Monday, July 30, 2007

Gender discrimination food for thought

This topic is always on my mind: how and when to negotiate for more.

This article kindof blew my mind and also reinforced what I think a lot of women know is true. Sure you can ask for more, but that may end up getting you less in other dimensions. It turns out that when a woman negotiates for more pay, the employer's opinion of the woman goes down. When a man negotiates for more pay, the employer's opinion of him is unchanged.

Two excerpts from the article:

"'What we found across all the studies is men were always less willing to work with a woman who had attempted to negotiate than with a woman who did not,' Bowles said. 'They always preferred to work with a woman who stayed mum. But it made no difference to the men whether a guy had chosen to negotiate or not.'"


"Women were less likely than men to negotiate when they believed they would be dealing with a man, but there was no significant difference between men and women when they thought a woman would be making the decision. The applicants, in other words, were accurately reading how males and females were likely to perceive them."

Wow. This is the kind of research that happens when you don't start with the assumptions that girls and boys are just different and we shouldn't bother questioning why. Very insightful.


I will post more soon but I wanted to quickly post to say that Rob's and my own donations combined with all of yours helped us meet our goal of raising $1000 for the Teb's Troops 5K on Sunday. It looks like the event itself raised about $40,000, which means we raised 1/40th of that! We were also the second highest fundraisers for the 5K. Whoo hoo! Thank you so much for your support. We were really proud to be such a big part of this event and it's all because of our awesome friends and family!

As for the run itself, we pretty much ran the full 3.1 miles. We walked just after the aid station at 1.6 miles to drink our water. Then I made Rob walk with me for about a minute at around 2.5 miles. We finished with an 11:45 mile pace, which is a bit faster than I run any significant distance on the treadmill. And we finished ahead of all the folks who walked (but not many who ran). I am proud to say that no strollers beat us though. So I consider it a success in multiple directions. Technically I crossed the line ahead of Rob, and they logged our times that way, but that's a little unfair since Rob could have easily finished in much less time without his slowpoke wife dragging him down! I told Rob after the race that he definitely has a nerd for a wife... seeing as I had to load up on allergy meds before the race (which didn't entirely work) and run carrying an inhaler. What an unathletic dork I am! Our future kids better get Rob's genes in the athleticism department.

In other news, the ACS convention was great fun. Made me wish I had some free time to do a bit more academic writing. It was also nice to see so many folks who I've gotten to know through the years because of ACS, as well as other friends, former co-workers, etc. I'll post later some more substantive things about the conference. There was a particularly great panel on the idea of "backlash" and whether Supreme Court rulings really ever lead to backlash or whether we just think they do. (The answer is generally the latter... who knew?) A couple of the panelists had some amazing things to say, which I took down verbatim. So I'll share them soon.

I have to admit, though, I was so glad to be home on Saturday night. Four days without seeing Rob -- way too much! I have no idea what we'll do when I'm doing a trial for a month in Alabama or somewhere else way far away. We're way too co-dependent these days. :)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Weekend adventures and soon off for more...

I've tried to post twice now in the past couple days, but I've been rejected either by or my laptop. If you've ever seen my laptop, you'd understand. The bottom left quarter of the screen flashes pretty much non-stop these days, which means if you're on the computer too long you can get a migraine. Just trying to keep the computer hanging on a couple more months though...

Anyway, my birthday was fantastic... and apparently way more people read this blog than I knew because I got more happy birthday emails this year than I have in a long time. I should make public announcements of my achievements more often!

Friday after work we jumped in a rented PT Cruiser. We don't trust the panda (our car, which looks like a panda, have we mentioned it before?) for long journeys, much like we don't trust my computer for long stretches computering. The drive to Saugatuck was pretty easy. About two and a half hours, but it would have been less had we not been leaving the city at rush hour on a Friday. We stopped at Taco Bell for dinner and had the friendliest drive-thru attendant in the world take our order. Seriously. Funny jokes, enthusiasm, and more. Cracked me up. Let's hear it for northern Indiana.

