Thursday, March 31, 2011

What's Up, Sugar?

The standard five pound bag of sugar went on a diet . . . and became a four pound bag of sugar. Hurrrmph.

Totally unrelated note: For those of you who read YA (particularly The Princess Diaries,) check out Meg Cabot's wedding picture from 18 years ago.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Oh, pleeeeeaase can I have a Jamba Juice?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The So-Called Triangle of Life

Every good Californian knows to duck under a desk or stand in a doorway when an earthquake strikes. So I've been curious about this "Triangle of Life" email that gets sent around periodically, forwarded by well-meaning souls.

Basically, it states that hiding under a desk or something heavy is the worst thing to do in an earthquake, and instead, one should curl up on the floor right next to that heavy thing. This is supposedly because a little "triangle" of space will be preserved next to that structure when the building pancakes and collapses. The author then recalls crawling through a post-earthquake school and seeing hundreds of children crushed under their desks, when their lives would have been saved by lying down next to the desks.

It's an interesting theory, but it seemed odd that the content of the email thread never made it to any kind of Red Cross or other recommendation policy. Since the Japan earthquake, folks have started forwarding it around again, so it seemed more urgent to look up whether there's any truth to the matter.

Enter, the great urban legend debunker. And no, there's not a lot of accuracy to the matter. For example, the "drop and cover" instructions are designed for US building codes, where very few (if any buildings) have pancaked in an earthquake. The qualifications of the author are also highly questioned, as he's apparently under investigation for fraud.

For more information, see Snopes!

TKD Day One

We had a trial session at the taekwondo studio today, and Q-ster was delighted to be stretching, kicking, and running around with his little friends.
Buster watched for a while and headed for the toddler play area. The studio knows how to make everyone happy - toys for the little ones and couches with free wi-fi for the parents. I think we're going back.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Once upon a time, I had time to write more thoughtful posts about our experiences, but this is certainly not that kind of week. Still, I don’t want to forget the wonderful time we had yesterday at Cirque du Soleil’s Quidam.

Quidam was the very first Cirque show that SwingDaddy and I saw, probably in the late 90’s, back in its original Grand Chapiteau (big top tent) incarnation. We loved the combination of art and acrobatics, especially my favorite number, Banquine.

Q-ster loved the DVD so much that we got tickets for the current arena version of the show. We prepped him in advance for the typical Cirque “storyline.”

Me: Remember, the story isn’t going to make a lot of sense. Sometimes things just happen because they look interesting.
Q-ster, nodding knowledgeably: Right. It’s not real, it’s just pretend.

Even so, we had forgotten just how dark (and beautiful) this particular production was. Fortunately, Q-ster didn’t seem particularly phased by it. He was only uncomfortable with the extended audience participation clown sequence, since it seemed never-ending, and which we usually skip on the DVD because I hate almost all clowns. He loved the acrobats of Banquine, the cheerful Skipping Ropes, and the amazing human Statues.

The unfortunate thing about the arena setting was how you can no longer see the expressions of the artists - the intimacy of the experience was gone - but it was still terrific to see the numbers and enjoy the music. By the next show, Buster should be old enough to go with us too!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Right User Interface

It’s a good UI when a two year old knows what to do.

Buster is waving his hand to give a command to his “pet” in the Kinectimals game. He can pretend to throw a ball, give him water, or brush his fur.

He’s particularly thrilled when he succeeds in selecting a command by holding his hand to the right or left. “I did it! I chose NO!”

The motion sensing is pretty darn good. I’m looking forward to seeing what the future brings.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Treats, Nordic Style

Two of my Scandinavian colleagues were in town this week, so we had the team over for dinner. They thoughtfully brought sweets with them for our day-long meetings.

Gummy people that were apparently labeled as Easter candy, although we weren’t sure what the connection was. “Jesus on skis?” suggested one person.

