Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Memorial Day.

It's been a lovely Memorial Day weekend with all of my visitors. Besides all of the fun we had around town, we also took some time to remember everyone who has served our country. Living here in DC, attending the concert at the Capitol and walking on the National Mall this morning, I really felt like it was Memorial Day.

Maybe for the first time it really sunk in what Memorial Day was about, and it was powerful. I'm grateful to live in a place where so many people have given their lives to protect our freedom.

Happy Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Not Quiet at All.

I'm here. And not one bit sorry that I haven't blogged since Wednesday. I've been super busy with Anne, Abbey, and Emily. Doing things like eating a lot of seafood, seeing the sites, talking, and just being friends in Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Maryland.

So there will be more blog posts. Full of beautiful sites and pictures and stories.

To tide you over, check out this lobster slider at Legal Sea Foods. Anne and I hopped around downtown Thursday night to have a drink at Zaytinya's and then some dinner at Legal.

Big chunks of lobster, fresh bacon, and crusty bread. This is just a sign of the wonderful things to come from the girls' visit. I can't wait to show you everything we've done so you'll want to get out here and visit soon too.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Teenage Boys & Adventure Sports.

We're entering the toughest part of a year to be a teacher - the long weeks after state testing and before summer! I needed a book to read with my self-contained English classes that would engage them. So I picked How Angel Peterson Got His Name, by Gary Paulsen because the stories are silly tales about the adventures of teenage boys in Minnesota in the 1950s. I think the picture above looks like the boys in the book, plotting their next crazy experiment.

These boys in the book do it all - try to fly, invent skateboards, attempt bear wrestling, go over a waterfall in a barrel. The boys are about ten years older than my dad, but from the stories I have heard about my dad and his three brothers in the 1960s, these stories are realistic. There's just something about teenage boys that makes them want to try ridiculous things in a scientific way. They just want to know what happens when you pee on an electric fence. Someone could tell them, but they really just want to know for themselves.

I think there's some truth to that with my kids today, but they are so much less active than the boys in the stories. My 8th grade boys aren't really into adventure sports. They like to play soccer and football in very organized ways. They also play a lot of video games. Playstation = not active. I worry that with an excess of reality tv and video game adventure we have evolved away from activity. Sure there are still the X Games athletes of the world, but what about everybody else? The rest of us can watch it on TV and on youtube.

I hope I'm wrong. Eventually, I'd like to have my own babies and raise them to be adventurers. Probably I'll have to turn off the TV to make this possible and read them lots of stories, but I don't want the adventures of childhood to become a lost art.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Engagement Party for Claire & Jeremy.

I met Claire first. We both probably met Jeremy at about the same time. You see, we're all Truman Scholars. But Claire and I both interviewed in Denver back in March of 2005. Five years ago! Later that year we all gathered in Liberty, MO for Truman Boot Camp, and that's where we met Jeremy.

Even later than that, in 2006, Claire and I were DC roommates. I moved home to KS. Claire stayed in DC. Jeremy did too. And they fell in love, right under the nose of many Trumans who were also still living here. Claire calls Jeremy "Judah," and they are a pair! It makes my heart happy just thinking about the two of them. They're ridiculously lovely people.

We celebrated their engagement in DC on Friday night. I designed the invitations and made a couple of the goodies people munched on. But I didn't have anything to do with the amazing set-up her friends pulled off in their front yard. Claire wanted a TENT for the party, and a tent she was given. We didn't plan our outfits. I just sort of coordinated on accident.

They also pulled furniture from inside their home in the NE, curtains, and rugs to create a festive party place right outside. The weather was perfect - maybe a little muggy - but we were happy. Homemade pastries & sushi, yummy champagne drinks & sangria, and smart, snappy conversation floating over the music. I think the tent glowed because of all the candles and well placed lights, but also because there were people genuinely happy in it all night long.

Here's the view of their front steps. Claire brought so many of her favorite paintings and pictures outside which made the tent like a home and so-very-Claire.

