Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Snow Kidding!

I don't know why we thought winter was on its way out. How silly of us optimistic Seattle-ites!

When I woke up at 5:15 this morning, it was COLD. I turned on the news and was greeted by that now-familiar Seattle "IT'S SNOWING!" panic. I swear, when there's any snow at all and not much news, the result is what can only be perceived as sheer panic. The skeptic in me figured I could ignore all the hype and head to work -- which I did. And it was good. I got to work in driving rain, but encountered no snow or ice -- and no reason to panic.

Until Kat texted me: "2 inches of snow! I came home." HUH? Looking out my office window, I saw typical gray Seattle skies and rain, but nothing unusual. Still, I know what the Seattle freeways look like at rush hour when we all have to deal with ice or snow, so I packed up and headed home. (Fortunately, all my work can be done from anywhere since all our applications are web-based.) I'm the only one on staff who lives "out in the boonies," so I was shooed home by my co-workers. Sure enough, as I got closer to home, the roads got slicker and whiter, and by the time I drove into the driveway I was grateful for Kat's text message!

And I got at least as much work done at home as I would have in the office -- where I tend to spend my day "extinguishing fires" anyway.

Now can we PLEASE be finished with winter already and have ourselves a little springtime?!

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

He's Already 20!

Happy 20th birthday, Peter!

I can't believe that 20 years ago today I birthed this guy. I swear, he was born with a fabulous sense of humor, with gobs of campassion, and with a true magnetic personality. And I remember thinking, when he was about three years old, that some woman would someday be incredibly lucky to be loved by the kind and generous man who this sweet, adorable boy would undoubtedly grow up to be.

Danelle and Peter have been together for almost three years now -- and she fully appreciates his homor and his goodness.

And I fully appreciate her.
And him.
And them.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Phenomenal Achievement

Well, Okay... It's not all that phenomenal. In fact, it's downright rinky-dink by most people's standards. But to me, it's a major accomplishment.

I ate a full Vietnamese meal with chopsticks! This is a feat never before accomplished by l'il ol' me! Usually I make a concerted effort, but then give up about half-way and get myself a fork. But today I used chopsticks all the way down to the last morsel!

It was such a monumentous occasion that it even warranted snapping a picture! (Photo courtesy of my boss...)

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

You Know You're from Seattle When...

  • The only honking you ever hear is from geese.
  • You obey all traffic laws except "keep right except to pass."
  • You stand on a deserted corner in the rain waiting for the "walk" signal.
  • You recycle absolutely everything.
  • You use the words "sun break" and know what it means.
  • You consider it a sunny day if the sun is visible at some point during the day.
  • You're not fazed by "Today's forecast: showers followed by rain" and "Tomorrow's forecast: rain followed by showers." You can't wait for a day with "Showers and sun breaks."
  • In the winter you go to work in the dark and come home in the dark--while only working eight-hour days. And in the summer you bring your dog to the dog park for a few hours before work and go kayaking for a few hours after work -- all in daylight.
  • You never go camping without waterproof matches and a poncho.
  • You have no concept of humidity without precipitation.
  • You put on your shorts when the temperature gets above 50 degrees, but you still wear your hiking boots and parka.
  • You switch to your sandals when it gets above 60.
  • You think people who use umbrellas are either wimps or tourists.
  • You know one conservative – a friend of a friend who lives in Idaho.
  • You own 17 pairs of sunglasses – 16 of which were purchased when you couldn’t remember where you put the last pair… last year.
  • Your fanciest outfit consists of an Eddie Bauer button-down, an REI fleece, and Northface zip-off shorts.
  • You can stand on any corner and see at least six Starbuck’s.
  • You know the baristas at all six by name.
  • You can’t order coffee using less than 42 words.
  • You can taste the difference between Starbucks, Seattle's Best Coffee, and Tully's. You think “Peet’s” refers to ground cover.
  • You know at least eight people who work for either Microsoft or Boeing.
  • Of the Microsoft employees, three are burnouts, two of whom two are millionaires.
  • You and your friends share “start-up” stories.
  • You know how to pronounce "Sequim", "Puyallup" and "Issaquah."
  • You know where the Troll lives – and have sat on his lap.
  • “EMP looks like a burnt marshmallow on a smashed guitar” makes perfect sense to you.
  • You remember the Kingdome.
  • You know more people who own boats than air conditioners.
  • You consider that if it has no snow or has not recently erupted, it's not a real mountain.
  • You know the difference between Chinook, Coho and Sockeye.
  • You consider swimming an indoor sport.
  • You know that your soccer game will be played, no matter how torrential the downpour.
  • You can tell the difference between Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese food.
  • You can point to at least two volcanoes, even if you can't see through the cloud cover.
  • You know what "the mountain is out" means.
  • You've actually used your mountain bike on a mountain.
  • You knew immediately that the view out Frasier's window was fake... and that there's no hospital that close to the Space Needle.

