Friday, March 31, 2006

More Dancing and Norma

Our applied-physicist-turned-videographer friend came over this afternoon to shoot an interview with us. He's working on a video of Stanford Dance and Drama alumni talking about their passion for dance and how it's affected their lives after graduation. We're a pretty easy story for that one, since we met at Stanford in the dance studio during a rehearsal. Years later, we're married, with our own dance troupe and a baby. The video will be shown at the "First Ever Stanford Drama & Dance Reunion" in May.

The interview and yesterday's rehearsal made me think back to the shoot we did with the Vintage Dance Ensemble for Norma's movie. I heard that's it's (finally) completed, so I'm looking forward to seeing it.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Lindy Hoppers

Tonight we started rehearsing the swing number from the 1937 film"A Day at the Races" with our troupe. It was great fun to get that high speed Lindy Hop energy and recall our adventures interviewing Norma Miller, the last surviving dancer from that group. She's about 85 now and as dynamic as ever. Hopefully, we'll be able to perform for her when she's back at Stanford in July for the summer dance week.

The photo is from 1999, a few months after we met with Norma. It's the end of the dance and we're heading offstage in style.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Irony

I called the community education center to check on registration for Q's Gym Kids class and ended up in phone tree hell (the technical term would be IVR hell). The recorded voice gave me a bunch of choices, ending with "press five to speak to our office." When I pressed the 5 key, it said, "Sorry, that's an invalid response" and sent me back to the main menu, where it said, "Welcome to [Voicemail Product Name Withheld]!!!"

Why is this a big deal? It was my darn product! Or at least, I was the product manager for several recent years of my life. Ahhhhggg! How ironic that I be thwarted by my "other baby" while I'm trying to get information for Q.


Now I need to figure out how to get a hold of their IT department and tell them that they have a call handler mis-configured in their auto-attendant.


And yes, we did get Q into the class, and he had a nice time there. The room was covered with tumbling mats and had lots of soft structures to climb and bounce. He was a little shy, but he'll enjoy more of the activities as he gets more comfortable.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Goldfish Fans

I have always been a huge fan of Goldfish crackers in all colors and shapes. To my delight, Jenny, supporter of all things cute, posted today at ljcfyi about their snacking coolness and photographed an official serving size - 51 fish.

I just had to get out my special Goldfish cracker container and fill it up! Oddly, the nutritional information on my packaging says there are 55 fish in a serving. Are west coast servings larger? Are the fish smaller? We may never know. I no longer remember how many proofs-of-purchase I had to collect for the Big Goldfish. Admittedly, it's an awkward shape to wash (the tail hinges open to access crackers), but he sure is cute.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Emergency Supply, Part II

In case of emergency . . . eat corn and stay warm, apparently. I did actually follow up on my to-do's and got some thermal blankets, work gloves, cans of corn (SwingDaddy agreed that he could eat corn and we figure Q probably will too), and a can opener to add to our kit today. At the next re-supply point, I should probably go for some water purification tablets too. I feel marginally less unprepared for disaster.

One always hopes that a cell phone, credit card, chocolate, and a good book will ward off any dangers, but sadly it doesn't always work that way.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Cliche Alert

Mom and I took Q for a walk around the neighborhood in his stroller, enjoying the bright sunshine and warm weather. He babbled happily all the way, craning his head whenever he heard an airplane. We're under the flight path of at least two airfields, so there's plenty for him to admire.

When we got close to home, Q got to walk for a bit in his new shoes. Our pace slowed down, but not because he can't keep up. On the contrary! His speed is quite impressive these days, for a one-year old. It's just that he wants to stop and explore everything – leaves, flowers, grass, dirt. It's all new, bright, and exciting.

This is the point where I'm supposed to digress into a touching essay about how children remind us of the importance of stopping to smell the roses, etc. Alas, I'm not in that kind of mood tonight. I need to sort out the bills and finish writing the presentation I'm giving at work tomorrow. So, let's just say that we had a terrific day with Q, and that he had soooo much fun with his grandparents. I think the feelings were mutual.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Hippos and Naps

I've had a grocery bag of old CDs sitting around for ages and finally took them to Half Price Books today. My sister, dad, and I browsed while they evaluated the stack and were pleasantly surprised to get $40 in return. It doesn't come remotely close to what the music cost originally, but when you're planning to get rid of something anyway, it seems like free money.