Here's a smattering of Truman Scholars for you. Jeremy, Tom, me, Andrea, Claire, Dalit, and Star. We represent seven states and have interest in medicine, law, international development, teaching, nursing and cocktail parties.

I'll miss Claire and Jeremy when they go to China. But I'm pretty sure they'll be happy because they'll be together.

I took a lot of pictures at the engagement party - check them out in the slideshow below. Such a pretty and fun party.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Getting Around the Neighborhood.

Since Sunday, Belle has escaped twice. TWO times. Belle is impossible to catch once she escapes because of the rapid speed as she sprints around the cul-de-sac. She darts in and out of backyards, pausing only to check trees for squirrels. I can't catch her - she's far too fast. Sunday it was my fault - I let the leash and collar get tangled, and she squirmed out. Yesterday, Rachel just left the gate open a few seconds too long, and she was out. Like a black and white flash, off to see the neighborhood.

Yesterday, I was just getting ready to start down the street to find her, when I checked my phone. Voicemail! A nice man said, "I have your dog! And I see your address, so I'm bringing her back." I met him down the street with his dog and mine on a borrowed leash.

He told me his name was Jon, and that it was no problem catching her. She ran right up to him and let him pet her and rolled over to have her belly rubbed. Then he told me that she was almost too friendly, implying that maybe she is a little easy.

"I know," I said, "she really gets around. The Neighborhood."

(Yes, I do think I'm funny.)

Here's what Belle looks like after her escape when she is resting at home again.

Check out the wagging tale. The long dog pose so she can put her stomach on the smooth floor. I think it even looks like she is stretching after a tough workout. Her panting tongue as she tries to catch her breath and cool down.

And that pride in her eyes. She saw the world and made it back safely to the hand that feeds her.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sometimes I Get Confused.

We have covered this before here on the blog. I watch too much TV. As a direct result, I sometimes get confused about reality.

For example, this building is where Seeley Booth works as a special agent for the FBI. That is when he isn't out in the field solving murders with Bones or hanging out at the Jeffersonian.

Oh, what? He's not really an FBI agent? Dangit. I got confused again! Just a side effect of too much television. The good news is that we are in the full swing of season finales. I have cut shows out of my schedule and am prepared to make a couple more cuts for the 2010-2011 season.

Here's how I see it - there are three types of shows.
  1. Shows I love so much that I am convinced I know the people (like Agent Booth above!)
  2. Shows that I watch because I love pop culture
  3. Shows that I watched at some point during season 2009-2010 but aren't returning to my lineup in the fall. (I'm VERY proud of this list.)
Let's start with category #1 - my own reality.
  • Big Love. Like a train wreck you can't stop watching. Poor Barb. Stupid Bill.
  • HIMYM. I think its time we meet Ted's wife. I can't handle agony of the wait much more.
  • The Good Wife. Please watch her take over the world.
  • Parenthood. It's going to come back! Hurray! My life is better with Lauren Graham again.
  • The Millionaire Matchmaker. It's on summer vaca but Patti Stanger is the best third generation Jewish matchmaker I know.
  • Glee! Duh. I would like Sol and Mr. Schuester to have a dance off.
  • Modern Family. Every single character is fantastic, dynamic and delightful. I heart Manny.
  • Law & Order: SVU. I've already confessed that I think Olivia and Elliott are on the streets of NYC whenever I visit the Big Apple.
  • Bones. I love it even more now that I live in the same city as Dr. Brennan. (see above)
  • Community. Why is Joel McHale SO attractive? And how are Abed & Troy SO funny?
  • The Mentalist. Simon Baker as Patrick Jane makes my heart smile.
That was more than I thought it was going to be. Yikes! On to category 2 - shows I watch because everyone watches and I need to know what is going on in the world of TV.
  • The Office. Jim and Pam got married, had a baby and are going to live happily ever after. I don't think I can take much more of jerky Michael. Scott's Tots was the end for me.
  • 30 Rock. I love Liz Lemon, don't get me wrong. But sometimes she is self-deprecating.
  • SNL. Especially when Tina Fey, Betty White, Alec Baldwin or JUSTIN BEIBER are on.
And finally, category 3. The losers. I know some of you love the shows that are on this list, but a girl's got to be picky. Or at least try to have a social life outside of imaginary TV friends.
  • Brothers & Sisters. Walker Family, you have had too much heartbreak and not enough happiness. I'm also suspicious of time jumps and won't be joining you when you jump ahead one year in fall 2010.
  • Grey's Anatomy. I deleted from the DVR line-up and haven't looked back. I don't even ask Rachel what is happening.
  • Private Practice. I also quit this one cold turkey and feel just fine about it. Another show with too much heartbreak. Dr. Montgomery's patients are babies. Sick babies = sadness.
  • The Bachelorette. It's not the same without the girls at home. Jill's always trying to hook me back in to the show, but I resist. It's the only TV show that makes me homesick.
  • American Idol. I caught one or two audition shows. And then I thought about all the hours and hours of watching until the finale, got tired, and quit caring. Even Ellen couldn't save this show in my book.
  • Law & Order. The show is retiring, but I stopped anyways about two months ago. The move to Mondays was hard on me.
  • Numb3rs. While I had been loyal from the beginning, I decided I could do without. And now it looks like America agreed, and it won't be back for 2010-2011.
I know, I know, Mom. I still watch too much TV. Baby steps.