We got to our B&B in the late evening. It's called the Seymour House and they treated us very well all weekend. It was too dark to see much on the grounds when we arrived, but we were treated to delicious homemade cookies right away. After settling in, we jumped back in the car and headed into Saugatuck (we were a couple miles south) and wandered around a few of the stores that were still open. We bought a sweatshirt for Rob because it was rather chilly. We bought a wicked cool outdoor rug made entirely from recycled plastic that we're going to put on our deck. Then we got some of the best ice cream I've ever tasted at Kilwin's. The flavor was Saugatuck Mud, I believe. We also were amazed by the display case there, which includes chocolate dipped twinkies and caramel and chocolate coated rice krispie treats. Whoa. Back at the B&B we explored the shelves full of movies and picked the old Alfred Hitchcock movie Rebecca to watch. I like old scary movies because the style is different enough that I feel the suspense but don't get terrified like I do from today's scary movies.

The next day, after a fantastic homemade breakfast and some nice conversation with our fellow B&B guests including a gentleman from Louisiana named Scuddy, we wandered down the road to a small beach that's part of a county park, recommend by our B&B owners. Excellent recommendation because the beach was beautiful and we shared the space with just a dozen or so other people. We had brought with us some badminton rackets and birdies we'd picked up in Saugatuck and tried to play for a good while, but playing badminton on a windy beach means you can't ever really get a rally going. After we were done with the beach we went to a pick-your-own farm, Earl's Berry Farm, where we picked a ton of fresh blueberries. The farm also has an ice cream shop with homemade desserts. By this time it was mid-afternoon, so we decided to split a bowl of peach cobbler for lunch. It was out of the this world good. I told Rob that if we hadn't been in public, I totally would have licked the bowl. I kid you not.

We headed back to the B&B to change clothes and meet up with Resa and Nick who were soon arriving at a nearby B&B to chill with the birthday girl. Resa saved the day by arriving with a copy of the new Harry Potter book for me, which I had not been able to locate in the surrounding area. Phew!!!! (If you have not read the Harry Potter books, you must. They are so fun and so uplifting and so genuine. Sure there may be better literature out there, but if you're an adult whose love of reading traces back as far as you can remember, these books will bring you right back to that joy.)

Our foursome then set off to a nearby Michigan winery, which we were told was by far the best in the area. On our way Resa warned that Michigan wines aren't quite like Napa and Oregon wines. I don't have a very refined palate when it comes to wines, so I didn't think much of it. Then we tasted the wines. Oy. Some were very good, but others were truly awful. I mean really, really tastes-like-dirt awful. You get to pick 5 wines to sample off their list so I decided to try the five of the more expensive ones in hopes that I wouldn't get any bad ones. Not a winning strategy. But we did find a nice pinot grigio we all liked. We bought a bottle and enjoyed it outside in the vineyard's picnic area.

Then it was off to Saugatuck. We did a bunch of window shopping in the very fun and unique shops. We had dinner at Restaurant Toulouse, which was absolutely great. Rob, Resa and Nick had the waitress put a candle in my bread pudding and sung happy birthday to me. Awww. We spent the rest of the night at a piano bar in Saugatuck which Rob did not want to patronize with me the night before, but because it was my birthday, he was forced into submission on Saturday. It was a ton of fun -- I love singing along to cheesy music and Resa is the ideal partner for such an endeavor. Resa told the piano guy that it was my birthday, so I got another happy birthday song. Awww again. All in all it was an excellent evening. I couldn't have asked for a more satisfying birthday.

Sunday the four of us headed south a little to South Haven and were amazed by the gorgeous beach there as we strolled down the pier to the lighthouse. Then Resa and Nick headed to their friend's lake house in Indy while Rob and I hit the road. We stopped at the Michigan City outlets on the way back to pick up a few things for Portugal. Rob drove the whole way home so I could read Harry Potter (what an understanding husband!), although I did put the book down when we stopped at Steak 'N Shake for food. I love Steak 'N Shake.

We were home early evening on Sunday and we cannot wait to go back to southwestern Michigan. It's beautiful and peaceful. The stars at night are overwhelmingly bright. Everyone was friendly and seemed happy to meet you. It was a great weekend.

Now after just a few days home, I'm off to DC tonight for the ACS convention. I'm sneaking out early on Saturday though to get home in time to run the Teb's Troops 5K on Sunday morning.

Whew. That was a lot of updating to do! I'll do OP stats later, but I can give you a preview: I've been sitting on my butt while Rob's been kicking butt. And eventually I'll post a review of Harry Potter, which I finished on Monday. I'll put it behind a link or something so I don't give anything away in case any of you are fans!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Weekend plans and an important reminder!

