Monday, December 29, 2008

What I Didn't Get for Christmas

I really want a Kitchenaid stand mixer. I've wanted one for awhile. It's on the short list of things I didn't get for my wedding. (Never fear, the mandoline shortage has been remedied by a Christmas gift from my fabulous sister. It pays to blog right before Christmas about kitchen implements you don't have!) I've finally made a deal with myself that I'll sell my old snowboarding equipment and use the money to mostly pay for a stand mixer.

Seriously, why do I still have snowboarding equipment? I live in TEXAS. I'm pretty sure because I had deluded myself into thinking that made me still "cool." I don't know who I think I'm kidding. I'm not that person anymore. I am officially a total lame-o. I have two kids. I'm almost thirty. I think a wild night is staying up past midnight to play Boggle. I don't even watch TV anymore. I spend my spare time blogging about my boring suburban life. The snowboard wasn't fooling anyone.

Note to self: Next time sell the snow specific sporting goods BEFORE you move away from Utah.

After much feet dragging, I came up with a plan. I succeeded in transporting my equipment to my parents' house over the summer. At least they have Taho about four hours away. Then I listed the equipment on Craigslist there.

The snowboard sold about two months ago. Don't tell anyone, but when I got the news, I actually cried. Apparently I have issues. I'm still waiting on the boots though. I keep relisting them. Every. Seven. Days. Stupid short listing time for Craigslist in the SF Bay Area.... grumble, grumble.

And so I'm stuck in stand mixer limbo. I have most of the money since the board was worth a lot more than the boots. But technically not all of it. I've been watching the price for the mixer model I want, and it's even on sale right now. But alas, the boots continue not to sell.

And then it happened.

I must confess, I'm pretty bad. I abuse hand mixers. I've always known this about myself, so when we registered for our wedding, I asked for a hand mixer with a little more umph. I guess it was worth it because that mixer lasted over six years. It lasted until I was rushing to make food on Christmas Eve to be exact. Long ago I had pushed the slowest speed beyond it's limits so that you had to turn it up to the second highest speed for it to even turn on, but other than that it had kept plugging along. Apparently asking the poor thing to mix two and a half pounds of inadequately softened cream cheese (cheesecake with ganache and strawberry sauce anyone?) was just too much to ask. I heard it moan and complain, but it's lazy and always does that to try and get out of work. I wrote the book on that get-out-work technique. But I guess this time it had really had enough and it stopped.

I still thought there might be hope, but then I saw it. Smoke. Every good engineer knows that there is magic smoke inside all electronics that makes them work, and if you let the smoke out, it's over. I let the smoke out. All hope was lost.

So I called upstairs to M and said, "So should I go to Costco and pick up the Kitchenaid, or will you?"

Ha ha. Nice try. In the end, we decided that Target was much closer and I shouldn't buy the stand mixer on a "whim" when I had said I would wait for the snowboard boots to sell and in the future I might want a hand mixer in addition to a stand mixer anyway. So M hurried off to buy another hand mixer at Target while I gave the cream cheese an actual chance to soften or something. Because things you've been wanting to buy for years and have actual plans to purchase in the near future are just too much of an "impulse purchase" for frumpy old people like us who heartlessly sell the last link to our adventurous youth.

At least my new hand mixer is even more powerful than my last one. Maybe this one will survive for ten years, or maybe even until my snowboard boots sell!

Anybody looking to buy some really nice strap in snowboard boots in a women's size 10???

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

All I Ever Need to Know About Raising Kids I Learned From...

Jurassic Park

I suppose you'd like me to explain?

You sit down to watch Jurassic Park for the first time. What do you think you're going to be afraid of?

Tyrannosaurus Rex, right?

You finish watching the movie. What do you actually have nightmares about?

Velociraptors.

T-Rex is gross and big and scary, but in the end he's easy to outsmart. But those raptors have got the brains...

Let's just say I have myself a little Scott-osaurus Rex. At first glance, I'm sure most people think Scott is something fearsome. He's big for his age. He's loud. Really, really loud. He's a big slobbery mess. He knocks things over. He can be scary in his own right. (It's like he's a two year old little boy, or something.) But in the end, you can usually outsmart him (as long as it's not about getting him to eat what's been served for dinner...)

Meanwhile, Claire comes across on the surface as quiet, polite, and agreeable. Don't be fooled. Just call her the Ve-Claire-oraptor. Trust me, I know the truth. Don't fear the rambunctious child. Fear the calculating child. (I've only blogged about a small taste of the full wrath. I try not to blog about the nitty gritty of all that is Claire because it's almost like I love her or something and don't want to bag on her in public too much.)

In my parenting nightmares, the Scott-Rex goes out and smashes jeeps but the Claire-tor is outside my door with her menacing face pressed against the glass, fogging it up with her vicious snorts. The Scott-Rex will get distracted by something moving on the other side of the room, but the Claire-tor methodically checks fences for weaknesses, baits you with a decoy, and opens doorknobs.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Step #2 - Bend a Spoon with Your Mind

So I picked up Connect 4 as a Christmas present for the kiddos the other day. (Shhh... don't ruin the surprise.)

M and I were looking at the directions on the back about how to play:


Man, apparently I'm not very good at this game because I've never gotten my pieces to levitate like that. Have you?!?!?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Come, Come Buy My Ice Cream...

You know you're in Texas when....

The ice cream truck plays "Home on the Range."

Friday, November 7, 2008

What Kind of Horse are You?

When I was in college, I ended up have a conversation with a professor. Let's call this professor Dr. Lengthy*. It was a conversation I will NEVER forget. This conversation should have NEVER happened. It was wrong on so many levels. I'd like to forgive him on account of him being an engineer, but even for an engineer this was a little too socially inept. [Dr. Lengthy, when other engineers think you're weird, that's a BRF (big red flag) that you've got a serious problem.]

I was with a small group in Dr. Lengthy's office hours and we were chatting about various things mostly related to school. I think it was a Friday and someone brought up weekend plans. So here's the thing. Apparently all the guy engineers who have trouble getting dates assume that this is not true for the few girls in the engineering program. HA! Quite the opposite. The engineering guys often act like dating another engineer would be like "bringing their work home with them." Fine, be that way. There's a reason that the few girls in my engineering program always said, "The odds are good, but the goods are odd." Most of those geeks weren't all that great anyway. (Does anyone else smell sour grapes?) And if engineering girls try to venture outside of the engineering discipline? Let's be honest here folks. At least at lot of women are attracted to things like a stable job, heath benefits, and a 401(k) no matter how socially incompetent an engineer is. What do girl engineers have to offer? Showing guys up by having a bigger salary and more brains? It shouldn't matter, but let's face it - it often does.

So anyway, I scoffed at the notion of my date-filled weekend and clarified that I really didn't date very much. Dr. Lengthy took this as his cue to jump in with some real "gems" of advice. I strongly suggest you sit down for this.

Dr. Lengthy proceeded to tell me that I didn't want most of those guys out there anyway. They didn't know what was good for them. (Up to this point, his advice seemed fairly kind, albeit unsolicited.) Then he went on to dismiss most guys by saying they were looking for a "spring filly." Then, with an encouraging thrust of the fist, he told me I was a "breeding mare."

Do you need me to repeat that? A BREEDING MARE.

Well, I can totally see where he was coming from...NOT. I mean, at this point I was the ripe old age of 21. Positively ancient, I know. Maybe I looked a little older than that but STILL! Or perhaps this was a reference to my birthing hips? I'd like to think that he was referring to maturity more than actual age and physical appearance because that helps the recurring nightmare go away.