Monday, May 17, 2010

PYT - Pretty Young Thing.

I have a new favorite part of my morning. I scramble out of bed, tripping over Belle, and walk into the kitchen to say good morning to my new bestie.

Ain't she sweet? And pretty?

It's my very own Kitchen Aid professional-grade mixer. I broke it in today with pistachio cake. I felt like a wiz because as the eggs and sugar were getting all fluffy, I got the pistachios and milk mixtures ready to go. And then I could alternate without having to stop and put my cruddy mixer down to add to the batter. Professional!

She arrived Friday night as an early birthday present from Dad & Tracy. She would have been a little big and cumbersome to mail, and they follow the blog to know just how much I needed her in my life. I love to bake!

Tracy had the camera ready for my reaction. I'm not faking it - I was really excited about the new gal in the kitchen. (In the photo, I'm already thinking of what I'm going to bake.)

Belle is not as excited as I am. She's actually a little jealous and suspicious.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Yeah, That Happened.

Tonight Dad, Tracy and I ate at Zaytinya's in downtown DC. It's been on my "need to eat there" list of restaurants for a few months, and I knew that Dad would like all the food full of Greek, Lebanese and Turkish flavors. I also really wanted to go because the chef, Mike Isabella, was on Top Chef last season.

Our table was pretty close to the kitchen, and I quickly spotted Chef Isabella working on the preparation line, supervising all the final details. This is pretty big stuff for a TV junkie like me.
Then Tracy decided it was a good idea that I get my picture taken with him. So she asked our sweet waiter if we could meet him and take a picture with him. Oh gosh was I embarrassed.

Okay, only a little embarrassed. I got my picture taken with someone who was on TV! Um, awesome? Not to mention, the food was amazing. It was really so very good, and we tried a ton of different little dishes and ate for a very long time.

The pita bread was hot, fresh and like little hot pockets of soft, warm air and flour. They were perfect for scooping up olive oil, hummus, and all the other tasty sauces throughout the night.

The restaurant served little plates (you can see them in the background) plus this sea bass straight from the grill to our table. We ate. it. all. Lamb, scallops, mini crab cakes, steak, salad, sausage...I am full just remembering.

Don't get too concerned. We had room for dessert.

Cherry, watermelon, blood orange sorbet. Something chocolate and awesome. And baklava chocolate ice cream. You read it right. Baklava chocolate ice cream.

