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Saturday, February 25, 2006

King Cake Arrived :-) ... King Cake (Almost) Gone :-( 

My folks sent up our annual king cake Friday (well, they actually sent it earlier; it arrived on Friday). It's been pretty much demolished already, which means I'm a little twitchy from too much sugar.

This year, the cake came from The Cocoa Bean* in Hammond and it was very tasty, but still not the unattainable McKenzie's traditional king cake that is lost to history. I'm wondering if I should poke through some of my older Louisiana cookbooks to see if they have a recipe that's more the traditional brioche and not so much of a sugared cinnamon roll.

The funny thing about this king cake was that the baby was poking out of the top of the cake; there was no risk in finding/not finding it in a stray bite. Maybe it's because so many king cakes are being set around the country in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Thursday on "Morning Edition," there was a nice segment about king cake and how busy Haydel's is making enough king cakes to meet the need: people who are back, people who are still displaced, people who are in New Orleans working on reconstruction, people who were sent king cakes as thanks for hosting people during the evacuation, etc.

Oh, and thinking of New Orleans and NPR, my grandmother is slated to be on "Morning Edition" Monday as part of a segment about the effects of Hurricane Katrina.

*Googling The Cocoa Bean to see if they had a website to link to or anything, I ran across a cite of it being a "release site" for BookCrossing. I've heard about BookCrossing, but haven't really been a participant, and while I've picked up free books in stray places, I don't think any of them have ever been part of the BookCrossing library.

However, I have gotten hooked by similar Internet-assisted hobbies. Until Celeste was born, I was an active user of Where's George?, which uses serial numbers to track dollar bills as they travel. From May 2000 up to Celeste's birth, I entered 8,739 bills; since then I've entered 54, and 47 of those were in the November after Celeste was born. I just don't have the time or energy to log every bill, mark it with a notation about the Where's George? site. And I'd have to say Celeste for georging was a pretty good tradeoff. I do register bills when I find them, but other than that ... fugetaboutit.

I am now trying something that, hopefully, is a little less odd, as well as easier to keep up with: Postcrossing. Instead of leaving the cards at random, you sign up and get up to five addresses to send a postcard to; then your name goes into the pot to get some postcards. The more you send, the more you get (in theory at least). I figure it can't become too time consuming, and it should yield some interesting postcards and/or stamps for Celeste and her sibling down the line. (Discovered via Néablog)

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Butterstick and Mushrooms 

Two disparate entries in one ...

First up, The Stick: Celeste had way too short of a nap this afternoon, just about an hour. When I went upstairs she seemed happy enough and was standing in her crib, but when I asked her if she was supposed to still be asleep, she just looked around sheepishly and said "yuh-huh." She then noticed my Obey Butterstick baseball jersey, got excited, pointed at it and said "Dadda!" and signed BEAR. I asked her where else there was a panda bear in the room and she pointed at the quilt hanging on her wall (correct answer).

Before getting to the mushrooms, a few other cute things from today ... She picked up Evelin's slippers and tried to wear them, then she wanted me to wear them, then she wanted Dee-Dee (her teddy bear) to wear them. Later I lay down on the floor, pretending to be asleep — usually when I do this, Celeste says "No-no" and pulls me upright by my hair, but this time, she lay down too and started treating the floor like she does her crib, rolling around some, pulling things over to her, sitting up and then laying back down. She was tired and ended up in the bathtub before Evelin got home.

And now the mushrooms, I think I need to tap Pille of Nami-Nami as a menu planner. Seeing her mushroom tart turned soup planted a seed in my mind and since we didn't have anything planned, Celeste and I ran to the market on the way home from the park and picked up a bunch of mushrooms. I didn't purée things as suggested, leaving it nice and chunky, and about half-way through my bowl I realized a little bit of parmesan would be nice with it (which it was).

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Naming Rights 

For quite a while now, Celeste has been good with saying "Mumma" and "Dadda" (and before that with signing DADDY). But when I got home last night, she kept poking me and saying "Dadda" and then she'd poke herself and say "Lest." For a week or two, I'd been thinking that she was saying "Celeste" both in reference to herself and in reference to the heroine of Celeste: A Day in the Park; however, last night it was obvious to me that she can now say her own name.

I mentioned it to Evelin and my mother-in-law, M---, after Celeste had gone to bed, but they weren't quite catching it. Today, however, Evelin was hearing it and twice during her bath tonight, pointing at her reflection in the mirror, she said "Celeste" fairly clearly.

The other naming story is that Evelin's been asking Celeste whose clothes are whose while she's folding laundry. Most of the time, Celeste can pick out my shirts from Evelin's shirts from her Onesies. This afternoon, Evelin asked Celeste to identify my new Obey Butterstick baseball T that arrived while I was in Dallas. Celeste looked at it, thought hard, and said in a slightly unsure tone: "Dadda?"

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

No Fly For You! (Epilogue) 

Much of yesterday, the common jokes were either that (1) I should shave my beard off before heading to the airport or (2) that I was planning to checkout of the hotel around 4:00 a.m. for my noon flight. In the end I ended up sharing a cab with some coworkers who were flying out at 11:00 a.m. and leaving the hotel around 8:45 a.m.

They were on a different airline, leaving from a different terminal, than I was, but I ended up getting dropped off first so as to have the maximum amount of time to clear security.

I arrived at the United check-in counters and there was a short line. When I reached the attendant, I said that my name had appeared on the No-Fly List on my way to Dallas, so I needed some extra scrutiny. She gave me a friendly tsk-tsk and sent me over to the next attendant. I handed her my drivers’ license, and she called up on the computer and called someone on the phone simultaneously. I could only hear her side of the conversation, but there seemed to be some puzzlement. I popped up in the computer without a flag, and I heard the attendant say to the person on the phone, "No, he said he was a No Fly." After hanging up her phone and handing me my boarding pass, she said there wasn't any problem with me or my name.

Security itself presented no problems, so I cleared the magnetometers and got to walk around most of Terminal B at DFW; I thought about riding the Skylink around the airport — the view of the runways and taxiways from the tram looked like they'd be pretty good, despite the bad weather — but instead I decided to hang out near the departure gate ... just in case I was paged. (After all, last time I had no trouble getting my boarding pass, it was just getting on the plane.)

