last sunday

Our neighbor Tyler grew up on the water, and his dad still lives there.  James often stops by and offers to take Callum out in the boat and teach him some rowing.  This past Sunday we took him up on his offer and I tagged along too.

From the house, you take a marshy channel out to the open river.

The rowboat came along too.

James readies the boat for the rowers.

Sam, a kid who joined us, went out first and got a lesson.  Then it was Callum's turn.

Mastering rowing was not as tricky as surviving a hot and constricting life jacket.

Callum only needed help once to steer free of some marsh grass.

We popped Sam in with Callum and towed both boys back to the house before setting out for some sightseeing.

Open water.

Those giraffes in the distance to the right of the picture above this one are these up close.  Off-loading at the container terminal.

Past the naval station.

We met this big guy on our way back home.  That black thing coming toward us?  The police.  Telling us to stay away.  This ship was bearing natural gas and the police suggested we keep a wide berth.  We were only too happy to comply.

The coast guard also keeping us safe.

Full speed ahead back home.

Back to the marsh.

The dock is waiting.

Read More

last day

It's the last day of summer vacation, and again this year Callum and I followed our annual tradition of a late-season boat ride.   We first did this five summers ago, on Neel's first day of work at his present job, and we've done it every year since.  And should you ask:  no he was not terribly disappointed to not be with us.  Neel + boats = barfy. 

This was the boat we took last year.  We went with friends on that trip and again this year, but instead of the more sedate Flipper you see here, we took the Rocket-tour of the coast line. 

Past the resort area...

to the quieter, Northern beaches where we usually park our towels and chairs.  Here we stumbled on some dolphin-y friends.

Up to a requisite coastal lighthouse (or two) before heading out to sea.  It was a rocking fast and fun ride, and I'm always reminded of how much fun it is to play at being tourist in our own town.  I have to admit to being just the tiniest bit smug when I hear people talking about heading home in a day or two.  School may start tomorrow, but this ocean is always here for us.

Read More

SOBO shout-out

Thank you, thank you to my dear friends and neighbors who rushed to our aid yesterday.  Callum got trapped under our very low-to-the-ground car, and before I could dream them up (or panic too much) Superman Paul and his hero sidekicks Mark and Ed were by my side to lift the car so Callum could scoot out.  In another instant Super Nurse Rebecca was there to check his scrapes and bruises.  Thankfully there seems to be nothing more than that: scrapes and bruises and a very, very scared little boy.  Words can not express the gratitude I feel for the friends who were instantly by our side. 

I think we'll stick close to home today.  Extra snuggles may be in order.

Read More

big kid

IMG_5557 Dear Callum,

Well, today is your last day of second grade.  I can't even believe it.  We've both been busy looking forward to all of the fun things we're going to do this summer (not to mention getting ready for THIRD GRADE!), but I've been looking back some too.  You've had a great year this year.  When we learned who your teacher was going to be, all the way back last spring, we knew it would be good.  Still, I don't think your Papa and I knew how good.
The enthusiasm you showed for everything in first grade did not wane this year, by any stretch.  You loved earning money in your classroom economics and getting paid for the jobs you did in your class.  You hoarded and hoarded your money, a trait which will make your paternal grandfather very proud.  Your reading totally took off, and long before the end of the school year you were devouring chapter books the way you devour hot wing dip!  We've all read some great books together.  From Little House to The Phantom Tollbooth, and The Secret Garden.  And you've read some great books, like Stuart Little and The Trumpet of the Swan on your own.  You have developed a true love of reading, and this makes my heart sing.  The love of reading and books is something that will enrich your life beyond measure, and I'm thrilled to know that you see reading as recreation as well as enrichment.  This will only make your adult life more full.

