Sunday, December 30, 2007

Every Kitchen Needs Network Connectivity

When I wrote the post titled "Reason #10 Why I Love This House," it occurred to me that there were ten days left until Christmas, and I could continue the countdown, ending on Christmas Day with something sappy like "and the #1 reason is that it's filled with love.” I didn't actually have ten items in mind, but figured that it couldn't be all that hard to make a list. Then life intervened, Christmas flew past, and I’m just getting back to the list now.

The picture above? It's Reason #9, a prime example of the juxtaposition of aesthetics and technology all over the house. A polished granite backsplash above our kitchen counter, complete with ethernet port!

And here's Reason #8, the surprise hallway closet. The Original Owners converted the regular coat closet into a chilled wine rack, but left with no place to put the usual outdoor gear, they were creative and opened up a little cubby under the stairs to hold jackets. We call it the Harry Potter Room. (Re-read book 1, if you don't remember how his foster family made him sleep in the little room under the stairs.)

Saturday, December 29, 2007

One Year Closer to Claiming Adulthood

Sleeping in, time with family, the best dinner ever – would it be possible for yesterday’s birthday to be better? Perhaps with an aggressive application of chocolate, but not by much.

We haven’t yet persuaded Q to ride his new tricycle outside, but he’s willing to give SwingDaddy some help as he pedals.

My parents gave us an excellent lightweight step stool, the kind that has two levels and folds up. With all the loading-of-shelves that we’re doing, it’s in use about 22 hours of the day. Q, being an observant child, figured out that he can quickly move this handy tool to wherever he likes and gain access to items three feet higher than his previous reach. Scissors! Screwdrivers! Permanent markers! Pretzels! In turn, we’re relocating our unpacking supplies to even higher shelves.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Yeah, It was a Good One

The holiday was just lovely, filled with thoughtfulness and love and a tricycle that Q refuses to take outside so far. After some exploration of the convection oven capabilities of the kitchen, we ate a lot of food and watched a small napless boy run in circles with his new toys.

And yay! We heard from a friend who received our Christmas card in the mail, so the somewhat suspect post office came through after all. I was happy with the photo we chose, featuring a sort of toothpaste-commercial smile from Q. He’d discovered that day that climbing trees is fun and demanded that SwingDaddy boost him upwards into branches. I did my best to stay close, in my somewhat unbalanced gravid state.

The outtakes were a-plenty, and I am blocking out projected images of next year’s shoot, where we’ll be trying to make one more of us look respectable. Maybe this is why people start sending pictures of only their children. One of my colleagues has four kids, and starting in November, we would wait breathlessly each Monday for his report on the weekend’s photo attempt, usually involving one child or another crying on Santa’s lap. Each subsequent week towards Christmas got more desparate until they last year they decided they’d use a collage of summer vacation pictures and allevate the stress.

I hope that Chris of Notes from the Trenches, mother of seven, posts her selected photo. The outtakes were hilarious. I probably would have chosen this one for the card.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

From Our Family to Yours

Wishing You Love and Happiness

Photo credit: ZY

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Stockings Were Propped Up Near the Chimney with Care

Our first mantel! I'm so tickled to be have a place to display cards from friends and family. I’m going to hit an after-Christmas sale to find four (four!) mantel hooks for the stockings I’m planning to sew next year. In the mean time, we’ve leaned Q’s stocking against the hearth and eaten the “Santa” cookies he left before he went to bed.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Rise of a Wock Star

Q, thoroughly enjoying the microphone and hand-built stand that my parents allowed him to unwrap a few days early.

I had two goals today. The first was to get rid of my fever, and the other was to seal and mail our Christmas cards. Well, one out of two ain’t bad. I looked up the nearest post office on, but couldn’t find it. When I turned on the GPS to locate “Post Offices,” it sent me to this bucolic nearby village, where the office was only open from noon to 4pm, Monday through Friday. I stuffed the cards into the mail slot and hoped for the best. It’s going to take a while to find replacements for all our old services and stores.

