Weekend Snapshots 56


My daughter’s soccer team was playing in a pre-season tournament in Arlington this weekend. Serendipitously, The Wolves, a Pulitzer-nominated play about a girls’ high school travel soccer team, was having its final run this weekend at the Studio Theatre in DC. My sister got tickets for the three of us and we decided to tell my daughter only that she had a surprise in store.

I picked her up early from school on Friday to make sure we would beat the traffic and make it to DC on time. As we walked to the car, she asked, “So are you going to tell me now what the surprise is, or are you going to make me wait until we get there to find out?”

“You’re just going to have to wait till we get there,” I said, “But remind me…you’ve never had an allergic reaction to any anesthetics, right?”

She merely smirked and rolled her eyes at my clumsy attempt to throw her off the scent.


It took me to Ruckersville to come up with a second gambit: “Hey! You really like organ meat, don’t you?”

“What’s organ meat?” she asked me, not even looking up as she tap tap tapped away on her phone.

“You know…like, intestines, brain, heart, liver, kidney…,” I said, forcing down the wicked laughter that was bubbling up inside me.

“I’d gladly try organ meat,” the little saucepot replied serenely, not even glancing up from her phone, “but I haven’t yet had the opportunity to eat it.”

DAMMIT!” I cursed inwardly, frustrated by the girl’s infernal insouciance.

I brooded over the problem all the way up Route 29 until we reached Culpeper, when a devious idea began to form in my brain.

“You did remember to bring a fancy dress and your nice shoes, right?” I casually asked.

My girl whose standard uniform consists of sweatpants and a t-shirt dropped her phone and whipped her head around to look at me with a horrified expression: “Wait, WHAT?!


Ah, sweet victory!

“OK, you really got me that time,” she said. We collapsed in a paroxysm of laughter, and I could finally relax for the rest of the trip!

Our first stop was the W Hotel and the POV rooftop lounge:



Virgin Mojito!

Everything was delicious, but I’m going to dream about the Buñuelo Fritters for the rest of my life. They tasted like impossibly scrumptious, warm air.



The pop up “Museum of Contemporary American Teenagers” at the Studio Theatre


The play was amazing!


The tournament didn’t begin until the late afternoon, so we had all morning to relax…

Grandpa & Grandma tested out the new leg massage contraption their favorite son sent them…


Lunch at Rice Paper, Grandma’s favorite Vietnamese restaurant in the Eden Center in Falls Church:


My girl’s own cheering squad, including her grandparents, my sister, and my BFF, turned out in the bitter cold to root for her team…



The girls advanced to the finals with two wins under their belts.



Because of Daylight Savings, we woke up ten minutes before we had to leave for the first game of the day.

We raced out the door with my dad, who decided to play hooky from church to join us on the field. I can’t emphasize enough how exceedingly rare and hardly-to-be-believed-bordering-on-miraculous this was.


This man skipped church, sat in the freezing cold, and used a porta potty. Now that‘s true love.


Good thing they won!


Tournament Champs!



Weekend Snapshots 51

I was Hanging with the Harpies this weekend.


Harpy Sister #1 and I picked up Harpy Sister #2 at the train station and headed straight over to crash my book group, where we cackled long into the night.


Harpy #2 signed copies of her book Tiger Pelt at the Charlottesville Book Fair. We are bursting with pride that Tiger Pelt is on the short list for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize!


A couple of very special guests made a rare appearance to show their support…


They are grinning so hard their faces might crack.IMG_5893

Meanwhile in Richmond, my Harpy-in-Training was tearing it up on the soccer field. The first team they played awarded her a special ball at the end of the game:


How did you show great sportsmanship? I asked as I inspected her ball.

I was saving a ball and I collided really hard into the player who was trying to get it in, so I went over during half time to apologize and to make sure she was ok.

And what were your phenomenal saves?

Well, I tipped the ball over the crossbars once and everyone was cheering so I guess that was pretty good…Oh yeah, and I saved another ball with my face. All I can remember about that one was that it hurt.

I’m rather glad I didn’t witness that.


We began the first part of our trip to New Jersey where we’ll be spending the week with our family. IMG_5096

We are heading out for the next leg of our journey in just a few minutes…




It will always remain one of the great unfathomable mysteries of life how two people who heavily skew toward the neurotic produced this cool customer:

IMG_9588It’s been a stressful few weeks. I’ve been waking up repeatedly in the middle of the night for no good reason at all and have been finding it hard to get back to sleep. When I finally surrender to the day and get out of bed for good, I find I have to unclench my aching jaws.

One of the things that was causing me a certain amount of anxiety were the logistics of this past weekend. Two of the three kids had soccer tournaments in two different states. With my husband out of the country, I wasn’t quite sure how it was all going to shake out. I ended up taking my daughter to North Carolina and leaving the boys in Virginia so that my oldest son could play his games in Charlottesville, and so that he and his brother could take care of our ever-growing menagerie.

At the end of a rainy first day, my goalie ended up looking like this:FullSizeRender 4

The next morning we set out for the third game. As we walked toward the field I read a text message announcing that after another night of torrential thunderstorms, the whole tournament would be decided on penalty kicks – five per team.

