Sunday, April 29, 2007

Potty Time, Excellent

We've had an amazing transformation at our house this weekend. We went from diapers to underpants! Well, not collectively of course-the household adults have been potty trained for some time. But now we are pleased to announce that we're all firmly in the underpants camp.

Friday morning, Elise started our day by screaming that she wanted MOMMY to change her diaper. Of course, Mommy was happily eating cereal and drinking coffee, while Daddy was done with those things and was happy to help out. Still the carrying-on persisted. This amused neither parent. Thenceforth Mommy decreed that diapers would only be worn at naptime and bedtime.

Two changes of clothes later, Elise decided it was easier to just go use the stinkin' toilet. While public restrooms are decidedly not her thing, our girl does a great job of keeping herself clean and dry when she's out and about. It makes us so proud!

We did notice some flagging interest as the novelty wore off, so rewards/bribery were brought into play. For some unknown reason, Elise is really into gears. Yes, gears. She's been wanting gears to play with since she first saw some at an Xmas party last December. So, while we were walking through Target on a quest for more underpants and shorts we saw an extremely exciting "gear toy." Elise doesn't generally ask for things in the store, but this one she wanted. After talking it over with Mommy, Elise decided it was fair to earn the gear toy by using the potty chair. We settled on 10 stickers=gear toy. Solemn hand shaking ensued.Here is Elise, creating her potty chair usage chart. Note all of the beautiful glitter glue!

And then, Elise started using the toilet all the time, with no prompting. Within 26 hours, she had the gear toy in her hot little hands. When asked how it feels to be a big kid who can use the toilet, Elise replied, "It makes me smile."

Of course, we're expecting that there will be a few setbacks but confidence is running high here, at least among the underpants-wearing set.
Placing the final sticker on the potty chart. Way to go, Elise!!!!!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Kids 2 Work Day

Elise got her first taste of what it's like to be a tech worker in Silicon Valley today. What started as "take your daughter to work day" has morphed into "take your kid to work day," and eBay does it in style. With between 900-1000 kids signed up, the place was jumping. Elise is still a little young/shy for a lot of the organized stuff, but it was great for her to spend the better part of a day "working" with her daddy.

Of course, it was a little hard for mommy to see her little girl with her backpack on and holding daddy's hand on the way in to the office. So big! Already!! Wow.

A day at a tech company would not be complete without some cool swag, so they sent Elise home with her own official eBay id badge, a nice little insulated lunchbox, a crazy straw, a bubble pen and a few other baubles. Cool. And exhausting. It's hard work, this going to work all day!

In other news, Heather got a pedicure on Tuesday which did not impress Elise. "I don't like orange toenails, Mommy. Go back and tell the lady to make them red."

Andy and Heather like playing cribbage after Elise goes to bed. After a week of losing games dramatically at the very end, Heather finally managed to break her losing streak tonight.

Flapjack now comes when she's called to go out for walks.

It's almost Friday!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Turn off TV Week

So, gentle reader, has your television been resting this week? Ours has, and oddly enough this means that our schedule has been too full to allow for even very important things like posting blog entries.

All kinds of fun and exciting things have ben happening, and it would be nice if it weren't currently 10:30 pm and I could remember a few of them.

Highlights include:

Flapjack now begs for her daily walk, gets excited when she sees her leash, and strains for the door the second it is even partially attached. We always thought she was more like a dog than a cat-this appears to be evidence in favor of that theory.

Roomba had been out of commission for some time, awaiting a replacement for its faulty collection bin. That bin arrived in the mail on Saturday, and already our home is cleaner and happier. We are now beginning to imagine life with a robot that would vacuum stairs by itself.

A good friend with killer allergies suggested that Heather's alarming congestion in the bedroom might be due to a feather allergy, and our beautiful, luxurious down duvet. We're trying alternative blanketage, and so far the results don't look so good for the duvet.

Elise's sensitivity to loud noises like vacuums and trucks and blenders and lawnmowers and leafblowers and trucks and motorcycles and airplanes and sirens and alarms and barking dogs is NOT due to fluid build up in her ears. But the audiologist did confirm that she can probably hear us tell her to pick up her toys/books/clothes the first time, even if we whisper. ;)

Thursday is kids to work day at Ebay, so Elise is starting to get excited for her big day at the office. It should be fun to spend some quality time with Daddy.

And now, we'd like to close by quoting part of our favorite song that the librarian sings at storytime on Fridays:

That's all there is, there isn't much to it
All you've got to do is doodley do it
I like the rest, but the one I like best goes
"Doodley doodley doo."

Wadaleeacha, and goodnight.