When the gate agent opened her podium, I queued up with the standbys and asked her to please double-check to see if there were any problems with me getting on the plane. Again, nothing.

Even after I boarded the plane and found my seat, I was still a little perturbed and concerned that I was announcing myself as a No-Fly listee, but not showing up as one. At the same time, I figured that even if someone tried to remove me from the flight, I wasn't unlatching my seatbelt.

So what does it mean? Dulles seems to be where I repeatedly have a problem? Is it the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office that is looking for T. Carter Ross? Is there greater scrutiny at IAD than other airports? If I'm cleared on the first leg of the flight, am I cleared for my trip home? If I submit a FOIA request to TSA about any of this will that help get an answer or would it lead to additional problems in the future?

All questions for another day, I guess. Right now, we're over the Appalachians with about a half hour until we land ...

LATER ... I finally made it home after a lot of Beltway traffic and backroads to avoid said Beltway traffic. And my battery being dead when I got to my car. (Fortunately, a coworker was in the same parking lot and I reached her before she'd left the lot and she was able to give me a jump. It looks like I hit the map light as I was getting out of the car or something ...)

Celeste, I'm very glad to say remembered me and was happy to see me ...

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Monday, February 20, 2006

Old Fogy vs. Convention Center Greed ... 

A 10 fl. oz. Diet Coke for $3.00 is 30¢ per ounce ... I remember when you could buy a whole 12 fl. oz. soda (back then it was probably an RC or Fanta "orange coke") for 30¢.

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Sunday, February 19, 2006

Air Quality in the Biodome 

With my later-than-expected arrival yesterday, the only rooms available were in the smokers' hallway/wing/floor. At first I figured it wouldn't be that bad, but I have to wonder or not it's a better idea to scatter smoking room through out a facility than to clump them all in one place. The elevator opened and I was smacked with a slight haze and a heavy stale smoke smell.

My room wasn't as bad as the hallway, especially after I opened the door to the balcony overlooking the atrium for a few hours. Still, every time I shifted the covers on the bed during the night, I got a heavy whiff of smoke.

I asked about switching rooms last night, and the person at the front desk said to try in the morning after the 11:00 a.m. checkout time. At 11:05 a.m., I ran over from the newsroom to the desk and a nice person from Cut Off, Louisiana, gave me an "upgrade" to a room with a king-sized bed that is in a non-smoking area.

The additional bonus is that this room overlooks the real world (or at least the roof of the convention center and the tiny hotel vineyard — I suspect the vines are more for show than actual production ...) instead of the atrium. I'm still in the biodome, but at least I can see that it's raining today.

This is the second time I've stayed in a Gaylord and while they seem to be nice places, it's kind of isolating being in this enclosed place with giant fake nature features. There is a real lake here in Grapevine (I saw it on the taxi ride in from the airport), and there are a few outdoor features, like the grapevine, but it's still an odd little set up.

The first Gaylord place I stayed was Opryland back in 2003, but that was especially weird because I remember going to the Opryland amusement park when I was a kid a few times, so seeing this biodome/outlet-shopping thing replace that seemed like a bit of my childhood lost. I asked if there were any bits of the original park left as part of the new construction, but all that remained were a few faux boulders that had been part, I think, of the Hill Country Area of the park.

Back to the present: Because of my late arrival, another person had to cover my story for last night, and we're rejiggering who's covering what for pretty much the rest of the show. (Some of these changes would have happened with or without TSA's intervention, but others are due to spreading out the work so that everyone has time to write their stories ...) I'm off on a lunch break, but have one thing this afternoon and another in the evening.

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Saturday, February 18, 2006

No Fly For You! 

[IAD: 11:30 a.m. EST] For a while now, I've suspected that someone's been out to get me; now I know it. I was supposed to be on a flight this morning at 8:30 a.m. to Dallas for a tradeshow (Evelin's mother got in last night to hang out with her and Celeste while I am away) only to find out that I am, indeed, on the TSA No Fly List. (Of course, blogging this is so unlikely to help get me off that list, but according to the United gate crew chief there's pretty much nothing I can do about it, so blogging can't make it worse ... I hope.)

A few years ago, I was coming home from either Amsterdam (2001) or Paris (2002) — can't remember which trip it was that this happened — and when my passport got scanned at immigration, I was told I had to through an additional screening. I ended up in a big room with a bunch of people (as best I can tell/remember) with visa or similar problems and had to wait a while for something to be checked/confirmed. All I was ever told was that a "similar name" was the reason I was pulled aside.

Since then, I've flown pretty much without incident, except for when we headed to New Orleans back at Thanksgiving and I was wasn't allowed to print out a boarding pass the night before the flight. In that case, it took a little bit of time to straighten things out at check-in, but all I was ever told was to make sure the name on my credit card and boarding pass matched up. (The card I used had only my first and middle initials on it — a legacy of a computer system unable to deal with someone who uses first initial and middle name instead of the more common first name and middle initial.)

This time, I had no problems at check-in, but about 30 or 40 minutes before the plane was about to board, I heard my name over the PA system (albeit announced surname then middle name). I go up to the podium and am handed over to the gate crew chief who spends a lot of time shifting from station to station and phone to phone trying to contact whoever it was that could clear me to fly. He kept getting busy signals and/or somesort of notification that there were 20 people in the queue ahead of him. At the same time, he was helping with other passenger issues — a delayed flight to Charlotte and the missed connections that would cause, an irate bridezilla and her mother who got to the gate a few minutes after their plane to Charleston had closed (she was going there for some planning, not the wedding itself), various standby passengers, ... — and it ended up that I wasn't going to be on that 8:30 a.m. flight.

(Part of the problem was that about 20 flights were trying to board/leave within a 20 minute period around 8:30 a.m., which probably helped tie up the TSA clearing number and added to the chaos at the gates.)

Anyway, around 9:30 a.m., I got word that I'd been cleared to fly and my boarding pass for the next flight to Dallas at 5:30 p.m. I looks like I might have been pushed up to Economy Plus, if not First Class, which is nice ... probably it's the seat right next to the airmarshall. The bummer is that I was told to just hang out at the airport for the next eight-plus hours because if I left the security screened areas, it could lead to a need to be recleared by TSA ... and who knows what that would mean. I'm also having to trust that my luggage has been put aside for my evening flight.