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

This Ol' Dump?!

There's nothing to make you hate your house more than going to The (Seattle) Home Show! Why do we do this to ourselves every year?! Our deck? Old, a bit slimey, and in need of repair. The Home Show decks? Astro-material, lasts forever, rock-sold and wood-pretty. Our roof(which we'll soon need to replace)? Cracked, filthy, sprouting a forest. The Home Show roofs? Indestructible. Fully fireproof. Even green (as in enviro-friendly)!

And the Home Show kitchens? Oh my goodness. Just tease me...

We did buy a hot tub to replace the one we lost in the windstorm in December. It's a bit smaller and not quite as fancy, but perfectly sufficient for our needs. Because we were happy with Clearwater Spas, from whom we bought our previous hot tub, we paid them a visit at the Home Show and they showed us this tub. Looked fine to us, but being wise consumers, we wanted to shop around a bit. Vultures! They're all vultures at these exhibitions! Geeeeeeze! The second we showed any interest in a hot tub at all, salespeople would swoop down and attempt to rip into us! They'd ask us one question, barely wait for an answer, and then start into their speil, blabbing away, telling us why they're better than any other dealer at the show. In fact, more than once they'd insist that "no other hot tub can offer ________" Bull! We know for a fact that we were lied to, and in one case I even called the guy's bluff, mostly because I just happened to have a coupon from Costco that basically called him on a bunch of BS he'd just spent 10 minutes on! Long story short, we went back to Clearwater and bought the first spa we looked at.

Every year we go to the Home Show we come back wanting not only a new fancy house, but a beautiful mountain cabin, new landscaping, new furniture, and a new truck. Hell, right now I'd settle for a finished master bathroom and clean master bedroom... which should hopefully happen soon! Here's the current status:

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Jesus Camp, the Movie

I just watched the scariest movie I've seen in my life. There were no monsters or blood & guts. There were no huge explosions or Freddy Kruegers. But there was definitely evil. Jesus Camp is about the effort of Evangelical Christians to use their children to proselytize Christianity and God to America. In doing so, they not only brainwash their poor kids, they turn kids against themselves by stressing "the devil's constant and disguised intrusion into their lives. All their innate optimism and innocence, and any tolerance they might have had (most parents of these kids stole that from the very beginning) is brainwashed straight out of these kids and they are taught to hate, to discriminate and to adopt a holier-than-thou attitude.

And to make it all worse, these kids are taught that they must change the political system to be real Christians -- that Bush is to be adored and revered (there's a scene with kids literally kneeling and crying at the "feet" of a cardboard Bush!), that Harry Potter is a warlock and are fakes (not to even mention any other religion or -- god forbid -- agnostics or atheists!). Adult leaders pass out plastic models of embryos and go off about "killing babies," at which point these kids are literally sobbing almost as hard as they were earlier in the movie when they were told what sinning retches they are and how they must repent for a lifetime of sins -- at the age of frikkin' six or seven!

My heart broke for these poor kids! To me, this is child abuse. To belittle and demean a child until they are sobbing and hateful of themselves is just wrong. Instead, these kids need acceptance, love, and EDUCATION -- about a variety of different belief systems.

What really gets me is that the behavior I witnessed in Jesus Camp, especially from adults, is the antithesis of Christianity! It's hateful bigotry and brainwashing!

Tomorrow we'll watch An Inconvenient Truth...

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Pretty, yes?

I know, I know. I told you I'd stop posting these... but this morning's sunrise was just tooooo pretty to ignore!

As you were...!

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Inspiring Day!

I left for work at 6:30 this morning, as usual. It's almost 11 PM and I just got home -- and I'm so energized and inspired, I'm SURE I won't be able to sleep for a while yet!

As you all know, I can no longer discuss details of my job on my blog (sigh), but I'm pretty sure I can still speak in generalities. So... generally, I'm so inspired about what we're doing, why we're doing it, and the impact it will have on high school education reform in America! I think I can still mention that the organization I work for is partnering with the Gates Foundation to reverse the dismal 50% high school drop-out rate in inner cities and at-risk populations, and that I'm the Senior Program Manager in charge of that effort.