He went on to explain that when he met his wife, he liked her because she wasn't some silly little girl. In fact, unlike other girls he had dated, she could lift a heavy skillet with one hand. (Because skillet lifting. That, that is an important yet decidedly lacking skill in our society. Oh wait. What's that you say? We don't live in a log cabin on the plains??? My bad.)

Dr. Lengthy also explained that, as evidenced by the skillet incident, he liked a "full-sized woman." That's right, a FULL-SIZED WOMAN. Did he know that is usually a polite way of saying "fat," or was he really that oblivious? He didn't actually say it in so many words, but he definitely suggested that I was just such a "full-sized woman." Just what every young woman who feels like she's not getting very many dates wants to hear from a creepy old professor, right?

The conversation went on for quite some time with him continuing to re-emphasize the "spring filly," "breeding mare," and "full-sized woman" points. In the meantime I had trouble running away screaming politely ending the conversation and making a quick exit because I was too stunned.

And there folks you have the story about how one of my college professors tried to raise my morale by calling me old and fat. All this was supposed to make me feel better how???

*Names changed to protect the innocent...er...um, ignorant? But if you happened to be an engineering student at my college, you might be able to guess who I mean.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

If This Didn't Work, Nothing Will

Claire LOVES the movie Ratatouille. She kept begging to make ratatouille just like in the movie. I finally agreed. After all, maybe it would convince her to try some vegetables. But I had to hunt down a recipe like in the movie or there was no way Claire would go for it.

I ended up using this one.

I don't own a madoline, so there was much cutting. Claire better know I love her after this:


Then we tried to serve it like the movie. Here is the servings for M and I with goat cheese on top. We didn't add that on Claire's serving. Because she doesn't understand that goat cheese makes EVERYTHING better:


This was SO delicious. Too bad Claire didn't think so. She tasted one microscopic bite and announced, "I don't like ratatouille. It's gross."

But... but... it's from the movie!!! And you helped make it.

I'm out of tips for getting her to eat her veggies like an actual cultured human being. Time to start pureeing zucchini into her brownies or something I guess.

Oh well, I shall continue fantasizing about this dish no matter what Claire thought. I'll be eating it again just as soon as I can find a slave servant friend to bring their mandoline over and slice all the vegetables for me.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Halloween Summerized

We had a great Halloween. In typical Texas fashion, the day was beautiful with over 80 degree weather. But we forged ahead anyway, generating extra heat by lighting candles and wearing vinyl jumpsuits that don't breathe well.

Here are this year's pumpkins.

Scott helped design a "happy" pumpkin:


Claire requested a "silly" pumpkin:


M and I got to create our own grown up design, so we went with Eve from Wall-E:


This year I wanted to make my life a little easier than last year. The kids both wanted to be Toy Story characters, so we purchased some items (gasp!) and I only made a few parts.

Here is Claire as Jessie the Cowgirl from Toy Story 2:

Bought the hat, bought the wig, borrowed the boots. Bought a white dress shirt for Scott to wear someday and basted on some western accents that I will remove later. Really only made the chaps (and not very well, so if you're a real cowgirl don't look too closely!)

Scott as Buzz Lightyear:
Totally cheated and bought this online.
(For only $10! And it's a really nice vinyl one. Score.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Self-Taught

Scott is potty-trained now. At least in the sense that we don't do poopy diapers anymore. Which is probably the best part anyway. On the other hand, I feel a bit like in reality I'm the one who got trained. He doesn't go to the bathroom of his own volition, so I am trained to remind him periodically lest I have to clean up a mess. When I don't trust my ability to remind, we put on a pull-up (and usually end up with it wet). But hey, at least it's progress, right? For the first couple weeks he was even staying dry during naps AND at night, but I guess that was too good to last. Hopefully it's a "two steps forward one step back" kinda thing.

So when Scott does go, he performs this elaborate ritual where he climbs onto the toilet seat and then precariously balances on the seat as he circles the rim to get into position. He reminds me of a dog circling before bedding down. And you don't teach little boys to do things standing up when they're first starting out, right? But I've been wondering when you do teach them that, because he can't really climb up like that with his pants and shoes still on and I'm not exactly thrilled when I have to take them off in public restrooms.

Well, I think my question may be pointless now. Yesterday Scott started his ritual like normal, but stopped still facing the tank. After a contemplative pause, he peed still perched on the seat and facing backwards. Afterward he turned to me and excitedly announced, "I did it backwards!" There have been a few repeat performances and I'm thinking it's only a matter of time before he realizes even the climbing up there part is unnecessary and graduates to full-fledged peeing standing up. Well, at least that's one lesson I don't have to agonize over when to teach it. Never having had brothers, this little boy thing is such an adventure...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Butterfinger

I caught Scott in the act at last. Red-handed. Or should I say grease-fingered?

I thought the markings in my butter looked suspicious. They were in fact finger marks. I came into the kitchen without him hearing me and finally witnessed him scrape his finger through the butter and take a snitch.

So maybe this is how he can survive without ever actually eating any dinner. Or often lunch for that matter. Almost every night I serve him about 1 tablespoon of dinner and he cries and says, "No, it's so gross to me!" Then he cries and shoves his food away from him. And then he cries when we won't give him anything else until he at least tries the perfectly good food served him. Then he cries some more. Then dinner is over. I keep thinking he's bound to cave eventually and actually eat the apparently atrocious spaghetti or the like that I serve him. I mean, if he gets hungry enough... But now I know his secret. He's compensating by sneaking butter behind my back.

All right Scott, bring it. I'll stop forgetting to put the lid back on my butter dish and then we'll see how you like those "gross" hot dogs.

Friday, October 24, 2008

You Know You're a Geek When...

...you own one of Peter Parker's physics textbooks from Spiderman 2.

Remember the part where Peter has given up being Spiderman and he's really applying himself to his studies in physics? The first time I watched that film, I immediately recognized one of the textbooks on the table in front of him as one I own from my college days, Fundamentals of Photonics. When a movie tries to portray a character as a total geek immersed in their studies and of all the textbooks out there, they choose one you have sitting on your bookshelf? Yah, every time I see it I feel a little less cool...
Maybe a little smarter, but definitely less cool.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

[Insert Name Here]'s Law

Once upon a time about ten years ago, I knew this guy. He was a friend of a good friend I was almost kinda dating. He coined the following phrase:

The only difference between Romeo and a stalker is the girl's opinion.

How true is that? (Can you say "Edward"?)

Fickle, fickle women... *shaking head*

I determined to remember this insight. In fact, I called it a law and spread its wisdom. I have pulled this law out time and again over the years because it is just so true and explains so much. I told a whole lot of friends about it for a few years after I first heard it. Then about 6.5 years ago, I was telling one of those friends that I was engaged.

Suddenly, I saw realization dawn on their face.
"You're marrying M? Like THE M? The M of M's Law?!?!?"

So you see, I created a celebrity and then I married him to mooch off his fame.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Garbage Collection - The Highlight of Our Week

Every Wednesday when we hear the garbage truck, I have to unlock the front door so the kids can go watch the trash collection. The sanitation workers are very friendly. There's lots of smiles and waving and it's all rather cute. We've become friendly enough with our garbage men that now they place my trash barrel neatly in my driveway for me because they know I'm home and I'll be bringing it in presently.

A little while ago, Claire decided to dress up for the occasion.