How on earth is it possible that tomorrow I'm turning 31? I don't mean to imply that 31 is old. Rather that I feel far too uncertain about my life course to be reaching what seems to be an age where you should have a plan. I guess I do have a plan of sorts, but I'm not settled into it yet. My plan really doesn't start until I start at my law firm in September. But maybe that's enough -- to be very close to beginning my plan, even if I only know the first couple steps in the plan.

Anyway, tomorrow is the big day. I'll be a full year into my 30s. After work today, Rob and I are heading to the Michigan side of Lake Michigan for the weekend. We're staying at a B&B just outside Saugatuck (okay, that definitely sound likes something you do when you turn 31). Resa and Nick are coming to Saugatuck tomorrow morning to chill with us. So it should be a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to taking a Midwest road trip. I'm hopeful that at some point tomorrow I can buy the new Harry Potter book. It was so nice of JK Rowling to release it on my birthday! I will be avoiding spoilers like crazy. Of course Rob, who has not read a single HP book but who's been dragged to all the movies by me, has already read the online spoilers. I've made him swear not to say a word to me about the book. Someone spoiled book six's twist for me, which was a bit of a bummer.

Not much else to report in our lives, but for some reason the past seven days have brought some true insanity for some of my favorite people. So here's to hoping the insanity is only temporary. These are not my stories to tell, but I'm sending public love in the direction of folks who need it right now.

Before you go, there is one important reminder to be made! A week from Sunday is the Chicago 5K to benefit Teb's Troops, the organization formed by some of the law school classmates of Tricia E. Black ("teb") after Tricia was diagnosed with late stage melanoma in 2005. Tricia lost her battle with cancer in July 2006. Rob and I are trying to raise $1000 in pledges for our 5K participatin to support of this awesome organization and we are SO CLOSE. So if you have a dollar to spare, we'd be so grateful if you helped us reach our goal. You can make a donation here. If you're in Chicago, you can also sign up to run the race here.

Tomorrow I get to turn 31. Tricia, who was one of my kindergarten carpool mates 26 years ago, passed away less than three months after her 30th birthday last year. I don't mean to be grim; just sharing a fact that gives me great pause. There is no way to explain the arbitrariness of it. But there is something we can do. There is no reason we cannot find a cure for all late stage cancers if we throw enough resources behind that goal. It is a personal cause for Rob and me for many, many reasons and we would love your support.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


I'm doing a bit of guesstimating here, but here's about where we are after tonight.

Kat's Stats
updates through 6/18: 7.50 miles
TOTAL: 36.42 miles

Rob's Stats
updates through 6/18: 15.00 miles
TOTAL: 53.27 miles

We'll be back to official record-keeping after this update! :)

Monday, July 16, 2007

Good long weekend

We had a great weekend. Friday night we caught the new Harry Potter movie, along with half the country, and loved it. Then Saturday (after I spent the morning and early afternoon quickly buying a new outfit from dress to shoes to purse... ah procrastination) we went to the wedding of our friends Kate and Chris. The wedding was beautiful and the reception was a blast. It was an amazing collection of people -- such a tribute to the happy couple, who are two of the most exceptional people I know. It was also great to catch up with some friends I haven't seen that often this year and meet a ton of new, fun people. Rob and I were so flattered just to be a part of the crowd. We lasted until 1:30am and the party was still raging when we left.

I need to update our OP stats, but I've kindof lost track of our progress in the last several days. So I'm going to try to figure it out by tomorrow. In the mean time, I can say I've done very little while Rob's done a ton. Rob's discipline with working out is incredible. I'm lagging way behind in that department. But I can say that I have some actual leg muscles for the first time in, well, ever. Not much, but some. Whoo hoo!

Holy mother of...

Click here, scroll down and watch the screen flip between a before and after shot of Redbook's cover with Faith Hill. Pay attention to the size of her arm, the size of her face, the color of her skin, her back... and well everything. I have no words.

Friday, July 13, 2007

And on the side...

Some of you know that I used to write pretty regularly for a soccer website, and still write for them from time to time. With the Women's World Cup less than two months away, I'll probably get to write a bit more in the next couple months. Today I've got this article up. It's a preview of the US-Norway game this Saturday.

