Monday, May 31, 2010

Day 3.141: Memorial Day Cook-out

Exile #2 - Ballet

The day began with the parade.  Once again, Exile #2 accompanied the veterans, fire departments, school sports teams and local government dignitaries in the parade.  This year the MOPS group she helps organise has been doing a series on 'Life on Planet Mom', so they brought some planets with them.

Meanwhile we watched from the sidelines as the innumerable people and a few shiny fire trucks went by:

Those fire trucks have very shiny wheels

There are more of my parade pictures here.

Afterwards, we joined our next-door neighbours at the next house down where we had a great cook-out while the kids of the three households had a blast. Conversation and food were good and the five hours we were there flew by.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Day 3.140: Contents may vary

Obviously E5N1 was not the original contents. They were more predictable, but still had some surprises for me. The fittings brought new levels of organisation to 'some assembly required' Here is the front and back of the fittings pack (both sides labelled) and one of the actual structural pieces with some helpful pointers.

Here is the finished article, packed up for the night after a successful first outing at lunchtime today.

Next on the agenda is some serious smoking - but I will need to set aside a few hours for that.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Day 3.139: Yeah, dig this!

It may have only got up to 79°F today - a welcome relief after the recent extreme weather, but the cool-off did not discourage the kids from requesting some cooling backyard fun this morning. Enter the Slip'n'Slide.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Day 3.138: Hummingbird. Dancing. Girls.

We were up at school again this morning (they barely give us a day off at the end of the school-year). It was show-of-work day for both of the girls. I will share more of what they showed us another time, but for now, here is one high-point for each of them.

Here is Exile #4 with her page on the ruby-throated hummingbird in the wonderful class pop-up book.

Exile #3's whole class did a fantastic Indian dance in assembly:

E5N1 (not to be left out) was declared 'adorable' again by his middle-school fan-club and held court accordingly:

I'm proud of them all!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Day 3.137: "The Girls"

As long as I can remember, the phrase "The Girls" has had pride of place in my life. My two older sisters were the first holders of the title - and to this day are occasionally referred to in that way. My nieces (now 17 and 15) have had their hold on it for some time. However, it is these two who are now universally both here on the blog and in real life referred to as 'The Girls' especially to and for the benefit of E5N1 - and so, he takes my place and the cycle begins again.

And talking of E5N1, here he is meeting himself unexpectedly in the park last weekend.

A vision of how things could have been different if there had ever been a 'The Boys'!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Day 3.136: Hot & stuff

The temperature got up to the high 80's yesterday and E5N1 was having fun with the slide and the paddling pool. Today it reached 94°F and it was the sprinkler in next door's yard that helped the kids to cool off. Right now we are hearing some rumbles of thunder and wondering if we will have a disturbed night.

This evening we caught up on the finale of American Idol. Crystal, who we had been rooting for for some weeks ended up coming second to Lee - but in the end either of them was going to be a worthy winner and I think Lee needed the confidence boost more than Crystal did. It was a great results show tonight with Carrie Underwood being my surprise favourite performance of the night. She can sing for sure but is usually a bit 'country' for my taste  - she really rocked it tonight.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Day 3.135: Crashing the Tweet-up

I was very sad to miss the April Albany Tweet-up as I was on my way down to Washington D.C. for the TransFORM conference. It looked like I would miss the May one too right up until I heard at 6.15pm that my plans had fallen through. So I dragged my friend J along on the basis that we could crash the party, or if not, we'd still be in a bar where we could have a beer and grab something to eat.

In the end I got to say a real-world hello to @cassiecramer and @derryX renew an acquaintance with @tcrpmg and @Dozenroses13 which was cool. In the end however, we found ourselves having a great time hanging with the late-staying remnant of the group:

@JayMarzian, @ndkelly29, @AllThingsEllie, @HockeyJoeGM and, yes that's me, @the_exile

Which made for a very nice evening indeed.  Thanks guys!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Day 3.134: Uneasy peace


I just entered this picture in the current photography challenge in the K200D group at Flickr.  I love the way the scene looks so misty and peaceful.  I also like the way it looks slightly wrong.

Our future is still uncertain at the moment.  We may be leaving the U.S. in a couple of months - if so I will hopefully have a new job before too long which could very well take us somewhere new in the U.K. or elsewhere in the world.  The fact is that we have no idea.  People ask me if that is stressful.  Yes, but unevenly so - there are moments of peace like this woodland scene, but even in those moments the unease is never far away - like the world is about to be turned upside down.  Or maybe it already has been.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Day 3.133: Ticks and stones

Yesterday Exile #3 was determined to conquer these monkey bars at the Saratoga Spa State Park. On the third or fourth attempt she succeeded with sore hands but a very large sense of accomplishment. This morning she was similarly thrilled to swim a length of the training pool without any assistance.