“Do you think that’s a joke?” my daughter asked.

“I don’t think so,” I answered.

We watched an official attempt to prep the area by the goal. Again and again he pulled at the water with a large broom…a Sisyphean task if ever there was one.

A mother of a teammate came up to me and asked if my daughter was nervous. We both glanced over to find her doing a goofy dance with a grin on her face, her arms waving like noodles.

“Guess not!” I said. My stomach, on the other hand, was roiling with nerves. And I wasn’t the only one who was anxious. The parents formed a tense, fidgety row along the sideline as we watched our girls lining up to take their shots.

As my daughter squished her way to the box, you could see water coming out of her cleats, which were already soaking wet after just a few minutes of warm up.

She dove for the first ball and landed with an audible splash:


Photo by Forever Photography By Elissa 

She stood up, drenched with dirty rainwater and spitting out mud and bits of grass, but holding the ball she had saved.

Our cheers turned into laughter when she turned to look at me and shouted, “THAT WAS NOT WORTH IT!

Eventually, she took the fifth kick for her team. As she stepped up to the line, the referee kindly wiped the mud from her eyes before she took her shot:


Here’s mud in your eye!

She got her ball in, but her team lost the tournament. Was my girl sad?


I wish I could be as wholeheartedly fearless as this girl. I wish I could pick myself up after a fall with a rueful smile and a quip. I wish I could wring humor out of the most miserable of situations…When I grow up, my goal is to be just like my #1 goalie.


Ultimate Girls Weekend

When we brought this baby home, it became instantly clear that the family dynamic would change forever:


When she was just beginning to take her very first wobbly steps, I bought my daughter this walker so she could be more independent:


She was giddy with power. She soon began ordering her older sibling brothers to sit in the cart so that she could push them around…literally and figuratively.

“Sit DOWN,” she’d shout in an imperious manner.

The boys would meekly rush to obey her orders. Sometimes they would misunderstand her directives and the wrong person would sit down.

“NO!” she’d shout and point her finger at the designated boy, who would then scurry to take the place of the other.

Once when she was still a toddler, I was musing with my middle child about what he thought his little sister would be when she grew up.

“Oh, that’s easy! She’ll be a boss,” he said with no hesitation.

“A boss? A boss of what?” I asked.

“It doesn’t matter. A boss of anything. She’ll be really good at it.”

I spent the weekend in Richmond with the boss of our family for her team’s first soccer tournament of the year: the Ultimate Cup Girls Weekend. When we got to the hotel she read me the riot act when I tried to send some text messages.

“We have to be up at 5:30! It’s time to go to bed!”



Rallying the troops.



Between games we had a photo shoot-out…

The third game of the final went into an actual penalty shoot-out!


Ready for business.


Come at me.

After the opposing team’s first shot, she got to take the first penalty kick for her team.  During the car ride home, she told me: “I had to argue with the ref before she’d let me shoot. She kept yelling at me to get back next to the goal to wait for my turn to defend again. I kept explaining to her I’m taking the shot! I’m taking the shot! but she kept yelling at me to get back.”


Nobody puts baby in the corner.

She got her shot in and then got back to the business of defending her goal.img_3835img_3838img_3840img_3842

They won their game, but I think the stress probably took years off my life. img_3844img_3852

The girls lost the championship game, but they went home smiling anyway. img_2944

Our household is a benevolent dictatorship. And we like it that way.

Weekend Snapshots 43, or: The Ice Queen Cometh

My husband went to Scotland last weekend to give a talk at University of Edinburgh. He got to spend some time with our niece at her new school and he’s been able to check in on his parents in England. He’s also carved out a little time to do some hiking. It seems like he’s been gone for an eternity, a feeling that is only exacerbated when he texts me photos like these:img_7081


…complete with breathless, rapturous captions about the wondrous beauty he is experiencing.

We’re having much smaller-scale adventures at home. For example, on Friday my daughter spotted this in our backyard:

img_1683We think that rather fearsome bird perched on the run-in shed is a Red-tailed Hawk. I had never fully appreciated what the phrase “sitting duck” meant until recently. My daughter did not at all appreciate my observation that this would make Reason #927 for not getting the pet ducks she’s been pining for…

On Saturday I made shakshuka for the first time, which – miracle of miracles – everyone liked:


Oh, shakshuka, where have you been all my life?!

I adapted this New York Times recipe for the dish, substituting in ingredients we happened to have. (Sautée an onion, a bell pepper, and a few cloves of garlic. Season with salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, and cayenne. Add a carton of diced plum tomatoes and stir until sauce thickens. Stir in about a cup of crumbled feta or goat cheese. [I used a little of both]. Crack eggs over the mixture and bake in 375 degree oven for about ten minutes). The kids ate it all up with slices of buttery toasted sourdough bread.

On Sunday morning I picked up my daughter from a sleepover and we headed out to the field for her brother’s game. His team won by a large margin, but in the final moments they failed spectacularly at one attempt to get the ball into the net. A player kicked it from only about a foot away, but instead of going in, the ball got a little too much loft and improbably landed on top of the net.

