Thursday, December 29, 2011

What not to edition

After a week off, I wish a "work appropriate hoodie" existed and wasn't an oxymoron.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Movie beverages: a real Mission Impossible

Liked Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol but when did a large drink become 54 oz. & a small 32 oz.?! They should sell them w/a catheter.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Taking 4 y.o. Ava ice skating w/a friend. Not too old to do it, but almost too old to get hurt doing it.

Friday, December 23, 2011

After a busy day of shopping, kid wrangling & catching up on domestic pursuits, just installed a new shower head. I like to stay versatile.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Paging Dr. Jones

4 y.o. Ava to me as I sprinkled a little salt on my dinner: "Not too much: you don't want to get diabetes."

Monday, December 12, 2011

Man of few words

Dylan's two year doctor appointment went well: he's above average for size (88th percentile) but being referred for some speech help to get his word count up.

He's good with "B" and "S" words (Ha!) but isn't stringing enough of them together. Luckily, he's good at pointing and showing what he wants and all his caregivers are good at reading him.

Plus, I'm great at reading people's non-verbal cues, so I can infer more from an eyebrow slant than some people can from an entire conversation. Which means that while I rock at charades, I probably am not helping him stretch verbally, even though we talk and read with him a lot and verbal communication is kind of the lingua franca at our house.

But we'll go get some tips from the speech and language pros so that he can start sparring verbally with his sister, instead of just screeching in frustration or whacking her when she's bugging him.

If he turns out to be a great orator, this will make a funny story some day. Kind of like actor James Earl Jones: he has one of the most recognizable and enthralling voices of a generation but he overcame a severe stutter. Fascinating story.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Quality cioppino

On a whim, made first ever cioppino using this recipe with reviewer recommendations of clam juice, no water, less butter in lieu of olive oil and other minor edits. Used shrimp, clams, scallops, wild cod.

Dylan ate two bowls and Jason said,  "This is the best dish you've ever made in our entire marriage." Favoriting.

Fierce chairs

Saw some awesome chairs at the Ballard Farmers Market. Dylan seems to really dig them.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Birthday boy

Two years ago today, this little dumpling popped into our life. Happy birthday to the cutest little boy in my life.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Teacher to Ava's class on a field trip: How about a song for our walk? Ava: 'Moves like Jagger'? Me: Think she means one everyone knows.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A week & a half after my b-day and I have a zit. Awesome. Apparently 40 is the new 15.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Dr. Google was right: real doc confirmed Dylan's foot rash is hand, foot & mouth virus. Luckily, no fever or other symptoms: just itchy.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thankful for family & vintage cartoons: curled up earlier w/kids laughing out loud at Charlie Brown Thanksgiving & Jonny Quest episodes.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Made dinner & lactation-enhancing oatmeal chic. chip flaxseed cookies for neighbors w/new baby. Holding warm newborn is great but glad we're done.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Food pyramid-ish

Ava helped me make a tasty pumpkin pie last night wIthaca recipe from Grand Central Bakery's recipe book (@grandcentralsea) recipe. It has eggs & dairy: that's breakfast-y, right?

Friday, November 11, 2011

@Safeway, I've never seen batteries kept under lock & key, but you should make sure someone not on break has said key.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

That Maroon 5 song "Moves like Jagger" is a catchy ditty. Downloaded thru @Amazon so I can bob my head at lunch.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Kids clothes and supplies: paying it forward

As my kids blessedly move out of the infant and toddler stage into preschool range, I've been trying to figure out what to do with all of their outgrown clothing. I don't want to sell it, because I know there are folks out there who just need it. We were so blessed to receive so much for both kids that most of it was barely worn, but we don't know anyone the right age to pass it along to and. Especially Dylan's items, which he seemed to grow out of before we'd barely snapped him into them.

We also were the happy recipients of boxes and bags of clothing from family and friends with older kids, who were happy to 'regift' and 'pay it forward' with unworn items once their kids out grew them.

I can't tell you how nice it was to dive into bags organized by size and pull out lovely items for outfitting our kids whenever we noticed newly exposed wrists and ankles poking out of their clothing.

It turns out, there are a number of local places in need of new or gently used children's clothing. Red Tricycle has a bunch on their site and the stories on the St. Joeseph's Baby Corner site were very moving and just who I had in mind for paying our own blessings forward.

Throw in a few gift cards for the other essentials of raising babies and toddlers (wipes, diapers, books, baby wash, fresh food, etc.) and you're providing a lovely assist to parents grappling with the life's challenges, in addition to the care and feeding of growing kids.

Got any other ideas on sharing your bounty with others this pre-holiday season?

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Peek into the automotive future

Went to Seattle Auto Show last night and got preview of life in 14 years:
Ava: "Me and Dylan are going to party... I mean STUDY! Well be back by curfew." Dylan: (whispering when he thinks we're out of earshot), "Did you get the fake IDs?"
Other shot is Jason and Dylan and $500,000 car. A dad can dream, right?

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Best U.S. States for Working Women: where does yours rank?

Author Richard Florida has a new study out looking at The Best U.S. States for Working Women based on uses the American Community Survey data to rank the best states for working women. The findings look at rates of women's workforce participation and wage and salary levels for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. He and his fellow researchers find that:

Women make up a majority of the labor force in five states plus the
nation's capital: the District of Columbia (52.6 percent), Washington (50.2
percent), Rhode Island (50.2 percent), Mississippi (50.2 percent), Massachusetts
(50.1 percent), and South Dakota (50.1 percent).

At the bottom of the list is Utah, where women make up 45 percent of the labor force. Alaska and New Hampshire also have relatively low shares of women in the labor force (45.9 and
46.2 percent respectively).
Geography makes a difference when it comes to women's relative economic standing. So do the kinds of jobs they are working. Which is yet another reason why I love living in Washington state.

Friday, November 04, 2011

United... in efforts to make you suffer for flying

I generally have a "no drama" rule for my life and have had a pretty good run of drama-free years. United Airlines recently ended that run in stellar fashion. I've put off writing it all down because doing so requires reliving the anger, frustration and lack of caring we dealt with from the airline.

On a side note, the drama aversion is reason #71 why I will never be a reality TV star. Other entries on that particular list include #29: inability to have a drink-throwing slap fest in a restaurant with new "frien-emies" (see every Real Housewives and Basketball Wives show ever) and #64: reluctance to refer to myself in the third person unless doing it in a very self-aware way as a joke. That aside, Natasha thinks you should read here is the United Airlines saga.

In August, I took the kids to visit friends - including my college roommate - in Denver. They'd never met Dylan, and Ava was barely talking the last time we went. Her husband remarked how verbal and polite Ava was now. I told Jason, who replied, “Then the beatings are working.” 
It's amazing that she was polite at all considering the ordeal we endured in getting there for the visit. Since I was traveling alone with two small kids, I opted for an early morning, direct flight in hopes that they might continue sleeping once we boarded and that we would get there as quickly as possible.
Because trying to keep a three year old and barely-verbal 20 month old occupied in an enclosed space is exhausting. It reminds me of an "Are you ready for children?" checklist I read once that suggested good practice for wrangling small childen is to try to stuff an octopus in to a mesh bag. Having now traveled with kids a few times on planes, trains and in automobiles, I would only amend that to make it "an octopus on meth."
How early is "early"?

Knowing the drill, we arrived 95 minutes early to check in and found a line of at least 75-100 people waiting to use the check-in kiosks at Seatac Airport which have replaced the old guys who used to allow you to check in curbside. I later learned the new kiosks were being staffed by a skeleton crew missing three staff, plus a "supervisor" (Joan) who was apparently tasked with telling new arrivals to the mayhem where to go (incorrectly), then castigating them for going where she told them.
As the minutes ticked by, I watched the line barely inch along as an overhead ticker warned that you needed to be checked in at least 45 minutes before your flight in order to board. Seeing the confusion around me, I knew it would be close. 55 minutes later, I made it to a kiosk and hurriedly shoved my card in for verification. It was rejected. I'd missed the cutoff by one minute.
When I asked a staffer what to do, she pointed me to the frazzled supervisor, saying, "You have to talk to her." I was joined at this point by a visually impaired woman whose friend had dropped her off in line just behind us when we arrived. She too had missed the cutoff and needed help.
Joan the supervisor offered none, too busy sending people to the far end of the line and trying to help the few staffers at the counter. Finally, after the other traveler and I followed her around for five minutes waiting to get a word in, I explained what had happened and she told us, "You'll have to be rebooked. You should have been here two hours early. Go stand in that line," she said, gesturing to the one that began at the far end of the check-in counters and that was already made up of people slumped on their bags in defeat.
Once there, I called United Customer Service for help. After 16 minutes on hold, I relayed the supervisor's two hour recommendation. Overhearing this, one of the other people in line said, "That wouldn't have helped. We WERE here two hours early and you see we're still here!" 
Tail end of line snaking through check-in area
Later, the supervisor came and angrily griped at me for standing in the line she'd sent me to, saying it was the wrong one. She didn't seem to notice that she'd sent several of us to that line. As she turned away, Ava looked up at me and said, "That lady was talking to us kind of crazy." People in line around us snickered. "She's got that right," one agreed. When a three year old can recognize that she's not being treated very nicely, it's pretty telling.
Supervisors conferring on the mess in their midst
As we waited, we turned as a military veteran became loud near the front of the line. He too was on the verge of missing his flight, apparently for the second time in two days, after being given incorrect information by the staff, driving home, returning and finding the same mess at the check-in counters.
I finally reached the counter again and was re-booked and told I was #1 on the standby list for next flight in about two and a half hours. Three-year old Ava and 20 month old Dylan (30 pounds of heavy cuteness in a carrier on my back all this time), were holding up well. But it had been nearly three hours since arriving, so I knew they needed food and exercise quickly. 

