Sunday, December 31, 2006

Not Quite the Year in Review


New Year's Resolutions:

#1 Get More Sleep.

Speaking of that, I think I'll finish this tomorrow. Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Renaming of Elmo, Plus Raspberry Cake

A selection of passing thoughts.

The famous Dooce agrees with Q. Their TMX Elmo has been dubbed with the pretty fabulous name of Grand Mal Seizure Elmo. Q is actually quite fond of carrying around Elmo and has forgiven him the twitching, so we're not sure whether we should just continue leaving the power switch off. It might make for a more peaceful household.

Do you remember how I wrote about the company that was too busy to send me a account statement for six months, yet managed to send me a holiday calendar? Two days later, I received a packet with all the paperwork. Coincidence? Yes, since there's no way they know I blog, but it's still pretty funny.

More on the mystery of the calendar highlights: An alert friend at the VA points out that Veterans Day in the USA is technically November 11, but observed with closures on the 12th this year. To become better informed see the FAQ on Veteran's Day at VA.gov.

Overheard in the kitchen.
SwingDaddy: There's too much raspberry mousse cake for the two of us to finish tonight.
Lady M: Is that a dare?

Friday, December 29, 2006

Upstaged by TMX Elmo

Tonight's entertainment by numbers:

Excellent dinner party, to celebrate my birthday earlier this week: 1
Outstanding babysitting grandparents, making said dinner party possible: 2
Conversations regarding home renovations: 3
Analyses of toddler behavior: 4
Adults standing in a circle, fascinated by the antics of TMX Elmo: 12

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Escape from DIA

Colorado got another 28 inches of snow last night, canceling 500 more flights out of Denver International Airport. We made it into and out of the city in the perfectly clear window between storms! In case you couldn't quite make it out, yesterday's snow-writing photo was taken through the window at the airport, reading, "I Heart DIA."

I thought I had finished the photo series on our neighbor's Christmas decorations, but yesterday I noticed that he's interwoven lights through another structure on his house. I might need to get the camera out again.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Middling Amount of Snow Would Have Been Nicer

Last Wednesday, two feet of snow dumped on the Rockies within 24 hours. Between United and Frontier Airlines, 220,000 passengers were stranded, and an estimated 4,700 travelers slept at the Denver airport last Wednesday night, huddling under relief blankets and making shelters from cardboard. We were supposed to fly there the next day. Needless to say, we didn't.

Four days later, we arrived without incident, aside from a 40 minute delay when the plane ahead of us couldn't get traction in the snow and had to be towed. Actually, I suppose it's a four day and 40 minute delay, but since we were stuck here in California with all the comforts of home, we counted ourselves fortunate.

And just 'cuz I'm the oddball person you know who flew on both September 11 and Christmas Day this year and can share this information with you – there were way, way, way more people at the airport at 4:30am on December 25 than at rush hour on 9/11.

The best side effect of the weather was that Q got to play in the snow and help make his first real snowman. Once we put on his snowpants, thick jacket, gloves, hat, and the cutest little boots ever, he was so bundled up he could hardly walk. That didn't keep him from sweeping up around the snowman though.

We had a lovely visit with SwingDaddy's folks and all agreed that even though our visit was so shortened, time with children can be very intense. It sure felt like we packed in a lot of activity.

Q has become quite a demanding maestro, handing out drums and guitars and expecting us to accompany his increasing sophisticated choreography. We're hoping to be able to retire on his artistic career any day.

We made it safely home this afternoon and Q is now enjoying the attention of my folks. Q is one lucky kid. More accurately, we're one lucky family.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Berry, Berry Chocolatey

Perfect for gatherings with family. We've been enjoying ours!

If all goes well with travel, we'll be home tomorrow with pictures of Q's first real snowman (complete with broom, of course) and his new friend, Grandma and Granddad's vacuum cleaner.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Well, Of Course There's More

Mr. Snowman has acquired a sidekick and some cheerful Malibu lights (see the right side of the frame).

Snowman Jr. is ready for his close-up.

Glittering snowflakes on the chimney end the saga of our neighbor's elaborate Christmas fest on a high note. We have solemnly admired from across the street each evening.

Q is a little occupied enjoying his early Christmas presents, so on his and SwingDaddy's behalf, I wish you peace and a Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

I'm a Kung Fu Boy

Q tries out a few new moves this evening.

