Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Flat Shoes and Bag Lunches

I was in the financial district this morning on business and walked past my old office building from when I was a consultant at the Firm. I learned a lot in my four years there, and a bunch of funny memories came rushing back.

I did my tour in the mid-90's. Yet, the dress required to be considered “professional” wasn’t all that different from when my mom worked in the college library in the 60's and couldn’t wear pants to work.

Women were expected to wear a suit every day, which meant a proper suit with skirt. Pant suits weren’t formal enough. The dress code also included pantyhose and heels, of course, so I was quite the rebel for wearing flat shoes.

The conditions for professional dress changed radically when we started doing projects for high tech firms that disliked how much the consultants looked out of place next to their casually dressed employees. Ahhhh, how nice it was to wear pants to work.

Another oddity was that the Firm didn’t consider it professional to bring one’s lunch from home. We were expected to go out to eat and never be seen with food at the client site.

Where I work now, showing your dedication during a busy week includes “working through lunch” and eating at one’s desk. I’m not sure which is a crazier mindset, but I’m certainly happy to be done with pantyhose.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What a Difference a Year Makes

Our big boy’s fifth birthday party a few weeks ago. I had high hopes that all would go well, and indeed it did.

Q-ster was great. He played lightsabers with his guests, led the action, reveled in the attention, ate his pizza, blew out candles, devoured his cupcake, and said “thank you” and “thank you for coming” at all the appropriate times.

Buster was great. He wasn’t shy, didn’t need me to carry him the whole time, played lightsabers when he could, got out of the way when things were too wild, ate his pizza with the big boys, waited patiently though the birthday song before attacking a cupcake, and let us clean him up afterwards.

SwingDaddy was great. He blew up lightsaber balloons, tied the blindfolds for pin-the-explosion on-the-spaceship, helped clean up, and didn’t develop appendicitis.

All in all, a massive triumph over last year’s experience, when SwingDaddy’s health took a rapid downward turn two hours before our guests arrived, leaving me to host a few dozen people, including fourteen children age four and under, all with one hand, since Buster was nervous and required me to hold him under one arm throughout the entire party.

I must admit to muttering under my breath, he’d better be really sick, as I plowed through the preparations solo, and he certainly was. SwingDaddy went through such a battery of tests in the days following that we were relieved that it was only appendicitis.

In spite of the complications the fourth birthday party was still lots of fun, helped in large part by my sister, who kept an eye on the homemade pizzas in the oven, and the other moms who served the Millenium Falcon cake while I comforted Q-ster. The little dude was alarmed by the sudden attention during the birthday song and refused to blow out his candles.

This year - no such worries. He was surrounded by his best friends, and at age five, is a pro at the whole birthday thing.

We kicked off the festivities with issuing each boy a long skinny balloon and unleashed them upon our living room. There are times where our lack of furniture is a distinct advantage, and this was one of them. After forty-five minutes of intense running, sliding, whooping, and battling, the room got suddenly quiet. The children drifted off to sides of the room, sat down next to their parents. All of them, all of these five year old boys had expended so much energy that they were actually tired!

It seemed like a good time to transition to a lower energy pin-the-tail type game, which got progressively more entertaining as they started coaching each other which way to go. SwingDaddy started rotating each child the opposite direction from the previous child to see if that affected where they’d pin their explosion, but somehow they were all drawn to the top right corner of the target poster.

Grandma N was with us, making friends with all the guests, big and small, and helped us shoo everyone into the kitchen for pizza and cake. The pizza was Domino’s delivery this time, and the cake was simpler too.

I was able to convince Q-ster that we could line up rows of cupcakes and make them look like lightsabers. Between last year’s Millenium Falcon cake and Q-ster’s original request of a pastry battle scene replica, this design was a piece of . . . well, you know.

It was a happy day, and a good year to come.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Signs of Spring

A bear emerges from hibernation.

An octopus gathers bunny friends.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Letters from the Future, Party Dress from the Past

Q-ster’s been fascinated with writing for a couple of months and regularly copies words that he sees on our desks. I see his notebook covered with lists like this:

STAR WARS
LEGO
TURBO TAX
EPSON
SAMSUNG
LINDY HOP

More recently, he’s taken to sounding out words and writing his own notes. Last week, we came home to find our home office door closed and the following notice tacked to it via Post-It Note:

SARE DA OFIS IZ CLOZT
Q-STER

(Sorry, the office is closed.) The little dude had distributed his toys across the entire floor and didn’t want to clean it up, so he was warning us not to go in.

