Family Time

January 5, 2015

We had a great a visit with family and friends back in Maryland but also got tangled up in appointments and extra chores that we had not planned on doing. That’s just the way life rolls. At least nobody drove into us this year. I’m not sure we’d have fared well in the tiny little clown car the rental company considered a compact. It was small enough to hide behind every other car in those big, holiday shopper packed parking lots. We spent a lot of time looking for it. Its only saving grace was that it was bright red so it stuck out once you got close enough to spot it. It was fun watching my 6’4″ tall son fold himself into it. That only happened once, then he drove any other time we were all together.

Our visit started at National Airport where we surprised our granddaughter when she returned from a trip to Florida. We landed an hour before they did so we wandered around and got something to eat. John commented on the armed security wandering through and that was the first I consciously noticed them. They were uniformed and carrying M16’s. Huh. You know you’ve lived in the DC area too long when people wandering around with semi-automatic weapons doesn’t even really register. I saw them, but they were just more people moving around the airport. They weren’t hurrying and didn’t give the impression they were on high alert so my brain didn’t even blip. I DID notice the K-9 drug dog. He seemed to be off duty and was walking the airport with his human partner and some other people. He passed us several times but really came to my attention while we waited for Chloe to appear on our side of the security gate. We stood in a group of people with our carry on bags sitting against our legs. I had tucked a really cute little stuffed sea otter under the straps of my bag to surprise Chloe. I saw the dog start to pass us then his head snapped over as he focused on the stuffed toy. Boy was he giving off happy dog vibes. He angled right over to my bag and stuck his face down on the sea otter. I kept telling him NO, that is not a chew toy. NO, you can’t have that. His human partner finally heard me, looked over and pulled him in, laughing.

Stuffed baby sea otter

Stuffed baby sea otter – sooo cute but NOT a chew toy

Someone commented later that we were lucky they didn’t take the toy, the bag, and us for a little drug inspection. The dog didn’t give the “found drugs” signal so that was good. My sister said if he had been smart, he would have signaled for drugs and then maybe he could have kept the toy. Too late for that. Chloe was just as thrilled as the dog when she spotted the toy and snuggled it… then she looked up and asked, “Why is it wet?”… Welllll, a little dog spit never hurt anybody. Lucky it was snugged under the strap or that K-9 officer would have swiped it. I can just imagine his human partner looking down and saying “Hey, where did you get that?”

We made it back to the house without further incidents and had good quality family time. We made those cute little chocolate mice, decorated gingerbread cookies and went to the National Zoo to check out Zoo Lights.

Making gingerbread cookies

Making gingerbread cookies

Gingerbread cookies ready to eat

Gingerbread cookies ready to eat

Happy granddaughter and grandpuppers on Christmas morning

Happy granddaughter and grandpuppers on Christmas morning

Cocoa gingerly opening her gift

Cocoa gingerly opening her gift

Cocoa, the wonder dog, opened her gifts very carefully and was even will to open ours when asked. She wasn’t quite as excited about opening a package of socks as she was with the doggie treats but seemed ever hopeful that the next gift would be edible. Once more family arrived, we tested out one of Chloe’s gifts by getting into a cut-throat game of Mustache Smash. Chloe would give the order “Mustache UP” before flipping a card so we could all frantically whack at it with the suction cups on our mustaches. Good times and a few bruised knuckles came courtesy of a kid’s game.

Moustache Smash family photo

Moustache Smash family photo

We helped Chloe get started on riding her new “big girl” bicycle and somehow she sweet talked us into getting her “snuggly bed” out of storage (note: Grandparents are suckers – and the kids know this). The clown car was not going to cut it for transportation so our nephew and his fiancee brought their pick up truck up on New Year’s Eve and helped load everything up and get it back to our son’s house. Amazingly, we quickly found all but one little metal cam that we were able to get from Ikea (thank you Aunt Dawn for that lifesaving Ikea run). John and I finished assembling the bed just as the clock struck midnight. Happy New Year! We were actually awake for it and celebrated our bed-building success… just before we crawled into our own bed and passed out. Ah, celebrating New Year’s Eve isn’t like the old days. We’re both good with that.

Chloe told us that she really, really wanted the bed so she could set up the reading nook underneath but a few other comments clued us in on another reason – more room for sleepover guests. Poor Daddy. He’s in for some very long, noisy nights… and will probably be getting a lot of child-applied facials and pedicures. When Chloe returned from her New Year’s eve sleepover, she squealed when she spotted the bed and immediately grabbed a book and crawled into her special nook to read. Chip, her 100 lb love muffin pit bull, crawled right in after her and settled down for his bedtime story. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the picture of Chloe, Daddy, Cocoa, AND Chip all snuggled in for story time. THAT would have been an awesome family photo.