Bubandpie provided the key information for yesterday's puzzle. The mysteriously highlighted calendar shows both US and Canadian holidays. July 1 is Canada Day and July 4 is well, the Fourth of July. November 11 is Remembrance Day (Canada) and November 12 is Veteran's Day (US). Thanks!

I made the conversion over to the New Blogger (formerly known as Blogger Beta). I like the drag and drop template feature, but I'm pretty bummed to lose the automatic "previous posts" list on my sidebar when I converted my template. I spend some effort in making interesting titles to tempt you to read older posts, and now they don't get seen.

My sidebar links no longer open into a new tab and oddly, a number of comments are now labeled Anonymous, even though I saw who posted them this morning, when I was still using Old Blogger. Hopefully this will get sorted out shortly.

While I'm having non sequitur day, here's another public service announcement (yes, the unexpected extra days at home are letting me catch up with things I've been meaning to do for ages): Order your credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com.

By US law, you get one free report for each of the three credit reporting companies per year, so get your TransUnion report now, and put Experian in your calendar for May and Equifax for September. That way if something looks wacky, you'll have a regular check while it gets fixed.

And back to our regularly scheduled cuteness.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Mystery Calendar and Squid

Why is it that a company that has been unable to provide me a written statement of my account status repeatedly over the last six months can manage to send me an unsolicited scenic calendar for the holidays requiring special shipping arrangements?

And what's up with the highlighted dates? Some are obvious. New Year's, MLK, President's Day, an April day I'm assuming is Good Friday. But May 21? July 1? Is October 8 Columbus/Indigenous People's Day? Nov 11 & 12 – one should be Veteran's Day, but I'm not sure about the other. Let me know if you have any ideas.

In a totally unrelated topic, Jenny wrote the other day about a deep-seated fear of giant squid. She might be alarmed because there are giant squid in the news today, so I wanted to share a reassuring picture of a friendly finger puppet Squid Guy and his pal, Mr. Hexapus.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Are You Prepared?

Happy Winter Solstice! It's time for our quarterly emergency readiness check again. Sometimes emergency plans look so daunting that it's easier to do nothing. So, my goals are modest. I'm going to do a few small things each season to put us in better shape to handle an emergency.

I was very pleased to see crank-powered flashlights back on the market. The flashlight I picked also has a radio for catching news broadcasts, an alarm, and serves as a recharger for your mobile phone. No batteries required. I ordered mine from Solutions.com for $25, but it seems like they are everywhere this month with varying extra features.

I was even given a wind-up flashlight at the department holiday cookie party, branded with our company logo, presumably so that we can find our way out of the building in a power-out without resorting to peering in the fading light of our laptop screens.

I'm also going to order a container of the Survival Tabs that I was eyeing a few months ago, which the military uses as a compact food source. They don't take up a lot of space and might come in handy.

I checked the cans of food in our emergency kit, and some of them will expire within a year, so I donated those in a food drive and replaced them with new ones. It would have been more frugal to eat our way through the set can-by-can, but I like to participate in the food drives anyway, so the timing was good.

Try to do one thing to improve your emergency readiness. Prepare containers of water. Or stash a little cash so that you'll have it handy if ATMs aren't working. Get a good local map in case you need to walk to a rescue location. There's lots of good info at 72Hours.org.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Thwarted

You know how I was worried about traveling to a snowy town in the middle of winter? And y'all sent me reassuring advice about how airplane travel with a baby was no big deal and highly manageable? And how I felt much better about it and set to making preparations with a lighter heart?

Well, our flight got cancelled and the soonest we could get rebooked is a flight that leaves at 6am four days later, due to snow at our destination. Uh-huh.

In the meantime, we're consoling ourselves with the excellent chocolate that SwingDaddy gave me as an early Christmas present.

Maybe we'll even decorate our distinctly un-Christmasy house, starting with this plush wreath that's actually a dog toy, but is so cute and fuzzy I had to bring it home (darn you, Target dollar bin!).

Or at least decorate the child.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Monday, December 18, 2006

Giving Ourselves to a Higher Power for Our Family Photo Shoot

Welcome, especially if this is your first visit!

