Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Thin White Duke Ventures West

"Will you help me study for my test tomorrow?" Critter asked after I came home.

"In what?"

"Block. It's a history test."

Hmmm. Lewis and Clark. The Gold Rush. I think I can handle this. "Sure." She handed me her two study packets, her eighth grade scrawl filling in the worksheets. We covered the reasons pioneers died on the long trek West (starvation, disease, accidents, and overwork), when and where gold was discovered in California (Sutter's Mill, 1848 which lead to statehood in 1850), and the travels of Lewis Clark.

"What are the first names of Lewis and Clark?"

"Merriweather and...," she paused, thinking. "Pippin!"

I sighed internally at the mention of Frodo's friend. "William," I corrected.

We moved on to Conestoga wagons (21 feet long, by 11 feet tall, by 4 feet wide and holding 6 tons of provisions) to the Battle of the Alamo. "What famous people died at the Battle of the Alamo?"

"Davey Crocket and David Bowie!"

Monday, January 22, 2007

sometimes being a parent is cool

At lunch today, ScrapMaven told us about her boys and their latest adventures involving the Tooth Fairy. Apparently, one of the boys is losing teeth like there's no tomorrow, and the other hasn't lost any. The first boy had a loose tooth a few days ago, and worked on it while lying in bed. This was his 2nd tooth, so he knew he'd get money when it came out. Out it came, and he promptly stuffed it under his pillow - without telling his folks.

Next morning, he flipped up his pillow. No tooth, and no cash. He made a distressed comment to ScrapMaven, who quickly filled in the gap (no pun intended) by telling him that kids have to tell their parents when the tooth comes out so the parents can make an appointment with the Tooth Fairy for a visit. After all, she's a very busy lady -- this is the time of year a lot of kids lose teeth -- and they have to fit her visit in her calendar.

ScrapMaven and her Beau promptly forgot about the tooth, and several days passed. Last night, as the boy was getting ready for bed, he bounded in to the Master Bedroom and asked ScrapMaven if she had made an appointment yet. Glancing in the hallway, she saw her Beau nodding vigorously and with a boyish grin. "Why yes," she exclaimed. "We sent an email a day or two ago. I think you're on her schedule."

Gleefully, the boy checked his pillow this moring, and found the $5 stuffed in the pillow case. $5??!! Oh my goodness, inflation is a (*&%@!! My nephews only get a $1 -- a shiny Sacajawea dollar, but a dollar nonetheless. To heck with allowances... let me knock out all my teeth...

Ok, so my final comment was "Sometimes being a parent is cool." No doubt.

What was really going through my head was this past Saturday with Critter. We spent the day running errands, the last of which was to find her at least 3 more pairs of jeans (I swear we're shrinking them in the wash...) and *maybe* a new dress. She has a dress or two in her closet, but I know from moving them to and fro that there's no way her adolescent frame can fit in them. And occasionally, she really needs to dress up, and doesn't have any options.

SOooooooo.... The MALL on a Saturday. Need I say more? The thrilling-est place for a teen; the bane of existance for parents. Actually, it was busy, but not horrible (post Christmas rush), and she was in relatively good spirits. We started at JC Penney, looking at dresses in the Junior Department.

Sidebar: Junior department -- the equivalent of every parent's nightmare in fashion for outrageous prices and of every brand name that every teen wants. All of the dresses in her size were either a) strapless or b) low cut halter-style in oriental satin prints.

She tried on a strapless red dress with a black satin belt and black piping. I have to admit, the dress looked gorgeous on her. But I was extremely uncomfortable with how old she looked in it. She's 14, for crying out loud, and she looked 21 in that dress. She is still pleasantly oblivious to the affects her figure could have on hormonal male teens... I wasn't about to let her have a dress that essentially said "Here I am, Boys. Come and get me."

So she tried a couple of the halter-style oriental prints. In various sizes. About 3 different styles. And they all had the same problem... they required, um, adult-sized chests to keep them on. NEXT!

The last choice was a dress I would have LOVED at her age -- a black and white strapless with white polka dots on the skirt. A toule underskirt "poufs" out the skirt. White piping creates a tasteful stripe along the top edges. She looked fabulous. Not drop dead gorgeous (thank goodness), but really stunning, and appropriately pretty. She agreed that it was a good dress - just needed a sweater or short jacket. And so, with dress in hand, we were off into the rest of the MALL.