Returning to the other goal. Aside from a couple of months of morning sickness, I’ve had a generally healthy year, but I think I caught whatever Q had. I’ve gone through almost a bear’s worth of honey mixed with hot water in about a day. I had a craving for Coke and Doritos tonight though, so maybe those will do a better job of curing the sickies.

One of my co-workers was commenting that between various ongoing minor illnesses, he didn’t think there was a week where both of his kids made it to daycare all five days. I said that Q had started school in August and hadn’t yet missed a day. I guess we’re binary around here. No long battles with sniffles – we just end up in the ER with croup.

Anyway, the little dude was pretty chipper all day, and even demonstrated a new, alarming skill. He’s been happily sleeping in his crib, even at two years and nine months, so we haven’t been pushing the idea of the big boy bed. Why fix what isn’t broken? Swimmy’s not going to need the crib for months anyway.

Q usually calls in progressively louder protests from his crib until we go and pick him up. Today, we took too long, and he vaulted out himself. Guess we have some bed shopping to do.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Not Feeling Prepared At All

It's time for another quarterly emergency readiness check!

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.

There’s no excuse that will save you when an emergency actually happens, but I’m going to plead morning sickness, house-buying, packing, and moving for not accomplishing the one explicit goal that I’d listed last time. I didn’t actually get around to building a cache of prescription medication, so that goes back on the list for this quarter.

However, I did order a car survival kit for us and as gifts for family, so I’m pleased to make a little progress there. Originally, I ordered the Sequoia Kit so well reviewed by the ladies at the Full Mommy, but sadly, the company went out of business. I found another instead, from Quake Kare, and it’s amazing what they can get into a moderate sized red backpack: First aid pack, water and food rations, thermal blankets, rain ponchos, hand crank powered radio/flashlight, lightsticks, work gloves, and more.

We haven’t used any of the items (thank heavens), but it seems sound enough that I’ll probably get another one so that SwingDaddy has one in his car too.

Another project for the upcoming quarter is to familiarize myself with the local streets in our new neighborhood, so that I could navigate in case of road closures.

Yes, yes, it’s the holidays and you’re busy, but add one item to your to-do list to improve your emergency readiness. Put a shovel in the trunk of your car in case you have to dig your car out of the snow. Store some extra water. Do at least one thing. You and your family might need it some day.

Friday, December 21, 2007

It Knows When You are Sleeping, It Knows When You’re Awake

It knows you shut the front door, now be quick for goodness sake!

Our new house talks to us. When someone leaves, we hear the omnipresent house voice saying,”Front door open” or “Laundry room door open.” This afternoon, I told SwingDaddy that my parents had opened a few windows to help dissipate the fresh paint smell, and he said he knew. From the bedroom headquarters, the house voice had told him, “Right kitchen window open” and so forth.

Right now, I don’t mind, because we’ve got people coming and going, working on plumbing and tiling, but we’ll think about reducing the number of security system announcements as we settle into routine. It’s probably a good idea to leave the front door alert running, because the little dude is tall enough to open it by himself, and the house voice would keep him from running off without warning.

The other thing that’s taking some getting used to is the lights. Mr. Original Owner was a techie after our own hearts, and he installed programmable lighting that is fascinating in theory, but a little challenging when you’re just trying to see in the darn kitchen and you’re faced with this:

What switch do you press and how many times?

I was worried that we’d have to issue candlesticks to all our guests, but I think we’ve got it mostly figured out now.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Do We See a Pattern Here?

Updated: You know, it's never a good sign when they recognize you at the ER. "Hey, it's you again. The cute kid with croup." After a eight month croup-free stretch, Q saw the docs, got his medicine and we were home by 4am. Little dude is feeling much better.

My almost Wordless Wednesday contribution.

Packing/cleaning day at the old house:

Tidying up pine needles from the Christmas tree at the new house:

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Maternity Fashion That I Adore

There were two items of maternity wear that I actually loved. The first was a red silk Regency ballgown that I wore three weeks before Q was born. I'd saved that particular era (Jane Austen-esque) for a preggers year, since the empire waist makes anyone look pregnant anyway.