Most of you know that I love pictures, and most of you also know that our 21-month old son, Q, loves to play with brooms. These two loves had an eventful intersection when we and the ever-patient SwingDaddy got together with our photographer friend YF for our family photo session.

My reflections immediately after the fact were captured in this post, and here is the illustrated story of how to encourage a very curious toddler to cooperate long enough to pretend that one's family looks loving and relaxed for at least five seconds during the year.

How it began: Q was intrigued by YF's guitar, so we brought that out to entertain him, as well as some toys. Not really successful here.


Q was less interested in the toys than me and went in search of the cat.


We enticed him back with the guitar, and while the photo turned out ok, we weren't crazy about the focus being a guitar. It's nice and all, but not really representative of us. YF's dog wandered in, and Q ran over to hug her, but a Christmas photo with someone else's pet wasn't quite what we were looking for either.


SwingDaddy made an attempt to make Q giggle by turning him upside down, a favorite pasttime, but the smile only lasted until he was right side up again.


Here I am, trying to entice my child to sit still with a raisin treat. I look like a dolphin trainer.



SwingDaddy succeeds in getting the kiddo to smile, which is much easier now that he has found a toy broom and mop.


And this is the best smile yet.


Now if we could just get him to let go of the broom and mop for one minute.


Well no, that just isn't going to happen. Mom and Dad are so SLOW sometimes!



Once we decided that there was no point in fighting the brooms, the photo shoot went just fine. Q was happy, and what could be more important?

This is it. The moment you've been waiting for, our 2006 family photo. You have to admit, it is pretty representative of our lives at this moment:



Mommy, Daddy, Baby, and Brooms.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Thanks for visiting! Q's life is described in great detail at SwingDaddy's place, and you're welcome to drop by.

Many, many thanks to YF for the excellent photography under duress.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Cher, Christmas Wishes, Legwarmers

Squeezing in one more post of tidbits to get caught up with the latest:

* After years of taking ballet class as a cross-training activity for technique and exercise, and proudly wearing the track pants and tank tops that I wear to my other dance rehearsals, I've finally broken down and bought ballet attire – leg warmers to be exact. It's just too darn cold this winter (don't laugh, I'm a Californian) and my feet and ankles are more sensitive than they were ten years ago. Besides, they're back in style, and I can wear them over my boots like fashion icon Paris Hilton (not, not NOT!).

* It's so cold in my new office building that I've brought in a small blanket and thin gloves so I can still type wearing them. I'm considering one of those microwaveable heat packs, but my colleague has already tackled the facilities department. We'll see if it gets better next week.

* Our Mommy Group had a splendid holiday party at YF's this weekend, and the eleven small children had almost as good a time as the adults. In the car on the way home, Q was practicing a word that we'd been using a lot that evening.

Q: Share? Share? Share?
SwingDaddy: No honey, we're listening to Madonna, not Cher.
Lady M: Don't confuse the child!

* Mamacita Tina has tagged me with the Christmas wish meme, and I was really torn between wishing for peace on earth and universal healthcare, or being more selfish, like wanting more sleep and for Cingular to support the RED Motorola RAZR phone (darn it, why only Sprint?). I suppose the latter to would contribute to the former two, in a convoluted way, so let's just say they are related items. (Sleep would make me happier, leading to more peace in the world. The Product RED project supports AIDS treatment in Africa, which is related to health. Ok, never mind, I'll stop right there.)

* If you're curious how those half-dressed half-mannequins looked from my post a few days ago, I finally got the photo to load here.

* Some of the best moments can be so simple. Sometimes SwingDaddy and I will just sit side by side in bed with our laptops, munching his (Red Vines) and hers (Twizzlers) packets of licorice. We'll compare notes on the news (Slashdot covereage vs CNN), blog, and just hang out. Yeah, we're a geeky household.

Signed, Sealed and Delivered

Another snowman joins the fray.

Q intercepted the frozen waffle this morning before I got it to the toaster and promptly ate half in its icy state. Yum, a new treat.

We finished getting our Christmas cards ready tonight! After taking the family photo at the end of October and carefully ordering the cards in November, I didn't getting around to scrubbing the address list until this weekend. A remarkable number of our friends are starting to stay in one place longer than a year, so we had fewer updates than usual, but the side benefit of checking in is getting bits of exciting news when friends respond with their addresses. Is it strange to correspond a bunch on email in order to send a card by post? I think there's still something nice about physical mail.