I picked up a set of Boyton board books, since Q likes them so much. Unfortunately, it didn't include Hippos Go Berserk, so we'll need to get that separately. "Nine hippos come to work, All the hippos go berserk!" Sorry, got carried away there. Really, it makes sense in context . . . mostly.

Q's words are getting much clearer. When I left to run an errand this morning, he said "bye-bye" quite well! As M Giant of Velcrometer reports of his son, M Small, animal noises are all the rage in the 1 year old set. We've got a horsey neigh, some quacks, a woof, and occasional moos, but it mostly depends on whether Q feels like driving the action or just sitting back and letting us entertain him with goofy sounds and faces instead.

I've now been sitting in our parked car for 40 minutes, while Q and SwingDaddy finish their naps. Someone insisted on getting up at 4:30 this morning (guess who), so they're catching up sleep before we go inside to my sister's place for dinner. I hope they wake up soon, 'cause I'm getting hungry! If I had wireless internet access in the car, I could post this now, instead of waiting until we're home. Plus, I could order a pizza to be delivered to the car.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Splash!

My parents are in town, and Q is having a wonderful time playing with them. Grandma and Grandpa help him with one of his favorite activities – handwashing! And splashing the water, of course.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Food and Friends

Tonight we invited our dancers over to chat, eat, and watch show videos. It was great to see everyone and get to talk about more than "Let's run that one more time." There are several weddings in various stages of planning, new jobs, new homes, grad school acceptances, and medical residency matches. A pair of friends just returned from two weeks of tango in Argentina, bringing back dozens of pairs of handmade dance shoes.

Q was the center of attention, at least until his bedtime. He played with the guests, allowed one to juggle for him, and shared his toys. The Magic Mozart Cube entertained a roomful of purported adults for a good 15 minutes.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Getting Less Plasticky

I'm making bright felt covers for the plastic SuperYard baby gate we have crossing our living room, keeping Q and our TV from harm. The room looks much more cheerful with all this red, blue, and yellow. If the kidlet likes it enough to keep them up, we can add decorations. Maybe an octopus, lobster and frog? The photo above shows one of many cute frogs who live with SwingDaddy's family in Denver.

Those ID bands have struck a chord – we're up to 19 order requests. I might as well inquire into their bulk sales policy.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

In Case of Emergency

Q woke at half past five and wouldn't sleep unless I held him, so I'm a little groggy today. I remember having dawn practice six days a week when I raced crew in college, and was grateful that I wasn't also outside and inches above the cold water of the Bay this morning.

Every solstice and equinox (no, there's no particular reason except that they're easy dates to remember), I check our emergency kit. You can buy complete survival kits for hundreds of dollars or go to Ready.gov for detailed lists, but that can get overwhelming. I just have a modest goal to make our supplies a little better each time.

For this refresh, I've removed the baby bottles and added sippy cups! We already have water, but we could use some more non-perishable foods. I'm trying to find a canned vegetable that SwingDaddy and Q will both be willing to eat. We could use a few more thermal blankets too.

On another safety topic, I came across the Who's Shoes site that offers small ID bands that Velcro onto children's shoes. That way, if they get lost, an adult can read the tag and find the parent's mobile phone number. My sister got ID wristbands for her husband and SwingDaddy for Christmas. Similar idea, but since the guys have a pretty good sense of direction, the ID bands just provide emergency contact info in case of injury while cycling or running.

The kiddie tags look like they'll do well. I think I'll see who else in my Moms Group is interested and order a batch.

Monday, March 20, 2006

My Imaginary Shop


I was admiring cute produce and penguins online today. Now I want to make plush creatures and have my own online craft store too.

Tonight I sketched a half dozen little beans and a friendly mushroom for my imaginary shop.


Sunday, March 19, 2006

Munchy Munch

I may not be as talented as the Vegan Lunch Box lady, but I'm making progress. Homemade dumplings for Q! I feel like a real Mom now.

A slightly unrelated note: Ever wonder why SwingDaddy and I ask Q if he wants a munchy munch? Or cheesey cheese and any number of other silly word variants? (Ok, maybe it's just me and not SwingDaddy saying it.) It all started with this blanket . . .


Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Happiest Gel Packs You've Ever Seen

I was running an errand at the Container Store today, and brought home Mr. Bump (pictured here with Mr. Happy and Little Miss Helpful). You're supposed to keep him in the fridge and bring him out to soothe bruises and sprains. I love the Mr. Men! Mr. Messy was my first book in the series. He was a big crayon scribble with eyes.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Dressing a Galaxy

I finished reading Dressing a Galaxy: The Costumes of Star Wars, by costume designer Trisha Biggar. The book features gorgeous, sumptuous pictures, accompanied by interesting commentary. For example, her team had to sew thousands of beads to cover the collar area of one Natalie Portman's gowns, when they discovered that the watered silk "strobed" for the digital camera. This fabric treatment would have been fine for film.

Another time, they discovered the vintage wool used for Jedi cloaks started to shrink as soon as they got wet. They had to replace the robes for every take, since the Jedi were walking into a lake!

I have the standard issue of the book, but it mentions that the limited edition includes fabric swatches from Biggar's favorite sixteen costumes and a Wookie belt buckle.

If you love costumes and textiles, it's a fun read.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Phone Friends: A Meandering Post


I'm searching for a successor to my little red cell phone. I've had this Nokia model for five years, since just before the first Charlie's Angels movie came out and all the Angels had the same phone. I used to love it that people would say I looked just like glamorous Lucy Liu, when I pulled the phone out of the pocket of my black leather coat to take a call. Many calls, replacement batteries, and a movie sequel later, I'm wondering what's new in the world of personal phones.

The Motorola Razr is darn sharp. I must admit that I'm a sucker for form factor, so it's my favorite in spite of not being a big flip phone fan. The Slvr had promise until I saw it in person. It may be thin, but the footprint makes it seem really bulky. I haven't seen the Pebl yet, but it mostly makes me think the Motorola marketing department must be located in the Czech Republic, where they are thrifty with their vowels.
Why not a flip phone? When I get a call, it takes too long to get the phone out of a protective case and then get the phone opened. I don't like to carry the phone naked – I'd be certain to drop it on a hard surface at the worst possible time. However, if I got one of those clever phone straps, I could loop it over my wrist, and a flip phone might be ok. Then the only issue would be that the Razr comes in magenta, but not red.

More about phone straps: SwingDaddy has been forwarding Peter Payne's weekly updates from JBox, a company that sells "wacky things" from Japan. Along with product news, Peter writes thoughtful musings on Japanese culture.

A while back, he talked about cell phone charms, "which are an updated version of the art form known as netsuke, popular since the Edo Period." A lot of Japanese have cords or straps which attach to their cell phones to make them easier to carry and display decorations.

It didn't take Google long to find StrapYa, A Japanese Phone Accessory Superstore. The site noisy to the eyes, but they do have a remarkable selection. The photo at the top of the post shows the phone charm collection of "Jam-Bun and Friends." Yes, you can have a plush cell phone companion in the shape of a snack.

So, from a consumer electronics quest, I ended up looking at cute toys. I suppose that's not so surprising.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

On an unrelated note, I did indeed go back to the store and return the Tab Energy. The cashier and the man in line behind me heartily agreed that it was the right thing to do. "It's this bad, fruity thing, nothing like real Tab," he sighed.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Counter Space

A mommy entry: For a whole year, half our kitchen counter space has been commandeered by a bottle support structure. Bottles, bottle covers, bottle brushes, bottle sterilizer, a container for warming bottles. This week, we've graduated, and Q is happily drinking cow's milk.

I'm making space for the bottles in his closet, next to the breast pump and the MyBrestFriend. I can't believe how much bigger our kitchen seems! Of course, we now have a remarkable variety of sippy cups scattered around, but they're still kind of new and exciting.

Yay! No more bottle-washing!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

One Potato, Two Potato


I IM'd my colleague yesterday morning. "Does your son already have a Darth Tater?" His oldest boy is a huge Star Wars fan. Being only six, he has an excuse for loving the prequel trilogy above almost all things.

"No, what's a Darth Tater?"

"Brace yourself. It's a Mr. Potato-Head dressed as Darth Vader."

"That's pretty funny. No, he doesn't have one."