I'll be eating there again in my dreams tonight. It was that good. AND I got to meet Mike Isabella from Top Chef. So fun!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Pittsburgh (with an H).

Rachel's aunt's house downtown.

I keep forgetting to tell you this story from Pittsburgh. It's a couple weeks late now, but it is still relevant as a true testimony of what life is like here in Virginia with Rach & Vic, together. A lot.

Rach, Sol, Finn & I set out for Pittsburgh on a Friday night. As we drove, I casually remarked that I learned a scant two days earlier that Pittsburgh was spelled with an "h" at the end. I had been spelling it wrong for months! In emails, texts, even in my planner, I kept spelling it Pittsburg.

"I know," Rachel said, "I just didn't correct you."

"WHY!? You correct me on everything else. In fact, you keep a list of the words I spell or misuse in your desk at school," I retorted.

"I dunno," she replied. "I was just letting you be wrong."

Rachel should have stopped there while she was ahead. But she had to take it one little step further and add, "All towns with "burg/h" on them have an H. Duh."

The challenge was set. As we drove, we passed a few other "burg/h" towns. And they didn't have "Hs." For example...
  • Gettysburg
  • Holidaysburg
  • Greensburg
  • Canonsburg
I was on a roll, pointing out every one. So I called my mom to see about Pittsburg/h in Kansas, home of the Pitt State Gorillas. (When we are out and call my mom for an answer to a question, we call it BRoogling. Get it? Like googling with a BR? BRoe? We also think we are really very funny.)

Mom pulled the Kansas map out of the kitchen drawer, just like I knew she would. I held my breath as I waited for her answer.

"Yep. It's P-I-T-T-S-B-U-R-G. No H," she told me over the phone.

I was all too happy to report the result of the Broogling to Rachel.

So in the end, yes, I spelled Pittsburgh, PA wrong way too many times. However, Rachel was wrong about every other "burg" town in the vicinity and that made me feel considerably better.

Come visit us. Please? Okay. See you soon. We're really rather fun.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A New Job for Miss Luhrs.

I forgot to tell you something.

I have a new job at my middle school for the 2010-2011 school year. I will no longer be a full time special education teacher because I'm moving to full time civics. Five civics classes of my very own, full of eighth graders with young minds eager to learn.

Or something like that.

I'll be moving down the hall to a classroom directly under Rachel's. The two teachers that I have team taught with this year will still be my buddies next year - Zach and I will plan civics lessons together and Jill will be right next door on the same team! The civics teaching team will include me, Zach and another young teacher, and we're very excited to further develop common instruction in our classroom.

I will really miss teaching English. I wish that I had my certification in both English and social studies so that it would be easier to teach both. Working through the standards in reading and writing the past two years (one year here and one year in Kansas) has improved my instruction tremendously. I also love to talk to kids about books, something I will do a lot less of as a full time civics instructor.

But really, this is just another example of God's perfect timing. There wasn't a job in social studies last year, now there is. Normally you aren't allowed to switch from special ed to other departments until July. This year there was an exception. After four years teaching six different sets of standards, I'm thrilled to settle into one. Perfect it a little bit. Focus more on the craft and less on figuring out complicated standards.

So the adventures in teaching with Miss Luhrs will continue, but I'll be reporting from room 134 instead starting in September. With at least 125 eighth graders flowing through my room, there should be plenty of material for the blog.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sixty-five (and a half!) Miles.

This is my family (or at least a select few members) at the Indianapolis Indy Marathon last Saturday. I couldn't be there because I was in grad school completing team activities in the wilderness. For reals. While I was crawling over giant wooden wheels and through huge spider webs, Dad, Tracy, Lu, Cooper and Mitchell were completing the "mini" in Indy.

I'm so proud of all of them - together they traveled 65.5 miles by foot. It makes me tired just thinking about it. Dad, Cooper and Mitch were first timers to the 13.1 mile race. My brothers were two of less than 100 boys ages 12 and under to participate in the Mini Marathon.

