Sunday, December 23, 2012

Ocean City, MD

During a business trip - which followed right on the heels of Uncle Shane being in Russia for two weeks - Aunt Ali found the time to send greetings to the girls.  Although it's the off-seasons right now, the beach town holds summertime allure of a raucous boardwalk, miniature golf, a ferris wheel and more.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Now is precisely the time

Here are the facts.  The facts too horrible to process, too sickening to see.  Someone killed 27 people yesterday, 20 of whom were between the ages of 6 and 7.  Six and seven.  First graders.  Six and seven fucking years old.  Babies.  First graders.

In China, there was also a school tragedy.  A man wielding a knife stabbed 23 people.  22 of them were children.  Horrific.  But they are all still alive.

There are two things that we need to talk about.  Not just on Facebook.  Not only on my blog (although I'd love to have some dialogue here, too).  But in America.

The first: guns.  Can we finally talk about it in public?  The fact that unfettered access to extended magazines, assault weapons, silencers, body armor... that this is not "a right"?  That when the second amendment to the constitution gave us the "right to bear arms," it was in the context of the rest of the second amendment - the responsibility of a well regulated militia - in the first place.  And in the second place, in compliance with the firearms regulations at the time - that some people were prohibited from owning guns, others were required to do so, and that the government would inspect all of the latter's annually, for example. 

You know that I don't want to make gun ownership illegal.  I'm not a bad shot myself.  But most gun violence is committed with weapons that (a) were legally obtained, and (b) were made with the sole purpose of killing people.  Defend your home, hunt, by all means.  But do you really need 100 rounds a minute to do either of those?

So can we talk about this now?  Because while Wednesday would have been better, today is better than tomorrow.  And it's sure as shit better than the day after the next mass shooting.  We can't remove evil from the streets, but we actually can make it less lethal.

And the second: mental illness.  It's real.  It's nothing to be ashamed about.  It should never be mixed with a Glock (see above).  And it can be treated.  And insurance should cover that treatment.  (Read: Obamacare, not so bad, right?)

I believe that mental illness is every bit as real as the physical.  I think that our society stigmatizes it, makes it seem embarrassing.  Which it is not.  But this is where we need to talk, to educate.  To ensure that the sick get treatment, that the healthy assist those who need help. 

Yeah, I've hugged my kids extra the last two days.  It makes me feel better.  But hugging my kids doesn't make our society better.  Opening the dialogue about both guns and mental health?  Well, that actually might.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

the missing

Like any math dork, I keep my holiday card list in an Excel spreadsheet.  I track the ones I add (or drop!) each year, in a separate column from the ones which I've completed.  And every year throws its complications right at me: new babies I've seen on Facebook that I know are named... well... um...

So you get it.  I have a list.

And each year, my list has a hole in it. 

This year, I will not write a letter to my Great Aunt Marion.  Who I love, and this void is physical.

But the reason I am writing instead of addressing letters... well, this has been a hole for years now.  Every year, I write my cards to friends that I shared with James.  And every year I cry because I still miss him. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Pagosa Springs + Key West

While we were in Key West, Aunt Jessie had the chance to spend an extended weekend in Pagosa Springs, Colorado - a beautiful spot in the southwest part of the state - to unwind after the end of election season.  I haven't been myself, but based on her description of so much to do (snowboarding, hiking, golfing and the fabulous hot springs), you can bet it'll be on our short list!


The girls also got a postcard from Mommy and Daddy - the sunset looking more amazing than any I was able to capture myself.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

The holiday walk


Among the other awesomely fun family things that the town of Evergreen does is the annual Holiday Walk.  On an early December night, the main drag is closed to traffic and the town descends.  We missed it last year, and after going on Friday we hope not to miss it again!  There were bands on multiple stages along the street (plus belly dancers - starring one of our friends!), reindeer to pet and Santa and Mrs. Claus.  Stores were open for shoppers, clydesdales pulled a trolly car and the Christmas lights lit up the town.  Fun, magical, friendly, festive.  What a great way to kick off the season!

Even the female reindeer have these funky antlers!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Back to Key West


We returned to Key West for another weekend get-away (without the kids) last weekend, and had another super fun time.  The weather was beautiful - sunny and warm - the drinks were cold and the food was delicious.  I managed to see a couple landmarks I'd never seen before: the beach (no joke - first time there), the Southernmost Point (a giant marker in the middle of a sidewalk - utterly skippable, except that for a moment I was the Southernmost person in the Continental U.S., which I suppose was something) and Mile Marker 0 (which I have clearly walked past before since it's between the Green Parrot and the post office).

We also tried a few new restaurants, at least one of which is worth adding to our roster: Santiago's Bodega - delicious tapas!  And, we found an alternative to Mallory Square to watch the sunset: the porch behind Louie's Backyard.  Great views, no crowd and cocktail in hand.  (It's also worth noting their dining room looked lovely and the menu sounded delicious.)
Sunset from Louie's Backyard

We did make the effort to go under the sea.  Our first dive was cancelled for conditions.  And the second, well... Joker enjoyed it.  Unfortunately my stuffed up nose made equalizing my ears impossible, and I had to abort the dive during the descent.  It was rather depressing, first time this has happened to me, but I guess there are worse ways to spend a morning than on a dive boat chatting with the captain in the sun.  If the seas hadn't been quite so nauseating, I'd go so far as to say it was quite pleasant. 

Pelican at the marina
Other than that... we walked, we sunned, we ate and we drank. It was a fantastic get-away, and we owe Mima and Boppie big-time for the opportunity!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Norwegian Wood

I am a huge fan of Haruki Murakami, who I find to be one of the most imaginative and creative authors out there.  The Wind-up Bird Chronicle is one of my top 10 all-time faves, and he's written several other excellent books including Kafka on the Shore, which I also love.  Norwegian Wood is apparently a book that everyone in Japan has read, with the disaffected protagonist Toru Watanabe drawing comparisons to Holden Caulfield. From the book's afterword, I got the sense that Murakami was both surprised and not too thrilled this is the book he became famous for.  And I would agree - while the book has merits, it's just not up to the standards of his other works.

The story begins as a flashback - middle-aged Toru recalls his youthful relationship with the beautiful Naoko, a woman who dated Toru's high school best friend before he killed himself.  Toru and Naoko began spending time together about a year later, initially bonding over their shared grief, and it blossomed into a much stronger relationship, one that they both seemed to believe was love. 

All was not well in Naoko's mind, though, and she committed herself to a very nontraditional sort of a mental institution.  Toru visited Naoko there, hoping to contribute the healing of her mind.  He did, however, simultaneously begin a relationship with his schoolmate Midori, a very different young woman from Naoko.

On the surface, Norwegian Wood seems like a coming-of-age love story with a level of social commentary.  Toru finds himself while discovering these women and understanding his relationships with them, all the while becoming disillusioned with political goings-on at the university.  There is more to the novel, though - Murakami's gift for dialogue shows itself from time to time, and there is the trademark reference to a well.  But I don't read Murakami for romance or coming-of-age; I read Murakami for truly creative and inspired and unique experiences.  I stand by this as a solid novel, but really, if you're interested in Murakami, start with Kafka or Bird Chronicle.