The second was a red toggle pea coat, which was so cheerful and warm. I'm thrilled that Swimmy is due in the same season as Q, so I can wear it again. I would have brought it out regardless of fashion (who wants to buy a second maternity coat?), but I was happy to see this in a recent Nordstrom catalog.

Imagine the coat being convex instead of concave, and that's it.

Move update: We’re in the new house! Too tired to write about it, so more tomorrow.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Swim for the Border

We've been studiously working our way through all the nutritious soups in our fridge, so for contrast tonight, SwingDaddy suggested a late night run to Taco Bell. Swimmy agreed with a good kick, so I'm blogging while awaiting Tacos Supreme. Yum.

Moving Oddity:
We got a lot of previously used packing boxes from our moving company, both in the interest of saving money and being eco-conscious. The labels left over from other people can be quite amusing.

Who was Will and why was he keeping a huge box of "boring books?"

We're shutting down the computers tonight, so tomorrow may be on offline (gasp!) day.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Reason #10 Why I Love This House

Mrs. Original Owner of our new home is a book collector, and she's leaving all the built-in bookshelves. For the first time ever, we will have room for all our books and more! I put the volume of Harry Potter in the picture for scale.

Friday, December 14, 2007

It's Ours, All Ours!

Or more accurately, it's the bank's. But we get to live in it.

We had a pizza delivered and ate it sitting on the bare dining room floor, celebrating our new home. SwingDaddy brought over our Christmas decorations, including the Advent calendar made years ago by his mom and explained how it works to Q.

Major packing and cleaning to do over the next four days – get ready, get set, go!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

He's Totally Not Dead

We've been reading Go, Dog. Go! every night for a couple of weeks, and Q wants to count the groups of dogs on the first page.

There are three green dogs.
Three blue dogs.
Six pink dogs
Four yellow dogs.
One white dog and . . .

"What's that?" sez Q, pointing to a small dog still sleeping in the middle of the bed.

"It's a light blue dog," replies Mama, just as Daddy chimes in, "Maybe it's a white dog that died. Look, the rest of them are jumping up, but he's still lying there."

Now, we have to stifle our snickers whenever we get to that page.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Takoyaki Twin and the Sealife Flotilla

Because you really don't want to hear me go on about my current state of denial (What indigestion? What packing? What cleaning? What escrow delays because of the wacky state of the mortgage industry?), we're returning today to a nice fuzzy, friendly topic. Happy packages arriving in the mail full of cute plush sealife!

About two years ago, I set a moratorium on adding stuffed animals to our house, because I didn't want to dilute the standard of cuteness, and we were running out of room. It was a pretty successful rule, and I started taking pictures instead. During last summer's trip to the New England Aquarium, when faced with an entire gift shop of sealife, I didn't leave with a single creature, in spite of all the opportunities. (Q brought home a little turtle from SwingDaddy's mom and stepdad, but it's strictly his turtle who sleeps in his crib.)

Check out the merchandise, especially the goofy hammerhead sharks that look like they've collapsed from exhaustion into a big soft pile:

New plush friends have been few and far between for a while, but I am blessed with alert readers. Appleseed recalled that her small son, Jimmy, was mad for a plush octopus they call Takoyaki. She says the name actually means fried octopus ball, but they thought it was funny – the whole story with featuring photos of adorable child snuggling octopus here. Appleseed bought a second, identical toy, just in case Jimmy wore out the first one, but the original remained intact. And she mailed Takoyaki Twin to me! I mean, to Swimmy.

We are so honored to be found deserving of Jimmy's emergency backup octopus. Thank you, Appleseed.

As you can see, Takoyaki Twin has good company. Both with other octopi (left to right: Mr. Pentapus (orange), Huggy (green), Takoyaki Twin, Mr. Bubbles (purple), Pearl (pink) and Wiggles (light green)):

Here he is with some related pals from the same line of "Extremely Relaxed Animals." Larry (from Lady O) and his brother Larry (from SwingDaddy's brother, Gamer D), from Christmases past.

