Sunday, August 31, 2008

Home

Oh my, I can't even think of where to begin. This afternoon, we here at Steingruebl World Enterprises headed over to our new headquarters to meet up with our landlady, give her $$$$, and collect keys. It's finally sinking in that this really is going to be our home. How did we get lucky enough to live someplace so nice?!

Since the last time we were there, our landlady has been busy. Well, maybe extremely busy. Along with her crack team of handypersons. All of the bedrooms have been repainted. The carpet, which was such a concern due to a previous feline resident, has all been replaced. Yes, you read that right. Replaced! And, it's a beautiful, neutral berber that looks just fantastic. And so nice to care for-I have really missed the berber we had in our bedrooms back in Chicago.

Then, the little details have all been attended to. She replaced the old mailbox and porch light, and now they are shiny, new and gorgeous. She's installed new, copper-accented ground lighting in the back yard. She's painted the front door. And these are just the things that are readily apparent and made our jaws drop.

We've had a run of good landlords (after a couple of duds our first two places together) so we've been a little spoiled. But, I have to say, I have never felt so taken care of when moving in someplace. Words can not even begin to express. I don't think I've ever teared up from all of the nice things a landlord has done for me before now. The fact that Andy and I are both so excited we can hardly stand it gives me great confidence that we've finally found a place we'll be able to call home for a good, long time.

Tune in next time when we will have pictures and everything!

And the Winner Is...

Undetermined by voting. My little poll about how we should address gender and our parrot yielded a tie between calling Beaker "him" or simply "The Beaker." I am pleased to note that none of our readers had interest in the surgical option. Good for you, folks!

And now, since it's election season in the US and this poll was conducted via computer, I'm going to "count" the votes. We'll stick with the status quo with regard to bird gender references. At least for now. I can't keep track of new pronouns while packing boxes. Yes, my brain is feeling a tad small these days.

Thanks to advice from our new vet, Beaker has been enjoying some misty showers and time in the sun lately. Yay, Beaker! He's also still babbling like a budgie since our vet visit, usually while perched on my finger and trying to figure out how to get me to let him go exploring. We've noticed a marked decrease in random shrieking, and I take that as a great thing. I also got a book from the library that has some excellent, practical advice from one of my favorite parrot experts, Mattie Sue Athan. I'm optimistic about the nature of our future interactions.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Word of the Day

Today's vocabulary word is "devious."

"Mom, what does devious mean?"

This was our lunchtime conversation. I tried to explain how it means being sneaky and up to no good. Clearly unimpressed by my explanatory powers, Elise asked for examples. I led with describing a sneaky plot to surprise someone by hiding marbles in their shoes.

Oh my, the evil chuckles. I can't remember the rest of the examples I gave, but I can say that I had to stop at one point because I was worried she'd choke on her toasted cheese sandwich.

We continued to discuss ways in which we could be devious, and then she decided that one of the plots was so devious as to be diabolical. Mwahahahahaha!

And then, we went outside with her doll in its little stroller, and took a walk to the park with the neighbor kids. She was so sweet when the two little twins were distraught over sharing the stroller. It was fun. After that, it was "rest" time which is a complete misnomer at this point. Her bedroom is a disaster area, but at least everything is tagged appropriately.

Put your suggestions of devious plots in the comments, and in a few days I'll read them off to Elise (on camera-it'll be a hidden one I hope) so you can have the joy of experiencing that evil laugh for yourself!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Change


We here at Steingruebl World Enterprises have been a little too preoccupied with some change of our own to focus much on the kind they're talking about in Denver these days. We'll get with it (eventually) and say something substantive (or vapid) about it. In the mean time, we're focusing on preschool transitions and moving.