I explained that we'd been given Darth Tater as a charming Christmas gift, and no, the funny thing wasn't that someone thought we'd like him. The funny thing was that we already had one. SwingDaddy and I agreed to share the first potato and to give the second one to a loving home.

Out of curiosity, I checked online to see if they still had the toy on the market. Well, not only is there Darth Tater, but he is joined by Spud Trooper!

And coming soon, R2Dtater!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Pull Tab to Open

Longtime fans of Meg Cabot (best known as the author of Princess Diaries), can't help but hear a lot about Tab, the "pioneering diet soda" with such a dedicated following that they meticulously stalk Coca-Cola distributors throughout North American in search of another case. After three or four hundred mentions, I became curious about the taste of Tab. What makes it so distinctive?

Tonight, I saw a stack of bright pink four-packs by the checkout counter, and thought, "Wow, here's my chance." I've never seen Tab in a store before! SwingDaddy was waiting in the car with the sleeping Q, so I hurried out and didn't notice that it was "Tab Energy," a new product, not the original Tab.

I was all excited about Tab. I was going to give one can to my sister, also a Meg Cabot fan, and we could decide together how to distribute the other two cans. I'm not sure the wince-inducing $5.99 is worth it for four cans of not-Tab.

So, do I take it back to the store?

Magnetism, Part II


I managed to get a picture of the magnets without as much reflection this time. They are very satisfying in a telephony-geek way.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Parking Lot Vultures

After a successful expedition to the mall (larger sized onesies for Q, among other things), we rolled our way through the parking structure towards the car. A sedan started tailing us, and at first, I assumed he was following someone else in hopes of nabbing a good parking space. What idiot would vulture a family pushing a stroller laden with baby accoutrements, packages, and the baby himself? Anyone could tell that we were going to be a slow ship to leave port.

We continued walking, and the car followed us all the way to our spot, about as far from the mall entrance as possible. Perhaps the driver had an elaborate hairstyle that wouldn't withstand the light drizzle, so the empty row of roofless spaces nearby just wouldn't do.

SwingDaddy started strapping Q into his 5 point carseat harness, and I started moving baby gear and packages. We glanced at the hovering car – still waiting. A half dozen other parking spaces must have opened up by now. We folded up the stroller, loaded it in, pulled out some toys for Q, got into the car, backed out and drove off. The sedan glided into our spot.

I'm not sure who had the lesson to learn. Either that driver should learn better tactics in shopping mall parking, or I could use some practice in patience.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Closet Dilemma

I love beautiful clothes and costumes. As our dance repertoire has expanded in eras, so has the costume base, and so has the problem of storage.

The lovely new Regency frocks (see Jane Austen and Jazz) need a home in my closet, and I'm not sure where to find it. Last year's massive purge sent literally carloads of clothes, gowns, shoes, household items and oddly enough, three end tables, to Goodwill, as well as boxes full of books for Friends of the Library. It's not going to be easy to carve out more space. Wish me luck.

Such Magnetism


I was a little restless last night, so I ran some errands at Target while SwingDaddy was rocking Q to sleep. We were a little low on Baby Motrin and a few other essentials, so it was a reasonable excuse for an outing. (Side note - while attempting to dose a squirmy Q earlier in the week, it occurred to me that Motrin is probably not a topical medication, but maybe it would still do some good. He's since realized that the berry flavoring sure is yummy, so it's going down a little easier now.)

Anyhow, I was lured into the "Dollar" section right by the front door of the store, and saw magnets of such cuteness that they had to come home with me. One set of my initials (pictured on my office filing cabinet), one of Q's initials, and a packet of little round magnets that look like telephone buttons (too much reflection in the photo, so I'll have to try again). My office pal commented that perhaps I could write off the expense as an investment towards user interface research. We work in IP telephony, so it's not a complete stretch, but they were only $1.08 including tax.

It's a good thing I only impulse shop in the dollar bin.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Food, Glorious Food


As Q gets more capable and ambitious (and therefore has more opportunities to be frustrated when he tries something new), I am reaching for ways to help him express himself. Last week, I took pictures of his favorite foods in the hopes that he'd be willing to point at the apple, the banana, or cheese. It would be simpler than our current mode of operation, which is to run all over the kitchen holding up enticing munchables.

