Friday, April 25, 2008

Covering the pope

Sorry, folks, it's been awhile since I've posted but it's been one thing after another. First it was six straight days of covering His Holiness here and in New York. I no sooner got back Monday than I came down with a nasty cold which I am still trying to shake off. So I was off work Wednesday trying to recover. Then yesterday my boss got laid off! Yes, there are interesting personnel changes going on at my company. So that threw us all for a loop.
Meanwhile people keep tromping through my home to view it so everything has to be kept very neat and clean, a real trial with now 3-year-old Veeka. Who did real well in her yearly medical exam, by the way. She weighs just under 25 lbs and is 35 1/2 inches - almost exactly 3 feet. She is in the lowest 5% in terms of weight but in terms of height she is in the bottom 20% - pretty good for a kid who has been very small for her age. But that's what happens with a preemie, I hear so hopefully in a few years she will shoot up. Still, I am pouring kefir (a yogurt-like drink) down her to drive up that calcium level.
The photo is of me looking hot and bloated at one of the papal venues in Yonkers, N.Y. Before the pope showed up at this youth rally, the media had to sit in the dust on a hill overlooking the stage for about 5 hours - in the sun, I might add. Notice the Secret Service tags around my neck - we couldn't move anywhere without those. One reason I got sick was because of the interminable lines we had to sit in for hours waiting for our security clearances; like we were al Qaeda. It was nuts. I have always had pretty unprintable thoughts about the SS and the over-the-top way they act with the media.
I found papal coverage pretty inspirational. Even though Benedict's accent was strong, we had his printed texts to follow so that his speeches made sense. Once you read them, you can see how profound they are. And the fact that he met with the sex abuse victims was a real coup -very impressive. So it was a pleasure to cover.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Veeka turns 3

By the time most of you read this, Our Little One will be 3. Because I am snowed in with papal stuff, we celebrated her special day tonight (her birthday is actually the 16th) with a quiet spaghetti (her favorite food other than cookies) dinner and a fruit tart she picked out from Whole Foods. THAT was her birthday cake. The problem with buying a regular cake is the Mommy ends up eating it all and Mommy has no wish to get fat.
So here is the photo of the Birthday Moment. Thankfully, despite a papal-and-presidential motorcade through town, the traffic was not too awful tonight, meaning I could get home in a decent hour to cook dinner for us and Diane, a friend who came over and brought lots and lots of cookies. And Veeka ate a lot of them. Problem is, she is on this incredible sugar high as it is now 11:40 p.m. and she is still screeching from her bed. Note to self: No sugar after 6.
The WTimes came out with a lovely papal section Monday with my writing all over it. Just call up and check out the big square that says "special section." There are also some excellent photos and videos in this package. And if you want to read Tuesday's piece on the cost of the visit, click here. Plus I've got a papal blog that I update as often as possible. Tomorrow (Wed) is the huge White House reception for the pope followed by a parade through town, plus his birthday lunch at the papal nunciature, then another parade then his meeting with the U.S. Catholic bishops at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception - well, you can tell I have his schedule memorized!
Stay tuned for more.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Happy Nauriz

Oh my goodness, what a pain the past few days have been. Late Wednesday afternoon I finally Fed Ex'ed the galleys of my book back to the publisher after a grinding 2 weeks worth of work. They mailed them to me circa March 26 and wanted everything back by April 7. That was a fantasy as there were 100+ corrections and edits that needed to be done. The only way they did get done even 3 days past the deadline was because Veeka came down with a fever Monday and was home sick Tuesday and Wednesday. Never knew what the virus was all about, but I ended up staying home with her, the pile of work on my desk re papal coverage notwithstanding.
Warm weather has finally hit here and the cherry blossoms are fading. That's the best part about living in this area; the heavenly pink clouds of cherry trees planted simply everywhere, plus the white clouds of pear blossoms not to mention plum, apple, you-name-it. A friend was in town Saturday, so we went off to Great Falls Park, with its thrilling views of the Potomac, then to a Nauriz celebration sponsored by the Kazakh embassy. That was downtown and there were all sorts of people running around dressed in Kazakh costumes. Nauriz is the spring new year's celebration observed by lots of Central Asian and Middle Eastern folks. My Kurdish friends said that was the biggest event in their year as well.
This Nauriz began with a concert by Roksonaki, a trio of musicians who played the oddest instruments; kind of like a screeching violin twinned with drums. I felt like I was sitting in a yurt drinking fermented mare's milk on a moonlit night with camels sitting nearby. Miss Veeka put up with this concert for maybe 15 minutes, then began to wiggle, so I had to take her out to the foyer where all the other parents were with THEIR kids. Of course we were all chowing down from the snack table, not that the foods there were all that Central Asian. They were more like Whole Foods.
In other venues, Veeka is more akin to western music; please note the photo I took of her trying to play the church organ on Easter. She actually managed to bang out a few notes on the thing before the organist dashed back to stop her. My Little Prodigy. Next week 2 things happen: the pope flies in on Tuesday and Veeka turns 3 on Wednesday. If anyone wishes to help her observe her big day, may I suggest stockings (we never have enough) or selected picture books (ask her mommy for titles she doesn't have) or one of those new thermometers they advertise in Parents magazine whereby you take a kid's temperature by measuring the heat in their ears. Sounds weird but I need something a lot better than the oral thermometer I tried using this week. Veeka kept on spitting it out. She also thought the grape-flavored kiddie Motrin was pretty yucky.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The galleys have arrived

