Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Baptism Day

The day was absolutely gorgeous, as only a cloudless spring morning can be. The air was lightly scented with overtones of flowering crab and cherry blossoms -- it's a little early for lilacs in DC, but they'll soon be adding to the potpourri coloring the air.

It was rather comforting to be back in church -- there's something timelss about sitting in a pew surrounded by strangers, and still knowing the liturgy by heart. It's been many years since I've been to a traditional Lutheran church when it wasn't a special service, and it's nice to know I still know all the tunes.

Anyway, Braden was most unhappy to have had his morning breakfast disrupted by a group of people running around the house asking if someone had grabbed the camera, diaper bag, cookie cake, extra clothes, etc. He is at the "no one but Mommy" stage, so while poor Mommy tried to get ready to go, Braden treated us all to an impressive display of lung capacity. Kay was trying really hard to time his feedings so that he would be full, dry, and happy for the baptism. As is the way of babies, though, Braden refused to follow this arbitrary schedule and decided he wanted to finish his interrupted breakfast when church started. Kay took him to the nursery room to feed him. This was going to be okay, though, because the baptism was scheduled to be after the sermon. Because he is a baby and doesn't always follow everyone else's schedule, we also didn't dress him in his little baptismal outfit -- a decision that was borne out the day before when he blew out the brand new little horsey-and-bib-overalls outfit that Justine brought him from Missouri with a "we've been waiting for three days" poop. The pastor assured us that if we quietly took him out and dressed him up in his new little outfit, we'd have plenty of time to get him back in time to walk him to the font during the last stanza of the post-sermon hymn.

Now, in the church in which Kay and I grew up, the sermon was 20 minutes on the dot. Any less, and the old Germans didn't feel they'd gotten their offerings worth; any more, and the farmers started grumbling about missing prime field time in the afternoons. So when Kay hadn't come back by the time the sermon started, I calmly grabbed his little outfit and went to find her so we could get him dressed and happy before his big church debut. I found her and we put him in his little duck romper (the matching hat was a TOTAL no go for him). Since that took less than 5 minutes, Kay thought she'd have another 10 minutes or so to "top him off" and make sure he was dry and happy before we headed back in. She had just gotten him appropriately placed and sat down in the rocking chair when we both heard the unmistakeable strains of the organ -- the hymn had started. We looked at each other in horror and started throwing things into the diaper bag. Grandma Mary came flying through the hall of the church and banged on the door, mouthing, "Get in there NOW!" through the glass. I grabbed Braden and set sail toward the sanctuary, while Kay frantically put herself back together and made sure that nothing was showing that isn't supposed to be showing in church, nursing mother or not.

So, as a result, Braden was NOT "topped off" for his baptism. I most assuredly was NOT his mommy, and he most assuredly was NOT happy with the situation. He spent the entire baptism screaming his displeasure to the congregation while I tried to keep a serene and beatific smile on my face. Kay finally rescued me and took him to try to calm him down. His unhappiness subsided a little, until the pastor took him and started pouring water over his head. That was SO not okay in Braden's world. At least I wasn't the only baby holder for whom he screamed.

So, baptized and sealed with the cross, Braden and family took some requisite pictures after the service, and then we all headed to a local restaurant that specialized in serving bison burgers. I just couldn't convince myself to take the plunge -- I went for regular cow.

We went back to the house, changed clothes, and just hung out while we tried to work up the motivation to get back on the road and leave. After two days, Paul was starting to feel more comfortable with the idea of holding the baby (he lives in fear that he's going to drop one), so those two snuggled in together for a while. Braden tried on the cowboy boots that I brought him -- too big, but oh my stars are they cute, and Grandpa Tom put together his rocking horse that came from Missouri.

It was pretty hard (let's be honest -- I'm a Puck descendant, and so are Mary and Kay, so there were tears involved) to say goodbye, but we finally got the car loaded and headed back east around 4:00. Paul was just as disappointed to go flying by all the Civil War battlefields on the way back as he was to have to do it on our way in. He consoled himself by sticking the camera out the window and shooting pictures of the Allegany mountains while we passed through them. I can't say they're great photos, but they're not too bad for being shot through the window at 80 miles per hour!

We drove to Cambridge, Ohio, where we spent waaay too much on a motel room and crashed. The next day we had a lazy morning, enjoyed the free (snort -- it ought to have been free for as much as the room cost) continental breakfast, and hit the road at a leisurely 9:30. We barreled on through and made it back home before dark.

There's a strange sort of disconnectedness this week, as if I'm still expecting to walk through the door and see family. I also downloaded our pictures as soon as we got home, and it was a very odd notion to think that only 48 hours earlier, I had been standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and gazing over the Reflection Pool at Congress and the Washington Monument.

