Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Power of Souvenirs

Some of our faithful readers may recall a time, before this blog began, when the Steingruebls visited in London. The big kids remember the trip, and now it appears that Elise does too!

This morning, Elise was reading The Economist over breakfast and came to a picture of the Eiffel Tower. We talked about that for awhile, and then Mommy hauled out our (somewhat mangled) little statue of Big Ben that we bought in London.

Elise immediately kissed and hugged Big Ben. Then, she took him for a ride of the “Tube Tain.”
“It’s a little bumpy, but you can sit on my lap Big Ben and it will not be scary.”
“Bumpity bump bump. That was the best ride eeeeeever! Now you can ride on the Tube Tain, Big Ben!”

We repeated this scene over and over, complete with cradling Big Ben in small arms.

Lesson to big people: vactions and adventures ~do~ matter!

Monday, October 30, 2006


We’re getting ready for Halloween around here. It’s never been a big part of this Steingruebl household, but this year Elise is ready. We’ve been talking about trick-or-treating and costumes. As you can see from our window, we have also been making decorations. All of this means our house is spooky-or “pooky” if you’re 2 5/6 years old.

Elise and Mommy went to the fabric store yesterday to purchase a pattern and fabric for a really cool costume. We’re not telling anyone what it is yet, but if you can get Elise to stop talking about trick-or-treating after you say the word “costume” you could probably get it out of her. Anyway, we’ll be finding another fabric store since one of the clerks followed us around the store remonstrating Elise for various imaginary breaches of etiquette. Mommy was not amused.

More amusing, though, is Andy’s daily commute. A nice portion of his ride takes him through Guadalupe River Park and he gets to see all kinds of interesting wildlife! So far, it’s the birds who get him off his bike and muttering about bringing a camera along tomorrow. Today’s beauties included a great blue heron and a great egret. One of these days we’ll actually send him to work with a camera and we’ll put some pictures of the birds up!

Finally, in case it seemed like we just couldn’t get newsy enough today, Heather has decided to write a novel next month. What?! Well, there’s this cool thing that Roni mentioned so here goes! Suggestions for characters and plot lines are very welcome...

Here’s hoping that things are ‘pooky at your house too!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Costume

Elise was dressed in style for her first big-kid halloween party today. Making the ears and putting on the face paint were definitely the highlights of dressing.

After awhile, it gets hard to keep up the act of being a bear, especially when some kid in a Spider Man mask runs up to you and tries to take toys away from you (or throw them at your head) so Elise didn’t stay in costume for long. Happily, the purple shirt she wore underneath her mommy-fashioned bear tummy has a Halloween type print on it so she is in costume regardless.

Rumor has it that we may get to trick-or-treat at Daddy’s office on Tuesday afternoon. “Where do you go trick-or-treating, little girl?” “Oh, I go to eBay!”

Friday, October 27, 2006

Mommy Milestones

Mommies collectively and individually spend fantastic amounts of time noticing and documenting the milestones of their children. (So do daddies, but this entry is mommycentric.) It’s exciting to see a little protoperson turn into a real person before one’s eyes, and the progress is apparent and quantifiable a lot of the time.

The same can not be said for the milestones of motherhood. (Or so we think here, a mere 2 11/12ths years in.) The phases of mommyhood aren’t very well documented, and not all forward motion feels like progress. We can look to our memories of our own mommies from when we were kids, but that’s really just a shot in the dark.

Favorite milestones here have included the “aha!” moment of realizing that if one sleeps while the baby sleeps instead of crying about being exhausted, one gets more sleep. Or “Mommy’s Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying About X, Y Z and Love the Fact That Childhood Abounds With Such Things and Most Kids and Parents Get Through it Okay.” We gained other valuable milestone attitudes from I Killed June Cleaver, a gift from Auntie Niki and a brilliant read for just about any mommy. These are mental processes, and important ones. But what about something quantifiable?

Tonight, I hit one milestone I’ve been wanting to reach for some time. I made clothing for my child! It’s only a halloween costume, but it turned out pretty well! And I made something for my girl to wear. Cool!

True, I didn’t really follow the pattern. It called for something called basting. Since everyone knows that this is something you do to a dead bird around Thanksgiving that part was skippable. The next time directions call for velcro, I will be asking myself if buttons might not be better. It’s nearly 11pm, and now that I’ve officially unpacked the sewing machine, I have no idea where to put it.

So-one actual mommy milestone out there for the world to see. (I’m very proud of myself.) We’re going to a halloween party on Sunday, so hopefully there will be numerous pictures of the results!

The cat continues to be interested in our new hummingbird friends. She begins to call to mind the story of the toad sucking dog that was on All Thing Considered a few nights ago...

Thursday, October 26, 2006


The Steingruebl family is pleased to announce that we have made the acquaintance of at least two of the neighborhood hummingbirds.