I love to write, but every time I produce something for public consumption I get nervous knots in my stomach. Sometimes my editors change little things about my articles that I wouldn't have changed or the posting messes up the formatting a bit or I make a grammar error that no one catches or I just plain get something wrong, even if I think I've checked and rechecked and rechecked my facts. I actually have to talk myself into re-reading my work once it's put on the site... I'm so nervous I'll hate it on review. I'm hoping that by being a little more public about my writing, I'll force myself past the anxiety of being a writer, imperfections and all. So here goes. :)

Update: Well, it took me all day to get myself to re-read it. I just sent a grammar correction to my editor and tried to ignore my editor's changes in the paragraph breaks.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

OP Update

Kat's Stats
this week so far: 4.65 miles
TOTAL: 28.92 miles

Rob's Stats
this week so far: 4.76 miles
TOTAL: 38.27 miles

Manning Up...

Not sure why I'm in the mood to post this, but I thought some stats comparisons were in order:

2006 NFL Season Stats -- Peyton vs. Eli
QB rating: 101.0 vs. 77.0
TDs: 31 vs. 24
Yards: 4397 vs. 3244
Interceptions: 9 vs. 18
Super Bowl wins: 1 vs. 0

Okay, maybe the comparison isn't totally fair. Maybe we should compare Peyton's stats from his third season in the NFL to Eli's 2006 numbers. For Peyton that was 2000.

3rd NFL Season Stats -- Peyton vs. Eli
QB rating: 94.7 vs. 77.0
TDs: 33 vs.24
Yards: 4413 vs. 3244
Interceptions: 15 vs.18
Super Bowl wins: 0 vs. 0

So I guess Eli shouldn't feel too bad. Peyton didn't win a Super Bowl in his third season either.


July 28, 2007 - Mark Your Calendar

In just over 2 weeks, the NY Giants take the field to begin their 2007 Training Camp. For all true fans of sport, this is a monumental day. It is widely accepted that the NY Giants are the preeminent sporting franchise in the universe. The autumn provides two fantastic opportunities to enjoy life to its fullest... NY Giants football... and the World Series. I for one can't wait!

Also, July 28 marks the start of my campaign to watch the NY Giants play the Miami Dolphins in London's Wembley Stadium on October 28, 2007. It has been a lifelong dream of mine to watch the Giants play in Wembley stadium (well, it's been a dream of mine since the game was announced... which has felt like a lifetime). I mean, how awesome will that game be?! The campaign consists of me convincing Katherine that this game is not only worth all of the money it requires, but also convincing her that I won't get arrested during the post-game celebration. I'm pretty confident everything will go smoothly, but then again, Katherine seems to think I'm crazy when it comes to the Giants. But what does she know... she roots for the wrong Manning ;)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Thought-provoking book review's review of this book just captured a lot of my personal dilemma about private practice versus an activist career. I'll be reading this book very soon. Here's a passage from the review:

"Compared with our parents at the same age, we're working longer hours for less money, reduced job security, slashed benefits and fewer social services. Over the last four decades, as the income gap has exploded, opportunities for social mobility have declined -- dramatically."

Ugh. And how about this:

"Brook's analysis is strongest -- and most shocking -- when he compares the current situation to the experiences of the previous generation. The 1960s and 1970s were a high-water mark of social mobility in the United States, with education serving as the great equalizer. In those days a Pell Grant covered nearly three-quarters of a student's college tuition; today, the portion has fallen to one-third. It's difficult to fathom that many high-quality public schools like CUNY and Berkeley were once free, and private ones reasonably priced. Brook points out that Ronald Reagan instituted tuition at Berkeley -- reversing a 100-year-old tradition -- only after the Free Speech Movement of the early 1960s, a ploy to punish radicals. "In the end," Brook writes, "tuition and other conservative economic policies did more to undermine student activism than any CIA-style investigation ever could.""

Wow. Exactly. So what on earth are you supposed to do if you want to save the world but you don't want to give your kids less than your parents gave you? That thought hits me every day. Not to mention the fact that a private practice career means that Rob and I also will be able to give security to our extended families in case anyone needs it. Which impulse do we follow when they all seem selfish for different reasons? It's a whole different spin on the work-life balance debate.

Chicago Summers

While visiting Chicago last summer I was struck by the universal euphoria that engulfs this city during summer. Not having spent a full winter in Chicago I thought these people were nuts. Summer is great, but how great can it possibly be? For me, summer was that time you boarded yourself up in A/C pumped rooms, awaiting sunset so you could actually venture outside (notice I didn't say "do something outside," that would still cause sweat to cascade down your brow and drench your erstwhile clean clothes. Even at night lounging is the only real option).

