35 mph). Not bad for an almost twenty year old mountain bike being ridden by an almost forty year old body.

It's been a while since I've been on a ride longer than 30 minutes and overall I felt pretty good. If getting back to running doesn't pan out due to my knee (which was a little sore when I woke up this morning from yesterday's run and walk and working in the garage), maybe I'll drop a chunk of change and turn into a full-fledged roadie.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Day 151 - 07/21/2007

I decided to run this morning. So I did. After I got home, I still felt good and -- guess what? -- my knee wasn't too bothered! Of course, my feet are giving me fits, but that's par for the course. It's well past time to get a new pair of shoes. This time I'll actually get 10.5s vs. 10s so my toes have room to expand and my neuroma doesn't flare up.

My mom was picking up the kids to take them to see Ratatouille, so I decided to take advantage of the quiet around the house by cleaning the garage. No, really, this time I really did clean and rearrange (vs. just rearranging before, although I still have a few more areas to work on). I moved the tall shelves (18" x 36" x 72") to the basement and consolidated everything they contained onto three other shelves. And the trashcan.

Actually, the trashcan was the impetus behind this exercise. We had the shelves against the wall and the trashcan (and recycling containers) out in the middle of the garage. The kids' vehicles took up the rest of the bay, while the Odyssey took up the other bay. Getting the lawnmower or my bike or whatever I needed out required me to rearrange something. I decided that the trashcan needed to be against the wall so the kids vehicles wouldn't create such a barrier. At first I was going to switch the shelving units with the built in shelves, but after consulting with D, decided to just consolidate. (Actually, I really didn't consult with her, she made the suggestion and it was the right one, so I ran with it.)

Mid-way through the job, we left the front door and garage doors wide open and went for a walk through the woods. We were gone for about an hour, taking the trail down to the pond and back. While my knee wasn't bothering me too much, my neuroma was and it was during this walk that I decided I needed to get new shoes. Soon.

While M was down the street at Girls Night In, N and I rode our bikes to Walney Pond to get in some fishing. We didn't catch anything (although I did come away with a lure), we saw a few deer on the way to the pond (including a three-four point buck!) and, at the pond itself, three beavers! I've never seen beaver at the pond before, so I was excited to see them. At first I thought it was the head of an anaconda swimming through the lily pads. Once I realized that that was preposterous (for there are no 20' anacondas in Walney Pond...that I know of), my brain recognized the beaver for what it was...a beaver.

Darkness fell pretty quickly and before we left, the bats came out in full force. On the way home we saw a few more deer and then, as we were turning on our street, I saw a fox cross the street and head behind a bush while coming out of the bush was another deer. Wildlife abounds on our little bike ride!

That night I got caught up with the TdF and enjoyed a ginger mojito. I should really invest in a jigger as one was more than enough. Next time I'll pour half as much.

Of course, while trying to enjoy the race, M kept coming out complaining about her belly. We're trying to get her to be self-sufficient (e.g., requests for "I need more tissues!" are replied with "Well go to the closet and get them!") in mundane matters, but tonight was too much. She ate too much junk food over the course of the day and was now paying for it. She didn't knock it off until about 11p and ended up losing computer privileges for Sunday.

Day 150 - 07/20/2007

We got our new dishwasher installed today. The guy was supposed to be here between 1p and 2p and showed up at 1230p! What's up with that?!? A guy coming before (before!) his appointment time? Does he not realize he's got a code to follow that dictates he shouldn't show up until as late as possible in the given window?!? He won't make it far in the Installation Service Association of America, that's for sure!

So now that it's installed, I learned that with the buttons on the top of the door, we'll need to have the kids push the buttons. (Our grownup fingers are too big to fit between the top of the door and the bottom of the counter. Well, they do if we suck in.)

Of course, had I bothered to RTFM, I would have found out I can push the buttons *before* closing the door, so now we can run the dishwasher without requiring the kids to be around. Won't they be happier for my reading skills (and my wallet lighter, as I'm sure they'd demand their allowance be adjusted for having to push the buttons for us when we want to run the dishwasher).

Day 149 - 07/19/2007

Nothing exciting today. Worked on migration support at work and went home and had a some great corn on the cob (along with barbecue chicken, fruit salad and homemade applesauce from Illinois...yum!).