Next up: I'm still reading All the King's Men, which got interrupted when I forgot to bring it to Aurora.  So that'll be my next review.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Programs and parties

The girls are both off for this whole week, which meant last week featured their Thanksgiving activities.  The Bunny had a feast at school, where all of the preschool kids sat at tiny tables with construction paper placemats.  They mostly just ate the chocolate chip pumpkin bread, although there were some turkey slices that didn't go to waste.  The feast was followed by her very first program performance.  Unlike the Bug's early showings, it went perfectly.  The Bunny was quite the leader of her little class of all boys, she knew all the words, she didn't get nervous being in front of all the mommies and daddies.  Plus, added bonus: turkey masks.

The Bug wrapped up the Native American unit at school with an activity called "Travel Time" on Friday.  The kids rotated through four centers: they ate fry bread with berry sauce; they played a couple of Native American hunting games (this is the one I moderated - totally fun); they made turtle rattles; and they made headdresses with feathers that they had earned by doing good deeds over the prior weeks.  It was all pretty neat, and the kids had a blast.

To top it off, we hosted a little birthday party for the Bunny on Sunday evening.  She had requested a "rainbow cake," which I tackled boldly.  I found a recipe that had me splitting a couple of boxes of white cake mix into six different colors, baked each one separately, made some frosting.  Then cake assembly would be to ice the layers together such that a slice showed each color cleanly.  The cakes looked awesome - the colors were super bright!  But they also stuck like glue, first in the pans, then onto the plates I put them on.  All six layers went into the garbage, and a back-up batch of cupcakes was started at almost 10:30 on Saturday night.  Oy.  The cupcakes ended up looking great, though - a variation on the rainbow cake theme, I guess.  And the party was a ton of fun.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Big week for the little Bunny

I'm not exactly sure how this is possible, but the Bunny turned three on Tuesday.  As in, three years.  As she's reminded me about a zillion times, she is not a baby now. 

So the entry into the magical year of three apparently entails: 

  • Wearing a crown all day at school - specifically, a pink and purple one.  With a glittery "3" on it.
  • Bringing brownies to share with friends at school.  And the following day, bringing brownies to share with friends at daycare.  
  • Getting a stack of glittery princess and/or fairy-related cards in the mail, which big sister can "read" to you.
  • Getting a stack of glittery princess and/or fairy-related presents, all wrapped in pink or a pink-like color, which big sister "helps" to open before immediately co-opting just over half of them for herself.
  • Candles stuck into chocolate chip cookies to blow out on the actual birthday.
  • A still-upcoming birthday party - co-starring best birthday buddy Aunt Jessie - for which a rainbow cake with rainbow frosting and rainbow sprinkles and purple rainbow sprinkles has been requested.
I can't fill you in on the vitals - as per usual, her well-child appointment is still in the not-so-distant future - but I can tell you a few things.  She loves fairies, princesses and pink.  Her best friend is her big sister Bug.  She still doesn't sleep through the night with the kind of regularity one might like to see.  She may be a tad strong willed; for example, she hasn't had milk since we gave her sippies to the Sippy Cup Fairy, for redistribution to little kids who still need them, in June.  She is excellent at kisses, hugs and fish faces.  She is a great dancer.  She resists both shoes and coats, but is partial to her "tiny striped mittens."  She is looking forward to skiing this winter.  She loves her cats and elk and deer and rabbits (especially Sparkle, who lives under the rocks outside our dining room).  Her roar (lion, tiger, whatever) is the least threatening you'll ever hear.  And her awesome curly mop has yet to be trimmed.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

And on the first day, I skiied

The thing about start-ups is that sometimes they stop.  Out of the clear blue sky the company can go away, or your job can go away, or the entire management team can go away.  So it goes.

And so it went.  As of Monday, I'm back on the dole.  Or, I suppose, technically I could be.  But that's neither here nor there.  I'm currently looking for a new gig. 

And since I'm in Colorado, I figure no better way to celebrate enjoy endure unemployment than going skiing.  We did a few runs on Monday and were back in time to pick up the kids.  Is this state awesome or what??  So with any luck, my unemployment this go-round will be short lived.  And with a little more luck, it will find me a better snowboarder and an adequate mountain biker, in wicked shape from CrossFitting every day.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Tricks, treats and parties

Halloween this year was a rather elaborate production.  You could even call it The Year We Went All Homemade.  For some unfathomable reason, I made both girls' costumes: the Bug was Strawberry Shortcake and the Bunny was a rainbow butterfly.

They turned out wonderfully, if I do say so myself (although the Bunny's does have a little Pride Parade thing going on) - but at the expense of several nights' sleep and a Saturday morning of fun.  First I dyed their flower girl dresses from earlier this month.  Which is apparently not recommended for 100% polyester.  Then I glue-gunned the hell out of a bunch of stuff from Michael's.  Strawberry Shortcake's dress and hat were primarily felt, and she had a yarn wig (braids) that took like three hours of tangling and untangling to create.  The rainbow butterfly's wings were posterboard.  Giant posterboard.  And I got to make her antennae (headband, shiny puff balls and shiny pipecleaners) twice since we lost the first one at a party.  And for all that, not a single picture of the two of them together.  Or of the rainbow part of the butterfly. 


Joker and the girls did the pumpkin carving.  All but Mommy opted for "scary," so my "funny" stands alone.  We learned a few things about the white variety, too.  For starters, they smell amazing - like cucumbers! - when they're cut.  For another thing, their roasted seeds taste terrible.  They're also really sticky and take forever to wash.  Not worth it.

This year, I got to go to both of the girls' class parties.  What fun!  The kids did arts and crafts, they ate spooky food, they paraded.  I can't imagine being their teachers for all of that, and today couldn't possibly have been better, but they all had so much fun!

And of course, trick-or-treating was a blast - both girls were super into it.  They tricked.  They treated.  They said "thank you."  The Evergreen downtown scene is pretty crazy - a ton of kids, all the businesses hand out candy.  Then we hit a neighborhood for more traditional candy hunting.  Today we sure could have used naps all around.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Delicious, delicious humble pie

Or, Mountain Biking in Moab

A week ago, Joker and I bought mountain bikes.  Clearly we needed another recreational interest in the mix since we have extra time on our hands.  Anyway, let the record state that I have not owned a bike since my Bianchi, which I'm pretty sure I got in junior high.

We also took the plunge and went clipless.

My first mountain bike ride ever (and I do mean EVER) was in Moab.  For the unaware, Moab is pretty much the world capital of mountain biking, famous for its slickrock trails.  Also, people die when they fall off the cliffs. 

Now, I'd practiced getting my shoe unclipped a couple of times, in a grassy baseball outfield here in Evergreen.  I had yet to succeed while not holding on to a fence.  So after the short paved bike path ride to the trail head, my friend encouraged me to practice getting my foot free while riding in dirt circles.  Lucky for me, the dirt was soft.  I fell over, and over, and over.  Presumably to the great amusement of the giant crowd of out-of-shape people who'd just come off the trail.  I bailed and took the kids to the pool for the afternoon.

The next day, however, I did have some success.  I rode a whole (completely non-technical) trail, and absolutely loved it.  The views of Arches National Park were stunning and the ride was fun.  I succeeded in getting my foot unclipped without falling almost every time.  And I even stayed on my bike while I bounced down a section of the slickrock. 

So, I'm calling the experience a success.  I do, in fact, have a new sport.  And I will learn how to do it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Arches National Park

Garden of Eden in front of the La Sal Mountains
Last weekend we went to Moab, Utah - the launching point for Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.  While we didn't make it to the latter (next time, more days!), we did get to explore parts of Arches with the kids.  The views of the La Sal Mountains beyond are beautiful, and the park... Wow.

