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!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A New Theme in Town

For decades, I’ve collected glass and crystal Christmas ornaments, sparkly things from around the world. No ticky tacky plastic things on my tree! Well, there might be some style mavens who would object to the Star Wars trio we added last year, but there is a category of décor labeled MA PRESHUS BABEE LUVS IT, which may not be questioned.

With two mobile fragile-item-seekers now in the household, I know that the stress level will be too high to hang tempting arrays of child safety hazards on the tree, so the collection will stay in boxes this year. Aside from a few safe sparklers, there is a new theme – red, white and squishy!

I’ve picked a few items from the Crate and Barrel collection this season, and bought material to sew our own, soft, friendly ornaments. Intentions are good . . . let’s see if I actually get around to making them!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


For my family, near and far
Our health
Having the means to live and eat
Find beauty in words, movement, and laughter

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Perspective, the Breakfast Edition

Pondering the worldwide shortage of:

Clean drinking water
H1N1 vaccine
Eggo waffles

(I was planning to post a picture of the Costco Eggo stash I saw last weekend, but I accidentally deleted it. Instead, we will make do with an image of the boys insisting that it was their turn to push Daddy on the swing.)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Snack Anxiety Resolved

In these challenging times, it is heartwarming to see a community come together to save one of its own. Y’all are the best. I can’t believe how many of you came to my rescue with ideas for the preschool International Feast. Thanks! I figured a follow-up was in store, to let you know what happened – especially to those who wondered what they would bring for such an assignment themselves (wonder bread?).

I ended up following Desiree’s advice to get to the Chinese bakery. They didn’t carry egg tarts, but I picked up a set of moon cakes with sweet red bean filling. Easy to pack and yummy to eat.

I was very curious about what the other children would bring. I saw at least two plates of cookies on the feast table, and Q-ster reported eating a meatball (from a girl with a traditionally Italian name), a pretzel (which he explained was German), fruit salad (not sure of those origins), and some cookies “made from crumbs.”

There was so much food that Buster got to chow down when he and Nanny J arrived at pick-up time, and both boys were so happily full that they hardly ate lunch afterwards. Sounds just perfect for a feast.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Treats for Everyone!

It’s somewhat amusing that after reading all the hubbub about the new FTC guidelines about product endorsements by bloggers and thinking that it didn’t matter so much to me since I hardly ever write about things I didn’t purchase myself, the Silicon Valley Moms Blog throws a fabulous holiday product event that made me feel like Santa, bearing a sack of treasures. Jill, Linsey, and the team were classy as ever, bringing together some great vendors in a friendly environment where we had a chance to interact with them and fellow bloggers.

Others have done a better job of recapping, so I’ll just mention a few highlights.

* Chatting with friends like Karianna about photography and Star Wars-obsessed boys, Lia about her new Leapfrog gig, and seeing Darryle again, after meeting her on an airport shuttle in Chicago last summer.

* Receiving the most adorable monkey mittens from Zooni for Buster. I am heartbroken that the dinosaur mittens they had on display are no longer available (or at least not on their website), because I would have bought a pair for myself (if they made adult sizes . . .). Good thing they don’t make octopus gear, because I might find myself awash in yarn.

* Contributing to the Dress for Success project sponsored by Coffeemate. I brought an outfit that is now too big (!) from my post-maternity months that can be given to a woman who is getting back into the workforce, and it also inspired me to clear my closet of a number of other no longer needed items. In all 95 pounds of donations were collected that afternoon.

* Meeting the Tiny Prints folks in person. I had them make Buster’s birth announcements last year and they turned out beautifully. (No disclosure needed on that – I paid for them). I do have a 25% coupon from them that I’m encouraged to share with readers, so let me know if you’d like to place an order. They’ve asked that I don’t post it on the web. I may get to use the coupon myself too, since I have not yet given up hope of getting a photo where both children are in the frame.

* Seeing a glimpse of some new tech.

HP brought their new web-enabled TouchSmart printer. While I thought the photos it printed had a pinkish cast, I’d guess it was an ink issue, since it looks like how my current Epson (the first non-HP printer I’ve ever purchased) prints when it’s low on certain colors. The web-access part didn’t seem really necessary until I thought about how many times I’ve wished I could print another coloring page for Q-ster just after I shut down my computer.

Seeing the litl webbook was also very cool. I won’t be willing to spend $700 to get one, but the screen is incredibly bright and vivid with excellent off-axis viewing. It’s yummy looking, like an iPhone.

* I also got to talk to the owner of Olive Smart Sacks, who gave us all sets of three beautiful, re-usable bags. I used them shopping at Costco today and was pleased with how much fit in them. By the way, that’s my trick for escaping from Costco without buying anything unplanned – just bring bags and don’t take a cart!