Food, frolics and failure

We hit the food court, then took the airport train and a very long walk to a far concourse where I'd found a kids play area on the airport map.
After burning off some energy and recharging my phone, we made it back to the new gate, energized and hopeful and checked in again. A staffer confirmed that we were at the top of the standby list, and told us to wait for more information or for our names to be called. Then, we waited. And waited. And watched, as passengers lined up, boarded the plane, the doors closed and staff began packing up the counter. We never heard our names called.

Hey! What happened to "Number one on the standby list?!" The unhelpful, indifferent United staff person at the counter shrugged, barely glancing up at me and a handful of similarly stuck passengers clustered at the counter.

"You might have been number one, but the list is fluid," she said. Then why is it numbered?! That's why you use a numbered list: to indicate who has priority. So we and others who couldn't make earlier flight due to their staffing problems got passed over again.
The staffer who'd instructed us to wait for more information returned to the desk after closing the doors to the gangway, picked up her things and left, never even glancing at us. I stood there with a toddler on my back, a fading 3 year old clutching my hand and no one from United providing any assistance of any kind. 
Two of the travelers who were also stuck there with me did offer to carry my backpack and asked if I needed any help carrying the kids. They also asked the visually impaired woman if she needed any help getting around. Again: no help from United staff. 
We again turned en masse (all five of us) to the remaining United staffer at the gate counter to ask if we were going to get any more help or information on our options or what to do next. Could we get on another flight? Another airline? The staffer shrugged. "I don't know. Next one is at 6pm tonight. But it's full too and so are all the other airlines." She never looked up from the paperwork in front of her.
"How is that possible?!" one of the guys next to me asked. He'd been stuck in the check-in line too and missed an early morning connection to the midwest. "Well what do you want?" she asked, annoyed. "The flight was full. Every flight is full. It's only been that way every August for 25 years."  

There's no crying in baseball aviation

Six hours after arriving at the airport, disappointed, tired and frustrated, I was trying not to cry in front of the children, because after all, that's their job.

"Well," I said, "Since we haven't flown every August for 25 years, and I don't work for the airline, perhaps you can tell me what I should do now since I've been here for six hours already." 
She huffily suggested waiting for another standby seat that evening, but indicated that we probably wouldn't make that one either and probably wouldn't be able to get two seats.

At that, we all turned and walked away to figure out our own options. I sat on a bench and called United's 800-number, where I gave a synopsis of our ordeal and received the same, "Sucks to be you" attitude from the agent, until asking for a supervisor. This one booked guaranteed seats for all three of us on a flight out at 5:35 a.m. the next day. Recalling the earlier supervisor's admonishment, I said, "Geez: so I'm going to have to go home and bring the kids back tomorrow at 3:35 in the morning."  
"Oh no," said the agent, "You only need to be there at least an hour early for domestic flights. An hour and a half at the most." Really. Really?! Aaaaagh. 
With my bags and car seats in Denver, my son asleep on my back and daughter curled up asleep in my lap, I called for a ride home, having expended one day of vacation in the Seatac Airport.
In the wee hours of the next morning, without bags or car seats, we arrived an hour and 45 minutes early after checking in online enroute to the airport, therby skipping the still-horrendous check in lines.

Again, we saw a mirror image of the morning before, with dozens of weary travelers queued up but barely moving closer to the holy grail of the check-in kiosk. The "process" they were part of again looked like an homage to a Rube Goldberg machine: "complex gadgets...[that] perform[ed] simple tasks in indirect, convoluted ways." (Courtesy: Wikipedia - ). Unfortunately for them, the same staffer who'd sent us willy nilly the day before was again working her "magic." And by magic I mean "lack thereof" or "mayhem" - your choice. 
Day 2: Finally on our way!
This time, unencumbered by bags and pre-checked, we cruised straight through security to the gate, where a staffer on the overhead speaker said, "If you haven't been assigned a seat yet, we will get you one but we can only guarantee that you probably won't like it." Grrr.
I'm no famous, frequently-traveling New York Times writer like Steven D. Leavitt, who once wrote that United's stellar, personalized customer service had won him over for life.

