Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Wrap

Christmas was great this year. Pumpkin was excited to find the light pink bike with the bumblebee on the basket under the tree (good listening, Santa!) and Petunia was so taken with her wagon that she refused to get out of it for most of the morning.  Pumpkin was also thrilled with the train set we got her (good listening, Mommy!), with the little cupcake box her Nonna and Poppa sent her from New Zealand (a perfect place to store the Silly Bands that she got in her stocking- good listening again, Santa!) and the "wedding dress" (a floor length lavender dress with sparkles) that my Mom sewed for her and included in her gift of dress up clothes. I'm dying to see her in the cow girl outfit my Mom made, but she really only wants to wear the "wedding dress" so far. So I'm being patient. Petunia has enjoyed her new blocks from Mimi and Boppa, and she likes to sit on the Little People Farm that we bough her. We think that she thinks it is a ride on toy of some sort, and plan to take a good look at day care to see if we can tell what might be giving her that idea. The biggest hit for her, though, was the little toy baby bottle that came with the stuffed monkey from her Aunt. She sucked and sucked on that thing, and then stopped and grinned, and then sucked on it some more. It was pretty funny.

You can't really predict which toys/gifts will be favorites over the long term, and everything they got was pretty darn good. Pumpkin, in particular, was so happy opening her gifts, that it would have taken a very Scroogey person not to love Christmas right then.

The girls got some great books, including the latest (and one has to assume last) installment of the Knuffle Bunny books, Knuffle Bunny Free. I think it is my favorite of the Knuffle Bunny books, and I've liked them all. We also got some new books from New Zealand. I'd strongly recommend that anyone traveling there stock up on kid's books- they have some great ones that we can't get here.

And don't even get me started on all the wonderful new clothes the girls got. Those were really like gifts for me- sparing me from shopping for new clothes while also ensuring that my girls look really cute.

As for me... well, I love my new Crocs. My parents got me the Mammoth Clogs, which I wear as slippers. They are not all that attractive, but they are warm and comfy, and they keep my feet and legs from hurting if I spend a lot of time standing on our hard flooring. And I can run out the the garage to swap the laundry over without changing into shoes.

My sister brought us all great things from Nepal. My kids are going to look very wordly wearing their new t-shirts. And our new yak wool blanket is a perfect match for our living room. I plan to retire our less than perfectly matched afghan soon, but Pumpkin is resisting the change.

The biggest surprise was definitely NOT my gift for Hubby. I took Pumpkin shopping with me, and despite the long talk we had about it being a surprise and how we shouldn't tell Daddy what we bough, she came home and walked up to him and said "Daddy! We got you a watch!" Oh well. At least he likes it. He managed to completely surprise me, though, despite buying me the one thing I had specifically said I wanted- a Kindle. When I got laid off, he had said that he didn't think we should spend so much money on our gifts to each other this year, and I believed him. Sucker! I was completely surprised when I opened that box. So far, I'm really liking it- but I have the next two months' of book club books in the old-fashioned paper format, so I won't be giving it a really workout for awhile. I'll probably tell you all about it when I do.

My sister made the dinner this year, with some help from my Mom, and a tiny bit of potato peeling from me. It was delicious, and I loved that I didn't have to make it! I did make a pie, which tasted great even if it looked a little funny. Let's just say that next year, I need to ask for a 9 inch pie plate for Christmas. I have an 8 inch and a 10 inch, and the 10 inch was definitely too big for the chocolate custard filling I made. We topped it with mint whipped cream and crushed candy canes, which hid the vast expanses of bare crust fairly well. I was pretty proud of that idea, frankly. I wanted a chocolate pie so that Pumpkin would like it, since she's been asking about pies. But I wanted something Christmas-y, too. This worked perfectly.

The girls are out of day care for this entire week, and Hubby is back at work. My parents are staying at least through Thursday, because I have an informal lunch meeting that day with the hiring manager for one of the two jobs that are looking most promising. (I had an informal phone interview for the other one last week- so things are moving over the holidays, albeit slowly, which is nice.) Even with my parents here helping, today was exhausting. Trying to keep up with my kids all day positively wears me out. And once again, I chuckle a little (in the nicest possible way, of course) at the people who think that being a working mother is hard. As I've written before, I think the truth is that being a parent is hard, if you're doing it right. And I think that for me, being a working mom is what makes me happiest. Or at least, less exhausted.

I have to admit, though, that having me at home and the kids at day care has made things a little easier, although I'd like to point out that losing my job did not, in fact, make me suddenly like housework. I still hate it. So even if it were financially feasible to continue this set up over the long run (it is not), it would not be a good idea to do so. I think it would result in me either going insane or becoming a hopeless daytime TV addict. Or both. So let's all think good thoughts about the jobs I'm working on right now!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Why Christmas is More Fun with Kids

Merry Christmas!

I'd write more, but Petunia's woken up three times already. Hubby is grumpy because I told him that Santa only brings fully assembled toys.

But it is still a great night.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Mishmash

I have a "real" post about happiness and work and money and saving for retirement coming up soon, but I think I need to accept that it isn't going to get written today. I was too busy baking some cookies (pumpkin chocolate chip with a caramel glaze... surprisingly nice), finishing my last bits of Christmas shopping, and going to a meeting with my outplacement adviser to work on my resume (I have a lot of edits to make now).

So instead, I give you a mishmash of links and thoughts. The links are courtesy of my husband, who actually manages to be a very productive software engineer in the time he takes off from surfing the internet.

First of all, if you have somehow missed the muppet wedding proposal story, go watch the video and read the story. It will make you happy. No, really. Go watch it now. Hubby sent it to me last week, when I was having a very bad day. Stupidly, I did not watch it then. I should have- it would have made my day better!

Next, here is a story about the most awesome iPhone app I've ever seen: a Spanish-English (and vice versa) translator. It is almost enough to make me want an iPhone.

Finally, a thought about how people become part of you, even when they are no longer part of your life: It has been raining here lately, which is unusual, but given our prolonged drought, quite welcome. I've had to be out and about in the rain a bit, but luckily, it hasn't been raining hard at those times. Every time I step outside into a rain that is more like a mist, I find myself thinking "'tis a soft day, by God!" which is what my Irish ex-boyfriend (and, I suspect, a fair number of his countrymen and women) would say when greeted with similar weather.

Now, my Irish ex is ancient history. We broke up more than ten years ago now. I have well and truly moved on. But little bits of him remain, which is nice and weird at the same time. Realizing this made me stop and think about what parts of my husband have become part of me. There are the trivial: my use of the word "heaps" instead of "lots", the fact that I say "car park" instead of "parking lot" half of the time. And there are the more profound: the part of me that likes kayaking and hiking and other outdoors pursuits (I'd never really done those things before I met Hubby), the growing tendency to look at American political issues from the outside, apart from the usual partisan labels (which of course don't mean much in New Zealand).

More interestingly, what parts of me has he assimilated? I don't know. I wonder if he does?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Zenbit: Old School

This sign should set expectations appropriately. However, this motel is literally right on the boardwalk.

Location: Pacific Beach, San Diego, California, USA
Date: December 1, 2010

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

On Intensity and Insecurity

Last night, I went to a networking event in my industry. When I wrote earlier about the effects of job insecurity on my life, I mentioned that keeping up with networking events was one of the (few!) career-related things that has suffered due to motherhood. It is just too hard to go out in the evening right now, particularly since most networking events fall right around dinner time.

I realized two things last night: how true this is and how soon it will get easier. The event started at 6 p.m. in a part of town that is a 15-20 minute drive away from our house.  The first hour of the event was set aside for informal networking. At 7 p.m., a speaker would give a presentation. I really wanted to see that presentation, but I needed to network, too. So I asked Hubby to try to get home early. If we had dinner at 5:45, I could probably leave our house by about 6:00 or 6:10 and get 30 minutes of networking in before the talk.

This worked perfectly.... but I could tell that Petunia was upset that I was leaving so soon. She is always so happy to see me at the end of the day. She holds out her arms for me to take her, and then she puts her little head down on my shoulder and gives me the sweetest hug. Eventually, she lifts her head up, gives me a big smile, and starts signing "more", which in this context means "give me my dinner now, please!" She was still eating her dinner when I got up from the table and kissed her and Pumpkin good-bye. Pumpkin waved bye-bye happily, content with my promise to be home before lights out (and I was). But Petunia looked confused. When I got home later, Hubby said that she wouldn't really take her bottle before bed, and that it had been hard to get her down for the night. She woke up earlier than usual in the middle of the night- this was probably due in part to the lingering effects of her cold. But she gave me another one of her big, sweet hugs when I went in and picked her up, instead of just starting to paw at my shirt to indicate that she wanted to nurse, which is what she usually does. I suspect she had missed me.

This particular event was worth the hassle, especially since I need to talk to as many people as I can right now as I look for my next job. But most events, I skip. It just messes with our bedtime routine too much, and that usually leads to consequences in the middle of the night. However, as I snuggled with Pumpkin before she went to sleep, I realized that it won't be long before Petunia will be able to handle my occasional absence as well as Pumpkin does. This period of time during which these "career maintenance" sorts of tasks are hard to accommodate is quite short- probably about five years, all told. I have been in the work force for more than ten years already, and I expect to be working for at least twenty-five more years. That is a long time. Five years of less than optimal career maintenance doesn't seem like a terrible thing when I look at it from the long view, even though right now, I am feeling a little bit stressed by the fact that my network could be better cared for. My stress is alleviated somewhat by the fact that despite the relative neglect to my network, I already have one very strong job lead from it, and I haven't even started working seriously on networking during this search.

All of this leads me to a new piece of advice I'd give a young woman (or man, really) starting out in her career, and wondering how best to balance a career and motherhood: invest the effort in building a good network early, before you have kids. Then you can maintain it with a minimal amount of effort during those five years or so when you have a baby at home who won't really understand why Mommy needs to go out before bedtime tonight, and still reap the benefits of being well networked. Yes, I know that older kids still need a lot of attention, and I'm aware of the people who argue that parenting gets harder as the kids get older. I am not discounting those views- I won't really know until I get there, right? But I do think that older kids can handle the substitution of one parent for another a little easier. At this age, when she still nurses before bed and is forming her strong attachment to her primary caregiver, it is hard for Petunia to accept Daddy instead of Mommy for some parts of her routine. Pumpkin, on the other hand, usually accepts it fairly well, particularly if I promise some special Mommy time later.

Kate, at One Tired Ema, has written about how her style of parenting really young children (under the age of three, I think? I can't remember her cut off age) is very intense. That is the perfect word to describe this age. Babies and toddlers need a lot of attention, and in my view, they deserve to get all of the attention you can stand to give them. I hope that the time and patience invested now, in stacking blocks on the floor, reading mind-numbingly dull books 10 times in a row (Petunia's current favorite is a bunch of pictures of babies, with one word describing their emotion underneath) and handling sleep issues gently will pay off in an older child who knows that her parents will always be there for her when she really needs them. I think I'm starting to see that in Pumpkin now. Maybe it would have turned out this way even if we'd parented differently- but any other method of parenting wouldn't have felt right to me.

So I will continue to give Petunia the intense parenting I think she deserves. My career will be OK over the long term, and over the long term is just how I think I need to look at things now that I'm a parent.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

On to Other Things

To expand on last night's quick update: Petunia had no fever at all last night or this morning, so she went to day care today. She was pretty happy while she was being strapped into her car seat. I think it really does make her sad to be left behind. She definitely now has a bit of a cough and a runny nose, which is different from the last round of fevers, which had no other symptoms at all (that we could see), so I'm feeling better about the "this is just a cold" hypothesis.

I talked to the managing director at the day care center, and they have indeed noticed that little "B" is developing into a bit of a "queen bee". But they are monitoring it, and they have a rule that the kids aren't allowed to tell another kid that  she can't join their game. "B" has gotten in trouble for that a few times- she gets sent to play on her own for awhile when they catch her. However, Pumpkin does have friends she plays with- in addition to "E", there is a little girl "K". We've had playdates with "E" (and are friends with her parents), but not "K". Her parents seem nice, too, so maybe we'll try to arrange a playdate with her. Anyway, now I have more information about what is actually going on and I can talk to Pumpkin about how to respond.

So, I can move on to other things. This is good, because I really need to work on my job talk. The job I have the strongest lead on reports in to the science organization, and therefore will have a traditional science interview. This is an all day affair. I'll talk to about 6 different people, and I'll give an approximately 45 minute talk, which will be open to everyone in the company. I haven't had to give a job talk in almost 10 years, so I need to create one! Luckily, I just gave a talk at a conference (the week after I was laid off- that was fun), so I have a starting place.

While procrastinating on the job talk, I put together a calendar using some of my favorite zenbit pictures. I was originally just going to order one for myself, but then I decided to publish it. Why not? The pictures are already public, since I've posted them here. Here it is:
It is fun to let my creative side have a little more free reign. But first, I'd better work on that job talk. I'd have to sell a lot of calendars to replace my salary!

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Quick Update Because I Know My Parents are Worrying, Too

Petunia's doctor could find nothing wrong with her, except for a slightly runny nose. So we're going with the hypothesis that this is a standard day care illness, that she just reacts to most illnesses by getting a high fever, and that it is nothing to worry about. If her fever isn't gone by Wednesday or if she gets sick again next weekend, we're probably going to go see an ear, nose, and throat specialist.

Pumpkin reported playing with her friend "E" and a little boy "A". She and "A" apparently dug in the sand with one of the littler kids, and "threw sand up in the air". That last bit is usually a big no-no at the school, so I'm guessing it was more vigorous digging than actual launching of sand into the air. But who knows. Hubby says it was a really rough drop off, though, because only "B" and another little girl were there. Pumpkin didn't want to let go of Daddy, and one of the teachers had to come hold her for awhile so he could leave. So a mixed day. No word yet from the managing director. If she doesn't answer my email tomorrow, I guess I'll just have to call. They had the Lions in today doing vision testing, so she was probably pretty swamped. (Pumpkin's vision is excellent, in case you're curious.)

Pumpkin was in a pretty good mood tonight, as was Petunia, so I'm off to bed feeling a little less worried. I'll share one last thing:

That is Santa in his sleigh, being pulled by his reindeer.


Petunia is sick again. She developed a fever on Friday night, and had a fever all weekend, except for when she was under the influence of acetaminophen and, inexplicably, for the few hours around the time I took her to the after pediatrics clinic. The doctor at after hours peds must have thought I was nuts- Petunia seemed fine and healthy there. Her fever spiked again in the afternoon, though, and went up to 103. She was pathetic and clearly miserable, and ended up going to bed at 7 p.m.

She seems to be feeling fine today. She's been happy, except when Pumpkin and Hubby drove off without her. She doesn't like being left at home when she's feeling well. She's playing with several cars that make noise right now. The girl loves a button she can push to make noise!

I probably wouldn't think anything of this illness, except she had a very similar illness last weekend. And I probably wouldn't think anything of that if she hadn't had a run of fevers earlier this year. So we're going to our regular doctor today. I don't expect to learn much, but maybe she can help me figure out when I should actually start to worry. I am, of course, worrying now.


Meanwhile Pumpkin told us this weekend that "no one" will play with her on the playground at day care. Closer questioning revealed that it is likely that the truth is that no one who is playing with the most popular girl in the class (let's call her "B") will play with Pumpkin. Her little friend "E" will always play with her, and "R" will play with her if she rides bikes,  and "M" will play with her "except if she's playing with B". Still, hearing her talk about it just about broke my heart. She's the child of two geeks- we expected to have to deal with something like this eventually. But we didn't expect it at the age of three.

Of course, she is only three, and while she's very verbal, she may not really be able to express what is happening. Or a rare occurrence may be getting amplified into something that happens all the time. I've sent an email to the center's managing director, asking for a time to call and talk about this, so that they can help us figure out what is really going on. And then we'll have to figure out how to respond.  In the meantime, I'm worrying.

Anyone want to try to convince me that Petunia doesn't have some weird, rare disease and/or that Pumpkin isn't doomed to the life of a social pariah? Or, you could just tell me a story or leave me a link to take my mind off all of this!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Zenbit: Sunset Surf

Location: Pacific Beach, San Diego, California, USA
Date:September 6, 2004

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Scenes from a Bath, the Baby Edition

Tuesday night was bath night for Petunia. She usually loves her bath (maybe the love of baths runs in the family), so I gladly volunteered to give her a bath rather than take out the trash. No brainer, right?

Well, this Tuesday, she did not want to get in her bath. She locked her little knees and screamed when I tried to put her in the tub. I don't know why, but when I took her out to let her calm down, I sat her on her sister's old potty. She was thrilled. She reached behind her and played with the lid. But mostly, she just wanted to sit on that seat and play with her shoes. I asked her if she was ready to get in her bath. She solemnly shook her head "no" and continued to play with her shoes. I waited awhile and asked her if she was ready to get off the potty. She shook her head "no", and when I reached my hands out to her, she clamped her arms by her side.

She was pretty cute sitting there, and I was curious to see what she'd do, so I sat there and watched her play with her shoes for awhile. Every once and awhile I asked her if she was ready to get in her bath, mostly because the round little "o" she sometimes makes with her mouth when shaking her head is so darn cute.

Then Hubby came in from taking the trash out, rolled his eyes at me, and took over her bath. She did scream when he put her in the tub, but not for long at all.

And then Pumpkin came and reminded him that he'd promised to build something with her, so I took over again. I asked Petunia if she was ready to get out of her bath. She solemnly shook her head "no", clamped her arms by her sides, and screamed when I lifted her out and wrapped her in her towel.

Kids are weird.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

True Mom Confessions: The DVD Edition

I was home yesterday with Petunia, who was recovering from some sort of illness. Maybe croup? It is hard to tell with her, since she doesn't get the telltale "cross between a barking seal and Darth Vader" cough. She gets a fever and a sore throat, and gets clingy and cuddly and just wants to hang out in some adult's arms and watch TV.

So that's what we did, because I was tired- she hasn't let me have a good night's sleep since last Thursday- and I hurt my foot on Saturday, possibly by serving as her human walker for one hour too many, so a long walk (another favorite of hers) was not an option.

Even when she's not sick, Petunia gets more screen time than Pumpkin did at her age. I could make a lot of excuses about not wanting to have Pumpkin associate her little sister with new restrictions on her TV viewing, but the truth is that I'm just a little more laid back about it. Hey, it is a cliche for a reason.

We don't really watch much actual TV. Pumpkin watches Dora (and so does Petunia, because she's there, too), and we occasionally watch some shows on PBS Kids- Sesame Street, Curious George, Sid the Science Kid, and the show with the weird gang of word nerds who go around fixing stories.  But mostly, we watch DVDs. Petunia's favorites are the Signing Time DVDs- both the original and the Baby Signing Time DVDs. So far, the only sign she knows is the one for "more", which she uses to mean "give me a cracker" as well as "more".

When she gets a little older, I suspect she'll be as enamored of the Noodlebug DVDs as her older sister was.

Pumpkin has moved on- she tolerates Signing Time and Noodlebug for her little sister, but when she gets to pick she chooses one of the Leap Frog DVDs (we have Letter Factory, Talking Words Factory, and Word Caper, and I swear they've taught her more about phonics than anything else has) or one of her Chinese DVDs. She is learning Chinese with a teacher, but we find the DVDs help reinforce the vocabulary, especially since we don't speak Chinese ourselves. We have most of the available Chinese DVDs at this point- I wish someone would make more that would teach some new words. Our favorites are the two Follow Jade DVDs and the The Adventures of Walker & Ping Ping DVD (we have the one with both the Great Wall and Chinese Market stories).

I used to feel a little guilty for our use of DVDs. We certainly know plenty of people who have sworn off TV altogether. But I'm over it. The DVDs and Dora help me get dinner on the table with a minimum amount of crying. They are a great non-food reward for Pumpkin. I truly believe that they have taught Pumpkin useful things- from sign language to how to sound out words to how to count to ten in Chinese. Presumably, they will teach Petunia useful things, too. And really, it would take a hard heart to deny her a snuggle and a show when she is sick. She points at the TV, and looks at you with her big, hopeful smile, then looks back at the TV, then back at you.  I should consider myself lucky that all she wants is a Signing Time DVD!