Take note. Apparently what to wear this season for sanitation spectatorship is an upside down vest with a Noah's ark applique and a corduroy newsboy cap. The must-have accessories are a magna-doodle hanging from your pocket and a smug arms-folded stance.

So what's worse, her clothing choice or the fact that we own a corduroy newsboy cap (that I used to actually wear in junior high and high school) and a Noah's ark vest? Gotta love the total confidence of children and their strange clothing choices. Good thing she wore this standing out in the front yard for the whole neighborhood to see. At least now no one in the neighborhood suspects us of being real life GAP models or anything. Because I'm pretty sure there was a serious danger of that before ;)

Monday, October 13, 2008

What I Want My Children to Learn from Me

Now you know how things roll around here. We don't do sappy on this here blog. But in the past a few of my friends have posted about what lessons they would like to pass on to their children. It got me thinking. It was a tough choice, but in the end I think I'd have to go with:

Correlation does not indicate causality.

Touching, I know. Of course there are more important things, but they're kind of a given. Really, this is something I think I am somewhat uniquely capable of passing on to my children. A firm grasp of basic statistics. Just think how much better the world would be if everyone understood that just because two things tend to happen "together" DOES NOT mean that one caused the other. Are you following me? Let's try an obvious example. When do kids usually start losing their first tooth? When do kids usually start public school? About the same time, right? So starting school causes kids to lose their teeth, right? Of course not, but society makes assumptions like that more often than we might like to admit. If my children can internalize this advice, then maybe they'll be capable of designing scientifically worthwhile experiments. Maybe they won't make rash judgments. Maybe they'll never get suckered into acupuncture.

Maybe I could jazz it up a little and hang it on my wall. I'm thinking floral cross-stitch:


What would be on your "cross stitch"?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Stalk Away, My Friends, Stalk Away

For all of you who enjoy blog stalking my parents, I just thought I'd let you know that my dad finished posting all about their motorcycle trip to Alaska. You know, in case you haven't been religiously checking their blog every day. Here's the address:

http://2xadv.blogspot.com/

Thursday, October 2, 2008

No Love for Brunettes and Guess Where We Registered for Our Wedding

This is the last post about our summer vacation, I swear.

On our way home, we stopped in Southern California. We dragged my parents and my sister and her husband with us. We spent a day at Disneyland. It was a great slightly early birthday present:) It's hard to sum up such a fabulous day.

M had never been to any Disney theme park before. Because apparently he is from Mars. And now that he's been, he has forever lost his secret weapon in the "I've Never..." game. Oh well. The verdict? Well, I think Disneyland loses something once you're a grown man. Especially if you're the sort of grown man who was basically born 40 years old. He thought it was fun, but a little heavy on the animatronics and princesses and such. (Obviously M isn't into princesses because how else could you write an entire blog post about Beauty and the Beast and still barely talk about Belle?) Apparently animatronics give M the jibbly jibblies. He is still trying to analyze his experience and decide what he thinks about the whole thing in a philosophical sort of way. He's gotten me thinking too now that I'm an adult. He and I will probably have many fascinating discussions for years to come while we both try to come to a conclusion. I was tempted to have my feelings hurt since my gut reaction is that I LOVE Disneyland, but I felt validated when he declared the fireworks show far and away the best he had ever seen. Indeed, how can you go wrong with perfectly choreographed pyrotechnics? But don't get me wrong, we both had a blast! And M said if nothing else, it was fun because we had kids who were transfixed:

Here Grandpa E and M are holding the kids up so they can see the parade. The parade that was distinctly lacking in Beauty and the Beast-ness. In fact, this is important. I'm devoting a whole paragraph.

Seriously, what the dilly-o? Where was Belle all day? She's the only Disney princess worth her tiara. (Oh wait, she has the sense not to wear one...) It really was sad though, because the only Disney show my kids have been truly exposed to is Beauty and the Beast. A lot of Disneyland went right over their heads. I mean, who has time to watch all those silly and/or morally questionable old school Disney movies when there's Pixar? Anyway, the point is just that we almost didn't even see Claire's (and my) favorite characters. Claire and I finally caught a glimpse of Belle and the Beast after dark at the Fantasmic show. (It was the only time the whole day I saw her star-struck. She said dreamily, "Mom! They're dancing just like in the movie." And then my heart was a puddle on the pavement.)

This reminds me of an interesting side note: Claire knows that in the end of Beauty and the Beast, the prince and Belle get married. Since the ending scene is of them twirling around dancing, she seems to think that is what "getting married" entails. I frequently catch her holding a doll by its arms and spinning around and around. She tells me they're getting married. A few times I've heard her tell Scott, "Let's get married." Since this is followed by her dancing with him, I often let it slide. Believe me, I've tried to clarify. Someday I'll have to figure out how to clear up this little misunderstanding or else Claire may have some really confused boyfriends.

Possibly the best part of the day? Four taller-than-average adults crammed into one teacup:

Spinning at brain scrambling speeds and laughing our guts out!


From there, my parents drove home, my sister and her husband drove back to Utah so her husband could start the new semester, and we piled into our over-stuffed minivan:



You see, the thing is, we still had wedding gifts at my parents' house.

Six years.
I know the next thing you were wondering was, "How long have they been married?" so I thought I'd answer before you had to ask. Let me justify. Here's a brief history of the last six years as they pertain to wedding gift storage. We couldn't fit all the gifts in our car when we drove out to school from the wedding in California. My parents drove with us and the original plan was for them to bring a bunch of stuff in their Suburban. Two days before we left, my parents' Suburban broke down. We spent the whole next day frantically sorting what had to go and what could stay and then packing everything we were leaving into boxes in my parents' attic. In the end, it wasn't so bad not having all that stuff while we were living in microscopic student apartments. Then we moved to Texas after M graduated. California was a bit too much of a detour, so we had to move without all the gifts. Once we got to Texas, we started wishing we had the stuff, but for the first couple years we were in apartments anyway, so no rush. Everytime we saw my parents, a few gifts would make it back to Texas as airplane carry-ons. It was nice to get things that way, but at that rate we would still have stuff to bring back on our golden wedding anniversary. Once we moved into our house last summer, it was time. So the main motivation for driving to see my family this summer was not insanity, or even frugality, but rather to finally get all our stuff. Basically, I moved out of my parents' house once and for all.

Here is the pile of boxes from unpacking. Anyone notice a theme?


It was interesting finding new homes for a whole lotta stuff. Some stuff is still homeless. How did I function before without grapefruit spoons for 12? Anyone wanna buy a $300 crystal bowl? Because seriously, what do I do with THAT? I'm afraid to breathe on it, let alone use it.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Going for a Spin

I am SO proud of Claire.

What am I so proud of, you ask?

Claire can read... but that's not it.

Claire can write... but that's not it.

Claire plays chess... but that's not it either.

No, no. Nothing as important as all that. I am here to brag about the fact that Claire went on a real grown-up roller coaster on Saturday.

I don't know what that says about my priorities, but oh well. We went to Six Flags for M's company picnic and Claire was tall enough to go on this one. Yay for being tall for her age! It didn't go upside down or anything, but it's no walk in the park either. I got to sit across from her and I'll admit I was nervous. She wanted to go and I believed she would enjoy it based on past experiences, but I couldn't shake the nagging fear that maybe we'd end up scarring her for life. As we hurtled through the drops, twists, and turns, the look on her face was priceless.

Basically: abject horror

Needless to say, my fear was growing. Then there was a lull in the ride and she was laughing and smiling. *sigh of relief*

Or should I say, sigh of relief quickly snuffed out by another set of drops and twists and turns. Which led to more terror stricken face from Claire. The worry mounted again.