But I don't think it's asking too much of airline staff to at least be helpful and considerate - meaning having consideration for the person with whom you're dealing. Meaning assisting the visually impaired traveler or the mom traveling alone with two small kids and helping them to navigate your suddenly broken check-in "process."
As someone now tasked with improving customer service for a government agency that is doing process review and improvements, I recognized a broken process when I experienced it firsthand. Unfortunately for me and thousands of travelers, United Airlines apparently still doesn't recognize it.
Later, as I thumbed through the in-flight magazine from the company, I read a story about a United staffer based in Chicago who is apparently renowned for her compassion and helpfulness to customers. Wow. That's great.

Just a thought: perhaps she could be brought in from Chicago to consult with the United staff in Seattle on how to improve the customer experience. Just be sure to remind her to arrive at the airport at least an hour early. 90 minutes tops. I'd hate for her to miss her flight and have a bad customer experience.

Home again, having survived Seatac-alypse 2011
Update: I sent this to United's Customer Service and they replied back a few weeks later, apologizing and saying they'd pass the info along to management in Seatac. They also offered a voucher for a small discount on future travel for the three of us. That wasn't the goal of sending the letter, but it was a sufficient gesture.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Stew weather

While friends in San Francisco and Texas have been posting Facebook updates about the temperatures in the 80s, the forecast around Seattle is calling for on and off rain showers over the next few days. So my hankering for some comfort food has been growing by the day.

I snagged some beef stew meat last week, along with some carrots, celery and a slow cooker seasoning pack. As I looked through my slow cooker recipe books and online, I was reminded that many recipes never say "season meat" or "brown meat before putting in slow cooker" (except for those that say, almost as an afterthought at the end of the recipe: "season as needed with salt and pepper"). But seasoning and browning yields a much more flavorful and visually appealing dish in a slow cooker, although you have to go light on any salt because that can intensify as it cooks.

I always think about novice cooks trying a recipe for the first time who might logically conclude they simply can't cook because they "followed the recipe exactly" and still ended up with a bland meal.

I remember a former co-worker who didn't know what I meant when I  started off telling her about a dish I'd made by explaining, "It's really easy to make. First, saute the meat."

She looked at me perplexed. "Like in water?" she asked. Although her mom was a very good cook, she'd just never learned even the basics of cooking herself.
Ava seems to be picking up those basics early by helping me cook. I've let her season and stir dishes in progress and for this one, I let her cut the brown mushrooms with a lettuce knife (dull, but sharp enough for mushrooms), season the meat, spray veggie wash over the vegetables and rinse them, and mix the slow cooker seasoning packet with water before pouring it in the bowl.
I cut up 4-5 carrots, a head of celery, and a small bag of organic red potatoes. I tossed it all into the slow cooker crock (I think it's a 5-6 quart one) and cooked it on high for 4 1/2 hours since I was going to be close to home, but the ingredients could definitely hold up to 8-9 hours on low if I made this on a work night.
Unfortunately, we dished up and snarfed down several bowls of the end result served over hot rice before I remembered to take a (bad) picture. But it was delicious and everyone found some part of it to enjoy. Jason and I had big heaping bowls full of the entire dish. Ava prefered buttered rice with pieces of the falling-apart tender meat, and Dylan preferred the carrots most of all, but ate some of the buttered rice, with a bit of meat and juice from the pot.
This is going into the regular meal rotation for this fall.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Capt. Obvious, at your service: Seattle is expensive

The Seattle P-I online paper recently ran a story entitled Not your imagination: It really does cost more to live in Seattle and after reading just the headline I had to ask, who lives in this city and after paying all of their bills each month says, "Wow, it really seems expensive to live here... But I'm probably just imagining that"?

Clearly, you're not imagining your utility bill, or rent/mortgage, or food costs so the headline writer did a disservice to the article and readers.

Perhaps a more suitable headline would be, "Seattle residents ask: Holy $#*t! Where'd my money go?!"

Or maybe "Seattle: expensive, but worth it for high paying jobs, clean air and water."

I once read a schnarky letter to the editor of a women's magazine about an article on the difficult tradeoffs that families make when deciding whether one or both parents should work. It went something like this:
Dear Mag for Women - I read with interest your story about the work or stay-at-home dilemma but couldn't help but think, "What dilemma?"

If you have been blessed enough to give birth through your hallowed loins, for the next 18 years (at minimum) you should forsake any other task that does not relate to caring for and nurturing the tiny life to which you have been entrusted.
That's what my husband and I did: I quit my job to stay home with our children and it's been the best thing to happen to us. Sure, we had to give up frivolous expenses like eating out, new clothes, fancy cars, and any vacation beyond our immediate neighborhood. But our children's well-being is my most important mission and being there for them every minute of every day is my most important contribution to the world. 
Also, the smile on my child's face when I wake him up from a nap is worth more than a big house or fancy job title. In fact, I think his smile should be bankable currency, because I'd be so rich beyond belief that I would run out of deposit slips at my local financial institution.