Tomorrow: The long awaited (at least in my head) photo essay about our family photo shoot.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Vacuum Cleaner Orchestra

The housecleaners that help us every couple of weeks have always been very friendly to Q. They welcome him with a big, "Hello baby!" when they arrive and smile whenever they see him. Q has been very intently observing their brooms and vacuum cleaner for months, and for Christmas, they brought him his very own little Dirt Devil. Here's a photo with SwingDaddy so that you can get a sense of its petite proportions:

After Q got tired of vacuuming this afternoon, he decided to play the guitar, the cello, and then the saxophone.

And the piano. It's a good thing this Dirt Devil is so versatile!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Working on those Acting Skills

Q's music and gymnastic classes are over until January and it's been rainy outside, so Nanny J has been coming up with different outings. They headed to the library for Mother Goose Hour earlier this week, even though it was technically the story session for "Pre-Walkers."

There was a three-year old there who ran up to the teacher and repeatedly tried to take her puppet and books. The teacher dismissed him from the class as kindly as possible since he was distracting from the babies, who were the official pupils.

Apparently, Q sat quietly, not making a peep, so he got to enjoy all the stories. He and Nanny J pretended that he was also a "pre-walker" and hid his tell-tale dirty shoes.

The next day, they went to Mother Goose Hour for the toddler set, and the new teacher was rather dull, so Q and his mobile compatriots ran all over the room while the parents tried to corral them. Kids are a tough audience.

Her Bad Auction closes on Sunday, so head over there soon!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Finishing an Incomplete Story

A couple of days ago, I was really down, exhausted, burdened. I was climbing up four flights of stairs (yes, there's an elevator, but I'm trying to squeeze in a little exercise where I can) hauling my computer bag, heavy coat (because I'm a wimp in this cold, cold California weather), an unwieldy oversized plastic container (used to store snacks in the office to keep them pest free. At a previous job, a mouse jumped out of my file cabinet once, and it took months before I could open a drawer without flinching), some slippery (referring to the quality of the paper, not the content) marketing material, and my leftover lunch, all the while feeling sorry for myself, since I hadn't gotten much sleep in days and I'd visited four separate buildings on campus that day, struggling to find distant parking each time.

I managed to pull myself together, get home, wrap up the evening with SwingDaddy and the kiddo, and started to blog about it.

It occurred to me to review the three rules: Eat well. Sleep more. Keep in touch.

So I had a snack and went to bed.

And woke up feeling much, much better! The world is a good place.

So I had to finish the post today instead.