Then the ride was over and Claire asked, "Does this roller coaster go around once or twice?"

"Just once," we cautiously replied.

"You mean, we don't get to go again?"

**BIG sigh of relief**

Friday, September 19, 2008

Beached

As someone born in California, I am ashamed to admit it. Prior to our family vacation last month, my children had never been to the beach. Though the beaches near the bay area are less-than-stellar, we remedied our children's deprivation with a visit to the coast.


Of course it was cloudy and bordering on chilly most of the time we were there. That's just how the beaches there roll. However, much to the dismay of the grown-ups, there was even less surf than the usual sad showing. No boogie boarding for us! We still had a lot of fun. Anything is fun with Aunt J and Uncle N around:


Plus there was sand:

Scott (who was apparently the Gordon's Fisherman in a past life) is thinking, "This is SO much cooler than my sandbox at home. Just look at all of it!"

We were fortunate enough to score a pre-dug big hole:

All the climbing, sliding, and almost-but-not-quite trapping the kids fun without any of the work for Mom and Dad!

M started building a sandcastle. Claire thought it needed her own personal touch:

Using your feet still counts as "touching," right?

Scott felt that it needed more. More destruction, that is:

Some villages get burninated, some get Scottinated. I can almost hear the screams of the little sand villagers as they run from Scott raining down destruction. And I had thought the little castle was under more threat of succumbing to a mini-tsunami (AKA the rising tide).

Fortunately, the sun eventually did come out and we got to spend a little time cavorting in the water without coats on. We even made it through with no hypothermia!


Try not to blind yourself with the whiteness of M shirtless in this picture. And be glad there's none of me, because I make M look down right olive-toned.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Fancy Shmancy

My sister wanted to flex her very burly culinary muscles while we were all at my parents' house. My parents' anniversary and M's and my anniversary (6 years!) are one day apart and happened while we were all there. So my sister put together a very fancy anniversary dinner for us all. We put the kids to bed and then sat down to this table:

Do you see that there are no less than 8 pieces of silverware at each place setting? Do you???
Yah, it was that fancy.

My contribution to the evening was selecting dishes from my mom's stash, setting the table, and creating the centerpiece. So if you think this table is absurd and/or ugly, I don't want to hear it. Seriously though, in defense of the snootiness of it all, the table setting matched the food.

The food, oh the food! In fact, the food was even fancier than the table. If that's possible. I mean, at some point the fanciness is just off the charts and there's no way to gauge it. But more importantly, it was so delicious that I was thinking maybe the Romans were really onto something. I mean, I was SO full, but I still wanted more. You would be full too with bread followed by five courses and a palate cleanser consisting of:

(And here I am quoting from the provided very cursivey menu at each place setting)


Amuse-Bouche

Endive Spoons with Chevre and Tomato

Dark Chocolate Truffles


Entree

Rustic Potato Leek Soup

And a White Peach Sorbet to follow

-------------------------------------------------------------

Plate Principal

Grilled Steak with Seared Spinach, Whipped Kabocha, and Broiled Asparagus in an Argentinean Chimichurri Sauce

Stuffed Pork Chops, Braised Green Beans, Grilled Squash, and a Smooth Apple Cranberry Compote served over Wild Rice Pilaf

-------------------------------------------------------------

Salade

Caesar Salad with Garlic Croutons and Parmesan Frico


Dessert

Strawberry and Mascarpone Trifle with Sweetened Balsamic Glaze

Chocolate Fudge Cheesecake with Strawberry Sauce and Chocolate Dipped Strawberries


My sister posted details on all of this.
The bread, the first course, main course 1, main course 2, salad, dessert 1, and dessert 2.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

... And Then Scott's Head Exploded with Happiness


While we were visiting my best friend in Arizona, we got to go with them to a really great air museum. A very good time was had by all. In fact, it's a tough call whether the grown-ups or the kids enjoyed it more!


(Good thing Scott's got that diaper to cover up the plumber's crack action. The kid seriously needs to put a little weight on around the middle. To get pants long enough for him, I have to buy ones that are huge around the waist and then cinch them on with a belt. A belt on the tightest notch. A belt that came with 12 month size pants. SHEESH. Takes after his dad...)




Scott was "reading up" on this bomb.
I'm pretty sure the internal dialogue went something like this:
"Hmm... a 750 lb bomb. I need one of these babies at home..."


Oh yah, and also, there were fire engines. We're lucky Scott survived with the ability to be excited about anything else ever again still intact.

By the end of the day, Scott had finally stopped constantly exclaiming "Airplane! Airplane!" Perhaps he finally realized that he no longer needed to alert us to the presence of an airplane after about the 137th specimen.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tripping on the Road

Our family vacation last month was a VERY long road trip. It actually went pretty well. It turns out 52 hours of drive time aren't so bad when you have kids who will stay transfixed on a movie for as long as you can stand to listen to it playing in the back seat.

The first day, we drove from our home to Arizona (13 hours drive time) where Leann and Matt live (my best friend from college and her husband).

Most of the drive looked like this:


With the occasional increase in prettiness, like this:


One of our favorite parts of that drive is the experience of driving along I-10 through El Paso, Texas. At one point, the freeway butts right up against the Rio Grande and the border with Mexico. So on one side of the freeway is your typical American city and on the other side is this:

The contrast always fascinates us. Those houses definitely wouldn't be up to code around here...

We spent a day in Arizona, then drove to the San Francisco Bay Area (13 hours drive time) to see my parents and my sister and her husband who were at my parents' house. We spent three days with my family there, then drove with all of them back to Southern California (5.5 hours drive time) and saw my aunt. We spent a day in SoCal, then we drove back to Arizona the next day (7.5 hours drive time), my sister drove back to Utah, and my parents went back home. The last day we drove all the way home from Arizona (13 hours drive time). The first day and the last day were pretty rough because you can drive basically all day and guess what? You're STILL in Texas.

There was a mishap or two along the way. Like this one involving EZ Cheese:

(Note to self: When trying to retrieve Scott's blanket from the bowels of the back seat while sitting in the front passenger seat, DO NOT lean on the nozzle of the cheese in a spray can. Now who wants some crackers with cheese? Get it while it's hot and/or all over the center console!!!)

When the terrain wasn't flat, flat, and flat, there were cool rocks:


And then, at last, we knew we must be back in Texas:

Our thoughts: Sweet, we're finally in Texas. Only 10 more hours to go!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Stuff of Legends

The Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, Chupacabra, and Dust Storms:

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Fallout

It's official. We took the rail off Scott's crib, so now he's sleeping in a big boy bed. He never did start climbing out of his crib, but we took the plunge anyway.

The next morning, M and I were chatting with him. The recap he gave us went something like this:

G - Scott, tell Daddy what you did last night.
M - What did you do?
Scott - Sleep in big boy bed, like Claire. Fall out.
M - You fell out?
Scott - [rubbing head] Yup. Fell out, hit head.
G - You hit your head?
Scott - [nodding] Yup. Got back in.
M - You climbed back in your bed?
Scott - Yup.

End of conversation. I guess if it's not a big deal to him, it shouldn't be a big deal to us.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Fair Representation

I actually had a good Wal-Mart experience last night! I went there because it was the only thing open that late at night. I was in a pretty good mood after a fun morning of sporting clays and a great evening having friends over for dinner, so maybe that was it. Of course, it might have just been euphoria induced by the scent of the Hoppe's No. 9 I was there to buy...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Grandma and Grandpa Didn't Get Eaten By Bears

My parents survived their 41 day long trip to Alaska.