It's good to be home, but a small part of my heart now lives in Washington, DC. I can't wait to go back again.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Home Again

Ahhh...the joys of MAP testing. Every year, the state of Missouri in its infinite wisdom, forces students from grades 3-8 through an annual rite of passage designed to make them hate the idea of formal education from now to perpetuity. Of course, this test is mandated by the Federal government, who wants to make sure that we teachers are leaving No Child Behind, especially including those who we drag kicking in screaming into the next levels of knowledge. This test, the Missouri Assessment Program, is a weeklong odyssey into the joys of essay questions, reading comprehension, and number 2 pencils. And so, here we are -- my younguns are calculating away as we speak, and as I'm not allowed to look at the questions on their test (Heaven forbid I actually know what's going to be asked so that I have a better idea of how to prepare them for it), I'm sitting at my desk trying to avoid paper grading by adding to my blog.

But I digress.

Paul and I arrived back home last night as the sun was setting over the pasture. Our dogs were thrilled to see us, as we were them. The cats ignored us until it was time for them to be fed (in the way of cats everywhere, and the horses just wanted to be fed and brushed -- five days of warm weather have turned their winter coats into a shaggy burden they're almost desperate to be freed from.

We arrived in Broadlands around 9:30 Eastern time last Friday night, and immediately got to see Braden as Bret was trying to put him to sleep (to no avail -- Braden is in serious "Mommy and NO ONE else" mode these days). After blowing up the airbed, Paul and I crawled in and I was treated to an hour of Paul and Jon (my cousin's son, who is 29 going on 17) giggling like schoolgirls as they caught up -- those two get along like a house on fire. At one point, I was afraid I was going to get out the nail polish so they could do each other's toenails during their all-night slumber party. Seriously, they both turn into 12-year-olds in each other's presence -- complete with fart jokes and ogling good-looking women.

So the next morning, we got up and nibbled on some breakfast. I ventured out into the wild of the DC suburbs in search of panty hose and a razor for Jon, who had left his at home thinking he wouldn't be able to take it on the plane. Kay loaned me her Garmin GPS, which is perhaps the coolest toy with which I've played so far this year. It directed me right to Target, and, mission accomplished, I headed back for the townhouse. Bret, Jon, Paul, my cousin Rita, and I all piled into Bret's car for a day of sightseeing. We went first to the Udvar-Hazy Smithsonian exhibit at Dulles International Airport. Fascinatingly enough, admission to the Smithsonian is free, but a $15 parking fee applies. The museum was interesting, but it wasn't necessarily "my thing," so I took the requisite tourist photos of the space shuttle Enterprise (no Chris Pine as Captain Kirk, so I wasn't so interested)
and the Enola Gay.
We then went up in the observation tower, which allowed us to see (and hear) Dulles. Unfortunately, no planes came in for a landing while we were up there, so I took some more tourist photos and we headed back to ground level. We met Kay, Mary, Tom, and baby Braden for lunch at an interesting little sandwich shop called "Potbellies." I was afraid for a moment that it was due to the fat content of the food, but I soon was reassured to learn that it was due to the pot-bellied stove in the corner.

Then came the fun part. Our tourist group headed to East Falls Church to pick up the Metro and head downtown to see the sights. Unfortunately, last weekend was Cherry Blossom Festival time in DC, so the Metro was packed -- not so horribly on the way in, but I never want to relive the ride back out. We got off at the Smithsonian stop and walked up and on to the Mall. We started walking toward the Washington Monument (stopped to use the bathrooms there), and then headed for the World War II Memorial. We kept on cruising around the Reflecting Pool and toward the Vietnam Veteran's War Memorial. I had seen all these sights many years ago, so I got a kick out of watching Jon and Paul (still giggling like little girls) and Rita see it all for the first time. I also was trying to take lots of cool tourist photos. We headed over from The Wall to the Lincoln Memorial, at which point I decided that my feet hurt and there was no way I was climbing all those darned steps -- Lincoln was still sitting up there, according to what I could see on a penny, so I was just going to take it on faith that he wasn't going anywhere. Paul, Jon, and Rita, headed up there and Bret and I took a breather while we waited for them to check it out. After that, we headed down the other side of the Reflection Pool and went into the Korean War Veteran's Memorial. I had not seen this one before (that I could remember), and I was really moved by the knowledge that four of my five uncles had served during this war. Part of the monument is an etched marble wall that has faces of many people who served in Korea, and I swore that I could see my Uncle Woody in the face of one young sailor. I turned to my cousin Rita and said, "Look -- there he is before this damn war changed him." Too many young men went over to Korea and came back to fight demons so strong no amount of alcohol could drown them.