How in the world did they not get that into the net?” my daughter spluttered, clutching her head in disbelief, “Grandma could have gotten it in!”

“Grandma’s Grandma could have gotten the ball in! I mean…”


She plumbed the depths of her wildest imagination to come up with an even more preposterous scenario: “I mean…YOU could have gotten it in.”

end of the middleTears of remorse sprung to her eyes as soon she saw the shocked expression on my face. Of course, they immediately turned into tiny little icicles…

Brrrrrr, that was cold, little Ice Queen, but I still love you anyway.

img_7072I’ll probably forgive Mr. Scotland too one day…

Weekend Snapshots 41


We set our alarms for 5 am. My oldest and youngest were playing in a soccer tournament this weekend in Lynchburg, which is about an hour and twenty minute drive from where we live. Getting up at the crack of dawn to drive to Lynchburg brought back a lot of memories. I used to teach Russian language and literature at what is now Randolph College, but back then was Randolph-Macon Woman’s College. I think I owe my life to audio-books, which kept me awake during the interminable drives back and forth. During the years I worked there, I had a constant eye twitch from fatigue that only went away when I stopped commuting. When I was pregnant with my first child, I would get so tired on the way back home, I would have to pull over at the Nelson County Wayside to have a fifteen minute cat nap before driving the rest of the way home…

My son’s first game was at 8 am, and he was supposed to be on the field by 7 am for warm up. Fortunately for their personal chauffeur and cheerleader, my children were playing at fields that were only a five minute drive away from each other.

We spotted this car on our way to dinner at the Depot Grille:


Another early start:

My daughter gave me a makeover while we were waiting for her brother’s game to start:

Both kids’ teams were knocked out, so they only played one game on Sunday. We went to lunch at the Liberty Korean Market and Restaurant, which is run by the parents of an alumna of the university where I now work:

My daughter declared their bulgogi the best she’d ever had!

After our huge Korean lunch, I found myself slipping into food coma on the way back home. Fortunately, the good old Nelson County Wayside was still there:

I closed my eyes for a few minutes to rest, with my son sitting in the passenger seat next to me. I thought about the last time I was here with him. Now he’s a strapping 6 foot 2 inch sixteen year old, but back then, he was just a little dream floating around inside me…

Mid-week Snaps

Pre-season training camp for soccer has started…After three hours of practice between the two of them, the kids go straight from the car to the backyard to practice some more.

IMG_0740IMG_0741Beta Bridge today…IMG_0743A brand new mural on the Corner, inspired by Rita Dove’s poem “Testimonial”:IMG_0745IMG_0747

We wandered around town for three hours this evening waiting for one kid or the other to be finished with soccer…In one of the two grocery stores we visited to kill time, we were in the checkout line when I heard my daughter ask, “Can we get this?” Without even looking, I reflexively said, “No” as I always do. But when I turned around and spotted what she had in her hand, I said: “I mean, YES!” They could have tasted like dirt, and we still would have had to buy these:IMG_0758And even though the only banana-flavored things I usually like are actual bananas, these tictacs are weirdly delicious!IMG_0760IMG_0755

Soccer Season Wrap-Up

My son’s early soccer days…

And at last weekend’s “Sunburn Tournament”…

Sunburn Tournament champs!

My daughter’s very first day of soccer

Guest playing for tournaments for the last two weeks in a row, in Richmond:

And at the Sunburn Tournament for her age bracket:

I didn’t get any medals myself, but I think we can all agree that I am the true winner of the Sunburn Tournament:



Weekend Snapshots 31


If you look down at your feet and it looks like this:

…you know it’s time for the Frostbite Soccer Tournament!

My daughter’s soccer team wasn’t participating in the two-day Tournament, but she and her friend were guest players for another team.

Later that evening it was time for my son’s piano recital:

I sang with him on his second piece – Georgia on My Mind.


We discovered that our pups were in our local weekly paper!

My industrious dogs never take a break from their labors…Here they are demonstrating their foot warming skills:

Back to business! Round 2 of the Frostbite Tournament…

A second place finish for the gold team…

Aaaaaand that’s a wrap!

Soccer Siblings

Soccer has been a huge part of our lives for so many years…

The kids have bonded over their shared love of the sport…

I’ve loved watching them play together any chance they could get.

It was especially entertaining to watch them play soccer in the driveway of our old house, which, like so many homes in Charlottesville, sits on a sloped lot. They developed some mad skills as they attempted to shoot goals into a net perched at the top of our steep driveway.

For years the kids have been cheering each other on from the sidelines, analyzing each other’s plays and offering up post-game commentary…

They’ve warmed each other up before games and during half times…

They’ve congratulated each other on games won, and commiserated with each other over games lost…

We’re down to two players now. After many years of playing…

…the 13 year old officially announced his retirement at the end of the season last year.

This season, my oldest son has been getting in his required service hours for high school by helping out with his little sister’s team:

On Saturday her team lost their first game in two seasons. It was a miserably cold and rainy morning. By the end of the game, my daughter was a sopping wet, muddy mess. We were all chilled to the bone after standing out in the rain for over an hour.

But for me, watching this pre-game warm-up drill made it all worthwhile: