Monday, March 23, 2009

Yes, We Actually Refer to Her in Conversation as "Fetus"

Baby names were a lot easier the last two times.

Claire was picked as our first girl's name when she was still qualified only to be called "Embryo."

Our first son was dubbed Scott I think before M and I even got married. (It happens to be a family name, so it made it even easier.)

Do you see how both times in the past we had a name to replace the "Fetus" designation as soon as we knew the gender? As soon as we left the 20 week ultrasound, our baby had a name and we started to use it. So it's been really weird this time, knowing now that Fetus is a girl and still only being able to call her "Fetus." I suppose normal people would say something like "the baby" or even a cute nickname like "bump" or "bean." I guess we're just a little bit overly matter of fact about things, but any other name besides Fetus just sounds too cheesy to me. Sentimentality has never been a strong suit for M and me.

I knew this time around we were in for a much harder time since we didn't already have a name "waiting in the wings." It could have been like this last time if Scott had been a girl. In fact, during my pregnancy with Scott we started making a list of girls' names and then abandoned it when we found out we were having a boy. But not before I got a little taste of the impending horror.

M and I do NOT have a terribly similar taste in names. I think the ideal case is for a name to be something of a unique identifier. Isn't that kind of the point? I mean, otherwise why not call us all "man" and "woman"? But since issuing everyone a serial number might be a tad cumbersome, you try to find a unique name. Not unique in the whole world, maybe even not in their whole school, but hopefully at least in their classroom. I don't want it to be a made up name, or a name no one has ever heard of, but I think it ought to be fairly uncommon.

M, on the other hand, thinks a name shouldn't make you stand out. He figures, if everyone else has used a name, it must be a good name. This is particularly problematic given our last name. Imagine the most generic last name of English origins you can think of. Are you imagining it? Okay, now I'd bet good money you are thinking of our last name. I feel like M's taste in names would doom our children to a life of hopeless anonymity, no matter what. If we pick the names he likes, our child could cure cancer and be the first astronaut on Mars and no one would ever remember their name. In fact, no one would probably even notice what they had accomplished.

It's interesting how different our perspectives are given that we both have fairly uncommon first names. Growing up, I LOVED having an uncommon name and I think he hated it. So our naming goal is to find a name that everyone has heard of and is fairly normal, but that not too many people are using right now. It's a tall order and it's a matter of debate how successful we've been thus far.

We've been working on a girl name for this time around for awhile now. We started talking about girl names even before we knew this one was a girl because we were at such an impasse last time before being saved by Scott being a boy. I'm starting to get pretty antsy. I know I still have over 14 weeks left, but I think I would rather die than walk into the hospital unsure of the name I wanted to use. That smacks of "going with your gut." Pshaw! What, do you want to me to name them based on what they "look" like? Then we should name them "Svork" or something because they come out looking like aliens. And how my kids looked as newborns has absolutely NOTHING to do with how they look later anyway. In our house, names are NOT left to some whim of the anesthesia. Around here, picking a baby name is a intensive process that involves spreadsheets and ranking and scoring and graphs to check for positive or negative correlation... Seriously, it's bad, people.

So help us. Spare us poor geeks. Vote in the polls in the sidebar and give us your two cents in the comments. Here's the lowdown:

When we were pregnant with Scott, we had narrowed it down to M's favorite girl name being Helen and mine being Ellen. Not so easy to compromise on. You can't exactly use one for the first name and one for the middle name. To ease the tension, we said we'd just always say her name with a heavy British accent and call her 'Elen. The deadlock continued so we've come up with some other names.

Kate is our top scoring name. We took a rough list of conceivable candidates we compiled together. Then each of us ranked the list. The score is calculated by the sum of the square of the respective ranks. (For example, if M ranks Svork at #2 and I rank it at #20, then the score would be 404.) This system amplifies "dislike." A lower number is better (like golf!). I'm a little concerned with this one about popularity and about the fact that she would be named Kate and not Katherine or anything. We'd technically be naming her a nickname.

The other "name family" that scores well is Lauren or Laura. Lauren has some real popularity issues as well, but there's a bigger problem here. We like the names, but we don't actually say them the same way. (Crazy east coaster husband...grumble grumble)

So what should we do???

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Heaven Forbid We Do Anything Without a Machine

We went on a little field trip to a "farm" on St. Patrick's day. The kids LOVED it.

My favorite part was Claire's response when the tour guide during the dairy cow demonstration asked how to milk a cow. Claire raised her hand and described hooking a milking machine up to the cow in her own limited agricultural vocabulary. When the tour guide asked her how they used to do it a long time ago, she drew a blank. Then he asked her if they ever used their hands. She shook her head and looked at him like he'd lost his mind.

I guess I'm raising a very modern child.

The kids just walked right up to the big longhorns and waved a friendly, "Hello!"

Claire really liked the bulls. To the point that she used both hands to sign, "I love you" to them.
(Okay, so maybe this was actually a slightly misguided attempt to sign "Hook 'Em Horns!" M and I aren't exactly sports buffs, so you have to cut her a little slack, okay?)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Emergency Cake Emergency

Scott had his birthday. Last year he wanted a fire engine cake. This year he asked for an ambulance cake. (He says he wants to be an ambulance driver when he grows up.)

