Thursday, December 31, 2009

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Study in Contrasts

We had a delightful dinner with Q-ster’s little friend Tay and her family tonight. Both the kids love pretend play, and they managed quite the fairy princess/Star Wars combination drama. I like how they’ve got major weapons in a background of butterflies and flowers.

In the meantime, Buster ate their household out of raspberries and grapes while chasing the cats in a hopeful search for fuzziness. “Kitty!”

Fellow bloggers: Is everyone coming up with some kind of wise, thoughtful end of year summary? I’m not sure I have enough operating brain cells to focus that much. We might go the cute picture route instead . . .

Also: I keep forgetting to link to a rant I wrote over at Silicon Valley Moms Blog about credit card customer service.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Grocery Cartography

Our long national nightmare is over. Or at least we get a reprieve. Eggos, yes, we have found Eggos.

First, a little background.

After a year of playing Qui-Gonn to Q-ster’s Obi-wan, I am now Princess Leia to his Han Solo. The bonus is that he tells me he loves me often, since he understands Han loves Leia. I am able to convince him to join me for errands, explaining that I need a gunner to defend the ship while I am piloting to Planet Safeway.

As a household, we’ve been a grocery customer of Safeway for many years, but we’ve found that the branch near our new house is often unsatisfactory. The selection is poor, and they’re often sold out of organic milk, a key staple for us. Today, we flew the Millenium Honda to Planet Lucky’s, to check out the produce and see if we should shift our allegiance.

We found three items in stock that cemented our decision:
Saran Wrap
Nestle Hot Chocolate powder

All of these have been unobtainable at Safeway. I brought paper with us and took notes aisle by aisle, so that we’ll have a new store map. What is that, you ask? My industrial engineering background emerges in shopping list form. We buy mostly the same things week after week, so our printed list shows where the items are located in the grocery store, and we just circle what we need. It speeds the shopping and pleases my geeky heart.

In any case, we left with organic milk, Eggos, hot chocolate, and notes for our next provisions foray to outer space. May the Food be with You.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Like the Longest Game of Marco Polo* Ever

Buster likes to know where I am at all times. He calls out, “Mommy!” and I answer, “Baby!” and this continues pretty much all day, even occasionally when I am seated directly facing him, and it’s pretty obvious where I am.

And so forth.

The thing is, he’s really not a baby anymore and hasn’t been for a while. He clambers onto the sofa and pats the cushion next to him invitingly. “Sit. Down.”

After his big brother yells, “1, 2, 3, go!” and whooshes down the slide, he wants in on the game too. He reaches the top of the ladder and chirps some numbers before he slides, “3, 7, 8, 10!”

He can retrieve his coat from the closet and remember to close the door afterwards. He can say, “Sank yoo, mommy” with a little prompting. He’s started to spell out words on cereal boxes. K-I-X!

But you know what, I think I’m going to keep calling him Baby for just a little longer.

Here he is, with his new travel pillow that he calls Kitty. It’s pleasingly “fuh-zee” and is conveniently shaped for carrying around when you want your hands free.

*Marco Polo game

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Huggy Christmas

The children made out like bandits and had a truly splendid holiday (“Mommy, Santa brought THOUSANDS of presents!!” was the first thing Q-ster said in the morning after scoping out the tree), but since this is my blog, I get to pick my favorite present to feature.

SwingDaddy got me a Squishable Octopus! Here, it’s posed with the tiger pillows that my parents got for Q-ster, Buster, and their cousin Remy.

For scale, here’s the micro dude.

And me.

And Buster again.

We find him very squishable and huggable indeed. After a multi-year moratorium on acquiring additional plush sealife, I am delighted to make an exception and welcome Octy to our home.

A big thank-you to my very understanding husband. Love you!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

With Love From Our Family to Yours

I knew this was going to be a tricky year. Last Christmas, Buster wasn't yet able to crawl, making him an easier photo subject. Next year, we'll be able to offer him a candy bar in exchange for sitting for a picture. This year, however, falls right in between immobile and bribe-able, and boy was it interesting. The equivalent experience with Q-ster was the Year of the Brooms.

The first attempt at a family photo was back in October at a park with lovely landscaping. The micro dude chased a big fat goose for a while, which was just great until the goose jumped into a mucky pond.

Luckily, his big brother and dad were there to prevent him from following suit.

The next photo shoot isn't even worth talking about.

The third attempt was over Thanksgiving, and this was the closest thing we got.

Fortunately, YF saved the day and agreed to take our picture. She asked what I was hoping to capture.

"Um, I'd like all four of us to be in the frame, with no one looking actively unhappy."