I pretty much have to laugh about all this, it doesn't do any good to get mad at the guys at the gate, although I don't think the crew chief got that some of my comments were attempting to joke about the situation. He said that until TSA finds the "T Carter Ross" who is on the No Fly List, I'm going to have this problem whenever I travel. His suggestion was to do all the things one does if there is a concern/question about identity theft — primarily have the credit bureaus put a flag on my file — and then to use my full name to book travel in the future. He also said to get my frequent flyer cards, credit cards, etc., shifted over to my full name because that name is not in the system. "T. Carter is dead; you are now [first name*] Ross."

Finally, he also said to write my members of Congress, but added "It won't do any good, but write them anyway."

[IAD: 2:00 p.m. EST] Evelin always enjoys walking around the concourse while waiting for a flight. Normally, I'm just glad to be past security and would rather read while waiting, but today — with three-plus hours still to go — I've been walking around, I'm sure attracting the attention of various government and airport officials as I pause to snap photos with my camera of things like the deactivated Homeland Security "questions, suggestions, and information" terminal, part of the Horsing Around Loudoun public art project, the (rather tame) anti-Bush T-shirts at America!, the bags and hoses being used to drain roof leaks in the new underground walkway connecting the Main Terminal with Concourse B, ...

Deactivated DHS TerminalHorsing Around LoudounI Can't Wait for 2008Leak Control System

I've been up and down the C–D Concourses, on the mobile lounge to the Main Terminal, through the walkway to Concourse B, down to Concourse A, and, of course, I started the day on the shuttle to Concourse G — and then rode the shuttle from there back to C–D. Ah, the thrill of travel!

One thing I've noticed is that there are a lot of stray noises — background music, other people's ringtones, CNN Airport Network, ... — that seems to sound like my phone ringing. I keep finding myself fumbling to pull my cell out of my pocket only to find that no one's calling me ... which is probably for the best because my charger is packed in my suitcase and I need to conserve my battery.

Of course, that raises another question: Where is my suitcase? I was told it'd be pulled from my original flight since I was barred from boarding, and hopefully it's been rerouted to my new, much later flight, but is it just sitting around on the tarmac? Or is TSA taking this time to check my suit pockets?

[IAD: 3:30 p.m. EST] I finally found an electrical outlet that actually works, so I can run this computer without running down the battery! Of course, it's a work PowerBook, so I'm having to stifle my generally-annoyed-by-Apple feelings, but I can listen to the Colin Meloy CD I burned for this trip (So Much Silence's tracking of his Birchmere performance last month on All Songs Considered) while I type, which is nice ...

I also got a call from my boss a little while ago. Just a note to managers: when an employee is stranded at the airport because his or her name is on the No Fly List ... well ... don't say something like, "Hey, did you ever see that Tom Hanks movie, The Terminal, where the guy can't get out of the airport?" Maybe it's just me, but that's not a great morale booster ... Instead tell them they can expense a few rounds at the airport bar. Just a suggestion.

[IAD: 4:00 p.m. EST] I just found out there was a gate change, and now that I'm on Concourse C I checked with gate attendant and he said all is good to go. I am now in Economy Plus ... and my suitcase has been sitting in Dallas since 11:40-something. Apparently TSA cleared my bag to fly before anyone could clear me to fly.

[IAD: 4:40 p.m. EST] An announcement was just made at the gate. Because of delays in when the plane and crew that's going to be headed to Dallas got here, as well as air traffic control delays, we're not leaving until 6:40 p.m. ... an extra 90 minutes or so on the ground here. At this point, I guess another hour and a half is no big deal.

[UA7665: 7:51 p.m. EST] We're in the air, taking off about a half-hour ago. Unless they've started hiring Russian (or maybe Serbian) families as airmarshalls, I'm not sitting next one ... it must be the burly guy in the seat ahead of me ... Next too me originally was a six-year-old boy; he later swapped places with his mother and 10-month-old sister ... who is quite interested in my laptop.

Wrapping up quickly ... it's going to be a longer-than-normal flight (about four hours) because of strong headwinds ... Hopefully the luggage office in Dallas will still be open so that I can get my bag that arrived about 12 hours before I am slated to get there ...

[UA7665: 7:54 p.m. CST] (We passed Nashville a while ago, so I guess we're in Central Time now ...) One good thing about the flying at this time of day/night as opposed to my original flight time is that if I angle my head correctly and use my hands to screen the light from the interior of the plane, there is actually a pretty good starfield. I can't pick out any constellations at the moment, but I did see one or two shooting stars.

With the baby next to me soundly asleep, I can go back to what I was thinking earlier. At the gate, while we were waiting for the plane to board, I met a little hairless Chinese crested. I don't think I've seen one of those in real-life before, and while it definitely isn't my sort of dog, the pup was a lot cuter than the one's I'd seen in pictures before. The dog was also a magnet for toddlers; her owner must have been standing there for less than five minutes before there were at several little kids (three of them no more than two; one of them younger than Celeste) pointing and saying "Dag!" (or variants). The pup did pretty good at alternately dodging and sniffing each of them and then heading off on a tear designed to take a kid down by wrapping her leash around their legs ... Celeste would have totally been in the middle of that scrum.

[DFW: 9:43 p.m. CST] So ... this is Dallas.

[Gaylord Texan: 10:48 p.m. CST] I'm checked in (only rooms on the smoking floor/wing were available, unfortunately), did a quick run through to where I need to be tomorrow, and found out that the tequila bar was closing early tonight because of the non-existent ice storm. I'm posting this then going to try to get some sleep ...

*I'm sure I've written my first name here before, and I know it's out on the Internets to be found, but at the moment, I'm in a paranoid state of mind ...

Back at the gate there was a woman who only spoke Bosnian and the woman sitting next to me ended up trying to help her, although she insisted to the gate attendant that Serbian and Croat were very different from Bosnian ... On the plane, she said something about Russian time, which is why I lean toward the family being Russian; I didn't pick up any words I recognized in the conversations between the father, mother, and son. She's been speaking to the daughter in very hushed tones.

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Moving Pictures 

After seeing some quick digital camera shorts of my nieces dancing at a wedding reception last weekend, I borrowed a digital camera with video capabilities and tried to get Celeste to show off her dancing skillz.

(These videos are hosted on YouTube, sort of like Flickr for movies. They should be embedded in the page as Flash files (you may need Flash v. 8), so all one need do is click to play. It may not play the first time; just wait a moment for it to finish loading and then press the "replay this video" button.)

At first, she was reluctant, so I tried getting her to demonstrate how she splashes in puddles ...



Later, she was focused on reading, but, after a bit of coaxing, decided to show off some of her dance moves.



Finally, this one is cute, but you have to turn your head (or monitor) sideways to see it properly. I shot it thinking I could rotate it in the software ... no such luck.



[UPDATE: My mother e-mailed this morning: "... the 'No' response is definitely you at that age!!"]

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

(Tricking Out) The Light Fantastic 

It seems that replacing the headlamps on the Hyundai is going to be an annual task. Last year, I had to replace both of the low-beam bulbs in mid March; on Tuesday, I was headed to work when I noticed that I was driving padiddle.

During lunch today, I added a stop by Pep Boys to my errand list, but, much to my dismay, they didn't have just plain H7 replacement bulbs, so I had to "upgrade" to H7 CBs. Yes, I am driving a tricked out 'lantra with "Cool Blue." I don't know if I should feel relieved or worried that the packaging is emblazoned with a "100% Street Legal" disclaimer.

Since I was going Cool Blue I figured I should put in two new bulbs so the look would be the same. (Plus, last year, the passenger- and driver-side lamps went within a week of each other.) The passenger side (the one that was out) was easy enough to change in Pep Boy's parking lot, but the driver-side bulb required tools, which meant cutting out of work early enough to give me some daylight when I got home to make the replacement ...

Actually, I wonder if Evelin's right and that I needn't drive with the headlights on all the time. Even though they automatically cut off when the car is turned off, apparently they don't operate as day-time running lights (and thus last longer).

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Gerund Report: Celeste 

There are times I think I really should have been doing monthly letters to Celeste like Dooce does for her daughter, but I haven't been so when Celeste is older and wonders what was up during her infancy, toddlerdom, and childhood (assuming I keep this up that long or longer) she'll have to slog through the archives to see what was what.

That said, she's been doing a plethora of new things over the past week or two (and not doing one old thing — sleeping — but I'm going to keep this post positive ...), so here's a quick rundown, gerund-stylee:

Celeste Reading IntentlyReading ... Celeste loves books. Reading isn't just fundamental, it's essential. She loves flipping through books; pointing out buses, cars, cats, dogs, and other things in the background of pictures; having you read to her; reading to herself; and so forth. The only downside is that books are not a calming thing for her: For Celeste, books key her up so there're no nice bedtime stories.

Last week Evelin decided she had to remove all of Celeste's books from her bedroom. The bookcase there was too big of a distraction when it was time to go to bed, to get ready for her bath, to head downstairs for breakfast, ... Now we have two bookcases in the diningroom/playroom, filled with books, yet Celeste occasionally still wants to head upstairs to look for other books ...

Climbing ... Which leads to this gerund — climbing. After the books came downstairs, Celeste still wanted to head upstairs to see where her books had been, but Evelin was determined not to carry her up the stairs, so Celeste had to climb them herself ... and she did. She's been doing the two steps up to the landing and the window there, but going all the way upstairs had been beyond her ken; now it's an everyday occurrence. This afternoon, she climbed upstairs four times.

Celeste on the FarmThe new thing is that today, she made it all the way down the stairs by herself twice. She won't back down the stairs, but — with me going ahead of her and patting each step in succession, encouraging her to sit on it — she will slide down on her diaper. She did occasionally stand up and lean forward, wanting me to pick her up, but if I encourage the step-by-step slide, she would make her way down the stairs. One time, she bumped her elbow, which necessitated a kiss to make it better ... and then a new kiss for each step whether it was bumped or not.

Crawling ... Yes, our little girl walks and runs and dances (more on that later), but she doesn't really crawl, except at the very top of the stairs. She moves about two inches on her hands and knees to clear her way on to the second floor, which I will gladly accept as crawling so as to say that she can crawl.

Busspotting ... Less well known than trainspotting or planespotting is the hobby of busspotting, spying and noting every bus one sees. Celeste raises busspotting to an art form. This afternoon, on the way to the grocery store, she excitedly called out "Bus! Bus!" and pointed wildly to every bus she saw — school buses, Metro buses, The Bus buses, ...

Celeste Splashing in a Slush PuddleHushing ... This maybe belongs with reading, but one of Celeste's latest words is a very cute whispered "Hush" [MP3] which she picked up from the "old woman saying hush" in Goodnight Moon.

Splashing ... Not uncommon for her age, I think, but Celeste loves finding a good puddle and doing an in-place quickstep to scatter as many bits of water as she can. Of course, she then gets upset about the water beading on top of her shoes, but she loves the splashing.

Dancing ... Her signature splashing move is also her main dance move. If you ask her to dance or if she likes the music she hears or if she's just in a good mood, she will do the in-place quickstep. She used to do a really cute head bob, but that seems to have been left behind.

Her First Album CoverGoing ... She's far from potty-trained, but Celeste is getting more and more interested in her potty, often sitting on it for seconds at a time. This afternoon, she took her bear and her blankie, plopped them on/in the potty and then sat on them for nearly a minute, flipping through a magazine. I asked her if she wanted to move bear and/or blankie and to try sitting on the potty without a diaper and she just looked at me like I was crazy or something before saying "No."

Naming ... Which brings us to one of this weekend's new developments: Her teddy bear has a name, "Dee-Dee." (Celeste hasn't confirmed this spelling, so I'm just working on a rendering that seems to make sense.) She still refers to it as BEAR (using the sign), but if you ask what the bear's name is, she says "Dee-Dee" and if your talk about Dee-Dee, Celeste looks for or points to the bear.

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Obey. 

I don't know what little 黄油条 Huángyóu Tiáo (Butterstick), a.k.a. 太山 Tài Shān, has up his sleeve (so to speak) but today at noon (EST) is the big reveal over at Obey Butterstick.

Apparently, I am a member of his posse, but I know nothing more than the basics of his manifesto: Land! Peace! Bamboo!Obey.

If this turns out to be the typical stupid viral thing or, even worse, a promo for the D.C. Lottery, I am going to be really embarassed ...