Monday, April 16, 2007

A Good Day

Today was one of those magically happy days when everything just seems to go right. This morning, Elise bounded happily out of bed and down the stairs for breakfast. Because of schedules etc., we don't always get to eat breakfast as a family, but today we did! After breakfast, Heather took biiiig pieces of paper from Elise's easel and put them on the floor for a coloring extravaganza. As you can see, there was a lot of drawing and carrying on. Elise is a fun artist because absolutely everything she draws comes with some sort of narration. We swear that we will one day get this on video-it's really fun to watch.

After about two hours of coloring, it was time to finally get dressed for the day. We've begun taking Flapjack for walks on a leash, which she actually likes. Elise is the best cat walker ever. She is sooooo gentle with the leash, but also doesn't let the cat go wandering into bushes and such. The two of them are pretty much content to ramble around, and it's really cute.

Sometimes, Elise also stops to reassure Flapjack that this walking outside stuff is worthwhile.

This afternoon, we took a walk up to the neighborhood pet store, Andy's. It's apparently a San Jose landmark. They have all kinds of birds (including a resident toucan) as well as puppies, bunnies and hamsters. Looking at the hamsters on their wheels today was a thrill for Elise, and dangerous for Heather. Why in the world would an otherwise intelligent woman imagine that her cluttered, busy life needs the addition of a hamster? The world may never know. We don't need a hamster. But if we did, this is the coolest habitat ever.

To top it all off, Elise was willing to try 3 whole bites of enchilada for dinner tonight. This may be false hope, but we are imagining a life with a small person who will eat something more interesting than chicken nuggets on a regular basis.

Well, really to top that off, it should be noted that Andy bought us a new wireless access point which has a print server built in. This means we can send stuff to the printer without plugging it into our laptops all of the time. We could potentially print the grocery shopping list from up in our bedroom. Aside from the wonder that is networked printing, this one works faster than the old one, so we're happy.

And of course, there was the great weekend we just had. The need for kitchen curtains finally got the best of us and Heather went out and purchased a replacement for the drill we inherited from Andy's grandpa. Behold, the new cordless drill! And, behold the result. Obviously the tab tops of the curtains need a tiny adjustment, but we feel pretty proud of ourselves. These curtains look really good in here on a sunny day, and even leave little leaf shadows on the floor. Oooooooh........

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

And Now, A Word From Our Sponsor

Now that this blog has made itself comfortable in its new home on Blogger, it seems like a good idea to explain the origins of the title, "Steingruebl World Enterprises." Many of our readers will no doubt be surprised to learn that it is a name steeped in history, tradition and misinformation.

Our story begins in the summer of 1997, when Andy left his collegiate stomping grounds of Hyde Park on the South Side of Chicago for the suburban splendors of Evanston. Getting phone service installed is always somewhat of an adventure in Chicagoland. No matter how you feel about public utility monopolies, there is simply no predicting who had your phone number before you did. In Andy's case, the previous owner of his new phone number had been the newly defunct Australian Consulate in Evanston. Apparently, the Australians had finally figured out that Evanston was a bizarre location for a diplomatic outpost and upped stakes.

The new routing of the phone number didn't seem to phase many people. Many, many people called for consular advice. Most were nice enough, a few were belligerent. The real issue was that they all kept calling, and calling, and calling.

A full year later, Heather enters the picture. "Don't be scared away by my answering machine message,"Andy says. Heather calls, gets the machine, and hears the following message:

"Hello, you have reached Andy Steingruebl. This is not the Australian Consulate, repeat NOT the Australian Consulate. Messages for the Australian Consulate will not be returned, because this is not the Australian Consulate."

This was actually great conversation fodder for early dates. Eventually, Andy and Heather moved in together and Heather got to field a few of these interesting calls. One man, upon learning that he had not reached the consulate, asked for advice on banking overseas anyway. Another woman thought Heather was just being coy and tried to get actual consular type information out of her by mentioning people she thought should be mutual acquaintances. This sort of thing continued for quite awhile. Finally, after Andy Steingruebl and Heather Schmiedeskamp became "The Steingruebls" they changed their answering machine message to the following:

"Hello, and thank you for calling Steingruebl World Enterprises. We have recently completed our acquisition of the Australian landmass: Australia is now closed. If you wish to leave a message for the Steingruebls, please do so after the beep."

Believe it or not, we STILL got messages for the consulate. In fact, we continued in our consular double life until after we'd been living in Chicago for six months and the phone company had finally stopped telling callers where we could be reached.