Thing is, as we've been starting up the Seattle office, we've been so mired in procedure and hiring that I think we've run the risk of losing sight of the very important work that we're doing. I've had to concentrate so much on things like invoices and interviews and inception that the inspiration of what we're doing and why has sometimes been lost. But today I found it again!

Today was the first day of a two-day training to really get into the nitty-gritty of what we'll be doing for this initiative, and I realized as we delved into it all that we really are going to have a profound impact on education and educator in America -- that it's NOT all procedure and policy after all! As an educator, I was completely inspired to have made that (rather obvious) realization. THEN someone from the Gates Foundation whom I admire greatly (brilliant,articulate and passionate) spoke to us about the Foundation, its core values, its mission and its philosophy.

By that time, I felt almost giddy with purpose and resolve!

The Director and I then took our guests to dinner at a restaurant in Seattle's International District. What fun! Us mommies talked mommy talk (toddler and teens!), we all talked biz... but we also just really enjoyed each others' company and hearing about each others' interests outside work.

Pictures? No way! This post is already probably pushing it! (C'mon, boss... how can I NOT write about work?!)

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Long Ago...

...we were two little kids, living far apart, unaware of each others' existence. (Isn't he adorable?!)

And now we've known each other longer than we haven't known each other...

...and there are four little (OK, not so little) "us-lets" running around, alive and almost ready to spring little kidlets of their own...

...all because these two little kids grew up and met one day.

Do you ever ponder stuff like this?

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Just a Darn Good Day

Some days just feel good when they're over. Today was one of them.

After touch-base meetings at work, one of my co-workers and I took a trip to Ikea to get furnishings for the (to-date) dismal and drab entry way to our office. The colors we had to work with didn't exactly inspire creativity -- dark taupe walls (with one burgundy wall) and blue-ish carpet and "accents" (read: cubicles). But I think we did pretty well! I wish I could post the photos of the entire staff in the "I-hate-Ikea!" furniture-assembling pose, but I'm gun-shy about posting about work these days. But I can post a photo of our little reception area, can't I?

The other good news about work is that after hundreds of resumes, 30 or so interviews and as many phone calls with references, we have our core staff. And what a staff it is! I am thrilled with every member of our team! They're absolutely phenomenal people... every one of them is bright, passionate, and committed.

When we returned from IKEA and the furniture was assembled, I got to work, catching up on the tasks and issues that had accumulated while I was gone. Shortly after I settled in to work, I hear the office door open and VERY familiar voices. I turned around and there were Elisabeth and Kat! Turns out they'd come downtown for a free Shins concert (which they missed; turns out it was at noon, not at 3:00...) and decided to pay me a visit! I showed them off to my co-workers and then shooed them off to the shopping mall, asking them to come back at 5:30, when we could walk the one block to Buca di Beppos for dinner.

If you've been to Buca di Beppos before, you know about the "kitchen table." In my childhood, the kitchen table was where you ate when you were naughty... but at Buca di Beppos, the kitchen table is where you get to eat if you're very lucky! And tonight we were lucky! The kitchen table is literally in the restaurant kitchen, and every time an entree is assembled it is shown off to the occupants of the kitchen table before it's brought into the dining room. Not only that, the cooks and waiters are very friendly with the kitchen table folk -- which is great fun!

The head chef, "Chef Dick" was a hoot! As he was visiting with us before our food arrived, he challenged us: "If you can tell me what the words on the wall mean, dessert is on me!" So Kat, Elisabeth and I pondered the words, employing all we could remember from our previous Latin, German, Spanish and French (pffffft!) classes, but to no avail. At which point, Chef Dick gave us a hint: "'calore' sounds like 'calorie' which means...?" "Heat!" we all exclaimed... at which point it came to me: "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!"

And we were proud owners of a BIG piece of chocolaty-chocolate cake with caramel, chocolate and raspberry sauce!

Now THAT'S a darn good day!

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Instant Tears

I was innocently relaxing on the couch, immersed in some catch-up work and absent-mindedly listening to shuffle mode on my iPOD, when Mozart's Serenade for Winds started playing. Within a nano-second, completely out of the blue, I was sobbing. No doubt, my sudden emotions came this memory from Mom's memorial:

Interesting, isn't it, that I didn't cry when this played at the memorial, but every single time I've heard it since them, I instantly become a blubbering idiot.

Sometimes I just really miss Mom and I love this tribute that my brothers made for her. I think it honors her beautifully. What a spirit she had!

Let's hope this beautiful music doesn't start playing in some strange elevator somewhere or on the Safeway piped-in music station...

