Thursday, January 31, 2008

Arthur Dent would be Proud

We've all made it through Thursday!

It doesn't seem like much until you remember that it's cold season here. Elise has a fantastic cold which she has opted to share with me. Andy's leg was feeling just about normal and then he got some sort of stomach thing today on top of a bruised rib from a go-cart "team building" exercise at work. Flapjack, our beloved kitty, has some sort of Mystery Illness that has won us some good times at the vet with more to follow. We sound like we're falling apart, don't we? We're not really, it just looks that way because it's Thursday.

My printed copy of The Authoritarians arrived today, so I'm looking forward to digging into that. I'm also just about done with Your Inner Fish, which is a fantastic read. Really fun, and really interesting. Some excerpts are out there online, but they don't do the thing justice. And talk about melding a whole bunch of areas of science into one fascinating look into who we are.

It continues to rain here, which I think is going to be nice for the various flora and fauna eventually. Unfortunately, it's getting a bit wearing for our particular species just now. I guess if we all have to feel sick, it's better to do it on rainy days than sunny ones.

Tomorrow is February 1. (Happy birthday, Aunt Linda, bringer of ketchup.) I've been a little distracted so the annual Groundhog Day letter will have to be a pleasant reminder of a well-spent holiday rather than a heads-up about a prognosticating rodent.

Happy February!

Parent Teacher Conference

It seems like every interaction we have with the faculty and staff at Elise's preschool just increases our good opinion of the place. Today was our first ever parent-teacher conference. Well, my first ever since scheduling didn't work out to be able to include Andy. Next time!

At any rate, Elise's teacher Linda is a class act from start to finish. Her classroom is well put-together with lots of good hands-on discovery to be done. She has clearly communicated rules, routines, and an absolute love of small people. When I watch Linda with her students, I see the teacher I always wanted to be but am not sure I could quite manage.

So, talking with Linda this morning was a real treat. I learned that Elise is indeed settling in very well. She's getting better about trying to do things instead of saying "I can't." She's comfortable enough that her personality is shining through, to the point where her teachers find it impossible to be unhappy around her because she's so happy and giggly. (Can't you just watch my mommy feathers ruffle with pride here.)

Our biggest concern was to learn how she's getting along with other kids. I feel like I've kind of let down the side in terms of getting her together to play with friends, so it was good to have a chance to hear what her teacher has observed. And wouldn't you know it, but our girl has no trouble at all walking up to a group of kids and asking to join in! When she's feeling a little shy she'll ask a teacher if it's okay for her to be with the other kids, and as soon as she gets the nod she's off and fits right into the group. Wow! She's a little less connected one-on-one so we'll definitely work on getting a few more playdates (especially with other girls since she seems to be enjoying the girls at school most, and we've heretofore mostly played with boys).

It was so good to have an honest, straightforward evaluation of how things are going at school. Andy and I are so happy to have found this fantastic place for our girl to learn and grow. We'd have never found it without a mailing list for parents at Andy's work and some serious encouragement from PMomma. (Thank you!) It's onward and upward for our star pupil. :)

Library Week in Review

We fared slightly better at the library last Friday, so have a few good picks to share.

I Read Signs
by Tana Hoban
We first discovered this photographer's work when our beloved sitter Amy back in Chicago picked up one of her counting books at a library sale for us. Elise pretty much loves that one, so we of course looked for more. This one is cool because it has pictures of actual signs, and Elise loves "reading" them.

by Peter Sis
Madlenka discovers that her tooth is loose and has to tell everyone about it. By visiting all of her friends around her block, she manages to travel around the world. The pages all have windows through which she peeks, which is a cool touch.

Froggy Gets Dressed
by Jonathan London, illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz
Froggy is pretty popular, and has all kinds of books written about him. I like that he's a very active frog. In this book, he wakes up during the winter and wants to play in the snow. It's very hard for an excited little frog to remember all of his clothes however. And somehow everything is funnier with underpants.

WAIT! I Want to Tell You a Story
by Tom Willans
Shaherezade had nothing on this muskrat. It's all about the power of story. And I will leave it to you to enjoy.

