Thursday, March 29, 2007

Sock (W)Rapping

We are on our way down to Ashland this weekend to catch OSF's As You Like It, enjoy the chilly sunshine, and poke around in the little boutiques. This week has been spent cleaning the house, caring for kitties (Pretty Boy has been on medication), and doing laundry. Mountains of laundry. Spring is a tough time in Oregon—we’ve got summer weather wear which we are dying to put on but we still have to drag on sweatshirts due to the chill. Two seasons at once means lots of laundry.

Critter has been a good sport about it and has been adding clothes to the dirty piles downstairs. Putting the clean clothes away, though, is another story. She was down to two baskets last night when I entered her bedroom. Her floor is strewn with kitty toys and new millennium rap music poured from her stereo speakers. She found a spare slipper and chucked it into the closet. “Do you want to do socks?”

This is no small feat (feet?).

At one point last week, Critter suggested that she just might throw out all her little anklet socks and buy a whole new set of identical socks. Everything would be the same and matching them up afterwards would be easier. But she is also drawn to whimsical footwear—bells on the back, prancing monkeys, rainbow-toe socks… And CrafterKat and I like finding new ones to add to her collection. Does she wear them? You bet. To the ground. Until they can stand up on their own.

Matching up socks is my downfall when it comes to laundry. I have always disliked sorting through the piles to find that one missing mate. Inevitably the second sock is in a different pile of laundry and doesn’t get cleaned until a day or two later. Or it’s still hidden under the bed, behind the dresser, on the floor of the closet… I’m sure my Mom can tell stories…

Perhaps I’m a Sock Snob. I know what pairs I own and can find them pretty quickly in the sock heap. There’s only one pair of blue-striped socks like this and only one pair of green knit socks like that. But we tend to buy multiples now, and they all wear a bit differently. Or we go back and buy a second set a few months later and the manufacturer has altered the weave or dye ever so slightly. I have a hard time with some of CrafterKat’s trouser socks—they are three different shades of brown that I can’t quite match up. On some sock sorting nights I want to adopt Steven Wright’s Sock Philosophy: I don’t wear socks by color. I go by thickness.

Critter, bopping to her radio tunes, brought a brimming sock basket to the bed where I sat. I sighed at the large pile. “I’ll help but you have to do this with me.”

She nodded, relieved to have some assistance. The DJ began another rap beat. “Oh, I like this song!”

I listened to the drum machine track. “What do you like? The beat? The lyrics?”

She shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know. I just do. Why do you ask?”

Why did I ask..? I’ve been swimming in music for the last few weeks as the Evil PXE and I have been loading up our Zunes (he even purchased a second one for his wife so they’d both have one for their cars). The link to music and memories is quite profound, I think, for many people. I remember liking certain bands only because the singer was good looking; and steadfastly refusing to listen to some groups because the front man had a mullet, wore awful clothes, or sweated in the music videos. Some songs were fun to sing because of the rhymes; others because your parents hated the words. Some songs had profound lyrics which spoke volumes to my teenage soul.

I remember…

My 6th grade music teacher not letting us play Queen’s Another One Bites The Dust before class because it might make us commit suicide.

Begging my Mom to take me to see Grease because all the girls knew the lyrics and I didn’t. (She finally relented when she realized that the John Travolta film wasn’t Saturday Night Fever, an R-rated movie).

Telling my grandparents that I really wanted a Billy Joel album for Christmas (they didn’t have a record store in their small town so this was asking a lot!).

For Christmas, getting the 45 of Duran Duran’s Wild Boys with John Taylor on the cover (they had made one with each band member).

Singing Do They Know It’s Christmas on the last day of school before Winter Break.

Getting a copy of Baltimora's Tarzan Boy on cassette from the boy who took me to prom.

Playing Side One of Air Supply’s The One That You Love over and over and over again. It was the first “decent” album my parents ever bought that wasn’t Julie Andrews or Harry Belafonte.

Listening (and singing!) to The Sound of Music at every dinner party with family friends (the father is German and he loved this film). Three girls under the age of ten singing with gusto every other Saturday gave our family the phrase “Don’t sing at the table!”

Discovering that my parents did, in fact, own one Beatles album: The White Album. When asked later why they had it (I had been creeped out by the haunting sounds of Revolution 9 and couldn’t understand why this piece of vinyl would be in their collection), my mother admitted that she bought it at a garage sale but hadn’t listened to it more than once.