So, Steingruebl World Enterprises. We haven't really bought Australia, otherwise we'd have got around to visiting Uncle Peter and Auntie Roni and Cousin Geetha and Auntie Kiwi in neighboring New Zealand. A quick googling reveals that another person has inherited our old phone number, and that at least one website out there still tells people that it's the one for the Australian Consulate in Evanston. Steingruebl World Enterprises is happy to pass the torch.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Temporal Shift

Back in ancient times, when Elise was less than a year old, we used to dread "fussy" spells and then watch for the incredible burst of ability that characterized their aftermath. We lived by a book called The Wonder Weeks, which told us that fussiness which couldn't be attributed to physical causes was most likely the result of brain development. There is a chance that we were grasping at straws, but they did seem to have an uncanny ability to predict where all of our lives were going at any given time. The book ended by saying that fussy phases would continue at ever widening intervals throughout our daughter's childhood. "Okay," we thought, "but couldn't you extend your calendar another few years? That would be helpful."

Every now and then, we've noticed that Elise has a hard time sleeping, is crabby, etc. and we imagine we're raising a crazy wild animal to be released into society when the time is right. And then the clouds lift and Elise has acquired some new talent that boggles our minds.

This week was one of those weeks. After a lot of tears, we've found the sunshine. This time, we're pretty sure she's been working on Space and Time. (As well as a killer British accent, but that's another story.) "May I please have something to eat while I'm waiting for my food to arrive?" Elise asked at lunch. (Katie Bloom's in Campbell-they have sausage rolls!!!) While playing this evening, she asked, "Where is Elmo? I just put him in here awhile ago." Elise is also quizzing us on the meaning of things like this morning, this afternoon, yesterday and tomorrow. It's going to be interesting to see if this means she will finally stop weeping every time we say we'll be doing something "a little later."

It's been a good weekend. Yesterday, we followed a friend's recommendation to Bill's for breakfast. It reminded us a lot of Le Peep in Evanston, and we'll be back often. Probably on Elise's next birthday, too, as she seemed particularly charmed by the waitstaff's exuberant but off key renditions of Happy Birthday for some of the other patrons. Also on this trip, Elise discovered that it is possible to pick up whole pancakes and dip them in syrup. That was a good one-time experiment, say Mom and Dad.

Today, we mucked about and then headed for downtown Campbell. It was fun to stumble upon a street fair/farmers' market, and we'll probably head back for this again soon. After a great lunch at Katie Bloom's we took a drive all over the place so that Elise could sleep a bit in the car to recharge her batteries. You never know what you'll find around here, but we were delighted by the giant flying purple octopus. Some days are just good.

Turtles and Parenting

This is going to be a slightly different style entry, so please bear with us.

A few days ago, Andy read an interesting blog entry and passed it on to Heather. The first part of the entry talks about box turtles, and doggone it if it didn't bring back happy memories of Forest. (Forest was Heather's pet box turtle for a decade, starting in college when he wasn't technically allowed to be living in the dorm.) This charming little tortoise was a persistent if unsuccessful escape artist, and we hope he's behaving himself for his friend Onah who has been his primary person for going on two years now...

At any rate, the blog entry in question uses the escape tactics of box turtles to demonstrate how people aren't good at detecting change that happens slowly. You can keep an eye on a box turtle for only so long, and then the little bugger manages to make it out of sight when you least expect it. This sort of thing is also a problem for systems that are meant to be automated with humans for backup. We expect the automated system to keep functioning, and as a result we simply cannot pay attention well enough to catch the anomalies.

All of a sudden, this seemed like parenting! There is so much repetition involved in raising kids that time can feel distorted. When babies are little and parents are sleep-deprived, it's really helpful that babies seem to be engineered to have simple (if omnipresent) needs. Parents are necessary, of course, but babies seem to grow merrily along on their own program in spite of their parents, at least most of the time. It can seem like we're the equivalent of the computer backup system.

This feeling of being the backup for something that's going to happen anyway seems to hit stay-at-home parents particularly hard at one time or another. Days and tasks fall into monotony (feedings and diapers are just a jumping off point, really), and things unfold slowly. Before we know it, the box turtle has escaped the garden and we're left scratching our heads. Or your kid has a biting problem or bad manners or you and your spouse haven't had a date night in two months. Or all of those things. Do we really have such short attention spans?!

The key to all of this working out (at least on the parenting side) is perspective. With no hard numbers to prove any of this, it seems like the parents who actively enjoy watching things go well have a leg up on the ones who are constantly on the lookout for the next sign that doom is at hand. Maybe it's just more interesting to spot indicators that things are going well than to comb through all of that information and spot the anomalies.

One of the unspoken rules of parenting these days is that Good Parents worry about everything. Good Parents are aware of the dangers of the modern world and work tirelessly to shield their children accordingly. Good Parents stay awake nights worrying about which preschools might be right for their kids. Good Parents should be able to diagnose any medical problem at least as well as any doctor. And when we can't, we're Failures. And it all starts when the kiddoes are so young!

From a risk prevention perspective, this worry seems like the very worst approach possible. Poised for each and every disaster, it is possible to become too focused on some things and not enough on others. Constant worry can lead to exhaustion which leaves parents unavailable for the all-important job of averting system failures. Worry can also artificially limit coping mechanisms, which is something none of us really want to model for our kids. As a full-time strategy, worry is a loser.