We Eat Dinner in the Bathtub
by Angela Shelf Medearis, illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers
part of the Scholastic Reader series, level 2
The first time we checked this book out was several months ago, and if anything it's funnier now. You'll never guess where this crazy family has their meals. When I suggest that I'd like to try parking the car in the kitchen just like these people (to make unloading groceries easier) Elise just looks at me like I'm insane. Then again, as I write this I note that all of her dollhouse people are in their bathtub, and I know I didn't put them there...

Cows in the Kitchen
by June Crebbin, illustrated by Katharine McEwen
That's what we do, Tom Farmer! I think that's what I'm going to have to start saying when there's chaos afoot here. Farm animals are notorious for causing trouble in children's literature, and Tom Farmer's are no exception. I like the rhythm of it. I also like the picture of the sheep on the sofa.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Perpetual Adolescence

Listening to Talk of the Nation over PlayDoh this morning, I half-heard a really interesting discussion.

My ears tend to perk up when I hear women bashing men for being immature because I know there is more than one side to any story. Men aren't (generally speaking) pigs, women aren't (generally speaking) always arbiters of good breeding and sense. Yes, I've met a lot of man-children out there (and how some of them every got married and procreated is beyond me-I'd have thrown them out on their behinds), but have I met more than my mother or my grandmothers met at this stage of their lives?

Kay Hymowitz seems to think that I have. There are some interesting marriage statistics to back this up. Back in the good old days, men used to be married with jobs and even houses and kids by their mid-twenties and thirties. Now, they tend to float around having a good time instead.

I may be laughing in the face of the destruction of civilization as we know it, but I don't have a fundamental problem with that. Go have fun! The world needs rampant silliness. Not that I want to be anywhere near the drunken, stupid fratboys while they behave disgustingly mind you, but I think society will survive their collective decade long bender.

One reasonable argument against this self-centered lifestyle is that it is a drain on society's resources. My response is that parents could probably nip some of it in the bud by just not financially supporting their poor young man struggling to find himself. And women need not marry them and procreate with them, either. And if they do, it's not unreasonable to expect some heartbreak. Just know that going in.

Nearly all of my girlfriends were complaining a decade ago that "all of the good ones are gay or taken!" so I set out to prove them wrong. It took one personal ad in the Reader. (Yes, you may "awwwwwww" now, Andy and I had our first date nearly 10 years ago.) The dating scene has changed a lot since then so maybe there's a smaller pool now. But it can't possibly be that small. Find a good life partner instead of the first warm body that comes along. And definitely don't try to reform some dashing and dangerous dude, because it's never worked out well in any of the novels I've ever read.

And, in my humble opinion, some of the hysteria over the child-man is born of envy.
How come women can't do that too?!
'Cause we could get pregnant!
Oh wait, there's contraception.
We'd disappoint our families!
Oh wait, your inability to handle disapproval is not some boy's fault.
What about the future, the next generation, our biological clocks?!!!!
Pick your priorities. These things may not be compatible-choose.

And voila, because the boys aren't doing what the girls want them to they are selfish.

At this time in history, we have a large population of young men in our society who do not see benefits in commitment to others and especially to women. This may be a harbinger of a strange new society but I tend to think not. The "every man for himself" mode of living is extravagant, wasteful, and unsustainable in the long run. Partnerships and communities can be much more efficient a use of resources. Eventually, even the most self-centered individuals (male and female) are going to want some of that. All of this hand-wringing about the child-man seems a little premature to me.


I can't remember the last time I was in the bath long enough to shrivel my fingers and toes to look like raisins. Elise gets to do this regularly, though, which I think is a good thing.

This afternoon, she was eating some raisins and delivered this insightful question:

"Mommy, what happens when raisins spend too long in the bath?"

I was so proud of her I nearly levitated off the floor.

We decided to find out for ourselves by putting one raisin in a dish of water. We set the timer, and after 15 minutes it didn't look appreciably different. It also didn't look different just before Daddy came home. I'm hoping it will swell up a bit before morning so that she has a chance to say she discovered something new about raisins and long baths.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

It's Pretty Safe to Be My Friend

In case you were worried...