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Sibling Bonding in Altered States

One day -- and it felt that sudden -- our children, who we raised so deliberately and conscientiously, grew up. When they were very young, their friends were the children of my friends and their play dates were happy by-products of my own social "play dates." As they got older, my involvement with their play dates (called "hanging out" at that point, of course) consisted of dropping off and picking up -- sometimes a block or two away from the actual event so as to alleviate any embarrassment caused said parental unit.

Then they got their drivers' licenses and off they went.

In the past few years we've done a lot of finger crossing and gut-trusting as we've watched our kids' budding independence flourish. During that time we've come to realize how absolutely critical all those little lessons were way back when they were three and eight and eleven. Because NOW, when we sit at home and wonder if our kids are safe and using good judgement, we have no choice but to have complete faith that those little lessons about trust and truth-telling and responsibility from so many years ago -- the ones that might have been accompanied by eye-rolling and shoulder shrugging (which were, back then, reprimanded for lack of respect) actually took, and that they did actually listen.

Parents of young children, take note: what you're doing now IS important. Telling them that you trust them with the little things when they're six plays a role in telling them that you trust them with the big things when they're 16. Keeping lines of communication open about what makes a true friend when they're seven plays an important role in keeping lines of communication open about what makes a true boyfriend or girlfriend at 17. Allowing them a sip of wine at the dinner table at eight, and talking openly about drugs and alcohol then, hopefully (hopefully) keeps them talking to you about those issues when they're much more personal and much more pressing, at 18 (or 15... or -- shudder -- 13).

Last night Elisabeth and her housemates had a cocktail party. She called one sibling's cell phone after another, inviting all of them to come join her party. She told her siblings that this would be a classy party, as "cocktail parties" should be, and that they should dress up. She told us that yes, there would be drinking, but that she'd keep an eye on her siblings and that they should, of course, spend the night. For the next hour our house was a'buzz with party preparation: ironing button-down shirts, trying on this dress and that dress, curling hair, applying make-up... and yes, talking about "Jagermeister" and shots -- which gave Tom and I the opportunity to offer them some experience-based wisdom... as well as a few hard-and-fast rules:"Park the car and don't touch it again till morning." "Be prepared to clean the house tomorrow as you promised; a hang-over is no excuse." "If you're scheduled to work at 10:30 (as Aleks was), keep that in mind at midnight."

Aleks called us at midnight, actually, professing his love for us (which he generally only does when he's drunk!) and assuring us that he was "safe and responsible" (in his sarcastic "yes-mommy" voice). And this morning, he arrived home at 9:30, tired but not hung-over, took a shower and headed to work. Elisabeth and Kat arrived home an hour later and the three of us went to see our weekly chick-flick which was Music and Lyrics. (A wonderfully delightful movie with an incredibly good script and marvelous acting. Drew Barrymore and Hugh grant have fabulous chemistry... which of course made me very jealous, as I will always have a huge crush on Hugh Grant. I absolutely adore his self-depreciating, flawed, bumbling, yet adorably sexy and charming manor! SWOOOOOOON!)

And now, as I write this, Kat is cleaning the house top to bottom (yes, I pay her... I figure it's her or a cleaning service, and I'd rather she get the money!). I have a feeling she'll take a nap when she's done -- like Elisabeth is now. (I wanted Elisabeth to send me photos from last night so I could post them here, but I woke her up when I called, so I posted one above of the four kids in a festive mood at Peter's graduation two years ago... and this one of Kat and Elisabeth, taken last night.)

It's a bit odd parenting almost-adult (and adult) kids. Knowing that we can really no longer "raise" them, we've settled into simply enjoying who they've become. I think this is one of the most enjoyable stages of parenthood, and well worth waiting for!

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

A Peek Inside my Purse

I'd never ask anyone to show me the contents of their purse, but my guess is that you could learn quite a bit about someone that way. So I've decided to dive into Dixie Peach's assignment (challenge?) and post the uncensored contents of my purse for those who are as unabashedly voyeuristic as I am. And while we're at it, I'm passing on the assignment! Here are the rules:

~ Take a photo of the handbag/purse that you are using today.
~ Dump it out and take another photo.
~ Make a list of everything in your bag.
~ Post it on your blog (and let me know!)

OK, here goes:

Yeah, I like big purses. I have a really hard time finding purses because I have REQUIREMENTS! (Don't we all?) First of all, I need a separate compartment for my cell phone, something easily reachable without looking, so I can get it while driving. (I know, I'm bad.) I also prefer a separate place for my iPAQ, but this purse doesn't have that so I do a lot of fumbling.