What about you? What are the favorite DVDs/shows at your house?

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Zenbit: Door in the Tree

Location: Angkor complex, Siam Reap, Cambodia
Date: March, 7 2006

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Thanksgiving Geekiness

My job search is going well. This week, I am getting a lot done and following up on leads. My plan is to have the most time-sensitive activities taken care of this week, so that I can relax a bit and start working on some of my other projects more in the coming weeks. Eventually, I'll probably settle into a schedule in which I do most of my job search work in the morning and then work on other things in the afternoon.

Last week was a different story, though. Petunia had to stay home from day care on Monday to finish recovering from her tummy bug. Hubby was sick but refusing to really take it easy at work, so pretty much a useless lump on the sofa at home. And I had a house to clean and a Thanksgiving dinner to get ready for! Also, I couldn't let Hubby touch any of the food, to minimize the risk that he might share our tummy bug with our guests.

So I did what any self-respecting project manager would do. I made a plan:

Maybe next year I'll type it up in some appropriate software and make a proper Gantt chart.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Cold Night

I blamed the cold for what I did last night, but really it is time, or more precisely, the fleeting nature of time.

Petunia cried out at about 10:40. I'd really rather she sleep a little longer before I bring her into bed with us, and some nights she does. Some nights she wakes up even earlier. She steadfastly refuses to settle into a routine. It makes it hard to catch up on the shows on our DVR.

Anyway, I went into her room, and saw that she was still half asleep, on her tummy in her crib. I went over and patted her back, and she found her thumb and whimpered a bit, and started to settle back to sleep. I could tell that she would eventually go back to sleep this way, and I knew that would be a good thing in terms of my goal of getting her to sleep longer in her crib before joining us in our bed. But I could also tell it was going to take a while, and it was cold. My toes were cold, despite the socks I had on. My face was cold. We've been having beautiful clear, sunny days, and beautiful clear, frigid nights here recently, and our 50+ year old insulation just isn't up to the challenge. Every winter, during the week or two that is really cold (by Southern California standards), we say that we should get that fixed, just like every summer, during the week or two when it is sort of hot we talk about getting a whole house fan. But we never do either of these things. (I predict the insulation will get fixed first, because it offends our green sensibilities to know that we're running our heater more than we have to, but it isn't going to get fixed while I'm unemployed.)

So I reached into Petunia's crib, lifted her out, and took her back to bed with me. I told myself that it was because I was cold, and she probably was, too. But really, it was because she is getting so big. She is taking a few tentative steps on her own, and zipping around the place with her little walker/baby stroller. She signs "more" while saying "muh, muh" and giving us her winning smile (this girl's smile is going to be trouble, let me tell you. It is irresistible.) All the signs are telling me that my baby- my last baby- is turning into a toddler. I look at Pumpkin and I can hardly believe that it was only a couple of years ago that she was zipping around the house with her walker, and saying "buh" while she pointed to the birds in our backyard. Now she likes to show me how she can hop, and her vocabulary amazes me. She still snuggles me- she insists on it as part of her bedtime routine- but not in that intense baby way, where you'd swear the baby is trying to reintegrate into your body. I'm tired, and I want more sleep. And yet, before I know it, Petunia will be sounding out words and delighting in her ability to do dot-to-dots, and I won't have any babies left to snuggle right up against me at night.

It was cold. But if I shivered, it was because I felt the passage of time, saw the impending end of our baby years. They aren't easy. They aren't even my favorite stage. But they are sweet in a way that no other stage is.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Fifteen Characters

I'm picking up on a meme posted over at my friend Stevil's blog. The idea is that you list fifteen characters that have influenced you. You list the first 15 characters that you can recall, in 15 minutes or less. Here is Stevil's list. I wrote my list in 15 minutes or less, as required by the rules and the constraints of our bedtime routine. Here is what I came up with:
  1. Elizabeth Bennet (from Pride And Prejudice. I loved her when I was 13, and I still love her now.)
  2. Princess Leia (do I really need to say it? From Star Wars. Although really, I was more obsessed with Luke Skywalker- I know! Dork! But my sister liked Han Solo, so I had to pick Luke. Still, the rules say the first 15 you come up with, and Princess Leia popped into my head first.)
  3. Jane Eyre (from Jane Eyre, of course. I loved the romance of her story as a teenager. Now I think someone should have punched Mr. Rochester.)
  4. Jean-Luc Picard (from Star Trek: The Next Generation. This was the first Star Trek to hook me, and Captain Picard is still my favorite. Make it so!)
  5. The Doctor (from Doctor Who. I first got hooked on the show with David Tennant as The Doctor, and he's still my favorite. I haven't watched much of the new doctor- not because I don't think he's good, but because sleep is more of a priority right now. I'm sure I'll catch up eventually.)
  6. Anne Eliot (from Persuasion. Another Austen heroine. She did them so well!)
  7. Menolly  (from Dragonsong and the rest of the Harper hall trilogy. I loved Anne McCaffrey's dragon books when I was a pre-teen and teenager, and this was the first of her books that I read.)
  8. Atticus Finch (from To Kill a Mockingbird, which may be the best book I was ever assigned to read in school, at any level. I love this book. I find that most non-Americans have never heard of it. Read it! You won't be sorry.)
  9. Mr Darcy (also from Pride And Prejudice. He is a romantic hero who has stood up to my increasing years and wisdom... probably because he had the sense to want to marry an intellectual equal!
  10. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle (from Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and the sequels- all of which I loved as a kid.)
  11. Jeeves (from Carry On, Jeeves, and various other Jeeves and Wooster stories. The books are a fun read, but if you've never seen the Jeeves & Wooster TV shows, you should. They are brilliant.)
  12. Merlin (of King Arthur fame. I think my version of him is based largely on Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy.)
  13. Anne of Green Gables (from Anne of Green Gables. I had an illustrated hardcover edition, which I adored.)
  14. Arthur Dent (from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Good, silly fun, with some sly messages about what is important in life.)
  15. Nancy Drew. Those books weren't high literature, but they were fun. Nancy Drew may be the logical thing for Dora fans to graduate to, really.
OK, I don't do the whole "tag, you're it" thing. But if any of you want to post your own lists, I'll come read them!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mystery Solved

I was feeling better yesterday, even without doing any yoga. Which is a good thing, because I spent the entire day cleaning the house and sorting through toys and baby clothes, and I still didn't finish- so no yoga for me.

Around 3 p.m., Hubby called and asked me how I was doing. I told him fine, and rattled off everything I'd cleaned or organized. He said he wasn't feeling well at all- he had chills and aches. I told him I'd pick up the girls at day care. I had to go up that way anyway to pick up my severance check. Later, after he got home, he told me it felt like his vestigial tail hurt. And then he moped around the house for the rest of the evening. He did have the grace to look a little sheepish when I pointed out that these were the same symptoms I had the day before, which he'd laughed at and said were due to my advanced age. His defense was that he'd explained it better. Whatever.