We were all swimming - Exile #4 is also gaining in strength and confidence and E5N1 had a ball, throwing a hoop and jumping in (with a hand held) to retrieve it.

During the swinging yesterday, Exile #4 and E5N1 were playing nearby in a small stream.

The main activity was selecting 'special' stones from the stream-bed and lining them up.

At some point E5N1 was staring fascinated at his shoe. Exile #2 saw him and wondered what he was watching, "What is it - a bug?". "No, it's a teeny crab!". She immediately guessed - correctly - what it was he was watching: a tick - the first time we had seen one pre-bite - and a good reminder to keep up checking each other for them regularly.

Day 3.132: Know where? Yes Yaddo!

We have had a varied and rewarding day. It started with Exile #2's desire to go somewhere we'd never been before, which turned into a visit (thanks to Small-bany) to the Yaddo Gardens. As you can see E5N1 couldn't wait to run around the paths and up and down the stairs. Lots of volunteers were working in the gardens and he enjoyed a few friendly interactions with them too.

It is far from the seasonal peak of the garden - the roses were only just starting to bud, the pools and fountains were empty and the statues encased (presumably for winter protection). Having said that, it is a magical place and much of it was in glorious (if small-scale) flower - much to Exile #4's delight. She made me take pictures of flowers in the borders, a tiny strawberry clinging to a rock and two types of tiny blooms in amongst the blades of grass. I'm glad she did.

But it was Exile #3 who probably loved the visit the most - she was content to walk around taking it in with her mother (while I took photos of course).

The gardens although lovely, are fairly small - so we moved on across Saratoga Springs to the Saratoga Spa State Park for a picnic, but I'll save that tale for another day.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Day 3.131: Spring-box

You know what to do (mouse-over or click!)

We watched yesterday's season-finale of Fringe tonight - such good acting and such a OMG-here-comes-season-3 moment at the end.

Talking of Spring (which I kind-of was way up in the title), it's been 85°F today - not exactly seasonable - not that I'm complaining after the bursts of overnight frosts divided by maximum temperatures in the 40's which were the way it was going a couple of weeks ago.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Day 3.130: It's in the bag!

After work today, I dashed up to school for 'Project Night' - another chance for the kids to show off their work and then have a crazy run-about time before being dragged home to bed.

The girls both had some very cool stuff to show us - but the best thing had been taken home by Exile #4 earlier in the day. This is it - a fantastic little bag that she made.  So cool!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Day 3.129: Something old, something blue...

I'm really tired after a day spent doing a customer demo interspersed with trans-atlantic troubleshooting, so I'm going to keep this short.

Exile #3 was full of beans on Sunday - here she is disappearing down the hill.

And here is a picture I'm now using as my desktop wallpaper. Feel free to join me - click on it to get the big version then if you right-click on it you can probably set it from there or do 'save as' and then open it and try the same trick. Let me know if you do!

And so to bed.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Day 3.128: Hanging out

I left work at lunchtime today to spend the afternoon hanging out with E5N1. Exile #2 was exhausted and sick and seriously in need of a break. It was a good time for all of us.

Kathy Escobar

This evening we had a church leadership get-together and watched Kathy Escobar's session from TransFORM together - if you're interested you can see it too here. Kathy's bit is from 30 minutes in. She talks for about 40 mins and then there is a bit of group discussion followed by her closing thoughts and some questions. She talked about the reality of living in community - how it is great, but hard, how we can't expect 'success' as it has traditionally been measured, but we can hope to see lives changed for the better.

Pretty much everyone who commented afterwards said "I agree with everything she said...but it's hard!" Yep - she calls the process 'downward mobility' and contrasts it with her ambitions for a well-paying job and nice middle-class friends etc. but, as she reflects, "It's so freakin' pretty down there!"

I think what she means - her 'vision' for her community, as in what they have in common (indeed as she puts it all they have in common) - is the desire for it to be a place to practise:
Loving God, loving other people, and loving ourselves.
And being loved by God, being loved by others, and learning to love ourselves.
I think it will serve pretty well as a statement of what we are trying to do too.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Day 3.127: Growing up (growing down)

E5N1 is in the process of saying goodbye to diapers (not nappies). He has been making good progress despite not being as ready and motivated as Exile #4 was when she went through the process as soon as we got to the US, nor as consistently treated as Exile #3 was when she went through it just before she turned two years old and her baby sister was born.