UPDATE: Okay, "The Posse Has Gathered" and it has a cafépress shop. I guess we can rule out the D.C. Lottery as being behind this, and must wait some more: There's another counter running on the main Obey Butterstick page that makes it look like the Stage 2 reveal will be on the Ides of March ...

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Monday, February 13, 2006

Overheard 

Evelin made "Overheard in D.C." on DCist last week (as an overhearer, not the overheard) ... third item down ...

It's the reference to The Parkers that really made it worth overhearing ...

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Sunday, February 12, 2006

Snow Day 

And here's why I'm so behind on some of my posting ... We were snowed in a bit today. The official reports were about 12 inches; I'd say we got about 8 inches where we are, but it did knock out the power from about 3:30 a.m. to 4:20 p.m., which meant no heat for most of the day. In general we did pretty good, considering that the furnace is set to roll back the temperature in the house overnight to 55°F (the normal daytime setting is 65°F, although we often bump it up a degree or two if it's feeling too chilly). The coldest it got was 51°F, and Celeste didn't really start complaining until after her nap when it was about 52°F. The power came back up while we were out at Target (both to warm up and to pick up a few things), and I dropped Celeste and Evelin off at G---'s house for a late playdate and to wait while the house warmed up and I reset all the clocks.

I did a lot of shoveling in the morning, but it wasn't too heavy of snow and I kind of like the getting out and talking to neighbors, etc., that goes along with these sorts of events. Of course, the neighbor next door who has to turn on his generator whenever the power's out for more than five minutes fired the noisemaker up a little past 8:00 a.m., and then went back inside until most of the houses around him had their sidewalks shoveled. It was at that point that he comes back outside with his snowblower*, leading to a nice bit of schadenfreude when the machine kept clogging and/or cutting off every few inches. In the end, he ended up having to shovel, I think. (He was still playing with the choke on it when I finished and went in to take a shower — a gas hot water heater is a good thing.)

*I'm not saying he waited until most of use were done so that he didn't have to feel guilty about not offering to use the snowblower to help out anyone, but it sure seemed like suspicious timing.

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Saturday, February 11, 2006

Celeste Älskar Sverige 

Okay, this too violates my New Year's resolution about not post-dating blog entries, but since I already broke that resolution once tonight ...

Celeste had a rough night, eventually ending up in our bed around 4:30 a.m., which was about the time I headed in to the office. I needed to catch up on some things I'd missed since I was doing the stay-at-home dad thing Thursday and Friday, plus, with the weather slated to turn bad around noon, I thought if I got in early, I could be home sooner. I ended up finishing up around 9:00 a.m. — not too bad — and was home around 10:00 a.m.

Since the rain was expected to stay until switching over to rain, we knew Celeste wasn't going to get to the park today, which meant we needed to take her somewhere that afternoon to get her out of the house. Since we needed a new cushion for our old Poäng chair, we decided to head to Ikea.

As this post's title notes, Celeste loves Ikea. There are all these chairs and tables to walk around and touch, and there are little bits of Småland scattered throughout the place — the little houses, the blueberry ball pit, and the Swedish kids' books that they don't let you buy. She spent a lot of time checking out the various kids' bedroom dioramas and the toy area, until she saw a highchair and started saying "Highchair! Highchair!" At first we thought she just wanted to take one for a testdrive, but it turned out she was hungry, so we had to have a little snack in the Ikea cafeteria.

Actually, I should probably submit this to Parent Hacks because while I'm sure other parents use the mall or similar places as an indoor playground for a rainy day, Ikea is at least 10-times better than the average mall because there's lots for little ones to see and do, but way fewer breakable things in easy reach. Sure, you may have trouble explaining to the little one why they won't let you buy that Storasyster & Lillebror book, but that's more than offset by how exciting all that furniture (especially the kids' furniture) is to a toddler.

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Friday, February 10, 2006

Brian Work Gooder (Some) 

Okay, it violates my New Year's resolution about not post-dating blog entries, but I started this on Friday and didn't get to post it until Sunday night ...

This morning started off pretty rough. Celeste woke up earlier than she really wanted to (she blamed it on Evelin flushing the toilet), and couldn't get back to sleep. This did mean Evelin got to see her before heading back to Annapolis for the second day of her conference, but it meant the rest of the morning she was grumpy and a bit off.

Considering how the previous two days had gone, I figured Celeste wasn't going to nap until late, so I figured we'd be good to go if we went down to The Mall in the morning. I asked Celeste if she wanted to head to the park or to see airplanes and she signed AIRPLANE, so off we went.

We found a pretty good parking place along The Mall and walked over to Air and Space and joined the security queue. Once we were inside, Celeste got out of her stroller and just started looking around and around, pointing at different things. We walked down toward the Air Transportation gallery (currently closed due to work on the ceiling), and then Celeste climbed up a flight of stairs headed toward the second floor. We ended up in the Sea-Air Operations gallery; Celeste really liked walking around the ship's deck and seeing the helicopter rescue on a big vid screen, but what caught her attention most was the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk ... or at least the torpedo fixed below its wing. She signed AIRPLANE and then pointed at the torpedo and signed BABY; I asked her if it was a baby airplane, and she said "yuh-huh."

Since she's really into the moon these days, I made sure we visited the Apollo to the Moon gallery and showed her the samples of moon rocks and dust, as well as the Apollo 17 lunar roving vehicle. I told Celeste that the LRV was the sort of car they drove on the moon, and then asked her if she'd known there were cars on the moon. She nodded and said "yuh-huh," like I was some sort of idiot for even asking ...

After a trip to the museum bookstore — Baby Galileo Sees the Stars, because it was the best moon-related kids' book we saw, and Amelia's Fantastic Flight, because I thought it looked cute — we headed out. At first, I thought we'd wheel through the National Museum of the American Indian, but I glanced down at Celeste and as soon as we were away from the planes and books, her eyes were starting to close. I turned around and headed back to the T.R.U.C.K. and, mostly by feeding her snacks on the ride home, kept her awake until she was safe in her crib a little before noon.

This was great: It turned out to be her normal nap time ... but a longer-than-normal nap, nearly three hours. By the time she awoke, Evelin was home and they were able to run out to the park to meet G--- and K---, while I ran to the grocery store to pick up some things before this weekend's snow storm hit ...