In college, listening to the Steve Miller Band as I fell asleep. My roommate, who had purchased a brand new $900 stereo CD system with her financial aid money, only had three CDs in her collection.

Buying tickets for my college roommates to see a Chicago concert at the Tacoma Dome. One by one, they ended up giving their tickets to friends. I attended the abysmal concert with people I didn’t know, listening to music I only partially recognized (see note above concerning mullets and sweating).

The rap lyrics began and I floated back to the moment. I shrugged back at her. “I just wondered if the song was important to you…?” And then I heard the lyrics and did everything I could not to laugh.

This is why I'm hot, This is why I'm Hot
This is why, this is why, this is why I'm Hot
I'm Hot cause I'm fly, you ain't cause you not
This is why, this is why, this is why I'm Hot
I'm Hot cause I'm fly, you ain't cause you not
This is why, this is why, this is why I'm Hot

“No, I just like it,” she concluded and I added another song to my musical memory catalog.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Wouldn’t You Like To Be A Pepper, Too?

Ok, I posted the previous story so I could tell you this one…

Anyone know what these are? Yep – Scotch Bonnets. The Scotch Bonnet is reputed to be one of the world's hottest peppers, measuring 100000-350000 Scoville units! Even Alton Brown, of Good Eats fame, handles them with non-permeable gloves.

If you read the previous post, and bothered to go to the Choice Produce website to see the beautiful peppers swags, you may have noticed the bright orange, round accent peppers amongst the finery. When I received my two swags via FedEx and unwrapped them at home, I discovered a few of these cuties had fallen off, along with a handful of the skinny chilies.

Critter LOVES pepperoncinis and most anything hot and spicy. I carefully set the handful of peppers, including the orange ones, next to her at the dining table and told her she could have them.

“But be careful,” I warned. “I think the orange ones are Scotch Bonnets.”

“No they’re not,” Critter replied. “I just ate one – it’s a small bell pepper.”

“Are you sure? I think they’re Scotch Bonnets.”

Long pause. “Well, the seeds are hot…” And within moments, Critter was standing, waving her hand in front of her mouth, gasping for water, and tears streaming down her face. Her whole head turned red as I quickly poured her a glass of milk. She dutifully sipped the milk, letting it sit on her burning tongue. It took a full 10 minutes for the burning to stop.

Of course, while all of this was happening, I was stupid enough to say “Well, I ought to be ok if I avoid the veins and seeds…” and I sampled a piece of the fleshy pepper. I spent 5 minutes with my glass of milk, and cleaning out my sinuses.

I promptly called my sister-in-law to warn her about the orange culinary bombs. And she pointed out that the largish, dark green peppers at the top were jalapeƱos. Um, yikes! Needless to say, I threw away the other loose peppers before more damage could be done.

All evening, Critter kept saying, “My taste buds are standing up.”

Um, sadly, no. If I remember my Alton Brown episode correctly, they actually burned off from the capsaicin (hot oil) in the pepper. And they’ll take about 3 weeks to grow back.

The Emerald City Is Not In Australia

I went to Seattle last Friday for an intra-office meeting with work colleagues. The meeting was great – informative and fun. But the best part was spending Saturday morning walking around Seattle’s touristy hot spots.

I watched the flower venders haul in their buckets upon buckets of daffodils at Pike Place Market, sampled the Daily Dozen Doughnuts (yummy), and sipped Chai from the original Starbucks. I waited for the Dragon’s Toy Box to open to get Critter this amazing Treasure Hunt/Secret Code game. And I browsed the Oriental markets for purses, wallets, coin purses, and shirts. (Funny that they don’t make embroidered shirts in American-sized 2x.)

I stood awed by the beauty of real peppers strung together in swags. At Choice Produce, I broke down and purchased two of the strings. One to decorate our home, and a second to decorate my brother’s home. They are completely edible, or you can allow them to dry naturally and use the dried peppers as spice for up to two years!