Good!" she replied. "Low expectations always help."

Well, I think she did a fabulous job. Here we are, ready to ring in another good year.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Riverdance Live!

Has it really been two years since I posted all those pictures of Q-ster staging his own toddler version of Riverdance, complete with leaps and genuflections?

We still watch the DVDs from time to time, and we compare the version from original PBS special to the Radio City Music Hall edition (our favorite) to the latest Geneva video (which has the best costumes). He agrees that Colin Dunne is “the best” and loves the Russian number the most.

I saw that the production was coming to town, and we absolutely had to take the little dude. He was in heaven.

SwingDaddy and I have seen Riverdance twice before, once in the Bay Area, and again for the Homecoming Tour in Dublin, which was spectacular. After fifteen years of global touring, the music is still fresh and amazing.

The production has grown into a bit of a machine, with credits given to “Riverdance Soloist” and “Riverdance Singers” rather than promoting individuals, but that isn’t uncommon among shows that have outgrown the early star personas. It’s always tough to see a leading man have to perform Michael Flatley’s choreography, which is clearly very personal movement that can be ill-suited to another dancer’s style, but today’s lead did a fair job and was technically excellent.

Like Q-ster, I will always love Colin Dunne best (Radio City DVD), with his effortless, masculine assurance (and endless world championships) and adore Jean Butler’s grace and precision. She "has hops,” as SwingDaddy puts it, floating in her leaps.

As for today, I liked seeing how some repetitive rough edges that we saw seven years ago in Ireland have been smoothed away from the show, and all the costumes have been upgraded in color and style. The troupe also did a masterful performance on a tiny stage. I can’t think of another dance production in the last half century that has had this kind of well deserved impact and success.

All in all, we had a wonderful afternoon of dance and music, especially since it was Q-ster’s first big theater show.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Waiting for Grandot

Ama and Agu will be here any minute!

*With apologies to Samuel Beckett

Monday, December 21, 2009

Waffle Fail

Darn it. I didn’t want to crowd our freezer and stockpiling frozen waffles seemed so silly, but in retrospect, I should have bought the Eggo stash at Costco when I had the chance. The store-brand substitutes are not very tasty.

Resetting Expectations for the Holidays

I am not going to be making many if any felt ornaments for the tree, and that’s ok.
I will not be baking multiple types of decorated cookies, and that’s ok.
I may not succeed in getting the boys to draw charming handmade gifts for their grandparents, and that’s ok.
The Christmas cards will not arrive before Christmas, and that’s ok.
Instead, we are snuggling, reading stories, and re-enacting the entire Star Wars saga in great detail. The boys are bursting with personality and I’m treasuring every moment.

Well, I’m treasuring all the moments when they aren’t whining or chewing on crayons.

Also, we are alarmed at how adept at negotiating Q-ster has become. Tonight’s snack negotiation was truly a masterpiece that should be studied by diplomats at the United Nations. SwingDaddy says that this is my fault for passing on the gene, and he’s probably right.

In yet another unrelated topic, happy Winter Solstice! I’m not going to do a full emergency preparedness post, but I did refresh our water supplies today. Those of you caught in the Snowpocalypse, also known on Twitter as #snOMG, will remind everyone that having food and water on hand is a good idea!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Cage Match in the Hexagon

I suppose it was inevitable between brothers. No injuries, and no good photos because as soon as they started rushing each other inside the Hexagon, I had to jump in and “redirect” to a more harmless activity.

Such as this nicely cooperative Lego-play, later in the evening.

I’ve had the boys solo for most of the weekend while SwingDaddy was skiing with friends, and we’ve busied ourselves visiting new parks, sharing a gourmet red velvet cupcake, and seeing the Lego exhibit of a local museum.

We’re also doing a little “reading camp” during the holiday break from school. Q-ster is really close to being able to read on his own, so we’re spending a little time with the BOB books each day, and that may help him along.

We haven’t been giving Buster academic lessons by any means, but somehow, he’s managed to pick up a lot of the alphabet and most of his numbers by osmosis. Eager to imitate his brother, perhaps? Yesterday, he surprised me by pointing out letters in an alphabet book, concluding with:

Ek! (X)
Why! (Y)
Zebra! (Z)

Not bad, kiddo.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

James Cameron, a Better Sense of Humor Than One Would Think

Friends in the movie business used to say that James Cameron (director of Titanic) was notorious for being difficult on set, but apparently he’s changed. In recent interviews, he credits that to doing documentary shoots with crews 800 miles at sea, where it’s important to have good working relationships that don’t get you thrown overboard.