The rest of the evening went pretty smoothly, although, for some reason, Celeste did not want a bath: She spent all of about five seconds in it before standing up and begging to be taken out.

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Oh Man ... (SAHD Redux) 

Evelin is in the midst of a two-conference in Annapolis (she's able to come home each evening, thank goodness), so I'm a SAHD again ... and, at least today, not a very good one.

Things started off pretty well: Evelin didn't have to leave until Celeste was done with breakfast, so it was just some playing and reading, walk up to the dry cleaners, and then to playgroup. As opposed to last time, when there were more dads than moms there, this time I was the only one with a Y chromosome who wasn't in a diaper. For me this wasn't a problem, expect a few of those diapered guys were quite interested in the big bearded fellow.

When Celeste and I got there, T--- (a month or so older than Celeste) started by just tossing a ball to me, but it progressed to me not being able to sit down without his running over with a book or something to sit in my lap. Celeste wasn't too keen on this. I tried to get her to share, but she wanted to push him away; at least it didn't escalate to the crying and screaming it did a few weeks ago when L--- wanted to sit in Evelin's lap, much to the consternation of Celeste. And, as more little fellows arrived, there were a few that just wanted to hang by me or bring me things, or whatever. Sometimes Celeste didn't mind, especially after some of the kids she's more fond of arrived, but other times it did bug her.

(Fast forward to tonight, as I was putting her to bed and talking about her day the way I do, I asked Celeste if she had fun with daddy at playgroup and she, in a very agitated manner, shouted "No!" I don't know if it was just the interaction with other kids that bugged her, or if I did something else that embarrassed her — and don't I have at least a decade until I have to worry about being that embarrassing.)

Anyway, after a little more than an hour, Celeste moved over to the door and started waving good-bye to everyone, so I gathered her coat and we headed out. Apparently, she was just tired of playgroup (Evelin says an hour is a typical amount of time for her to want to spend there) because when I asked if she wanted to turn on to our street to head home or to keep walking though the neighborhood, she pointed straight ahead.

After our walk is when the day started to turn sour, at least for me. We got home and Celeste had a little lunch (she'd been snacking on apples and cheese for much of the walk) and I went to put her down for her nap. It was about 11:30 a.m., her typical nap time, and she wasn't quite giving me her standard sleep cues, but she was acting a little tired. She went down quietly, but she never went to sleep. After about a half-hour or so (and a quick lunch on my part) of listening to her roll, talk, shout, jump, etc., I went up and tried "nap buddy"-ing with her in my and Evelin's bed. After about a half hour of her sitting up, rolling around, and bloodying my nose with a well aimed squeeze, we got up and wrote off the idea of a nap entirely.

Yesterday, Evelin had a similar problem with the midday nap: Celeste wouldn't go asleep until later in the afternoon, while in the car, when Evelin was giving J--- a ride to the airport. Given that and today's nap problem, I was starting to have some panicky thoughts about what if she's shifting to an only-sleep-at-night mode; she's too young to give up napping, but she did go to only one nap a day long before the books said she should.

So without a nap, we did some more reading and playing, and then headed off to The Mall. Celeste said she wanted to go to the National Air and Space Museum. For the entire ride downtown, she was looking around, pointing at buses, flipping through a book, and signing AIRPLANE when I'd ask what she wanted to go see ... and then, as we're backing into a very convenient parking spot on Madison Dr. NW, she starts to nod off. The only thing I can do is give up the spot and to keep driving.

I ended up heading to the National Arboretum, figuring it was on the way home (in a roundabout way) and I could drive slow through the grounds to kill time while she slept. It ended up being a 40-minute nap (she awoke near the Gotelli Collection of Dwarf and Slow Growing Conifers. After she woke up and I explained where we were (and why we weren't going to see any airplanes except those visible overhead), we got out and walked around the National Herb Garden, the koi garden (Celeste did some excited signing of FISH when some of the koi surfaced near us), and the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum.

Celeste started getting cold (and a little peckish), so we headed back to the T.R.U.C.K. for a snack. I put her in her carseat and climbed in the backseat, closed the door and then remembered that we'd engaged the childlocks back at the end of 2005. (Evelin ran in to the same situation earlier in the week — at least it was easier for me to climb into the front seat than it had been for her ...)

Once we got home, Celeste and I had a bit of time to play and read and have some dinner before Evelin got home, but, man, was I off. Celeste hadn't given me any of the downtime (or much time to deal with some work things) that I'd expected and my brain was rapidly turning to mush. Thankfully, she has gotten better at playing quietly and reading to herself, so those moments when I was approaching my wits' end, Celeste was able to immerse herself in her books or something until I could pull myself back together. The funniest bit was when I would try to lay down on the floor for a moment, Celeste would quickly run over and try to pull me back to an upright position, lifting me by my hair.

When Evelin got home, I tried asking her what she wanted to do for dinner, since I hadn't had the chance to make the pizza I'd originally planned to make, and when she started asking me questions all I could reply with was "my brain no think good." We ended up with takeaway from Franklin's (including a growler of Twisted Turtle Pale Ale to help my head screwed back on tight ahead of day two of Evelin's conference tomorrow ...)

Going to bed tonight, we ended up letting things shift back nearly and hour later than normal. Celeste was down around 8:00 p.m., which may be for the best with Daylight Savings Time approaching, but I think we're going to have to work at figuring out what's going on. Perhaps her nap/sleep times are shifting (she does seem to be sleeping later in the morning), and we'll need to adjust to/for that, but the troubling thing is that her sleep cues are either changing or she's figured out how to hide them.

Just so long as she keeps taking at least one nap a day ... I don't think we can deal with a newborn and a toddler who doesn't nap ...

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A Few Follow-Ups Before She Awakes ... 

Kotten: (a follow up to my svenska frågor) Still no word on the sad little teddy from Lena Anderson's books, but Johan did look up Lilla Kotten sjunger and it seems beyond unlikely to ever end up translated to English: It's an illustrated book of Swedish children's songs. I guess I should have figured it be something like that when I ran across a CD version of the title.