Parade of Elephants
The place is stunning, unreal.  The scale of the various formations blows the mind.  Also incredible: the amount of ground you can easily cover, even with little kids.  I'd love to do a long hike next time, but there are tons of spots to get out, hike a mile (or less, or more) and see amazing stuff.  The kids absolutely loved it, and had a blast scrambling on the rocks.
Turret Arch in the sun
North Window

In just a couple of hours, we were able to see quite a bit.  First, a short hike along the bottom of the Park Avenue formations.  The drive to our next little hike - around Balanced Rock - had sweeping views of the Petrified Dunes.  We went from Balanced Rock to the Windows Section, where we climbed around North Window, South Window and Turret Arch. No question, we will be back to see the rest.
Balanced Rock
Park Avenue

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

First month of the big K

The Bug's first kindergarten parent-teacher conference was a couple of weeks ago.  It felt extremely early to me - what in the world can someone know about your kid in just a month? - but Joker and I both went enthusiastically and took our places in the tiny chairs to hear what's what.

The short report: she's doing awesome.  Top reading group, great at math (as she informed Mrs. Grose, "four hundred plus four hundred is eight hundred"), and above all else, she love-love-LOVES school.  Perhaps most importantly - especially in the context of where she was a year ago - she is a leader in the classroom, she helps her friends.  She listens attentively and answers questions thoughtfully.  And she'll even move to a quieter spot in the room when her buddies are being too chatty.

All of this is right in sync with what we've been observing thus far.  The Bug is thriving, and every day at kindergarten is a great day.  Really, what more can you ask for?  Plus, she is actually learning to read. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Walking their old streets

The recent passing of my dear Great-Aunt Marion took me last weekend to Aurora, IL, the town where both of my maternal grandparents were born.  Although it was a solemn occasion that brought us all there, it was a great weekend for many reasons.  I traveled with my grandparents, my mom and my uncle - we flew together, drove together, stayed in the same hotel, ate and drank together.  Regardless of the occasion, when my extended family gets together it leads to multi-generational guffaws.  And I got a very personal tour of our family history.

For some reason, I had never before been to Aurora.  But I really wanted to have Grandma and Grandpa show me around.  The actual house where such-and-such happened isn't particularly meaningful to me.  But the showing of the houses is.  The experience of hearing them recall events and people, as the streets remind them of various goings-on.  Every corner held a memory for Grandma or Grandpa or both of them - here was where she went to kindergarten, there is his childhood church, here's their first apartment after they were married. 

The art deco Paramount Theatre, downtown Aurora
Aurora itself is a neat little town (actually now it's a fairly large town), situated on the lovely Fox River.  The river itself set up many of the stories: by splitting the town into the East Side and the West Side, it created rivalries (as well as some sort of phantom difference).  When my grandparents lived there, Aurora was home to a great deal of manufacturing, a laughable number of bakeries and a surprising frequency of the name Herman Harms.  Also, apparently back then newlyweds sought their parents' approval before deciding where to move.

Aunt Marion's service was very nice, and reminiscing with family afterwards was a comfort and a pleasure - every outburst of laughter reminded us all of her.  We drank manhattans in her honor, we admired photographs, we wished she were there in the house she loved.  It was a great weekend for many reasons.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Dear Bug, Dear Bunny,

My dear, sweet, sleeping little things.  We're going to be attending two weddings this week - not just Daddy and me, but you, too.  So even though you don't yet know what that means, I have already thought about what I want to tell you.  And here is part of it.

Dear girls, I hope that one day you marry.  If you want to.  And if you find someone you love, and who loves you, and who will be your teammate.  And if you don't marry, that's OK.  But you need to be true to yourself.  Find someone who believes what you believe, values what you value, knows your incredible worth.  Don't compromise.

I know that before that day, your heart will be broken.  You'll think that your life can't go on, that you'll never feel whole again.  You'll wish you hadn't fallen in love.  And your heartbreak will break my heart.  But I will know, before you will, that your first heartbreak will make you stronger, and will make you love more deeply.  And it will get better.  The sun will come back out.

And before that day, I want your life to be easy.  But it might not always be.  And when it's not, I hope that you will come to me with the hard questions.  If you have questions about love, or sex, or sexuality, or freaking zombies... I am here.  I might not know the answers, but I will help you find them.  I'm not the strongest person you know, but I will always strive to be a pillar for you.  I may not always succeed, but I will try my hardest.

Know yourself.  This is harder than you think.  But the more comfortable - and confidant - you are about who you are, the better you will be able to give yourself in love... and to know when it's not really love, but something else in disguise.  When you marry, or you don't, remember that the only person you will always be with is YOU.  And you are wonderful, and fun, and smart, and worth it. 

More than anything, I want you to be strong, self-sufficient, smart women.  I want to help you achieve that.  And I want you, my amazing little girls, to be happy. 

Love,
Mommy

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Everything is Illuminated

Let me start by saying that I enjoyed this freshman novel by Jonathan Safran Foer.  Everything is Illuminated has both an interesting plot and a creative writing style that I enjoyed.  But I cannot call it a great book, and I felt that it just didn't live up to the potential that the best parts of the book promised.

First, the writing style, which requires a little background information on the protagonists.  The story is of a young Jewish American, also named Jonathan Safran Foer, who travels to the Ukraine to find Augustine, the Ukrainian woman who saved his grandfather when the town of Trachimbrod was destroyed in the Holocaust.  To assist with this search he enlists Alex Perchov, a young man about the same age as himself, as his translator.  Since Alex is not able to drive, his "blind" grandfather along with his "seeing-eye bitch" Sammy Davis Junior Junior come along, too.

The story is told in two parts.  First is the magical-realism novel-within-a-novel, telling of the history of Trachimbrod, through the story of character-Jonathan's ancestors.  These sections are written in a highly literary English style, interspersed with letters from Alex that accompany his own novel-within-a-novel.  Alex's style is that of someone who took first-year English, then read a thesaurus.  He tells the actual story of their search for Augustine, and these sections are a pleasure to read.  His misuse and abuse of the English language - trying "rigidly" instead of "hard" to do something, "roosting" instead of "sitting" on a chair... Excerpts can't do it justice, but it's well done.

As for the plot, well, I like the story of character-Jonathan's ancestors.  It is tragic and beautiful and his exploration of love is thought-provoking.  The magic, however, is less well done.  I enjoy magical realism, and wish this novel had not attempted it.  Alex's story of the search for Augustine has some very funny parts mixed in with cliche joke attempts, and then it brings the reader to the precipice of heart-breaking.  But it doesn't take you all the way there.  I was left wishing I could send the last chapters back for a re-write.

So like I said, I enjoyed the book.  I just thought it had the potential to be better. 

Next up: All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren.  A Pulitzer Prize winner that many consider to be the best book written about American politics.  It's election season; call me timely.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Trade Towers

I know that today is the day when we remember the firefighters and others who lost their lives in the madness of September 11.  I've seen the photos of heroes and lights and towers, and it all reminds me of how proud I was to have been a New Yorker, an American, a citizen of the world.

I've recounted that day and the days that followed on this blog before.  So today I thought I would share other memories of the Twin Towers - those incredible beacons of lower Manhattan.

There was the time a friend was visiting from Colorado.  We'd planned to go to the top of the towers so that she could see the view.  What we had not planned on, however, was the weather.  According to the sign in the lobby, visibility was 0 - that's right, ZERO - miles.  Nothing.  We went up anyway, and learned that when they say you can see nothing, that's exactly what you can see.  We couldn't even see the ground below.  Thank goodness my flirty friend was pretty enough to get us our money back.