I am decidely NOT one of those women who uses multiple purses. I'll use this one daily until I don't -- and that will be because I was enticed by another, which I'll use until... well, yeah.

When it comes to purses, I'm very faithful until I'm fickle!

The contents are (roughly clockwise -- with a zig and a zag -- from top right):

My camera (blue case), which is always with me. Always, always, always.

My big ol' honkin' wallet, which is filled WAY too full with receipts, photos, and waaaaay too many pennies!

My keys, which I've learned to put on something really easy to find when I'm blindly reaching into my purse.

My cell, which turns off without warning a few times a day. I can't wait till April 11th, when I can get a new one (with two-year agreement).

My 8 GIG flash drive. Yup, EIGHT! Hardly "flash," huh?!

My iPOD. OK, it's really a Sansa. Contains about 560 songs.

My iPAQ, my life.

My glasses case, containing the pair of glasses I'm not currently wearing. I constantly switch back and forth from reading to distance glasses. Unfortunately, because I have a prism in my glasses, neither contacts nor bifocals work for me, so I have to put up with the constant switch-o change-o. (Interesting tidbit: The prism is because of a vertical imbalance caused by a stroke that I apparently had when birthing the twins. According to an opthamologist I saw years later, it caused fourth cranial nerve damage. Fortunately I have no odd twitches or speech impediments -- so far.)

Extra-strength Tylenol, purchased in Las Vegas.

Lickstick (Reminder to self: almost out; buy more.)

Dental floss and dental floss picks

Sinus headache capsules. I need them desperately lately, when the mystery affliction hits.


Tanning goggles. Used three times, twice when I went tanning before Hawaii and once on the beach in Maui.

Hair paraphernalia

Credit card pouch. Also contains stuff like CPR card (expired), social security card, voter registration card, various restaurant punch cards (Taco del Mar, Subway, Qdoba, etc.), stamps, a few biz cards (mine and others'), etc.

A notebook for random thoughts. Empty.

Lotions and lip balm. The citrus lotion smells fabulous!!

Checkbook. Rarely used. (Why do I still carry this thing around?!)


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Proud Member of the Costco Generation

I've made regular trips to Costco for over 20 years now. When the kids were little, I bought gallon drums of applesauce, gazillion-packs of fruit snacks, and mega-packs of mac and cheese. A trip to Costco in those days was an all-day event consisting of two infant seats, a stroller and a hand-holding (ha!) toddler, lunch for five at the Costco food court (total bill: $4.97!), two hours in the store (including tantrums, samples galore and a few trips to the bathroom), and then at least a few hours -- including interruptions -- to put everything away. In those days, most of the food I bought at Costco would be considered "ingredients" because almost all our meals were made "from scratch."

Fast-forward to these days. I still go to Costco almost weekly, but the trips are very different. I'm almost always alone and I have the choice of a quick, purposeful grocery shopping trip or a leisurely, "ohhh-look-at-this!" excursion. (The latter are, of course, more dangerous and usually far more expensive.) Instead of "ingredients," my purchases these days are more along the lines of quick, flexible -- yet non-fast-food -- meal options. Whereas I always knew for certain back then how many people I'd be feeding for dinner, these days I have no idea who will be home for dinner on any given night. Between kids' jobs and their active social lives, we could have as many as seven and as few as two for dinner. And until the moment comes to sit down, I usually have no idea which way our evening meal will go! In fact, it's not even entirely unheard of for Tom and I sit down to eat, and before we're done we've set three or four more plates at the table!

So when I shop for food these days I need to look for stuff I can make quickly (because I don't get home till 7-ish) and stuff that can be eaten in one sitting or over the span of a few days, as leftovers. So every weekend I pick up a few things at Costco that fit the current "dinner requirements." Then I fill up the tank so I don't have to worry about getting gas at 6 AM near home or at 6 PM in downtown Seattle.

