Ghosts of Halloween Past

Yikes! It’s Halloween Eve and only one out of my three children knows exactly what she’s going to wear tomorrow! (Abby Wambach).

Nicholas, my twelve year who’s probably going trick-or-treating for the last time, wants to wear something “ironic.” Teddy, the premature old man, says trick-or-treating is too tiring. He can’t be bothered to come up with a costume. If I twist his arm, he may be persuaded to wear a paper bag over his head.

Oh for the good old days, when I could exercise complete control over the kids’ costumes!

Here are some of my favorites from years past…

First baby, first Halloween…I maybe went just a teensy bit overboard. Nicholas had no fewer than three costumes, because as I always say: “It’s aaaaaaall about the pictures!”


Julius Caesar:


For his first Halloween, Teddy rocked a bespangled Baby Elvis jumpsuit unsnapped to his belly button. We went trick-or-treating on the Lawn at UVa, and people kept stopping us so they could have their picture taken with him:

He was a rock star!Check out the sideburns:

A couple years later Nicholas and Teddy were dressed as little Scottish lads in honor of their dad’s country of birth. Strangely enough, I’ve never been able to get them to don a skirt again!

Tintin, Queen Bee, and skeleton. This was before Tintin hit it big in America with Steven Spielberg’s movie version. People kept looking at Teddy in puzzlement. One woman asked, “Are you dressed as…a little boy?”

Pumpkin, Spy…and skeleton! I loved those Gymboree skeleton costumes. The kids wore them as pjs for years!

Ladybug with recycled Queen Bee tiara:

A sheikh & sailors

Last year’s panda:

This picture makes me laugh…This is what the kids look like by the end of an “It’s aaaaaaall about the pictures” session!Last year Tallis’ cow costume was udderly too small for him:

Chloe’s bee costume fit a little better, but put her in a foul mood:

Happy Halloween to all, and to all a spooktacular night!

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Sandy & Junks I Collect No. 3: Paper Balloons

I’m writing this in haste, because the lights keep flickering and I’m fairly sure we’re going to lose power any minute now.

Thanks to Sandy, we all stayed home today, and I finally got Teddy’s new room all cleaned out! (It was an unused “bonus room” that had become the repository for everything we couldn’t find a place for. I don’t know about you, but I’m incapable of having a clean house without having at least one junk room). It literally took us months to get it all cleared out. To celebrate we decided to tackle a project that we’d been meaning to get to for a long time, which brings me to…Junks I Collect No. 3: Paper Balloons.

Kami Fusen are Japanese balloons made out of paper. They look like this at first:

You blow into a little hole to inflate the balloon so that it ends up looking like this:

And then you can do this:

Or this:

The big red fish balloon is from the Japanese Tea Garden Gift Shop in San Francisco, which I wrote about here.

If you’re in NYC, you can find paper balloons in one of my favorite stores of all time: Pearl River. You can order from them online too.

The best selection of Kami Fusen I’ve found is online at UGUiSU.

The other fabulous thing that happened today was the well-timed arrival of the “BugZooka” that I ordered from amazon to help us deal with the trifecta of stink bugs, ladybugs, and ants that have descended on our house.

This could just be the greatest thing ever invented! It requires no batteries. You “cock” the BugZooka by compressing an accordion-like air chamber. You aim it at the bug, press a little red button, and ZHOOP! the bug gets sucked up into a chamber. If you’re a total dork like me, you can really hurt yourself if the air chamber expands into your chest when you push the trigger button. You can catch and release, or flush those bad boys right down the toilet. So simple. So satisfying. So beautiful, really. It kept the kids entertained all day, and there’s nary a bug in sight now.

So Teddy’s room is clean and decorated. We’ve eliminated every bug we could find. Now what am I going to do about this?

My bedroom is the new junk room. Yay.

Stay safe, friends.

Almost Normal

There’s nothing like a high school reunion for dredging up insecurities. You want to go back looking like this:

Grace Kelly, 1954

Not like this:


ursula (Photo credit: theMaykazine)

Or like this:

Cary Grant

Cary Grant (Photo credit: twm1340)

But certainly not like this:

Português: Retrato por Repin, 1881

Português: Retrato por Repin, 1881 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I went to my high school reunion a few Saturdays ago. (It was that same Saturday I wrote about here). As soon as the last soccer game of the day was done, my kids and I hopped into the car and drove to my parents’ house in Arlington. We arrived not long before I was  supposed to pick up my dear friend with whom I always go to these reunions…

When I walked in the door, my mom and dad looked at me aghast.

“What happened to your face?!” my mom asked with real concern.

Those are precisely the words you want to hear fifteen minutes before your high school reunion.