His stomach is still bothering him, too, so he's coming home after he drops something off at work. I'm not sure what this does to our Thanksgiving plans, but I guess I'll still cook the turkey no matter what. I bought a fancy brined one, and I'd hate it to go to waste!

Meanwhile, I'd better get to work on cleaning the rest of the house. I predict that just after I scrub the bathrooms (again), Pumpkin will get sent home with an upset tummy. Also, that as soon as I finish, something that I cleaned in the first wave will be dirty again. Housework sucks.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Scenes from a Bath

I used to love to take long, luxurious baths. Since becoming a mother, I typically settle for a nice hot shower instead. Leaving aside the obvious logistical issues with having a relaxing soak with children running or crawling around, the proliferation of bath toys in our bathroom further detracts from the soak-worthiness of a tub that is essentially too shallow for a good soak, anyway.

However, I've been having trouble with muscle aches lately. My back, neck, hips, and legs all ache. I can't decide if I have some sort of bug that is causing this- I did have a cold, complete with shiver-inducing chills, last week, and I had another bout of chills last night. (Or maybe I was just cold because the heat doesn't blow into our bedroom that well. It is hard to say.) I took my temperature this afternoon, and it was normal, though. Maybe the aches are from our mattress, which I have suddenly realized is going on 10 years old and showing its age. I've told Hubby that when I get a new job, I'm going out and buying a nice, new mattress. He points out that no mattress is likely to be comfortable if you spend half of the night sleeping on the very edge because your baby is trying to occupy the same exact space as you are and you refuse to learn that moving away doesn't actually help. But still. I think there is a Tempurpedic in my future. I'm sick of feeling springs jut into my hips.

Of course, the aches could also be due to pent up stress from the unpleasant last month at work, the fact that I haven't been to a yoga class in over a month (and my gym membership was one of the casualties of the lay off, so I don't really have a yoga class right now), or the wear and tear of picking up a 22 lb baby and a 30 lb preschooler everyday.

Or maybe I'm just getting old.

Anyway, I decided that I'd have a bath tonight to see if that would help my muscles. Hubby was happy to watch the kids- if I go away, Petunia will actually play with him instead of just crawling over to me. I dug out my Muscle Soak bubble bath, and ran a nice hot bath.

I discovered that our tub is indeed too shallow. I had to choose which set of muscles to soak at one time and alternate. I also discovered that the base of our frog bath toy holder actually does a fine job of cradling my head while I soak. I hadn't bothered to take it down- I just removed the frog's body that holds all the toys.

I could hear the kids playing with Hubby while I soaked- our house is not that big. I heard Hubby start the CD my parents had made for Pumpkin. She loves it, so I'm guessing she asked for it. Or maybe he decided to put it on because Petunia likes the music, too. He keeps trying to win Petunia over, but she is oblivious, and if I'm in the room, she keeps crawling over to me. Poor Hubby.

There were the usual sounds of playing- Pumpkin was narrating some elaborate story involving a lot of cars crashing into each other- until "Wimoweh" came on. Then Hubby started laughing, and I heard him say "she's dancing before she can walk!" I gathered that Petunia was showing off her dancing skills. I'd seen them earlier in the day. She holds onto someone's hands or her walker, bends her knees, and bobs her little bottom up and down in time to the music. Wimoweh is one of her favorite songs; it will almost always get her moving. I hadn't told Hubby about it, and I'm glad I didn't. He sounded so happy. Petunia's current mommy-centric phase is hard on him. She will often turn her face into my shoulder, clutch onto my shirt for dear life, and scream when he tries to take her from me. I know that he understands that it is just a phase, but still.... He sees her snuggling into me, and I know he is a bit jealous. (Whereas I see him going potty without an entourage following him down the hall, and I'm a bit jealous. The grass is always greener.) Anyway, I'm glad he got to dance with Petunia tonight. He showed me after I got out of the bath, and she has actually added some steps to her repertoire. I may be biased, but I think it is incredibly cute.

So I didn't get a peaceful soak in a deep bath- but I don't think that is on offer anytime soon. For one thing, there is absolutely no way that we can remodel our bathroom and put in a deep bath. Even if we had the money, there just isn't the space, even if we took the step stool and the little potty out. Our house was built in the 50s, and that was apparently not a time in which Americans felt like they needed a lot of space in their bathrooms.

My muscles felt better while I was in the bath, but are aching again now. I'm not sure if that tells me anything, other than that I can't cure this with a bath. I'm going with the "yoga makes all aches feel better" theory, and am planning to try a good long yoga routine tomorrow- without the help of Pumpkin, who usually joins me for my yoga on the weekends. I'm jealous of her ability to do a good downward dog without any props, and while her questions about the DVD are thought-provoking ("But why is he sitting on the beach, Mommy? And why does he have a ponytail? Boys don't have ponytails. Why isn't he wearing a shirt? Isn't he cold?"), they tend to detract from my ability to focus on the poses. I do the yoga anyway, though. Motherhood is all about learning how to fit what you need into the little bits of space your kids leave you.

Not Funny, Universe

On Thursday night, Petunia started sleeping like a champ. Hurray! The universe heeded my request!

Ha. Not so fast.

Saturday morning the diarrhea started. Poor Petunia has never had a tummy bug before, and she is not at all impressed with the experience. And my plans to start tapering off pumping? On hold until her stomach is all better.

She seems to be feeling better now, but her diapers are still not "day care quality", so she is home with me today. I still have errands to run and chores to do to get ready for Thanksgiving. This morning, she helped me sort through the bags of hand me downs and find more clothes for her to wear. Then she came shopping to Trader Joe's for our Thanksgiving turkey and associated needs. She had a blast- the girl loves to shop. Actually, I think she just loves to go out on trips. She got very excited when she saw me putting my shoes on, and she giggled as I strapped her into her car seat. She was a huge hit at the store, charming everyone who caught her eyes. She does have an irresistible smile...

She's napping now. Maybe we'll get some play time in after lunch. But now, I think I'll take a nap myself. Because last night? She woke up every two hours.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Zenbit: Minature

Location: National Orchid Garden, Singapore
Date: January 28, 2006

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Beginning of the End, Round Two

I'm slowly tapering off pumping for Petunia. I've been down to twice a day for a while now, and next week, I will probably drop down to once a day. I suspect that by the new year, I'll be done pumping altogether. Just like with Pumpkin, I have mixed feelings about this. I certainly don't love pumping, but it also is an indication that my little baby isn't so little anymore.

