Udvar-Hazy Air & Space Museum and The First Subway Ride

Udvar-Hazy is the annex of the downtown Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, it’s massive, and it’s out by Dulles airport. We opted to do this first, since downtown is a madhouse during the late summer.

That’s the Enola Gay in the background, and this was before Bean ran away and started swinging from the rafters.

That there is an actual space shuttle. The kids were pretty impressed, though Bean noted it was “dirty and looked like it was made of duct tape!” I don’t think they really get the whole “this is amazing, and the real thing” gist of these museums yet.

How tiny Abby is next to those exhaust ports…

And then we went and experienced our first subway ride. Of course it was a million degrees that day, but generally, it went well. Which means I didn’t lose Bean.

I kept Bean as far away as possible from the rails the entire time. My blood pressure is just now calming down. Abby was a doll. Jeff wanted to stand the whole time. The novelty will wear off, but for now, it’s all exciting.



Decorating with What You’ve Got

So a bunch of you have either commented or messaged me that you kinda dig my decorating style, and have asked for pointers.  I kind of don’t know what to say- I’ve always just made do with what I could find around flea markets and my own house and yard. Over the years, I’ve culled the things that were just place holders and kept the things that I really love. If I could give one piece of advice, it would be this: Make sure the things that fill your space are things that have personal meaning, and that you really love. That’s it. If you do that, it’s easy to make your house look like your home.

So here are a few photos I snapped tonight while the kids bickered and got underfoot. I create little vignettes with stuff I love. Here are a few…

This is my dresser. I got it from a curbside pile for the dump in Palo Alto years ago. I refinished it and it’s gone everywhere with me. In Little House, it was the boys’ dresser, here, it’s once again mine. Be flexible. There is a lighting conduit running up off-center of where I placed the dresser, so I intentionally hung the mirror and small pictures (belonged to my grandma) off center as well, making the whole thing look balanced. Don’t be afraid to toss convention to the wind. The silver tray belonged to my kids’ ggg grandmother, and in it are Christmas ornaments I like too much to put away. No joke.

My make-up table you’ve seen- but it’s an upcycled old sewing machine table I picked up at a garage sale. Toss a pretty lamp on it, arrange the cosmetics in vintage hobnail bowls, and suddenly your make-up doesn’t belong in a drawer— it’s pretty!

In the kids’ room, because I have all three in one room, I’ve tried to differentiate Abby’s space from her brothers’ by using color, flags and a canopy. Don’t be afraid of mixing patterns, color and textures— chances are, if you like my house, part of what you like is that nothing matches, but you can’t put your finger on why you like it. It’s because not matching gives visual interest and texture, and creativity. People like it— same reason they like a box (or bowl) of crayons.

My townhouse is small. And to make it look bigger, I presume, the owners blessed me with several walls of mirrors. (retch!) But, I had to work with it. So I got some Command hook and loop tape, and I hung stuff up anyway.  There’s more of that downstairs.

Also? Let your whimsy out. Flags are fun, and there’s no reason to leave them in a drawer until a birthday party.  They add color and they’re easy to make, if you wanna make some. I’ll teach you.

Because of how small this room is, and because I do want to have a non-kid dominated area, I stuck with a more subdued palette- but seriously, part of that was luck. Those are thrift store couches, remember. The polka dots lighten it up a bit and the rocker was mine as a small child. The table is from a yard sale, scuffed up on purpose. Y’all already know my typewriter. Cozy is good. Create little areas of gathering. A frequent mistake is to rally your furniture around the perimeter of the room, lining the walls, then wondering why it doesn’t seem inviting. Stop it. Bring it to the center.

I love decorating my bookshelves. Yes, I have lots of books, but a shelf packed edge to edge with books, while practical, isn’t as fun to peruse. Toss some stuff on there with personal meaning. This is clearly my Shelf of Mormon-y Goodness. I scrap the canned temple pictures, and framed one a Finnish friend took on a trip to Nauvoo. On the first shelf is a photo of the DC cherry blossoms taken by another talented friend. And so on. Make it personal.

Same thing here. Stack books in different directions. Intersperse with tidbits from your life. It even makes looking at the books more interesting.

I got this table at a yard sale for $2, because the edge was broken. So what! It’s charming! The lamp was $3, and the plant is from the local nursury. I left the tag on the birds nest because it came from a friends’ shop where I used to live and it’s cool. Doesn’t it make you want to look?

Here’s how the Chess Room finalized. It’s chaotic and busy and I love it. The chairs, table and desk are all thrifted or Craigslist. The photos, while busy, work because they are all black and white, matted with neutral colors and framed neutrally. This would be a nightmare if they were all different. Opposite the chess table was a nook where the piano fit perfectly:

Again, a tight fit, and the pictures are very busy- but in non-competing colors and styles. Also, since this room is so crammed with stimulus and chaos, the room immediately feeding it is kept deliberately simple and nearly stark:

A few more vignettes— the common theme seems to be keeping things in odd numbers, and keeping it very personal. You want your home to feel like you. Or… at least I do.