On the other hand, there are parents who spend a lot of time being excited about the new things their kids learn to do. At some point in this interaction, any problems tend to make themselves noticeable. An observant parent on the lookout for fun and exciting things is also likely to recognize anomalies. All of this without constant fear and foreboding.

So, guilt-ridden parents of the world, rest assured that more worry and guilt will NOT make you a better parent. Follow that box turtle around the garden-it will be exciting for the both of you.

*This post was written after a moms' night out which involved appletinis. If it's incoherent, that's probably a good thing.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007


Well, we've been thinking it's springtime here for awhile (a side effect of a nearly nonexistent winter, most likely) but now we know it's here for sure. The trees have almost all started leafing out, and all kinds of things are flowering. We fully expect to look out and see the pavement sprouting blooms one of these days. It's beautiful and nightmareish all at once. The sheer volume of pollen in the air seems to be mucking with all of us, including Flapjack. It's so weird to watch a cat sneeze, and they look miserable both during and after the fact. Hopefully, spring will settle down here after awhile and we'll all be breathing better soon.

As an (probably not so) interesting aside, we've discovered that this is now the thrid place we've lived in which the tree in front of our house is the last one on the block to bud. Can we pick 'em or what? It's all very strange. Even our tree has leaves now, though, so spring is really here.

Back to other things...

The switch from iWeb's subpar blogging tool to Blogger has been positive so far, at least from our perspective. How about for you, readers? Anything interesting to report? Questions, comments?

One difference with this tool is that it doesn't prompt us to post a picture with each entry. This is nice because it takes some of the picture taking pressure off, but it's bad because it also relieves some of the picture taking pressure. Our poor little camera is getting lonely.

However, we never got around to posting fun pictures from Cousin Geetha's visit, so this seems like a good place to include them!

Playing at the beach in Santa Cruz:
Beach babes in their natural habitat:
Along Highway 1: (Note Andy's new sunglasses.)
At one of the parks along Highway 1:
The Steingruebls at the top of the cliff:
And finally, cousins who are good friends:
That was a really fun visit-we're so glad that Geetha is going to school just up the street from us for the next year. (After her adventures in New Zealand, of course.)

There isn't much else to report here at the moment. Hopefully spring is sproinging without too much of a vengeance wherever you are!

Monday, April 2, 2007

It's Alive!!!

A week ago, a series of foolish choices and bad luck brought about the spilling of a glass of water into Heather's laptop. Oooh the horrors. Several days later, the keyboard was all wonky and we thought we were looking at hundreds of dollars of repairs. It was horrible.

However, all's well that ends well. This entry is being typed on the dried-out laptop, and it's going pretty well. Huzzah! It works! It's alive! The little electronic pets get to be such a part of our lives...

For those of you who are interested, there is a lot you can do to minimize damage when liquid spills all over a beloved laptop.

First-kill the power. Unplug it, take out batteries. Immediately. Electric current through liquid will cause oxidation and short things out. Hold the laptop upside down and let liquid trickle out. If there's a lot and it's just flowing out of the machine, try holding it upside down and tilting it away from sensitive internal parts like CD drives and the like. (This assumes you're thinking clearly at this point, which you most likely wouldn't be so feel free to disregard that last bit.)

Water is relatively benign since it can evaporate. Things like coffee and soda are deadly, though. If one of those gets in there, you may be better off rinsing it with water, believe it or not. Some people also pour in alcohol to speed up the evaporation process. Then, leave your laptop un-powered and well ventilated for a week at least. You might just get lucky like we did.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

New! Improved!

Many of our faithful readers will no doubt notice that 1) our blog has moved and 2) our blog looks completely different. All of the old entries have been moved here (along with most of the pictures), however comments posted in the other venue have all disappeared into the ether. Feel free to post lots of exciting comments here, though, because your words will be immortal!

There are several reasons for our switch from iWeb to blogger. The first and most pressing is the fact that iWeb pretty well stinks. Andy discusses this at length on his blog. From a non-technical standpoint, it took forever to publish new entries, and did wonky things if you even thought about trying to muck about with the html. Where's the fun in that?

Aside from the problems with iWeb itself, clever user error led to massive amounts of water being spilled into the laptop on which the iWeb software resides. We're still waiting for it to dry out, but preliminary reports aren't good. We'd been thinking of switching over to a web-based tool for awhile, and this new look at the mortality of all things hardwareish was the nudge we needed.

As an added bonus, it's going to be much easier for both Heather AND Andy to updated this blog, so that should yield a greater quantity of postings.

So, welcome to our official inaugural post at our new blogging venue! Set your bookmarks and RSS readers accordingly, and thanks for sticking with us. :)