On my last shopping trip for myself (in January, I think, as opposed to the seemingly weekly shopping trips for the boys while we get through the size and season change), I picked up a really cute tiered black dress. I love tiered ruffles, and I didn’t want the style to pass without getting to wear them at least once!

I can’t find an exact image of the dress, but it’s something like above. The question I’m asking myself is, am I too old to wear a dress this short? It’s just interesting to need to start thinking about age-appropriate in the other direction . . .

And in a third, unrelated topic to wrap up today’s non sequitur theatre, I found the perfect beach towel at Pottery Barn Kids. They also have an octopus plush, but it’s not nearly as cute as O-pus.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Container Awesomeness

Behold the power of the Cupcake Courier!

I have no idea what I’m doing in this picture, because both the boys are looking perfectly nicely at the camera.

Yes, yes, these are from three weeks ago, when we brought treats to Q-ster’s preschool for his birthday. I’ll catch up with birthday party pictures at some point too. In the mean time, I can’t look at the Cupcake Courier without smiling. So cute! So functional!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Double Indy

Buster has taken a liking to the Indiana Jones costume. INDY JONES!

Fortunately, the boys have worked out an arrangement where Buster wears the child sized hat and Q-ster wears the big one. Baby in a fedora = Cuteness.

“We’re looking for the Raiders of the Lost Ark!”
"Actually, I think you ARE the Raiders of the Lost Ark, but I understand what you’re getting at.”

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Oops

I recently came across a couple of thoughtful posts by authors who are lesbians. One discussed how her son wanted to be a Boy Scout, which was troubling given the organization’s open discrimination against homosexuals, and the other was Lesbian Dad’s post, 20 Questions about Lesbian Fatherhood.

It just brought to mind how life is more complicated when you’re not in the majority or power center – race, gender, religion, and so forth.

A few weeks ago, I ran into a colleague I hadn’t seen in a long time.

“How old are your children now?” I asked.
“Three and nine!” she replied.

“Wow, how did that happen?!” I replied.
“Artificial insemination.”

I was mortified. I meant, “How did time fly by so quickly? Weren’t we just talking about your newborn baby? And now she’s three years old.”

I explained myself and apologized. She didn’t seem phased by it at all and we chatted along to the next topic.

Even though I have an interracial marriage, it’s still conventional in the sense that we’re one man and one woman, and heck, it’s a legal marriage. We can’t take for granted the privileges we have that are not available to others yet.

Totally unrelated photos of Q-ster's Waffle/Blueberry breakfast art and his little brother, doing a pretty good job of keeping up.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Hostage to the Knock Knock Joke

My post What Circle of Hell Holds the Knock Knock Joke is over at Silicon Valley Moms Blog today, and I encourage you to read just how silly our little household has gotten so that the rest of this post makes sense. Or as much sense as it can, given it’s about preschool comedians.

The sequel occurred tonight, when the micro dude started telling his own knock knock jokes, with complete understanding of the format, but as little comprehension about the humor part as his big brother.

Almost Two: Knock knock!
Five Year Old: Who’s there?
Almost Two: Eyeball (his brother’s favorite)
Five: Eyeball who?
Almost Two: Eyeball shirt!
(Hilarity ensues)

Yep, they are their own self-contained knock knock unit now.

For those of you familiar with High School Musical, we’ve got another call and response thing going.

Five Year Old: What team?!
Almost Two: Wildcats!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Edward for the Darcy Set

Whatever critical complaints I have about the Twilight series, I am still looking forward to seeing the sequel, New Moon (which should be arriving via Netflix today!)

People posted this shot of Robert Pattinson on set for a recent project, and the look is much more appealing to me than his usually scruffiness.

In other tangentially related thoughts, we watched the DVD specials last week for Pixar’s Up. The disc included a segment on the creative team’s field trip to Venezuela to visit the locations they used to draw inspiration for Paradise Falls. Multiple planes, off roaders, boats, and helicopters later, the artists sat on flat-topped mountains so high they have their own weather system, sketching plant life and rock formations, exclaiming how they couldn’t possibly have created as vivid a world without actually going there in person.