IMG_8334 You got to study some of your favorite things this year, like gemstones and Ancient Greece.  You love sapphires and can name many gemstones.  You learned renaming and regrouping (what we used to call borrowing and carrying), and most importantly you learned not to be afraid of math.  And one day, in your A.M. Journal, you wrote, "I am good at math."  It's one of your teacher's proudest moments, and I know it's one of Papa's and mine too.  You love reading and writing poetry and you really enjoy getting up in front of your class and speaking (or singing) with enthusiasm.

IMG_5696 You love P.E. and have the makings of a great athlete.  You've run laps and earned stripes in karate and a first place medal in your first tournament.  You have a strong competitive spirit, and Papa and I are very proud of how you are working on tempering that drive by being a better loser and a good sport.

IMG_6232 Things were pretty fun outside of school too.  After years of happy costumes, you decided to be a little scarier this Halloween.  You went to Busch Gardens and the circus and camping, all for the first time.  You got two new dogs.  You had your first sleepover too.  You challenged us to games of Uno and learned to play Monopoly.  You still love rockets and space and World War II movies and Top Chef.  You went to see Barack Obama speak and that sparked an interest in American politics.  You seem to tend toward pacifist pursuits, having developed a great interest in Ghandi as well.  You're a creative problem solver.  When I told you that you couldn't sing Rocky Top at school because of the moonshine references, you compromised by changing moonshine to lemonade. 

You have popcorn almost every evening after school.  That and Gatorade (or blood orange soda or Limonata) is your favorite snack.  One of my favorite things this year was our evenings together while you did your homework at the kitchen island and I cooked dinner.  I loved giving you spelling tests at the same time I stirred the soup.  We had some good talks over homework, didn't we?  You've really gained maturity this year, learning that you don't have to be finished first.  That doing your best work was more important.  We fought over homework much, much less this year, you're so much better about taking correction.  You listen more and argue less.  This tells me that as your mind has matured, your spirit has too. 

I'm going to end this post with some words of your own.  A poem you wrote about summer "a few weeks ago."

Summer feels soft
Summer sounds musical
Summer smells like a flower
Summer tastes like honeysuckles
Summer looks blue and yellow

IMG_7555 Callum, Papa and I couldn't be prouder of you this year.  We're proud of your great accomplishments as a student, but more than that, we're proud of the person you're becoming.  Our best bud, a pleasure to be with and to know.  You sparkle with life and nothing could make me prouder than that.



P.S.  We hope you enjoy your new Wii.  You've earned it!

Read More

mark your calendars


...For May 4th where Callum will play the role of the Lion in our school's production of The Wizard of Oz. 

I've been feeling pretty low the past few days, but this news perked us right up!  Callum kept asking if it was a big part and Neel had to dash out and bring home Judy Garland.  The Civil War will linger on one night longer.

Oh, and if you head over to there's a cool article about extreme knitting.  Makes me feel like a total slacker for being on such scarf kick these days.  Rectangle, rectangle, rectangle.  Blah, blah, blah.   Sort of how I've been feeling lately.  Blah. 

I'm going to click my heels together and hope for sunnier skies tomorrow.

Read More

good tidings


"I totally believe in Santa Clause.  Kyle doesn't believe, but I do."  Callum has a plan to see him this year.  "If I hear him trembling on the roof, I'm going to sneak downstairs and look through the crack in the door (what door?) and listen for the bells, and then I'll see Santa come down, and then I'll see the presents and the stuff he's putting in the stockings, but I'll won't see the stuff he's putting in of course, and I'll hear him talking to the reindeers and the reindeers talking."

I'm thrilled to hear this story.  Second grade was a rough year for me.  For reasons that won't be enumerated where an eight-year old who will want to read this post can see.  Suffice it to say that I can still picture exactly where I was standing in front of the blackboard when I got the news.  And from whom.  Christmas is going to be great this year.

Read More



There's been no other word to describe this past week, really.  Callum's temp crept up and up and up all day last Tuesday, all the way about 104 degrees.  Nothing I seemed to do would bring it down.  You raise a kid for eight years and you get to know his illness MO.  Sure he's had fevers before, but never this high and never without any other symptoms (all he complained of was a headache, sore skin and a stiff neck).  And I could always bring them down.  Not this time.