I ran to the bathroom to see what she was talking about and was almost blinded by the neon red glow that was reflecting off the mirror. I looked like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, if you can imagine how he’d look after being dipped in a vat of acid. I’d worn a hat at both soccer games, but still managed to get broiled to a violently red hue.

But there was still hope. I industriously spackled my face with cover up and then paused at last to inspect my work in the mirror. All in all, I was feeling pretty good about the way I had managed to salvage the situation.

The kids were at the table eating their dinner when I emerged from the bathroom, with a little hard-earned swagger in my step.

“I look o.k., right?” I asked them.

My very sweet ten year old son looked at me in silence for a few long moments before he broke it to me as gently as he could: “Well…You look almost normal.”

Almost normal?

Good enough for me.

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Field trip to Jamestown

The last time I visited Jamestown I went there on a field trip with my elementary school. I got to go back there again yesterday as a chaperone for my daughter’s second grade field trip.

A ceremonial dance circle marks the entrance to the recreated Powhatan village.Huts, called yehakins, are made of bent saplings, rope, and woven reed mats.

The kids were both fascinated and horrified by all of the animal pelts hanging inside the yehakins.

Ouch! Poor squirrel!

It’s a short walk down to the harbor, and to the replicas of the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery.

Grumpy sailor…

Grumpier sailor:

Another short walk takes you to the English settlement:

This musketeer looks pretty scary…

But this is the one you really wouldn’t want to mess with:

The real star of Jamestown, of course, is Pocahontas: the favorite daughter of Chief Powhatan. More on her later…

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Who’s that naked flying man in front of the library?

I’ve always loved the odd statue in front of Clemons Library at the University of Virginia. It stands out so audaciously against the staid, predictable colonial architecture for which the University is famous. The bronze statue of a well-muscled figure about to push off from the earth into flight stands 12 feet high, and sits on a solid pedestal. But rather than seeming heroic, it has a very human feel to it. Aside from the strap-on pair of wings, the figure is wearing only a comical looking helmet and what looks like a jockstrap. He is perched precariously on a lumpy, malformed globe. His stance is awkward and unsure. It could be the depiction of an escapade dreamed up by inebriated frat boys.

So who is this naked flying man who graces the courtyard of Clemons Library?

James Rogers McConnell entered the University of Virginia in 1907. He wholeheartedly launched himself into the life of the college, becoming in short order: the King of the Hot Foot Society (now the “IMP Society”), the Editor-in-Chief of the now defunct Corks and Curls, the President and co-founder of the Aero Club, a member of the Seven Society, a member of Beta Theta Pi, and a cheerleader. He gained a reputation for being a prankster, a hard-drinking frat boy, and a bagpipe player. He dropped out after only two years in the college and one year at the law school, (too much partying, not enough studying, perhaps?), but during his short time at the university, and indeed in his short time on earth: he lived his life with gusto.

In 1915, McConnell sailed to France to join the war effort. For a year he drove an ambulance for the American Ambulance Corps on the Western Front, earning the Croix de Guerre for bravery. Feeling compelled to do more, he joined the French Air Force and became one of the first members of the Lafayette Escadrille, a group comprised largely of American volunteer fighter pilots. The next year, while recuperating from a back injury caused by a rough landing, he wrote a memoir entitled Flying for France. On March 19, 1917, 30 year old James McConnell was killed when his plane was shot down during aerial combat with two German fighter planes. America had not yet even entered the war.

Alumni petitioned the university to honor this somewhat unlikely hero and UVA dropout as a model of courage and self-sacrifice. A press release from President Alderman’s office dated June 23, 1919 says, “There was a certain singular quality of heroism in the circumstances of his devotion and death that make a great appeal to the students and alumni of the institution.” Gutzon Borglum, the Danish-American sculptor best known for the monumental carving of the presidents on Mount Rushmore, was commissioned to create the memorial.

I imagine this quirky representation of McConnell as Icarus, gave pause to the administration when it was unveiled in 1919. In a letter written to a friend, President Alderman’s relief that there was no public outcry at the ceremony is palpable: “…what I think will amaze you is that practically everybody is enthusiastic about it.”

Armistead Dobie, the judge and UVA law professor who accepted “The Aviator” on behalf of the university described McConnell with these words at the statue’s unveiling: “To me the most characteristic trait of Jim McConnell’s nature was a hatred of the humdrum, an abhorrence of the commonplace, a passion for the picturesque.” (University of Virginia Alumni News, Vol. VII, July 1919, Number 12, p. 252).

Over the years the statue has been called an unseemly eyesore and there have been calls for its removal, but I’m guessing that McConnell would have heartily approved of the tribute.

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“Girls don’t play soccer…” – !