One thing we're starting to understand is that it's pretty easy to rock Elise's world. For example, she is staying at preschool for another year even as most of her class "graduated" to kindergarten. This, right by itself, is hard for any kid. Add to this the tendency of Elise's teachers to keep order by asking the kindergarten-bound to prove they're ready for kindergarten by following directions, and you've got one miserable little kid. Because, you see, if being good means you're ready for kindergarten and you're not going to kindergarten, you must not be good. To her mind, Elise couldn't win for losing. I didn't learn this directly. Nope. A sudden flurry of accidents, irritability and downright defiant behavior. Finally, I overheard Elise playing with dolls and telling them to prove they were ready for kindergarten by being quiet. Oh dear. We spent a lot of time talking about that and I think (read: hope) that as long as we keep talking about it Elise will regain some confidence in her wonderfulness.

Moving is hard. Elise has been asking a lot of weird questions about what stuff we're bringing and what has to stay here, and we've been going nuts trying to figure out how to reassure her that she'll have all of her "stuff" at the new place. When in doubt, ask a professional. I had a conference with Elise's teacher this morning, and she had some fantastic ideas. Not only did she do some excellent research on helping kids with change, but she had some great recommendations of her own. I love knowing that Elise is under the care of such a sharp lady two days a week. :)

My favorite take-away from this meeting was a suggestion that we have Elise go around and tag stuff so that she knows what we're taking. A physical act, something concrete to work out some of that worry. I got a package of small post-it notes in 4 different colors, which Elise discovered after school. After we talked about what they were for, she wanted to get going right away. We made a key, and she chose which colors mean what. So, if you happen to visit us sometime in the next month, here's the scoop. Things tagged with purple will be carried by the movers. Pink tags mean we'll move the item. Blue is for garage sale items. Yellow is for things we're not taking.

I learned a few interesting things from this exercise. For starters, Elise was itching to do something helpful. Second, she had some genuine confusion about what was coming with us. I asked what color she wanted to put on her bed, and she got very quiet and avoided eye contact. Finally she looked at me sadly and said that the bed would have to stay so we'd better get a yellow tag. Oh no! I explained that the bed was hers and of course it would come because otherwise where would she sleep?! From there, I insisted on yellow tagging everything that needed it. So there are now yellow tags on toilets, sinks, counters, major appliances etc. We were finally able to joke with her about whether or not to take the front door. I think we have a handle on this thing now.

So, I don't know if this is change we can believe in, but it's a pretty good start.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Polls are Open


In a recent post about the Steingruebl World Enterprises avian associate, I introduced a poll pertaining to parrot gender issues.

Beaker has always been referred to as male by us here at SWE. However, there's no good reason for that other than we were just in that sort of a mood. Every vet and vet tech who's ever seen Beaker has exclaimed, "Oh, isn't she just a sweet little one!" Given that and Beaker's profound interest in Andy (parrots are known for their hetero attractions to people), it would be much more reasonable to call Beaker a girl.

Of course, we could settle this once and for all with some exploratory surgery, but Steingruebl World Enterprises has some strict policies against such things.

So, on the front page we have a poll. Alert reader and sister-in-law Roni has pointed out another excellent option which has now been added for your voting pleasure.

Time to practice for November, people! Head for our main page and vote. And, if you're so inclined, talk to Google about adding Instant Runoff Voting to their little polls widget. Or write one yourself and I'll use it in my next opinion poll.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Obama's Pick

Why did it take Barack Obama so long to announce his running mate?

He was Biden his time!

Parrot Husbandry

When we first brought Beaker home, nearly nine years ago, I considered myself pretty up-to-date on all of my parrot care information. Over the years, I've let my bird magazine subscriptions lapse and have generally stopped reading and learning more about parrot care. Not that I didn't care, but I felt I was competent and got complacent.

Since we've moved to CA, Beaker has been learning some new behavior that has baffled and annoyed all of us. A little reading and a quick trip to our new avian vet, and I feel like we've got some good times to look forward to in our new house. I thought I'd share a few of the tips we've found/been given. It should provide some insight into what our lives are like with a bird.