Their still-dirty-from-the-trip motorcycles make their garage pretty interesting to the kids:


These are Claire and Scot sitting on Grandpa's bike. Grandma's bike is the pretty red one in the background, but the size discrepancy isn't as amusing on her bike because she has a normal sized motorcycle, so I used these shots.

If you're interested in the nitty gritty details of my parents' trip, they have a blog about it. (It's a work in progress.)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A New Twist on an Old Favorite

Did you miss me? I tried to supply you with a few posts while we were gone on vacation. I neglected to also supply some posts for the time after I got back but couldn't post because I couldn't even find clean underwear for everyone (or put down the book I started on the trip that I was almost finished with). But things have slowed a smidge, so here I am.

----------------------------------------------

You know how most kids go through that simultaneously cute and exasperating phase where anytime you tell them something, they ask, "Why?"

Scott has entered this phase, with his own little variation. You tell him something and he asks, "Why not?" Even when it doesn't quite make sense. Here's an example:

Scott: [pointing at my recently drained can of Diet Caffeine Free Dr. Pepper - mmmm] I want a drink.
G: Sorry Scott, it's all gone.
Scott: Why not?

It's an interesting perspective he's got there. I can't decide if this resonates with his easygoing nature or if it just screams of logical ineptitude and/or a lack of language skills. As his doting mother, I prefer to see a profound philosopher in the making so I'm voting for a display of wisdom beyond his years. Scott knows that what he can't do doesn't matter in and of itself. What matters is what's stopping him. Or perhaps it's more of an abstract declaration of "Carpe diem!" Or maybe he just needs to stop roaring like a dinosaur and making engine noises long enough to learn to speak better.

So next time life doesn't go your way, take it from Scott. Don't ask "Why?" but rather, "Why not?"

Monday, August 18, 2008

Oxymoronic

I love Claire, but sometimes it's really hard not to laugh at the twisted logic of a four year old.

We told Claire she had to do something. She kept telling us she "couldn't." We told her we knew she could and she needed to do it right away. After a threat of undesirable consequences from us, she finally yelled, "Fine, I will. Even if I can't." Because then, even if she had to comply, she was still maintaining that she was "right." And that, THAT is what's all important, right???

Thursday, August 14, 2008

What's with this Sir Topham Hatt dude?

Recently the kids have been watching a lot of Thomas and Friends of which I more or less approve. In all of it though, Sir Topham Hatt just seems a little off.

For starters, he always rolls around in a suit and tie. And not just a suit and tie. He's got the full on vest and pocket watch thing going. Who wears a suit and tie around these days? Especially for a job where you drive around all day and visit train stations. Weird. Then when he does show up he always has two guys with him who are also dressed in suits minus the vest/pocketwatch combo. They just stand around staring at people. Are they mute? What do they do? I assume one of them is the driver. What does the other one do? Cigar lighter? Shoe shine lacky? Door opener?

And have you noticed that apparently if you want to get around the Island of Sodor you ride on Sir Topham Hatt's railroad or you don't ride at all? There don't appear to be any other modes of transport running around. Except for maybe the helicopter. Oh wait, apparently Sir Topham Hatt owns that too. So if you want your coal to get from the mine to the market, I guess you better be in the good graces of Monsieur Hatt.

On the upside, working with Topham apparently means that no matter what you are shipping, it can be picked up on short notice at any time, day or night. Seriously, engines are perpetually being sent off in the middle of the night to pick up a giant Chinese dragon on a couple hours notice or whatever. I'm sure for the right price he can make sure a small shipment of "stuff" gets picked up on 30 minutes notice wherever works for you and delievered in the next few hours.

Perhaps pulling all those all night trasfers is why Sir Topham Hatt is always getting ready to receive some really important peeps. Are we seriously supposed to believe that the queen mother cares enough to visit the Island of Sodor? I mean the island can't be more than 10 miles wide and apparently it's biggest feature is that most of it is covered in train tracks. Why is the Duke coming? Why is some weird Chinese envoy coming? Why is the railroad guy setting up the big meetings? Shouldn't the mayor or governor do that sort of thing? Wait, does Sodor have any kind of organized goverment?

Throw all that in with the way he talks to his trains like they are not quite equals but not just employees either and you have to admit the whole thing just seems a little shady. He's always talking to them in a not quite fatherly tone, maybe more godfatherly. And he always makes it sound like he's offering them their next assignment in stead of just telling them what to do. You know sort of like an offer you can't refuse.

All I know is something shady's going down somewhere on Sodor and I'm keeping my nose out of it.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Why Do I Keep Trying?

The other day, I went to Wal-Fart. Gasp! I know!!!!

It was late at night and other stores were closed. That's exactly what you guys said the niche market for Wal-Mart was, right? So I thought, what they hey. I'm already out and I only need 4 random things.

The first thing was swim diapers. They had that. I had a heck of a time finding them because they were not, in fact, by the diapers, but other than that the swim diapers were a success. The happy story ends there.

Another thing I needed was a size 24 embroidery needle, so I was prepared for them to not have that because my need was pretty specific. Then again, they do carry sewing stuff unlike Target, so maybe I'd get lucky? Nope.

I also wanted tortillas, but not nasty, pasty Mission tortillas. I was prepared for them not to carry M's preferred tortilla brand since again, pretty specific. But at this point, in theory, it was still okay. I didn't really NEED the tortillas. I could make a special trip to a craft store for the needle. I had the swim diapers. So if I could find my final grocery item, I'd be saved a trip to the grocery store after the craft store.

All I was looking for was a package of mixed dried fruit. I was a little picky because we didn't want a tropical mix or the artificially sweetened craisins in the mix, but surely they would have that. I mean, what store wouldn't carry your basic prunes, apples, apricots kinda mix? Did I have unrealistic expectations? Seriously, tell me. Is that not as normal an item as I think it is? As I stood by the dried fruit staring at just prunes, just apricots, just raisins, tropical mix, or artificially sweetened berry mix, I started laughing. I'm sure the overweight man with B.O. next to me thought I was off my rocker, but Wal-Fart is just so consistent for me. Consistently disappointing.

Well, at least I had my swim diapers and in theory they should be cheaper there than anywhere else, right? Except for the 30 minutes of my life I lost waiting in line to check out were worth more than the 7 cents I saved. The checkers must actually PRACTICE to be so slow. When I finally got to check out, the checker watched me swipe my credit card, then turned and stared off into space for a long time while the credit card machine informed me that the checker needed to push the "credit" button for the transaction to continue. The checker JUST watched me swipe my card. Do so few people pay with credit that she forgot what step came next? Funny, Wal-Fart strikes me as the place where the clientele would rack up quite a bit of consumer debt. Maybe the umpteenth millionth time doing this credit card payment process just wasn't quite enough repetition to remember what she was supposed to do next. We'll just hope she was new. Or maybe she couldn't think about anything other than that Twinkie and cigarette she was planning on as soon as she got her break. Or maybe Wal-Mart likes to punish customers who use a credit card and therefore cost them credit card transaction fees by making them wait longer. Because, you know, anything to make a buck. If that's something Wal-Mart employees are suppose to aspire to, this lady must be "Wal-Fart Employee of the Month." Why don't they have the old lady handing out carts come run a freaking cash register so that at least they could make up for in checkout lane quantity what they lack in quality????