A treasure chest of sweets, one box for each of the boys. My co-worker, also a parent of two young kids, said that he wondered whether it was ethical to give someone else’s children a three-day sugar high, but that he brought it anyway.

This last one is a flashback to my last trip to their country, where the afternoon snacks provided in the breakrooms included full size carrots. I’m so used to seeing carrot sticks and “baby carrots” that it’s very bizarre to see people munching on an entire carrot, like Bugs Bunny.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

More Ninjagos

Q-ster attended the Ninjago-themed birthday party of a little friend at a local taekwondo studio last weekend. His pal’s mom is brilliantly creative.

Ninjago cake-pops

Candy “sushi” made from rice krispy treats, Swedish fish, and fruit-rollups-by-the foot

Ninjago mini-fig piƱata. This was extremely well engineered, so after two rounds through the children and no major puncture, the parents had to take a turn. Q-ster was proud of my two solid whacks.

Q-ster’s illustration of the Ninjago Kai character on the card he made for the birthday boy.

The studio was clever and ended the taekwondo lesson with a chance to smash a board with an “axe kick.” I think we’re signing up for lessons. Next month, Buster will be old enough to take class too, so we’re going to need to decide whether or not it’s wise to have battle trained children in the house.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Pros of Bros

We certainly get our share of brotherly disagreements and dust-ups, but I’m choosing to the record the sweet moments today (and most days.)

Buster handled his big brother’s birthday really well. Even as Q-ster opened gift after gift, there was no whining and no complaining which impressed me, because Buster’s not quite three years old.

When Q-ster unwrapped a Hot Wheels set, the micro dude’s interest was piqued. He loves cars dearly. So . . . Q-ster decided to give it to him!

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Yes, yes, back to back posts on octopodes, what more can I offer?

Yesterday, Buster smacked into my leg pretty hard, so I reminded him to say sorry. He shook his head. For some reason, saying “please” and “thank you” is very natural, but apologies are tough for him. He responds very poorly to increasing pressure to “say sorry,” so I tried a different tactic.

Me: You hurt Mommy. How can you make Mommy feel better?
Buster: (pauses) Octopus!

He dragged over my giant stuffed octopus and handed me a leg. Well, he made a good call, even if it wasn’t what I was looking for.

Look! Isn’t this the cutest t-shirt design? I have a friend who regularly runs local races and triathlons. When he saw the logo for this one, he ordered my size instead of his own. I wore it today and it made the boys (and me) happy all day long. Thanks, TSO!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Octopi or Octopuses?

I’ve noticed the trend in octopus plurals moving from “octopi,” which I was taught as a child, to “octopuses,” which I see more and more in text. Why? Is this another sign of the gradually declining state of education? Apparently, there’s more to the story.

I came across a quote from a book titled My Grammar and I . . . Or Should That Be Me? by Caroline Taggart and J.A. Wines at the Pioneer Woman.

Octopus is a one-word minefield, because it is a Latinized form of the Greek word oktopous, whose “correct” plural form would be octopodes. But according to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, today the correct form of the plural is octopuses or octopi.”

I think I’m going with OCTOPODES.

In totally unrelated but more serious news, check out this earthquake preparedness article. I have been refreshing our emergency cache and have realized that it doesn’t contain any, ahem, feminine hygiene supplies. I will be addressing that on our next shopping trip.

And in an inspiring post by a long-time American living in Japan, we learn about their preparedness culture. This is just one man’s experience, but it’s enlightening, and I particularly love his quote about how “there is no word for excessive preparation in Japanese.”

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bad Parenting

A couple of days ago, the boys requested plain tortillas to eat with their veggies, and Q-ster took a few bites around the edge of his. “Look!” he said, showing the doily-like effect. He folded the tortilla in half and prepared to eat some more.

That was where I blew it. I should have kept my mouth shut, but I said, “Hey if you take a bite from the folded side and open it up . . .” which he did immediately, and saw the perfect hole in the middle of the tortilla. And ever since, both of them make tortilla snowflakes, folding and biting, folding and biting. Dinner will never be the same again.