1. Sunlight and fresh air. Back in Chicago, time outdoors wasn't something we considered much. Between the weather and the threat of west nile virus, it made sense to keep the birdie inside. Also, we figured that with Beaker's particular health issues, we should keep our little guy out of drafts. Well, the thinking here and now is that birdies need fresh air and sunshine. There are so many things that are bad for highly efficient birdie lungs in a house. Fresh air and sunshine allow our captive parrot to clean out his lungs. We don't really have mosquitoes here, and I can always hang some mosquito netting around him if needs be.

2. Bathtime. Beaker has always liked bathing in his water dish, but that's not really good enough to keep him healthy. Our new vet demonstrated how a couple of gentle squirts from a gentle mister bottle can make a huge difference. Once he'd dried off, Beaker's nares were clear, and his feathers that were ruffled from his exam all smoothed back into place beautifully. I'm thinking that more time outside with a good misting on sunny days will help keep him shiny.

3. Meals and foraging. Beaker gets pretty screechy whenever Andy comes and goes. It's minimal in the morning, but in the evenings he just goes bonkers in anticipation of Daddy coming home. (The vet tech gently says that not only does Beaker look girly but behavior patterns suggest suggest it as well. See the poll on the main page and vote for your favorite pronoun.) So, the vet recommends giving meals at the two main (and very natural, aside from lust for a favorite person) shrieking times. Busy beaks have trouble screaming. We can also keep food available in his cage all day, but for foraging. Keep that little critter busy doing something he'd be doing in the wild!

4. Bedtime. We've gotten lax about bedtime over the years, but the vet reminds me that Beaker really does need 10-12 hours of sleep at night. This means dark and quiet somewhere so that he's not interrupted. And, for proper respiratory health, if we cover the cage we should change the papers at night before bed so he's not breathing in all of that crazy particulate stuff while he sleeps.

So, those are the main ones. More outdoor and foraging time should slow down some of the shrieking habits he's developed. Earlier bedtime in a quieter/darker place should also help. The way our new house is set up, these things should all be very easy to accommodate. We're already seeing some behavior improvements as we try a few of these things. Amazing what meeting his avian needs does for his overall outlook. I suspect that the increased time out of his cage (with no kitty to try to eat him) is also helpful.

And of course, the most fun part of the trip to the vet was the budgies in the waiting room. Beaker now talks like a budgie when he's sitting on my lap to play Candy Land with Elise and me.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Space Bags

Where have you been all my life, Space Bags? How do I love thee? Let me save the space. I've been at a loss as to how to pack linens, fabric & yarn stockpiles, and especially the ginormous mattress topper we have for the aero bed to make it guest-worthy.

So, I just crammed all this stuff into a big, crinkly plastic bag, zipped it up, and then grabbed the vacuum. The giant sucking sound is positively thrilling. An entire closet full of linens and such is now in one liiiiittle corner of said closet. I am so in love.

I have a horrible prejudice against exciting products as seen on TV. What else am I missing out on?! Luckily, my friend Danielle turned me on to this one. I'm considering mailing the space bag people to ask if they have a mega sized bag into which I can just toss all of our stuff and shrink it down.

Yay, Space Bags!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Not Forgotten

It's no secret that I get the majority of my news from Fark these days.

I managed to miss out on the excellent bigfoot press conference in Palo Alto on Friday. Rats. It would be nice to shake the hand of the guy who dressed for the occasion.

Normally, I don't give the opinion section of the Wall Street Journal the time of day. However, I think that this editorial is spot on about college. Anyone else care to take a stroll down memory lane and think about your undergrad life? I know very few people who left school and then continued to actually make a living in the field to which they dedicated so much time, money and effort. The exceptions, of course, being teachers. And the occasional musician.

Anybody out there think about the suburbs? San Jose feels like a lot of suburban living (and we've signed our lease to claim our piece of that pie), and I don't see your average Californian letting go of that any time soon. Walkability, schmalkability. The number of new gas guzzlers on the road here is interesting. Of course you should drive your monster pickup to commute from Gilroy to Redwood City every day! This article offers a lot of speculation, and I'll leave it up to my loyal readers to discuss the merits thereof in the comments.