Speaking of downtown Seattle (and my job), I was treated to a little "talking-to" by my boss the other day. After a bit of a discussion about things I have yet to learn ("come to Jesus" comes to mind!), he asked me not to post personnel issues on my blog. (He knew I have one, which I'm fine with; I had shown him the photo of the leaf). Of course I feel badly -- even though neither my name nor our company's name is anywhere on my blog, so I don't think anyone easily could find my blog via an informed search. But still. My bad. So while I will still likely post stuff about my life as a career woman (I can't not!) , I won't be posting anything more personal than peripheral stuff -- like a gazillion pictures of the view from my office! You'll get sick of it: the Space Needle in the rain, sun, snow... at night, in the early morning... winter, spring, summer, fall... with bird poop on the window (see picture!)... (Hey, don't laugh -- I know of blogs that consist entirely of that sort of thing!) But I will say -- and I hope this is OK -- that we're done with interviews and are well on our way to a complete staff! Where it was just three of us a month ago, our office will reach a population of nine within the next two weeks. Hiring a smart, cohesive team of people who support each other, learn from each other and teach each other -- and people who are a fit with the office culture we hope to establish -- has been really important to me and I think we've done that. Interviewing and hiring are exhausting and very time-consuming, but I can't think of anything more important to the success of a business than establishing a fabulous team. I'd love to take a picture of our final team. Can I, boss? Huh? Pretty please? :-)

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Looking for a Reason to have Kids?

OK, it's more of a fringe benefit. But pretty cool, nonetheless!

The first kid-made gift I ever got was the macaroni pencil holder that Elisabeth made for me in preschool. About 18 years later she made me the most amazing hat box (not that I ever wear hats, but that's not the point) with my life collaged all over it. That one made me weep with joy!

(I got her back with the scrapbook I made her when she graduated from Cal last May.)

The big dark blue pitcher is from Peter's year in high school ceramics, a class that I also benefited from when Laura, our German exchange student (whom we all miss hugely!) made me the beautiful aqua pitcher and the teapot. And rumor has it that I'll also benefit from Kat's current enrollment in that class... :-)

Kat made shot glasses for everyone in the family (including the German exchange student, Eva, for whom I'm a liaison) for Christmas with sand "borrowed" from various Hawaiian beaches during our vacation there last December.

It might be a close comparison, but I'd venture to say that these handmade gifts even make up for the multitude of broken glasses and china caused by same said kids!

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Friday, February 16, 2007

String Theory, the Penrose Triangle, and Existentialism

So Tom and I walk into the house this evening and we're greeted by this trade from Aleks:

"OK, so you know string theory (um, no...)? This is freaking me out! (Blank stare from me.) See, string theory combines the theory of relativity with the theory of quantum mechanics to combine into a world with finite laws that can be broken. (Makes sense; I'm fine with that...) He goes on to rant about the possibility of there being eleven dimensions (entirely possible, says I...), or possibly even 26 dimensions (gasp!). That possibility, combined with the tenets of existentialism means, it seems, that our lives are meaningless. "Valuable, but meaningless," he says.


And the Penrose Triangle... there's no way it can exist in reality. (OK, I'm fine with that... so let's just draw it.)

Then his cell phone rings. It's Dani! His expression suddenly changes from an angry existentialist philosopher bearing the weight of the world to a joyful 17-year-old in love.


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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Kat's Guide to Romance

It's just too good not to post in its original format!! (Notice the food stains...)

I think this falls under "the benefits of being 17 and having a twin sister/brother"!

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

My Son the Romantic?!

Aleks is definitely passionate -- about politics and world governments, about languages and cultures, about academics and social commentary. But about love?! This is new!

Aleks and Dani have been going out for a few months now. Dani's adorable and we love having her around. Like Danelle (Peter's girlfriend), she lights up any room and has a sweet, joyful spirit. When Aleks told us last week that he was planning to make a romantic Valentines Dinner for Dani, we were thrilled... but also a bit dubious. Aleks has never cooked more than Mac and Cheese in his life -- and now he's gonna attempt Pad Thai?! This MUST be love!

This afternoon, as I was deep into some new frustrations at work (the honeymoon's over?!), my office phone rang numerous times. "Mom, how do I cook the chicken?" Five minutes later: "Mom, how can I tell when it's done?" Ten minutes later: "Mom, where's the wok?" Shortly thereafter: "Mom, do we have a white tablecloth?" And ten minutes after that: "You and Dad should go out for dinner and not get home till about 9:00."

Hmmmm... alrighty then!

When Tom and I got home from said romantic dinner, we found rose pedals and candles strewn about the dining room table (along with two long-stemmed roses and a box of chocolates), the lights dimmed, and our best china stacked neatly on the kitchen counter.

My son the romantic, INDEED!

Apparently dinner was a huge hit and Aleks is quite the cook. Either that, or love has overtaken Dani's tastebuds. But with a father and brother who are quite excellent cooks, it seems that Aleks has his own natural-born culinary talent!

I think I'll ask him to cook dinner for us on Friday.