If that wasn't enough sealife fun, SwingDaddy's stepmom ordered the nursery set I raved about. One day last week, a huge box arrived on our door. We opened it up and Q pulled out the starfish pillows. SwingDaddy said, "I think these are for your little brother."

Q said, "No, they for Mama!"

Thanks, grandparents! We're looking forward to decorating the nursery.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Looks Like a Ladder to Me

We have an architectural element in our current house that's a kind of a room divider between the kitchen and dining room, which we converted into a playroom when Q started walking. Nanny J noted that when she started taking care of him, he was only as tall as the second wooden level, and now he's pushing upwards towards the third. We started the winter in 3T footie pajamas, and he's already in 4Ts. Baby no more!

You'll notice that the design here looks an awful lot like a ladder. Fortunately, we've mostly dissuaded him from climbing, and we'll be moved out before he decides that this is his home jungle gym.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Bringin' It, Riverdance Style

Apparently, we've been watching a little too much "Riverdance" on DVD lately, by Q's request. He's very fond of "Jean" (star Jean Butler).

He's learned some of Colin Dunne's moves.

However, his favorites are the Russian dancers.

The blurry fellow on the right is doing an amazing Russian split jump.

SwingDaddy and I are frequently summoned to the kitchen to "dance the Russian dancers" with Q, and we join hands in a circle to spin around and around.

Then suddenly, Q will kneel on the ground.

"What are you doing?" I ask.

"Wait for Jean!" he says.

If you can't quite see the dancers in black, here's a closeup. They're kneeling in a wide circle around Jean, as she dancers her solo.

Q runs the whole production, from the Irish dance, to the Russians, to the American "tappy" dancers, to his favorite instruments in the band (accordion, blue electric violin, and of course, the drums). His preschool teachers reported that he did quite a bit of dancing last week at school, throwing off his shyness for an afternoon.

Thank heavens that we love the music from Riverdance. Could you imagine if this obsession was with Dora the Explorer? Horrors.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Alanis, This is What They Mean by Ironic

A couple of weeks ago, PunditMom wrote a review about a book that included a lot of great tips on how to reduce clutter and make the best use of the space in one's house. Even though my home only aspires to be tidy these days, I'm an organizer by nature, so I read with great interest and responded to her request for our best clutter-reducing tips. (Mine is an oft-repeated goody: Take a photo of the memento, like a favorite old college t-shirt that you'll never wear again, and donate the actual item.)

PunditMom did a random drawing among the commenters for her review copy of the book, and I won! The package arrived on the same day that I had the movers at our house, estimating what it will cost to take our belongings to our newer, larger house, the place where we're afraid we'll have no furniture in any of the downstairs rooms for a couple of years. In a moment of extreme irony, I realized that the title of the book is "DOWNSIZING Your Home with Style." Too funny!

Anyhow, I read the book, and it was filled with good ideas about space and proportion, besides being a good reminder to prevent oneself from collecting crap. Thanks, PunditMom! My mother has some friends who are planning to move to smaller places in the next few years, so they will be the happy recipients of a most useful book.

Speaker of my parents, they're coming up for a week to help us settle into the new place and celebrate Christmas. At this point, I can't count the number of times they've arrived to the rescue with homecooked food, unbounded patience for their drumming grandchild, and helpful hands. This is a season of thanksgiving for us again.

About that little boy:

Great fun at the indoor playground today!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

What Not to Say to a Woman Facing Labor, Delivery, and Care of a Newborn

Yesterday, my (child-free) boss was addressing our team, giving us management updates and new project assignments. He turned to me and said, "You're so lucky to be going on that little vacation in the spring – " and he froze, eyes almost bulging out of his head in the effort to stop the phrase.

Another colleague, father of two toddlers, stepped backwards in preparation for bloodshed, and said, "Wow, you're really put your foot in it."

I deadpanned, "No worries, I'll just wait until his back is turned."

My boss mimed being stabbed and just smiled sheepishly.