Tuesday night, the ladies from Mommy Group met in a coffee shop with Nurse L, our former New Mothers class instructor. We get together informally with her once a quarter these days, to ask advice on eating, sleeping, all those critical basics.

I said, "I'm thinking about making a picture book of food, so Q can point to what he wants to eat."

Nurse L paused thoughtfully. "Ask yourself this: When he learns how to talk, is that what you want him to do? Do you really want to train him to order off a menu, like he's at a restaurant?" she asked. "Mommy, I want to eat this, not that."

She suggested encouraging him to eat what we cook, since that will be hard enough. Good point.

I think I'll save those photos for another project.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Jane Austen and Jazz



Brian Lee took these fun pictures of our troupe at Viennese Ball. Our Regency ladies and Lindy Hoppers, doin' their stuff!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Customer Service Day

Today was quite the Customer Service day! Either this is a reward for the terrible service I've had in the past, or else there's a very bad week coming up. Hope it's the former.

I called InStyle Magazine this morning, hoping against hope that I could straighten out the billing and mailing issues that my sister and I have had for years. Last year, I renewed my subscription and hers, as a Christmas gift. At first, she received her copy and I received none. After I called the help line to complain, they started sending me two copies – one in my name and one in my sister's - to my house, plus another copy to her house. I was too worried how they might multiply if I called again, so I left things as they were for the rest of the season, and gave the spare copy to our babysitter, who promptly increased her shopping expeditions, inspired by the fashion pictures (Sorry, K!).

Note though, that an extra copy of InStyle landing in the mailbox is no joke to the structural soundness of your house. They can weight between three and seven pounds, filled with glossy ads. One Letter to the Editor last year stated that the reader had successfully beaten off a mugger with her Holiday issue.

Back to this morning - another year, another attempted subscription renewal. I'm now getting two copies at my house and my sister is getting none. Even more oddly, I received a bill for $9, on the account, even though I kept a copy of the original offer price and the check that I sent to cover it in full. After the help line phone tree led to a "system down" message and a second attempt, I reached a customer service agent who investigated, and said that it was all fixed.

All fixed? You mean I will get one copy in my name at my house, my sister will get one copy in her name at her house, and that we're fully paid up? Yes.

I'll let you know what really happens.

Later in the day, I embarked on another hopeless (I thought) effort, with the agency that manages our company healthcare Flexible Spending Accounts. I finally reached a live person to handle the ongoing saga of rejected receipts and extended 2005 reimbursement deadlines and mis-credited checks, which ended with her saying that "On April 1st, we will automatically transfer reimbursements credited in the first three months of the 2006 against any remaining funds in your 2005 account."

This completely solves our problem. If it isn't an early April Fools joke, anyhow.

Three cheers for empowered Customer Service Representatives!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Welcome to Nupboard Central

Why Nupboards? I intended to blog under the title Naturally Caffeinated, the name of our dance production company. NatCaff was a favorite phrase for myself for years, although it's somewhat less accurate now that we have a baby. A few months ago, a yoga-type business registered the domain, and it seemed like a sign to move on.

I briefly considered another personal slogan, Cuteness über Alles. While that certainly applies to part of my life, it's a bit of a niche, and I wouldn't want to bring unfortunate WWII associations to mind.

(In a side note, I did find an interesting historical explanation of the phrase Deutschland über Alles that points out the anthem was not a call for conquest of other nations; instead, it exhorted citizens to consider themselves Germans above all, rather than subjects of the dozens of component states.) In any case, there is plenty of room for cute, but not as a blog title.

What I want is a digital cupboard, a place to keep my stories, musings, and memories.

After one too many readings of the Seussian classic, There's a Wocket in My Pocket, I absently thought that it'd be fun to party with the Nupboards. My small son smiled back fondly.

"The Nupboards in the cupboards,
I do like them a lot," says the narrator.

The illustration shows the Nupboards overflowing from the cupboards, happy faces, arms, and legs waving giddily. It looks like a safe and friendly place.

So here we are, Nupboard Central.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Hello World

One year ago today, I gave birth to our son, Q. SwingDaddy and I can hardly believe that in one year's time, he's already quadrupled his size, runs around the house, and shows a distinct preference for toys with buttons.

Happy Birthday, Q!