Okay, I have a thing for birdsnests. I’m outed. And I love rannuculas. Those are Bean’s first shoes, and how cute are they under a cloche dome??

There is a story behind everything. Maybe someday I’ll tell you them. Odd numbers, different colors and textures and heights. On the wall in the background is my grandmother’s bapstimal certificate from 1920. Personal.

The entry had more hideous mirrors, but I just ignored them and hung my picture anyway. The bowl of rocks are from specific camping trips over time.

I like to leave creative stuff out so making-stuff can erupt spontaneously. Also, coloring calms me down too. But who wants to dig for colors in a box? I empty boxes of crayons into an old enamel bowl and leave it out with coloring books and blank paper. It’s kind of amazing the conversations that start when one person sits down to color. The kids inevitable join.

Don’t be afraid to be silly, to leave subtle hints about who you are and what you love. It’s your HOME. Let yourself out of the box and make it feel like you! Have some fun! I hope that was helpful and not too bombastic. I love being home, and I hope it shows.

You Can’t Take the Sky from Me

Gravity is serious stuff. Gravity is what keeps the tides rolling in and out, keeps the moon circling the earth, keeps the earth circling the sun, and creates the familiar star-strewn spiral arms of the milky way— and the billions of galaxies like her.

Gravity is also what holds us in orbit around people and circumstances in our lives. Familiarity, pattern, well-worn trenches of routine. We can trudge through our days, head down, allowing the invisible pull of gravity to keep us in the place we’ve created. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing… much of life is reduced to details, after all. I must cook dinner, yet again, tonight. Try as I might to escape it, my children need to be fed. Every day. The laundry must be done. The bills should be paid. Gravity can help us mindlessly navigate those necessary-but-numbing tasks that make up much of our day to day living. But there’s a trap there…

It’s easy to forget to look up. It’s all too easy to let our hearts get set on auto-pilot, and to forget our dreams, in the face of the powerful pull of letting gravity dictate where we place our next step. It’s always easier to let gravity hold us down, and defying gravity takes tremendous energy and force of will.

A spaceship leaving earth for the stars takes force, will, energy and carefully unleashed power to break earth’s gravity. Once that bond is broken, though, the ship is in space, and requires little force to move- and can freely then use the gravity of the earth to induce orbit, or to slingshot towards the moon, or the use the moon’s gravity to shoot back to earth… freewill becomes the factor.

When we forget who we are, and allow gravity to dictate where our next step will fall, we’ve given up our spirits. We’ve resigned ourselves to auto-pilot and simply surviving the remainder of what we have left. We need to remember to look up, to remember choices in our lives are a divine mandate, and we need not hand that over to anyone, or anything.

When we look up and see the star-strewn arms of our distant and close galaxy in the inky night sky, we are looking at ourselves. We are made of the same things as those stars, and gravity can play a powerful and beautiful role in catapulting us towards a life we want, or it can crush us in a black hole. It’s up to us.

Section 54-3635

So instead of letting the malaise creep over me, I packed the kids onto the Metro and we headed to Arlington to visit my grandpa. Each of the kids took something special to place on his headstone.  Abby added the flower.Plus it was only 90* and threatening thunderstorms. Had to take advantage. As we were walking towards our section, there was a piper in full Scottish dress tuning his pipes. When the notes hit Jeffrey’s ears, he absolutely lit up. We stood and watched him until he finished. Nice bonus.


All the boxes are unpacked. The house is all put together. Things look nice. The kids are getting settled. I’ve found my way around the neighborhood. Our ward is nice enough. So why do I feel utterly untethered?

Bubbles of panic keep rising to the surface— little breathless pockets of fear and isolation. I know this was where I was supposed to go, and there’s a reason I’m here instead of in SLC or Seattle, even if I’m not sure what it is, so I hold on to that faith. Perhaps it’s just that I have unstructured time for the first time in years. I don’t have a paper looming, or a project due. Perhaps I’ve gotten so used to living in a state of near heart-attack inducing stress, I simply don’t know what to do with a little peace. It’s disquieting.

(There are still things to do- the kids’ school offices open this week for registration. I have to meet with my GW advisor to plan out some grant writing and what to do this fall. I have to get my car registered. The kids want to go to the pool. We haven’t even ventured into DC proper yet. Everyone I know says to wait until the crowds abate with the end of summer, and after Udvar-Hazy last week, I’m inclined to agree.)

So I guess this is just another day I have to knuckle through— it won’t be like this forever, and it’s a pit-trap to think any one day is indicative of the future. Onward. Right?