I've been craving sushi for the last two weeks, and in a fit of desperation today, pulled down the lunch menus of all six Company cafeterias to see if any of them were serving. I would have been willing to drive across campus to a distant building, but no luck.

Note that the part about sushi that's troubling for pregnant women is the ingredient of raw fish. I don't eat raw fish at all, even when I'm not pregnant. And further down that path, the problem with raw fish is the risk of parasites, and sushi fish in the US is usually flash frozen, which kills the parasites, just like cooking would. On top of that, most illnesses caused by seafood are not from fish, they're from raw oysters eaten during the summer months, when the warm temperatures raise the risk of contaminants. So there, don't begrudge me my rice and vegetable sushi!

Anyhow, SwingDaddy had a work event this evening, but I managed to convince the little dude to go get sushi with me. We drove in the dark rainy night, singing all the parts of "It's Raining, It's Pouring" and "I've Been Working on the Railroad," picked up the order, and sat in the car, enjoying carrot rolls and walnut rolls until we were full enough to drive home. Yum. Craving satisfied.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Monkey See . . .

Happily, since the preggo nausea has lightened up, I've been feeling better and the little dude has stopped leaning over the sink and frothing at the mouth, in imitation of me trying not to lose my dinner.

I'm getting frequent nosebleeds instead, so now he's interrupting conversations to say that he has to "bwow his nose" and runs to get tissues. We're trying to teach him that once you take a tissue and use it, you don't put it back into the box.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

And It's Only December 4th

Just wait until you see what the neighbors add nightly to their exuberant display in the next three weeks.

I finished up our year-end charitable donations last night, because it was important to get them done before the new house closes escrow and I feel poor! We handle most of our favored organizations through the year as their campaigns run, but there are always a few to catch in December. This time, the causes were combating cancer, local poverty assistance, and disaster relief – targeted towards the southern California wildfire victims.

We're also participating in an adopt-a-family program with our Moms Group, led by D&S. Time is so pressing this month that I'm going the simple route and donating a grocery gift card, but other moms are selecting clothes and gifts for the parents and children. I love this kind of project and hope to be able to be more involved in the future.

For now, I'll have to settle for the contribution I made to our company policy on donations. Once upon a time, getting matching funds was easy. You'd write a check to the university, Red Cross, or whatever, and give them a form to submit to the Company to get the matching donation. Last year, the Company switched to an online system where you made the donation via credit card, and they held the money until the end of the quarter before releasing it to the charity with a matching amount.

I don't mind them waiting for quarterly periods to make the match, but it's is so not cool to TAKE MY MONEY and keep it for as long as three months while the agency that needs it waits. A lot of the smaller organizations really depend on the money month to month, especially if they have campaign deadlines with other large donor matches.

One of the things I've always wished I did better was asking good questions of leaders and executives when I attend big speaking engagements. Our CEO holds a periodic breakfast for everyone who has had a birthday that month (there are over 40,000 in the Company, so these are not small events) and makes it an open forum for whatever people want to talk about. He brings no prepared agenda and just answers questions for an hour. I really respect him for taking this kind of feedback without flinching, because no one is shy about letting him know what they think.

Last year, I was brave and asked my question. I wasn't able to get to the microphone before the meeting broke up, but I walked up afterwards and introduced myself and the product I represent. (Side note: The CEO responded by immediately describing two new features he wanted. There's nothing more humbling than knowing your CEO uses your product every day and has highly specific feedback.)

I asked him, "Did you know that our new charitable giving system takes our money and holds it until the end of the quarter before giving it to the recipients?"

He said that no, he didn't know that. Perhaps it was a misunderstanding, but if that was the case, it was clearly a wrong approach. He asked his assistant to take a note and look into it.

A few months later, I noticed the policy had changed and our employee donations would no longer be held. Probably someone more important up the chain got involved to make the change, but I'm still proud to have stood up and made a small difference to the organizations that work so hard through the year to help people eat, learn, and live.