Note found in kitchen, written in Kat's (Aleks' twin sister) handwriting:

"Aleks: To Do
In dining room:
-Clear table. Ask Mom where we have a white tablecloth and good dishes.
-Sprinkle rose pedals on table (mostly in middle), to surround tea lights (in secretary as last resort... there are some on my bookshelf that you may borrow) and red candles from World Market. (Note: Kat helped Aleks shop yesterday afternoon -- apparently for groceries and romantic accessories!)
-Tie the balloon so that it is hanging (floating?) from her chair.
-Light candles.
-Dim lights

-Either set the other rose on her plate or give it to her when you greet her at the door.

-It might be fun to make dinner together. (?!)

-Dessert. Ice cream. Don't forget it.

-If dinner is a disaster, order Chinese or pizza. This can be cute, too.

(At this point there's a drawing of the proposed table, labeled "bird's eyes view." "You" and "Dani" are labeled close together on one far side of the table. On the other far side are the words "Don't sit here!")

Some things to keep in mind:
-Barry White may be a good idea.

And below that, another drawing of a place-setting, with the following labels, appropriately placed:
"A note from you. Write her something!

Wine glass (water is fine)

OK, so this DEFINITELY goes in that bin that's filled with kids' artwork from kindergarten, book reports from 5th grade, and cute things kids said throughout the years!

My kids just never cease to crack me UP!

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

I'm All A'Twitter!

I'm in awe of MetroDad. He is truly one of the greatest, funniest, most perceptive and talented bloggers in cyberspace -- not to mention hilariously funny and a fabulous writer -- and I am an avid reader of his blog about his life as a Korean American in New York City with Peanut, his adorable 2-year-old daughter and BossLady, his obviously loving, smart and extremely patient and tolerant wife. (I mentioned patient, right?)

A cyber-crush? Nah... but definitely cyber-admiration! And guess what? (:::Insert giggly scream and flailing armlet motions here:::::) MetroDad commented on my blog!! He oh-my-god kinda sorta TALKED to me! I'm not kidding! His font touched my (oooooh!) comment square!

I'll just revel in this for a bit, okay?

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Raising Older Teens: Our "Only" Two Rules

Like most decent parents, we raised our four kids with a healthy dose of rules and structure combined with increasing freedom over time. Trust has always been the "default setting" in our family and the kids have known from the start that our trust is theirs to lose, that we trust them until and unless their behavior demands otherwise. And other than a few small hiccups, they have never betrayed that trust and, even when we'd rather not really and truly know all the details what they've been up to, they choose to tell us anyway. Raising kids with truly open trust and communication isn't always the easiest way to go because you have to be ready to know things you might not be ready for, but it feels to us like the most real way -- and really the only right way for us.

Which brings me to the only REAL rules we have around here anymore, now that the kids are older teens and young adults:

1.) Do not combine a motor vehicle and alcohol in ANY way -- as a driver OR as a passenger. If you drink (and of course we'd rather they didn't, but honestly, what 17 or 20-year-old doesn't?!), do NOT get near a car. Spend the night, call us, walk, do whatever... but do NOT get near a car. Defiance of this rule has no warning and no chances -- your drivers license (car, insurance, etc.) WILL be taken away indefinitely. The kids know this and although we'd of course prefer they don't drink, we'd rather they LIVE.

2.) Do not have unprotected sex until you want to become a parent. Fortunately, our kids are mature and responsible about relationships, so this one isn't that hard. But it's amazing how difficult this one is for some parents. Preventing their kids from having sex becomes some sort of obsessive mission and in the quest to discover/prevent sexual activity, a whole lot of lies are told and a whole lot of trust is betrayed -for everyone involved. Heck, I'd much rather appeal to my teens to be mature and responsible (and preferably committed) than to insist that they share every facet of their increasingly independent lives with us (or to motivate them to hide them from us). Again, the default setting is trusting that they're making wise, intelligent, SAFE decisions. And coincidentally (or not), they pretty much do.

Potentially life-altering decisions -- like driving drunk or having unprotected sex -- somehow become the focus of parenting (or at least of of ours) when kids become teens. Where it used to be "no TV till home work is finished" and "load your dish," it's now concentrated on behavior that can basically alter a life, like driving drunk or getting pregnant or contracting an STD.

I can handle a hung-over teen WAY better than a paralyzed one... and I can handle the knowledge that my teen is having sex WAY better than I can handle being an early grandparent. (See... it's ultimately all selfishly motivated!)

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Just Teasing, M'Dear! ;-)

The up-side to this..., I mean THIS... THIS!

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Mold Mystery

Remember this? And this? Well, take a look at this.

