Sept 4, 2016: A Visit to Virginia


Happy Labor Day to you all! I’m a day late posting this because Theo and I didn’t get back until yesterday evening, and I was pretty wiped out. Better late than never, I hope!

The first part of last week was pretty uneventful as the boys went to school and I worked and scrambled to get stuff together for Theo’s and my trip to Virginia. Bright (well, actually dark!) and early Thursday morning, just before 4am, Theo and I crept out of the house and made our way to Oakland Airport to catch our flight to Virginia.

It was a long day, and Theo held up admirably. In total, it was fourteen hours of travel, between driving to Oakland, waiting for the plane, flying, having a layover in Kansas City, and then driving four hours from Washington DC to Lexington, Virginia. Theo had only slept about four hours the night before, too (he was up sick until almost midnight), so I’m amazed at how well he managed!

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We flew Southwest, and I had warned him that there aren’t any of the “frills” on board, like televisions. He was a little disappointed but gamely agreed that he could bring books and his iPad to pass the time on the long flights.

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As it turns out, I was wrong! Southwest has WiFi (for a small fee), so he was able to access lot more on his iPad than I expected, which kept him content and cheerful.

We flew into Reagan National Airport, which was a first for me—I’ve always gone to Dulles when I’ve gone to DC. And I have to say, Dulles has a plus in that it’s outside of DC proper, so the traffic isn’t quite so ghastly. Reagan is practically right in DC—it’s technically in Arlington, VA, but the minute you drive out of the airport, you see the Washington Monument in front of you, and in short order you see the U.S. Capitol, the Jefferson Memorial, and all manner of other national treasures. Which is cool, but it also means you’re in a heavily trafficked area—and we arrived right at rush hour on a Thursday! I was sort of wishing for Dulles at that point, even though it was cool to see the sights from the car.

Theo, who had stayed awake for the entire flight, promptly fell asleep in the car and missed the monuments.

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But he woke up after about 45 minutes to find us sitting in traffic, and he grumbled mightily about that. 😉

We stopped for dinner about halfway to Lexington, at a Cracker Barrel. I figured Theo would get a kick out of the kitschy place, and indeed he did! He also discovered a great love of fried apples, which I think would be pretty easy to make at home—if we had a working stove, that is. We had our fourth repair visit while I was gone, and they had the wrong part again. They’re coming out again this week (when we’ve been without a stove and oven for a whopping 24 days), and I have my fingers crossed that the fifth visit will be the charm…though I’m not overly confident about that!

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Tired face:

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This is all our stove is good for lately:

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Theo was wiped out at dinner and fell asleep in the car after we left for the final two hours of driving, which left me to my own devices to stay awake. It involved a lot of rolling the window down and singing at the top of my lungs while the wind blew in my face! Poor Theo—he missed quite a concert!

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We staggered into Lexington at about 9pm, visited for just a few minutes with my aunt and uncle, and then retired to our room in Sunnyside House, which is a historic house on their retirement community property that has been renovated to accommodate guests. Essentially, it’s like a charming B&B! Theo and I had a huge room that could’ve easily accommodated more than just the two of us.

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The next two days were spent visiting with my aunt and uncle and puttering around Lexington and their community. My uncle’s sister and her husband have recently moved to the community, so we got to meet them, too. They have a black cat with the most fantastic name for a black cat: Severus Snape! If you haven’t read the Harry Potter books or seen the movies, let me give you a little image of the real Severus Snape, who is a rather lurking, suspicious individual, and you’ll see why the name is perfect for a black cat!


As it happens, Severus Snape is my favorite of all Harry Potter characters, so I was pretty charmed by the name—and Theo was incredibly charmed by the cat! (Once he gets to the seventh book in the series, I think he, too, will appreciate the character of Severus Snape. Right now he’s just started Book 6, so he doesn’t realize what an amazing character Snape really is. He just thinks Snape is a meanie!) Anyway, we spent a fair bit of time with Severus Snape the Cat, much to Theo’s delight.

Theo spent a good chunk of time with my Uncle David, too. They worked on math together (my uncle loves math, and although it’s not Theo’s favorite subject, he enjoys working on it with my uncle), looked at coins, and listened to march music and discussed the instruments. And then my uncle allowed Theo to help him in a chemistry and physics lesson: making Texas margaritas! Because, you see, to mix the perfect margarita, you must rely on chemistry and the correct ratios of ingredients. And to mix the margarita, you must use physics to shake it up!

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Theo thought this was great fun, and he is now obsessed with the idea of making margaritas for everyone he can think of.

We enjoyed the margaritas out on my aunt and uncle’s patio with them and with my uncle’s sister, Meg, and her husband, Chris (parents of Severus Snape!). Theo had Sprite and very much enjoyed our “alcoholic event,” as he called it, making us sound like a bunch of lushes!

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Yes, the sunset really did turn everything this shade of pink! That’s Sunnyside House you see:

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My aunt treated Theo and I to a carriage tour of downtown Lexington, which was fun—Theo listed that among his favorite things we did, in fact. He sat there silently stoic, as he tends to do, but apparently he was soaking up the information, as he keeps coming up with bits of info that I know he got from the tour. There’s a lot of history (particularly Civil War stuff) in Lexington, so there was a lot to learn, but it was also fun because the team of horses were being rather bratty, much to Theo’s delight. The normal team was out sick (one of the two horses wasn’t feeling well), so they were using a different team, and one of the two brother horses was feisty and kept doing things like kicking his diaper aside when he needed to poop! Theo, naturally, found this quite funny!