After the kids were read to and put to bed, I retired to the basement where I watched today's Tour de France (on Tivo, not the "Enhanced" version) and practiced my guitar.

Like I said, nothing exciting today!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Day 148 - 07/18/2007

There was talk in the office of going to lunch in Middleburg. (I'm not sure why you'd drive that far for lunch, but it was discussed.) We ended up going to Rangoli, out in South Riding. I haven't had Indian in a while and was looking forward to it. While I really enjoy the different flavors, I don't like the full feeling after grazing at the buffet. I was hoping today would be different, but I succumbed to the siren and made multiple trips back for more. Argh. When will I learn?

After the big lunch, I wasn't about to eat dinner. Instead, I had a few blueberries and some peanut M&Ms and took the kids to the pool to work off lunch. At first I wasn't able to move comfortably in the water, but after a while found my comfort zone. Doing 10 laps helped move things along as once I finished them, I was fine. The rest of the time was spent working with M on her strokes, turns and dives. She's very eager to practice her swimming, which I find refreshing. Usually she doesn't want to work on something, especially if we provide tips and pointers. Not with swimming, however, she took all my advice in and really tried to work at it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Day 147 - 07/17/2007

Visited a customer site where they are migrating from one platform to another. Over the past year, we've been working with our on-site employee to ensure the project is successful and the customer's expectations are managed. As it turns out, it appears the on-site employee has been sabotaging our efforts at every step. He's on his way out, but that's not good enough for me. He should be sued for back wages as he hasn't done dick over the past year to move things forward.

On our way out, we stopped by his cube...

You know what? I'm going to stop there. I'm not going to share the rest of the story. I've already spent a year of my life working with this tool, why add to that?

The good thing about the trip was that I was downtown. I miss working in the city during the summer. Sure, it's hot, it's sticky and there's not a lot of relief, but there's a buzz about with all the people on the street. Not only do you have the working stiffs, from the lobbyists in their power suits to the government workers in their sweat suits, but you also have the tourists. I loved working downtown as I'd find a bench during lunch and just watch the people go by. Now that I'm out in the hinterland, I have to make do with the few people walking around the office park. That being said, the view from my office window is perfect for me. I overlook a "lake" (e.g., stormwater retention pond), as well as can daydream about the planes landing at Dulles.

(Of course, as I write this there is scaffolding in the way; work is being done on the roof to the building so I get to stare at that for the next I don't know how many weeks.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Day 146 - 07/16/2007

Remind me never to volunteer to be a timer for a B meet again.

(B meets, for those not familiar with summer swim leagues, are developmental meets where the kids who didn't swim at the Saturday meet [the "A" meet] have an opportunity to swim in a competitive environment. Kids who did swim at the Saturday meet can also swim at B meets, but not for an official time.)

The meet started at 6p. Not only were there multiple-dual heat events, there was also a 30 minute lightning delay. I didn't get home until just before 10p. To put it in perspective, Saturday meets are typically over in two hours (two and a half at the most).

Remind me never to volunteer to be a timer a B meet again.

(Although that being said, I do enjoy timing, it's a way to stay involved in the meet when M isn't swimming.)

Monday, July 16, 2007

Day 145 - 07/15/2007

While we were on vacation, an article appeared in the local rag about snakeheads being found in Lake Accotink. So, with that in mind, Larry and I made plans to seek them out today. Of course, it was hot (about 93° or so) and humid and there weren't many places to cast from the bank where there wasn't overgrowth or lots of poison ivy, which meant it was a great idea to bring the kids along. Or so we thought.

We didn't catch anything. Well, not technically: the kids caught a few minnows in their dip nets and D had a bite, but no fish were landed. Dripping with sweat and the kids getting more and more heat stroked, we called it quits.

After we got home, the kids and I decided to go to the pool to cool off. When we got there the parking lot was empty save for a few cars. I love it when the pool is empty (which it typically is as the summer progresses); the high schoolers aren't glomming all over each other and the middle schoolers aren't being awkward. We soon found out why the parking lot was nearly empty: It was closed on account of throwup.


Not to worry, though, it'd reopen in 45 minutes. Well, after about 20 minutes at the playground, we decided to go home. By the time it opened, we'd have only 30 minutes before we had to head home. When we got home the kids ran through the sprinkler for about five minutes before quitting from boredom or maybe it was from the heat -- they even turned down a trip to the snake pit!