There was the summer of 2000 when the Cow Parade was on display around the five boroughs and beyond.  I was obsessed - every day I'd bring my camera to work, drag my colleagues around midtown, and find and photograph cows.  One of the days I went to lower Manhattan to see what kind of cows they had to offer.  Imagine my delight when I found the Twin Cowers - possibly my favorite of the entire parade.  (Except maybe for A Starry Starry Night Cow, but that's another story altogether.)

I brought visitors from across the country to see the view from the World Trade Center.  We'd check out Battery Park, head over to the Brooklyn Bridge, drink giant beers at Jeremy's Ale House.  This was the part of New York City I never failed to show off.  Yes, I remember the tragedy.  I never will forget - I never could.  But I also remember the sheer pleasure that a couple of buildings brought to me. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Glen Echo, MD

A couple of weeks ago, Mima and Boppie zipped out to Maryland for a quick visit with the baby year-old cousins Caleb and Wyatt and Uncle Shane and Aunt Ali.  In the middle of their kiddo play and their crab feasting they visited the historic town of Glen Echo, MD.  This carousel was installed in 1921 - 92 years ago - and the boys loved it.  Or, at least they tolerated it.  Next time, they'll love it for sure. 


Monday, September 3, 2012

Bergen Peak

With the girls at my parents' house for the weekend (more on that later!), Joker and I took advantage of the opportunity to hike Bergen Peak.  It's a lovely 4.7 mile hike to the summit through the Elk Meadow Open Space Park right across the road from our house.  It's not as hard as Hallett Peak or Mount Ida, but it was a lot of fun - and literally in our back yard.  All of the trails are well marked and well maintained, and get heavy use by hikers, trail runners and mountain bikers.

The summit offers beautiful views of Mount Evans, Pikes Peak and the Continental Divide.  To the east you can see downtown Denver and beyond, all the way to Denver International Airport. 

I can't believe it's taken us over a year to do it, but I am sure this will be a great hike for us - and the kids, soon! - for years.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Jersey Shore family vacation

Even without the (presumably) terrible eponymous MTV show, the Jersey Shore has a reputation for being, shall we say, a bit low-brow.  The name conjures images of college kids drinking cheap beer and making out, cheap carnival rides on the boardwalk, size XXXXXL tee shirts for sale.  Not the kind of place I want to be.  While that may be a fairly accurate description of, say, Wildwood, most of the shore is awesome.

Last week, we spent a few days there to visit friends and family, in the towns of Bay Head and Ocean Grove.  It was perfect.  Both towns have beautiful beaches, lovely houses with manicured lawns and the truly relaxed feeling of vacation.  The Bug and the Bunny were able to catch up with friends they hadn't seen in a while, and see their Pop-pop, aunt and uncles and their beloved "crazy cousins," too!

We spent most of our time on the beach, and the girls were BANANAS for it!  Both of them loved jumping over waves, splashing on their tummies, digging in the "water sand," checking out the critters, collecting shells.  They also loved making mud cakes (of sand, clearly), sand castles, shell gardens and every other variety of sand-concoction you could possibly imagine.

As for Joker and I, well, we love the beach, too.  He's partial to body surfing, I like to dive in the waves and float, and we both had a blast watching the girly-girls play their hearts out.  They slept like rocks, ate their weight in chicken tenders and had a perfect beach vacation.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Look, Ma: no tears!

Yesterday was the first day of kindergarten for the Bug.  She'd picked out her clothes over a week ago (and, of course, refused to wear them and opted for a different outfit).  She was super excited.  Yeah, it helped that she knew almost half of her class from preschool.  But still - when asked by her teacher how she felt about starting school, she replied "happy."

I was amazed at the range of emotions exhibited by the parents.  I'd felt a little tear in my eye when I helped her pull on her uniform, but other than that, all great!  Maybe it was because I'd been dropping her off for years already?  Who knows.  But the other end of the spectrum is recurrent enough that the school sponsors a "Boo Hoo Breakfast" for parents.

Joker and I could not have been more pleased that after finding her cubby, depositing her lunch, snack and water bottle in the appropriate bins, and locating her seat, the Bug didn't cry.  She didn't cling.  Frankly, she only tolerated my hug.  And she got down to the business of coloring at the table with three of her friends.  Great stuff.

Yesterday was also the Bunny's first day of preschool.  She also was super excited... until it was time to put her backpack in the cubby.  She grumped a little, wasn't overly enthusiastic to meet her teacher or recognize a friend from her daycare.  But once the My Little Ponies came out, and Joker and I left the room, she started to warm up.  By pick-up time, she was all smiles and curls, just as expected.

Big, fun milestones - I loved school and am so excited for both of them to move forward in the next adventure!

P.S. School uniforms are awesome.  The Bug "hates collared shirts", but by Day 2, getting dressed was a piece of cake.  Boring cake, maybe, but still cake.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Suitcase

The short semi-autobiographical novel The Suitcase is the first book I've read by Soviet writer Sergei Dovlatov.  Born in 1941, he lived in Leningrad before flunking out of college and being sent to work as a prison guard in high-security camps.  After his stint in the military he became a journalist, supplementing his income by giving museum tours and attempting to write novels.  These attempts never proved successful within the U.S.S.R., but ultimately led to his emigration to New York.

The Suitcase is a series of vignettes or short stories about the items he brought with him to the West.  Dovlatov comes across the suitcase which sat unremembered in a closet for years and contains essentially all of his prior life's possessions: eight ordinary items.  As he tells where he came by each of these items, he paints a painfully witty portrait of the failings of the socialist U.S.S.R.

Through the Finnish crepe socks, we see a college student attempting to find a modicum of success in dealing in the black market.  The story of a military officer's belt describes an incident during Dovlatov's time as a prison guard, and of the penalties that result when a fellow guard is found guilty of misconduct.  His bittersweet courtship and marriage to his wife is recounted over a poplin shirt (perhaps the most touching and poignant - certainly the most personal - of the stories in the book).  And so on.

It's very interesting for me to read a book set in a post-Revolution Soviet Union, given the deep enjoyment I've gotten from older Russians.  I enjoyed this, and I think it'll be a book that I reflect on time and again.  I certainly don't rank it with the classics, but I will just as certainly seek out more works by Sergei Dovlatov.

Next up: The far more mainstream Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Mt. Rushmore

Mima and Boppie sent this to the Bug and the Bunny last weekend, when they scooted up to South Dakota for a wedding celebration.


They said on the back that Joker and I really want to take them there, which is absolutely correct - I'm thinking it'll for sure be on the agenda in the next year or two!

And for what it's worth, on my last visit to Rushmore, I couldn't help but find the irony in a monument to Teddy Roosevelt - America's first advocate for the conservation of our great national parks - having been made by dynamiting the top off of a mountain. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

A little Bug update

The Bug turned five in May, and we finally got her well-child visit taken care of.  (Did I mention I'm a disaster with getting appointments made?  Once I remember to call and schedule, we're all good... it's remembering to call and schedule where I completely fall down.)

Short story, all is great.  She's in the 75th percentile for height, 50th for weight.  She got thumbs-up for liking a variety of vegetables and for taking swimming lessons.  She's super flexible, seems to have decent vision and hearing.  Really, all good.