In any case, it was a delightful time, and as I try out some of the other products over the next weeks, I may post a few (fully-disclosed) thoughts here or at the Full Mommy.

Still contemplating a line of knitted sealife mittens . . .

Photos by Carla Duharte Razura of

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Snack Anxiety

Q-ster’s preschool is having an International Feast on the last day of class before Thanksgiving, and he’s supposed to bring a “small dish to share that represents his ethnic background.”

This simple potluck has generated more anxiety than any of the complicated issues at work this week. Which part of the little dude’s ethnic background? On SwingDaddy’s side, he’s got Australian, some European, a healthy collection of multi-generational Americans, and on my side, Chinese.

The more obvious selection would be Chinese, except that what exactly would we bring? I don’t know how to make any Asian pastries, and it’s not like a bunch of preschoolers are going to be thrilled to eat cold stir-fry at 10am on a weekday morning. The only thing I can think of is potstickers – reasonably tidy to eat as finger food and easily portable. However, they’re better warm, and I don’t want to make things complicated for the teachers to have to heat, or have multiple warming containers that Nanny J will have to collect while carrying Buster and bringing Q-ster home at pickup time.

Neither SwingDaddy or I have ever cooked any of the Australian dishes that his grandmother uses to talk about, and really, a side of lamb or such is somewhat suboptimal for four year olds anyway.

We’re seriously considering making a batch of fudge and explaining that it’s a family tradition. Suggestions, anyone?

An outtake from this month's second attempt at a family photo for our Christmas card. I'm going to need a long evening to blog that saga.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Past and Future

Tonight we had a lovely visit from an old friend who was unexpectedly in town. We’ve been good pals since our sophomore year in college, I introduced him to his wife, and we were in each other’s wedding parties an age ago. We couldn’t quite remember when we saw each other last – three years ago? –but it’s always wonderful to reconnect with a true friend. It feels like no time has passed at all.

His two boys are mad for Star Wars, and we shared some tales of mediating light saber disputes and accumulating Lego. One of the fun tidbits he shared was that Saturday mornings are really great again. The boys (ages four and seven) get up on their own, play Lego and Lego Star Wars together, and let their parents sleep in.

SwingDaddy and I are hoping that our future looks like that in a few years.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Awesome Helium Balloon Knowledge

Buster loves him some balloons, as you may recall, so my parents brought each boy a helium balloon. They weighed the many feature options and decided to spring for the "longer float time" coating at an extra twelve cents. Was it worth it? You bet! They got the balloons on Friday – regular latex ones – and four days later, they’re still flying high.

TechSavvyMama posted her Preschooler Gift Guide today, which led me to a store called the Pajama Squid. How could I resist clicking over to a shop with that name? Especially since they have tree ornaments of pajama-wearing squid!

Here’s a bonus sealife sighting at Target – a Christmas lobster dog toy. Love the hat.

Monday, November 16, 2009

And Now I Understand Kate Gosselin's Hair

I’ve only had short hair for a brief year in high school, not including infancy and years where I wasn’t responsible for my own hair care, so I never really understood how “having a bad hair day” could be so devastating to someone. Well, with my new cut, I do. I woke this morning, and Q-ster told me, “Mommy, you have high hair!”

During a family Target run over the weekend, we came across some gloves decorated with a Darth Vader pattern. They were pretty cute and only $4, so I asked Q-ster if his hands got cold playing outside at school. Certainly my hands get cold, but he’s never liked gloves.

He was intrigued, so I said we could get them, and he happily tossed the pair into our shopping basket. Rookie error on my part. My parents gently asked, “um, are those going to fit?” Right.

They were so big that they looked like oven mitts on Q-ster. I expected a tussle, but he agreed to put them back on the shelf without complaint! It was amazing how rational he was.

By the way, when I write these things, I’m in no way saying that my life or children are perfect. It’s not, they’re not, I’m not. However, I’m frequently sleep-deprived enough that I’ll only remember these sweet moments that I record and will completely forget about the times when the boys turn into whiny noodles. I will look back in years to come and only recall the good stuff.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Plentiful Persimmons

My parents harvested a box of persimmons from my sister's neighborhood to share, and the boys discovered the interesting orange fruit.

Hmmm, they're not good for bowling.

They're not very good maracas either.

But they are perfect for distributing all over the floor!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Non Sequitur Theater Continues

The boys playing drums. We can totally go on tour. Q-ster has been diligently practicing his “r” sound, so it’s no longer Wock Band in this household. It’s RRRRRRRock Band!