We called Neighbor Nurse Rebecca in for a consult and her concern made us more concerned (the stiff neck had us all worried about meningitis).  So with a 104.1 fever and nothing else to go on, off to the ER at the local Children's Hospital we go.  We haven't been to the ER with Callum since moving here.  Urgent Care yes, no ER trips.  Thank God.  We were regulars in San Diego.  (They have an awesome Children's Hospital, by the way.)  Once was for falling of a bench onto a concrete floor, once was for a broken nose, but primarily we went for a stint that Callum spent with asthma when he was 2-3 years old.

The first time we made the asthma run was the kick-off of the worst 48 hours of my life.  From Callum's labored breathing to the 911 call to the ambulance ride to the long, long wait in the ER waiting room.  After that ER wait, my dad joked that I could probably see my future flash before me.  A kid with his arm in a sling. Somebody needing stitches in his chin.  Sure those families were there.  All the things you anticipate going through when you sign on for this parenting thing.  There was worse too, though.  A little baby, younger than Callum, with osteogenesis imperfecta.  His pelvis was broken and he'd been there before.  I was so caught up in our own scary moments as Callum struggled to breathe, but the face of that boy's mother is burned on my mind.  Both haunted and resigned.  We got Callum hyped up on Albuterol with his oxygen saturation up to normal levels and went home.  Only to return in the middle of the night as my baby boy struggled to breathe again.  That time the ER was quieter, but just as scary as a teen suicide attempt was rushed past us.  You absorb the anguish and the fear somehow.  How can you not?

This time was different.  Not as fearful.  Not as... dramatic.  Was it harrowing?  Just as.  We sat for four hours as Callum stayed hot and uncomfortable and miserably unhappy.  All I wanted to do was go home, but as long as his fever hovered around 104 we were hesitant to leave.  The place was packed.  There were kids throwing up on either side of us.  Poor Neel had been to a memorial service that day and was still in his dress shoes.  No one, besides the triage nurse, ever saw us.  Callum's temperature dipped to 102, and I called it.  I want to go home.  It serves no purpose to stay here.  I was reminded of one time, deep in the throes of the asthma crisis, when Neel and I drove (why is it always in the dark of the night?) to the ER, took one look at the packed waiting room and turned right back around.  We'd see our doctor in the morning.  How liberating.  I know it sounds dumb.  We're not held hostage by our doctors or our emergency rooms.  We don't have to go.  If it hadn't been for that stiff neck and that stubborn high fever I never would have subjected any of us to that miserable Tuesday night.  But you know what?  You are held hostage by your child's very breath.  By his hot, parched skin and strange and listless demeanor.  I think what happens is that you just hit a point where suddenly you know that no one can do or know better than what you can do.

It happened that night in the San Diego Children's Hospital.  It was, as it happens, our last bout with asthma.  I don't draw the connection, really, but after that night when we made the decision not to stay at the ER, Callum out grew his asthma.  And he's a pretty healthy kid.  Up until this week, he hadn't been sick in over a year.  This one was a doozy.  Out of school all week.  When we finally got to our doctor Wednesday afternoon (after a 15 minute wait), he tested negative for both strep and the flu.  But the fever remained, and he was only up and moving around on Sunday.  Six long days.  Honestly, even with all the asthma and every ear infection, I have never seen him as sick as he was this week.  Even the pups, Lucy especially, have been hovering restlessly, knowing that something has been up with their boy.

He's on the mend now for the most part.  He should go to school today but may give PE a miss since his cough lingers.  I'm glad it's a short week and that our Thanksgiving plans are light.  I haven't even thought about Thanksgiving yet and I want to.  The kicker is that I'm sick now too.  Sinus infection and an ear infection to boot.  And winter's not even here yet.

Read More

back to school night


So last night was Back to School Night at Callum's school.  Each kid in his second grade class had an essay written and waiting for their parents.  Here, transcribed, exactly, is Callum's.