So I think the "mothers" in your article (if that's what they call themselves when they leave their child to go to work each day) should be ashamed of themselves for being so selfish and not giving up the trappings of success to which they've become enslaved. If we can live on one salary, they can too.
Smugly Signed,
Judy Judgemental
Smalltown with extremely low cost-of-living, and home prices well south of $100,000, USA 
I so wanted write back in and suggest that Judy come to Seattle or go to any urban area and see how well her approach would fare in an expensive city. Sure, there are those who are able to do it, but as the P-I article shows, unless one or both parents has a very high income, it's not easy.

Regardless, people should simply acknowledge that whatever choices people make in life, most of them are doing the best they can given what they know and their resources and options at the time.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Letting nature take its course

Left Ava alone after stripping her bed and returned to find she'd started putting fresh sheets on. Tomorrow I'm going to leave dinner fixins out and see what happens.

Greatest Father Daughter Dance Medley Ever!

I hope Jason will groove like this at Ava's  wedding some day. But what will replace the stanky leg 20 years hence? Via @blackandmarried

Also linked from Black and Married with Children

Monday, October 31, 2011


After gettin back from the ER at 5:30 a.m. I took the day off to stay home with Dylan and we've had a relapse to the excessive crying due to pain.

At least we know it's his throat, but he refuses or spits up meds and most liquids. I tried sneaking them in juice, applesauce and sports drink. So far, no dice, except for a little of the applesauce.

Any way to get meds into bacon? 'Cause sore throat or not, he's eating that. And we're in the "I prefer the juice that mom brings more than the one that dad brings, even though it's the same juice" stage.

I hate to see him in pain. The one small consolation is that after refusing everything offered, I asked if he just wanted me to lay with him and keep him company. He slowly nodded yes, and put his head on my shoulder and hand on my neck.

On the mend

2am ER visit, 2 hours, 2 throat swabs, 2 nurses to help hold him down, 2 meds, 3 stickers, 1 popsicle. Diagnosis: something viral. But meds clearly working: he tried to push every elevator button on our way out of hospital.

Dylan's second ER visit

High temperature, inconsolable screaming and lethargy for normally easy-as-pie kid whose motor is stuck on go? Off to ER. His second visit in eight months.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Everyone has something of value to share

I love this article and didn't know all this about cartoonist Lynda Barry. http:// iR

Her approach that 'everyone has something worth writing or talking about' is why I blog (unevenly). It's my story to tell and that's enough.

This line particularly resonated for me: I have a real chip on my shoulder about that - the idea that some things aren't art. It's from growing up poor. You run into that your whole life - people of my background and education can't participate.

This is part of why I care so much about the service aspect of my job and giving everyone access to government. There are many people out there who do feel the rich or propertied should have more access to elected officials. Usually it's people who are rich or propertied. I remind them that I'm here to help EVERYONE get better service, information or guidance, not just those with contacts or resources.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Ava, seeing oversized male torso ad in Abercrombie & Fitch: "Why is that man showing his nibbles in there?!" Great question kid.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Picking up kids & pull Vietnamese takeout menu from car door pocket. Yep, that's how this working mom rolls tonight.

Someone on Facebook asked: "What's wrong with that?"

"Absolutely nothing," I replied. "Just stating a fact: mama ain't doin' any home cooking tonight."

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Hope this makes @seattlebuschick smile: at 22 months, Dylan's word count is up to 7 w/this week's addition of "cookie" and tonight "bus."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ava at 11:45pm: Can you lay with me for a minute?
Me: Why aren't you asleep?
Ava: I just am-n't.
Me: "Am not." Go to sleep.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Stayed home sick. Always try to tough it out then give in, go to bed & think, "Why didn't I do this sooner?"

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Milestone: big boy bed

I've finally grown tired of trying to curl up with Dylan on the crib mattress on the floor to put him to sleep at night. That would be from the crib that he refused to sleep in. Ever. Even though the people at his daycare put him in one and report that he quickly drops off to sleep. Grrrr.

Mere weeks after we bought it at a consignment shop, drop side cribs were outlawed anyway. So he's alternated between our bed and the mattress for months. First in our room on the floor, then in the room he now shares with Ava.

So we found a great deal on a twin bed and mattress on Craigslist and picked it up this morning. The afternoon was spent getting bedding and a new boxspring.

His favorite part of the new bed? The squishy football & baseball pillows that he picked.