SwingDaddy – I am so, so sorry.

P.S. Best Leprechaun Trap ever, thx to FourthBreakfast for the tweet.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Leprechaun Trap

Q-ster designed a leprechaun trap for his homework and SwingDaddy helped him construct it out of a cardboard box, rubber bands, wire, and string. His first plan was a little more dramatic, but we pointed out that we didn't really want to squish the leprechaun. What would one do with a squished leprechaun anyway? The next plan involved labeling the trap, "Free Dinner!" which I thought was pretty clever, and his final version is labeled, "Free Home. Leprechauns only." There's also a gold foil-wrapped chocolate coin inside because, hey, gold, chocolate, who doesn't like that?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Like Leo

When we first started watching The Little Einsteins, Q-ster was only two. We found the story lines tolerable, animated characters cute, and the music and art themes entertaining. Singer Annie was age four, and instrumentalist Quincy was five. Dancer June and conductor Leo were the impossibly old age of six. At least that’s how it seemed to the parents of a two year old.

Over the weekend, we watched an episode and Q-ster pointed out that he is now six, just as old as June and Leo. When did that happen? Just as I started to get sentimental, he demanded a stick to use as a conductor’s baton and the whirlwind of dodging weapons began anew.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

We Ski!

Well, some of us do anyway. We made our first snow foray as a family over the weekend, where Q-ster got to ski for the first time and I managed to talk Buster into wearing a winter coat, almost as large an accomplishment.

Look at this gorgeous lake, micro dude!

(A small lake near Tahoe.) Isn’t it gorgeous, with the light glancing off the blue, blue water?

Not impressed. Happy to sit in the car and play with the iPhone.

Finally, after several stops at increasingly enticing locations, at one of which he agreed to wear his boots, I got him into a coat and we took the gondola up to join SwingDaddy and Q-ster at the ski base. Yay, gondola ride!

All four of us enjoyed some inner tubing, and Q-ster took to the circuit like a pro.

A lovely day. And look, the Buster is even wearing snow pants. Life is especially good when your children are cooperating.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hungry for Books

Buster loves to "read" and his memory is pretty good, aided by the illustrations in his books, of course. He'll point at a page with a picture of trees and say, "Let's count them," or ask me questions about the different images. I guess that's fair. I'm always asking him the color or shape of objects, so it must get to be his turn sometimes.

My current favorite is the micro dude's interpretation of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. The caterpillar munches its way through stwawbewwies and wawamewon and a nice gween leaf. And turns into a byoo-ful butterfly.

In unrelated news, we've been getting lots of summer camp flyers from the YMCA and community centers. There are lots of interesting programs, but are there really people who think that kindergarteners need to take public speaking classes? How about woodworking for preschoolers? (Okay, that one wasn't fair - it turned out that the same brochure had classes for adults too.) SwingDaddy was pretty excited about signing up the boys for the "How to tile a bathroom floor" course, but participants have to be 18 for that one.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

More Cute Rocks

First we had cute Scandinavian rocks, and now we have cute Easter Island rocks, via Japan. This one even talks, if you record a message.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Birthday Aftermath

The post-party tasks have gone more smoothly than expected. The little dude knocked out his thank you notes with remarkable good humor, only asking for help on some complicated spellings (“Pharaoh’s Quest” Lego being one.) Next year, I’ll have him add a sentence about why he liked the gift, but I think as a new six year old, it’s ok to just say “Dear X, Thank you for the Y. From Q.”

I took an extra veggie plate and 21 cupcakes to the office, since none of the adults at the party consumed one, and I didn’t think it was a good idea to leave that much frosting in my household. I wondered if I ‘d have to return to the break room at the end of the day to discreetly dispose of them if my co-workers eyed the ninjas and feared sugar poisoning, but I needn’t have worried. The cupcakes were gone in moments, and all that remained were a few stray sticks of celery. Even those were gone by mid morning.