With Pumpkin, I pumped past the one year mark because she was not very good at eating solid foods. Petunia is a different story. She hasn't really taken to dairy, but she eats a lot of other things really well. I made my carrot cake pancakes last week and they were a huge hit with Petunia- she polished off her first one and then pointed to the plate for more. She eats strawberries, pasta, bread, and tonight she tried chicken nuggets and liked them. (Why is it easier to get toddlers to eat chicken if it is breaded? We've had no luck with "regular" chicken yet.) I'm fairly confident that she'll start drinking more cow's milk as the amount of breastmilk available to her during the day is decreased, and if she doesn't, we'll probably be able to find her another source of calcium. So I'm not sure why I've kept pumping. The initial delay in introducing cow's milk and tapering off breastmilk during the day was due to the antibiotics that cleared up the mystery illness- I didn't want to miss any tummy problems from the cow's milk because of the inevitable tummy problems from the antibiotic. But now... I think I'm just having a hard time admitting that my little Petunia, my last baby is getting bigger.

Strangely, the lay off may actually move things along faster than they would have otherwise. I find pumping at home to be a pain- unlike at work, where I had a little room where my pump was out of the way (for obvious reasons...), at home the best place is on the sofa in the living room. This inevitably leads me to turn the TV on while I pump and then BAM! I've lost two hours to some stupid cop show.  (Sneaky move, cable channels, putting the same show back to back to back....) If I do that twice a day, my day is pretty much over, and I haven't accomplished much at all. Also, I'm trying to meet up with people for networking lunches and coffee breaks and the like, and my pumping schedule is getting in the way. Suddenly, I'm ready to be done.

Tonight, I watched Petunia playing after dinner. She was happily stacking her Little People Blocks and looking more like a toddler than a baby, really. They'll be moving her up to the "older baby" room at day care soon- she visited that class today, and apparently had a great time. It is time that I face it- Petunia's babyhood is almost over. It seems to have gone faster than Pumpkin's did, somehow, despite the fact that I was sure that I would stop and appreciate things more this time around!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Quick Update

The talk went well- in fact, I actually picked up a job lead from it. This has been a very strange job search. I have hardly done anything, and I have two or three good leads and at least two other jobs I should be pursuing to try to turn them into leads. But I had lunch with the hiring manager for one of the leads today and I'll be going in for an interview there soon. Nothing is certain until I have a signed employment contract in hand, but that lunch felt more like a recruitment than anything else.

This is how I know that the economy is picking up. People, I am good, but not THAT good. I guarantee that if I had been laid off a year ago my situation would be a lot bleaker.

I'll write a real post soon, I promise. But this afternoon is scheduled housewife time. I just cleaned the bathrooms and am off to bake bread to go with dinner....

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Funny Things

I'm mostly over my cold now- yesterday was apparently both the worst day and the beginning of the end. So that's good.

But I still have to speak at a conference tomorrow, and I haven't practiced my talk much at all. So I'll just share the latest random funny things my husband has found on the internet.

First, someone has modified some My Little Ponies to look like Star Wars characters. I think the Princess Leia ponies are the best:

And you'll probably either love this or hate this. I love it, because I'm all for things that show girls that they can have a career in science and still be "girly" if that is what they want:

Monday, November 15, 2010

An Open Letter to the Universe

Dear Universe,

I had enough going on right now without this cold, thanks. And if the cold was unavoidable, could Petunia have skipped the return to waking three times a night and demanding Mommy?

I think the least you could do to make up for this is send me a really good job offer ASAP. But let's make the start date in 2011.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Zenbit: Sea Cave

Location: Phang Nga Bay, Thailand
Date: February 26, 2006

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Busily Not Working

I am surprisingly busy for someone who doesn't have a job and whose kids are in day care.  Since I saw the lay off coming, I had already started working my network and searching for a new job. Some of those efforts are bearing fruit now, and I need to follow up on that. I also need to figure out what I want out of my next job (beyond the obvious paycheck) ASAP. A lay off with a severance package is an great opportunity to redirect your career, if necessary, and I'd hate to waste it- particularly since I was feeling like I needed to make some changes. I don't want to jump into a new job that leaves me feeling the same way. Helping people sort these sorts of issues out is one of the things that outplacement companies do, so I decided to go ahead and start my outplacement services right away. I went to orientation yesterday and met with my career coach today. I'll do my workshop soon, but I couldn't schedule it this week or next, due to conflicts in my schedule. I'm taking Pumpkin to the zoo tomorrow, and next week I am speaking at a conference here in town.

The conference is giving me tasks to take care of, too. I had my slides ready, but I needed to write and practice my talk. I got it written today, but still need some practice. The talk feels a little more important now that the networking opportunity provided by the conference carries more importance- so I figure that I should practice it a bit more than I might have otherwise done.

I also had to fill out the application for unemployment, and I'm working through the a list of other little chores that I should do, like submitting receipts for reimbursement from my health care flex account. All very fun stuff!

So, here I am, with no job but still no time to read all the blogs in my reader. I'm trying to set aside time soon to just relax a bit and recover from the stress of the last month, so I should catch up soon. But if I'm strangely absent from your blog comment section, don't take it personally. Being unemployed is surprisingly hard work!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Lay Offs and the Three Year Old

Last Thursday, I found out via the company rumor mill that I was on the list of people who would be laid off yesterday. I had been 75% sure I was on the list, so the revelation was no great surprise. But I was still angry and upset about how I found out. (And so, for the record, are the people who laid me off. The rumor mill was the result of one guy's big mouth. And he is not a director of the company, so I can disparage him... but I still won't. I think he just didn't think about what he was saying.)

Anyway, I couldn't hide the fact that I was upset from Pumpkin, who wanted to know what was wrong. So I tried to explain to her that I was about to lose my job. At first she didn't get it, but I kept trying, and now she thinks that Mommy needs to find a new classroom. Which you know, is close enough for a 3.5 year old.

Today, I went to the orientation for the outplacement services that I've been given. Since that started at 9 and wasn't far from day care, I dropped the girls off this morning, which is not our usual routine. Pumpkin wanted to know where I was going. I told her I was going to school (again, close enough for a 3.5 year old). Her little face lit up, and she said, "Did you find your new classroom, Mommy?"

No, honey, not yet, I explained. It will take a long time. This is just a class to help me learn how to look.

Pumpkin nodded, but I don't know how much she really understands. I think I would have tried to tell her what is going on even if the events of Thursday hadn't forced my hand. I don't know how much will get through, but I hope it will demonstrate that when things don't work out, you just pick yourself up and try again, and that you move on, even after things that make you really, really sad.  I think this is the way our jobs will be in the future- I think the lack of security and the need to be able to cope with a lay off and a period of unemployment is going to move from just the risky, start up driven type businesses like biotech to the rest of the economy. In fact, I think this is already happening. I want to prepare my kids for this reality, and this lay off is giving me a chance to start doing so.

So I muddle through, trying to explain things to Pumpkin, but also trying not to scare her. One of the good things about the lay off is that I can take some extra time with my kids. I'm keeping Pumpkin out of day care on Friday, and we're going to have a mother-daughter day. She's very excited, and is talking about how we're going to go the zoo, and maybe also to the merry-go-round (which she calls "the secret" because Hubby originally tried to talk about a trip to the merry-go-round by calling it a secret). I'm looking forward to it, too.