My favorite part? If I fall asleep in his bed now, I won't wake up with a crick in my neck that last for days. Winning!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Words have power

Saw this picture on Facebook and was stopped cold. Great reminder. Jason was just telling me about watching the faces and demeanors of kids being publicly berated by sports-obsessed parents and coaches. It's demoralizing to them. Some are old enough/strong enough to shrug it off. Others are clearly not.

In one case, a kid asked to stop training with someone else and come to Jason instead because he wanted "positive reinforcement." Smart kid.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

40 days to 40

By the grace of God, I am closing in on 40 years old next month. Most days, I feel about 28, except when I'm around actual 28 year olds, who I now realize are genrerally much perkier and prone to/able do things like go out to concerts that last until 2 or 3am during the work week. They can then show up for work and say things like, "I'm dragging a little. I need another cup of coffee to get me through the morning."

Conversely, if I attempted the same thing, A) I wouldn't enjoy the show because I'd be thinking about how wrecked I'd feel the next day when the kids come bounding in to wake me up in the wee hours B) I don't drink coffee, so I'd be trying to kick start my day with my standard hot chocolate, which unfortunately, is just soothing, chocolate goodness that makes me want to curl up in a blanket and read something, so I'd be fighting fatigue even more and likely wind up heading to the 'wellness/nursing' room at lunch to take a quick nap instead of eating.

Given a family history of a grandmother who lived until a lucid 100 years, and all her sisters who lived healthily into their 90s, not to mention several aunts and uncles also active into their 60s and 70s at this point (one of my uncles runs 3 miles most days. He's nearly 70!), I probably have a good chance of ekeing out at least another 40 to 50 years, barring any major mishaps.

So I'm planning a 40 day countdown to the big day, during which I do some things to prepare me for the next phase of my life. After all, we spend the first 20 years or so of life being prepared for and preparing ourselves for the next chapter of life or "adulthood," right? So I think it makes sense to take stock of where I am now and start laying the groundwork for what I want the next few decades to look like.

I started by taking stock of the things I've always wanted to try, do, or attempt, but haven't gotten around to yet. Not exacty a bucket list. Maybe more of a "before it's too late to try" and "while I still have the interest and inclination" and "wouldn't it be cool to..." list.

  • Renew my study of the French language
  • Learn to play chess
  • Plan and take a family trip to go innertubing in the snow
  • Take a photography class to learn to use our DSLR camera properly
  • Do some career planning
  • Write letters to people I care about to tell them what they mean to me
  • Work with a personal shopper to upgrade my wardrobe
  • Sponsor a local family for Thanksgiving or Christmas
I considered adding "play pool with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson or Hugh Jackman (no, that's not a euphemism and hey, don't judge!), but it didn't fit my criteria of being attainable in the next 40 days and some sort of skill or experiential improvement that would better prepare me for later life. Although an argument COULD BE MADE, believe me.

Like Norman Rockwell

Some fathers and sons fish, some hunt, some do tandem technology.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

Urban cowboys and girls

Last week, Ava and Dylan were enjoying pre-bedtime horseback rides around the house from J. Much laughter and squealing ensued.
Giddy up Dad!
J. must have been inspired. After he returned from work Saturday morning, we hopped in the car to go ride horses at the Harvest Festival east of Seattle at the Suncadia Resort. It's a short drive so we were out there earlier this year and about a year and a half ago with the kids.

The horse ride was actually impromptu. We passed a sign as we were nearing the resort and J. said, "You know, I've never ridden a horse."

"What?!" I said, incredulous. "How is that possible?"

"Where would I have ridden a horse in the city?" he asked.

"In the parking lot of Safeway, like me and Ava," I replied.

"Besides there."

"Right. Okay, let's turn around! You have to ride!"

So we turned around and pulled in to the riding area, which was really just a shed with a horse trailer and a corral off the main road. We met the friendly horse dude and Jason was introduced to Alvarez, their biggest horse. After a few instructions on steering, they set off through the trees for a 30 minute ride.

The kids were asleep but woke up once the car stopped. They were too young to ride, so we hung out with the remaining horse tied by the shed and tried to counter their nature deficit disorder (NPR).
They threw rocks, whacked trees with sticks...

tromped through the grass, kicked dirt on things, investigated ants, stuck twigs in mole holes, and no one lost an eye. It was great!

I worried that Dylan would be freaked out by the huge horse, but hearing it suddenly whinny loudly behind him, he turned around and said, "Sssshhh!" Ava even asked if we could go camping. Clearly their dad's outdoor-phobic tendencies are not rubbing off. Yet.

As we waited for J. to return from the ride, another group of riders came back and one of the women's voices sounded familiar. But I couldn't place her. Finally, I asked her name and introduced myself. Recognition crossed her face too. It turns out we'd worked together at a TV station in Seattle 18 years ago when Jason and I first started dating. Small world, right?