But Chicago is very different. Sure the winters are brutal, but they only serve to set the mood for the enjoyment of summer! The weather during summer is almost always perfect. Even when it gets "hot," it's not nearly as hot as anywhere on the east coast. Plus, there are literally a million different things to do. There are street festivals every weekend. Plus you have 2 baseball teams. That's right, most nights I can watch not one, but two baseball games. The Cubs take precedence of course, but baseball is baseball, so I'll watch it all. Also, most bars have sizable beer gardens so there are ample opps to chill and enjoy the beautiful weather WHILE WATCHING BASEBALL.

As K's previous post showed, this past weekend was one of our better Chicago weekends. The good news is, we didn't even scratch the surface of what Chicago offers during the summer. We still have 2 months to go, but I'd say we've already had a summer's worth of fun to date!

Weekend highlights

Lots of new experiences this weekend. On Saturday, we finally made it to a Chicago Fire game, which was surprisingly easy to get to. Just past Midway airport. The stadium is new and there's really not a bad seat in the house. We recommend sections 113-115, though, where we moved for the second half. They are some of the cheapest tickets, but give you a great view of the whole field. We also were enticed by the ice cream nachos for sale, but sadly they were sold out by the time we decided to try them.

On Sunday, it was Nick's birthday, so Resa arranged for a surprise trip to Korean BBQ where we and eight of their friends all gathered. If you've never had Korean BBQ, you are missing out! It's awesome. I first enjoyed it with some of my more cultured friends in my NYC days. Love love love it. Resa and Nick go so often that the staff at Chicago Kalbi knows them. They were very excited it was Nick's birthday.

After dinner, we went to play whirlyball. Seriously. At first I wasn't going to play, I was feeling a bit apprehensive. But we needed one more player for even teams. If you've never heard of it, it's basically like lacrosse in bumper cars... and the bumper cars have no breaks, so you have to hit someone or a wall to stop. It was actually ridiculously fun, until last night when the soreness from being bashed into and the bruises from the steering rod and the seatbelt buckle all started setting in. Maybe I'm too old for whirlyball. I also almost got my hand crushed to smithereens when I moronically reached my hand instead of my ball-catching-thing (what do you call that??) out of my car and grabbed the ball from in front of my bumper right before someone smashed that bumper into the wall. Totally having flashbacks of that idiotic moment. Ugh.

That was not the end of the fun, as the whirlyball place also has laser tag. (Not to mention air hockey, darts, pool, etc.) So our whole crew trotted off for a session of laser tag... but it turned out the team we were playing shows up for battle every Sunday night. Whoa! Then there was also the little matter of no one explaining things like guarding your bases and hitting the other team's targets, so we started out quite quite disorganized. We started to figure it out during the second game, but we were still slaughtered and we were all drenched in sweat from running and wearing the laser pack. But the good thing about laser tag is that once you are hit too many times, you can run back to base and recharge, so you're never out of the game and you really don't care about winning, just playing. This coming from crazy over-competitive me! (Okay, I wanted to win, but I wasn't sad that we didn't as I would have been if we were playing, oh, Trivial Pursuit. :)

On the whole, I preferred laser tag to whirlyball. It's non-stop sprinting and ducking, so it's also a darn good work out. I've still got some weird numbness in my thumb from holding down one of the buttons on my laser gun though. As lame as this may sound, we are definitely going to go play laser tag again some time.

Oh, and I beat Rob at air hockey. Worth mentioning because when it comes to really anything that involves coordination, Rob is always victorious. So that was pretty sweet.

Monday, July 09, 2007

OP stats

We had a busy weekend, which I'll blog about soon. In the mean time, Rob is a treadmilling machine.

Kat's Stats
weekend: 5.03 miles
TOTAL: 24.27 miles

Rob's Stats
weekend: 7.11 miles
TOTAL: 33.51 miles

One DC Pic

Rob's friend Jason passed this picture along from our DC trip the other weekend. Rob and Jason have been friends since grade school. All grown up these days. (PS Check out Rob looking super fly sans glasses!)

Friday, July 06, 2007


Last night Rob and I tried but failed to see Transformers. Alas, we got our movie times wrong. So maybe we'll catch it this weekend. We ended up renting the movie Miss Potter with Renee Zellweger playing Beatrix Potter, the famous author of children's books. The story itself was great -- I had no idea what a rebel she was in so many aspects of life. (Don't read the wikipedia entry if you plan on seeing the movie, it'll spoil you!) But I couldn't help but see Zellweger's Bridget Jones character shining through from time to time. She really only knows one way to be British, so her voice and mannerisms were almost distracting. Emily Watson is in the movie in a supporting role and I couldn't understand why they didn't cast her as Potter. I still enjoyed the movie though. Period pieces are always gorgeous.