Whet its like binging Neel and Lurens child.  Last yere Neel and Lueren took me to greece and sandiego (ca).  Neel and Luren tout me to take care of my dog.  They are nice and genoris.  Sometimes I get mad at them no mater whet I still love them.  I will never hate them.  I love them very much.  I will never hit them.  My mom and dad by me good food.

When I am upset they will help me and take care of me.  When I am hurt they will snogle me.

Neel and I each wrote an essay back, but I can barely remember what because I was so, so proud.

Read More

labor day weekend round these parts


There are times that I just imagine that it looks like I have a charmed life. That my days are filled with dapple-shadowed back-yards and sunswept beaches. And really, for strangers reading these posts, it probably does look like that a good bit. I know I've touched on some sad stuff here, and there were days that this summer has been really hard. And really, whose life is totally charmed anyway? For all of us those dapple-shadowed back yards can hide clobber-filled sheds (and I'm speaking both figuatrively and literally!), and sunswept beaches can swarm with red tide. Still, charmed is the way it really is sometimes. And that's how this weekend was for me.


We started on Friday night celebrating a birthday with some newish friends of ours. We've been hanging out with this other couple, some friends from work, since just after the first of the year, and it really feels as if we're starting to get a groove on. Do you ever notice that you have first dates as couples? It's funny to look back on those first nights that we went out to dinner when we're now teasing each other about "no mas Jose'" and how I saw Peyton Manning last night. We share an interest in food and movies and (for some of us at least) football and just being together and having a good time. Not a bad basis for a friendship, I think. The beribboned package is this (perfect for beach picnics). We made her put it together...a sort of beachy-trial by fire.


It's a good Friday night when your dinner consists of portabellas with blue cheese and a chocolate pound birthday cake. When you can grill sitting down and the beer is icy cold. When the water is warmer than the air and someone has a birthday so you can drink champagne. We've tried to do this little celebration several times and in a summer of near-drought got rained out again and again. At the start of a long weekend, this third time was the charm.


Not to be outdone, neighbor Rebecca decided to hold a crab feast on Sunday night. What a marvelous place we call home, really. Ours was a street in transition when we moved here very nearly four years ago. Older families moving out, young couples moving in. Well, those young couples are moving on with their lives, having babies, growing families, all sorts of crazy things and here we are smack dab in the middle of all the fun. We call ourselves SOBO, based on the direction of our block, and any given evening you can find the kids playing football across the front yards and the grown-ups drinking beer beside somebody's firepit. Sometimes, someone steps it up a little, formalizes things enough to ask for side dishes, and suddenly there's a party.

We aren't at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay for nothing, and apparently Rebecca had been thinking about picking crabs all summer. We had a perfect night for it. I've said it before, summers are muggy, buggy and hot here and they usually last deep into September. Not that night.  That night was perfect.  Clear.  Not muggy.  Star-filled and almost cool.  It's all part of feeling charmed, and I know our hostess felt that way.

A perfect cool evening with so much good food.

The kids were thirsty, and someone said, "Here's the lemonade." Well the kids drinks were in a bucket on ice. The stuff in the pitcher? Lemon drop martinis. Our kids our pretty sharp though. "This tastes like alcohol!!" was the horified cry, and the mistake was quickly remedied.

I have one friend who I knew would go into the crab-zone. "Gonna pick any for me?" I teased. I didn't think he'd really do it.

"Um," he said. It sounded sort of affirmative. It's clear, he's in the zone. As I prod his bubble, he continues his rhythm of WHAP with the mallett, crack of the claw, peel off the meat. I would not actually call the ensuing dialogue a conversation.

"I'll pay by way of a drink," I offered.


"What do you want? Beer? Wine? Planter's Punch?"


"Corona or Sam Adams?" Seriously, I think he found me annoyingly chatty.