Friday, January 25, 2008

Oh, the Delicious Disconnect

It's not easy being credulous. You'll believe any story anyone tells you.

If you're President Bush, you think this painting is about a rough and ready missionary off to serve his deity. And you like to think it is a good depiction of what you're up to.

If you're the artist, W.H.D. Koerner, "A Charge to Keep" is a horse thief being chased by an angry lynch mob.

It just goes to show you that reality can be whatever you want it to be. As long as you get a good head-start...

(Thanks to Pharyngula for the heads up, and to Harpers for the story.)

Hooray for Telephone

Ours is back up and working again! Very, very happy are we.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Will Shade Tribute this Sunday!!!

For those of you in (or near) Chicago who are looking to thaw out this weekend and also hear some spectacularly good music, have I got the event for you.

Will Shade will get a very fitting tribute at the Old Town School this Sunday afternoon and evening. Go early for the free screening of a jugband documentary (I saw it here at the SF jugfest, 'tis worth watching) and warm up with a pre-concert jam session. There are some absolutely amazing artists on the program, including my erstwhile musical family The Hump Night Thumpers.

I wish I could be there. With its roots in the blues, jug band music is some of the happiest music around. Will Shade started the Memphis Jug Band back in the 20s, and that music inspired the musical heroes of most of the people I know today. Oh yes, jugband music is that cool. If you don't believe me, check out the show on Sunday. I guarantee you'll forget all about the cold.


Awhile back, I was pointed to a book called The Authoritarians, and after reading a bit of it I recommended it to my vast audience here. Anybody have any thoughts?

I promised a bit of a review and discussion once I was through a chapter or two, but I reckoned without the difficulty of reading it online. With as much "ah hah!"ing and "of course, that makes perfect sense"ing as I was doing while I read, I didn't feel like I was reading very critically. So, an actual review will have to wait until I read this book "for real."

I've ordered it from Lulu so that I can have a hard copy in my hot little hands and it's easier to make notes etc. It ran me about $20, slightly less than if I'd had the PDF printed at the Kinko's up the street. Your mileage may vary. Whether you read it on your computer or in paper form, I'd love to get a discussion going about this book.

To further convince you, gentle reader, that this is a worthwhile book to try, I'd like to say the following. There is so much "news" and "information" out there that it either becomes overwhelming or fades to noise. I do best when I have a framework for thinking about the information at hand. For example, reading Fark (the book) gave me a nice framework for identifying, and understanding the life-cycle of, junk news. It's helped reduce some of the nonsense to noise so I can focus on the stuff that matters.

My experience with The Authoritarians, so far, is that it is doing something similar for my understanding of the great cultural divide in this country. The lunatic things that my fellow citizens do are not random even though they seem like it. Understanding what's going on is the first step in making positive change. Let me know if a read of The Authoritarians does something similar for your perspective.

Carnival of Space

Every week, various bloggers take it in turn to host "carnivals" on subjects near and dear. One of my favorites is the Carnival of Space. Even with obsessive space blog reading I tend to miss out on some of the more interesting news of the week, so the Carnival keeps me going.

Anyway, I've been slow to point it out to my readers here. This week's Carnival of Space is over at Sorting out Science, one of my regular stops in my daily blog reading. Sam has outdone himself as a host. Even if you don't go for the links to interesting news about our universe, go for the fabulous story. Seriously.

This Week's Library Favorites

It's Thursday already, and time for more fabulous kid library book reviews. The problem is that we picked a number of duds this time around. Alas. This is what happens when a kid lets her mommy browse the nonfiction to find books about the history of area missions and info on Groundhog Day. Tomorrow, I'll be letting Elise pick her own books and we're likely to have a few more winners.

A few favorite authors who surfaced this week bear noting, however.

Eileen Christelow
This author/illustrator's claim to fame is a collection of stories about five little monkeys. You know, the ones who jump on the bed, tease a crocodile etc. Thanks to Christelow, they also play hide and seek, wash the car, and try not to wake Momma.