Pumpkin has a tendency to repeat everything to everyone, and of course, none of this is really making much sense to her yet. I really wonder what she's saying at day care. I can almost hear her explaining earnestly to her teachers about how her she's going to the zoo because mommy needs to find a new classroom, and how we'll go to the secret, too. She's very verbal, so it will all be crystal clear. But I don't think it will make much sense. Maybe I should send a note....

Tuesday, November 09, 2010


A funny thing happened in the midst of my own personal life reorg- my company decided to do another reorg of its own. This time, I didn't make it through: I was laid off today. I saw this coming almost a month ago (and I signed some papers today saying that I won't disparage my company or its officers, so that is all I'll say about that), and was prepared. Of course, as I have mentioned before, I think anyone working in biotech should always be ready to walk into work and find out you won't be coming back tomorrow, and for the most part, I do have my financial house in order. I am not worried about our ability to make our mortgage payments or keep food on the table, and for that I am grateful. But a lay off also takes an emotional toll, and no matter how much you accept the volatility of your industry and understand the reason for the changes, it is never fun when it is your job that evaporates.

However, since I saw this one coming, I had already made peace with it, and I had started networking and looking for a new job well before the cuts were finally announced. I have a few leads, but nothing definite yet. Interestingly, the most promising lead would be a job that would be more hands on sciencey-techie work than I've done in a while. Honestly, it sounds like a lot of fun. I'm not sure it would be the smartest career move, but since I was in the midst of trying to figure out what my career should really be, maybe just following the work that sounds fun is the way to go.

I have some time to sort all of this out, and some help- my company sprang for outplacement services, so I start what I affectionately call "lay off school" tomorrow. Or at least, I go to orientation tomorrow. After that, I can decide when to start.  I want to take a little time to relax and truly make sure that any hard feelings about how this job ended are behind me- I've interviewed enough people to know that sour grapes don't make a good impression. I also have some non-work things I'd like to do. If you look at my life list, there is a travel website I've been wanting to set up for some time. I've scribbled lots of ideas for that website down in a notebook over the years, but never had the time to invest in the initial set up. Now I do, and I don't want to waste this opportunity! I'll probably make some changes here, too, and try some things out, not so much because I expect this blog to replace my lost income but because there are things I've wanted to try and have never had the time to get set up.  So, stay tuned. It should be an interesting time.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Trip Story: Vegas, Baby (and Preschooler)

Let me just say this upfront, with apologies for anyone I offend: I don't really think Vegas is a family vacation destination. To be more precise, I don't think the Vegas Strip is a family vacation destination. For all I know, there are wonderful family attractions in and around Las Vegas. There are families living in Las Vegas, after all, and I doubt that they all wander the strip with their children on weekends. Still, when I think of Las Vegas as a tourist destination, I think of the strip. And once I got over my "WTF? Are you joking?" reaction to Hubby's suggestion that we spend a night in Vegas on our way back from our visit to Zion National Park, I had to admit that there were some things on the Strip that Pumpkin would probably like.

Our original plan had been to fly in and out of Salt Lake City, and take the opportunity to explore Utah a bit. However, we burned through a lot of paid time off during Petunia's bouts of recurring fevers, and I just couldn't spare the extra days that the drive to and from Salt Lake City would add to the trip. So we decided that we'd fly in and out of Las Vegas.

We had one afternoon and evening in Vegas- and that was just enough. We decided to stay in the Excalibur, because we thought Pumpkin would like staying in a castle. And she did. Unfortunately for us, the hotel is far nicer on the outside than the inside! To be fair, we opted for the base room, not one of the recently remodeled rooms. And we only paid about $40. Of course, the sign on our wall said we should have paid far more:

Which was pretty funny, since the room literally leaked when it started raining that night. Luckily, we had a cheap cooler we'd bought for our trip to Zion:

But you don't go to Vegas to stay in your room, right?

We walked down the strip to the Bellagio to show Pumpkin the fountain show. She liked it, but was a little freaked out by the big whooshes. Petunia was pretty fascinated, too.

Pumpkin also likes trains, so we rode the monorail back from the Bellagio (well, actually from Bally's, across the street) to the MGM Grand, where we had dinner at the Rainforest Cafe. Pumpkin was impressed by the animatronic elephant near our table ("It's a REAL elephant, Mommy!") Hubby and I enjoyed the drinks.

Pumpkin wasn't impressed with hers. Too much banana. She prefers Mommy's smoothies. (Awwwww.) Personally, I think it was Petunia who got the worst deal. Pumpkin also didn't care for the fake thunder and lightening. She declared that that was scary.

After dinner, we went back to our castle....

 ... and Petunia and I went to bed.  Hubby and Pumpkin went out to see some more sights.

She was pretty impressed with the Luxor, too.

Interestingly, she also liked the real thunder and lightening associated with the storm that blew in that night. THAT wasn't scary.

All in all, our brief visit to Las Vegas with kids in tow was a success. I wouldn't go with a child much older than Pumpkin, though (she's 3.5 years old). The sleaze that covers the strip didn't even register with her. She didn't notice the rows of "magazines" at her eye level advertising girls, girls, girls or the big poster in our hotel advertising the Thunder from Down Under. She can't read yet, so she didn't notice the lewd t-shirts for sale in the souvenir shops.  The only thing I had to explain is what all the adults were doing at those machines, and that came up when we deplaned at the airport upon arrival.  Still, I think that for the most part, we'll leave Vegas to the grownups. Next time we visit a castle, it will probably have a big mouse outside.....

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Zenbit: Doggy Potty

This is what you do when your city has no green spaces for dogs to go potty.... you make one!

Location: Macau, China
Date: March 29, 2006

Friday, October 29, 2010

Short Stories

Tonight, I'm so tired that I don't even remember the fourth (and final) song in Pumpkin's bedtime routine. I am very well trained, though, because I woke right up when the fifth song on the CD started, and popped out of Pumpkin's bed to turn the CD off. I should be doing the dishes so that I can go to bed, but Pumpkin whined and didn't want me to leave. She's been doing that a lot lately, and I often indulge her and stay another minute or so. Tonight, I was afraid I'd fall asleep if I did that, and wake up sometime later, with my contacts half-gluing my eyes shut and a horrible crick in my neck.

So I told her I had to go, but promised to go type in the guest room for "a lot of minutes" before I started the dishes.

So here I am.