An amusing clip from Entertainment Weekly:
Q: Despite the guns and explosions and robots, your movies usually have an element of romance and a strong female protagonist, like Ripley in Aliens or Sarah Connor in the Terminator movies. Where does that impulse come from?

Cameron: First of all, last time I checked, women were 50 percent of the population. And when you’re making a movie that costs over $200 million, you don’t want to have a target audience. Your target audience is people with a pulse and $15 - or even just $15.

He went on to say some interesting things about how one learns the most through relationships, so he realized it’s a powerful way to introduce an alien world.

In other news, what did you think of the SYTYCD results? Spoiler below . . .
I loved Jakob’s amazingness, but Russell is really a star. Hope that they get to do a tour – perhaps combined with season 7!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Team Alice

A few more of my colleagues were bitten by the Twilight bug, which leads to the discussion of whether one is for Team Edward (handsome, brooding vampire) or Team Jacob (handsome, brooding werewolf). Personally, I find both to be too high-maintenance and dramatic for my tastes. I’d rather be Alice, with her future-seeing capabilities and divine sense of style.

Coincidentally, this is the first time in my entire life that I’ve wanted a movie star’s haircut. Maybe it will help me predict the future too.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Return of Sushi in the Night

At dinner last night, Q-ster paused in his munching of a carrot (ninjin) roll to say that he calls them “ninja rolls.”

“What is a ninja?” I asked, wondering how he’d answer.
“A kind of fighter.”
“So, are they fighting carrots?”

“No, ninja are fighting turtles!”


We also got our Christmas tree over the weekend. Someday, we might put some ornaments up too.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Giving, Thinking

I almost finished our year-end charitable donations tonight. As I’ve written in previous years, we handle most of our favored organizations through the year as their campaigns run, but there are usually a few to catch in December. Our themes are education (alma mater, Legos and science tools for primary school through Donor’s Choice, back to school backpack drive), healthcare (children’s hospital, various organizations combating cancer), and poverty assistance.

Looking through previous year’s donations, I notice that we didn’t explicitly tackle disaster relief this year, but we gave more to hunger/poverty causes, which is kind of the disaster of the year anyway. In addition to our company match for the food bank, our former CEO personally matches every dollar as well, so that donation goes a long way.

I didn’t put anything towards the company’s canned food collection though, as I’m going to have Q-ster take our cans to his preschool event. It’s a more tangible way for him to learn giving than the Donor’s Choice selection we made earlier this year (even though we contributed towards a kindergarten Lego fund!), and they’ll be talking about sharing in class.

(Side note: I also use bi-annual food drives to remind myself to refresh our emergency canned food supply. I donate all our cans at that time and buy new. Everyone wins - food goes to hungry people, and we don’t let our supply sit for years. Unlike, say, our water supply, which I discovered dates back to 2007. Oops. I have water purification tablets, so it wouldn’t be a total disaster, but a water refresh is due shortly too.)

Our donations would be considered modest, but every bit counts. I saw a few good posts recently about how to make the most of one’s giving, including this one on BlogHer, in case you’ve also been strategizing.

P.S. Why did I only almost finish the donations tonight? Because we discovered a potential fraud issue and had to cancel the credit card we use for web purchases. Visa told me that it takes 7-10 DAYS to issue a new card. Are you crazy? For a card that we use for monthly automatic bills? In December, right in the midst of holiday shopping? I was able to put a “rush” on it, which means that we’ll get it in only 1-3 days. Three days is considered a rush order in 2009? After I finish spluttering and I get the credit card in hand, I’ll make the last donation (Livestrong, for cancer survivorship).

Friday, December 11, 2009

RIP Undead Balloon

Four weeks. No kidding. The glisten-y stuff is the hi-float substance that made it last so long. And fairy dust probably helped too.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Corn Dogs and Ice

So I had the unusual experience of attending a company party yesterday where one of the prime decorations was a life-sized ice sculpture of my product. Cool! Weird, but cool. We all took pictures next to it, getting just slightly damp as it slowly melted.

Geeky jokes involving the ice sculpture:

“Hey, at least you won’t have to upgrade the HVAC (air conditioning) when you install this!”

“I wonder what the MTBF (mean time between failures) is?”

I guess you had to be there.

Since I don’t post work pictures, I will instead share a photo of my boys chowing on corn dogs. Buster ate an entire corn dog. The dude is 19 months old and eating more than me. Q-ster ate his corn dog and the portion of mine that I didn’t finish.