Day 144 - 07/14/2007

Happy Bastille Day to my French friends. I don't think I have any French friends, though, so I'm not sure why I added that opening. Let's just skip to the next paragraph, shall we?

After the late night last night (didn't get to bed until around 2a this morning), I slept in until 10a, but was still the first person up. Apparently not enough sleep was to be found in the van on the way home yesterday. Or maybe it was just from a long week.

I mowed the yard and watered the grass as they both were neglected over the past week. I also sprayed some plants with Liquid Fence. Ugh. I should really invest in a respirator...or be sure to be upwind when I spray it. (I had the misfortune of spraying it right as the wind shifted and I got too close to the cloud of malodorous particles.) Hopefully it'll work as promised as we have more buds on the roses -- buds that I hope turn into blossoms.

We bagged 2941 in favor of a quiet night at home. As it turned out, Chris and Lori also bagged it in favor of a quiet dinner at Coastal Flats. Oh well, maybe next time.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Day 143 - 07/13/2007

We hit the road at 830a and passed through Charleston about 4p (which is where we usually stop for the day). We were making such great time that we decided to keep on keeping on and made the trip in one day. We ended up pulling into our driveway about 1030p (making the trip in just about 13 hours as we lost an hour crossing from Central Time to Eastern Time). Unlike previous trips, we only stopped when necessary and made them count. Lunch was eaten in the car when it started raining and gas stops were combined with potty stops. The kids were pretty good (overall), which made the trip that much better.

We got the kids to bed about 1145p and I sat down to get caught up with the Tour de France (I had been in an information black hole while in Olney with anything to do with the TdF). I finally got to sleep about 2a Saturday morning (which, I guess should go on the entry for 7/14, but I'm counting a day as between the time I wake up and the time I go to sleep).

Day 142 - 07/12/2007

Tony told me about some of the big catfish that were being pulled from the pond and I had it in my mind that I'd get one too. (Two flatheads had been caught earlier in the summer: one was 18 lbs, the other 24 lbs.) I took the kids out with me to the pond to put out a jug with an array of bait to let sit over the course of the day. It was unsuccessful. The only thing I caught were lily pads. N caught his first fish (a bluegill -- which I actually caught, but gave the pole to N before landing it to give him the impression he caught it) and, later on, his second one (a bass, which he did catch all by himself). He's turning into quite the fisherman. M got skunked and wasn't happy about it. Things got even worse when she got a bug in her hair. From across the pond I could hear her yelling about it. I calmly walked over and told her, after brushing the Japanese beetle out of her hair, that these things happen in the country and if she couldn't handle it, we wouldn't return. To that she responded...

"But Da, I like the country; I just don't like it in my hair!"

After getting tired of fishing, M and Rachael went swimming and, after a while, we headed back to Angie's to get cleaned up for dinner (but not before N drove the tractor w/ Tony).

That night was the big get together at the pavilion. Tony counted 29 people (plus two dogs, but not counting the fish we caught). Having the pavilion on the pond is a nice amenity, especially with such a large family. It makes family get togethers a lot easier on everyone involved.

During dinner, we were sharing the story about how N drove the golf cart into the corn. I got my camera out to show the picture I had taken of the accident scene and passed it to Judy. She passed it to Nancy, who passed it to D's grandma. She looked at it and I told her that was the corn and she looked at it again. She then pointed to the tablecloth (which was a watermelon print) and told me "them's what we call watermelons" and laughed. Yes, it was pretty funny. I guess she didn't understand that the corn I had taken a picture of was the corn N had run over. Oh well, she got a laugh and, looking back, it's pretty funny.

After dinner the kids and I continued fishing and M finally got her first fish (right as I was about to give up and call it quits). Like N's first one, I caught it and gave her the pole so she could land it. Also like N, she caught her second one on her own. I'm glad that they both enjoy fishing as much as I do. It's not that I really care whether I catch anything or not (although I'd rather catch something than get skunked), it's just the idea of being out on the water, wasting time while at the same time appearing to be productive.

Day 141 - 07/11/2007

N and I drove around to see the sights, including the airport, the truck stop, the grain elevator (for trains), the grain transfer unit (for trucks) and an antique store. (I was hoping to come across an old guitar on the cheap. I found one that I liked, but didn't recognize the manufacturer and didn't feel like shelling out $155 for it.) We didn't see any trains except for the hopper cars at the grain elevator (nor did we stop at the tracks), but we did enjoy ourselves.