The biggest news for us is that we are finally a diaper-free zone.  Both girls have given them up, even overnight.  I probably just waltzed into T.M.I. with this, but trust me, it's big news.

Other than that, the Bug is a happy little Colorado girl!  She loves hiking and riding her bike and had a blast at gymnastics camp last month.  She enjoys all of the animals we see in the yard, from the shiny hummingbirds to the chirpy chickadees to the baby (and mama) deer and elk to the bear.  Yeah, we had bear.  She plays with her friends, has an incredible sweet tooth, loves princesses and coloring, and currently wants to be a ballerina or a rock star or a fairy when she grows up.  (Since she wasn't born a mermaid, she knows it'd be practically impossible grow up to be one.  Smart.) 

She's generally happy, likes to play with the Bunny (especially when she's able to boss her around) and is really excited for kindergarten, uniforms and all.  She's not yet reading, but she's close, and isn't that why we send them to school anyway?

There isn't much else to say - she's doing great, she's growing up, we're all having fun.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Invisible Man

There are novels that show up on lists of the most important books or most influential or simply best.  Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man is one that appears on them all.  It was first published in 1952, and immediately hailed as a rare novel proved forever to influence American literature and honestly to portray the Black experience in a volatile and changing political and social landscape.  While I appreciate its importance, I (somewhat surprisingly) did not particularly enjoy the book.

The book, told in the first person, spans the life of a young black man who graduates high school in the deep south as the valedictorian of his class.  He then attends a black college where he is one of the most promising men in his class.  A series of bad luck finds him temporarily moving to Harlem where he believes himself to be set up with numerous job prospects.

Of course, none of these turn out.  After some mostly unfortunate experiences, the narrator encounters a leader of the Brotherhood - a thinly veiled version of the Communist Party.  Brother Jack speaks a good game of color-blindness and a concern for Harlem, and enlists the narrator as an orator for the cause.  He plays the part brilliantly, recruiting other members and making himself a name, until the death of a "Brother" leaves him disillusioned with the party and its aims.

The invisibility of the title refers to the narrators continual experience that to Americans - particularly, but not exclusively, white Americans - he is invisible.  His name is not important, and in fact he gives his away when he becomes a Communist.  Downtown, people look past him as an embodiment of their enlightenment - they don't see color.  Uptown, he is lost, either anonymous or mistaken for a notorious local kingpin. 

Like I said, I understand why this book made a splash when it was published and for many years after that.  However, both the writing and the philosophy are dated.  I'm glad I read it for check-off-the-list purposes, but that's about it.

Next up:  A short, Russian novel called The Suitcase by Sergei Dovlotov.  With all the Russians I've read, this will be my first contemporary.  I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Guns and ammunition

More senseless violence, and more resistance to a sensible dialogue. 

I don't own a gun. I don't hunt and there is no reason for me to have a gun in the house.  One need not look farther than the toddler who shot himself in the face with his grandfather's gun a couple of weeks ago to recall that more guns purchased in self-defense are used against a household member than an intruder.

But I'm not anti-gun.  I do not have a problem with hunting, and while I think the logic is flawed, I don't think that ownership for self-defense need be illegal.  I wrote about some obvious gaps in gun laws a year and a half ago, none of which have been addressed to date.  For example, that concealed weapons do not belong in schools, national parks, bars and restaurants, places of worship, public spaces or the office.  Or that assault weapons have no purpose other than to kill, and they do not belong on the streets in any capacity.  But guns won't be eliminated from American society, so there needs to be a sensible conversation about what to do about them.  While stricter gun laws may not have eliminated or reduced the death toll in Aurora last week, the concept must be discussed.

In many states, it's easy to buy guns.  It's really easy to buy military-grade body armor, ammunition, extended magazines, silencers and other accessories that simply do not belong in the hands of civilians.  There is a very direct correlation between lax gun control and the number of guns that find their way into the hands of criminals.  Violent crimes are far, far more deadly when they're committed with a gun as opposed to a knife or a club.  And the United States leads the developed world in guns - and murders - per capita.

The NRA's misguided interpretation of the second amendment has led one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington to stand by gun ownership as an absolute and unfettered right.  They've also been dangerously effective in convincing our cowardly congress to legislate as such.  But the right to bear arms is not carte blanche to own whatever you want.  A gun should never be an impulse buy.  No one with a criminal history should be able to purchase a gun.  A purchase of thousands of rounds of ammunition should trigger an alert, so that a civilian building an arsenal might be distinguished from the shooting range enthusiast. 

Rational gun owners should know that submitting to a background check and complying with local and federal laws won't change your ability to keep a gun in the house for so-called protection or to hunt.  Neither would an assault weapon ban that includes extended magazines or requiring concealed-carry permits.  Laws like these won't change the ability to collect, own or fire guns for legitimate purposes, but they very well might reduce the carnage of violent criminals.  At the very least, they merit discussion.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Skinny legs and all

I finally got around to taking the Bunny in for her 2 1/2-year well child visit.  Yeah, way overdue.  I wanted to change pediatricians, then kept calling when the new doctor's office was closed.  But it finally happened.  The new ped's office is much better, so thanks to Dr. Leswing's Mountain Pediatrics for providing an alternative in Evergreen.

In a nutshell, the Bunny is doing swimmingly.  Mima potty trained her last weekend (which makes her two for two with my kids), and she has been virtually accident-free!  Her vocabulary is tremendous: she uses words like "probably" and "practically" correctly, and strings together multiple sentences that (a) convey actual thoughts and (b) can be understood by other adults who aren't her parents. 

She's still a lousy sleeper at home, and the doc said we should start playing hardball.  Feel free to place your bets on who will win this showdown, but she did stay in bed last night.

She's tall for her age (90th percentile) but a little light (25th percentile), so the doctor wants us to fatten her up.  (She even suggested bacon as a great source of fat, which on its own should recommend her as a doctor.)  She also said it was time to toss the Bunny's favorite (awful) sippies, so we sent them off with the Sippy Cup Fairy on Friday night which resulted in at least two days without any milk.  The calorie-free fruit water she prefers in big-girl cups is unlikely to bulk her up too much.  But my money says the non-milk thing can't last, and I will point to her five-yogurts-for-breakfast today as evidence. 

What else?  She loves pasta and hiking and coloring and the swings.  She picks out her own clothes and prefers dresses.  She is loving and strong-willed, and does display something of a temper.  And her beautiful smile and curls keep her beloved.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Colorado wildflowers

On our hikes last week in Rocky Mountain National Park, I took a lot of photos.  Bunches.  I took pictures of the views, the wildlife, my hiking buddies.  And I took pictures of some of the amazing flowers we saw.  I'm no professional, but a few came out pretty well, if I do say so myself.

The Rocky Mountain Columbine is Colorado's state flower.  We saw these beauties early on our Mt. Ida hike, and they were prolific on the Flattop Mountain trail. 


Indian Paintbrush is the state flower of Wyoming, and the bright red ones were the only color I'd seen.  Hiking around Lake Irene we saw some pinkish ones, and I learned that they come in all kinds of colors.  These light green with purple leaves might be my favorite.  These were in the tundra on Mt. Ida, and we saw a bunch on top of Flattop as well.



These King's Crown have a very unique, stunning red color.  They're short little guys, and they are also found in the alpine tundra.  This photo was taken on Flattop Mountain, and we saw them all over Mt. Ida and Hallett Peak, too.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Postcards from the Park

After we left Estes Park, Aunt Jessie headed up for some hiking and relaxation.  She sent this postcard to the girls, along with her enthusiasm for their continued enjoyment of hiking and exploring Rocky Mountain National Park... and the girls can't wait to hike with her!