Contrast that with Stephenie Meyer, who did her research on a key Twilight location in Italy via the Internet from her house while her kids were sleeping. Yes, I would agree that it certainly wasn’t a description that made me feel like “I was there” in her book, but you make do with what you have. Pixar could afford to fund a massive travel venture. Ms. Meyer couldn’t. But they both turned out big successes using the resources they had.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Across the Lego Field

We probably have more than the GNP of some small countries invested in Lego, but boy does it keep the boys occupied creatively.

Q-ster finished writing the thank you notes for his birthday gifts last weekend (the source of much of the plastic extravaganza photographed with his little brother above.)

We talk about why we say ‘thank you’ quite often, and I remarked, “It’s important to write notes so that people know how much you liked their present.”

He added, “And if I don’t like the present . . .”

I froze in terror.

He finished, “I say thank you anyway.”

Yes, he’s been paying attention! A rare parenting win on manners.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

No Jeans of Shame

Ok, so I didn’t do it. Your advice was amusing, and I thank you for your deep thoughts regarding sleepwear masquerading as fashion. In the end, I couldn’t justify $60 to satisfy my curiosity. Now we’ll never know if the PajamaJean will bring forth the end of civilization, not unless it really does and we’re stuck cursing in the darkness while ensconced in comfy, comfy pants.

In other news, Nanny J had a theory that Buster was taking the theme of Old Hat, New Hat to heart. You may recall that it’s the Berenstain Bears story where a fellow goes to the hat shop to replace his battered headgear and rejects dozens of hats (too lumpy, too frilly, too holey, too silly) before locating the perfect item – his old hat.

Regardless, she managed to get the micro dude to wear his new socks yesterday. Woot! However, he refused to wear his new lightweight pajamas tonight in spite of the warm weather. (DIFF'RENT JAMAS!)

I went ahead and dressed him in his thick winter ‘jamas and placed the new ones in the corner of his bed. “Make friends with your new ‘jamas, ok?”

Maybe he’ll be willing to wear them tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Taking Casual Fridays a Step Too Far

My free shipping coupon expires tomorrow, so I need your advice fast!

Some background is in order.

Shortly after Buster was born, SwingDaddy’s mom and stepdad sent us the perfect PajamaGrams for the parents of a newborn: camouflage PJs emblazoned with “Fatigued.” Since then, I receive PajamaGram e-newsletter, and the most recent issue featured a deeply intriguing item.

The PajamaJean. They look like jeans, but they feel like pajamas.

Now, you all know that we’re fans of comfy pants around here, but I didn’t order them, because I was afraid they wouldn’t look convincing enough as real clothing.

Then I ran across this article by Laura Wheeler, a journalist who wore PajamaJeans during Fashion Week in New York, obtaining positive reviews from Sarah Jessica Parker, stylists, and editors. Hmmm, if they pass the test in NYC, perhaps they’re worth giving a try.

There wasn’t universal approval of the PajamaJean. Designer Issac Mizrahi said he understood the need for variety, but hoped women would still occasionally summon the courage to wear their “pencil skirts and high heels.”

That last bit makes me laugh, especially having seen a retweet from Catherine Clifford stating that 73% of professional (business) women suffer from shoe related health issues. I like to look professional, but not enough to damage my feet and back in the process.

It’s ironic that as Wheeler puts it, “Standard blue jeans were once the hallmark of comfort, but suddenly, in the sweatpants-clad US of A, that's not enough.”

Indeed, it’s not. We want our fuzzy pants.

So, should I order?

P.S. Let me know if you want the shipping code too!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Watching, Reading, Looking

After watching the Oscars, Up was the one movie I said, “We really need to see this!” I’m sure the Hurt Locker and Precious are impressive, but I don’t think I need to see that much misery at this point in life.

Up is fabulous. I love Pixar. And how cool is it that Russell (the little boy) is Asian-American? We love the part where Carl tells him, “Let’s play Who Can Stay Quiet the Longest.” and he replies, “My mom loves that game!”

I read two books last week.

Presenting to Win, for the Business Book Club I run at work. Great strategy concepts as well as a whole list of very practical tips for PowerPoint slide building. Example – use Wipe Right for slide transitions. Never use Wipe Left unless you’re trying to show something dissonant that should displease the audience. Western audiences in particular are accustomed to see motion going from left to right as positive. (edited)

The second book was Sean Astin’s autobiography. Sean played Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the lead role in Rudy, among many films, and it was an interesting behind the scenes story of an actor who has grown up in Hollywood. He’s momentually insecure, which is a little irritating, but he’s an engaging writer and terrific actor.