"Corona," he grunted. I delivered an icy-cold Corona, got the tiniest sliver of crab meat in return and didn't see the guy for the rest of the night. It's a whole different world out there in crab-land.

People sat around this table deep into the night. Talking and laughing and always picking crabs. Music played, babies danced, people talked and laughed. As night fell, the firepit was actually necessary and you had that sense of being caught in a perfect moment in time. It just doesn't happen like that in real life.

Picking crabs, I must admit, is an art that remains elusive to me. I do love some crabmeat, don't get me wrong, but the process of getting it is new to me. Daunting too. Many of my friends are old hands at this, however. Growing up around here makes it a way of life. And Rebecca cracks me up. She is so lady-like in her pink and green strapless sundress as she ruthlessly wields her crab mallett and stuffs the meat in her mouth. She told us great stories of her granddad teaching her how to pick crabs a child, and as shift after shift would surrould her table Sunday night, she was almost always in their midst. I love the idea of growing up with something like this as part of your life. Knowing how to do it from childhood. Knowing all the parts of the crab from the feelers to the dead man's fingers. Knowing how to steam them (Miller Light and Old Bay) and what to dip the meat in (cider vinegar and Old Bay...always Old Bay, butter is for the weak apparently). And I love the way an activity is connected to a place the way picking crabs and eating crabs is so connected to this place, crab-land.

Sometime after ten Callum looked around and said, "When are we gonna have the crabs?" He'd been so busy circling the house with this huge pack of kids and icy pops and glow sticks that he didn't see all the dozens of pickers at the table. Patiently Rebecca sat with him and taught him every step. (She has photos of this, but they'll have to belong to another post.) One rule, "Don't pick crab for other people," shifted a little in this generational pass-down to, "Pick some for your mom." A fact for which I am very grateful. Even after I went to bed, he sat with her, picking crab until almost midnight. He's nearly eight, just a few more days now, and of this place more and more.

And even on Monday that feeling of walking glowingly through someone else's life didn't end. Monday afternoon we spent again with friends. Due to some camera quirks that have me very nervous, I don't have any photos, but this little guy captures all the joy I was feeling. The sun, the friends, the kids always hovering around, the water, the wind and the sense of "this can't be my life" as I swim out to a boat belonging to the Friday night birthday friends. He took us on a great ride. The water was so blue and the sun so bright. As I floated lazily on my back heading back to the beach, I couldn't help thinking, charmed, I'm sure.

Read More

It's Callum


Hi, it's me again. Callum. Lucy and I like to play together a lot. She likes my Xbox, but today I'm going to give her an ice cube instead. We call them ghosts. That's because they disappear. I am doing a slide show of giving Lucy a ghost.

The freezer is where we have the ghosts. We have tons of them, but I am just going to give her one today.

Those white things are the ghosts.

Here I am reaching for a ghost. It feels cold and like it will stick to your fingers.

Okay, this is the ghost and I'm getting ready to throw it to Lucy.

Even though she looks confused, she likes ghosts. She doesn't know what I'm going to throw to her.

The ghost is the blur, and Lucy closes her eyes because it goes past her so fast. She bolts for it and starts chewing on it before it disappears. I won't see you for a long time or I might see you on the weekends because school is starting for me on Tuesday.

Bye! I hope I see you again. Love Callum. (love Lucy too.)

Read More

blue hound room

Yesterday was one of those "best-laid plans gone astray" days for me. I had sewing that I wanted to do and cleaning that I needed to do, but we ended up playing Emergency! with our dwindled supply of Legos instead.

Did any of you ever watch Emergency!? This was my all-time favorite show growing up. I must have seen it in syndication, but I can clearly remember waiting so impatiently on Saturday nights for it to come on. I think it was at seven, right after the Lawrence Welk Show. On some particularly long weeks, I would watch the LWS in hopes that it would help pass the time until 7 p.m. It never worked, and as my friend Megan pointed out, "time slows down on the Lawrence Welk Show, that's why old people love it."