She then sent this one to Joker and me, apparently with the mistaken logic that this would inspire us to take up rock climbing.  In reality, it makes me slightly nauseous just to look at it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Flattop Mountain and Hallett Peak

After our lovely July 4th holiday, Joker and I got to do our own big hike on Thursday.  Destination: the summit of Hallett Peak by way of the summit of Flattop Mountain.  Flattop in particular is a popular hike since it's easy to access, and a beautiful but fairly accessible climb to the top.

Hallett Peak, Tyndall Glacier, Flattop Mountain
We got an early start, but were advised by the rangers at the trail head that there was a decent chance of thundershowers before noon.  This meant we needed to get up and back as quickly as possible if we wanted to see the tops.  We hadn't gone very far when the morning clouds parted, giving us beautiful views of Longs Peak and Emerald Lake at our first couple of overlooks.
Longs Peak, from the first clearing on the Flattop Mtn. trail

Emerald Lake as seen from Flattop Mtn. trail

The sunny weather stayed with us for a while.  After timberline we still had a ways to go, but we reached the summit of Flattop with smiles on our faces, and decided the sky was looking good enough for us to continue.  The trail leaves the summit and winds around the Tyndall Glacier before turning up Hallett.  At this point, it becomes almost a scramble and less of a hike - It. Is. Steep.  But the view from the top is worth it - in every direction, the Rockies are glorious.

After a mountaintop picnic on Flattop, we made quick time down.  The clouds had been nonexistent, but suddenly they obscured the view of Longs entirely, and the thunder sounded ominous.  The wildlife, however, did its best to delay us: marmots and pikas right on and along the trail, a ptarmigan hen and her chicks, four bull elk on a slope, posing for us with their impressive racks.  And more columbine and other beautiful, beautiful flowers than you could hope for.

Aren't these fellas handsome?

One fat marmot

Ptarmigan with her chicks... right in the trail!
We were below treeline before the first raindrops hit, but we weren't yet off the trail before the hail began.  That was a bummer.  Thankfully, Mima and Boppie had lent us the ponchos I'd left at home, and we were somewhat dry, and exceedingly exhilarated, when we returned to the parking lot for our post-hike beers.  Another insanely great hike.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Hiking Mount Ida

On the second full day of our Rocky Mountain National Park trip, I got to do a day hike with Mima and Boppie while Joker had fun with the kids.  They wanted to do a hike on the other side of Trail Ridge Road, something they rarely get to do.  Destination for the day: the summit of Mount Ida at 12,880 feet.  I've actually never been on top of a mountain, and if I'd seen what I was in for, I may very well have chickened out.  (It's the one with the snow circle in the center of the picture below.)

Mt. Ida, far and center... looks pretty intimidating, right?
From the start, this hike was nothing short of spectacular.  It started out very steeply, quickly rising through the trees and reaching timberline.  Most of the hike was above timberline, through beautiful tundra with sweeping views of the Never Summer Range.  The wildflowers were gorgeous.  Even while hiking across the ridge you can see above (right of the summit), it was slow going: steep and riddled with boulders.

First open view on the way up




About 3 1/2 hours later, we were at the summit.  It overlooks the beautiful Azure Lake and Inkwell Lake, and the 360-degree views are phenomenal.  Never Summer behind us; Longs Peak to the right... and what a thrill to be right there on top, eating my PB&J next to a marmot.
Inkwell Lake and Azure Lake, from the summit of Mt. Ida

On the way down we saw a herd of bighorn sheep - all rams - closer than you'd imagine.  We saw numerous marmots and pikas, all of which are hilarious.  And the steep hike down was nearly as challenging as the hike up! 

Dead center - look close - is that an awesome ram or what?
We were completely exhausted and thoroughly happy when we took off our boots and enjoyed a beer by a picturesque lake near the trailhead. And on the drive back to the house, we saw several elk, including a huge bull that was so close we could see him chomping on grass.
What a view for a refreshing beer!





Monday, July 9, 2012

Rocky Mountain National Park with the kids

We spent most of last week with Mima and Boppie in Estes Park, and each day was spent enjoying the wonders of Rocky Mountain National Park.  The Bug had been in the park as an infant, but we really hadn't been back since then.  We had a fabulous week, and all got to enjoy the wonders of the park, from the small to the giant.

Longs Peak from the top of Trail Ridge Road


The first day we drove over Trail Ridge Road.  It's a spectacular drive, with sheer cliffs on either side at various times, and there are plenty of places to get out to enjoy the breathtaking views, see the wildlife and climb on rocks.  The girls enjoyed the stops, too - spotting butterflies and marmots, scrambling on rocks and getting their National Parks Passports stamped.  We also enjoyed a picnic and a short hike around the picturesque Lake Irene.

Meadow at the end of Lake Irene trail
On July 4th itself we took a very short hike on the Alluvial Fan Trail.  It is perfect for little kids - the only steep part is straight up the rocks next to the waterfall.  Which was, of course, the Bug's favorite part.  The Bunny preferred to take off her shoes and stand in the shallows of the river making mud pies or mud cakes or whatever.  We followed the hike with a picnic by the lake which featured a great deal of throwing rocks in the river.  There were, of course, no fireworks.  But we had a perfect Independence Day and a fantastic family getaway!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Evergreen Rodeo

Last year we moved here just after the town's most formidable event.  Or, at least, its biggest parade.  The Evergreen Rodeo: an actual Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association event that has taken place every Fathers' Day weekend for 46 years.

The silver medalist Water Polo pony from our  float
Despite being relatively new to town, we managed to find our way into the parade.  Not by accident, exactly, but because some friends needed partners in crime for their understaffed company float.  We dressed the kids in red, white and blue, donned our cowboy (and cowgirl) hats and handed out candy and "gold" medals to thousands of parade fans. 

The Bug started out a little timid, preferring to stay on the float and help me organize my hand-out stuff.  But by like the second turn, she had hopped off with me and was handing out medals with aplomb.  To her credit, the Bunny sat at the front of the float, held on tight and looked generally adorable.

Former rodeo queens were totally right behind us
The rodeo itself was actually quite perfect - a delightful balance of honest-to-goodness rodeo athletes, combined with small and short enough not to bore the kids to tears.  Plus, one of the Bug's best buddies rocked the casbah in the mutton busting event, which was sweet.

We are also apparently grandfathered in for float duty in years to come.  I will be sure to report back

Monday, June 25, 2012

Camping at Ruedi Reservoir

It's been 10 months since our super awesome last camping weekend at Long Draw Reservoir last summer.  We'd all had so much fun, we knew there would be more camping to come.  So while we waited for the season to arrive, we prepped.  We bought some gear, we read some books and maps.  And, perhaps even more importantly, we made some friends who also love to camp.

They invited us to join them at Ruedi Reservoir this weekend, which is east of the town of Basalt (between Aspen and Glenwood Springs).  I've driven through the spectacular Glenwood Canyon before, but was stunned by the amazing (if short - only a few miles long) canyon that the Fryingpan River has carved into red, red rock between Basalt and the reservoir.

Ruedi Reservoir itself is beautiful, and is well used by hikers, boaters and fishermen alike.  We had the pleasure of a 900-degree day (give or take), so the kids frolicked in the water and the mud while the adults attempted not to pass out in the sun. 