Many of the blogs I read are written by moms, and while I thoroughly support the right of any blogger to vent and express anything she wants on her blog, it does mean that the husbands sometimes don’t get the best press. So, I love reading little snippets of how couples treat each other well.

Yesterday, Amalah (who is self-employed while taking care of two incredibly cute little boys) wrote about a perfectly thoughtful gift from her husband. He gave her five of his vacation days. That’s awesome.

I’m attending an event next weekend that includes supporting Dress for Success, an organization that provides clothing suitable for women (re)entering the workforce and interviewing for jobs. Initially, I was all excited, because I have a whole lot of suit jackets that I no longer wear, but upon reading their criteria, I think my stuff is too shabby for them. I always wonder if charity people will scorn my donations.

I’ll probably take the stash to Goodwill instead, with the exception of one corduroy blazer that I only wore for two months post-pregnancy and a nice pair of dress slacks that was also supposed to see me through the awkward post-preggo size. I never got around to adjusting the hems and now they’re too big. At least someone will get some use from them!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Collecting ‘Motes

The boys waiting patiently for us at a dance studio a couple of weeks ago.

Buster collected all the remote controls to the sound system, but I was willing to let him have them in exchange for a long metal bar from the steadycam assembly that he’d procured earlier.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Reading Today

This story about the best Thanksgiving dessert secret made me laugh.

As an engineer by education, I'm entertained by this article about why underprivileged students on the movies (with the exception of Stand and Deliver) are always being encouraged to transform themselves through writing, when some good math skills could get them a living wage.

He of the mellifluous voice, Christopher Lee, was knighted! He played Saruman in The Lord of the Rings, Count Dooku in Star Wars, Scaramanga in James Bond, and Dracula countless times. Supposedly, he’s been in more cinematic swordfights than any other actor in history.

And I’m loving this rhyme in Q-ster’s school Thanksgiving song:
Five fat turkeys sitting on a fence
The first one says, “I’m so immense!”

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Pink Ombré Beaded Fringe

Hooray for Hulu, which helped us catch up with last week’s Dancing with the Stars episodes that were broadcast simultaneously with SYTYCD.

I’m not a big Karina or Aaron Carter fan, but Aaron did a terrific job with Karina’s costume in the “stars get to design their professional partner’s clothing” challenge. She wore a mini dress of beaded fringe (beaded fringe, whee!) in graduated shades of pink. I’ve always loved the ombré effect, especially in pink.
The DWTS band has an impressive range and usually features singers who are a good match for each song. This week, however, they were interpreting on the gentle and mild side. Songs included the following:

Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It (if that’s ok with you, I mean)”
Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love A (slightly impolite) Name”

I’m sure they’ll be back to their usual top notch levels next week.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Guilty Pleasures, Retroactive Edition

I watched a couple of 'N Sync videos tonight (it’s a long story), which was quite entertaining, since I somehow missed their heyday in the late nineties and only know the performers as follows: Justin, the solo artist. Joey and Lance, Dancing with the Stars contestants. JC, the judge on America’s Best Dance Crew. The other guy (Chris), who hasn’t yet been involved in a dance reality show. I was impressed with how hard they worked and how much good dancing was in each video.

I’ve always liked JC’s critiques on ABDC, where he points out a group’s precision, use of the space, and entertainment value with very specific pointers each week. I didn’t know he was the co-lead singer of the band, and it was like discovering an old friend can really sing and dance!

I like seeing boy band acts for the marketing as much as the music. The good ones have brilliant marketing for their demographic. One of the few failures of the nineties bands were clothing lines, since the average teenage boy is pretty much uninterested in boy band merchandising. In a smart move, the latest darlings, the Jonas Brothers, apparently have a clothing line aimed at girls.

Buster watched the videos with me, and he can sing along (well, to “Bye Bye Bye,” which admittedly is not a stretch for a baby), which gives him the highly random repertoire of John Williams (Raiders of the Lost Ark/Star Wars), 'N Sync, and the Twinkle Twinkle.

In totally unrelated and more serious news, I wrote about helping to keep up the spirits of friends during cancer treatment over at Silicon Valley Moms Blog in Guys Get Cancer Too.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Two Parenting Skills I Have Recently Mastered

When the baby demands MORE ZIN, I know he wants raiZins, not white wine.

When my preschooler declares that he’s Dr. Indiana Jones in professor mode and proceeds to take a drumstick and pretend to draw three planets on the “chalkboard” of the fireplace mantel, I can keep a straight face. Because first, he hasn’t actually seen the Indy movies, and dude, has he even seen a real chalkboard before?

And then when I ask him what the next planet in line is, he says that “his kids” haven’t learned everything about Mercury, Venus, and Earth yet, so they can’t move on to Mars. I give him a big hug for adorableness, which is shrugged off with “Later, Mommy!! I’m teaching my class.”