Elise and Heather came home from story time at the library to find Flapjack glued to the window watching this little one. As near as anyone can figure, the cat didn’t leave the window except for water and litter box breaks between noon and 6pm. That’s a long day for a kitty! She has, as of this writing, decided to turn in early for the evening. Presumably, this is to be well rested for tomorrow’s attempts to hurl herself through the thermal pane window.

So-our visitors appear to be Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna. We’ve seen two females at one time, but a male may have visited this afternoon. Heather couldn’t tell because the cat kept getting in the way. In fact, out of 7 pictures taken, the only one that wasn’t blurred beyond recognition by cat intervention is the one you see above.

Elise will tell you that hummingbirds eat nectar. She also squeals with delight when she sees one at our feeder. Then she just gets frustrated that the things are so scared of a cat lunging at them from a distance of 7 inches.

Hopefully, the birds will get used to the cat’s hungry stares and start ignoring her. It’s been a loooong time since we’ve seen Flapjack so excited about anything. In fact, this is about on par with the day we brought Beaker into the family. So, we’ll try not to go on and on and on about the hummingbirds, but they sure are neat and everyone seems to be enjoying having them around!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Great Outdoors

Hmmm...It’s been awhile since we’ve posted anything here, hasn’t it?

Much of our time is spent outdoors these days. We feel like we’ve been given a second chance at summer this year, so we’re taking full advantage.

Andy’s commute sends him along the lovely and scenic Guadalupe River Park and Gardens, where he sees egrets like the one above and herons (which we couldn’t quite capture in the same frame as the egret).

Elise and Heather go strolling in the stroller, and playing in the parks. New innovations this week have included a hummingbird feeder, a seed feeder for other birds, and a kite. Elise really likes the kite. Heather really likes the sound a hummingbird’s wings make in her ear while she’s hanging the fresh sugar water. Flapjack likes the prospect of having her “cat TV” up and running again.

Our social lives have taken off, too. With playdates and parties and the like, we’re lucky to spend an entire day at home. Elise is back to asking, “Where will we go today, Mommy?”

On Monday, we went to play at the home of some new friends. Olivia and her mommy, Sadie, live in an apartment community with a great duck pond. The ducks saw us coming and swarmed, which led Elise to believe this was some sort of petting zoo. Imagine the surprise of the ducks as little hands reached out to stroke their feathers instead of distribute bread! They ran away, trampling one another in the process.

Once the feeding commenced, the ducks were pretty aggressive. At a few points, mommy had to insert herself between duck and child and say, “Step back!” which made Elise giggle. She then went right on holding on to the bread until another hungry duck bit her fingers and forced her to let go. To her credit, Elise stood her ground. She also didn’t seem to mind the duck nibbles.

Telling her Daddy about her adventures later that evening, though, Elise said, “We fed ducks! It was fun!! They bit my fingers, I didn’t like it at all.”

We’re finding that, more often than not, we’re having actual conversations with Elise. She asks really savvy questions about the world around her. (“Mommy, what’s this thing?” “It’s a support beam-it holds up the roof of the car.” “Oh, that’s good.”) She also really “gets” the idea that if she tells us when her diaper needs changing she’ll get to put a sticker on her chart. We know this because she described the process this evening using language we’ve certainly never used, and did so perfectly. Cool!

If anyone out there knows of a book about learning to use the potty chair that does NOT include any reference to all children having accidents sometimes, can you point us in that direction? The biggest obstacle to potty training right now seems to be a fear of failure. Since all of her potty training role models in books have accidents ~every time~ we read the story, Elise has decided it’s a bad racket and wants nothing to do with it.

That’s about it. Halloween is coming and Heather has cut out the fabric for Elise’s costume but it’s still awaiting some sewing. Tomorrow may be the day...

Monday, October 16, 2006

Our Fun Weekend

This weekend marked an entire month that we have lived in our new home! Yaaaaaaayyy-we did it! We’re all finally starting to feel settled, and so this weekend was a good chance to head out and enjoy things.

Saturday, we went to “Pumpkins in the Park” and had a pretty good time. Elise looooved the pumpkins, so we bought a small one which she makes a point of carrying all over the house.

One nice thing about living in a slightly smaller city is that the festivals in the parks don’t have to be gigantic and intimidating. There was good music and good food, and at no time did we worry about any of us getting trampled. Some of the highlights were the story tent where a nice lady reads books and then the kids get to pick a book to take home with them, and a puppet tent with a gazillion fuzzy animal puppets that were there for everyone to enjoy.

Saturday night, we made pizza and Elise was actually willing to eat it. She tried a few bites of pizza when Uncle Peter and Auntie Roni were here, but this time she really ate it. We’re hoping that this means that the moratorium on all “strange” looking food (like noodles) is nearing an end.