When I was my daughter’s age, I was woefully uncoordinated. Not only was I devoid of any shred of athletic ability, I grew up in a family that didn’t play or watch sports. P.E. class felt like torture. It was just assumed that kids had a baseline knowledge of sports such as baseball or basketball. But I didn’t even know that you aren’t supposed to run with the ball in basketball. In the highly unlikely event that a baseball bat I was wielding would ever make contact with the ball, I wouldn’t have had any idea in which direction I should run. I was clearly such a hopeless case that eventually my P.E. teacher would let me go to the playground, rather than participate in his class.

For some reason, one day I got it into my head that I might try soccer. When I asked my mom and dad if I could join the kid soccer league, they told me, “Girls don’t play soccer.” Remember: this was decades ago, and my parents are from Korea, where girls, in fact, still don’t play soccer. I let it drop without a fuss.

Fast forward to today…My 7 year old daughter is well into her fifth season of soccer. In her very first season, we realized she was pretty good. Here she is celebrating her 7th out of 10 goals with her best buddy. (I think the score was something like 12 to 2).

Recently, we were discussing what she wanted to be for Halloween. “I’m going to be Abby Wambach!” she said in a sudden burst of inspiration.

“Abby Wombat?” I asked. I thought this must be some animated  t.v. character I wasn’t up on.

English: Common Wombat (Vombatus ursinus tasma...

She looked at me in disbelief. There was an unmistakable note of pity and maybe even a little bit of disgust in her voice, “Abby Wambach?! U.S. Women’s soccer team?!

Yeesh. Whatever, kid.

Yesterday evening I went to pick her and her brother up at the soccer field, where her 10 year old brother was having his practice. Her brother plays for a boys’ U-12 (under 12 years old) “challenge” team that you have to try out for. Usually I find her off to the side kicking around a soccer ball or watching the action on the field.

This is what I saw yesterday. The light was dim, and I only had my camera phone, but I snapped away…See the little blur in the black and white soccer shirt and turquoise skirt? Yep, that’s my girl, holding her own with the big boys:

And here’s the funniest part. I still don’t really know how to play soccer, but look:
Oh, and my mom and dad are very proud of their soccer-playing granddaughter!

Email du jour

It’s been pretty dark around here lately. I’m going to try to correct course and steer towards the light with this one…

If I’m being brutally honest with myself, I’d have to admit that my husband and I are really pretty lousy at communicating with each other. Here’s a case in point:

With three kids playing soccer, we go through shin guards like they’re going out of style. It got to the point where we were down to one mismatched pair that one kid would wear and then hand off to the next kid, who would strap on the steaming hot, moist shin guards to wear for another sweaty, stinky hour of hard soccer-playing. This went on for weeks, but neither Colin nor I could muster the will to do anything about it.

A few Saturdays ago, we went straight from the soccer field after the last game of the day up to Arlington to visit my parents. We all suffered through a long two and a half hour drive with wavy fume lines rising from those poor, overused shin guards. It’s a miracle that we didn’t all pass out. The second we arrived, the car doors flew open and we all hurled ourselves out of the minivan as if it were on fire. I held the offending shin guards with thumb and forefinger at arms’ length and flung them out onto the screened in porch at the back of the house to air. Of course, I forgot all about them when we left the next day.

Obviously, it was time to face the music. I went to the soccer store during my lunch hour the next day and bought five pairs of shin guards. I joked to the cashier that I hoped they might last through this season. She smiled sympathetically and said, “Yeah, a father was just in here earlier today, doing the exact same thing. He bought extra pairs to keep handy in the car.”

Have you guessed it? Yes. That was my husband. Anybody need two or three or nine pairs of shin guards?

This could all so easily have been avoided had we taken the time to send each other a quick email. With our busy schedules, we do a lot of our communicating by email these days. Most of the emails revolve around the complicated choreography that takes place on a daily basis to make sure our three kids, (ages 12, 10, and 7) get to their soccer practices, music lessons, play dates, or whatever else happens to be on tap that day. A couple mornings ago as I was leaving the house, Colin was trying to explain to me where I should go to see him moderate a debate for the ten free minutes I would have after a committee meeting I had to attend and before a talk I had to give. “Just email me!” I called back to him as I rushed out the door in what was ultimately a fruitless bid to get two out of the three kids to school on time.

While these little, but necessary informational exchanges form the bulk of our communication via email, sometimes more important information gets relayed electronically as well.

Here, for example, was the information I sent to Colin by email just a few days ago:

(Subject line): I forgot to tell you…

(Text of message): Nicholas wants to take a gap year to join a commune.

After this week of sadness and turmoil…I’m thinking maybe we’ll just all join him there. Hope your weekend is wonderful. Peace out.