All of my life I’ve had crazy curly hair. Never has there been a heroine or even a celebrity who I could really look to and think “that’s me”… Then I went to see Brave with the kids. Now, I’m not claiming to be a fiery redheaded princess with wicked archery skills. But I have popped out a couple of redheaded kids, and I DO have hair just like hers.

What they got SO RIGHT, what mesmerized me, was the texture and differentiation in the curl. It’s always perplexed me when I see other women with curly hair, and they have uniform curls. Mine are a crazy hot mess- some of them, especially underneath and around the crown are wicked tight curls. Then there are layers of looser, softer curls. Mixed in are the in-betweeners, and the texture and direction of the curl can change half way down the length. I’ve fought this mess all my life, thinking I was the only one in the world with what amounts to basically three heads of different textured hair on my head.

Turns out I just need to go to Scotland. Go figure.

So I’m grateful today, for a heroine that embodies, at least in a small part, a part of myself I’ve battled with all of my life. Perhaps, with Jeffrey embracing the bagpipes, and my kids’ own fiery red hair, and my own surname, I can finally lay down my battle ax and have some peace with who I am. Or at least with my hair. Thanks, Pixar. Once again, well done. Oh. And the story was good too.

Random Crap: Old Dominion Edition

Took the kids to the Air and Space annex out by Dulles. It was insanely cool, but then I lost Bean. That is NOT the place to lose a spectrum child, let me stress that. STRESS. Here’s a picture of when I found him, on the THIRD FLOOR CATWALK:

It was awesome.

I may be getting used to the humidity and heat. It freaks me out to say it, but I walk outside now on a 100* day, and it still sucks, but I don’t weep in terror.

We saw fireflies on Sunday night after dinner at a friend’s house. The kids were running and frolicking in a glen behind her house, and the miraculous little bugs were dotting the evening. I admit, I was utterly enchanted. I had one in my cupped hands and it lit it’s little behind and I squealed with delight.

Today, I unpacked the last box that will be unpacked. There are still a few that are storage-bound, and the holiday stuff is stashed in a closet, but all the rest of the boxes are empty, broken down, and ready for the next person moving. Know anyone?

I’ve been Ms. Industrious lately. I’ve assembled Ikea stuff, hung pictures, painted the whole damn house, used dry-wall anchors (successfully too!) bolted a cabinet to the wall, installed a new doorknob, hung curtain-rods, and repaired the storm door. I even bought my very own drill bits at Lowe’s today. Hooooah!

The time-change is throwing me for a loop. Most of the people I know are in the pacific and mountain time zones, and now that we’re fully adjusted to this eastern seaboard (why do they call it that? it’s not the western seaboard— it’s the west coast) I find myself reaching to pick up the phone, and realizing most everyone I know is still asleep. And then my brothers call, and it’s bedtime for me and they’re still winding down from work. Weird.

I flatironed my hair yesterday for the first time since I got here. It was mostly futile, but was also just successful enough that it gave me fragile hope for the fall, when I might again not look like a hot mess.

Checked out the kids’ schools. Very close, and decently rated. Happy.

The fireplace/den room has become the kids’ chess room. They set up a table in the middle, and spent the better part of today playing each other and using words their poor chess-dumb mama doesn’t know. My kids can all cream me in the game of kings.

Bean has turned his Hide-y Hole into a palace. He’s got pillows, blankets, a light, and the portable DVD player in there, and he requests his meals be served there now as well. We just knock on the door, and he peeks out. Whatever makes him happy.

The kids are overjoyed that we have a Lego store nearby. It was a four hour drive before- now they can do the monthly free build, and have already put it on the calendar.

I’m quite dissatisfied with my grocery store options close by. Yes, Costco is super close, and I do love that- but when it’s late and I just need to run in for a gallon of milk or some cheese? Costco is not what I want to mess with. I hear there’s a Trader Joes and a Whole Foods. Need to ferret them out. I tried this place called Harris Teeter, and it’s okay. Still looking…

Getting together with my dear bloggity friend Kellie tomorrow again, before she heads off for some wild adventures living abroad. Next week we get to go visit Heather O and her brood too. Living here definitely has its perks.

Before and After: New Townhouse!

So I’ve got one of those long skinny townhouses so popular in the DC area. The good news is, we’re on the end, so we have a few extra windows instead of just the ones in the front. Yay for us! I’m still unpacking, but it’s becoming home-ish.

Living room, before:

Living room, after. Sofas are from the thrift store! And I finally have a place for my big farm table again- albeit tight. Happy dance!

Looking towards the kitchen, before:

Living room, looking toward kitchen, after: (Bean is eating— wait for it— peanut butter toast!)

(Can you believe those are thrift store couches?! Me either!!)Hideous sky-blue kitchen, before:

Ahhhhhh…. much better! I can almost ignore the blue counters now!