Another thing I really enjoyed was the descriptions of the life and work partnership of LoTR director/writers Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh. I love seeing a glimpse of their creative teamwork.

This last image is my sister’s gift to Q-ster for his birthday- Lego Indiana Jones in full color photography. He loves it! Original photo here.

And that wraps this week (month, year?)’s issue of Watching, Reading, Looking.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Different Kind of Sock

The micro dude has taken to giving his firm opinion about his clothing. Do you see the socks on the left? They are well worn and developing holes, which led to the recent purchase of the socks on the right.

You might think that this is no big deal, but then you would be wrong. I've tried every morning for a week to get him to wear some of the new socks.

Buster: DIFF'RENT SOCKS!

And he will not be swayed until I pull out a pair of the old ones. I haven't figured out why he doesn't like these socks, but sooner or later one of us will crack. No bets on who that will be.

He also tells me that he wants to wear FUZ-ZEE PANTS when I try to put other pants on him. Fortunately, he has four pairs of fuzzy (super soft microfleece) pants, and I can't really point fingers since I am usually wearing pants of that exact same material.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Need These Peas

Oh, the cuteness! As if I needed any help with anthropomorphizing food. The ladies at We Covet say that the pea family is featured in the new Toy Story movie - yet another reason to love Pixar.

Here are my childhood friends, the Vegimals: Broccoli, Carrot, Pea Family, Banana, and guest Kiwi.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

If You Give a Baby a Cookie

Buster and I were curled up on his tiger pillow singing the Ladybugs Picnic song tonight when he asked me for “Mouse Cookie!” which is his way of requesting the story, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. In that tale, the mouse requests increasingly elaborate things, many of which I couldn’t remember as I tried to recall the story from memory, so Buster did his best to fill in.

Me: If you give a mouse a cookie, he’ll want to have some . . .
Buster: Milk!
(That’s how it goes in the book.)

Me: If you give a mouse some milk, he’ll want . . .
Buster: How ‘bout, CHOC-WITT!

Me: Ok, that sounds good. If you give a mouse some chocolate, he’ll want . . .
Buster: How ‘bout, vite-mins!

And he just kept going. I was amazed at how long he could generate fresh ideas. Although he did repeat vitamins several times, since he’s recently become very fond of gummy bear vites. It also made me very conscious of how often I say, “How about . . .” when I’m suggesting activities for him.

Later, we ran upstairs to play Duplo and see how SwingDaddy and Q-ster were doing with his new birthday Lego. Q-ster had elected to open one of the massive Star Wars spaceship packages, but he wasn’t building the official Republic cruiser that it contained. Instead, he was creating some pretty terrific designs of his own.

A ship.

And a “power generator.”


Cool stuff.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Taxes, More Fun than Death

I did the first pass on our taxes last weekend and noticed either on the TurboTax or IRS website that you can now “get your tax rebate in the form of a Visa check card!”

This seems so funny and removed from the old-fashioned green paper check that SwingDaddy and started riffing on what other formats your rebate might take.

You can get your tax rebate as a voucher for the Holiday Inn!
Or get a free tank of gas!
A 2 for 1 coupon at Applebee’s!

Ah well, you had to be there.

Monday, March 08, 2010

We're Rich!

We scored a crate of 60 Eggo waffles at Costco last weekend. A triumph amidst this national shortage.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

The Best $1.45 I Ever Spent

We've been enjoying Blue's Clues here in Chez M, and both Q-ster and Buster have shown intense interest in Steve's Handy Dandy Notebook, where he records the Clues.

I brought home a pair of notebooks from the dollar store, and the boys are thrilled. Buster spent the entire afternoon thrusting his little book forward, declaring, "NOTEBOOOOOOK!"


In other news, we had a fabulous weekend of celebrations for Q-ster’s fifth birthday (light saber cupcake pictures coming soon), and SwingDaddy is off crutches, walking and driving again! Many, many, many thanks to my parents, who came the first week to help us, and to his step-mom who just left this morning. They kept our lives moving smoothly between ice runs, PT appointments, and entertaining the boys.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Five Years

So much has changed since you came into our lives five years ago. Where once you were a tiny armful, you are now a thinking, questioning, reading, running, jumping, lightsabering wonderful boy who asks, “When I’m five tomorrow, will I be able to drive a car?”