Frank Asch
We originally discovered Asch because his book Turtle Tale was one of my favorites when I was a kid. His stories are gentle and simply illustrated which I like. Some of 'em are a little weird too, but generally I'm glad to see Elise happily clutching one of his creations when we are at the library. The thing that makes him over-the-top cool is his website, where he has read and animated some of his stories. Go check it out! That's what a wise turtle would do...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Exciting Entertainment Planned

This morning, I saw a tiny little blog post somewhere about an upcoming debate at Stanford between Christopher Hitchens and some guy from a dubious non-profit called the Discovery Institute. Their main objective is to overthrow centuries of scientific work across a broad range of topics through carefully contrived personal attacks on the long-dead Charles Darwin. (I may be paraphrasing a bit.) Apparently, they have a god who is in favor of that, so it's all cool. Skeptical? Much of the state of Florida isn't, so you shouldn't be either.

At any rate, a bluster-fest "moderated" by a sympathizer and hosted by Ben Stein ought to be good fun. Apparently, anyone can mail Stanford's Faux Science Club for tickets, so hop to it sports fans! Here are the instructions as posted at the "Institute"'s "Evolution News" blog.

TICKETS: You must have a ticket to attend the event. Tickets can be reserved/obtained at no charge, by emailing: You must provide this information: Name, Affiliation ("Referred by …"), # of tickets. Seating is limited and tickets will be reserved on a first come, first reserved basis. On the day of the debate there will be a table out front for reserved tickets, and you can pick them up there at the event.

I'm hoping my cousin (as a bona fide Stanford student) will be able to score tickets through regular campus channels before they're gone, and she and I will be able to attend and chortle and chortle. I hope my cool new evolution shirt arrives before Sunday!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

This Week's Library List

I can't believe I'm doing this two weeks in a row! Now if only I could apply this same sticktoitiveness to more of my life...

Without further ado, this week's favorites!

The Marvelous Toy
by Tom Paxton, illustrated by Elizabeth Sayles
An illustrated version of the song I've loved for a long time. If you don't know the song, it's written out in the endpieces. It's more fun to listen to it, though. Nice pictures, but really we just "read" it for the song.

Hooray for Fish!
by Lucy Cousins
The lady who brings us Maisy and her friends also did this fish book. Bright pictures of different (imaginary) kinds of fish that are also fun to count if you're so inclined. We like the part at the end where the little fish reunites with its mommy.

I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean
by Kevin Sherry
Ah, to be a squid. The protagonist in this story is a giant squid, and likes to proclaim its bigness, even in the face of changing circumstances. I think we just like squid.

And, the hands-down favorite of the week:
Meow: A Day in the Life of Cats
by Judy Reinen
We're in the midst of a cat craze at our house, so this book was an absolutely perfect find. Featuring pictures of actual cats posed in bathtubs and clothing and hanging from a trapeze, this book half-heartedly tries to convince us that cats are just like people. It was weird for me to see silly pictures of cats with grammatical accompanying text, but that is clearly a side effect of too much time spent on the internet.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


A show of hands-how many of you remember my post about waterboarding from back in December? Oh, good!

I've been so frustrated by the way so many people I've talked to about this just shrug it off and figure there's not much to be done to stop it. And others are all for torture, because it's apparently a good idea if the government says it is. Waterboarding is torture, it is criminal, and it is Wrong. And yet we seem to be pretty committed to it as a society as evidenced by the fact that those responsible for this atrocity (and so many others) are nowhere near being brought up on war crimes charges.

Well, insightful commenter and expert blogger Nerdiah commented on my earlier post and included a link to a book that she recommends. After reading the introduction and the first chapter, I second that recommendation. I know that none of my faithful readers took the bait when I asked you to join me in reading a lengthy tome on evolution, but I think this could be different. This book is free, available online, and is not an insanely dense read. I'm particularly interested in what the social scientists among you have to say.

So, check out this most excellent work, The Authoritarians, and I'll check back in a few days for a discussion of chapter one.

My Kingdom for a Phone

Today was to be the day that nice technicians from the phone company came to fix our telephones and our interwebs, restoring hope, peace and prosperity to the people of our great household. Alas, it was not to be.

