Put a compass point on my house and trace a circle with a radius of 5 miles and I do not like to go outside that line.  Therefore Virginia is like a foreign country to me.  Land of Republicans, guns, drive through liquor stores and cheaper gas – I let stereotyping take me far.  Despite it’s more conservative reputation, VA actually provides much more in disability services than MD.   My VA Rett friends have gotten home/car modifications and childcare in the form of nurses showing up at their doorstep (although I know funding is drying up and so these things are harder to get).  So I know I can be wrong about VA.  What gives, MD?  Plus, my most, most liberal friend does live in the heart of VA.  So maybe I’m totally wrong.

In the past week, I’ve been to Virginia four times.   Traversing the Beltway during rush hour is not something that I’m used to.  I’m not even really used to driving a car.  It’s been a little bit out of my comfort zone.

The last time I went to VA was yesterday.  My pal, Vickey, bought her dream house and I went to get the full tour.  I mostly admired the curtains her mom made for her.  I think I might need to hire her mom to make some curtains for me.  Vickey has a toddler and the curtains in his room have blackout fabric sewn into the backing of the curtain.  It occurred to me that I could do that for Edda so she won’t wake up so early in the summer.  Of course, I could have thought of it 10 years ago when I had Edda.  Or even 12 years ago when I had Vince.  I’m a little behind on my to-do list.

Above:  Charlotte, the dog, getting a post-muddy-walk bath in the brand new sink in the brand new kitchen in the brand new house.
Below: Goat eating the vegetation on a patch of forest in Vickey’s community – they are using goats instead of herbicide.

Casual Meals with Edda, Vincent & Doris

Rena thinks I have been cooking meals for so long.  So, she decided to invite Jeremy’s folks to have meals together over the weekend.  Too bad, we don’t know that Jeremy is out of town.

Eventually, we had a curry-chicken yesterday and today we had pizza without Vincent.  The food was pretty simple but, it made time for us to talk quietly together.

May be, it should happen more often as time goes by, I think.  I like boating and fishing a lot.  But, for various reasons, these activities remain a remote dream for me, especially with closed ones.  Hopefully, I can still make up some lost time with ???

Tomorrow, I have to head back to Oak Ridge, TN and start working though Rena’s elbow still requires attention.  Hopefully, she can manage herself.  I will head back to Washington DC four days later to be with Rena again during next weekend.  I will keep coming back until her elbow heals.

Edda’s concert

Yesterday, I went to Edda’s 4th grade choral concert.  There were perfomances during the school day for the other grades and in the evening for parents.   Edda (and I) skipped the evening performance – Edda’s teacher would have had to come in during the evening (she was happy to do it and offered it kindly) – but something about being surrounded by ten thousand excited parents with iPhones and iPads aloft would have been too much for me (although maybe not, it’s always hard to predict).

Anyways, during the day, I could touch base with all the staff that works with Edda everyday.  I don’t go into school very often and Edda’s been at the same school since kindergarden, so I like to head in when I have occasion to do so.  I asked all of them if they were working this summer and none of them are, they are all taking a well-deserved break. “Two weeks left!” – like a mantra.

Always beforehand, with these things, I fully expect to feel sad.  And I do.  But Edda’s teachers and aides were all so clearly happy and excited for Edda and rushed up to me when I was walking down the hall towards the classroom. They told me that Edda was so happy all morning for the performance and that she was excited that I was coming to watch.  It’s hard to feel so melancholy among other people’s excitement.  So I was really that odd mix of happy and sad at the same time.  Bittersweet?  I don’t like that that word starts with bitter.  Sweetbitter?  Not that either.  Someday I will find the right word.

There is something odd about a choral concert for a kid who can’t talk.  There were some instrumental sections – that was Edda’s part – Ms. Z helped her hold castanets and shake them with the beat and Edda was happy and pleased.  She does love a good song.

Fourth grade!  Time goes by so quickly.  I remember when Edda was little like this guy (he’s being held by one of Edda’s former teachers):


Right after Dave left, Denise (au pair #3) came to visit us for a few days.  Ah, Denise! It was so nice to see her.  We went to the zoo, a yoga class, got our nails done and a few lunches.  What would I do without the kind, caring people who take care of Edda? I would stress out a lot more.  I enjoy being a stand-in mom to these girls.  Denise is starting the process of getting a motorcycle licence.  I told Denise sternly to not get a motorcycle.  It’s the motherly thing to do.  I think she might have listened.  Maybe not, I can only try.