Afterwards, we met D, M, Angie and Rachel at the fair to checkout the livestock before heading out to Danny's parents farm to see the horses. At the fair we saw the cattle (which had already been shown), sheep, rabbits, chickens, goats and pigs. They were in the process of judging the sheep and rabbits, which the kids found interesting. It was nice to have them see for themselves something other than life in the suburbs. When the emcee (head judge? host?) indicated the market sheep would be judged next, M drew back in disgust. "You mean they're going to sell them at the market?" she gasped. "I'm never going to eat meat again!" When Rachael called her on it, she changed her tune. "Well, except for chickens."

We didn't get in a full ride this year due to time constraints (Mariah had to be at work at 5p), so she simply led M around the yard on Ginger. I tried to ride, but Ginger wouldn't think of it. All she wanted to do was head back to the barn in hopes of joining her fellow equines out in the field. Oh well, maybe next year.

That night, we hit the tractor pull. M's description of it was loud, whereas N's description of it was "Awesome!" After a while, though, even N had his fill. D took the kids to ride the rides while Danny and I stayed to take in the tractors. It was fun, to say the least. Not only did the tractors provide a great source of entertainment, but so did the people-watching. Sitting high up in the stands, I was able to see not only the crowd in the grandstands, but was also able to look down at the crowd milling around the fair. It was interesting to see such a different slice of Americana than I was used to, but it also reinforced how lucky I am to be surrounded by such a wide array of people, not only from across the country but from around the world. Small town life has its positives, but one of the negatives that is easily seen is it's insularity and isolation from different things.

Day 140 - 07/10/2007

Our first full day in Olney was spent fishing. We went up to Jane and Tony's to get in some fishing and visit with them and D's grandma. I was jazzed about the fishing, whereas the kids were jazzed about driving the golf cart around the pond. The wind was coming in from the southwest and not many bites were to be had, so we decided to swim instead. I got a couple of bites before finally landing the first fish of the summer. It was a 10" bass that was tossed back. The kids wanted to keep it, but since I had no intention of cleaning it (or wanting to cook it), back it went for next year.

The pond water was surprisingly clear this year. And refreshing (as it usually is). M and I went swimming and enjoyed the cool water. We were finally able to get N to get in, although he was somewhat hesitant. I tried to take him out beyond the dock and was somewhat successful, but he wanted the security of the shore. That's alright, M wouldn't even get in the pond until last year (at 8), so him getting in at 5 is pretty good.

Speaking of N and country life, apparently it agrees with him. He loves driving the golf cart around the pond and even drove D and Angie up to Grandma's place. He got a little crazy on the way, though, and ran into the corn. D and Angie laughed at him and he went in even farther. I went back and got a picture of the scene and will post it soon. It was pretty funny.

We had our first taste of the fair when we went to Mariah's talent show. Her dance troupe danced to "Butterfly Kisses" and ended up winning 1st prize in their age category. The show started at 7p and ended about 945p. She wasn't kidding when she said they went towards the end. They were the second to last act to perform. We suffered through the acts (well, actually we didn't suffer through them, some of them were pretty good) and afterwards checked out the display of John Deere farm equipment. N was in hog heaven (complete with the eau de hog permeating from the livestock being shown at the fair).

As an added treat, we sampled some fine fair cuisine, including curly fries, funnel cake, corn dogs, shake ups (lemonade made on the spot) and a gyro (of all things). It was goooooood.

Day 139 - 07/09/2007

I took the kids (including Jacob) to Barnes and Noble for some books to read on the way to Olney. Surprisingly enough, they actually read them and not a single DVD was watched on the three hour drive.

Passing through Charleston, I saw a sign for the Lincoln Log Cabin. Since none of us had seen it (and it was somewhat on the way), we went off the beaten path to check it out. We joked about whether it would actually be Lincoln's log cabin or whether it was just a Lincoln Log cabin. As it turned out, it was neither: It was Thomas Lincoln's log cabin (and a replica at that -- the original had been disassembled and sent to the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago and was...lost). Abraham Lincoln never actually lived there! I guess since we were in Illinois, they figured they could cash in on the Lincoln name and trap unknowing travelers like us. It worked.