We found a cute black/silver sweater at a weird clothing store called The Rave. Odd cuts of clothing, lots of shiny fabric and cotton blends. And black flats with zebra prints. You know, the kind of fashion store teens might populate... On the 70% off table was this sweater. It looks great with the dress, and was only $6.50 -- so a good deal.

Then we stopped at Mariposa. If you have a teen girl in your life, you will, at some point, go in to Mariposa. They have prom dresses, for one. We were there while a group of teens and moms were looking at matching halter tops in red/black/white for a dance team. Um, ewwwww. The style was NOT exactly flattering for all of the body types represented, but what can you do?

Anyway, we found a really cool evening/special event gown - one in red and another in blue. Lots of sparkles. Totally impractical fabric (can't be washed), and a gathered stomach (read: no way in heck I could wear it), and a neato ragged hemline. Amazingly, it did NOT have a plunging neckline or a back-splash (when your back is exposed).

I told her "trying on is free," grabbed the dresses off the rack, and steered Critter to the dressing room. I didn't even look at the tag. I mean, what are the odds that a) they'd look good on her and b) we could come up with any good reason to own one of these fancy, sparkly, things?
Odds were pretty good, actually. She tried on the red one first -- it looked amazing, if a bit tight at the hips. She tried on the blue one. It would have been my favorite (I LOVE electric blue), but it just made her look washed out. So I went back to the rack, found a slightly larger size of the red one, and came back. Sigh.... It fit. She looked really good in it. She promised she'd wear it for one of our upcoming musicals (we have season tickets), or maybe to graduation in the spring from middle school.

The dress is non-returnable. It is expensive. It is completely impractical. And for a brief moment, being a parent was really cool. I got to give my daughter something frilly, and beautiful, and special -- and she smiled a lot at me and thanked me.

We took pictures when we got home.

Yes, indeed. Sometimes being a parent is *very* cool.

Was It Kepler or Newton Who Shouted 'Shotgun'?

I discovered a fun little game Sunday evening called Cosmic Crush, where you steer your little planetoid across the heavens, eating up planets. Whatever you do, don’t play it before heading off for work on Monday morning or you will view every car, truck, and bus as a tasty celestial morsel. Lumbering down the Interstate this morning, most of my ride consisted of these observations:

1. Don’t get too close to the yellow school bus. Ah! Yellow school bus!
2. I can totally take that little SUV. I'm sure it has less mass than my car.
3. Where’s a motorcyclist I can crunch?
4. Two Semis? Pull away! Pull away!
5. That VW Bug is all mine…
6. Watch the oncoming headlights. Watch... Are they pulling me to one side of the freeway?
7. Pull away from the Semi!
8. (Sigh) I'm never going to get to Level Three...

Sunday, January 21, 2007

And the Beat Goes On

Latest on recording our LPs to CDs...

If you go off and leave the album to record, then your first track is all of the songs on side 1. Your second track becomes all of the songs on side 2. If you want each song to be it's OWN track, you have to sit by the stereo and press "pause" between each song so the CD knows it is now recording a new song.

Which, of course, we didn't do with the 6 albums JewelGeek recorded, but that I did for my 1 double-album Christmas LP. Now we get to listen to all of JewelGeek's albums all over again...

"There was one room in her house that was always kept locked... It was... the garage..."

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Island of Misfit Decorations

It's time to say goodbye to our Christmas friends, our snowflake placemats and dishes, our gingerbread kitchen gadgets, and assorted Santa-capped stuffies. I'll miss Hermie watching over popcorn popping.

And having abominable sized help doing dishes.

We piled all the ornaments on the table and found the matching boxes to store them in.

Then there was this stash. The Little Man's haul this year--all the ornaments he pulled off the tree during the season and kept.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Don't Eat The Yellow Snow

....unless you have made it yourself.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

...out together in the deep, deep snow

The Rose City is blanketed in white today. Critter's school went from a two-hour delay to full closure. Even the place I worked, closed for the day (though the public school district stayed open).

The Little Man was quite interested in the snow and has been nattering at the birds all morning.