At the request of my family, I also picked up iced pumpkin cookies from Cinnamon Works Bakery (sorry, no website). This bakery on the corner of Stewart has a side window which is open early. Later in the morning, they roll up the industrial garage door, so you can see their yummy offerings in their display cases. Catch the main baker (owner, I presume) when he’s there alone in the mornings, and he’ll chat you up a little while he hustles around the kitchen working on the last-minute batch of specialty bread. ANYTHING from here is wonderful, but the pumpkin cookies are TO DIE FOR. They even have Vegan offerings, if that’s your preference.

A quick Monorail trip took me to the Seattle Center and the (in)famous Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum. I splurged on the double-entry ticket, and spent the next 2 hours in sensory overload. One look at the EMP website will give you a good idea of the immensity of the content. I told JewelGeek that I could have spent DAYS there, reading everything. One part hands-on/interactive science lab and one part Smithsonian exhibit, the EMP is a Mecca for musicians. While I was there, they were hosting an exhibit on Disney’s music. OMG… It took me 40 minutes to find the exhibit, and another 20 just to get through a piece of it. No pictures or recordings allowed, of course. But there are some nifty photos on the EMP website and some audio clips you can listen to.

Another neat exhibit at EMP is the Oral History Program. About 30 computers are set up around the sound-proof space with headphones, and you can listen/watch artists and celebrities tell their stories in their own words. LOTS of musicians and related professionals, of course. And a few surprises… I listened to Nichelle Nichols relate the hilarious story of how the first interracial kiss on TV came to be. And I found a random story from George Takei about using a fencing foil instead of a Samurai sword. [If you’re a Geek, you know to what I’m referring.] I could have spent another hour in that room, listening to Harlan Ellison talk about science fiction writing, and the hundreds of musicians with their “on the road” stories.

The Science Fiction Museum was cool – but pretty small. I loved the collection of robots, for example. And while they paid nice homage to some of my favorite SciFi shows and novels, there are a LOT of holes. I didn’t see any reference to Space: 1999, for example. And Star Trek references stopped after the original series. (Oh – I may have seen an alien from the later series, come to think of it.) They had lots of pulp fiction books, which were interesting, but hard to understand the significance without some extensive reading of very small information-panels. Did I have fun? You bet. Would I pay for it again? Um… no. Where can I donate to expand the space and collection??

I love visiting Seattle. I wish I could have spent the whole weekend there. I didn’t make it to Ye Olde Curiosity Shop on Pier 54, but I understand from my coworkers that the mer-mummy is still there, as is the guy who can write your name on a grain of white rice. And I didn’t make it to Pirates Plunder on Pier 57, my all-time-favorite pirate memorabilia store. Pieces of Eight, anyone?? And somehow I forgot to check out Golden Age Collectibles when I was wandering around the Market. Although I haven’t purchased anything at GAC since I started “simplifying” my SciFi collecting habits several years ago, I love the way the store takes me back a few years and allows me to revel in all that is comic books, Goth, role-playing games, SciFi, and Hollywood. (Eclectic!)

When are we going back???

Monday, March 19, 2007

Meet The Boys!

We've made room in our hearts for two new cats (it wasn't hard, they are quite lovey!). Say hello to Pretty Boy and Old Boy.*

In the words of their previous owner, CrafterKat's friend, "Pretty Boy is 7, he’s the cute but kind of dumb one. He spends his time sleeping, sleeping outside, eating, eating outside, not cleaning himself, and his absolute favorite receiving attention from anyone who will give it to him. He has perfected his head butt move, which he says works every time when trying to convince someone to snuggle with him."

"Old Boy is 9, he is the smart one of the two. His favorite past times include lying in large patches of sunlight, staring at me from across the room, cleaning himself (extensively) and scratching on his cardboard scratch-thingy. He’s not really into the whole Outside scene, but has been known to check it out on occasion. Historically he has had a bit of a ‘problem’ with catnip, but with diligence (and careful hiding of his stash) we’ve been able to moderate his use."

The past two days we have heard some pretty, er, eloquent conversations between The Boys and their new siblings. We're still in the Getting To Know You phase. Old Boy has come out from the guest bed downstairs. He's now under our bed upstairs. Small steps. Pretty Boy is making himself at home and can often be found sitting in the living room window or watching the back patio (see photo above).
*Note: Blog names may change as we discover their personalities.