With the statewide fire ban, we did not get to enjoy a campfire or s'mores, but that was hardly a problem.  We brought our portable propane grill, enjoyed superb campstove breakfasts, relaxed and just hung out.  Although it cooled off quickly when the sun went down, it was pleasant enough to stay up late, drinking beer and shooting the breeze.  And whatever the reason, even the Bunny slept perfectly under the stars.

Thanks again to the Baxters for including us!  We are already looking forward to our next camping trips!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Jigsaw scheduling

Holy crap!  Trying to figure out our weekday summer schedule was almost a joke.  We need full-time kid care.  I have a couple of constituents I had to keep in mind, in addition to the kids themselves.  (We have an awesome babysitter who we want to give enough hours that she keeps thinking we're the best job ever.  We have a daycare provider who is also awesome and we need to stay on her good side.)  Plus, wherever possible, efficiencies (of time, driving, money) are nice.

The "schedule" that I finally pieced together is, I think, the best we could hope for.  It also needs to be written down because it's not very simple.  Babysitter (comes here) two days a week; daycare for both girls two days a week; and on Tuesdays, daycare for the Bunny and camp for the Bug.

All of this, of course, is put to task when we've got to schedule something else for one or both girls.  Doctor appointments,  play dates, family gatherings... Generally it involves me blowing off making up in the wee hours 2+ hours of work so that a kid gets 1+ hour of something-or-other accomplished. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Let's dance!

Me: So, what do you think... Time to boogie down to some cool dance grooves?
Bug: Yea!
Me: How 'bout the Talking Heads?
Bug: No.  Let's put on the Walking Dead.
Me: You mean the Grateful Dead.
Bug: No, the Walking Dead.  I love them!  They're the dancing bears, you know.
Me: Pretty sure that's a zombie TV show, hon.  How about some Grateful Dead.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Older

So I turned 37 today.  Which is pretty much a big, fat underwhelming.  Unless you're my dad, who seems to think that having an old daughter somehow makes him old.  You remember the transitive property, except instead of triangles we're talking oldness.

Anyway, it was a really good birthday.  Not because I did anything outrageous or got a box of diamonds.  It was just really good.  (Plus, I *am* getting a bike.  Totally Colorado.)

Yesterday we had planned to go up to Mt. Evans and then to show my Dad around around Evergreen.   But the sky decided to throw a bunch of golf balls at the farm, so instead we went to help clean up the yard and cook some caveman steaks and let the girls soak up Boppie's affections while Mima was visiting the baby cousins. 

So today I woke up on the farm, and then we tried to catch some carp in the pond at the bottom of the field (those carp, by the way, were doing back floats and flipping us off in fish, and they did not have any interest in eating the worms or fireballs or flies that we sent their way).  Then we ate our weight at the Armadillo, had a couple of beers and a rousing game of hide-and-seek with Aunt Jessie and came home.

Oh and by the way, our plumbing was out for like three days.  Which sucked.

But it's better now.  And happy birthday to me.  And it was a great one.  One of the best.

Thank you.

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Bug's very big week

The last week has been a very, very big one for the little Bug, deserving of more than just one little post: she graduated from Jr. Kindergarten, and she turned five.

The graduation program was super awesome, and both Mima and Aunt Jessie were able to come and see it.  It started out a little rocky, more reminiscent of her first school programs than her recent successes.  She was carrying the flag as the leader of the whole student body, laid one eye on me and devolved into a puddle of tears on my lap.  Recovery, however, was sweet and complete - she joined her friends while the younger kids sang and proceeded to lead her all-boys class like something of a superstar.  When the everybody-day kids took the stage, the Bug and her little pals hammed it up something serious.  And I guess technically she became a graduate.  Even though there was still a week of school left.

Saturday was her birthday, and she got a bigger-girl bike from Mommy and Daddy.  We went to the park for a ride, and her little legs pedaled her all around Bergen Park like I've never seen before.  After a birthday lunch we ran our final errands for the next day's party (more on that in a sec), and headed to Conifer for a party.

Sunday morning, and the day for the Bug's first "friend party" arrived.  We spent the morning finalizing our party prep, and guests began arriving at 1pm.  The party?  Well, it was a huge success.  We had around 25 kids and about as many adults.  The kids ran around like maniacs (especially the boy kids - wow! - they are insane) and the adults snacked and visited and had a couple of drinks.  I was particularly impressed that the unfinished keg from the prior day's party found its way to our deck. 

A super fun time was had by all - including our octogenarian guests of honor, the Bug's Great-Grandma Jan, Great-Grandpa Rasey and Great-Great-Aunt Maryel. 

Monday, we picked up toys.

Friday, May 18, 2012

It's all about the passion

One of the quirky things about Evergreen is that there's an abundance of gatherings where people sell stuff.  The Tupperware parties of the 20-teens.  They can be for linens or cooking accessories or actual person accessories... you name it. I've already been to more here than my entire previous life, and I've been invited to more than I've attended.

Last night, however, was the bomb.  Have you ever heard of a Passion Party? 

If you haven't guessed yet, it's all about sex toys.  According to CNN, it's even a thing. 

The "consultant" (fabulous boob job, fabulous floofy hair, perfect teeth, actual last name of "Diamond," VERY knowledgeable) started with the mild and moved to the wild.  She passed around massage lotion, asking that we rub it into our right hand but save the top of our lefts for "the edibles."  Then, she passed those around, too.  The "wild" went from the pocket rocket to the way-too-intimidating-for-me in the blink of an eye. 

And, it was far, far easier to spend money on this one than on the kitchen gear.  It might have been because we drank far, far more wine.  Or, perhaps, it was for other reasons altogether.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Who wants to be a beta-tester?

Or, "The one in which I ask for your help."

Collectors Quest is getting very close to our relaunch, which is a happy day for us all here.  As anyone who's worked at a start-up knows, it's also a very big, very important day for us.

In advance of the relaunch, we need to do some serious beta testing on the site.  Which means we need some people who didn't build it to look around and let us know about any problems with the site.

Now, I think beta testing is fun.  You get to see a website pre-launch.  You probably get to find some problems that the development team is unaware of.  And, in this particular case, you get to help me out. 

So if you have some time next week - I'd kill for an hour, be thrilled with half an hour and settle for 15 minutes - and the inclination, let me know!  I'm not looking for software engineers (though I'd not turn you away, either!), but just regular people who, you know, use the internet.  Leave a comment below... send me a message on Facebook or Twitter... even good old fashioned telephone or email will work!  I'll give you the particulars, and voila!  You'll be participating in the launch of a new company, with all the satisfaction that goes with it.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

My happy day

In honor of Mother's Day, the Bug's school has over-delivered with the adorable all week long.  We had breakfasts at the school both Thursday and Friday, and the kids made jewelry boxes, painted flower pots and made tissue paper flowers.

After my extra day of sleeping in (I generally get Saturdays), we went out for a super tasty brunch.  Then we headed into Denver to take the girls to the Children's Museum.  I'd never been there before, and it is truly a fantastic museum.  The girls played in the fire truck, painted, performed a puppet show, did some science and had a short-lived stint in the bubble room. 

Also, Joker got my T-bird detailed for me.  Talk about a sweet gift!  I am going to look too awesome with the top down this summer... expect to see plenty of rocking out around town.