CrafterKat had cat holding duty today.

I ventured outdoors and was pleased to discover that I left footprints. Deep ones. Certainly deeper than last week.

I followed the tracks up the street and found a suspicious person...

And why is she laughing so much? Because she had just pelted me with a snowball. And was preparing another.

And so I left them. So they could continue their own Snowy Day.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

I Groc My Geek

I had to take over the computer... JewelGeek wasn't telling the story right. When I got to "CrafterKat pushed me aside..." I knew I needed to intervene.

The reality was, JewelGeek's blood pressure was rising, and I could feel it across the room. Even over my LEGO Star Wars II computer game. And I was flying through a sea of TIE fighters. And I kept scattering my LEGO coins all over the universe because I was getting hit. But I digress...

So I asked JewelGeek if she wanted me to give it a try. [Yes.] And I asked her to put all the plugs for the in/out of the various stereo components back where they started. [Um, yeah...] And then I asked her where the manual was. It had been hidden on top of one of the stereo components since my last recording foray months and months ago. [I think it's on the dining room table...]

I read the manual. I looked at the back of the stereo at the net of white & red plugs. I read the manual. I looked at the plugs. I started the album. I didn't get any levels. I moved some plugs around, started the album. Sigh. Pause. Move plugs. Start the album. No levels. Repeat. Somewhere in there, JewelGeek began to offer some exasperated words of wisdom, and I told her to have a cow elsewhere.

In the end, I figured out the in/out plugs of the CD Recorder machine was backwards. Robin Leech's voice finally came through the speakers AND produced levels on the CD Recorder. Woo-hoo me! I out-geeked the Geek!

And for the next two hours, I went through a TimeWarp listening to albums from my teen years as JewelGeek recorded them for posterity. Oh, and I was kicking some serious Imperial Robutt, too. At about 11:30pm last night, I made True Jedi on Chapter 3 or 4 (I can't remember) of Episode VI, and could finally go to bed.

WEIRD dreams ensued... little LEGO Stormtroopers and Pig Guards rockin' out to INXS, and millions of LEGO coins jingling in space...

A Domino Effect In A Cloud Of Mystery

I'm unsure if any of you noticed, but CrafterGeek has turned one year old. Through our little door to the Blogosphere, we've recorded our kitchen remodel, trips to Seattle, summer camps, and family get-togethers. Our blog may need to be renamed, however; I may have to turn in my Geek card.

Last Wednesday, CrafterKat had a dinner meeting so I thought it might be a good time to try and record some of our old records onto CD. For those younger folk out there, music used to be stored on vinyl disks and came in large flat squares for safe-keeping...

For our anniversay, we bought a CD-RW recorder for our stereo unit. We've not used it much for recording, partly due to the time it takes and partly due to the stereo being in pieces for months on end during the remodel. But last April, CrafterKat re-recorded Treasure Island. All I remember of the process was this:

Jim Hawkins: In order to relate the story of Treasure Island...
CrafterKat: I'm not getting any levels.
Jim Hawkins: In order to relate the story of Treasure Island...
CrafterKat: I'm still not getting any levels.
Jim Hawkins: In order to relate the story of Treasure Island...
CrafterKat: It's still not recording.
Jim Hawkins: In order to relate the story of Treasure Island...

Go with something easy, I told myself. Not too many songs. I pulled out Aliens Ate My Buick by Thomas Dolby. This was an album that I remember driving around and listening to. A lot. The first song, The Keys To Her Ferrari, opens with Robin Leach. Yes, him. That guy who did the Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous. This is what I recall of Wednesday evening.

Robin Leach: There was one room in her house that was always kept locked. It was...the garage!
Me: I'm not getting any levels.
Robin Leach: There was one room in her house that was always kept locked.
Me: I'm still not getting any levels.
Robin Leach: There was one room in her house that was always kept locked.
Me: I'm not getting any levels. (heavy sigh)
Robin Leach: There was one room in her house that was always kept locked.
Me: Shut up!

I ended up burning an empty CD.

This weekend I broke down and admitted to CrafterKat that I couldn't get the damn thing to work. ....