Anyway, don't worry. You won't have to read anymore rants about Wal-Mart for a long, long time because I WILL NOT be making the mistake of trying to go there again. Now excuse me, I have to go to the craft store AND the grocery store.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures

Claire, seething with rage, sits in her time out chair as punishment for trying to hit Daddy. Exasperated by her thwarted efforts to "punish" M for telling her what to do (The nerve! Like he was her parent or something!) and casting about for a course of action that makes her still feel in control, she yells:

"Scott, go hit Daddy!"

Because all that matters in the end is that someway, somehow, Daddy still gets hit. And by golly, if she can't do it, she'll find someone who can. If she can boss someone around in the process, all the better!

I'm thinking time outs aren't working very well. Does the remorse come with age???

Monday, August 4, 2008

My Resume Needs a Laugh Track - Part II

This is a continuation of my previous post about my work history.

So after I got married, I went back to my last semester of college.

GEEK TRAINER - That last semester I had a less-than-full load of classes. I just needed a few classes that I hadn't quite been able to squeeze in before, so I had time to also work as a teaching assistant in the engineering computer labs for Electrical and Computer Engineering 425: Introduction to Digital Communication Theory. I spent a lot of time working in Simulink and MATLAB. It was pretty funny when we moved to Texas and M and I ran into some guys at church who had been in the class I TA'd. People would see us all talking and ask M if he knew them from college and I would chime in and clarify that I had been their TA. Somehow, I don't think anyone saw that coming... heh, heh. Sexist fools.


After I graduated with my hard-earned degree in Electrical Engineering, I couldn't find a job.

I mean, sure I could have found a job if I'd moved out of state. Never mind that M was still in school. I'm sure I could have found a job if I'd been willing to have a 1 hour or more commute each way and commit to sticking around for at least a couple years. The honest truth was that I had already decided to turn down getting a master's degree because I knew I wanted to put having a family and supporting M's career first. I wasn't about to turn around and get a job that would get in the way. I needed to find a job that was okay with me possibly leaving in as little as 4 months. If M got an offer for an internship that coming summer, I knew we'd take it. If I got pregnant, I knew I'd be a stay-at-home mom after the baby was born (and we'd decided to, you know, start letting that happen). I couldn't lie to these potential employers and say I wasn't going to leave. So finding a job that was accommodating of all that was tricky. Some of you probably think this sounds crazy. You don't have to agree with my choice, but that's just what was right for me.

However, knowing that for me it was "the right thing to do" didn't make it easy. This was quite possibly one of the hardest times of my life. It was tough not to get bummed out. Between interviews and fruitless surfing of Monster, I played a lot of PopCap games to distract myself. I also managed to gain about 10 lbs. Obviously I have a lot to show for those 2 months.

During that time, I interviewed for several jobs that were perfect. They weren't exactly full-time engineering jobs (okay, I admit they weren't even close), but they were a good fit for my needs. I kept getting turned down for being "over-qualified." They kept telling me they were worried I'd get bored, blah, blah, blah. No one ever told me when I was working my butt off in school that getting a bachelor's degree would actually make it harder to get a job...

Anyway, all these "extenuating" circumstances are necessary for understanding how on earth I ended up with the next few jobs after I graduated with my engineering degree.

FACILITATOR OF VALENTINE'S DAY STALKERS - There was a florist shop just down the street from our apartment that was looking for temporary help for Valentine's Day. I had really enjoyed my floral arranging class the previous semester in college. It was temporary, but better than sitting around all day feeling sorry for myself. Why not? Because it turns out it was mostly a job taking phone orders for flower deliveries. Blech. I hate phone jobs. The silver lining was when a guy came in to order flowers for my best friend's roommate. This roommate had already told him she wasn't really interested, but he was persisting by sending her flowers. I tried to help him pick something out that would be her style and not too overbearing. Yah, I totally rock, cuz they're married now.

CHEESY ART MATBOARD CUTTER - Just as I was almost finishing up the temp job at the florist, I found a job. It was a half hour away in a nearby town. The commute was up a steep, narrow, snowy mountain road during February in a falling rock-y canyon. The pay was half what I was hoping for. But it was a job. So I took it and for a week I had to try to juggle both jobs until the florist shop one was over. Figures that there would be a dearth of jobs followed by a scheduling conflict for two. Did I mention the new job was cutting the matboard, or rather, running the matboard cutting machine at a company that made framed art? And was it cool art? No, of course not. It was "western" art full of cowboys and cattle and deer and eagles and all that. Stuff that makes you think of either going hunting or feeding your employer to a bear. When I wasn't choosing coordinating faux leather mats for posters of sweeping western landscapes, I was working with religious art. Lots and lots of Greg Olsen. Gag! But it was okay because I got to talk to my co-workers during my mind numbing job. Co-workers who were both dorky guys with a lack of social skills. It was occasionally interesting when one of the guys explained about why he kind of had two first names. I'm glad my mother never ran off with me because of a custody dispute and changed my name to keep a low profile for most of my childhood.

I have a fabulous trophy from my days up commuting up that mountain road. Once there was some falling rock that rolled out into the road a few cars ahead of me. The tires of the car ahead of me hit one rock and it started bouncing. There was nothing I could do to avoid it and I hit the rock. When I checked for damage, I saw none and the car ran fine, so I went on my merry way. Next time M and I washed the car, we discovered that the rock had broken through the plastic grill and lodged between the grill and the radiator. Then the grill had closed itself back up again so that it was hard to notice. I am SO lucky it didn't punch a hole in the radiator. But I'd been driving around with a rock a little bigger than a softball embedded deep in the bowels of my front end!

MATH AND CHEMISTRY TASKMASTER TUTOR - When the end of the semester arrived, M and I decided to spend the summer living at my parents house. Since neither of us had a job (or at least not one worth mentioning), we figured we'd come out ahead not paying rent and flipping burgers for $12 an hour in Silicon Valley all summer. Once we got there, M and I both got jobs tutoring a couple different kids in math and science.

OVERPRICED KITCHEN STORE EMPLOYEE/PUSHY BARTENDER - M and I both looked for a little more work than simply tutoring for an hour a day. I got a job working at a certain overpriced kitchen store in the local yuppie mall. This was with a certain store with a hyphen in the name and a variety of mispronunciations out there. They brought all the confusion on themselves, really, what with the excessively awkward name. But anyway, I had been very up front during the hiring process about my availability and the very first schedule with me on it had me working on Sunday. The ONLY day of the week I had told them I couldn't work (for religious reasons). The manager was all huffy about changing it like it was my fault or something. It only got worse from there. Turns out they would schedule me in for about 4 hours a week as "on call." Which basically means not often enough to be useful. The morning of I would have to call in to see if they needed me. I couldn't make plans in case they said yes, but they almost never did. And when by some miracle they actually would have me come in to work, I would spend the whole time making and hocking samples of margarita mix. After the first two weeks, the manager chewed me out for calling to ask about my schedule for the upcoming week. I know! How dare I call them on the telephone! "The thing was, um, I didn't get called in to work at all last week, so I couldn't check the schedule while I was there..." Apparently I was supposed to drive all the way to work on a day off at the beginning of the week basically every week so I could check which 4 hours of the week I could hope and dream that I would be called in to wander around accosting customers and pouring virgin margaritas. The job didn't last long (imagine that!), but I did get an awesome serving bowl set and an oil and vinegar spout with my employee discount.

CHAIN TUTOR - Finally, things started looking up for us that summer. M got an internship and I got a job working about 30 hours a week doing advanced math tutoring and curriculum preparation for a well known tutoring chain. It was great! I got paid a decent amount and I got to help kids with math - pretty much my dream job.