Last but not least, I present Doloris Aguilar. Apparently, a shining example of what Ebeneezer Scrooge could have accomplished with modern sensibilities. I'm trying to think of something profound that could tie this all together here, but I'm drawing a blank. With nary a Doloris in sight, I feel lucky.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Two Years

Two years ago today, Steingruebl World Enterprises closed its Chicago headquarters and relocated to San Jose, CA. Two whole years! Ohmygoodness. One of my favorite things to do when I was about Elise's age was to stop at various points in any journey and remark, "Look how far we've come! In solidarity with my four-year-old self, I'd like to do a bit of that on this momentous anniversary.

It's hard to believe we were the same people then that we are now. Two years ago, we had just come from 4 months of temporary housing as we wrapped up The Job Search, and we still had another month of temporary housing ahead of us. I was recovering from the excruciatingly painful hernia repair that ultimately led to the decision to forego the addition of a second junior associate. Earlier that week, liquids were banned on airplanes, as were such things as yogurt and applesauce for picky 2 1/2 year olds. I had never seen San Jose until the plane started its long, smooth descent to the airport. I had never used "sky stairs" to disembark, either, and it was a cheap thrill that made me feel all presidential.

Now, we're getting ready to leave our home of 2 years as the landlords prepare to return from their 2 year adventure in Europe. It is possible to buy overpriced food at the airport in order to feed your kids. I'm hernia-free and half way to confirmation that my recent Essure procedure worked. The airport here is growing up and is no longer the cute little thing of two years ago. And, if all goes as planned, by this time tomorrow we will have signed a lease for a beautiful house with an incredible yard. All of this without even having to leave our neighborhood! The prospect of being really settled is making us all a bit giddy.

Look how far we've come! It's been a good trip so far.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Lovely and Talented

Today, Elise's class put on a talent show for some of the younger kids at school. Andy and I showed up to watch, and were treated to a charming performance by our daughter.

Without further ado, here is Elise Steingruebl singing the ABCs while accompanying herself on her homemade guitar.

video

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

"American" Airlines

Well, I guess I can't complain about air travel any more. (I can't complain about it any less, either. yuk yuk yuk.)

The new "pay for your own luggage" scam is, at least, an equal-opportunity annoyer. American Airlines wins the prize for most obnoxious, at least in my estimation.

By all means, protest the ridiculous notion that military action in Iraq will rid the world of terrorism. And obviously, American Airlines is well positioned to do so. But come on, guys. Take it up with the leadership, not the soldiers on their way to do the job your government has decided you want them to do.

The Levitation Administration

What kind of party game is this, anyway? It is a game played by idiots, inciting boundless fury and signifying nothing good for our democracy.

I'd say that Mukasey must be crazy except that this sort of thing is now par for the course under the corrupt Bush regime. Apparently, the Justice Department is now free to decide which laws its employees don't have to follow. Don't get me wrong-I, too, have trouble paying attention to a lot of the crap Congress spews these days. But I think I do a bang-up job of keeping up with what's wildly, blatantly, illegal.

Combine this with the nonsense about optional Endangered Species Act compliance for federally funded projects, and we see a surprisingly busy week in the shrubbery. I now find myself grateful that Bush has taken so much vacation time over the years. Imagine the mayhem if he had made it in to the office more often! Yet another achievement for this president: the re-branding of sloth as a virtue.

Put down your bongs and listen up, party animals. You're not above the law. This levitation thing is just a cheap party trick. An illusion that is real only in your own addled minds. It's clear that the cops aren't going to break this thing up early, but it's gotta end sometime. I don't envy you the aftermath. Oh, and forget about an afterparty. Nobody's gonna come.

Elise is a beginning hacker

I made a post to my other blog, perhaps you'll all like it repeated here. The original is here.