*The preschool newsletter last month noted that the themes for October were “imagination, space, and fish,” which I thought was a delightful, if eclectic combination. The solar system has definitely been a hit in our household, with much singing of the Planets Song, which does include nine planets, but is followed with a spoken footnote that Pluto is no longer a planet.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Red Baron Meets His Match

We taught Q-ster to recite our home address long ago, but I froze with indecision on teaching him our phone number. First, there were so many digits to learn. Next, which number? Home, my mobile, SwingDaddy’s mobile, and what if we moved and the numbers changed anyway? We did end up moving, the number didn’t change, but then we were occupied with major distractions (read: birth of the micro dude) and Q-ster still didn’t know our phone number.

Last month, my dad played the video of Snoopy vs the Red Baron for the kids a couple of times, and Q-ster could pretty much sing the whole thing, including long verses where he didn’t even understand most of the vocabulary.

Up in the sky, a man in a plane
Baron von Richthofen was his name
Eighty men tried and eighty men died
Now they're buried together on the countryside

In the nick of time, a hero arose
A funny-lookin' dog with a big black nose
He flew into the sky to seek revenge
But the Baron shot him down "Curses, foiled again!"

Ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty or more
The Bloody Red Baron was rollin' out the score
Eighty men died tryin' to end that spree
Of the Bloody Red Baron of Germany

(See here for the full lyrics of how Snoopy gets his man.)

In any case, I realized that there was no need to choose which phone number, because the little dude is perfectly capable of memorizing ALL our numbers and perhaps those of our closest hundred friends as well.

The song has also led to some pretty interesting discussions about what’s “real” and what’s “pretend.” It’s been important that he distinguish between the two, especially since he loves Star Wars so much and is known to occassionally raise his hand and use Force powers against oncoming cars in the parking lot.

I explain that there are lots of bad guys, fights, and wars in movies because they make things interesting, but in real life, they aren’t any fun. People get hurt in fights. He duly applied his perspective to the song and explained to me, “The Red Baron was real. He flew a red airplane. Snoopy is pretend. He flies a doghouse, which is silly. The Red Baron was a bad guy. Germans are bad guys.”

Ack. He got the real/pretend stuff, but then I had to explain that Germans (in general) aren’t bad guys, but they were indeed on the other side in that war and would have been enemies at the time, but that was many years ago, and wow, I didn’t explain that well, did I?

We recently saw a WWII memorial with a statue of two GIs at a park, and Q-ster examined their posture and guns carefully. He wanted to know if they were real. I replied that they were soldiers from a real war a long time ago. “The Red Baron’s war?” No, a war that came after that.

“Why are they statues?” So that we can remember and thank them for protecting us.

“From bad guys?” Um, yeah. Let’s leave it at that for now.

Thank god I went through a history craze phase in school, because I think I’m going to need all that background really soon.

Updated: Ok, I'm an idiot. I did a little reading about the statue, and it depicts a local Navy SEAL and his teammate who were killed in Afghanistan a few years ago. I should have looked at their gear more carefully. I think it's cool that the community came together so quickly to show respect for them and all the service people.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Maggie Mason, Jellyfish

If I didn’t already love Maggie Mason enough, what with her corporate sponsored life list adventures, her fabulous wardrobe, her fabulously photographed wardrobe in Greece, New York, and Puerto Rico that she notes packs down into one carry-on bag and a backpack, her planning of impeccably styled events of which ordinary mortals cannot possibly dream. . . .

She was a jellyfish for Halloween!

I love me some jellies, and all cute sealife, of course.

I only stole the one photo, but if you don’t already read Maggie, definitely check out one of the travel links above for inspiration.

P.S. How cute is this octopus bowl from Bailey Bea?

Sunday, November 01, 2009

And the Force is With Us

As requested by his older brother, Buster dressed as Yoda for Halloween and quite enjoyed the earred hat. “Hat” was one of his earliest signed and spoken words, and he pats his head frequently to point out that he has a hat.

West Coast Crafty posted about her child’s fine Yoda costume (especially the hat). I noticed that she’d selected the classic Yoda with a walking stick, but we chose the action Yoda look with lightsaber.

I didn’t get a great shot of Q-ster in the act of Trick or Treating, so here instead is the crew about to begin, and lord knows we have plenty of Obi-wan pictures.

Our neighborhood didn’t really get into the holiday spirit much, but we visited the four decorated houses on our block. Q-ster pronounced himself pleased with “Soooo much candy!” that he’d collected, so we didn’t venture farther afield.

A good Halloween was had by all.