We wandered through the exhibit and took in a short movie about the site (where we found out the cabin was a reproduction). I stopped by the cabin before joining D, M, N and Nancy at the gift shop. After getting some souvenirs and pictures, we got back in the van and continued the trip to Olney, arriving shortly before 6p.

It was great to be back in Olney. It's small-town America at it's best and every trip opens my eyes to something I missed on a previous trip. We found out the Richland County Fair was going on this week (which I had never been to), so that was quickly put on the calendar. N is especially looking forward to the tractor pull (as am I!).

After dinner, we got the kids processed and put to bed (it was pretty hard separating them from the video console, but after a few attempts, we were successful).

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Day 138 - 07/08/2007

We went to Jessica and Jeremy's house for the day. Nothing exciting to report, except we went across the street to a local "water" park. I put "water" in quotes as back home water parks are places where there are slides and pools and such. Not here. In Bloomington (and maybe elsewhere) they consist of water fountains and misters and such. The kids loved it.

We also stopped by the Prairie Aviation Museum to check out the planes on public display. I would have liked to have gone in and checked them out up close, but the museum was closed (that and they charged admission -- I don't think I would have wanted to pay for two adults and four kids for the few minutes we would have been there).

We hit State Farm Park again for a dip in the pool. Steve told us it was open until 9p, but when we got there at 715p, the lady told us it closed at 8p. Whoops. We had a good time with the short time we had though, so that was nice.

What wasn't nice was the meltdown the kids had. As we were leaving the pool, their cousins were told they'd be taken to McDonalds. M & N overheard this and started pestering to be taken there as well. Since it was 8p and they had already had dinner and they were going to be soon, we told them we wouldn't be going. That did it. One of my favorite lines from Pink Floyd is from "Two Suns in the Sunset" off their "Final Cut" album; it pretty much sums up what happened next:

The rusty wire that holds the cork that keeps the anger in
Gives way and suddenly it's day again

Well, it wasn't day again, but the rusty wire did give way. N called D a "meanie head" and M started moaning and crying and ranting about the injustice of it all. The icing on the cake was when N hauled off and hit D in the leg. Whoops. That was not the right thing to do. We left and went straight home, where I put the kids to bed. After I read some "Princess Bride" to them, they were still moaning. I put the kibosh on that by threatening not only not to take them to the bookstore in the morning, but also to not allow them to watch any DVDs on the way down to Olney.

Nary a peep was heard from them the rest of the night.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Day 137 - 07/07/2007

We drove from Dayton to Bloomington today, getting into Bloomington about 3p.

We were lucky enough to have been informed of the tanker truck that overturned and caught on fire on I-54 by a fellow motorist at a rest stop just east of the accident. We were able to jump off the interstate and use side roads for the remaining 20 miles or so. After unpacking the van, we relaxed for a bit before heading to Mass at 4p.

I thought the readings for this week were good in that they expanded on one of the things that I try and practice (and recommend to anyone else to practice as well). In short...

The more you give, the more you get.

You might not think it works, but it does. If you don't believe me, just try it. I'm not talking about giving Christmas or birthday presents, but giving yourself to others via your deeds. You'll be surprised at how much happiness you get in return. And once you're happy, there's really nothing else you need.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Day 136 - 07/06/2007

We left Chantilly at 850a for Dayton. "We" consisted of D, M, N and Nancy, D's mom. Like last year, we decided to stop in Dayton for a quick visit with Jim, Amanda and Emily before heading on to Illinois to visit D's relatives. (Ann was heading up to the UP, so we will miss her on this trip.) Unlike last year, however, we only stayed one night as we weren't going to be on the road as long.

On the way out of the neighborhood, I called to let them know we were leaving and Ann answered the phone. I wasn't expecting her to be there but her plans changed, so we'll be able to see her (along with Jim, Amanda and Emily).

We arrived in Dayton about 530p. We had dinner and then walked to Ritter's (the local ice cream stop) for some ice cream. The walk did us wonders as we'd been in the car all day (it was about 3.5 - 4 miles round trip). As we were walking to Ritter's, the group was ahead of me and the evening sun was casting long shadows and they had just come out of the shadow of a tree. It was picture perfect, so I took it. I thought it turned out pretty good and am hoping to enter it into a contest. I love the way it captures the summer evening and I especially love the way M is the only one looking back at the camera while the rest walk along, unaware that I'm capturing the moment.