CHAIN TUTOR, THE SEQUEL - Then the summer ended and we moved back to Utah. I had to take a cut in pay and hours, but I got to transfer to a different location of the same tutoring chain. Oh. MAN. This experience cemented my refusal to live in Utah long term, or worse, raise my kids there. The kids in California had been sweet, cooperative, enthusiastic, and well-behaved. I mean, occasionally the kids would get a little chatty, but that was it. In Utah, I spent most of my time dealing with behavior issues. Believe me, you can't teach much about the quadratic equation when a kid won't even stay in his seat. These kids didn't need a tutor, they needed a drill sergeant. Seriously, don't spend $40+ an hour on tutoring for your kid if what they really need is a smacked bottom. In California, the kids went and got their own books from the shelf and were allowed bathroom breaks. In Utah, I had to have TA's get the books so the kids wouldn't disappear between the desk and the bookshelf. And in Utah, I couldn't even let the kids go to the bathroom unless it was an absolute emergency. Also, I was pregnant for both tutoring experiences, so I really appreciated that I could go use the bathroom in California if nature called by just asking another teacher to watch my table while my students responsibly sat and did their work. In Utah, things were so crazy, I had to wait for the 10 minute "passing period" which was always full of me frantically scribbling in the kids' progress binders. UGH. It didn't help that in Utah there weren't enough math students to keep me busy, so they had to have me teach "study skills" which was a code word for "kids who refuse to do their work." These kids didn't need me to lecture them about writing their goals on index cards, they needed to be thrown out on the street for a few nights to fend for themselves without a high school diploma. You can only have a useful conversation for so long with a kid who tells you that he doesn't need to do well in school because he's going to be a rock star. My brain still hurts just thinking about it. Eventually our discussions degraded into a long line of jokes about government cheese and living in a van down by the river. Where, oh where did the kids trying to get ahead in math go? The boy who was trying his hand at Trig to get a jump start for the new school year? The 10 year old who was doing Algebra? Apparently they don't exist in Utah. Or maybe their parents just all had the sense to move away from Utah...

Our income taxes were really exciting that year. Between M and I we had SEVEN W2's. It was even worse than the year before when we had to file income taxes in three different states. (This time it was only two states.) It was especially exciting because the matboard company didn't send me a W2. I had to track them down and pester them and when they finally sent me my W2, parts of it were handwritten. Nothing unprofessional there, no no.


Then, Claire was born and I took on a new role:

DOMESTIC ENGINEER - Which brings us to the present. *sigh of relief* I may complain about my current employment, but really, it's my favorite so far. I'm not sure if that speaks to the quality of being a stay-at-home-mom, or the horrors of my past employment...

I know my employment history probably pales in comparison to some. What's in your repertoire? Tell me about your most off-the-wall job.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Claire, Stop Spreading Rumors!

Claire and Scott love, love, love to draw on our driveway with sidewalk chalk. Claire isn't much of an artist; she prefers prose. Several times now she's proudly shown me what she's written and I see this:

MOM
DAD
CLAIRE
SCOTT
BABY


Whoa there!!! Seriously, where does she get this stuff? I do not, repeat, DO NOT have any announcements to make, so if you come by our house and see something about a baby scrawled in giant chalk lettering on our driveway, don't get any ideas.

Monday, July 28, 2008

My Resume Needs a Laugh Track - Part I

My dad has told me stories all of my life about the myriad jobs he had before graduating college. A true mark of the sheer quantity of jobs is that I even remember finding out about a new one I hadn't heard of before when I was a late teen.

Apparently I aspire to emulate my father's employment cornucopia because M makes fun of my own employment history. We've been married almost six years and he only just recently heard about one of these. I'll admit I have some random ones. So feel free to laugh at the sheer diversity too if you find it amusing:

AVOCADOMONGER - As a young child, I used to sell avocados on street corners. My family lived for a little while in an avocado orchard in the San Diego area and our lot had 14 producing trees. We got so many we didn't know what to do with them. My family would pick the avocados and then we'd take them to get inspected and certified (at least we started doing this after a policeman stopped and told us we had to). Then we'd set up with our family's Suburban on some street corner and my mom would sit with the car and my little sister while I held a sign that said "AVACADOS 4/$1" Those things sold like hotcakes. My parents started savings accounts for my sister and I and let us deposit the proceeds.

KID WRANGLING - Of course, I babysat when I was between 12 and 16. Not very noteworthy.

GLORIFIED BUSBOY - When I was 16, I got a job as a "floor server" but at a buffet restaurant. This basically amounted to busing tables. No one knew whether or not to tip a restaurant worker that is helpful, but doesn't actually bring you your food. I don't know either. Do you know? I hated it, but I had followed a boy there, and after working together all summer, we ended up dating. So I suppose in that respect the job was successful.

PSEUDO-JAPANESE TUTOR - The summer after I graduated high school, I was lazy. All I did was take an extremely part time job tutoring 2 little kids. They were half-Japanese so my vague knowledge of Japanese culture and pronunciation were a big hit. The little boy's name was Ryoske, so I think I was one of about 4 white people he knew (including his father) that actually pronounced his name right. We worked on arithmetic and reading comprehension and I got paid the way you get paid when you tutor kids who attend a very exclusive private school.

PSEUDO-JAPANESE TRANSLATOR - The first two summers in college I worked as an office assistant and technical manual translator/editor at my dad's company. I ran technical manuals about Post-Exposure Bake systems for computer chip mask manufacturing that were written in Japanese through translation software. Then I fixed the resulting gobbledygook Japlish, translated some of the stuff the software couldn't handle, and fixed the formatting. Man, I was a MSWord whiz. While doing this, I also answered the phones, sorted mail, etc.

MATHOPHILIAC - The summer after my sophomore year of college, I reduced my hours at my dad's company so that I could tutor advanced math on the side. I was a flier posting fiend. I reaped the benefits of parents where I lived pushing their kids too hard in school and got great pay. It almost didn't seem fair to take their money like that. I got over it. The only problem was that I forgot to take down the fliers and my parent's house got calls from people looking for a tutor for almost a year after I left and went back to school in the fall.

APPLICATIONS ENGINEER INTERN/SUMMER OF THE ROOMMATE HELL - This is the one and only time I actually had a job that matched my college degree. I got paid pretty well to live in a suburb of Portland, Oregon and have fun all summer. I was researching the effects of focused ion beam spot quality on hard drive head cross-section milling quality and trying to come up with a reliable metric. On the side, I had bizarre adventures with roommates and even spent one weekend technically living out of my car. But that's a post in and of itself... not today.

DEMOTED OFFICE ASSISTANT - I worked a little at my dad's company again the summer I was engaged. It was the semester after my senior year of college, but I still had one semester of classes before I graduated. I worked a little less than full time but for much better pay because I was so experienced. I couldn't work full time because I was too busy having fun planning my wedding! I did basically all the office assistant stuff I had done before, but without all the cool translating/editing stuff.

. . .

I am SO not done. I'm just going to have to break up this post into several installments to make it manageable for you and me both. We'll use my marriage date as an arbitrary break point for me to rest these typin' fingers.

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Couple of Crazies That I Love

My parents are currently roaming the wilds of Alaska.
Just the two of them.
On motorcycles.

They left at the beginning of July and, after having battery trouble over the Fourth of July weekend up in Seattle (and therefore extending their trip another week), they made it up to Alaska recently. They'll be gone for a total of about six weeks.

I just got a postcard from them today. Of two grizzly bears.