The Hawk: (an overlooked event from Sunday's day out) When we got home from the zoo, I happened to look up at the house just in time to see a large hawk of somesort land in one of the branches hanging over the roof. I jumped out of the T.R.U.C.K. to get a better look and it flapped off toward the backyard, so (leaving Evelin and Celeste, I'm embarrassed to admit) I ran around to the back to see if I could spy where it was headed — or to see if it had picked up one of the seemingly feral cats that spend time in our backyard. However, I didn't manage to see where it ended up going. I kind of want it to have been that red-tailed hawk we rescued back in June 2004, but there’s no way to know.

Weird ... I just did the math and we saw that hawk on 20 June roughly 10 weeks before Celeste was born. The due date for the Celeste's sibling is about 11 (Evelin corrected me) 10 weeks from when the hawk was sitting over our house. I need to google around to see what sorts of omens/legends/etc. are associated with hawks, but that's kind of a freaky coincidence.

Whisky: (not a follow up; just plain cool) I've been thinking that when it's time to upgrade my desktop computer in the basement, I'd like to give a go at building my own from scratch. This, however, gets me thinking that I might have to go beyond simply building a computer to create something really cooler ... (via Daddy Types and Liquor Snob)

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Monday, February 06, 2006

A Day Out 

After the all-day deluge of Saturday (because of the time of year, I was at work for the misting/non-rain portion of the morning when Celeste and Evelin went to the park ... and got wet on the walk home as things turned to rain), we were all happy to get out on Sunday. In the morning, we headed off to the park to let Celeste splash in some puddles — she does a very cute jog-in-place/stomping thing — and to get some time on the swings. Celeste then slept almost entirely though Evelin's bookclub, while I hid upstairs and read the paper and some blogs and did a Sūdoku.

After Celeste awoke and the book crowd cleared out, we headed off to the zoo for the first time in a long time. And, most excitingly, we saw The Stick himself (a.k.a. 黄油条 Huángyóu Tiáo (butterstick) or, as the zoo insists on calling him, 太山 Tài Shān). They've progressed quite a lot with the Asia Trail construction, giving viewers a much improved perspective in on the outdoor panda yards: We had a good view of all three bears and got to see some cute pawing around from The Stick.

After that, we headed down to Beaver Valley to see the seals, making a stop in the Elephant house so that Celeste could see Randle the giraffe and the Asian elephants, Kandula, Shanthi, and Ambika. I was also interested to see how the elephants were doing in the wake of Toni's death. The three elephants were together (while Toni was alive, Shanthi and Kandula were separated from Toni and Ambika), which was good to see, and they seemed to be acting fairly sedate.

Celeste was excited to see the giraffe. Randle didn't get as close as Kameel and the others did back at Thanksgiving, but Celeste had a mostly unobstructed view of a giraffe just two or three meters away and she made her kissy noise that signifies "giraffe."

Down in the valley, we were disappointed that the sea lions weren't out, that the grey seals were asleep, and that the sloth bears (who have a cub that isn't getting nearly the love from the public that The Stick is) also weren't out. The Kids' Farm was still open, however, so Celeste got some good time with a few goats, burros, cows, chickens, and ducks.

The funny thing about this trip to the zoo was that Celeste was even more interested in some of the statues in the park than the animals themselves. Sure, the giraffe caught her attention, but she started signing BEAR like crazy as we walked pass a bear statue on the way to Beaver Valley and she totally ignored the live prairie dogs behind her to pet the statues of prairie dog behavior on the edge of their enclosure ...

Celeste with Bear Celeste with Prairie Dogs

In the second photo (and I must say that while the camphone photos aren't the best quality, they sure are quick and easy to take and use), Celeste is signing APPLE because she wants a slice to "feed" to the statues. She did the same thing to the bear statue earlier in the day.

That evening, after Celeste went to bed, I ran out to the University of Maryland Observatory to hear a lecture by W.T. Bridgman about (mostly Young Earth) Creationist arguments about astronomy and a scientific response to them. Bridgman's made a bit of a hobby out of looking at the math and science behind the arguments and then pointing out the flaws in logic/science/nature behind them. His goal is to get science teachers to not "teach the controversy," but to teach critical thinking and to demonstrate how if argument A is correct, then all these demonstrably true things must be false.

Although dry in places, the lecture was interesting, particularly in light of this weekend's Washington Post Magazine article about evolution and its critics, especially since the Darwin/biology/evolution arguments are so out in the public eye compared to the physics, geology, and astrophysics arguments. It makes sense that those who can't accept the age of the universe is what it is would have a problem with astronomy, but I just hadn't thought about it.

The night sky was clearer than I expected, so after the talk I got to peek through the telescopes to have a good look at the surface of the half moon, as well as two views of Saturn and its rings and a sidelong look at Praesepe/the Beehive Cluster (M44).

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Sunday, February 05, 2006

Last Sunday ... 

... on the way back from the park, Evelin and I (and Celeste with a bit of a protest as we walked past the turn home) decided to flip by the local Quickie Mart to pick up the Sunday Post. On the way back, I noticed a squirrel digging intently. It was at the edge of a retaining wall that ran next to the sidewalk, putting it about chest high and less than a foot away. And it didn't notice us approaching. Standing right next to an oblivious squirrel, what else was I supposed to?

I tapped it on the back — just a light little brush, but the startled squirrel jumped straight up ... which is where my poor impulse control ran into my inability to see the consequences of this act. The squirrel didn't jump quite straight up; there was a bit of forward moment toward me ... actually toward the gap between me and Celeste's stroller, which I was pushing.

The squirrel hit my leg on the way down and scooted under the stroller, getting clipped by the wheel a little before running across the sidewalk and up a tree where it proceeded to chatter wildly at us. I was laughing; Evelin was scowling; Celeste was wondering what had happened.

This morning, as Evelin was getting ready for her bookclub, she looked out on the porch and found that the squirrels I've been unable to keep out of the porch roof, apparently seeking revenge for what I'd done to their kinfolk, had chewed through part of the fascia board. Up until now, they hadn't really done damage to the porch (there's a large air gap between the top of the gutters and the roofline, so I need to put some sort of hardware cloth around the entire roof edge, which probably means taking down the gutters), so I'd only used a bit of harassment to keep them at bay. Obviously, I'm not annoying them enough ... I guess it's time to try spraying a bunch of cayenne up in there ...