Elise and I were playing a little online Dora computer game today. As we got to one of the screens where you're supposed the click the letters Dora tells you to, Elise decided it would be more fun to experiment with the game to see what happens when you click the wrong letters instead. She liked the reaction from the game as it repeatedly tried to tell her the "right" thing to do and she deliberately ignored it.

Makes me pretty proud - don't do what the software expects you to do, break the rules instead and see what happens.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Accountability

Today's the day, folks. The day we (well, some of us at least) drop a money bomb on Washington.

Thirty four years ago today, Richard M. Nixon was forced to resign from the presidency because Americans demanded it of a criminal. Now, we ignore and sometimes even applaud our Congress when they create such foul items as the Patriot Act and that FISA mess. And then we shake our heads at that rotten/idiot President who signs 'em into law. Where's the ownership? Where's the outrage? Where's the nearest mall/Starbucks/free wifi access because apparently we Americans collectively have the attention span of fruit flies. Stoned ones.

I don't know that we can actually reign in these corrupt, morally and constitutionally bankrupt "leaders" we've let take over. It seems futile to try to beat them at their own money game, but I'm giving it a go. It has to start somewhere.

Because. This. Can. Not. Stand.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Can't Decide

Well, I'm not sure what to think about this one.

Watching the Daily show tonight, I saw an ad from these people. On the one hand, it was an "uplifting" message about a high school voting for a girl with Downs Syndrome for queen of some formal dance. And they were clapping and cheering nicely. On the other hand, the dude who funds this foundation and another one has an overall agenda I despise.

According to Wikipedia, I was treated to this bit of inspiration by none other than Philip Anschutz. Who's he? Well, again, I turned to Wikipedia and read that he's a gazillionaire who dabbles in all sorts of stuff. If you read a newspaper with "Examiner" in the title, chances are it's his. He owns(or owns bits of) some soccer teams, hockey teams, oil companies, railroads, and of course some major controversy with regard to London's Milennium Dome. Oh, yeah, and he also apparently hates on homosexuals and funds the Discovery Institute. So, basically a businessman with a disturbing streak of pure evil.

So, I guess that when I think about this I'm not so worried that he's sneaking an outright evil agenda onto the public airwaves via a disingenuous non-profit organization. Anything that diverts resources from his other projects (without obvious harm to humanity) seems like a step in the right direction to me.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Flapjack: 1999-2008


This is a hard post to write. We've had to say goodbye to our kitty of nine years. Those who've met Flapjack know that she has always been a personality. She had her ideas about how the world should be, and arranged her surroundings accordingly.

From the beginning, she and her sister Diesel showed some of the behavior I'd expect from cats who didn't get the right care when they were little. They had been spayed at 8 weeks, and we adopted them at 10. Very, very young to be on their own already. Diesel turned inward and developed an eating disorder (which her "new" family of nearly 3 years assures us is still going strong), and Flapjack decided that she'd be safe if she could always be alpha cat. This meant we had two very affectionate kitties who loved to play with us nonstop. It was wonderful, until we realized it was nonstop and then we added a human baby to the mix.

Our girls, Flapjack & Diesel, on a happier day.

As the golden queen of the household, Flapjack always took her job seriously. She was always first in line for a head scratch. If I wasn't quick enough on the draw, I'd have some paws on my hips and look down to see an inquisitive face wanting to know where the hand was. For nine years, I've been able to count on a mewed "hello" every time I return home from somewhere.

There are a few less pleasant memories as well. The shoes, belts, watchbands, and electrical cords that were chewed beyond recognition. I have not had houseplants in the last eight and a half years, because the time I tried to thwart Flapjack's consumption of them she scaled an unscalable height for the sole purpose of dumping my last two plants, pots and all, to shatter all over the floor. There have been other things, but those are some of the highlights. The things that made her our kitty-the things we loved and hated and generally wove into our lives together.