Friday, March 16, 2007

By any other name would smell as sweet

Critter and I went out for Caesar salads and pie this evening. Over much salad crunching, she filled me in on her school day, the last day of winter term. She commented on how happy she was to not have to take track in PE, which teacher she might have for health, and the book she read for Block. A very simple, fifth-grade level book which she read, in it's entirety, in under 30 minutes. I was not very impressed as I know she can read far more advanced works.

“…it was a picture book like Romeo and Juliet was. And that one was marked really high,” she countered.

I remembered the book. It was an illustrated, slimmed-down version of the classic. The main monologues were there in Shakespeare’s prose but the transition pieces were in modern, school-age English. “Well, that one kept the original bits of Shakespeare in it. And it had a lot of symbolism—“

“—and big words… 'Take thee yonder cow to thy utopiary'...’” She giggled. “I just made that up.”

I grinned. “'…that I were a glove upon that hand…'”

“'…so I can touch that chin'. Yeah, that one.” Critter tried another part of the famous monologue. “And Juliet’s up on her balcony…'through yonder window breaks wind…'”

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The more things seem to change, the more they stay the same

Seems like nothing and something have happened in the past few weeks. In my mind, I’ve been singing Corinne Bailey Rae’s “Put Your Records On” and grooving out to a bunch of high school favorites.

Three little birds, sat on my window.
And they told me I don't need to worry.
Summer came like cinnamon
So sweet,
Little girls double-dutch on the concrete.

Maybe sometimes, we've got it wrong, but it's alright
The more things seem to change, the more they stay the same
Oh, don't you hesitate.

Girl, put your records on, tell me your favourite song
You go ahead, let your hair down
Sapphire and faded jeans, I hope you get your dreams,
Just go ahead, let your hair down.
The Evil PXE broke down and purchased a Zune, Microsoft’s version of the iPod. He brought in the sleek device with a mammoth color screen and announced it would hold 7500 songs on its 30 GB hard drive. He plopped down a small duffel bag of CDs, plugged in some discarded speakers, and his high school favorites came pouring forth. He spent the rest of the day copying over his Ozzy and hair band CDs. The e-mail conversation below pretty much sums up my feelings:

From: JewelGeek
Sent: Tuesday, March 6
To: CrafterKat
Subject: Zune!

Okay. It’s official. I want one.

From: CrafterKat
Sent: Tuesday, March 6
To: JewelGeek
Subject: Re:Zune!

Gizmo Geek.
Go for it!

That night I went to Costco and picked one up. The next day I was armed with a canvas tote bag of CDs to copy to the Millennium version of the Walkman. The Evil PXE showed up with a new, larger duffel bag. We’d hold up a CD case of Billy Joel or Pet Shop Boys or Tears For Fears and ooh and ahhh. As soon as the Evil PXE put a CD in to copy, it would begin playing the first track. The rest of the day was spent shuffling one- and two-hit wonders around.

By day three, the Evil PXE was down to one large duffel bag. “I’m going to have to use the hand truck to bring it up,” he told me. When I came back from lunch, it was sitting beside my desk. “I stuffed that baby full up. I could actually hear some of the cases cracking from the weight.”

“Did you get a handtruck?”

He shook his head. “Too embarrassed… I just grabbed it and plowed up the stairs. I’ve just now caught my breath.”

I’ve not known anyone with as large a CD collection as his. Apparently he went and found all the CDs of his vinyl favorites when he was in his 20s and has kept on going. Everything from Ace of Base to Billy Squier to Depeche Mode. Oldies from the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Foreigner and the Steve Miller Band. One Hit Wonders (well, he’d claim more) from Information Society, Kraftwerk, Talk Talk, and The Cranberries. Plus groups I’d never heard of like Temple of the Dog, Xymox, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and Stormtroopers of Death.

By Friday of last week most of the CDs CrafterKat and I own had been copied to our new Zune. I left early that day and drove downtown to get my hair styled at a posh shop in CrafterKat’s building.

My first Zune test.

I scrolled through the Zune screens, found the Pet Shop Boys, and popped in my little ear phones. I walked down the street in beat with the drum machine, drowning out the sounds of the city. It felt like I was 17, walking home from school with my beloved Walkman. I was in so much awe I actually forgot to put money in the parking meter (don’t worry, I did correct this!).