While everyone was ga-ga over Paramedic John Gage, it was pissy doctor Kelly Brackett who caught my eye. I think Rampart Hospital and the Cherry Ames nurse series by Helen Wells are what made me want to be a doctor or nurse. And we see how long lasting and significant those impulses were!

So I'll make do with introducing Emergency! to my kid, and hope that more than just the 1st three seasons come out on DVD.

Callum made Station 51 and I made the squad car. We imported a hook and ladder truck.

Here we are at the fire. See how the flames have burst out through the roof? I was the dispatcher and Rampart Base, and Callum was Johnny (of course!).


Lucy was Dr. Brackett, who had been opposed to the paramedic program since the pilot episode.

In our other pup-date, we took Neel to meet Mandy at the SPCA (a requirement for adoption). She was still there and as sweet as ever. I must have misunderstood two key things (I have to say that while everyone there is so nice, the process is very confusing.). The first is that I thought the 1st applicant had until Friday to decide if they wanted her and could pick her anytime. No, they have to wait until Friday just like we do. Still not completely sure why. Also, I thought we wouldn't bring Lucy to meet Mandy until after the adoption had gone through. Nope, they need to meet for us to be approved. This means that I have to make another trip to an SPCA almost 20 miles away for a dog that someone else is going to end up adopting. We muster on.

In Josephine news, I'm about 80% finished with the back. Need a few more inches of the all-over pattern before I start binding off arm-holes, etc. I'm enjoying this project very much, and liking the Knitpicks Shine Sport as well. We muster on. It's all we ever do.

Read More

"greek dancing is very movemental, you know"

What a flurry of activity yesterday and what a fun evening. We have wonderful neighbors, and they were kind enough to step in and care for our pup for almost two weeks during our trip to Greece last month. What else could we do but host a Greek Night (Opa!) as a thank you.

We spent the day shopping. This is our local Middle Eastern grocery/restaurant. They had tons of Greek stuff that I thought would be tricky to get.

I cooked. AACK! Look at that mess! At one point I had every burner engaged. Neel is the chief dishwasher around here, and I even tried to call him to say, "Come and do my dishes!!" Interesting that he didn't answer his phone.

Callum he is giving Buddha a bath.

Thank-you gifts and ouzo with pineapple waiting to be drunk.

Even though it was a casual evening, we used Neel's mother's dishes, which I adore. They are Limoges, and we have almost the full complement. When I have time and money, I'll start searching out the setting and try to fill in the few blanks that we have.

I love setting the table for a nice dinner. This was my job as a child, and it stuck (although Neel frequently comes behind me to put the knives and forks in their proper place.) Soon I'm going to do a whole post about my dining room and dining room table. Now, settle down, it won't be right away. Still, I bet you can't wait to read that one.

Folks started arriving around 6 for mezedes and cocktails. Usually we see each other more in the summer, this is very much a front-yard kind of place, but we've all been busy, and it's nice to catch up. Lucy was wreathed in smiles and wagging tales. So glad to see everyone. It was as if we had the party for her alone.


The menu was pretty simple. I made Greek Salad, of course, pastisio and Greek-style green beans. All the rest were dips and spreads...I'm learning. And Mythos! Oh Mythos, how we loved you at lunch every day on our trip. I was thrilled to find it while I was shopping yesterday.


The babies were good. The grown-ups got full, and we all (well, almost all) danced.

My social son never ceases to amaze me. Neel and I hold our own at a party, and we've had some good ones here. Still, we prefer it quieter, more intimate. A couple of couples for dinner, just a quiet evening with a few friends. Not Callum. His heart soars when the house is full of people and kids. He shines in a crowd, unafraid to stand up and be seen and heard. Bossy only child, most insistent about getting us to dance, to move, dragging us into his orbit. I think it was after he'd danced around a Capri Sun pouch in lieu of a wine glass that he said it. "Greek dancing is very movemental, you know." We know. He's still crashed out asleep, worn out from all the fun.

Read More