We were thisclose to using the corn dog picture for our Christmas card, but YF saved us and shot a nice image that I’ve sent off to TinyPrints. Hooray!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Maybe You Should Rethink that Slogan

At the mall last weekend, the boys admired the holiday decorations covering every surface. Wreaths, ornaments, red bows, Santas, lights.

SwingDaddy and I were giddy with anticipation as we turned the corner and examined one store in particular to see if they’d decorated with the same sign they used the previous year.

The sentiment was good. “Light Up Your Holiday!” done up in twinkly lights. Except that there was a column blocking part of the sign, so it looked like “Up Yours.” Oops.

They didn’t put the sign back up, so I guess they figured it out too.

Monday, December 07, 2009

More Balloon, Now with Lightsaber Options!

The balloon saga, it does not end.

We watched a bit of the original Star Wars movie today, where Ben Kenobi teaches Luke how to use a lightsaber by having him fight a spherical, airborne remote device. Shortly afterwards, Q-ster attacked the still-floating balloon with his flashlight-saber and we had ourselves a merry little Jedi training session.

The boys have also taken to sitting under the dining room table on beanbags in the dark with flashlights, calling it “camping.” They graciously allowed me to turn on the lights to take a picture.

Over a Silicon Valley Moms, I admit to having no beauty skills in Eyebrows, the Final Frontier.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Undead Balloon

Remember how I raved about the 'hi-float' coating that cost twelve cents and kept Buster's helium balloon aloft for four days? Well, here it is, still floating at three and a half weeks old.

Disclaimer: Q-ster also got a balloon and his only lasted a week and a half, but still.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Sugar High

So this cool chocolate company in New Orleans, Sucre, wrote and offered to send me a box of their specialties. I don’t do many product reviews because, you know, crazy schedule, but also, chocolates. I caved in and said, yes please.


Mayberry writes more about them at the Full Mommy, and here are my thoughts: The Sugar and Spice Holiday Collection pretty much rocks. Somehow, they made Candy Cane, Gingerbread, and Eggnog into a sophisticated, smooth truffle.

Sucre also sent a milk chocolate bar enhanced with pistachio and candied rose petals, which I took to work. Everyone gave positive comments, with the exception of one woman, who afterwards said that she doesn’t actually like chocolate, so I didn’t worry about that too much. The rose petals were sort of cool, but the chocolate itself wasn’t as spectacular as the truffle collection.

Anyway, if you’re looking for holiday gift ideas, I’d recommend the truffles. They didn’t last long at our house!

Disclaimer: I received a box of truffles and a chocolate bar free from Sucre to sample.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Lego Wishes

The little dude showed me his “wish list,” which he constructed today on his own. It reads:

(His name), Lego Star Wars, Indiana Jones Lego.

He got some spelling help by looking at the packaging of some of the toys he already has. My little boy, already writing and getting caught up in the true spirit of Christmas – consumerism!

The item notably missing from his list is a plastic lightsaber, which means we won’t have to disappoint him by not getting one. It seems that he’s digested our discussions about how hard weapons (as opposed to the safe plush ones we currently have) are off limits until his little brother has better control of his impulses and coordination.

Here’s Q-ster and his re-creation of the Temple Idol scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark, improvising from his Star Wars Lego kits. The “Han Solo” mini-figurine stands in for Indiana Jones, totem pole-like stacks of yellow mini-fig heads surround Indy’s guide, and the greenery from Jar Jar’s home planet serve as jungle foliage. He explained that the ridged temple floor represented “boobies” (booby traps) and that the mini-fig heads would shoot blow darts. Not bad for a four year old who hasn’t actually seen the movie yet.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Return of Non Sequitur Theatre

Why is it that I compose the cleverest blog posts while in the shower and can't remember the topic by the time I'm dried off? Perhaps I should take notes in the soap. As it is, you get random tidbits today.

- Buster is undergoing a word explosion this month. He looks at my fleece socks and declares, “Fuh-zee.” He brings me a Sudoku book and ‘reads’ from it, saying “Sic, Eight, Ten!” He identifies D, M, J, and K in his alphabet book. Cows say, “MOOOOOO.” Awwwww.

He’s also throwing little fits when we can’t understand (or won’t give him) what he wants, which is less charming. Grit teeth and repeat after me, “Age appropriate, age appropriate.”

- Q-ster enjoyed a trip to the local college planetarium with SwingDaddy and his preschool class yesterday. He reported that his favorite constellation was “two dogs chasing Oh-Wyan, who was fighting a bull with wings.” My mythology is pretty good, but I did have to Wikipedia Orion to remind myself what exactly got filtered through a four year old’s interpretation.