Staying in meant that I got to work out last night. I tried interval running for the first time. I switched speeds every quarter mile for almost 2 miles and it seemed to go pretty well, so I'm going to keep at it to see if it'll help me build endurance.

Kat's Stats
7/5: 2.52 miles
TOTAL: 19.24 miles

Rob's Stats
7/5: 2.37 miles
TOTAL: 26.40 miles

Thursday, July 05, 2007

So true

I love this opening paragraph from a article today:

Anger gets a bad rap. It's the universal disguised denunciation ("Why are feminists so angry?"), the wink-and-nudge code word to signal contempt while fronting as pity for the deranged. That label gives those at whom the anger is directed a get-out-of-jail-free card to abandon the debate since anger is, in one fell swoop, deemed irrational. Neat trick that, changing the subject from the offense that provoked the response to a feigned disgust over the angry person's "unseemly" behavior.

Happy 4th!

We had a fun and relaxing day off yesterday. We headed a few miles north to Rogers Park (a Chicago neighborhood) where our friend Fritz lives. Our friends Ali and Eddie brought dragged their grill with them to join us. We feasted on brats, burgers, and chicken, along with loads of veggies and bean salads. Yum. Then we jumped in Fritz's car and headed up to Evanston for some fireworks. Fritz is a former cab driver (a college job... how cool is that?), so driving with him is an adventure, literally. He doesn't have much patience for pedestrians.

By some miracle, we found a parking spot that seemed too good to be true. But the car wasn't towed or ticketed while we were away! Then we walked across the Northwestern campus to the beach where we sprawled out on some blankets and watched fireworks. We were so close to the fireworks that it looked like they were falling down on top of us. It looked like multi-colored stars were raining on you. We'll definitely be heading back there again next year. Fantastic. (Although we did get a tiny bit of ash fluttering down on our faces.)

Not much else to report except that Ali and Eddie make Rob and I feel like crazy slackers in the running department -- they're training for the Chicago marathon, so they run 20 miles a week. It's been, what, three or four weeks of logging miles and I haven't hit 20 miles yet. We leave for our trip on August 17, which means we've got just six more weeks to complete OP. So I'm setting out the new goal of 10 miles per week, which should put me over 75 miles by the time we leave. In the mean time, here's our totals:

Kat's Stats
7/4: 2.51 miles
TOTAL: 16.72 miles (weak!)

Rob's Stats
7/4 and another run a couple days ago: 4.74 miles
TOTAL: 24.03 miles (getting close to a marathon! :)

Monday, July 02, 2007

Back in Chi-town

We are back in Chicago after a weekend in DC. Lots of fun was had, which we sadly did not document because I forgot my camera. Argh! Our friend Peter (from Rob's law school days) hosted us in his new condo, which we want to steal from him because it's so awesome. We got in on Friday night -- a bit too late to go out, but we hung out on Peter's awesome roof deck for a while. Saturday morning we headed to my uncle's place in the suburbs to sort through some boxes of stuff we still have there. (Amazing how we seem to have left behind a trail of things in various places in the DC area.) Then Rob headed to his friend Jason's house while I headed to the Mall to meet Carly at the Folklife Festival.

The Folklife Festival was about Northern Ireland, Mekong, and Virginia roots this year, and it was as random as it sounds. The Cantonese wedding songs were kindof cool. The Vietnamese opera was hard to follow. The NorthernIreland football (that'd be soccer to us on this side of the pond) exhibit was just a few jerseys, although there was an area for kids to kick soccer balls around. The staged reading from Great Expectations was just odd. With not much actually to do at the festival, we headed into the National Gallery for air conditioning and plopped down with some gelato in the basement cafe there. Much more entertaining.