A few photos from the zoo.  Memorial Day at the National Zoo.  It was hot.  The parking lot was full and cars were being directed away – but with Edda we managed a spot right near the front entrance.

Running through the cooling sprinklers.

Hello prairie dog!

Jeremy and Edda watching the sea lion (?) otter (?) walrus (?) manatee (?).  I dunno.  Oh!  And we did see the baby panda.  He was a small bundle of fur high up in a tree.


I’m a bit overextended these days.  Lots of stuff going on (nothing bad, all good) – but I just have to keep it from overwhelming me.  I have to remember to take care of myself first.  You know, oxygen mask on yourself and then the people around you. Which, for me, means to get more sleep.  Hopefully starting tonight.

Dave: the smartest guy in the world.

Dave, our good pal from grad school, came all the way from San Diego to visit us.  He was in town for a conference on Wed-Friday and spent a good part of the weekend with us.  Dave is not only the smartest guy I know (although I did see him struggle to figure out the tip on the dinner bill.  no matter.  he’s still the smartest guy ever.), but he’s also one of the funniest.  We dug up 20 year old jokes and laughed and laughed.

Dave went with us on our first date (this was wayyy before anyone had cell phones).  Our class at Caltech had a tradition of going out to cheap second-run movies on Thursday nights.  We had a friend who was trying to set Jeremy and me up, so he sent word around that on this one particular Thursday night, no one was to show up at the meeting place – in that way, Jeremy and I would head to the movie alone.  Everyone got the message – except Dave.  So he was there on our first date.

It was a beautful weekend for ice cream and a walk.

And a neighborly fire pit.

Complete with sparklers.

The next morning, Dave showed us his famous Grandma Devine’s pancake recipe.  Vince modified it by pouring it over a strip of bacon.


Mom had surgery on her broken elbow today.  Mom broke her arm less than 48 hours into their vacation to Turkey.  She also managed to knock loose her two front teeth.  After a stop in the ER in Istanbul, Mom and Dad both headed back to DC.

So now there are screws or plates or braces in her elbow.  I brought some flowers, ice cream and a SpongeBob balloon.  Everything is better with a little ice cream.

Black tie.

My advisor from Caltech, Frances Arnold, was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame last night at the USPTO.  When she first posted about the honor on Facebook a few months ago, I promptly said that I would go because the ceremony was in the lobby of my office building.  I thought it was going to be an afternoon ceremony with cookies.  I haven’t been to the physical office in over eight months.  I could go in, go to the ceremony and pick up a ream of paper and a few boxes of toner.  Then three weeks ago, I found out that it was going to be a black tie affair.  Yipes.  Engineers and black tie events are not really suppose to overlap.

Jeremy rented a tux from Men’s Wearhouse.  I rented a dress from Rent the Runway.  It was a lot of fun – we rode the Metro, showed off a little at Jeremy’s office (where we told everyone we were going to prom) and posed for pictures in Farragut Square.

We look pretty good, huh?

I enjoyed the ceremony more than I thought I would.  I met a number of Frances’s family and friends and they were an interesting bunch.  It turns out that France’s older brother was working at AMD when Jeremy joined in 1997 and was Jeremy’s boss’s boss for a few months.

I sat next to Edith Flanigen – she invented the field of zeolites at Union Carbide.  She started working there in 1950s.  Doesn’t the name Union Carbide just conjure up a company full of white, male scientists?  I asked her if it was hard being a woman chemist at Union Carbide in the 50s and she simply said, no that she didn’t think it was that hard.    She said that once she was asked to make coffee and she just looked at the man and said, “I don’t do that.” and that was it.  Go, Edith.

Next to Edith at our table was Helen Free.  She invented this little thing called glucose test strips.  She also had six children.

At the end of the evening, they introduced all the past inductees.  They included the people who invented the MRI, Post-It notes and implantable defibrillator.  I know it’s a little dorky, but it was like being at the nerd prom, the Oscars of engineering.  I was swooning a little bit.  Who knew all these people could be in one room at the same time!  With me!

Finally, a tricky trick – some of these photos are taken with the fancy camera, some are taken with a phone.  Can you tell which one is which?

Double camping weekend.

Not only was Vince gone camping this weekend, Jeremy was too!  He went with his friend, Ben.  Jeremy ate a lot better than Vince – listen to this:  for dinner, Jeremy had rockfish coated with blue corn meal fried in bacon fat, cous cous and a green salad and for breakfast the next day, he had a salmon and asapargus omlet.  Jeremy certainly ate better while camping than I did at home.

Vince has a funny way of packing for a camping trip.