The End

~~~~~
I've been trying to leave comments for many of you and blogger beta isn't allowing it. I'll try to get moved over to beta this weekend so that I can leave notes when I visit!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

But Wait, There's More

We visited the latest addition to the display. Note that these photographs are not of my neighborhood. This is all my neighbor.

I'm planning to send him a card, telling him how many hours Q has spent gazing at the lights and the "No-man."

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

What's Opera, Doc?

I'm totally a Josh Groban fan. I'm so out of touch with what's hot that I wonder whether it's an in-crowd sort of fandom or not. I'm guessing not, but what do I know? After all, at the age 25, he's already rung up more CDs than Beyonce and sold out Madison Square Garden in 22 minutes. The part that I care about is his extraordinary voice and charming interpretation. Groban's self-deprecating wit fares well in interviews, and besides, I'm fond of baritones.

However, as shown by a recent Salon article sneering at "popera pretty boys" (warning: you might have to click through an ad in order to read the full version), pop music without edgy pimps and hos all too often gets labeled as schmaltz. I don't think that's a fair characterization, but there is undoubtedly sentimentality in his music.

Groban has said that he tends to prefer the sad songs, because they're more beautiful, but quite frankly, a commercial album like his needs a big uplifting ballad to receive invitations to sing at the Olympics, Super Bowl Halftime shows, and Oprah's birthday parties. In his second album, that tune was "You Raise Me Up," which you would undoubtedly recognize because it was used like candy by TV producers needing soaring vocals to match heartwarming stories throughout 2004.

When I received his new album, Awake, I scanned the back cover and immediately recognized the title that's meant to fill that role this time around. I groaned out loud from the heavy-handedness: "You Are Loved (Don't Give Up)."

But you know what? I like the tune. And I loved the wistful "February Song" and purity of "Solo Por Ti." Sometimes I can drift away on the music, without losing track of where I am on the freeway, of course.

It's a great album.

I love many kinds of music and firmly believe you can be a hip hop and Bach fan at the same time, so I enjoyed the crossover of styles in "Awake." Arias, pop tunes, and even two collaborations with Ladysmith Black Mombazo. The making-of DVD showed a segment where Groban first meets the South Africans and fairly articulately expressed how thrilled he is to be working with them. Founder Joseph Shabalala also expresses his pleasure in working with Groban. He's deeply satisfied to pass on his gifts and skills to a young man, a fellow musician, even though they come from different traditions.

In contrast, the Salon story tried to set up music genres as rivals, and concluded that "The fiery drama and emotional vividness of real opera has been usurped by a gauzy, cheesy romanticism. Sure, audiences throw roses at (popera singers), just as they did Caruso. But they also throw a whole lot of panties."

Is this a bad thing? (Not that I want panties thrown at me, obviously, but I don't see the problem with the popular acceptance of a more "classical" sound.) I didn't take an opera out of my CD changer and replace it with Groban. His album sits alongside Gwen Stefani, Pink, and Evanescence. I think it's fun to embrace a variety of music, and in turn, the world of opera has clearly realized that they need to reach out to a new audience, if they want people who aren't dead on the subscription lists in fifteen years. Go Josh! Go pop! Go opera!

Enough rambling. Enjoy your music, whatever it is. And maybe try something new.

An unrelated story: This morning, I was lying groggily on the couch in Q's room, trying to blink myself awake. "Kiss for mama?" I asked the kiddo.

He looked at me gravely and popped the pacifier out of his mouth. He leaned over and pressed his cheek to my lips.

Thanks, baby!

Monday, December 11, 2006

A Sign We Spend Too Much Time at the Computer

One morning last week, I opened the door to our home office and Q followed me in. He toddled over to my desk and said, brightly, "Eee-mail, mama!" Hmm, maybe we're spending too much time on the computer these days.

All over the blogosphere, folks are talking about Her Bad Auction, to benefit Muscular Dystrophy research in honor of Her Bad Mother's nephew, Tanner. Other folks have written more eloquently I possibly could, so go right there and check out the site. The Auction (really more of a raffle) opens tomorrow, and has all sorts of tempting trifles, all donated to benefit MD. See you there!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Coupon Failure and More Sealife

Bed, Bath and Beyond sends these 20% coupons on awkward pieces of cardstock, inconvenient for carrying around, unless you're planning to go directly to the store. So of course, I forgot to take my coupon yesterday. I could have saved $6 on the little table I got for Q!

I did better at Macy's since their coupons are small enough to stash in my wallet. I don't know how they figure out the margins at that store, because I have "special" discount cards for every day next week and a catalog arriving every time we open the mailbox.

I picked up a set of scarves and mittens (photo) for my cousin's daughters. It's so much fun to shop for little girls. Alas, the pom-pom scarves in the children's department were too small, so I didn't add any to my collection.

In other retail news, the December issue of InStyle features the Octopus Chair and Squid Soap in its holiday gift guide! Such excellent sealife cuteness.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Going B-A-N-A-N-A-S, But Very Fashionably

Updated: Photo evidence of the Macy's pants droppers added!


Many, many activities today. Q helped me bake banana bread. Then I took a trip to the bank, the post office, the gas station, REI, and Bed, Bath and Beyond. After he went to sleep, I hit the mall, which was open until 11pm. It was a killer to be running around the mall that late, but most of our gift shopping is done now!

While looking for kitchen items, I came across Calphalon's set of pink bakeware and Cuisinart's set of pink utensils. Don't they look yummy?
I also saw the weirdest merchandise display at Macy's. Four male mannequins, just waist down, wearing boxers and jeans hanging off their plastic butts. Like the half-mannequins had been to jail and had their belts confiscated as dangerous items, and now they have their pants falling down, showing their underwear, nicely arranged next to all the fancy colognes and designer clothes.

I took a picture with my camera phone, but it isn't cooperating well enough to send it to my computer. You will have to use your imagination.

Updated: Here are the Macy's mannequins in all their glory.