Anyway, here are some pictures of him looking fiercely independent during our walk yesterday.

Which just leaves me to explain the title. No punning today, but I will share the words to this piece of beat-poetry.  Well, this is how I hear it and it's at least as close as any other rendition I can find on the Internet.  I love the journey of the lyrics, the twists in each verse and the repeated structure. I particularly like the wine/water verse - many pregnancies have been discovered by sudden alcohol intake reduction, but I'd never have thought that offering or serving someone wine could be taken as an insult. Wake up to being a mother - and not a child.

The Blue Aeroplanes: Growing Up, Growing Down
(G. Langley / A. Bruschini)
©1992 Ensign Records
(Hopefully if they find it, they will consider this homage 'fair use', if not I will remove it!)
Wake up this morning to say goodnight again
Give me your sleeping hand
Shake up your clothes, mine
Say, "Coffee?"
Say, "A letter for you."
Say, "Rescue me!"
Have a heart child - we're on the adult bus in an hour and working.

There are worse things than words, you know
But you wouldn't believe it to hear some people talk.

Wake up, it's Christmas morning
All the parents are gone and the children aren't here yet
Say, "Have a drink," and
Say, "Open this one first!"
Say, "Duty calls!"
Have a heart child - wrapping it's the hard part.

Well, wake me up to go to sleep again
Wake up, there's been a hit-and-run
Broken glass everywhere
Say nothing, it's obvious what's going on here
Say, "This street's never been the same since Kennedy died!"
Have a heart child - you weren't even born.

So wake up and let me tell you
When are we gonna see the big bright tonight?
Say, "Now why would he give you the wine and me and water?"
Have a heart child - he thinks I'm driving.

Ah, wake up, wake up to the morning nausea
Wake up to death in life
Wake up to being a mother and not a child
Say, "If this is life give me breakdancing!"
Say, "If this is art give me television!"
Say child, do you think we should have a heart to heart?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Day 3.126: Last chance to see?

We went to do one of our often repeated walks at John Boyd Thacher State Park today. We first went to this part of the park back on Day 101 and have been there many times since including with most of our visitors.  We had a great walk today - I only had to carry E5N1 for two short stretches - apart from that, he walked, stomped and ran with the best of us.

As we were leaving, there were no parking spaces available and a steady stream of soon-to-be disappointed drivers were arriving.  The scenes at the overlook were unlike any we had ever seen (with the possible exception of firework-time on the Fourth of July) with cars parked in every possible place.

Great though it was to see such crowds enjoying the simple outdoor pleasures of the area that we so love, the reasons are not so happy.  The park will close tonight.  The governor has proposed cuts to the park budget that requires the closure of several state parks including this one.  The legislature has passed a bill to hold-back this particular drop in the budget deficit ocean, but has so far failed to pass a budget, so the closures go ahead as planned.

We can only hope that this situation is very short-lived especially if this weekend's frenetic activity on the Helderberg Escarpment has reawakened people's love of the great outdoors.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Day 3.125: Building bridges

Not metaphorical ones. I actually spent the morning building bridges. Mostly by carrying very heavy logs around.

Some of them were over mud (thanks to locals for the camera-work).

(Someone will turn them over and fix them together in pairs - but they were found to be a bit dangerous to leave the 'right way up' by someone walking on them and then falling flat in the mud. That someone was me.)

And others were the more traditional kind.

Rewarding but tiring work. I later fell asleep in the (parked) car - what a lightweight!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Day 3.124: Swallow - hard!

I love attempting to take photos of birds in flight. This is a huge challenge and one that usually leads to crippling disappointment. A couple of weeks ago we found ourselves surrounded by swooping swallows. I dutifully got my camera out. Not a single photo came out well.

Not a single photo.

But when I put a few of them together, I kind of like it.

By the way, if you're in the mood for more words, why not try the post at All Over Albany that I linked to yesterday? Well, let's just say that I've linked to it in yesterday's post. Yesterday if you clicked on 'an article' it linked to the Pepperoni Sandwich Song - which is fun too - but it was an accidental E5N1-esque rickroll. The actual article is full of my words and pictures (including E5N1) just like this place - but is song-free.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Day 3.123: Blog stars

Much though I would like to, I cannot ever imagine describing myself as a writer or as a photographer, but somewhere along the way I did start to do some writing and take some half-decent photographs.

In the past week, I have had some of my photos published in a local paper and written a popular but controversial article for the church website. Today I had an article published in local uber-blog All Over Albany. You can go and read it - it's part of what we did on Day 3.119 (also known as Mother's Day).

Now I think my plans for world domination can take a back-seat for a while.  I need to get some sleep!