After we got home, the kids got bathed and they attempted to sleep in the trailer (with Emily). That didn't last long. M abandoned ship first (even before getting in bed) and N gave up the ghost shortly after getting in bed. In the end, Ann and Jim slept in the trailer and the kids slept inside.

Good clean fun.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Day 135 - 07/05/2007

I went to the AT&T National at Congressional Country Club today. It was a good time. This was the second golf tournament I've been to and hope there will be many more. It's not that I'm good at the sport or that I follow it like I do football or hockey, but there's something about the live atmosphere surrounding a golf tournament that I find enjoyable. Maybe it's the etiquette that the gallery exudes when an errant shot forces professional golfers to hit from three feet away. Or the notion that you could play the course (well, not this course...not without connections, money or both!) these guys play and do better on the hole than they do (although if you did, you'll probably not do so consistently). Or maybe it's just the chance to get out on the course and enjoy the great outdoors. Whatever it is, it's a magical feeling that I hope to replicate often. I'm not sure whether I'll be able to see Tiger Woods up close and personal next year like I did this year, but that's alright, I'm sure I'll have just as much fun.

Tonight I packed and got ready for the trip out West. Well, to the Midwest anyway.

I'll fill in more when I get back, but if you find my posts lacking for the next week or so, I'm not sure what my computer access will be like, so you'll have to bear with me and wait until I get back.

Or not.

Just know that my posts will probably consist of fishing and eating.

Day 134 - 07/04/2007

Happy Birthday, America!

231 years and still going strong!

N and I went fishing with Larry, Dani and Justin while D and M went to the pool with Riley and Heather. Afterwards, D, M, N and I went down to the pipestem for the annual 4th of July picnic. For the 2nd year in a row it rained on the parade, but after it stopped, the parade continued.


There was a bike parade with all the decorated bikes, led by John on his Harley (but his wasn't decorated).

Afterwards, we headed a couple streets over for the fireworks show. In years past we've had a little display in our court, but this year some of the guys in the neighborhood got some "real" fireworks (as in, the illegal kind) and we all went over to catch the show.

It was going quite strong until one tipped over and started shooting into the crowd. Fortunately no one was seriously injured (unlike at a show in Vienna where some folks ended up in the hospital).

All in all, we had an enjoyable day, although we all could have done without the melee at the end.

Day 133 - 07/03/2007

Not much worth noting today, except for a lady I work with brought in cupcakes and they were...good!

I don't know what it is about the cupcake. It's not like it's anything special or anything. It's a hand full of cake with icing on top. I guess it's the simple pleasure you get when you eat it. It's a small prize for a job well done. (Or even for just getting out of your chair and walking over to the kitchen and getting one.)

M made a couple of batches of cupcakes for the 4th of July party we're having tomorrow. They're good, too. I think we'll have to make more of them when we get back from vacation. (Although I'm not too fond of chocolate anything, chocolate cupcakes are acceptable.)

Day 132 - 07/02/2007

So I was in Costco getting D her iPod (actually trying to get it as they only have black and she wants white) when I heard my tummy grumble. I made my way back to the rear of the store where I was hoping there would be sample stations. I scored with three or four "good" stations (vs. "not-so-good" stations, which consist of trail mix, watermelon, borscht, etc., you know, stuff that you don't get jazzed about when you happen across it while grazing at Costco) that were serving garlic bread, Parmesan cheese spread, bruschetta and something else that I forget (but I know it was good).

Anyway, I went from one station to the next, getting a sample, pretending to look at the product packaging (oh yeah, that something else that I forgot I now remember -- cream puffs!) as if I was going to then seek out the product to buy it.

That's when it hit me: Is there a protocol for grazing at Costco? Do we (the grazers) have to show interest in the product? Should we have to feign enjoyment and say "Mmmmmmm, this is good!" when we have no intention what-so-ever of buying the product.

What do the sample people think as the grazers go from station to station? Do they think "Wow, everyone thinks this is great! We're going to sell tons of this stuff!" Are they then disappointed when they don't sell anything, but still run out of the allotted amount of samples?

See, it's stuff like this that I ponder while I'm bouncing from station to station, grazing on whatever is being offered, trying to quiet my rumbly tumbly.