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Friday, February 03, 2006

Kids and Coats 

I meant to mention this in yesterday's entry about Celeste in the park, but I forgot ... "Why Kids Hate to Wear Coats" (from Morning Edition). The best bit is the six-year-old who explains that kids don't like to wear coats because they don't realize that they're cold. Yesterday, Celeste started off with a coat, but it was feeling pretty warm to me, so I took her coat off while she was running around, but when the winds started picking up she signed COLD a few times ... but still protested when I tried to put her coat back on.

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Svenska Frågor 

If any Swedes or Swedophiles out there on the Internets happen to see this ... is there some Swedish folktale or popular story about a sad teddy bear?

Back in December, we discovered Lena Anderson's kids books when we found a copy of Tick-Tock (in Swedish: Tick-Tack) at the Belgian Christmas thing at Riversdale. It's a cute time-telling book with great illustrations, and Celeste really likes it. Between Tick-Tock and Helen Oxenbury's I Hear, Celeste really started paying attention to clocks ... particularly my watch, which she wanted to carry around/chew for a while.

After a little while, I started poking around and found that Rabén & Sjögren's English-language imprint, R&S Books, was bringing over several of Anderson's books (along with other Swedish children's books), including a few that feature the same characters as Tick-Tock. For Christmas, Celeste got a copy of Tea for Ten (in Swedish: Lilla Kotten får besök), and last month I found a copy of Hedgehog's Secret (in Swedish: Kottens hemlighet). The latter is particularly timely since it's about [SPOILER ALERT] a new baby keeping Hedgehog from being able to give her friends as much attention as she would like to/used to. Now, I just have to wait for Lilla Kotten sjunger to get translated ...

Back to the sad teddy bear — in both Tea for Ten and Hedgehog's Secret one of the characters who appears is a little teddy bear who's crying. Is there some Swedish fable about a sad bear? Or is this just a very underdeveloped character that Anderson has popping up in her books? Or maybe it refers to some other children’s work she's done, maybe her Stina or Kanin books?

I guess I need to go dig through all those books they don't let you buy at Ikea ...

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Thursday, February 02, 2006

Shadow Dancin' 

Shadow Dancin' Evelin said that Celeste was paying a lot of attention to her shadow earlier in the week, but today was the first I got to see it. She's noticed her shadow before and we've talked about shadows, but today, as we were walking in the park and headed toward the swings, she kept pausing and pointing at her shadow and then pointing at my shadow and signing DADDY.

It was warm again today — we must be storing up winter for a bad March or something this year — so Celeste and I spent nearly two hours at the park: the swings, the teeter-totter, the slide, the ramps, ... There were a bunch of other (mostly older) kids there today, none who we knew, but she enjoyed watching them run every which way and occasionally scolding them if they did something she didn't approve of.

Oops ...

A little before I left work this morning, Evelin called: She ran into our neighbor who informed her that the dilapidated fence I started breaking apart in earnest last week is theirs not ours. J---, the neighbor, said she was concerned at first, but is okay with us breaking it up considering how bad of shape it is in. She also wanted to make sure we knew it was their fence. Evelin apologized (and offered to replace the fence) and I stopped by to apologize this afternoon ... thankfully we've never known them to be litigious.

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To Sleep, Perchance to Dream ... 

So, with a month of the new work schedule under my belt, I can definitely say that I feel better with a consistent start time to my workday. I don't get as much totally alone time in the office, which means some questions/interruptions end up breaking up what had been a good stretch of productivity, but I'm also sharper and less brain-fogged overall, so I guess it balances out.

That said, with Celeste's rough patch of the past week or so, I'm finding my sleep to be really disjointed ... and my sleep habits adjusting to that. Over the past week, Celeste has had three nights of decent sleep (although getting to bed/to sleep has become much more difficult than it used to be) and four nights where she's up for two or more hours during the wee hours. This seems to have trained me to wake in the middle of the night more than I'd like: Last night, Celeste had a good night, but I was up for a little while around 1:30 a.m. and again around 3:00 a.m.; but Tuesday night/Wednesday morning I was a very bad night for Celeste so I was basically up for the day at 1:45 a.m.

I know part of it is that she's pulling strings to keep from being put back in bed, but while I holding her and trying to soothe her, I asked if she had had a bad dream or something. She paused and said "uh-ha." I asked what it was about and she signed DOG, so I asked if it was a mean dog, and she said "uh-ha." So we talked a bit about how while there were lots of good dogs out there, some dogs are mean, but that if she was careful and made sure she had permission to touch a dog that she'd be okay. At this point, Evelin would probably point out that by talking to her so much I am encouraging her to stay up ... and who knows how much of it she's absorbing/getting vs. just playing me to stay up, but it was late and I was tired and not thinking too well.

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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Biology Major? 

It's obviously way too early for Celeste to worry about career plans, but if she's thinking about going into biology, I hope it works out better for her than it did for Dr. Moreau.

For Christmas, Celeste's cousins gave her a Leap Frog Fridge Farm. We didn't put it up until a week or so ago, and she's since gotten quite good at picking out the half-animals and putting them together to get the various songs/sounds. However, as much fun as it is to make a blue sheep or a pink pig, Celeste seems to find it even funnier to make chimeras — a horse-duck, sheep-cow, duck-pig, etc. Maybe it's just because the song such combinations yields includes a bit of laughter and the admonishment "That's silly!"* She also will do requests. Yesterday, I asked her to make a sheep-duck and she put together the requested halves in the right order.

The Fridge Farm is pretty cool in that it lets her hang out in the kitchen while I'm prepping differ or something without getting into (as much) trouble, but it seems to stay positioned at just the right angle that if I open the fridge too far — something that is necessary to access one of the crisper drawers — it bumps against the doorframe or something setting off Farmer Tad or whatever animal happens to be in the barn at the moment. The first five times that happened, I jumped.

*Silly is a concept Celeste seems to like. You ask her who's silly, she usually says (fairly loudly) "Daddy." Sometimes, she follows up with "Mumma" or, more often, BABY. She hasn't even met her sibling and she's already giving the kid grief ...

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What Is He Going On About? 

Blog Word/Tag Cloud

A pretty interesting little gizmo I found via Cursed to First. The idea is that you buy the T-shirt, but just using the thing on the blog works for me ...

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