That’ll come all too soon, my dear. Happy Birthday, Q-ster!

Plus, it’s my four year blogoversary too!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Cute Drinks and Immigration Policy

I despise flat soda, so I'm loving the mini 12-ounce Coke bottles, which stay nice and fizzy over the two or three days it takes me to finish them (I know, I know, the baby already drinks more than I do. But he drinks milk of course, not Coke.) The grocery store was out of them this week, so we ended up with these 7.5 ounce cans. They're not as good, since they’re not re-sealable like a bottle, but they sure are cute.

The glass shows how much I wasn't able to finish at dinner. Apparently, I have a 4 ounce capacity.

The Diet Coke can is just there for size reference. We bought a case for a party a while back, and since neither SwingDaddy nor I like the diet flavor, they've been sitting there for a mighty long time. Today, I noticed that they expired in May of 2009.

Did you even know that Coke can expire? Twinkies are rumored to expire after nine years, but I think that's not because they would taste stale. I'll bet it's because Hostess thinks the packaging will degrade after that much time.

~~~~~~~~~
I have a second topic today, one that’s so different from my usual content of cute children, Star Wars, dance reality TV, Star Wars, plush sealife, and Lego, that there’s really no good transition.

Xiaolin Mama
of Clever Girls Collective and Silicon Valley Moms Blog contacted me about the Asian American Voices Project, which has created a documentary that follows the stories – the successes, hardships, and hopes – of three Asian American immigrants in Silicon Valley. Despite struggling through language, cultural, and health care barriers, these individuals readily work to shape the local community. This piece explores the strengthening of community through the support of immigrant populations.

To paraphrase their website further, the short films are part of the Silicon Valley Asian American Voices project to influence policy to help the integration of Asian American immigrant communities and foster cross-cultural understanding among various ethnic communities.

Over half of the people with whom I work on a daily basis are immigrants to the United States. As technical professionals, they don’t share the dire financial struggles that many others do, but I know that from family experience being 6000 miles from one’s family and immersed in a foreign culture makes for extra challenges.

My parents were very fortunate in their immigration experience, but now that I am a parent myself, I recognize how much they took on to create a wonderful life in this country. They came and rescued SwingDaddy and me when my sons were newborns, and I’m sad that they didn’t have that same incredibly meaningful support when my sister and I were little.

I’m glad to see that this local project can have an impact on immigrants here and across the country, which leads to stronger communities across ethnic groups.

More information:

The film trailer.

The full film will be shown on Thursday, March 4 at DeAnza College and on March 20 as part of the San Francisco Film Festival.

There’s a contest for free tickets to the SF AA Film Festival at Asian American Voices Facebook page.

Xiaolin Mama writes about the project much more eloquently at her place too.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Olympic Ceremonies and Cultural Oddities

My Canadian friends, this image from the Vancouver Olympic closing ceremony of giant inflatable beavers renewed my faith in ability of spectacle organizers to make anything into an object of cultural adoration.

Photo stolen from the Redneck Mommy.

The beavers are only topped by my memory of the Sydney Olympics, where the Bananas in Pajamas, cuddly stars of a children's television program, had their own float circulating the stadium along with Savage Garden and Olivia Newton-John, if I recall correctly. It's truly fascinating to see where a nation's pride lies.

Photo: Getty images

Of course I didn't actually see the Vancouver closing ceremonies because we're so far behind in our TV watching that we didn't even get through the last hour of the opening ceremonies, but I have high hopes of making it through figure skating highlights someday.

And yes, I fully realize that I live in a country that boasts 500 Elvis impersonators cavorting around the football field during a SuperBowl halftime show as perfectly normal. We all have our oddities.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Han Solo in Action

Mama finished sewing the holster, and Han Solo is very pleased.



Yes, he is using a plastic axe as a blaster. I don't have it in me to buy him a toy gun yet. I figure it's inevitable, but no need for me to help it along while he's still content using the foam capital "L" from his brother's alphabet floor mats, the lower case wooden "r" from his name puzzle, the toy drill from his tool bench, or the plastic carrot from the vegetable set.

Essentially, I made a pocket with loops that hang from his belt, and added a snap strap to fasten it around his thigh. The little dude has quite the swagger.