Galleys are next-to-last copies of a book manuscript and mine arrived with a vengeance less than two weeks ago. The due date for them to be *back* at the publisher is tomorrow but alas, that won't happen as I am 1. running behind and 2. they must have included 200 corrections in there. When I saw them all, I wanted to just hide. Anyway, the galleys are taking forever to work on because the publisher wanted the bibliography done a whole different way than I had understood it was to be done. Not only that, but to look up the missing info is tedious work and impossible to do during Veeka's waking hours.
Usually I would take a day off to work on such things but with the pope arriving April 15 and enormous amounts to be done for a large papal section we are assembling, there is no way I can take time off. In fact, the deadline for mountains of copy was
Friday, which I would have made had not two daily stories in a row delayed me Thursday and Friday. The latter concerned one of the biggest church legal battles in the country, happening right here in northern Virginia and which I am monitoring closely. Turns out the circuit judge in charge of a lawsuit pitting the Episcopal Church and Diocese of Virginia against 11 breakaway churches decided to release his 83-page opinion about 10 p.m. Thursday.
I got the call from one of the lawyers at 12:09 a.m. Fortunately I was up (working on the galleys, of course), so....I quickly wrote 5-7 paragraphs and they went up on the Washington Times web site by 1 a.m., beating all the other media by many, many hours. But ...was I tired on Friday. By the time I got in, various articles for the section had to be edited, some extensively plus I had to do a second-day rewrite of the Episcopal piece for Saturday's paper.
Oh, and the phones at the Washington Times office weren't working all day. Plus people kept on dropping by, asking me pope questions, as I. And the headline on the internet piece was inaccurate, so I had one Episcopal official continually emailing me, demanding it be changed (reporters do not control what is in the headlines). Finally, I threw in the towel, deciding my big take-out on the pope will have to be written Monday.
Then it was off to Dulles airport to pick up a friend coming for the weekend. We went out to eat sushi, so the photo here is of Veeka chowing down. No real estate agent called Friday night to say she was dropping by with a customer, so I left early Saturday morning to be on a journalists' panel out by Dulles while my friend Julie babysat Veeka. But of course we left the house a mess and wouldn't you know it, an agent walked in with some clients right when we were both gone and there piles of disgusting things everywhere. Sigh.
Which is why I went for a massage today to relieve all the tension that's been knotting me up.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

House for sale

A year ago, I'd only been home a few days with my little darling when I realized my 788-square-foot condo was not going to cut it in terms of space. Veeka's wardrobe seems to multiply every few days as all sorts of friends of given me their old kids' clothes, packing Veeka's closet with enough outfits for 30 straight days.
Plus, the commute has become worse and worse. In my pre-mom days, I used to saunter home at 7 p.m. or later, easily missing all the worst traffic. Nowadays, I have to tear out of my office by 5 p.m. to wend my way through 17 miles of heavy artillery on some of the nation's most clogged freeways to arrive at the daycare by 6 p.m. Veeka's current providers are very kind and allow me a few minutes of grace time. But when I switch her to a larger daycare, I will be charged $1 each minute I am late. Veeka's speech therapists are recommending I switch her sooner rather than later, to improve her vocabulary a lot quicker.
As I have looked around the city of Falls Church, my current abode, there is almost nothing under $500,000 that has the three bedrooms I want. Which is a shame, as Veeka is already benefiting from the city's excellent school system. But I do not earn that kind of money! So, for the last year, I have slowly been making the improvements one must make to sell a home where one has lived for 12 years and in mid-March, it went on the market. No offers so far, but I am almost alone on my block in terms of places for sale. Not only that, but Falls Church has one of the state's best school districts, so this place should sell.
Where move to? Well, I am looking to move closer to work. I have been househunting several times within a 10-mile radius of my workplace and I've narrowed the area down to 1-2 specific cities. So I am comparing school systems, crime stats, commuting times and trying to figure out just what it is I want in a home. The current drop in home prices is really going to benefit me this spring. But preparing to move has really sapped my energy. For several weekends in a row, I worked like a dog preparing my home for sale, reducing all the clutter and painting and cleaning everywhere.
However, there are chinks in any plan; just today, the Washington Times management announced it will be having layoffs in the newsroom! Sooooo, don't want to bid on a home for the next few weeks until that dust settles. I am working endlessly preparing articles about Pope Benedict's visit. Just interviewed an imam yesterday who will be meeting April 17 with the pope. Am doing a spot today for a British TV station on the state of the American Catholic church. If you click on, you'll see on our front page the "papal visit" blog that I am contributing to every day. I am happy to say I am doing pretty well against the competition in terms of breaking stories no one else has (ie the secret birthday party being thrown for the pope on April 16 at the Italian embassy starring Placido Domingo) and more is forthcoming.
Am also trying to juggle care for Miss Veeka while I work 24/7 covering the pope from April 15-20 in Washington and New York. Unfortunately, the busiest day will be on her third birthday, also April 16. I may not even see her on that day. Now if I can just sneak her into that Italian embassy party...