Afterwards, Carly and I stopped in the gift shop so I could buy a birthday present for Rob's and my nephew Daniel, who just turned eight on Thursday. (I thought we'd be seeing Daniel the next day but he and his dad were at an Orioles game while the rest of the family gathered in Virginia on Sunday.) Then I realized I really needed presents for all five nieces and nephews since we aren't great at sending birthday packages, so I couldn't show up with presents for just one of the kids. Kids have eagle eyes about present evenness! This significantly extended our time in the gift shop as I stressed over the right presents for kids ages 2-8. I remember not comprehending, at age 7, why my aunts and uncles would buy me toys I'd recently outgrown. Didn't they know how old I was? Well, I know how old my nieces and nephews are, but I still don't know what's age-appropriate, let alone cool. Plus, I get very concerned about buying toys that are too passive or perpetuate stereotypes or who knows what other thing. This is always a dilemma for me with our older niece Lauren because she loves princessy things, but I can't bring myself to buy any of it, yet I still want to get her things she likes. In the end it was a book about castles for Daniel (8), a make-your-own flower magnet art kit for Lauren (6) (art projects are often my default with Lauren, since she loves them... my sister-in-law Kyle teases me for buying "aunt presents," which I believe means "presents that make a mess for mom when the aunt's not around" ;), a shared set of foam MC Escher lizards that can be linked and unlinked a million ways for Aidan (5) and Bryson (4), and a book with faces and colors for Lillian (2). I swallowed my worry about castles and lizards for the boys versus flowers and colors for the girls, knowing (hoping) that the castle book would make its way to Lauren and the lizards would make their way to Lillian as toys usually get handed down to the younger siblings. Then, realizing that Aidan and Bryson would still want their own presents, I picked up mini kaleidoscopes for all of the kids so everyone could have something to call "mine." End of shopping.

For dinner we dragged Carly and Peter with us to Brasserie Beck, a French/Belgian restaurant downtown. Super delicious food. I walked out so full I thought I was going to explode. I had an interesting (in a good way) herbal-tasting sauvignon blanc with my meal and a great grilled trout filet. Then we settled into some tables at Buffalo Billiards to hang out with friends who popped in and out through the rest of the night. Randomly, my legal writing instructor was with a group of friends at the same bar, sitting right next to us. So he and I caught up for a few minutes. Small world. It was great to see friends and it made me nostalgic for our DC days, especially with so many friends heading to DC to settle there in the coming months. My cousin Angela, my friend Elliot and I played one of the longest games of pool ever because we were all so terrible, which was highly entertaining. Around 1am, Rob and some of his friends were ready for another bite to eat while I was ready to collapse. So Rob and Peter and I took a cab to Peter's, where they let me out, while they headed on to The Diner to meet Becky, Ben and Brian, who took their own cab. (Just noticing we divided up alphabetically. Weird.) And I went to sleep.

Then up a 7:30am to get to my uncle's by 8:30am to have breakfast with him since we were so rushed on Saturday morning. My uncle had slept through his alarm after staying up all night finishing a puzzle (something very M-narik about that), so it was more like a morning hello than actual breakfast, as my uncle had to go to his morning softball game at 9:30am. Rob and I headed out for a Pezold family day. Rob's grandmother was in town visiting with Rob's sister Tori and her family, who live in Leesburg, and Rob's dad and his wife Teri, who live in Alexandria. So we all converged upon Bob (Rob's dad) and Teri's house in Alexandria, with Tori and her family coming over and Rob's sister Kyle and her daughter Lauren coming down from Wilmington, to spend the day hanging out. It was perfect weather and we had a great bbq.

As always happens, I was reminded that hanging out with my nieces and nephews rocks beyond words. The older three serenaded us with song after song for a while, with Lauren and Aidan making up new songs for us by the end. So much fun. Lauren and I engaged in some "walking on the ceiling," which means I carry her around upside down, holding her around the waist, and she has her arms outstretched, hands skimming the ground, feet pointed up into the air, and we sing "walking on the ceiling, walking on the ceiling, walking on the ceiling...." I did this once with Lauren years ago and she insists we "walk on the ceiling" (yesterday, though, we "walked on the sky" since we were outside) every time she sees me even though she's now 6 1/2 and it's getting harder to lift her upside down these days! Only a few months left, I'm afraid. It cracks me up that she has from the beginning remembered the little melody for singing "walking on the ceiling" that I made up and she starts singing it as soon as she gets flipped upside down in my arms. Yesterday, Aidan and Bryson also got turns "walking on the sky." Needless to say, after a few walks with each of the three kids, my arms were very tired.

We headed to the airport around 5pm and finally got home around 10pm last night. Very tired and happy to be back.

Oh, and the presents were all a hit. Especially the kaleidoscopes. Phew!!!