It is not Petunia's fault that I am tired- she has suddenly switched to a routine where she only wakes up once in the middle of the night to nurse. Occasionally, she wakes up again at about 5, but often she sleeps through until 6:45 or so, which is when she usually wakes up for the day. I don't know if this is due to the end of the 9-12 month separation anxiety period- her day care drop offs have gotten a lot easier, too, and she is a lot less clingy in general, so I think that period is over. Or it could be because she's fighting something of or getting over her 12 month shots- she was running a fever again this week. (It was a weird one- she got sent home from day care on Tuesday, so we flew my Mom over to take care of her. Then Wednesday and Thursday she was fine all day, but spiked a mild fever of about 100 or 101 at bedtime. The fever was gone by morning.  Tonight, there was no fever. I don't know what to think. This all started earlier than the post-shots fevers would normally start. She got both the MMR and the chicken pox shots a week ago today, and either of those could cause a fever starting about 7 days after they are given. It could be she just reacted a little differently than most. Or it could be a virus from day care. Or it could be a relapse of the fevers that I thought had cleared up with the antibiotics. I don't know. I guess it is a good thing I enjoyed my few days of not worrying about Petunia's health!)

Anyway, I can't blame Petunia for how tired I am, since I generally do pretty well if I'm just woken up once in the night. No, this is Hubby's fault. Last night, he would not stop talking when he brought Petunia in to me. I was nursing her, and trying to stay half asleep so that I could go back to sleep quickly, and he kept going on about I can't remember what. Interestingly, he can't remember either, and claims he wasn't fully awake. Well, by the time he was done, I was fairly awake and it took me almost two hours to get back to sleep. Ugh.


My Mom took a video today that perfectly captures the difference in personality between Pumpkin and Petunia. When Pumpkin was learning how to walk and toddling around with her walker she would often run into a wall or door frame. When she did, she would repeatedly bang the walker into the obstacle, as if she were trying to make that inconvenient thing move out of her way. Petunia is now learning how to walk and toddles around with her walker. She ran into a door frame while my Mom was recording her. She just backed her walker up, steered around the obstacle, and continued on her way.

I love this. Both of my girls are a bit obstinate, but they are obstinate in different ways. Pumpkin will plow over any obstacle, full of sound and fury. Petunia will acknowledge the obstacle, and the calmly move around it and keep on her way.

I'm looking forward to seeing how this difference plays out as they get older.


Petunia loves music. She will crawl over to the CD player/clock we have in her room and babble at us meaningfully until we turn some music on her for her. And then she will either sit back on her heels or stand up, leaning on the box that is still passing for a bedside table for her, and sway to the beat. She'll look over her shoulder at us and grin. And then she'll start pushing buttons on the CD player. Occasionally, she'll push a button that makes the music stop. And then the routine starts over: the earnest words that aren't words until we start the music, and then the dance party resumes.

Good times.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Trip Story: Zion National Park

Last week, we took a short vacation to Zion National Park in Utah, for a family reunion. Once again, Pumpkin and Petunia were great little travelers- honestly, Pumpkin handled the annoyances of our day traveling to Zion better than I did. Let's just say that I was not too happy to arrive at the San Diego airport and see gigantic lines inside and out. %$#@! cruise ships, I muttered, over and over.  We're going to Utah!, Pumpkin exclaimed to anyone who came within earshot. I should learn from her.

We flew to Las Vegas. The flight was full of very happy people heading off for a weekend of partying. Petunia actually cried a few times, but no one noticed. We were far from the noisiest group on the plane. For anyone nervous about taking their young child on a flight, I'd recommend a short flight to Vegas as a good practice flight. It works on the same principle as the idea of eating in brewpubs- the adults are all pretty happy and a bit noisy, and tend to be far less judgy about what your kids are doing.

We got our rental car, got the car seats in the rental car (always fun), and headed out. It quickly became apparent that we weren't going to make it to our hotel in Utah for dinner with the rest of the family, so we decided to stop in Mesquite, Nevada. We bought our supplies for the weekend at the local grocery store (we'd been warned that booze might be harder to get and more expensive in Utah, so we stocked up on beer as well as the more prosaic essentials like milk and Pumpkin's favorite breakfast cereal- I have no idea if this was necessary) and asked for a good place to eat dinner with the kids. The helpful clerk directed us to our only option that wasn't fast food: a local diner called The Home Plate. It was pretty good. It was also packed with teenagers having their dinner out before homecoming, which required me to try to explain the concept of homecoming to Hubby. I didn't do a very good job. For my international readers: it is a dance and a football game, and some alumni are around. If you want to know more, ask Google. It will probably tell you more than I could.

By the time we left, it was getting dark, and we didn't see the landscape we were driving through. That is a shame, because when we drove back at the end of the weekend, we realized that it is actually a beautiful drive, particularly the little bit in Arizona:

I have now added "the drive from Vegas to Zion" to my list of things that were surprisingly nice (joining Boise, Idaho and Brisbane, Australia and probably some other things if I stopped to think about it).

Petunia slept most of the drive, and was not at all pleased when we strapped her back into her car seat after dinner. It probably shouldn't have surprised us that she was really, really, happy to be let out when we arrived, but it did. She crawled around and around in our hotel suite- which was really like a one bedroom condo- giggling, and smiling, and just generally having a good time. It was fun to watch. Everyone went to bed a little late.

When we got up the next morning, we weren't disappointed with the location. This was the view that greeted us when we opened our door:

Zion is every bit as beautiful as you've heard. Our hotel, the Cable Mountain Lodge, was literally right outside the park. We crossed a bridge into the park from our parking lot. It was a beautiful spot.

The reunion was great. Pumpkin loved meeting her cousins and aunts and uncles (really my aunts and uncles). We also did a little bit of standard sightseeing. We took the scenic drive out toward the eastern entrance to the park. That was indeed scenic. I took photos from the car as we drove (we didn't stop much because were hoping the drive would make Pumpkin nap- it didn't). Here is one of the many beautiful scenes we drove past:

We also took a short (1.5 mile) hike with the kids. Pumpkin was excited to go on the hike, and did fairly well. But it is a good thing my Mom had brought an umbrella stroller for her, because she definitely used it. The hike was to a pool that was supposed to be emerald, but was a little cloudy from the rain we'd gotten the night before. It was still very nice, and there was a waterfall you could walk behind:

After our hike, my Mom volunteered to watch the kids while Hubby and I went into town to get lunch. Springdale is a nice town, with the shops and restaurants basically spread out along one road. We ate a good lunch at a place called Oscar's. Hubby got to try the Polygamy Porter (from Wasatch Brewing Company), which was something he'd wanted to do. I had the pale ale. Neither were really memorable, but they weren't bad, either. And it is always nice to get to have a meal and a drink without anyone whining at me.

We drove back to Vegas the next day. We arrived early in the afternoon and spent the night... I'll write that up separately, I think.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Zenbit: Moon over Mountains

This photo was taken from our hotel. Really. Yeah, it was a nice place to stay! (We stayed at the Cable Mountain Lodge, but I think a lot of the places in Springdale have equally excellent views.)

Location: Springdale, Utah, USA
Date: October 18, 2010