I expect this kind of devoured-by-wolves behavior from college kids, but I guess work isn’t that different!

Bonus: My beloved Cupcake Courier was much admired.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Gear You Didn't Know To Need

We're planning to make at least one ski trip this winter, and I've been asking around at the office - any recommended mountains or ski schools?

One colleague (we discovered that we were in the same hospital on the same weekend six years ago - her son is a day older than Q-ster. Small world, eh?) recommended a place that has chair lift magnets and GPS trackers for children. The kids wear special vests with a metal plate in them, and then they stick to the chair lifts and won't fall out until the magnet is released at the top of the lift. Can you imagine the opportunities for comedy? Technology is changing things in an amusing way!

In an unrelated "oh how things have changed way," we watched the 25th anniversary concert of Les Miserables, one of SwingDaddy and my favorite shows from our teen years, and the part of Marius (the earnest revolutionary student who falls in love with Cosette) was played by a Jonas Brother. Even worse, I recognized him.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Now We Are Six

Happy Birthday, my six year old boy. You had a great time at your birthday party today, the primary activity of which was running around at high speed with your friends, as you requested. I actually got better photographs of your brother today than of you, my birthday boy, because you were so delightedly pursuing and being pursued by your friends, first with soccer balls, next with a football, and lastly with no purpose at all, besides the joy of being free with no bell to signal that recess is over.

And then there were ninja cupcakes.

And ninja Lego, and other Lego, because your friends and family know you well.

I love you, Q-ster!

P.S. This is also the fifth anniversary of my blog. I’m sure there are profound things I could say about that, but I’m going to go have a snack instead. Thanks for reading, new and returning readers!

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Singing in the Rain, Plus Lemons

I asked the little dude how he knows about "Singing in the Rain," and he said that he'd watched a video clip of Grover attempting to perform the number while Prairie Dawn battles the special effects team.

So, tonight we watched Gene Kelly in the original ("Why is he dancing in the rain?" He's so happy, because he's in love with the girl at the beginning of the clip. "Why is he in love?") and then the Glee mashup ("How do they get the rain to work on stage?" My good, theater-tech boy.)

I ran across this in the hallway at work today - a box of someone's homegrown lemons with a sign reading: If life gives you lemons, KEEP THEM, because, hey, free lemons.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Where There's a Will

. . . there's a way.

Q-ster is fascinated by the Lego Ninjagos, but he doesn't actually have any yet. (Yo, birthday on the way, so shouldn't be a problem for long.)

Happily, instead of whining, he got creative. Here's the set that he made for himself.

For Kai, the red "fire" ninja, he used a red Imperial guard from a Star Wars set.

For the skeleton bad guy, he pulled a character from a pirate crew.

For Cole, the black "earth" ninja, he took a sword-wielding marketplace villain from an Indiana Jones scene.

I don't know from where he appropriated Zane, the white "ice" ninja, but it looks like another Star Wars character. He did note that he hadn't yet found the pieces to make Jay, the blue "lightning" ninja, but I'm sure that's coming soon.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Geek Families

Q-ster received a book of the Disney-style fairy tales for Christmas, and we’ve been enjoying reading through them. On one particular evening, he requested Sleeping Beauty, and then Snow White. (Yes, it’s a true sign of a household of boys when a five year old doesn’t know the classic Princess tales.)

As Snow White examined the seven little beds, he interrupted. “Seven dwarves? I thought there were thirteen!”

And then I realized that the little dude is more familiar with The Hobbit than with Snow White. We’re that kind of family, on the certain path to role playing video games and techie conventions, I guess.

Anyhow, he noted that both stories ended with a kiss waking up the princess and wondered why princesses were kind of useless. I pointed out that others were quite effective, like Princess Leia, and there were many other heroines, like Elizabeth Swann in the Pirates series. He was satisfied with that.

Thankfully, the more modern Disney stories have done a better job with leading ladies. For instance, Mulan totally rocks.