Seriously? Are they trying to heighten my concern? Way to rub it in, Mom and Dad.

They can do whatever they want. More power to 'em. In fact, I love that they're having so much fun now that they're empty nesters. In fact, I look forward to all the fun things M and I will do someday. But maybe in places with better cell phone coverage.

Because if something bad happens, they better die and not just become paraplegics. Otherwise, guess who will have to take care of them?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Unhappy Meals

A few Saturdays ago we went for lunch as a family at McDonald's. This is a real sore spot for me because I grew up being taught that McDonald's was the fast food chain of the devil. Okay, maybe not quite... but almost.

Before I had kids I had only had a McDonald's hamburger once. It was when I was about ten and my aunt took a bunch of us kids there as part of my cousin's birthday festivities. Then in high school, some of my friends would go there often for lunch. I wasn't the one driving and I always brought my lunch, so I didn't have a lot of say in where we went. But I wasn't about to pass up the opportunity to flaunt my upperclassman status by not leaving campus for lunch! I was cheap and typically teenage girlish in that I didn't want to eat big greasy hunks of meat, so I got a lot of dollar hot fudge sundaes. Because the saturated fats aren't as bad for you when they come covered in chocolate, right???

Since I've had kids, I've only had an entire McDonald's hamburger once. (I do not count repeated attempts at taking one bite of M's burger to try and figure out what all the fuss is.) The one time was when we were on a road trip with my in-laws and they stopped for the bathroom at McDonald's. While there, my mother-in-law picked up several burgers and passed them out. So apparently I'm on the "McDonald's burger about once every decade" plan. Look out Mickey Dee's, I'm due for another burger sometime in 2010. However, that doesn't mean I haven't BEEN to McDonald's fairly often.

You see, McDonald's has those "Playplaces." They must be some sort of elaborate mind-control system or psychological conditioning technique so that children will grow up inexplicably drawn to greasy burgers and hot tub sized soft drinks. Except I'm kidding of course. I know a lot of people out there have watched the highly unscientific Super Size Me "documentary" that jumps to various conclusions and therefore actually created a sort of religion out of hating McDonald's and how it's making America obese. I have a secret for you. Actually, Americans are making America obese by stuffing their cake holes with too much junk! I for one believe in grown-ups taking responsibility for their actions. Almost like they are capable of making legally binding contracts and other sundries. So the crap about McDonald's actually maliciously targeting the "kiddo sector" with their artery-clogging fare? Yah, not McDonald's fault. Whose fault? Still the grown ups.

Anyway, I digress. The Playplaces. They make my kids love McDonald's. I know it's the Playplaces because my kids only eat about three french fries before they claim they are done and want to go play. Obviously they're not that excited about the food. Left to my own fast food whims, my kids wouldn't even know to love McDonald's Playplaces because they would have never seen one. But we have friends. Friends we actually like to spend time with. And we live in Texas, where it's too hot in the summer to actually spend more than 0.00023 seconds outside at lunchtime and where there is a high probability of torrential rain pretty much any time of year. So what do friends ask us to go do on rainy and/or blisteringly hot days? Go to lunch at McDonald's.

I can't say no. All the other moms will think I'm so lame and granola or something. I don't want to offend them by telling them I think their choice is white trash and is symbolic of everything that is wrong with America. I also don't want to spend money buying lunch. And really, the extra $9.58 is what matters most to me, forget the crumbling of our society. But I can't say no. I'll tell myself it's a cultural experience, even if it's not exactly a culture where I want to be a regular. I tell myself to relax and live a little (or die a little, depending on whether you take a social or nutritional perspective...). I tell myself that I don't want to be the overly-snobby mom who doesn't let her kids have any fun or fit in. And we go.

And then we go the next time. And the next time. And pretty soon my kids love it and ask for it anytime we decide to go out for lunch. Then one day you wake up and realize you've become what you swore you'd never be: a mom who takes her kids to McDonald's.

On the other hand, if the kids like it, what's the big deal, right? It's somewhere we can all go as a family without spending too much money and we all have a nice time. Wrong, wrong, wrong! You see, McDonald's has a capacity to disappoint at levels which I never dreamed possible. I always want the problem to have been an isolated incident. But time and time again, McDonald's pulls out all the stops to really make me question my decision to come there. I'm starting to realize I need to let it go the way of other retail establishments that consistently make a poor showing.

Por ejemplo:

Am I the only one in the world that hates Happy Meal toys? They are worse than useless because my kids end up attached to them without ever actually playing with them. I mean, the toys usually break or don't actually do anything or, amazingly enough, manage to do both. When we went the other day, we got this one:

It has two buttons on the back that make the wings have "karate chop action." Sounds cool, right? Except for the fact that apparently "karate chop action" is actually "barely perceptible wiggling." Also, the legs are contorted in a weird configuration that makes them both hard to hold and impossible to stand the toy up on. The Flickr picture above must have been taken by someone because they were so proud they managed to balance the thing on it's legs, they had to prove it to the world before a mouse farted down the block and the thing fell back down.

So why, you ask, did we get the Happy Meal toys if we hate them so much? Well, for one thing, there isn't really a menu at McDonald's. Sure there's a listing of selected items. The "meals," the dollar menu, and a couple other things. You're left to guess what else they offer, in what other sizes, and at what price. Apparently if you don't frequent McDonald's enough to have the menu memorized and/or if you actually care how much money you spend and/or if you want something off-the-wall like a burger without fries, then they don't want you there. It's actually often impossible to find the food items my kids want listed on the menu except as part of a Happy Meal. It's also very difficult to figure out, but I suspect that you can actually save money by purchasing a Happy Meal. They offer smaller sizes that can only be obtained in conjunction with a Happy Meal. And it's not like my kids are going to eat more than three bites anyway.

Despite these challenges, we wanted to avoid Happy Meals just on principle. We wanted to do the unthinkable apparently: Order our kids food without getting a Happy Meal. We really, really tried. Apparently it is just not allowed. When you ask for a cheeseburger and chicken nuggets, they see that you have children with you and jump to the conclusion that you're ordering the cheeseburger Happy Meal and the chicken nuggets Happy Meal. I mean, when you order a burger at most places, they usually have the decency to check if you want the "meal" or just the sandwich. But I have children, so it was a forgone conclusion that I wanted crappy toys with which to fill up my house. We also ordered an Asian salad, some bigger burger that M wanted (like I remember or care what), 2 waters, 2 small drinks, 1 large fries, and 2 small fries. Now I suppose that two adults might want 2 waters AND 2 small drinks. And some adults might want 1 large fries and 2 small fries between the two of them (although it seems like we would have just ordered, say, 2 large fries instead). I think it was pretty obvious that 2 of the drinks and 2 of the fries were for our CHILDREN. I would have thought these other items we ordered made it clearer still that we did not actually use the words "happy" or "meal" at any time during the ordering process. In the end we got two Happy Meals (which come with drinks and fries), 4 more beverages, 3 more fries, a totally different burger than the one M ordered, and an Asian salad with vinaigrette dressing. So for the record, the only things we ordered that they didn't screw up were 2 waters and an order of large fries. We had a lot of fun getting the extra fries and drinks refunded (it was easier than trying to get it through their thick skulls that we didn't want the confounded Happy Meals), convincing them to swap M's wrong burger out for the right one, and asking for Asian dressing to go with my Asian salad. At which point the children were entirely bored with the idea of actually eating anything and were ready to go play. Does this stuff only happen to me???

Somehow it seems fitting that many Wal-Marts have a McDonald's inside...