As it happens, the series of tubes through which the internet runs to my house (Hah! And you all thought Ted Stevens was a crazypants!) are full of water. Our personal aquifer has corroded our phone cable so impressively as to destroy voice capabilities and leave the interweb hanging by one tenuous little thread that jiggles ominously when the garbage trucks go by on Mondays.

The very nice army of phone technicians (and to give them their due here, they were all absolutely fabulous) couldn't actually run a line through the phone conduit due to some sort of anomaly at each end. Before I had a chance to worry about all of the names my neighbors would call me if their garages needed digging up, the guys had tested every phone line to all of my neighbors. And they're all shorting out, too. We're like the first robins of spring, except more doomalicious.

My pet theory is that since all of this started at approximately the time of the earthquakes back in October, it's probably related. I think that's more likely to be true if the rumor I've heard about the conduit being made of PVC is true. And really, maybe the builder didn't cut as many corners on the telecom infrastructure as they did on so much of the rest of this place though I've got 5 different colors of off-white paint on one wall of my den that suggest otherwise. Ugh. Words can not begin to express how glad I am to be RENTING.

Thank you for reading my rant. I have no telephone, and spotty DSL. My life could be much worse. For now, calls are still being routed from the home number to the cell phone (I think), and the coffee shop up the way has free wifi...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Mr. Monk Joins a Cult

We just finished watching the first new episode of Monk for this year, and it made me glad. The cult constructed for this show was nicely done! Without giving anything away, let me just say that I was pleased with the outcome.


Wow! Look what MESSENGER sent back!!!! It's beautiful, yes? Not only is it beautiful, but it's the first time human eyes have had a look at some of this. A lot of pictures were taken on this flyby, but it's going to take awhile for more to be sent back. In the mean time, the Bad Astronomer will help you get your "wow" on.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Shorthand and Other Secrets of Our House

At our house, Elise has taken to shortening the names of various things. For example, underpants are "unders", new shoes are "news" and so on.

Some things, however, are already too zippy and fun to be shortened. It's not "Hullabaloo," it's "Cranium Hullabaloo!"

We've also got some favorite phrases around here that we've been practicing.

When we play Candy Land and someone lands on the square just behind someone else, they get to say, "I'm breathin' down the back o' yer neck!" (They also get to say, "wa wa wa waaaaaaa" if they pick a "special" card that sends them backward.)

When someone is clearly up to no good, they are accused of making "nefarious" plans. Or of being nefarious.

Often, Elise will decide that she doesn't want to do some non-negotiable thing. Like take a bath. Or brush her hair. Or put on shoes. Before the protests get too loud and long, Andy just says, "Duly noted. I will add it to the record." And then the bathing or brushing or shoeing commences. And woe betide the mommy who tries to inflict the dread bath without making note and adding complaints to the record.

And of course, the longtime favorites at mealtimes are, "soup's on" and "come and get it!"

Do you, gentle reader, have any favorite shorthand references or oft used phrases at your house? And will you share them? I love the way families develop their own lingo! And the miles just melt away when you can use a phrase used by someone you love.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

We Went to the Movies!

On Friday night, we managed to get out to a movie. Wahoo! The film of choice was Juno, which we liked a lot. It was funnier than you'd imagine for a movie about teenage pregnancy, not disgusting high-school potty humor, and not preachy. I thought that was a bit of a coup given the subject matter.

My favorite part was the soundtrack, which is something I can't ever remember saying before. They opened with Barry Louis Polisar, an idol of my youth. Wow! Anyway, Andy and I have both had the soundtrack in our heads ever since, and it's been a happy, musical weekend.

Astronomy at Last

Before I get on to the business of boring most of my loyal readers to tears, I'd like to mention some big news coming up tomorrow. (Or rather today for most of you by now.)

The MESSENGER spacecraft is flying by Mercury tomorrow, and it's the closest look we've ever had. In fact, it's been 33 years since we sent anything out that way. It's going to take awhile for MESSENGER to settle into orbit, but for now we're expecting great things tomorrow. It's worth checking out the mission website. I have to say, though, that Tom's Astro Blog is my favorite source for excitement on this one.