At this rate, I figure I better just starting figuring out now how to make a police car cake for next year!

*see UPDATE (7/13/2012) at bottom if you're looking for more info on how I created this cake*

And just to quash any delusions of me knowing what I'm doing with cakes, let me share the outtake with you:

The first cake fell apart when I tried to take it out of the pan. I went ahead and tried to form it into the right shape, if only for a trial run. But when it became apparent that the cake was hopelessly falling apart, I plowed ahead with some haphazard frosting because I had made WAY too much frosting for only one cake anyway and I figured it would still taste good. (It will all look the same after you eat it, right?!?) The cake wouldn't be edible unless I frosted it, so I did and then saved it for us. I called it a cookies 'n' cream cake and I at least happily ate it over the next few days :)

You might be asking why I decided to make my life harder by trying to frost a chocolate cake with white frosting. Well, the reason is because we actually intended to EAT the cake. It's hard enough for me to have the frosting not be chocolate. The cake itself at least had to be. Besides, that's what Scott said he wanted. (Honestly? That may not have been an entirely fair choice for him. I'm not sure my kids know that it's possible to make anything other than chocolate cake. They've certainly never seen me make anything else!)

I changed tactics for the second attempt late the night before the party and things went much smoother with much fewer tears of frustration shed. Good thing I had started the first attempt early the day before. Phew!

For the party, we had the kids paint their own wooden cars:

M built a race track in the garage:

Then we "raced" the cars, which basically involved the kids rolling their cars down the ramp again and again and again as fast as humanly possible.

I think the kids had fun. The party was low-key and totally lacking in decorations and what have you. (I honestly don't think Scott will remember, let alone care, that we used generic grocery store paper plates with bluebonnets on them for his party.) So I will not be winning any "SuperMom" awards, but I DID actually enjoy the party.


UPDATE (7/13/2012) -  I've had questions about how I created this ambulance cake, so I've done my best to remember, even though it was a while ago:

I made this cake by baking a cake mix in a 5x9 loaf pan.  Then I used a bread knife and cut into into 2 layers horizontally. Then I cut small pieces off the end of both layers.  Then I stacked them all.

My glass loaf pan slants a little at the sides, so if you're looking at the loaf pan the way you would bake it, the bottom has curved corners and the top has a slanted sided.  I used the bottom of the loaf to create the front end/hood - we'll call this layer #1.  And I used the slanted top to create the windshield - we'll call that layer #2.  I also cut about 1-1.5 inches off of layer #1 and we'll call this new piece layer #3.1.  I set layer #2 on top of layer #1, but with layer #2 offset by about 2 inches or so to create the hood.  Then I cut enough off layer #2 to be the same length at the back as layer #1 (about 3-3.5 inches?).  This last piece we will call layer #3.2.

I made a crude graphic to try to make this clearer:

Layer #1 - from bottom of loaf, created hood
Layer #2 - from top of loaf, created windshield
Layer #3.1 - cut off end of layer #1, created the part of the ambulance that sticks up in the back and is higher than the cab, let's call this the cargo area
Layer #3.2 - cut off end of layer #2, other part of cargo area

Then I constructed with frosting between layers like this:
1. First, I put layer #1 on the bottom (anchored with a little frosting to the plate) with the curved corners up and at the end that became the front of the ambulance.  The curved corners made it look like front bumper and hood.  Then I frosted the top of layer #1.
2. Then put layer #2 on top of that so the slanted side sloped up and away from the hood like a windshield.  I made the ends even at the back of the ambulance and offset about 2 inches at the front to leave a hood area. Then I frosted on top of layer #2.
3. I put layer #3.1 and layer #3.2 next to each other, with one flipped upside down in order to fit nicely next to the other one, and both on top of layer #2.  Again, I made the back edges even and allowed an offset in front to leave the cab area. (I might have trimmed these pieces a little to make it look right, don't remember for sure.)
4. I think I took a good serrated knife and sculpted a little here and there as needed where things didn't line up right or where corners were too sharp.
4. Then I frosted the cake with a crumb layer.  I used lots of frosting to smooth out/fill in any dents or crevices.
5. Lastly, I frosted a final white frosting layer, then decorated with red (homemade) and black (store bought Wilton tube) frosting with a round tip.

If you're trying this I wish you the best of luck.  It really wasn't too hard, but I don't know how clear my directions are.  Feel free to contact me with any questions!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Shameless Bragging

Claire surprised us the other day. We have this game:

It's a puzzle where you fit all the different shaped pieces of balls together to create a rectangle shape. The directions have partial creations where you then figure out how to fill in the remainder of the pieces. Does that make any sense? Let's zoom in on the age recommendation:

She loves to play with this game. She's still technically 4 years old, though nearing 5. But that wasn't the surprise. That's just mildly amusing. What surprised us is when she picked it up without looking at any clues and did this from memory:

Then after I made that video, she was anxious to demonstrate this pyramid from memory too:

Huh. It's like she has a good memory or something... Sheesh! What a geek. I don't think that's normal, is it? Maybe I'm just blinded by my parental status. But coming from geeks like M and me I'm pretty sure she's doomed to a life of nerdy freak status. It's just a shame to see it start so early...