Photo credit (Q in red shirt): ZY

Monday, December 03, 2007

Already Outgrowing Me

Q has been talking about blueberry muffins for days, so we baked some tonight. He helped pour and mix, put liners in the pan, and waited patiently while I scooped batter into the muffin trays. I like to make mini muffins (cute food tastes better, after all!) but I only have two mini trays, so the rest of the batter goes to fill one or two spots in a regular sized muffin tray.

After an eternity of baking (12 minutes) and another few minutes waiting for the muffins to cool, Q settled happily to munch. After the second mini muffin, he plaintively pointed out that they were "not very big. Little!" and asked for more.

Not even three years old, and he's ready to move onto bigger things. I guess I'd better get used to it.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Amnio on the Mind

You probably already keep up with the news at Her Bad Mother, where Catherine has had some troubling news and is contemplating an amniocentesis. She asked for the experiences of her readers, and I am amazed at the quality, detail, and respectfulness of the responses. This is the blogosphere at its best – heartfelt sharing of information and memories, without cattiness or blame.

If you are debating whether to have the testing done, I recommend that you read the comments to that post. There are a wide variety of opinions and reasons represented, and I certainly learned more than I knew when I went in for mine. I've been thinking about the topic some more, and here are my thoughts:

I had an amniocentesis, because I'm a person who feels better when prepared with knowledge. I would want to know what specialists to have at hand at the birth or special programs in which to educate myself if needed. I do recognize that it might be a false feeling of knowledge, because who could even be truly prepared the surprises of any baby, no matter the chromosomes?

The physical pain of the test was much less than I expected. It was described to me as similar to a blood draw, and it wasn't all that different in terms of pain - obviously, the stakes are much higher. The nurse said it'd take a minute, and indeed I counted 57 seconds while I waited.

The odds that we grew up hearing about amniocentesis-induced miscarriage are much more severe than what they quote now. Apparently, the statistics were influenced in the past by the fact that women of the age to request the test were already slightly more like to miscarry. That being said, anything can happen, so I was fortunate to find a testing clinic that quoted its own miscarry-rate as a hundred times lower than the national average.

The waiting for results is hard, no question about that, but we were happy to get good news for Swimmy. If you're of "advanced maternal age," I hope that this little bit of information was useful as a reference. Everyone's situation and feelings are different, so I wish you all the best in your choices.

If you choose not to do the testing, choose that because you're the type of person for whom test results would just result in stress – not because you're worried about the pain. The pain is nothing compared to the first time you're leaning over to help your almost-walker climb back onto his feet and he suddenly sits up, inadvertently head-butting you so hard that you see stars.

Photo note: We went out to dinner Friday night, and the restaurant attendant made the most amazing balloon dinosaur for Q. He promptly named it "Edwina," from his beloved book, Edwina, The Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

They Ain't Gossip Girls

I started telling colleagues at work about Swimmy about nine weeks ago. I've told some people for whom I think it will matter for future planning and mention it to those who are friends as well as co-workers. And I'm still telling them.

Remember how I said I work primarily with engineering-type men? After nine weeks, I still have yet to tell someone who has heard it from someone else. Each person is surprised and congratulates me, even guys who work for hours each day in close proximity with other people who already know. It just doesn't occur to them that it's news.

That's really refreshing in the sense that I sure know that folks aren't talking behind my back, or at least not about my pregnancy. They are lacking the gossip gene.

Note – I've never actually seen the show Gossip Girl, but I liked Blake Lively in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, so therefore the picture.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Repeat After Me, I Do Not Have Celiac Disease

I do not have wheat gluten intolerance. I do not have a food allergy. What I have is an overactive imagination. And probably some preggers indigestion. If I say this enough times and remind myself that I had a sandwich with wheat bread for lunch yesterday, and I felt just fine afterwards, I should be able to return to my regularly scheduled routine of worry and not add this complication.

In a totally unrelated note, I thought I would share a photo or two of the Weekly Roses. One of my colleagues grows flowers in his backyard and brings them to the office on Monday mornings. Lucky us, we get to have a fresh rose for our desks every week!