It's been over two months since I was last able to drive out someplace dark with my telescope and have a good look at the sky. That's a long time when one has an addiction to ancient photons. (The light that hits your eye when you look at far-away objects left a looooong time ago.)

So, here is a slightly modified version of the observation report that I posted to my astronomy group's mailing list today. I haven't changed any names to protect the guilty or anything, but it gives some idea of the number of crazy people who drive on long, twisty roads in order to grab some sky.

Weather at Coe was comfortable for observing. Temp hovered around 45, and there wasn't a lot of wind. The fog mostly covered the valley, and stayed away from all of us until a little after midnight.

My triumph of the night was getting my scope collimated. This sounds silly until I realize that I've never actually managed to get it in decent working order on my own before now. Last summer, Larry introduced me to the world of barlowed laser collimation, but I had a hard time wrapping my head around it until now. Well, I got things mostly aligned before I left home, and then fine-tuned up at Coe. Ahhhhhhhhhhh, success. Thanks to everyone who's ever patiently tried to help me with this!

This was also the first night out under dark skies for my 17mm Orion Stratus eyepiece. I'd been pretty disappointed with it here under the lights in San Jose because I kept getting reflections of my face in all of that glass. Under dark skies, however, it was an entirely different beast. Absolutely spectacular view of the Orion nebula. It is filling the higher quality, multi-purpose niche I had planned for it very nicely.

Seeing last night was decent enough that I had an opportunity to really mag up on some planets and enjoy. Mars was very nice through my 4.8mm Nagler, especially once Peter lent me his orange Mars filter. After I gave that back, I tried my plain old moon filter and I think I'll be happy looking through that. Not much detail to be seen, but I had myself convinced that I saw something darkish in one spot.

Also looking lovely at high mag was Saturn. (Thanks for reminding me it was up there, Daniel. And for sharing your meteorite samples-cool!!!) I could not believe how crisp and clear it looked. Aside from seeing a bit of differentiation in the rings, I saw some bands of color on the planet itself. What a thing of beauty!

It was nice to have a night to just putter. When I asked Peter about "that big fuzzy spot right there" I was delighted to learn it was the Beehive cluster, and had a good time looking at that in both my regular XT8 and the new ST80 I got at the SJAA swapmeet. Tony showed me the "37 cluster" in Orion which was a hoot, and probably my favorite new-to-me thing of the night.

The Feb Sky & Telescope has an article about Serius B that caught my eye. Many of you more experienced hands will be shocked, shocked I tell you to learn that I did not see it with my 8" of aperture last night. :)

And of course, the best of all was being out under the stars with a bunch of wonderful and like-minded people. I've been missing you guys! It's an inspiring crowd, and I always come home too excited to sleep. I hope everyone made it back down through the fog ok, and look forward to more good observing nights soon.

There you have it, folks, my first observation report of the new year! And, as a bonus for those of you who stuck through that report to the bitter end, I will now link to the incredible must-have product for all space cadets. (Thank you, Bad Astronomer.)

200 Pearls

Well, maybe not pearls and definitely not to be construed as wisdom or anything, but welcome to my 200th post! Blogger kindly keeps count, and I was surprised to see that I've actually written this much in the past year and a half.

I started this blog back when we were getting ready to leave Chicago for the wilds of California. High hopes for a brighter tomorrow were couched in the miserable aftermath of hernia surgery and a summer of temporary housing. And yet, we did it. When I was about Elise's age, one of my favorite things to do on walks was to sit down and exclaim, "Look how far we've come!" (Often after not that many steps. I've become a little more restrained in my need for reflection, I think.) A whopping 200 posts in to this world of blogging, I feel a lot of pride and joy when I "Look how far we've come!"

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Library Lists- a NEW Feature!

Welcome to a brand new weekly feature here at Steingruebl World Enterprises. Every Thursday, I plan to list/review some of the kid books we've been reading here. On Fridays, Elise and I head for the library and select a giant pile of books to read for the week. By taking stock of our inventory on Thursdays, I not only share our favorites with you but I also actually find all of the books so they can be returned on time. In theory at least.