A happy mother's day to the rest of you moms - I hope yours was as fun as mine!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Last of the Mohicans

James Fenimore Cooper wrote The Last of the Mohicans, which was probably his best-known novel, in 1826.  Unlike many of the other 17th and 18th Century books I've enjoyed, this one wears its age on its sleeve.  It was clearly written in another era, one in which the women are referred to as the "delicate" or "fragile" ones, and the Native Americans are called "savages," with much being made of their savageness and lust for scalps and hatred of the "pale faces."  It was apparently also a time when novels were big on the long-winded, with far less regard for the story-driven plot line.

I started the book with only a vague recollection of the 1992 film of the same name.  That movie has very, very little to do with this book. 

  • That homestead massacre of Hawkeye's friends? Never happened.  In fact, those people weren't even in the book.
  • Hawkeye was not Chingachgook's adopted son.  They were friends, more of a respected peer relationship.
  • And of Hawkeye, who I fondly remembered as vintage 1992, super hottie Daniel Day-Lewis... The book neither confirms nor denies this was the case. (To be clear, it also never claimed Hawkeye to resemble vintage 2007, super creepy There Will Be Blood Daniel Day-Lewis, either.  Thankfully.)
  • Which might also be why there is no - read it, NO - romance.  None. 
  • Plus, different people die in the end.  In fact, the entire ending is different.
Anyway, the book tells the story of Hawkeye, the white scout who has a close, mutually respectful relationship with Chingachgook and his son Uncas, the titular Mohican.  The three of them rescue the Munro sisters (the moderately admirable Cora and the completely weak Alice) along with their military escort, after the hateful Huron Magua double-crosses them.  There are beautiful passages that talk of the natural landscape, when you can hear the streams gurgling and the mocassined feet making no sounds.  There are also long, wordy, plot-free passages that beg to be skimmed, and quickly.

With all of the wonderful literature out there, I can't recommend this to anyone who is reading as an escape.  Maybe as an assignment for class?

Next up: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Her bags are packed

Big excitement at Chez Okie-Dokie tonight... a trip to Disneyland tomorrow!  But not just your run-of-the-mill old family vacation.  The Bug is traveling with Mima, my Aunt Lori and our cousin Alicia!  She packed her new suitcase herself, which means there's no telling what magical outfits she'll pull out of there.  And she wanted to take "all her dolls" and "lots of books."  Good luck with that carry-on, Mima!


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

You can call me --what-- ???

Now that the Bug and the Bunny are settled into a Better-Manners Routine, wherein they both speak when spoken to by adults at school/daycare, we're ready to fine-tune the process.  But as we set out to do it, Joker and I realized it's not as straight-forward as we thought.

What do our friends, and the parents of our kids' friends, want to be called by the wee ones?

For me, there is only one answer.  Call me Angie.  Yes, I took my husband's last name, but I NEVER signed on to be a missus.  I don't use "Mrs." when filling out forms or on my federal identification; I use "Ms."  I just don't think that my marital status is anyone's business, thank you very much.  And I'd prefer that kids, regardless of young-ivity, call me "Angie," too.  Period.  I'm not a teacher, I'm not a mother-in-law.  I'm just Angie.

But there are other equally acceptable positions.  For example, the traditional "Mr. Lastname" and "Mrs. Lastname" work for plenty of people.  Around Evergreen, I frequently hear "Miss Firstname," which sounded alright to me (added respect for your elders versus your preschool peers, I totally get it)... until I realized I have more than one friend who'd be "Mr. Bill."  And I cannot say or hear that without thinking of the play-doh character from SNL.  The Bug's teacher correcter her when she called one friend's mom "Christy" at school... only two days after Christy and I had discussed our severe dislike of being called "Mrs. ---".  (I, on the other hand, was pleased that she was addressing an adult by name.)

Leading me to ask around about what other kids' parents want the Bug to call them.  I think it's up to the person being addressed.  Thus far, my (rather limited) market research shows that very few people have a strong opinion here.  If left up to me, I want the kids to use names instead of nothing - I think it's far more polite - and I'll prompt them to use first names for my peers by default (my grandparents' peers will default to more traditional means of address).  I mean no disrespect to anyone; we're just trying to raise polite kids here.  And I hope grownups will correct me (or my kids) if they prefer some other form of address. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Jump. Lift. Run.

I've tried to keep myself in more or less decent shape for years now, primarily by running.  I even thought I was reasonably dedicated the last couple of years; I'd get up at 4:45am a few days a week to go for a run since it was the only time I could work it into my schedule.  I ran as long as possible into both pregnancies.  And I really enjoyed running the occasional road race, too.

But something totally different has recently happened to my workout routine.  Joker convinced me to go to a gym.  And not just any old gym, but one that is part of a "thing."  Apparently a trendy thing.  It's the CrossFit here in Evergreen, and I have been loving it.  I lift weights for the first time in my life.  I am working towards doing real pull-ups and handstand push-ups.  I make crossfit jokes with the other people in my classes.  I'm even doing crossfit things (like odd sit-up variants and pushups and the like) at home after my regular run-of-the-mill jogs.

I'm not sure if those insane obstacle-laced races are next.  I'm not sure if this is all just a side effect of living in Evergreen.  I'm not even sure how long my interest in jumping on boxes or doing dead lifts will last.  But for now, I'm stronger and thinner than I have been in years.  Even if it just leads to more tank tops year-round, it's probably a good thing.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Kick the round ball

The Bug started soccer, which is also known as "football" or "futbol", if you happen to live on the wrong side of the Atlantic.  This is her first foray into team sports: playing with other kids, getting instruction from the coaches, that sort of thing.

The first day was an unmitigated disaster.  There were witnesses; I am not exaggerating.  She cried the whole time, clinging to my leg.  She kept moaning she wanted to go home, to which I very sensitively replied, "You wanted to play soccer; we are staying until practice is over."  Disaster.

But since then, Joker has been taking her to practice and "games" (they just kinda let the kids run around and score goals, best as I can tell).  She's actually participating, and was reported as doing perfectly yesterday.  So, yay.  She also loves her shin guards and cleats, wants to see the local high school girls play, speaks extremely fondly of the sport when she's not there.  In short, this might just work out fine.  With any luck, even I will get to witness the success in person.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A few extra hands

After our move to Evergreen, I was housewifing.  The Bug was in school four days a week, the Bunny went to daycare once a week, and things were pretty manageable.  Yeah, I'm a crappy cleaner, and I actually learned that dusting is even worse than mopping, but we ate three somewhat healthy meals every day, there were clean clothes in the drawers, and the kids got to go to the library and the park and my grandparents' house and other cool places.

But as soon as I returned to full-time work, I realized how much was falling through the cracks.  I rarely never cleaned, laundry piled up, grocery shopping was done while emailing, my kids would watch TV while I attempted to work (fyi, school until 2:45pm is not "full day")... and don't even ask about showering.  It boiled down to this for me: even with an extremely flexible and understanding work situation, and with a rather helpful husband, it is virtually impossible for a working woman to do all the mommy and wife-y stuff.  Especially if she's not supposed to be an enormous grump at the end of the day and/or drink an entire bottle of wine before dinner.

But - hooray! - we have gotten to a rather wonderful place, with the addition of a few helping hands.  I have someone cleaning the house every other week, which means that after nine months of just sitting there, my bookshelves have now been dusted.  Twice.  And this week we found a delightful babysitter who can pick up the girls a few days a week, leaving me with some precious extra hours to devote to my job while the girls get to play outside and have adventures. 

To all the superwomen out there, huge kudos for handling what I cannot.  And to you normal women, trust me, we all need help.  Now let's go grab a drink.