On the drive home from the planetarium, Q-ster asked for an example of ‘mythology’ and SwingDaddy told him the first tale that came to mind –Daedalus and Icarus. I laughed when I heard that, since the moral of the story is “Listen to your dad.” (Daedalus builds artificial wings for both of them, Icarus ignores his father’s warnings not to fly too close too high, the sun melts the wax holding the wings together, and the boy falls to his death.)

- I recently had one of those afternoons where I came to clearly understand the origins of the phrase “children should be seen and not heard.” No one was misbehaving, but it was just really loud.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Dance Reality Miscellania

The top ten So You Think You Can Dance performers are a treat. Jakob is breathtaking, Kathryn is charming, and the irritating ones have grown on me. I really enjoyed tonight’s show and also the fact that I was watching during the actual broadcast night instead of days later. Ah, the difference it makes when I’ve not oversubscribed with TV.

Speaking of the show that just wrapped up, I’m thrilled that Kym (and oh yeah, her partner Donny Osmond) won Dancing with the Stars, because she’s been doing great work for many seasons. She posted a cute picture of the mirrorball trophy here. I try to never read the comments section at because it’s populated with morons, but as I was scrolling down the article about Donny’s win over pop star Mya, my eye glanced over this one:

“I will never watch Dancing with the Stars again! Mya is a totally better dancer! It’s like this is a popularity contest or something!”

Um, yeah. What did you think it was, with all the calling in and voting for your favorites?

The next best part of the finale DWTS show was seeing Miss Piggy knock out the painfully awkward interviewer, Samantha Harris. Those Muppeteers sure are talented, because how can a puppet with no legs make a motion that so obviously shows she was kicking her opponent? Frank Oz rocks.

Other random dance bits – Over the weekend, we watched Dance Flick, a parody of the dance movie genre from the Wayans dynasty, much like Scary Movie and its ilk. It was kind of awful, but featured Legacy (from SYTYCD) in a dance within the first five minutes, so it’s worth a brief glimpse if you’re a fan of his. The boy can move.

And lastly, we’ve gotten the class schedule for a fabulous dance workshop this summer at the University that features historical dances from the Renaissance onwards, and SwingDaddy and I are registered! This will be the first time we’ve had a chance to sign up as students instead of teachers in a long time, and the material looks fabulous.

With a little childcare juggling, we should be able to manage five days of classes, costume balls in the evening, and a concert night where we’ve been invited to perform. We started dating at this same vintage dance week fifteen years ago, and I’m looking forward to having a mini-vacation doing something that brought us together then and now.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Why Clothing for Boys is More Exciting Than I Expected

Q-ster in his Indiana Jones regalia.

He recently rediscovered the cowboy vest that Nanny J brought him from Texas two and a half years ago (photo of the little dude in vest on a pony here), and what do ya know, it finally fits and works right into his adventure-y look.

He reminds me daily that he’d really like some indoor Jedi boots. We don’t wear shoes in the house, so not being able to don his brown boots leaves a gap in his Obi-wan attire. I remind him in return that Christmas is coming up.

I have indeed located some excellent brown slipper socks in his size ($12 at Nordstrom for you with similarly inclined children!). I just need to remove the pink pom-poms and we’ll be in business.

One of the dangers of being creative with his costumes and gear is that he thinks I can make anything. It’s very affirming, but I’ve realized that the current project, the Christmas ornaments, may have been a riskier proposition that I imagined. It turns out that felt ornaments are very dependent on precise cutting to create attractive shapes. Frankly, I’m pretty awful at cutting. I’m very good at embellishing, draping, approximating, that kind of thing. I draft my own patterns and adjust on the fly.

Trying to design a cute, chubby candy cane shape is killing me, so I’m going to backtrack and try a snowman next. Surely I can cut circles. Right? Right?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Hike Hike Hike

Q-ster’s playgroup friend Fi, her baby brother, and their intrepid parents hosted a fabulous post-Thanksgiving festival at the park. Overcoming his shyness, Q-ster joined in the tug of war, spoon race, and other games.

Buster fearlessly plunged into the touch football game as well, making things a bit more challenging for the larger players cavorting around him.

Fi and Nah enjoyed the three legged race so much that they requested to be tied together repeatedly.

The boys particularly enjoyed the “rocks and ropes” play area, where a whole set of fake rock formations and artificial logs were arranged in an excellent climbing formation. I suppose this is what happens when lawyers get ahold of nature.

The finale was a whipped cream eating contest, which is how I plan to end every social engagement I host in the future. (No photo, as I don’t know whether all the parents would give an ok to post the pics on the blog.)

Thanks for the great time, YF and Tom Fence!