And then there is Lauren. She makes me wonder if we're actually related. Ignore the fact that we sound the same, look alike and have the same endearing personality quirks, this girl is a runner - something I am clearly not destined to be. She ran 13.1 miles. In a row. And she did it while setting a new personal best time and finishing in the top 20% of female finishers. See? It's impossible that we could be sisters.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Mother's Day with Only One Mom.

Nanette was in town visiting Wednesday through Sunday. We got to have her all to ourselves Saturday night and yesterday, and it was so much fun! Church, brunch at home, Georgetown, cupcakes, garden. It was my kind of Sunday.

But it was sort of a different Mother's Day because we were only with one mother, Rachel. Between us we have a lot of mothers, moms, grandmas, stepmoms, mother-in-laws, sisters who are mothers. Yesterday Rachel was our only mom.

Rach told Sol and I at brunch that we should both be thankful for her because we made our life cuter and more interesting because she gave birth to Finley. I thought about it for a while and then asked Rachel if she had called my mom to say thank you for making her life better.

She retorted, "Did you call my mom?"

Our mommas raised us right. We're smart, quick on our feet and dedicated friends. Both of our moms modeled the importance of being strong, thinking women. So thank you, Cynthia & Barbara, we're thankful for ya yesterday and everyday.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mojito Madness.

This bright shiny mojito signifies the weekend. It's not just a regular little cocktail. It's a pomegranate mojito at Busboys & Poets in DC.


Why not? TGIF.

This also means Nanette is in town and the weekend is full of fun adventures around my favorite big city. We started with meeting up for drinks and snacks at this hip place in the U Street Neighborhood, around the corner from my 2006 job.

We had dinner at Clyde's (of course), and the fun will continue tomorrow after my last Saturday grad school class at George Mason.

And yes, I took this photo. I'm tickled pink at how it turned out.

Friday, May 7, 2010

How to Make This Teacher Happy.

I'm a pretty easy teacher to please. Here's some clues on how to keep me happy.

  1. Celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week. I love any excuse for a party.
  2. Let me design the gift for the teachers. I love graphic design, especially on these water bottles. They're mini and sweet!
  3. Have the students write sweet notes to their teachers.
  4. Design a card with Peyton Manning on it. (Thanks Sadie!)
  5. Give us free custard after school. With extra toppings. And seconds.
That's a pretty awesome end to a teacher appreciation week.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Out of Steam.

I just haven't had the juice for blogging this week. Weird because I saw my blogging hero, PW, on Tuesday night. But I've been busy running around Northern Virginia, grading VGLA binders (the single worst experience of my teaching career) and not eating dinner at home. I am on the verge of cranky/awesome/tired/ready for the weekend that nearly always lends itself to tears.

Yeah. This post is awesome.

I only went to the gym once. Squeezed in one walk with Belle. Missed a planting date and will have to do it tomorrow, three days after I planned and scheduled in my spreadsheet. So far I have graded zero papers, taken no photos besides of PW, and slept about twenty four hours since Sunday.

This is boring. You probably hate this post.

But if I don't write it down, I'll forget. And Rachel has been pretty quiet over at her blog, and so neither of us will have much of a record of what happened this week, the long week after Pittsburgh except that we were tired and didn't blog. Posting a picture of Finley does not really count - I didn't write any words.

Why are you still reading this blog?

I guess we did meet PW this week. That was pretty cool.

I surrender. I'm going to climb in my bed and read a book. For about 30 seconds and then I will remember that I'm exhausted, borderline incoherent and in desperate need of REM.

Good news for you. This post is done. Also, Nanette is in town. She'll rescue my blog and give me plenty of things to post about and make you jealous. By Sunday you will be dying to visit me in Virginia again.

Finn Walking with One Hand.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

We Met P-DUB.