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Stonewall Jackson cemetery:

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When my aunt and uncle took naps each afternoon, I took Theo to downtown Lexington to wander around. One day we went into a junk shop full of old and odd antiquities and junk, and Theo was in heaven. He would’ve stayed there forever, I think, but I dragged him out after about twenty minutes—though I did let him pick out a souvenir, and he chose a real bullet from the Civil War, which he has been carrying around ever since. The second day in town, I resisted his pleas to go back to the junk store (I never would’ve gotten him out!), and instead we browsed some of the other shops and got some delicious chocolates from a fancy little chocolate shop in town.

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Then we’d go back to the retirement community and have dinner and our “alcoholic event.” One night we played croquet, too, which Theo really enjoyed!

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I’m really glad Theo got to spend this time with my uncle—and my aunt, but particularly my uncle, because this is very likely the last time Theo will see him. I could tell that Theo didn’t quite know how to process the idea that my uncle is nearing the end of his life. On our last night there, we had walked over to Meg and Chris’s unit to say goodnight and goodbye to Severus Snape, while my aunt and uncle went back to their cottage. On the walk back to my aunt and uncle’s cottage, Theo said, “I need to say goodbye to Uncle David because this might be the last time I see him.” I agreed and said, “But it’s pretty sad to talk about not seeing him again, so you could just say goodbye without reminding him that you won’t see him again, and that would be okay.” Theo thought about that for a moment, then argued with me that he might indeed see Uncle David again in a year or two. I didn’t disagree with him because what point would it serve? And honestly, who knows? We all expect this was Theo’s last visit with him, but who can say for sure? And if it makes Theo feel better to believe they may get to see each other again, I’m not about to burst his bubble. I think deep inside he knows he won’t, but that’s just too much for him to handle right now…and that’s fine. And when we got back to my aunt and uncle’s house, they got a very abrupt goodbye from Theo, who then bolted from their house back to Sunnyside. Part of that had to do with him having to use the bathroom, but I have a hunch that part of it also had to do with him not knowing how to say goodbye. It’s a lot for a little kid to handle—particularly one who feels things deeply, as Theo does. It made me all the more glad that we went for a visit now, when my uncle is still feeling pretty well and looking really well. I think Theo would’ve had a hard time seeing him decline….

All too soon, it was Sunday and time to fly back home. Another fourteen-hour travel day, but Theo did remarkably well. I had a close call with law enforcement, which thankfully was only a close call! We had rented a car to get from DC to Lexington (and back), and they had given me a free upgrade to an SUV—my choice of a Jeep or a Mitsubishi. Jeep happens to be the one make of car that I outright dislike—both times I’ve driven Jeeps, I’ve found them to be rattly and uncomfortable. So I picked the Mitsubishi. What a nice car! If we were in the market for a new car, it’s one I’d consider. It drove beautifully.

But here’s the problem with that: Our cars at home are a nine-year-old minivan and a thirteen-year-old Mazda compact that’s held together with duct tape and squeals like a wounded dolphin. Neither is the smoothest ride ever, and you can definitely feel the speed in them—the Porpoise, as I lovingly call it, won’t even go about 70mph, and in the van it’s very clear when you’ve hit 70mph.

Um…yes. That’s not the case in the brand-new Mitsubishi. I was toodling happily up the highway on my way to the airport when I caught sight of a police car as I flew by. I looked down at the speedometer—and realized I was going nearly 90mph, when I had thought I was only going 70!! The patrolman pulled out right behind me, and I whispered a curse under my breath. Argh!

But as it turns out, the person in front of me must’ve been going even faster, because the cop raced around me and pulled that person over instead. Whew!! Note to self, though: Those cars that hum along so smoothly, driving just like buttah, can actually go a lot faster than you might think! Eeek….

Anyway, we made it safely home, and tomorrow it’s back to school for both boys and back to work for me! Only for two days, though, and then I jet off to Dallas for the 2016 Rockin’ Mom Retreat—I can’t wait!! Next week’s blog will be similarly late, as I don’t get back until Sunday night.

Until then, here are some more pix from the past week. And at the end, a funny little video of Sam. He was having some pretty bad constipation, so we had to resort to a pediatric laxative to get him moving again. It worked, but we learned something important: pediatric laxatives wire Sam! He was running around like a wild man at 11pm, having long since been kicked out of his room by Theo because he wouldn’t settle down and stop talking!!

Sam likes to give random kisses when you take a selfie now:

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Regal-looking kitties:

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Theo downloaded an iPad app for the cats. He says it’s their fine-motor activity! Isobel looks absolutely thrilled. 😉

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Of course he’s gleeful—he’s awake at 11pm!

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We’ve been doing lots of baseball evenings out in the cul-de-sac!

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More camp-stove cooking! The black bean and kale tacos with homemade red-pepper salsa were yummy!

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Seriously, this method of cooking is getting old!

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But these sweet potato pakora with nectarine chutney were wicked good!

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I can’t even remember what this was called, but it’s some sort of red rice, okra, tofu stew. Pretty tasty!

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Sunnyside House!

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Another view:

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Chris sent me this picture when I was missing them!

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Theo was still asleep at 8am one morning—unheard of! Can you find him? 😉

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Working on math and marches and all kinds of good stuff:

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Theo loves the “secret garden” behind my aunt and uncle’s cottage:

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Baby groundhog hanging out on the Sunnyside House porch!

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Getting ready to head home from Reagan Airport:

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I came home to find this! I got a spot on the Special Education Advisory Committee for the Office of Administrative Hearings! I really wanted to be on this committee, having had to go through legal mediation with the Office of Administrative Hearings to get Sam’s placement in an inclusive preschool (the school district wanted him in a 100% segregated program, which is all they offer). I’m very excited, even though being a loudmouth isn’t my strong point. But I get to advocate for Sam and every other special-needs student in California, and I feel very excited about that!

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I leave you with this cheeky monkey, up way past his bedtime!

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