I’ve been looking forward to this appointment for almost a month. CrafterKat has been extremely patient with my hair woes; in short, I’ve not had a haircut I’ve been happy with for well over a year. My hair has a bit of a natural wave on the very ends but otherwise is a straight mess that grows very quickly and often blocks my vision. My bangs get into my eyes and the natural curl that looks so cute coming out of the steamy shower is one long straight heap in a few short hours. It’s too thick or too short to hold behind my ear, and not quite long enough to hold back with clippies. Keep my hair too long and the little waves at the tips fan out over my glasses; too short, the curls disappear and I resemble the oldest Partridge boy.

Scrap Maven and Huggy Girl insisted that I go to The Bob Shop downtown and see Miss T. Ever watch those cooking shows on the Food Channel with the glamorous, trendy chefs who pull together an extravagant, yet comfort-food, meal in under an hour? You feel as if you can easily prepare that same dish when you get home. And in doing so, your life will easily be transformed into something that is equally trendy and extravagant.

Miss T. definitely knows her stuff. She evened out my hair color (I like being a red head) and snipped away all of the split ends. But try as I might explain my hair's natural tendencies, she didn’t quite get the curl/wavey/not wavey bit with my hair. Perhaps she was overly optimistic that the straight-ish hair I entered the salon with was just a one-time abnormality and I would instantly revert back to the wet curls she saw after washing away the hair dyes. She applied gels and specialized dryers to my wet head and informed me, quite pleasantly, that I should come back in eight weeks to re-do my color. I love the color but at over $100 a pop, I’m not sure she’ll see me again quite that often.

Now, before I hurt anyone’s feelings, she did do a marvelous job. I know that haircuts and coloring cost a lot and she is very talented at what she does. But I was looking for a new style, too, and I think I came up short. Or long. I’m not sure. She admitted she took off but one inch from the length--I tend to grow it out that much in about a week (this is only a slight exaggeration). But the cut I have now seems not very different from what I’ve had over the past five years of my life. And the funky wave is still there.

Blue as the sky, sunburnt and lonely,
Sipping tea in the bar by the roadside,
(just relax, just relax)
Don't you let those other boys fool you,
Got to love that afro hair do.
CrafterKat likes the haircut. I like the coloring and am pleased to not look so shaggy. I’m still trying to accept the new (old?) look.

Maybe sometimes, we feel afraid, but it's alright
The more you stay the same, the more they seem to change.
Don't you think it's strange?

Girl, put your records on, tell me your favourite song
You go ahead, let your hair down
Sapphire and faded jeans, I hope you get your dreams,
Just go ahead, let your hair down.
I need to load up the Zune with more of my 80’s music. At least I’ve not got a David Cassidy cut, nor a New Romantic/New Wave Flock of Seagulls hairdo.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

I'm dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep

Random Family Conversation #53

By 8:30 last night, I was ready for bed. I had turned off all the lights in the living room when Critter came out from the shower. She turned towards the dark with the intent of powering up some entertainment device. "Keep the TV and computers off," I warned. She groused a moment. "Well, you can go to bed and read or listen to music..." I climbed into bed and the Fuzzy Slug settled across my legs. "Or you can come inside and talk with me a bit."

"About what?" she called from the doorway.

I settled down under the blankets. "I don't care."


I grinned, ready. "I don't care."

She flobbed on the bed and scritched the Fuzzy Slug. "How come snot is always green?"

"Sometimes it's white. And stringy."


I laughed and prepared another topic. "What ride would you most want to take Annie on at Disneyland?"

She rolled her eyes. "Duh. Only the best one." A bit more coaxing confirmed it. "Splash Mountain, of course."

"Oh. I thought maybe you'd be vindicative and say Hollywood Tower of Terror!" She shook her wet head vehemently. "So once was enough?"

"Yeah. When we went to the Rose Parade we rode on the Chinese Roller Coaster in the little kids area and at one point, about half-way through, you go up really high and you can see over the wall and we saw this really old guy. He had his shirt off and you could see his grey hair on his chest. And he had this big old pot belly." She made Santa Claus bowl-full-of-jelly motions over her reindeer night shirt. "Like this big." She stood up and hiked up her Halloween sleeping shorts. "And he had these shorts on up to like here and he was runnin' and his legs were going all flabbidy-flab-flab. He was really old. I mean old. Old old. Really, really old. Like fifty."

I tried to keep a straight face.