After the ride and catching up with my former co-worker, we continued on to the festival, and let me tell you: that was totally fun. For us and the kids. First off, the sun was shining - in October! - and it was a beautiful, Fall day in the mid-60s.
There was a hay maze!

And a bouncy house for the kids. Directions: 1. Inflate contraption. 2. Insert small children hopped up on Harvest Fest fun, goodies and preschooler adrenaline. 3. Let the mayhem begin. Again: no one lost an eye. So it was all good.

And more horse riding. In fact, I was the only one who didn't get a ride that day.
Dylan may be freaked out by vaccums and haunted houses with animatronic skeletons (there was one at the Harvest Festival), but a several hundred pound pony? Not at all. The lady guiding the kids around the corral began with, "Okay, you're going to have to..." before she could finish, Dylan had already grabbed hold of the handle and was looking at her like, "Next?"

 Ava to lady leading her pony: "This is my best day EVER!"

I agree. Add in the hot cider, kettle corn, homemade apple butter we bought, and lunch at Suncadia's restaurant before heading home, it was pretty darn good, and a reminder that we need to get out in nature more. Which I'm totally up for, as long as it's not raining. So unless there's a surprise trip to Vegas or Maui in the next few months, we won't be doing anything like this again until Spring. But at least we have pictures and memories.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

4 yr. olds rock: Ava: what's the weather going to be like tomorrow? Me: You mean today? Cool & rainy. Ava: Okay, I'm picking out some warm clothes to wear.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

What government can learn from Steve Jobs

No, not world domination.

Earlier today, I helped a couple department directors hand out customer service awards at the Human Resources Division’s staff meeting. In my remarks about how we’re trying to revamp King County customer service, I talked about the “no wrong door” approach and about an epiphany I had while listening to a news story on Steve Jobs and Apple’s impact on the world.

An Apple designer said something like, “Our innovation has really come down to looking at something and asking the question, ‘Why do we do it that way? What if we did it differently? How can we do it better?”

As I told the folks at the meeting, the process improvement effort we’re undertaking is about county employees asking the same questions about our processes, and being empowered to act on the answer with their co-workers and supervisors.

The Jobs quotes below, courtesy of Michael Sebastian at, may provide some similar insights for us. 

10 inspiring Steve Jobs quotes to pin to your wall

Next time you're looking for a little inspiration, borrow it from a man whom President Obama called 'the greatest of American innovators.'

By Michael Sebastian
Posted: October 7, 2011

Steve Jobs not only changed the way we interact with technology, but also inspired a loyalty that went beyond mere branding—he created a lifestyle for Apple customers. And, as NPR points out, helped shape popular culture.

Along the way, Jobs also provided inspiration on a variety of other topics. Many of these quotes come from The Wall Street Journal, which compiled them in August when Jobs resigned as CEO of Apple.

Conformity is boring.

"It's more fun to be a pirate than to join the navy."

[from Odyssey: Pepsi to Apple, 1987, via The Wall Street Journal]

Sweat the small stuff.

"This is what customers pay us for—to sweat all these details so it's easy and pleasant for them to use our computers. We're supposed to be really good at this. That doesn't mean we don't listen to customers, but it's hard for them to tell you what they want when they've never seen anything remotely like it."

[via Fortune, January 2000]

Sometimes, focus groups aren't the answer.

"For something this complicated, it's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them."
[via Businessweek, May 1998]

What it means to be a creative person.

"Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That's because they were able to connect experiences they've had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they've had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.

[via Wired, February 1996]

Can you say this about your workplace?

"We're just enthusiastic about what we do."

[via Playboy, February 1985]

The importance of strong managers and coaches.

"What's reinvigorating this company is two things: One, there's a lot of really talented people in this company who listened to the world tell them they were losers for a couple of years, and some of them were on the verge of starting to believe it themselves. But they're not losers. What they didn't have was a good set of coaches, a good plan. A good senior management team. But they have that now."

[via Businessweek, May 1998]

Take note, small business owners.

"Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it."

[via Fortune, November 1998]

Traditional media remains vital.

"I don't want to see us descend into a nation of bloggers. I think we need editorial oversight now more than ever. Anything we can do to help newspapers find new ways of expression that will help them get paid, I am all for."

[D8 conference, via All Things Digital, June 2010]

Don't. Settle.
"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle."

[Stanford commencement speech, June 2005]

Words to live by.

"Stay hungry, stay foolish."

[Stanford commencement speech, June 2005]

WSJ and Mashable have even more Jobs' quotes worth checking out.