Even though it was Cherry Blossom Festival weekend, the cherry blossoms were gone (ARRRRGGGGHHH!), so I didn't get to take any tourist pictures of them. We cruised back down toward the Metro station, stopping every once in a while to check out women (Jon and his oh-so-helpful cousin, Paul), scenery (Rita and me), or tell the family tourists something cool about the area (Bret).

Finally, we got back on the Metro and headed back. We were at the back of the car, and Rita and I got separated from the rest of the group. We herded outselves like good little sheep to the back of the car, where we quickly found out that we had nothing to hang on to. The seats were packed, and the boys all had overhead bars to hang on to. There was also someone already leaning against the back escape door, so we just tried to braced ourselves and "surf" the starts and stops of the Metro car. Not so well. It was only a half hour ride, but by the time it was over, I was ready for a shower a nap. Paul weathered his first subway ride with flying colors; in fact, he had the people around him in stitches by giving relationship advice to other commuters. I was worried about him, knowing how uncomfortable he is in crowds and new situations, but every time I located him through the throng of humanity, he was surrounded by laughing people and holding court like Buddha at the Temple.

That night, we went to a Japanese steakhouse for dinner. Jon was completely not interested in the whole hibachi thing, but Paul and I convinced him to give it a chance. By the end of the night, he had decided it was a really good time, and really good food, to boot. Of course, the Singapore Slings he and Paul were drinking probably made things look even more rosy. That night, we came back and baked Braden's big cookie (easier to transport than a cake). Paul, true to form, got his hand slapped by both Mary and Kay for trying to sneak cookie dough out of the bowl. He was mollified, though, when they gave him ALL the extra icing after it was frosted. I swear, the man thinks that powdered sugar and Crisco is a food group.

Anyway, this post is approaching record length, so I'll continue with the story later.

Friday, April 9, 2010


Good Morning! Motel 6 has, in their infinite generosity, provided free wireless internet access. Thus, I am spending that thirty minutes it takes Paul to get motivated to get in the shower (and which I usually spend grinding my teeth, sighing obviously, and checking my cell phone for the time) checking my e-mail and starting the chronicling of our getaway weekend. We didn't get a nice, early start yesterday afternoon. Then again, we always have good intentions of getting away early and never do. We hit the road last night at 6:41, which actually worked well for avoiding rush hour traffic in St. Louis. We didn't quite make it through STL unscathed, though -- the exit to get to Illinois on I-70 is closed and a lovely flashing sign instructed us to "use alternate exit." Of course, the happy sign did NOT tell us WHICH alternate exit we should use. The next several exits were closed, and it appeared that we were well on our way to Memphis by the time I told Paul to chill out (he was cussing up a veritable hurricane and trying to read our ancient atlas in the dark), and pulled off, made a left, and got back on the interstate going north (west?). He yelled, "What are you doing that for?" I replied calmly, "The exit was closed, not the road. I figure eventually we'll come back to I-70 and the northbound exit won't be closed.." About 5 minutes later, we were crossing the Mississippi.

We drove until 10:30 (well, I drove until 9:30 and started making some strong hints about stopping for the night. Paul took over and decieded that we'd just call it at 10:30). We could have made Terre Haute in another hour, but we also knew that the time zone switch occurs in Terre Haute, so getting in at midnight would mean it would automatically have been 1:00, and that just wouldn't have set us up for a good day today. We are in Effingham, Illinois -- seems like a pretty big burg for the middle of Illinois, but it looks like we're just in the middle of Interstate land, since there are tons of chain motels, restaurants, and truck stops/gas stations.

The Motel 6 chain are not the most luxurious of hotel chains; however, I flat refused to go to the Hilton Garden Inn or some other pricey place when all we were planning to do was fall into bed and get up to shower the next day.

So, soon we'll be on our way to Washington, DC! We have to go through Indiana and Ohio -- I think we'll be able to hit Columbus by lunch. I packed a cooler full of lunch-y type food, so we'll find a nice park somewhere and try to save some pennies by picnicking. After that, the Yahoo Map I downloaded gets a bit more complicated. I'm a little nervous about driving in Virginia, but I know I'd better be the one at the wheel. If Paul tries to do it, we'll see the advent of several brand-new cuss words.

And tonight, we meet our Braden for the first time! We are so excited to spend the weekend with family (and to be gawky tourists in DC). Paul is a bit disappointed that he won't be able to go to Congress and tell them how he really feels about them, but so far, he's been accepting of my telling him it just doesn't work that way. I think he'll be satisfied to see the monuments.

We're on our way!