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Not Exactly a Keats Day

When I was little, one of my favorite books was The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. The pictures are charming but I always liked the concept of that much snow! Enough that it was piled as high as the traffic lights, that you could build a fort big enough that it would protect you from a barrage of snowballs, or that you could actually (gasp!) slide down a mountain of it.

It snowed in the Rose City today, blanketing the area in... powdered sugar. Barely. For about 30 minutes. No huge drifts that I once dreamt about, nor even the inches to make a decent snowball.

One radio announcer up here explained the snow ritual his daughter learned in school:

Step 1: Gather the family and have each member cut up a paper snowflake. Write down three snow phrases on the completed flake (e.g. "I love snow. Snow is great! I like snowflakes."

Step 2: Each family member must get their pajama bottoms, turn them inside out, and wear them to bed in that fashion.

Step 3: Each family member takes an ice cube and flushes it down the toilet, stating that they wish it to snow.

Step 4: Take the paper snowflake, tuck it under your pillow, and dream of snow.

I think it obvious that not enough people took part in the snow ritual...

Sunday, January 07, 2007

New Year Frog?

On New Year's Eve, Critter and I had to run a few errands. On our long, winding way back home she said, "Be Your Fish."

"Be Your Fish?" I glanced at her and then at the car in front of me and understood.*

She nodded. "You know... Instead of Be Your Self, Be Your Fish."

My mind raced for a rebuttal. "Butter Your Flies."

She wrinkled her nose. "Ewwwww. I'm not a frog!"

I prefer her New Year's resolution. Being a geek though, I had to find out what kind of fish I would be this year (I went here). Unfortunately, my rebuttal is closer to the truth.

What kind of aquarium fish are you?

Booger the Frog

You are an energetic clown. You charm all with your humor and cute face. You're not the sharpest fish of the flock but we all sure love you!

Personality Test Results

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* We often play the License Plate Game, taking the letters off of car plates and making a simple phrase out of it. The car in front of us on this trip had the letters BYF.

These Potatoes Are So Creamy

As Critter has grown into our family, our holiday traditions have also expanded. One of them is to watch "While You Were Sleeping," one of my favorite romantic movies which occurs over Christmas. Another is all the eating and partying...

We had our first party celebrating the Jedi Racoon's birthday. Even Lumpy joined the festivities.

We had fun playing. CrafterKat picked up Jedi tips from the Master himself.

And Critter got some toddler time with her newest cousin.

We debated the Seven Wonders of the World.

And played lots of card games.

But the tradition which I didn't think would happen, has. Last year, on Christmas Eve, Critter left a note. This year, I made sure to do it right. I made pumpkin cookies; she set up the tray with carrots and left a new note.* And Santa was one happy elf.

* The note reads:
Dear Santa,
Hope you like the cookies! They're pumpkin and JewelGeek made them special. They taste really good with milk so I put that out too! Please give the extra long carrot to Rudolph. Say hi to Comet for me as well as Chet!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Holiday Catch-up And A Bit Of Mustard

The Christmas holiday usually lasts about two weeks with our families. One weekend or so with my mother, the Social Butterfly (minus any dire Kringle emergencies), and another with CrafterKat’s family. Then we tend to celebrate New Years for another week or until the leftovers are gone.

We began the holidays with a festive start, Critter’s first choir concert.

Then hung up more lights on the new deck.

Evil PXE brought his kids to work as their daycare center was closed for the winter storm we had. His littlest attempted to fix a keyboard with a monster truck.

And the mustard? Well, in case there was a power outage we were prepared...

...with Critter and her glowing mouth toy…

You('re) Better You('re) Better You Bet

It’s been a pretty busy holiday break for us—lots of family get togethers and lots of stomach flu. Because nothing says Happy New Year like multiple trips to the bathroom.

Critter was the latest to get ill (unlucky number 7 in the immediate family) and has been home from school for the last two days. She’s back on solid food and beginning to go a little stir crazy. I drove her to get a burger at McMennamins when The Who came pouring over the radio. I sang the chorus. Badly.

When I say I love you, you say you better
You better you better you bet

“You know,” says Critter, “it should be better than sliced pickles.”


“That saying… ‘Better than sliced bread.’ It should be ‘better than sliced pickles’.”

“Oh? Why’s that?”

“Because I really like pickles.” Yes, Critter’s definitely feeling better.