Without further ado, welcome to this week's list. (In order of how I picked them out of the pile just now.)

This is the Rain
by Lola M Schaefer, illustrated by Jane Wattenberg
A rhyme similar to "The House that Jack Built" except that this one is about the water cycle here on Earth. Bright pictures, nice rhyme structure, etc. I don't know if our 4-year-old "gets" the concept, but she likes the story.

One-Dog Canoe
by Mary Casanova, illustrated by Ard Hoyt
A girl goes canoeing with her dog, and lots of other silly animals also try to come along. It reminded us of kayaking with Grandpa Karl, though we're glad he's a little more selective about his passengers. Bonus points for mention of the Northern Lights at the end.

Our New Baby
by Heather Maisner, illustrated by Kristina Stephenson
In spite of the fact that there are no new babies in sight here, Elise loves this book. In fact, we love all of the books in this series because they are very gentle introductions to things that are difficult for kids. I especially like We're Moving. This is the one series I've found of "prepare kids for terrifying upheaval" books that have fun, non-preachy stories.

by Colleen Sydor, illustrated by Ruth Ohi
A silly fairy tale about bringing goodies to Grandma's house a la Red Riding Hood, except that the heroine has a magic wand and teaches manners to animals. We've checked this one out a number of times, and very much enjoy how clever Emily is. Due to the fact that Elise is a language sponge, we choose to alter the line where Emily says, "What the heck," but that's just us. When Elise is a little more discriminating in her phrase usage, we'll read it as is. And I'm sure we'll be doing that for years to come.

little blue and little yellow
by Leo Lionni
We seem to check this book out at least once a month. Two spots of paint hug one another and change color. Their parents don't recognize them, but everything gets sorted out in the end. It's a nice, gentle story.

An Egg Is Quiet
by Dianna Aston, illustrated by Sylvia Long
For the budding naturalist in all of us. All kinds of eggs are beautifully depicted. It's one of those where you can read simple description (here in bigger font) and then delve into more detail in the smaller notes around the page. Absolutely beautiful, and one I wouldn't mind having on our own shelves for reference.

10 Little Rubber Ducks
by Eric Carle
Alas, a crate of ten rubber ducks falls off of a container ship. Each duck floats someplace different. They're just rubber ducks floating along, and we count them and see where each ends up . Bonus squeaker in the back cover of the book. Quack!

Not a complete list of everything we've checked out this week, just some of the favorites that seemed blogworthy. Happy reading!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

On Our Way Back

It's good to be writing again.

Last week, we had the biggest collection of my family in one place since Peter & Roni got married over 3 years ago. Every last bit of it was fantastic, but the let down after everyone departed has left me wondering what to do with myself. If the weather were better, I'd be spending late nights out under the stars. As it is, the weather has been, well, weather so I've been inside cleaning instead. If only I'd managed to do this before the relatives came, they'd all have been so much more favorably impressed...

I haven't been doing the house cleaning all by myself. Oh no. Roomba's new battery arrived, and I finally had the time to charge it up and try it out. Yesterday, I had Roomba clean the living room twice, because I could. Also because the first time the dust bin got so full it started leaking stuff out. Yuck. But the rug looks fabulous.

And, as an aside, I still love Roomba. Man, do I love my robot. The idea of this little round thing trundling over my floors just makes me happy. Before you laugh, I'm not the only one who blogs about loving a vacuum. Hah! When I first got Roomba, I wondered how anyone would want to be without one. And then I realized that there are a whole bunch of stupid little things that go wrong with it. It's a gizmo lover's gizmo. Occasional trouble-shooting is part of the fun! The icing on the cake is that the iRobot customer support have been amazing. My little robot minion will be cleaning my floors for a long time to come.

But I digress. The other bit of good news around here is that Andy is finally back on his feet for real, and is even contemplating getting around without a cane tomorrow. Wahoo! Elise is loving having her daddy back to "normal." When he offered to carry her upstairs to bed last night I thought she would faint dead away from the joy of it. If nothing else, she now knows that people can be inexplicably sick and then get better. And hey, we grownups have figured it out too, so everybody wins.