The aqua-room, before:

The Aqua Room, now. Very pleased with this photo array, btw:

Loft at the top of the stairs, which will become the play room— they really liked that sky blue paint…

The play loft now, peopled by Jeffrey and Abby, noses in their screens

My room— spectacular shade of pale lavender with pink curtains, before:

My room now— Montpelier Grey, with cream curtains brought from Little House.

It’s good what a little paint and some sweat will do. Still have a few boxes to unpack, but we’re just about ready to call it home.

More Observations

  • Pictures are coming, I swear- I just can’t find my camera. Still unpacking and digging out. Anyone in the NoVA area want moving boxes and packing paper?
  • Folks here just don’t hurry. Not over anything. And they look at me like I’m a Crazy Person when I’m not willing to mosey wherever it is I’m going. Odd.
  • Had a great dinner with The Wiz from Mormon Mommy Wars the other night. She was in the area with her daughter for a few days, and we hit Cafe Rio, then came and hung out amid the chaos and boxes at my place. It was lovely.
  • I’m heading to the DMV today. *gulp*
  • Still cannot get used to rain when it’s so mother-of-hell hot. Folks are telling me this is not usual, and I picked the worst week ever to move. Of course I did. Because if there’s a harder way to do something, I shall find it!
  • We finally got the Wii hooked up and the children love me again. 
  • Still no fireflies. Maybe it’s too hot for them?
  • Been invited to two barbecues already and a pool party. Folks are nice.
  • First Sunday in our new ward yesterday. Experienced having our records read-in for the first time, and the kids stood with me. They were even reasonably good. Bean lasted most of the way through Primary, and the boys have been invited to Scout camp this coming week. Playing that one by ear.
  • Just as soon as I get this place knocked into shape, I’m going to post before and after pics, so you can marvel at the horrendous previous paint.
  • I scored the best deal at my local thrift store!! None of my couches fit in the Tardis Moving Truck, so we had nowhere to sit. I walked into the tiny place right around the corner, after hitting every furniture place I could find (um… NO, I can’t pay $1k for a set of couches!) and I found a perfect, tan cheneille sofa and loveseat, and a side chair. All for under $200. Exactly what I needed, and I ran to Lowes and picked up their $19 truck and Jeffrey and I moved the beasts. We now not only have somewhere to sit, but they’re comfortable too! I set my standards high, what can I say?

A Few Observation on Virginia

  • While the humidity is making a monster out of my hair (embrace it, I know!- it’s just hard to embrace something this big) that same humidity is working wonders on the skin. Bean’s itchy eczema is nearly gone, and I feel like a baby. Someone told me that would happen, but as a child of the west, I was skeptical. Color me convinced.
  • It’s hot. It’s damn hot. It’s completely weird having it be so hot, then get overcast and pour rain. But the thunder and lightning are fantastic.
  • It’s really really green here. It’s a different green than the northwest, but it’s nice.
  • My neighbors, despite the warnings about folks being more aloof, are quite nice and people have been very friendly. 
  • Sorry folks, but y’all just don’t know how to drive. This California girl was trained in a stick-shift on the hills of San Francisco and my first merge ever was on 101 north. The southern charm thing is nice, but seriously- learn how to merge and which pedal is the accelerator. 
  • Grocery stores are a bit different. Prices are comparable on most things. Milk is more expensive, they don’t have Tillamook cheese (*weeping*) or Darigold butter (*wailing*) but I’m sure I’ll ferret out some decent options. It’s also the first time I’ve lived on the Helmans side of the mountains, instead of the Best Foods side. 
  • I love the international feel of the neighborhood. Within a few blocks, I have every option conceivable for food and shopping. There’s a giant grocery store that is all variety of foreign foods that I can’t wait to hit.
  • Fireworks are legal here, and my kids and I took full advantage of it last night, watching the neighbors blow up several loud things, and lighting our own case of sparklers with much glee. Until the storm blew in and we had to go back inside. Then we just stuck our sparklers in a piece of cake and called it good.
  • I will never, ever, ever again refer to the first and second Battles of Manassas as the first and second Battles of Bull Run. Lesson learned.
  • I must brave the DMV and the DOL for my driver’s license and my car registration next week. I hope it’s better than CA, but I know it won’t be as easy as WA. Hoping for somewhere in the middle.
  • Have yet to see any fireflies. The kids are sorely disappointed, but have found one very interesting little centipede looking thing that brought great consternation to the masses. 
  • Hail is fun.
  • Do not get Gorilla Glue on your while trying to fix a table that broke in the move. Do not get it on your favorite purple skirt, and then, especially, do not attempt to wash Gorilla Glue off with water from your skin. Turns out Gorilla Glue likes water. 
  • More Later.