On Sunday, Elise and Daddy went to the Discovery Museum and had lots of fun while Mommy stayed home in her jammies and rearranged boxes while listening to the radio. It was a fun time for everyone!

In an attempt to post pictures in the blog and have them visible in all browsers without obscuring text, we’re placing them here at the bottom this time-enjoy!

Monday, October 9, 2006

What's that thing?

Well, wouldja look at that? Not too long ago, we wouldn’t have been caught dead with something like that in our house and now it’s right there in the den cozied up next to the TV and satellite receiver (another item we never thought we’d own...)

An appraisal of the cost of gym membership, childcare, driving to the gym and hassle factor led us to decide that a treadmill at home made the most sense. After three abdominal surgeries in just over a year, the lady of the household is feeling the need for phenomenal physical health and of course a return to her former status as a trophy wife. ;)

It all started back in Chicago at the Galter Center, really, with a great nutritionist and perhaps the best physical trainer on the planet*. The plan and the training were going sooo well, and then the hernia (but surprisingly not the moving across the country) derailed it all. But now, we’re back on track.

We’re not taking a lot of “before” pictures or anything like that and our scale is broken, but we have high hopes of significantly improved health by the publication of our annual Groundhog Day letter. Watch this space! And listen for the gentle whirr of the treadmill motor...

*The best trainer in the world is Kristin. If any of you in the Chicago area are looking for someone, drop a line and I’ll supply the contact info. She is a trainer, massage therapist and yoga instructor as well as being a great athlete. I could go on and on and on here, but suffice it to say she’s amazing and comes with the highest of recommendations!

Sunday, October 8, 2006

Family Movie Night

Last night was our first official “family movie night.” We explained to Elise how it works-first dinner, then bath and jammies, then we all get to sit in the den and watch a movie together. It is amazing what a motivator a movie can be for a kiddo. After inhaling her broccoli, Elise entreated her daddy to take her upstairs for her bath so that she could watch the Curious George movie.

Like so many other “kid” movies, Curious George isn’t really meant for the under-3 set. So, as far as Elise knows, it ends with George and The Man with the Yellow Hat falling asleep in a park.

All in all, family movie night was a big success. We’ll probably find something slightly more kid-friendly to watch in the future and maybe start a little earlier. But, it brings home to us just what a Big Girl our daughter has become!

A year ago, Elise was just learning to talk and was getting ready for a road trip to PA that would set her language acquisition at full throttle. Three years ago this weekend we were in the hospital with pre-term labor, desperately hoping things would turn out okay. ’The past 6 months of change and upheaval have seen all of us grow, but we see it most clearly in the young lady who asked us just this morning, “When we get to the coffee shop, what will my choices be?”

Thursday, October 5, 2006

Kitty Kitty

Hey! Who’s that in the picture?! Meet Meow, the new kitten of the Steingruebl household.
Two weeks ago, Elise fell in love with a stuffed kitty at the Children’s Discovery Museum when she was there with Daddy. We found this little beauty at Target the next weekend, and now Meow goes with us everywhere.

Luckily, Teri Bear seems to have a pretty thick skin. (Maybe it’s that her fur is well-matted after many a turn in the washing machine.) She doesn’t seem to mind sharing Elise’s affections with Meow.

Meanwhile, the living, breathing “meow” of the household has been having some adjustment issues. No destruction, but she’s become a real pain. We leave the bedroom door open at night so Flapjack doesn’t claw the carpet to get in, but then she cavorts around the room at all hours.

We play with the kitty, we snuggle the kitty, we take good care of the kitty’s physical needs, we give the kitty oodles of toys. Near as we can tell, she’s just desperate for even more attention and proof that she’s more beloved than that horrible Elise thing. It’s not gonna happen, so we’ve been looking for coping strategies and behavior modification tools.

Soooo...reprimands and spray bottles don’t work because they grant the kitty the much desired attention. We’re not getting a lot of sleep these days, (oh yes Flapjack-we’ve noticed you!) and it’s getting hard to think clearly on this matter. We’ve placed our order for a scat mat, and we’re hoping that will help solve some of our “territory” issues.

Gentle reader, if you have any suggestions for modifying the behavior of a willful kitty, please leave a comment or drop us a mail. Our sanity may well hang in the balance!

We're Home!

It took awhile, but we’ve finally sent out one of those friendly mass e-mails aimed at notifying friends and family of our whereabouts. Unfortunately, our various address books aren’t very complete and we’re pretty sure we’ve left some people off. If you’re reading this and your inbox hasn’t been cluttered with a mass mail from us, please drop a note and we’ll a)send you our new contact info and b)update our address books.

Sunday, October 1, 2006


Today marks the first official rain we’ve seen here in California! Of course, we’ve driven through mist on the way to San Francisco but that doesn’t count. I am, at this moment, looking out of my window and watching the rain fall pitter patter on the trees and walkways. It’s beautiful!