Speaking of the kiddo, she managed having lots of company here quite well. It's easy to get over-stimulated, but she mostly managed to find ways to take breaks in the action and stay sane. And she really, really enjoyed having so many cool new adults to play with. She especially enjoyed getting to know Aunt Linda (my dad's sister.) Here was an adult who brought her books! And read them! And played playdoh just the right way! At the end of the big family visit before "the Ls" headed back to MI, Linda told Elise that they'd be back in June. When I got Elise to the car, she let out a wail and asked, "Mommy, when will it be JUNE?!!!!" (No pressure on making it to graduation there, Geetha.)

It was time to go back to school on Tuesday. Elise dragged herself around the house thinking of every stall she could muster because she did NOT want to go back. Oh no. "I don't WANT to get back in the groove, Mommy." Visualize a sad shake of the head to go with that. Oh my. When we arrived, some of the kids were playing with Legos. At that point, I became invisible. I had to ask for a kiss goodbye. This was strange.

Even more strange was the report from the teachers when I arrived to pick her up that afternoon. She'd played with other kids even to the point of some self-directed conflict resolution. She ate lunch, she took a nap, she participated in the classroom activities. I think they sent me home with the kid I dropped off, but based on their description of the day I can't be sure.

I spent a good chunk of Elise's school day on the phone trying to figure out what to do about our phone. With a building that's just over three years old, one wouldn't necessarily expect the phone lines to fail. However, they have and now we wait until the 16th to have someone come out and rip out the shorted-out stuff. Ironically, by adding a "call forwarding" feature to my phone package, I actually lowered our monthly phone bill. By just enough to cover the fee for adding the feature in the course of the remainder of our lease. None of it makes sense. Nor do I, but at least now my friends and family can call me to confirm it...

And finally, I wanted to mention that Andy's sister Amy sent some very cool bug-finding toys for Elise this Christmas. A little vacuum for slurping up bugs, a habitat to put 'em in, and a projector thing apparently for torturing them as you watch their shadows projected on the wall. Wonder of wonders, this vacuum is the first white-noise producing machine that hasn't sent our girl screaming toward the hills. In fact, she even pushes the "turbo boost" button. Elise was so excited to go out and look for bugs the other day that I didn't have the heart to tell her that the pickings would be slim what with it being winter and all. But, she took her magnifying glass and her bug vacuum and we went anyway. Elise spent eons carefully looking at flowers, leaves, sticks and rocks with the magnifier. It was awesome.

Friday, January 4, 2008


We woke today to the sound of sheets of rain beating against the windows. This was so strange, because we almost never have weather here in the "Capital of Silicon Valley." Unless you count unrelenting sunshine as "weather." Very peculiar indeed. In honor of the event, Elise and I decided to drive Andy to work so he wouldn't get soaked waiting for the bus. It was a good choice.

As we were pulling away, the bus pulled up. Elise commented that she was surprised to see the bus since it is usually broken on rainy days. Now this is funny, because the only times we've had to pick Andy up at work when the bus was broken it was pouring rain. Clearly, we are going to have to teach her about global warming and pirates.

A more happy and cozy sort of deluge has been the wealth of family hanging out here just now. My parents are visiting, as are my aunt, uncle and cousin. Tonight, Jaya is going to cook a super supper for all of us, and we're all looking forward to that. We haven't had this much family together at one time in a long time, so it's been a treat all around.

And finally, for any and all of you who might have been trying to call our home phone, yeah, it's messed up. AT&T tells us it's a short somewhere in the miles of wiring in this place, but my neighbors reassure me it's almost certainly a problem at the box at the end of the row of units. That makes a lot of sense to me since our problems first started when the new neighbors moved in and likely got their phone installed. So, for the first time in history I'm keeping my cell phone on me and charged and stuff until the phone company gets the land line sorted out. In the mean time, your call is very important to us etc.

Elise has now spent the entire hour that was her "nap" up in her bed telling stories with dramatic voices and lots of musical interludes. It may be time for me to go get her. Or a recording device of some sort because it's hilarious.