"Annie saw that and she said she was scarred. For life." She readjusted her sleeping shorts and flobbed across the bed again to scritch the Fuzzy Slug. "Crack kills."

I kept my cool. "Yes, it does. Is it time to have another 'Don't do drugs. Don't do alcohol' conversation?"

She gave me a brief pitiful look and broke into laughter. Critter has several different laughs, as all kids do. This one, I'd not heard in a long, long time. This was the I'm-So-Glad-You-Didn't-Say-This-In-Front-Of-My-Friends-And-Embarass-Me laugh mixed with the You-Are-Completely-Clueless-But-In-A-Funny-Way-I'll-Still-Keep-You laugh. "I was referring to butt cracks! You say that when you see someone's butt crack showing!" She struck a serious pose. "Crack kills."

"Oh!" I smiled. "Well, thank you for sharing this bit of information. Next time I'll be three percent more hip."

"Uh, yeah. You just lost about three points for saying 'hip'."

"Well, at least I didn't say 'Groovey,'" I countered.

"Negative three points now."

I sighed dramatically. "Well, what am I supposed to say?"

"You're supposed to say 'Cool.'"

"Cool?" I tried it out. "Cool."

"Okay, negative one. It just doesn't sound right coming from you. You're a Mom!"

Thursday, March 08, 2007

This R2 unit has a bad motivator

Random Work Conversation #413

JewelGeek (walking out the door): I think I'll go to Baja Fresh for lunch today.

Evil PXE: Ba-ja Fresh?

JewelGeek (sighing internally): Yes, do you want something?

Evil PXE: No, thanks. I have to go out later to get some converters for the battery...

JewelGeek: So you're going into Tosche Station to pick up some power converters..?

Evil PXE (smirking): Yeah, I'll call you when I get done at Tosche Station.

JewelGeek (closing office door): Okay, see ya.

Evil PXE (calling from his desk): You can waste time with your friends when your chores are done!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

March Forth Anniversary

It’s hard to believe that it was only three years ago that Multnomah County said ‘Yes’.

CrafterKat and I had just submitted our information to DHS in the hopes we would be considered the Forever Family for Critter. We played the Waiting Game with the Southern Oregon office and sat by the phone for news.

A day after Multnomah County’s announcement we called our adoption coordinator. “Do you think it will hurt our chances of getting Critter if we get married?” She gushed her congratulations and urged us to make it official.

Three years later I can still remember standing in line with other smiling couples, people passing out flowers and hot coffee to us as we stood in the drizzle, and the supportive honking of cars as people drove to work.

We tried our best to avoid the camera crews and newspaper reporters. Even so, one employee where I work thought she saw me on TV. We called the Golden Poet on our new cell phone while we waited. “Guess where we are right now?”

You could hear her grin over the phone. “Getting married?!”

Basic Rights Oregon flooded the lobby with volunteers who instructed out how to fill out the paperwork ("Choose now who will be the Groom and who will be the Bride") and had graciously bartered with the Keller Auditorium to host marriage ceremonies during the day. After two hours standing in line and a $50 fee later, we marched back to our car and drove over the river for a quick wedding. No friends, no family, no special vows. No headaches over the perfect flowers, the right music, or searching for the perfect dress. Just a simple, heart-felt ceremony.

Afterwards we were in a bit of a daze and slowly drove home. We stopped at the Chinese restaurant near the house and wolfed down hot and sour soup and lemon chicken, squeezing hands and repeating, “Did we really just do that?”

At home we discovered the Golden Poet had been busy. In the three hours we were gone she had decorated the living room and our bedroom with wedding banners, baked a heart-shaped wedding cake, and put a bottle of champagne in the fridge.

We called other family members and our friends at work, announcing that, really, we were in no condition to come to work on Friday… We spent the evening at McMenamins Kennedy School watching Peter Pan, and listening to the live music celebrating March Forth. The best part, we agreed, was that we did not have to pay for a band at the Reception…

It was a wonderfully spontaneous day and one I will treasure forever. The wedding gifts websites state that the traditional wedding gift for Year Three is leather. But I prefer the modern gift equivalent for this landmark anniversary: crystal.

Our lives seem to be more focused and clear as a family. We have good health, lots of love and laughter, the support of family and friends, and the addition of a beautiful daughter. What can be a better gift than that?