Here are some notes from our THRILLING meeting with P-Dub (read: dream come true).
  1. I continued with my bad habit of stooping awkwardly because of my height. Instead of folding at the waist, I should squat. You would think I would learn by now.
  2. Pioneer Woman's camera. JEALOUS. Also all of her swag. I cannot stop thinking about Michael Scott on the Office when he wears all of his swag at the conference.
  3. Pioneer Woman. In person. Who-hoo! She's pretty and so sweet. Ree loved our Kansas and Oklahoma connections.
  4. Rachel and I took Finley's cowboy butt enlarged to 8 x 10. PW loved it! Who doesn't love a cowboy tush? The number four is also close to the cookbooks - and I had mine signed for the second time. (My mom got it signed the first time in Kansas City.)
  5. Cowboy Finley. Pioneer Woman loved his little outfit - even his belt buckle. He did so well at Borders for over two hours of waiting in line fun!
  6. My partner in crime Rachel. I asked Rach if she wanted to take a photo with PW separately, and she was like, "Are you crazy?" Thanks bestie. We belong together. You, me, Ree.
  7. All of this happened with Robert Pattison standing by, watching, protecting. For always.
And that's the story of how we met Pioneer Woman. The end.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Run Rach Run.

And run she did. You can see her times over at her blog, and check back there soon for more information about her fifth marathon. FIVE x 26.2 miles each. And I've been super lucky to be at three of those five marathons in Chicago, Oklahoma City and now Pittsburgh. I have cried at every marathon. The races just do that to me!

People have been texting, emailing and calling to see how Rachel felt after her race. I think they want confirmation from me that the positive attitude she has about the race is for real, not just a sunny face she is putting on for her blog.

And I'm happy to report, that's the real Rachel. She ran a great race, all 26.2 miles in the rain with wet sneakers and huge hills. She really did drink a diet coke after she was done.

I think she is inspiring. Don't be confused, I'm not running anywhere anytime soon. But I admire her diligence, perseverance, and the awesome mother she is while juggling it all.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Rach, Sol, Vic and Italian Food.

Rach, Sol and I are quite possibly three of the snobbiest people about Italian food. You would be too if you ate at Giacomo's in the North End of Boston. It ruined Italian restaurants for us because it taught us the importance of homemade pasta, finely crafted sauces, and well prepared seafood.

We've tried to find other restaurants that are as good. But every time we try something new, we find ourselves sitting around comparing it to Giacomo's. Pasta Mia in DC was pretty close. I mean, at least you had to wait in line for it. Tonight we had La Cucina Flegrea in Pittsburgh, and while it was no Giacomo's, it was pretty yummy.

Cynthia, Rachel's mom, Finley and I at the dinner table. He was a pretty squirmy little dude. I did get him to eat quite a bit of baby food, and I was extremely proud.

Rachel's aunt Kathy, our charming host. We've had so much fun with her showing us around!

Cynthia's spicy vegetarian option next to me. Oh was it good - so original and with a lot of pizazz!

It helped that the restaurant was tiny and full of character. Kind of like Giacomo's where you have to get up whenever the table next to you empties or they won't be able to get out. (The man is mopping because Rachel knocked over a vase with the diaper bag.)

You've stayed with me this far, and as your prize, you get a confession. One time, Rachel, Sol and I ate at the Olive Garden in Times Square. At that point in our lives we knew about the awesomeness that is Giacomo's and small authentic Italian restaurants, and yet, we still chose the most commercialized Italian food known to the world. We were in the center of the universe and willingly waited 45 minutes for generic Italian.

We all shake our heads at this story. We must have lost our minds at that moment. I guarantee we wouldn't make the same mistake today as we compare everything to Giacomo's. Maybe if Rach qualifies for the Boston Marathon, we'll get to eat there next year! Run Rach Run!

You can follow Rachel's updates on twitter on the side of her blog or at her twitter site. The race starts at 7:30 EST, and we are hoping to start cheering for her at about mile 11. We've got it all mapped out, and we're excited! Run Rach Run!