Used flashlight app on #Android to knit in the car on the ride home. What do you call that? Crafty anachronism? Plain old dork?

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Back on my high school campus for a morning mtg. It always makes me feel 15 again. In a good way.

Monday, September 26, 2011

#Marketing works: Ava, seeing new box of muscle ointment in the bathroom: "Is this new non-drowsy Allegra?" Wait until she's reading...
Seattle's rain is back, signaling fall. Let the hat & fleece wearing & cocoa drinking begin. Kidding: I did that stuff all summer too.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Celebrating 10 years of marriage & 18 years of coupledom! No, autocorrect, not 'boredom'. My blessing cup runneth over.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Neighborhood kids festival!

Spent a lovely afternoon expecting rain but enjoying sunbreaks at a neighborhood festival with the family. Bouncy houses, face painting and park play equipment = kiddie heaven.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Real big boy haircut

The battles to brush and comb Dylan's hair have been becoming more frequent. Also, his penchant for dropping fistfuls of sand into it while playing have left us waking up on top of gritty sheets some mornings after he climbs into our bed in the wee hours. So we decided to take it all off this morning.

We had to tag-team to get the clippers even close to Dylan's bobblehead.

It took several passes with successively smaller clipper guards. 

 Needless to say, Dylan hated the buzz of the clippers and the click of the scissors and struggled off and on the whole time, in between the few quiet moments we finagled by putting Caillou, Dora and Diego videos on my Nook Color or letting him play toddler puzzle games on my Android phone.
But check out the after picture! Who is that big kid?!
And you can really see the resemblance with J. now.
Dylan on the left, age 21 months. J. on the right, 35+ years ago at Disneyland. Genes are a funny thing. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Gee thanks

Ava had a note for me when I arrived to pick her up. Her teacher was kind enough to transcribe.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ava hits like a girl. A badass girl. In a tutu.

Ava, princess tutu dress and all at her pre-birthday shindig over the weekend, nails one on the new Tee ball set after some coaching from dad. Guffaws at the end are because it was a line drive that almost took a cousin's head off!

Not only can she hit, she throws sizzling fast balls overhand like she spent spring training working out with a major league ball club.

Fourth birthday pre-funk

Ava doesn't turn four until later this week, which will also be the first day of school. So we opted to celebrate a few days early.

After the extravaganzas of the past few years - both our own and others we've attended - we wanted to keep this one pretty low-key with just a few family members: both sets of grandparents, a few of the youngest cousins, and a friend from the neighborhood, who ended up unable to make it because she wasn't feeling well. Still, it ended up being more of a gift-stravaganza than I expected. But who am I to tell grandparents, "No thanks"?
Things began slowly, with brunch and playtime for the kids since it was in the upper 80s: uncharacteristic for Seattle in September, but welcome and long overdue.

Next came the candle and cupcake...
Cool learning game...
And a collectible doll from one set of grandparents that has it's own tiny, upholstered chair. Ava was smitten, as evidenced by the huge hug.
Her other Grandparents brought a Disney princess table and chairs that was just right for an impromptu tea party.
Then came school clothes for the style-conscious future fashionista, who squealed at a pitch that could be heard by bats and fellow stylists countywide...
Next: an oft-requested pink ballerina umbrella. All of which would have been more than sufficient for a fourth birthday. Especially considering the other party accoutrements, all chosen by the birthday girl: princess plates, cups, napkins and plasticware scored at a local dollar store, and homemade gourmet (according to the recipe), cherry chip flavored cupcakes topped with pink strawberry frosting.
 But the piece de resistance (as evidenced by the ear to ear grin above) beside which every other gift paled in comparison? The full Disney princess collection of dolls provided by dad.
They got hugs.
They got put to bed right next to hers. They got LOVE.

I've got some issues with the whole princess industry juggernaut, but I also don't want to put too much adult-world angst on my newly minted four year old and make her feel bad about liking something that in her mind is just fun and pretty. And frankly, the pull of the princesses is pretty tough to resist: Dylan and his 3 1/2 year old male cousin at the party both took turns carrying a princess doll around in their chubby fists, as if to show "Hey, the girls think these are pretty cool so we want to play too." 

J. wanted to add another gift to the mix but I talked him out of it: "Jeez: hold something back for her 5th birthday," I said. "You've already set the bar pretty high." He agreed. And she seems to be properly appreciative, telling everyone we met for the next few days that she'd "had the best birthday ever, with cupcakes, princess plates and lots of new princesses." She even welcomed Dylan at her tea party. All in all, it was a lovely, low-key-ish day.

In my next post, I'll close out the birthday rehash with a scene from late in that day that assuaged my concerns over her focus on all things princess-related. It turns out loving princesses and being an athletic powerhouse are not mutually exclusive.