Maybe next time I'll ask them.

In between bites of course.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Day 131 - 07/01/2007

Welcome to the world, Evan Michael!

We got the call from D's mom that Stacey had gone into labor and was at the hospital. With that in mind, I went out for a run and D went back to sleep.

The call came in at 630a.

Later on, we were both outside on the deck, relaxing with the Sunday paper, we got another call with the details: Evan Michael had been born (between 9 and 930a) and weighed in at 5 lbs. 9 oz. and both mother and baby are doing fine (he came four weeks early).

M was disappointed (she wanted another girl cousin), but happy. N wondered when he'd be able to play trucks. D and I are just happy that they're both healthy (well, that and excited for both Stephen and Stacey).

So, with that in mind, anything else I write about the day will be mundane in comparison, so I'll stop here. Suffice it to say that the day was a good one and chock full of activity.

(I will say that I finally found a dishwasher for us at the Lowe's in Manassas; it will arrive after we get back from vacation.)

Day 130 - 06/30/2007

Well, my stomach is feeling a little better, although it was still a little iffy when I woke up this morning.

We were busy all day with various errands that needed to get done. M, N and I hit the post office, the bank (where they deposited part of their allowance as what I'm hoping was a learning exercise), the pet store (for claw clippers for Smokey), the fire station (for a pamphlet on what the various placards mean on trucks -- but no one was home), Anita's (for lunch), the airport (to checkout the airplanes and the people), Fran's Cake and Candy shop (for M to cash in her gift certificate and finally to Sears (for a new dishwasher, but they didn't have the model we wanted, so we left empty-handed).

Lunch at Anita's was a spur of the moment thing. They may be closing the one in Chantilly if the zoning board approves a bank's application. If so, they'll move to a different location. Anyway, I thought it'd be a good place to eat. N doesn't do well outside his comfort zone (chicken nuggets/strips, peanut butter bagels, pizza, lean pockets or grilled cheese), so I was worried he wouldn't eat the quesadilla I ordered for him (sans lettuce and tomatoes, I didn't want to make it any more difficult than it had to be). He balked (as I suspected), so I took away the chips. That did it. He had a bite, but stopped there. I then told him we wouldn't go to the airport if he didn't eat his lunch. That was good for another bite or two.

The reason this worked is that since we live so close to Dulles, we head out there on "field trips" to see the planes land or takeoff. Sometimes we'll stop by the Udvar-Hazy Center and watch from there, but not always. N loves doing this, especially when we swing by the general aviation terminal so we can get closer to the corporate jets.

Anyway, getting back to the quesadilla, it was after the second bite that he then realized it actually wasn't too bad and that he liked it. Of course, this stopped after eating half the quesadilla. Oh well, at least the battle was won and he might now be amenable to trying it again. Maybe I'll make some at home for him to eat and add to his repertoire. I mean, it's not like he doesn't eat the ingredients on their own.

We finally got home at 3p or so and I relaxed until it was time to head over to Springfield for a cookout at my mom's house. My cousin and his wife came up for the day to look for rental units, so after they were done, we all met at my mom's house for burgers and brats (as well as conversation). It was good to see Neil and Donna, it's too bad we don't see more of each other. Hopefully once Neil starts school and gets settled into his apartment, we'll be able to, but until then...

After we got home and got the kids to bed (including Sarah, who spent the night), I headed out to Lowe's to see if they had the model we wanted. They didn't. (Although I did get the rest of the supplies needed to outfit my homegrown sprinkler system.)

Day 129 - 06/29/2007

I'm tired today. I stayed up too late last night and woke up too early. I rode in and went to the gym, which I'm sure added to my sleepiness by draining me before 9a and my first cup o' Joe.

I need to be more aware of my sleep needs as I roll through the years. It seems my bedtime needs to be closer to 10p vs. 1130p. I guess that's what you get for trying to burn the candle at both ends.

For lunch I forewent my can o' soup and joined some colleagues for some Mongolian. That was a mistake. All afternoon I felt like crap; like there was a softball in my stomach that wasn't going anywhere. This caused me to skip dinner (except for a banana and a vitamin water) and feel miserable all night. Fortunately that was the worst of it; thankfully, there were no side effects.

Never again will I go to Mongolian...or at least that one!