For months on and off but especially lately, I have been debilitated with sneezing, congestion, watery eyes (and a puffed-up face), coughing and fatigue... but only while at home. Last night it was so bad that I couldn't continue with my normal activities and had to go to bed, laying completely still, eyes closed (and watering... some of it being from frustration and confusion!), my breathing very labored and my chest hurting.

My on-and-off "allergies" have been a mystery for months around here and, although we noticed that they're worse when Tom's demo-ing a room like the bathroom, we hadn't made the connection to mold allergies until late last night when I could hardly move -- or breathe -- without total exhaustion and pain. Coincidentally (or not), yesterday was when Tom removed all the wallboard from the bathroom and carried it through the house to the garbage bins outside.

So now what? Should I just go to work even more, staying away from the home that is likely making me sick? That's hardly possible and certainly not an option. Will this get better, now that the old wallboard is gone and new, fresh wallboard is being installed? Or is the problem actually throughout the house?

I'm gonna spend the day at Costco and other stores, looking for new bathroom accessories, while I ponder the question...

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Good Lunch, Bad Movie (and Taxes)

I'm not working this weekend! Like, at ALL!

Instead, Kat, Elisabeth and I had a girls' day out. First we had lunch at the local Mongolian Grill. We love this place because you create your own meal from scratch -- from noodles to veggies to sauces to meat (or fish or tofu) -- and then hand your bowl of fresh ingredients to the chefs, who cook it on a very large, very hot grill. Once it's cooked, the very personalized concoction is placed over rice, another sauce of your choice is added, and voila! Delicious!

We then went to see Because I Said So, with Diane Keaton and Mandy Moore. I love Diane Keaton, so I had high hopes -- but I must say that it was the worst movie I've seen in a long time. The story and script were just downright BAD, the acting was mediocre at best (Mandy Moore was better than Keaton!), and the wardrobe director must have been on drugs. Bad, bad, bad!

It was nice to finally spend some time with my grrrrls!

Tomorrow I'll conduct "Mama's Tax Clinic." I've invited the four kids, all of whom have jobs and go to school (or did in '06), to sit around the kitchen table and fill out 1040's together. Their returns should be relatively easy; my taxes (er, our taxes... I do the finances; Tom rebuilds the house) have been pissing me off all day... and shenanigans like THIS don't help!!

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Code Blue -- She's Fading!

Instead of blogging tonight, I've decided to go to bed and watch Gray's Anatomy and ER. Till tomorrow!

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Monday, February 05, 2007

This is the "Before" Picture

Tom is rebuilding our master bathroom literally from the ground up. (Sorry -- you'll have to turn your monitor; this picture looks just fine till I upload it to my blog! Grrrr!) He's basically re-built our entire house and this is just the latest project. He's slow, but he's GOOD and I'm usually willing to wait for the beautiful results of his work (see below). But this project has been hard because it's right in the middle of our refuge and our home-universe, our bedroom.

This bathroom's just one of many projects Tom's done in the house. He also re-built the other bathrooms, tiling floors and walls, as well as the showers. And he built these beautiful fireplaces and also re-floored the entire house with hardwood and tile (carpet: never again!).

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Sunday Dinner

I get up at 5:30 and leave the house at 6:45 to go to work these days. And there's no point in leaving work before 6:30 because the traffic sucks until at least then, so I don't normally get home until 7:30 or so in the evening. So during the week I have about two hours to do the things that need to be done around the house -- laundry, tidying, etc. Needless to say, those home-cooked casseroles I used to make at least a few times a week have pretty much bitten the dust.

So today, after Kat and I cleaned the house top to bottom, I decided to make a home cooked meal, just like old times. Kat's a vegetarian, Elisabeth cycles through being a vegetarian, a vegan and a carnivore (and I'm not sure what she is this week), and the guys love meat, so I decided to make both a vegetarian and a meat lasagna from scratch.

Tomorrow we'll go back to the Costco purchases -- Chinese chicken salad, pizza and pre-made casseroles -- but for tonight at least, we all sat down together and enjoyed Sunday dinner together.

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Geeze, you two -- get a ROOM!

My guess is that they like the new bed I bought at Costco yesterday.

Just a hunch...

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To My Very Faithful Indianapolis Reader

I am rooting for the Colts today for one reason and one reason only: YOU. The least you could do to return the favor is to introduce yourself!

Go Colts! :-)

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

A Boy and His Toy

Can someone please explain to me why a man whose utmost exclamation of excitement is along the lines of "Oh, very nice," and who has never whooped and hollered or jumped for joy in his entire life can find a thrill to warrant this kind of excitement in, of all things, a MARSHMALLOW BLASTER?!

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