Chip and Chloe in their reading nook

Chip and Chloe in their reading nook

Aha! I heard some of you cringe at the words “pit bull”. Chip and Cocoa are both very good dogs. Chip is actually one of Cocoa’s puppies. They found him a good home as a tiny puppy but he wound up back at the pound when the (somewhat foolish) owner was told that her no-pet apartment did not allow dogs (well, duh – she thought she could hide him?) Our son bailed him out of the pound (several hundred dollars) and found him another good home. All was well for the next five years until Hurricane Sandy sent him to a shelter in Philadelphia and they detected a tracking chip in him with our son’s phone number (apparently put there by the first shelter). Long story short, our son drove to Philadelphia and bailed him out again (several hundred dollars). We searched online for his owner but he could have come from anywhere and we couldn’t find a lost dog listing for him. The shelters were shifting animals away from the devastated areas on the coast and there was no record of how he wound up in Philadelphia. The hunt began to find him a good home locally, but no luck. He’s a good dog, but he’s a big dog and since people do bad things to pit bulls, no random takers were considered. They had to be sure he would get a good, loving home and not some fighting pit. So, Chip has stayed and become Chloe’s snuggle buddy. He isn’t fond of the reindeer ears, princess tiaras and tu-tu’s that she puts on him but he takes it all in stride. His favorite girly game is tea party. He and Cocoa sit patiently in their tiaras waiting for the “tea” to be poured into their thimble size cups and the one little cracker to be laid on their plates. They sit drooling on the floor while they watch Chloe for the signal that they can eat before they slurp down the cracker. Cocoa is pretty good at getting her tongue into the tiny teacup for the water but Chip just doesn’t have that level of high society social skills. He sticks with the cracker… and maybe gets a little licky licky in on your cracker if no one is looking.

Snowless dog sledding

Snowless dog sledding

Now Chip has a very deep bark. He is a good watchdog and investigates any odd sounds around the house at night… like Grandma getting up early and going into the kitchen to make coffee. I heard Chip doing his “I’m going to eat you” bark as he flew down the stairs and around the corner ready to face down the burglar. He spotted me and hit the brakes so hard he slid. Then he hung his head and looked sheepish. It seems someone forgot Grandma was visiting. He quickly changed from the watchdog bravado to his favorite, friendly “rub my belly” posture. There was no more barking at Grandma after that one oops.

Chloe's snuggly bed

Chloe’s snuggly bed

Enough about dogs – back to the bed. For those parents or grandparents out there setting up a room for the children, the beloved bed is an Ikea bed named “Kura”. It reverses from a low bed for little ones to a not-too-high bunk bed that just might go to college with her. We took the bed apart for storage over a year ago and put all screws, cams, pegs, tools and the all-important instructions into a zipper baggie so we could easily reassemble it.

Chloe's bed

Chloe’s bed – the safe, comfy, snuggly zone

We added more Ikea goodies: mattresses for both levels, wire “curtain rod” with clips, pink curtain panels, bright pink duvet cover over a fiberfill comforter (top bunk has heart duvet cover and pillow case), and a string of LED flower lights I “stitched” along the slats using red cord to avoid having the electrical wires running between mattress and slats. We also have two large pink flower lights to go on the wall but those aren’t up yet. It is definitely girly overload.

Chloe's reading nook

Chloe’s reading nook

Both levels have a clip on pink reading lamp. This save batteries since she used to sneak a book into bed and read by flashlight anyhow. Now there is a reading light ready no matter where she lands. We throw a bunch of pillows and stuffed animals into the nook and Chloe has her “special place” for reading or hanging out. The whole bottom of the bed glows pink. The curtains and duvets come in many colors so you don’t have to go with pink overload like we did. As a side note, the shimmery curtain panels are inexpensive and make great play silks. We have pink, blue, purple, and black and have been transformed into butterflies, bats, caterpillars, princesses, villains and anything else a creative mind can think up.

Here are a few shots from Zoo Lights. Panda Clause was in shadow so we couldn’t get a good picture of him dancing in the dark. Several of the zoo buildings stay open late for this event so we got to see many of the nocturnal animals toodling around. The crowds were extra small the night we were there because it was raining early on. It turned into a beautiful night and we really enjoyed wandering the zoo.

National Zoo's Zoo Lights

National Zoo’s Zoo Lights

Chloe with her "magic glasses" at Zoo Lights

Chloe in 3D glasses and panda ears at rainy Zoo Lights in DC

The visit was a success. We had a good amount of time with our son and granddaughter. We did not spend as much time with friends as we would have liked but we did get to see most of them for at least a bit. We hope to do better next time. Less appointments, less holiday prep, less stress. That’s our plan.

I was inordinately pleased when John said he enjoyed the trip but missed our wandering life. He was ready to get back to our camper house, the woods, the ocean, the road, the wandering. That is so awesome because so was I.


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