Even fake plants were fair game.

Insecure older cats don't do well with kids, we've discovered. Diesel was in agony when Elise was born, and after trying everything we cold think of she was still urinating on everything in sight. With Diesel, we were pretty sure she'd perk up in a house where she'd be the only cat and there were no kids. Thanks to some very wonderful and generous friends, she had a chance to prove it and is now happier than she ever was in our home.


Always top dog.

Flapjack was a different story. She didn't like any territory encroachments, and worked tirelessly to keep Elise from usurping her position in the family hierarchy. When Elise was a baby, this made a lot of things difficult, largely because Flapjack's strategy involved inserting herself between me and "that interloper." We noticed a marked upturn in defiant behavior (jumping on counters, scratching at doors, etc.) any time we let Flapjack get away with that. It's been policy to not let her walk physically between Elise and me ever since. That helped. A bit.

So, Mom, what are we looking at here?It wasn't always awful. Of course, Flapjack "claimed" this little sofa as her own within a few months of this photograph.

Unfortunately, this training wasn't holding. If I'm honest with myself, it hadn't worked for quite some time. Our cat who was not previously prone to out of the box thinking began having "accidents." We were concerned by this and took her to the vet. No problems with her lab work or exam. A few months later, the same thing. It's now a few months beyond that and if Elise leaves a toy that resembles a container on the floor, it will be peed on. While the loss of some paper dolls and a Candyland game aren't earthshattering, they are indicative of a wider pattern that we saw all of the time. Flapjack was getting more and more aggressive about "reclaiming" territory from Elise.

We have been working on this for awhile. I've taught Elise how to play well with kitties, and she is the sole dispenser of the delicious kitty treats for which Flapjack would do just about anything. I thought I was building a relationship between my kid and my cat, but it looks like I was establishing Elise in a subservient role. At least Flapjack thought so, because we had a potty-riffic weekend. It was mildly horrible. If it were one weekend, I could give it another go, but things have been deteriorating steadily with no apparent physical cause.

Because we promised to keep her as an indoor cat when we adopted her from a shelter so long ago, Flapjack had limited outdoor experience. She never willingly went outside until we moved here, and never demonstrated the kind of "street smarts" that would let her be a successful outdoor cat. Or even a reasonable barn cat somewhere. The "no kill" shelter options out there sounded nice until I realized that this poor cat would go insane trying to be tops somewhere. And she'd probably make many other kitties miserable in the process.

We tried the great outdoors in a supervised kind of way.

Venturing outside, but not able to identify her own front door to come home on her own. (That's the cat, not the kid. Kid knows what her house looks like.)

Our decision was to have Flapjack killed. At the age of nine, with her stress about being the ONLY cat, competing with humans for attention, random destructive habits and now urination, there was no way she was a candidate for adoption. As we're getting ready to move, our house will only be getting more chaotic, and we were worried for the stress on the cat. I don't think she had another move in her, to be honest. Not without seriously addling her little brain.

Plotting their next move.

I submitted a copy of our previous landlord's letter of recommendation as part of a rental application this past weekend. Taking the time to read the letter again after nearly 2 years, it was painfully obvious that Flapjack was much transformed from the kitty in the letter. I never thought I'd be one of "those people" who hauls a pet off to the Humane Society instead of hanging on to them for life. And yet here we are. Andy and I are so sick about it, but rationally we know it's the best we could have done for our Flapjack.

Not sure this is a gift.

As far as Elise knows, we planned to take Flapjack to the animal shelter while she was at school. She knows that Flapjack is not coming back to our house. She knows it's not her fault that her kitty peed on her stuff and it's not her fault that the kitty has to go. Oh, and that we'd never send a kid to a shelter no matter how sick, confused, or downright mischevious she was. We're choosing not to mention death at this time, but I suspect she will figure it out before too much longer, and then I will be honest with her.

We will miss our kitty so much. Flapjack was a good cat. It's going to be quiet around here.